Love Like Snow
Disclaimer: I do not own TLK.
Note: First, thanks to my beta-reader, Arbarano. So this is the story I've been talking about, inspired on all the super awesome SNL fics I've been reading, an adorable pic I stumbled across while fooling around the TLK Fanart Archive, and one of HIM's most famous and beautiful songs, called "Killing Loneliness". It will be an experiment and its continuity will depend on reviews. The first chapter isn't as focused on Simba and Nala as further chapters will be; it's more like and intro to the narrator. Eventually, it will dissolve into a story in 3rd person with "I" interferences. It will revolve around Simba and Nala. The narrator is a sort of Watson, if you'd like to think of her that way. I hope you like it. Now, warn your warmth to turn away...
Press your lips to the sculptures and surely you'll stay... for of sugar and ice I am made... (Love Like Winter, AFI)
Chapter 1: Rain of Ashes
Where's Mom? That was the first thought that sprang to my mind when I regained consciousness. It didn't matter where I was or how I had gotten there. All I wanted now was her comfort. Faint, dusty beams of orange light entered my wooden prison through the very few holes it had, but it was still too dark inside for me to distinguish anything clearly. I brought my eyes close enough to one of the narrow openings and studied my surroundings. The grasslands, soaked in flames and remnants of a once huge and scary shiny creature, extended for eternity before me. Only the bluish seam they shared with the night sky divided them from the rest of the world.
The view began to blur steadily as a mist of suffocating smoke took over. The polluted air swept into my secluded room, forcing me to slash desperately at the splintery walls. I broke out of the box only to be welcomed by a very hostile environment. Thick flames appeared to be moving to and fro, swaying in the gray wind on their dry, papery green wigs. Something seemed awfully out of place; I felt heavy and tickly (bad tickly, as if on the edge of a faint), like I didn't belong here.
Mom always talked to my two brothers and me about how fires could save your life during extremely cold winters. Now, it was fulfilling a totally different purpose.
Oh, Mom and my annoying older brothers! I wished so hard I could be with them, playing under the falling snow. Valo and Lauri would surely tease me about being the weak only daughter and, as always, Mom would hush them severely and hold me close. Then, repented, they'd apologize and we would all cuddle together. Probably, we would've spent the night that way, all snugly squeezed together, had everything wending through my mind been real. But no. Not tonight.
Most likely, they were turning the Snowlands upside-down right now, trying to find me. Truth be told, not even I knew where I had wound up. The existence of places as extraordinary as this had never ever crossed my mind. Vague memories helped me out a little, though not as much as I hoped. I could recall a face. A man? Yes! He carried one of those funny, loud toys humans always played with. Guns, that's how Mom referred to them. She'd said they killed.
Wait… was I dead? Maybe. The man had pointed his gun at me, after all. But Mom had promised that Dad would pick me up the day I died and take me to a beautiful land. That meant I was alive! Besides, around this thickly grass-covered ground, hot and dry and not at all beautiful, I couldn't find Dad. I felt my breath under my frantic sobs and drumming heart. Undoubtedly alive, I sighed.
The smoke rose, gliding smoothly miles above where I stood, then swooped down, clouding it all. The toxic masses travelled fast down towards my lungs as I inhaled, poisoning the blood in my veins and then fleeing to repeat the process. More than once, the smoldering dust of whatever had crashed down and provoked this fire swam across the fog of toxins and almost chafed past my face. One of the mutilated parts of the beast lay beside me. I reached out for it with my right paw very carefully, in case it was still hot. Luckily, it had cooled down enough for my touch to last more than ten seconds. Metal, I concluded. So the badly mangled corpse scattered over the fields belonged to a giant silver bird. Back home, I'd sometimes gaze into the ever gray sky and catch them soaring by. Their growling wouldn't cease until they vanished. Boy, did humans ride cool creatures!
A reeling sensation struck me after spending some time breathing the burned air. I didn't become aware of it until a fierce explosion pulled me from my thoughts. The snowy mountains faded away before my delusional eyes. The blazing flames drew nearer, but wouldn't back away anymore. Winded by the stifling stench, my languid limbs gave in to gravity. I slumped helplessly onto the carpet of grass, listening to the faint jangling of the chains that bound me to this life. Pretty soon, they would break apart and release me. All I had to wait for was Dad.
