Coryth sat at the mouth of the den, watching the sunrise, contemplative. It was taking her some time to adjust to life in a pride, but she kept her spirits up by reassuring herself it would get easier. It was just so crowded, was all. She was used to the vast empty drylands and not a creature stirring, her only company the long dead bone-stones, and now instead she was tripping over cubs and guards wherever she went. It was nice to share a den with the congenial Pya though, but the rest she could do without.
The work was fascinating, though. That the priests actually had uses for the bone-stones and other things she dug up for them had blown her mind at first. She'd never thought that you could do something with them except look at them! She'd crossed over easily into searching for any bones or carrion, and had gotten into a tug of war with a vulture at one point. She wasn't sure her skill was up to par in handling the more recently dead, but with Pya as her mentor she felt sure she'd get the hang of it.
Pya was still lounging lazily in the den he shared with Coryth, He rolled from his back onto his side and groaned a little. He couldn't help but smile when he saw Coryth at the mouth of the den. The female had only joined the pride a short while ago and already she felt like he had such promise her in the pride. Getting to his feet Pya moved to stand next to Coryth and purred lightly as he nuzzled into her neck fur. "Good morning" he grumbled. Pya felt it was very odd for him to be so feely with another creature, he had never really been interested in being around others, or in any sort of relationship. But yet here he was standing with Coryth.
Leaning into the affectionate greeting, Coryth marveled at how easily it came to her. She'd be an unapproachable cub herself, and her brief liason in the past with a male had been... well, brief. But here this male fit her surroundings as naturally as her own fur fit her body, and the friendly little touches came intuitively. She turned to lick his ear teasingly, and accidently caught a bit of his mane on her tongue. She grinned even as she wrinkled her nose and spat it out.
"Have you spoken to any of the priests about materials they might need?" she asked curiously. She felt too awkward to ask herself. The priests with their strange ways and mystical powers, while amazing, were also very frightening. The few times she'd approached them her fur had threatened to go on end, which would surely be an embarrassing social faux pas.
Pya chuckled at how Coryth was still timid about talking to the preists, he had to get use to it to in some ways. But to him it was just a job, he needed to know what the preists wanted, otherwise he was just a creepy male that poked and proded at dead bodies. At least now he was able to do it with some sort of purpose.
"I did speak to them. We will have to go out to the dead places today my dear. There isn't too much we have to get. Perhaps today I should let you do the collecting, I will just go with you for moral support. How do you feel about that my dear?" he asked nudging her neck.
Coryth nodded her agreement, calming down considerably. Priests were creepy, but dead things were pleasant company. She was eager to prove herself useful to both Pya and the pride. She squeezed her claws into the dirt, a gesture of habit that soothed her nerves. Dirt was reliable, all kinds of dirt. She knew where she stood with the ground, and she knew just what do with it, and how to dig without disturbing what might be buried.
Pulling herself up, she paced out into the sunshine, squinting against the glare and sniffing the breeze. Wetter air than she was used to, but still dry enough for her comfort. She saw some other pride members off in the distance, but after a moment's hesitation she walked off in the other direction, then waited for Pya to catch her up. She'd get to know people once she felt more comfortable, she told herself.
Pya nodded and smiled, it was nice that she was willing to step up, he wasn't sure he would be able to give her a pep talk if she had needed it. Dead things were nothing to be scared off, after all they were dead. It was interesting to look at the body of the dead animals, one was able to learn about anatomy that way. It was very interesting. the way a lions body was constructed. Pya didn't know much about the anatomy of other creatures.
Pya slipped out of the den after his mate. He was ready to watch her at work. "Now there isn't much we needed to collect today. Just a leg bown and fur from a black mane. I don't think we will have any trouble finding it quickly."
"Leg bone, black mane," Coryth repeated to herself as she walked, to help her remember. She'd forgotten that part; they'd not just be handling dead remains, but dead lion remains. Somehow that made a difference, and suddenly she had the tiniest doubt that she'd be able to handle it. Not a big doubt, just the faintest niggling in the back of her head. Well, she'd see for sure once they got there, wouldn't she?
"Where is the 'dead places', anyway?" She had heard of the concept of creatures going to one place to die, communally, but never in lions. It was a novel thought. It made sense she supposed, for a pride that would need the... ahem, 'parts' later on. "You lead the way, I follow." She gave him an affectionate bump with her shoulder to show she wasn't chickening out.
Pya walked along, "The dead place is where some of the prides dead are taken. Others are burried in the Hounfor. If the they are taken to the dead place then we are able to collect from them the remains what the preists need."
Pya padded quickly towards the dead place, it was towards the outer edges of the pride after all no one wanted to be living amongst the dead. Well no one except Pya. The remains were interesting, the one down side of course could be the smell.... that would take almost anyone some getting use to but Pya had come to adjust to it. It had been hard to stomach at first but now he barely noticed it at all.
Coryth tried to soak the information in. She couldn't place who the 'Hounfor' were supposed to be... a special place for leaders, perhaps. Ah well, she would pick up everything with time. She was enjoying the early sunshine, still fresh and new, and being out with her newfound partner. Funny how life brought you strange places. Just a season ago she'd assumed she'd wander the wilds forever alone, and content to do so. But now she'd found a new, different, better contentment.
She absently watched the ground as they walked, eyes marking out the details of the soil. Loose and sandy on top, but she thought she could feel some clay hardness underneath. She'd have to investigate how well it dug later. But for now, she had work. She followed her mate onwards, to get her first sight of this 'dead place'.
There was no real clear markers marking the dead place, but some felt that they could sense a change as soon as they crossed into the dead place. "We are here" Pya said in a low voice. He was scanning the place for a lion he knew had come here not to long ago, and older male with a black mane. He did not see a reason to make his mate sift through all of the deased in the area, it would be best if he could help her a little, ease her into it.
"Ah tehre you see over there?" he said picking up his right paw and jesturing towards the body he had been looking for. The body, compared to as some here, was fairly fresh. This should help Coryth have an easier time at it. "He will have everything we are looking for."
Coryth had half expected some sort of foreboding scene, with rocks streaked with warning paint or burning fires or some other horrible signs to ward people off. But there was nothing, it was just a barren area like any other. At first she wondered if Pya was pulling her leg, and she glanced at him with a skeptical eyebrow raised. He wouldn't decide to play a trick on his new partner just to tease her, would he?
But then her focus zoomed in on a very familiar sight as she spotted some dried bleached bones in the distance, and she knew this was the place. She traced her mate's steps to the fresher carcass and recognizing it as a lion made her hair truly stand on end. It was like a fullbody jolt. She found herself gazing at the older, white bones for comfort. If only the priest had wanted them, she could've happily broken off a few!
"Okay my dear you are up." Pya said a teasing tone in his voice. He had seen how much his mate liked old bones, but he wondered how she could tomach the newly dead. He was here to help if she was unable to do it, but he was hoping that she would pull though. It didnt matter either way he supposed.
"Its not hard to collect, the fur of course is the easiest, but the bone collection, that could be a little harder taking from a fresh sorce we may want to go ahead and find one that is already dry, the bones don't have to be new just the hair." he nodded towards Coryth as if to urge her forward.
She didn't have to be told twice. Coryth bolted as if chased for the nearest picked clean skeleton and circled it, checking out the lay of the bones. Once she'd determined which were the leg bones, she examined their solidity and shape, and selected what she felt was the smoothest, sturdiest bone of the lot. She tapped it to make sure it was good all the way through, then gingerly picked it up in her mouth and came trotting back.
She lay it down and paused, hoping Pya might decide to get the mane himself. She looked around the landscape, and realized her problem wasn't the decay. The half gone bodies, flesh absent and bits of meat and organ still clinging, were less unnerving than this fresh body to her. It still had a face. "Did you know him?" she found herself asking, and bit her jaw. She wasn't sure if she might be touching a sensitive nerve.
Pya was happy that she dove right in and was amazed and pleased to see she went through to make sure she was getting the best bone possible. "Good" Pya said in his low voice. He was sure that the preists would like her, they hated when poor quality materials were brough back to them. He was wondering how she would do at the next part, her question interupted his thoughts though. He bowed his head in thought.
"No I did not know him my dear. The truth is I never really talk to anyone in the pride, I do my part and I stay in the pride because they allow me to do my science and investigate the anatomy. Here I am safe and fed. In the wild I would be in danger. They don't understand me here, they think I am tainted in some way I think. Its because I touch the dead so freely, it doesn't bother me to be aroudn the dead. For most it is hard." He smiled hard, "He isn't one of us anymore dear, you can't think of him like that. He is just bones, muscle, and fur now. His soul has gone onto to where ever they go... he isnt a he but instead just a body, items we can harvest for the benefit of our home and pride."
Coryth preened over the compliment, glad he approved of her bone choice. But she didn't like to hear that her mate wasn't thought well of. Her opinion of the rest of the pride dimmed some, and she sent a mental glare in their direction. Here he was doing important, necessary work and they thought him tainted? Pfft. They could go on not being acquainted with her then. She was a happy loner by default anyway.
She took in his comments about the... the body. It would take her awhile to get used to thinking of it just as a collection of parts, not a person. Usually she thought the other direction, examining bone-stones and trying to imagine what they would've formed when alive.
She noticed he hadn't collected the mane yet. Remembering her annoyance at the 'tainted' comment, she steeled herself and grimly lowered her head, teeth bared, and sank them into the dead flesh. She ripped and tore around the edges of the mane until she'd gathered up a good amount of it. The taste was... not as bad as she'd expected.
She gave her mate a grin through the mouthful, inordinately pleased with herself, and dropped it. "Make that two tainted lions, then. C'mon, let's get these back to the priests." And she'd deliver it herself. Fur on edge be darned.