A wan smile drew upon my face when fluffy little things, like snowflakes, landed on my back from the sky. I reveled in the image of myself rolling over and opening my mouth wide to let the frozen cloud tears in until I realized they didn't feel cold at all. Simultaneously marveled and disgusted, I shifted my gaze upwards, focusing on the rain of slowly descending cinders. It resembled a snowstorm so much that homesickness constricted my heart like tight, thorny creepers.
Why had I strayed from the stupid path in the first place? My family and I were just returning home and for some crazy reason of mine I had decided to chase a bird. Or a rodent. I couldn't recall which. The only thing I did remember was that it bore a coating which camouflaged it perfectly. Not even Mom, the deftest hunter of all snow leopards (at least she was to me), had located its exact position, although I could tell she knew it lay hidden somewhere not so far by the way she sniffed the air.
Oh, yes! That's right. I'd bounded off after it to show her how mighty a hunter I was. She'd tried to stop me, but I'd gone too fast. Big mistake there, though; my prey ended up leading me to the man with the loud toy.
Another startling explosion resounded as I played the gunshot in my head over and over again.
Finally, the light-headedness reached its peak and began dropping into a swoon. Before slipping from reality, a huge figure loomed up in front of me. Dad? No. It didn't look like a snow leopard. Whoever was staring at me had a brownish-gold pelt and thick reddish hair on his head and around his neck running all the way down to his chest. His eyes displayed a hungry seriousness. Yet, he didn't seem interested in hurting me. I looked up one last time to see the ashes fall like snow and blacked out…
"Is he going to be alright?"
"It's a girl…"
One zillion other quiet soughs echoed. However, my slightly perked ears grasped only what the first two male voices had uttered. The first, solemn and guttural, sent shivers down my spine; it probably belonged to something like the thing that had found me asphyxiating on the smoke. The second, with a weird accent, scratched into my eardrums. What if… What if they were humans?
"She might be a leopard," suggested the first voice.
"I'm not so sure, Mufasa," explained the second.
Suddenly, a hand clutched my tail and lifted it up, a tingly tension needling into the point where it joined my rear. My eyes had to see, but mingled fear and tiredness bungled their efforts. They, whoever they were, would cut me open and mess with everything inside; I just knew it. Those nutty, curious humans!
The grasp loosened steadily as the seconds ticked. Once the second voice's bearer let go, my heart returned to an almost regular beating rate.
"She looks like one," stated the second voice, "but she comes from a much colder land than this."
"Why do you think so?"
"Her coat, her tail; her appearance in general. Where did you find her?"
"Among the burning ruins of a human machine. Fortunately, the rainstorm put out the fire…"
The shattering rain pelted down on the surface of whatever stood above protecting me from it and the booming thunders. I didn't pick up on those harsh noises and the heavy dampness of the air until the first voice referred to the storm.
"Poor thing!" a female voice chimed in behind the two male ones. "She must have no idea about what has happened!"
I mustered the strength to open an eye in a blink and caught a glance of big, strange-looking cats all around me. They fitted the description Mom had made of lions in one of her prior-to-sleep stories. Lions? That meant I wound up farther from home than I'd thought. Way farther!
"She blinked!" gasped a second female voice pertaining to a tan, blue-eyed lioness.
The first lioness who had spoken sounded startled. "Huh? Really?"
She, who had sharp, sort of saffron-amber eyes, nudged me with her muzzle. Seeing as I wouldn't budge, she stepped back, sighing in disappointment.
"Sarafina," she started, "I'm terribly sorry if this is an inconvenience, but this cub will need someone to tend to her while she's…"
"Say no more, Sarabi," interrupted the tan lioness. "I'll be glad to look after her. Besides, Nala really needs a friend; I'm afraid she's shutting herself away and becoming awfully lonely."
Nala? Who's Nala?
The patter of paws spreading away in different directions slowed down the rhythm of my beating heart. Foolishly believing the danger had passed, I succumbed to a pleasant sleep. It lasted very little, though, as Sarafina wrapped her mouth around my scruff and picked me up. Ready to scream, partly in pain but mostly because of the shock, both my mouth and eyes burst wide open. I shut them abruptly after realizing she was just carrying me to another spot. Until now, I hadn't noticed we were in a cave.
A bolt of lightning flashed and rang somewhere far away as she laid me down. Its faded echo whooshed into my ears and died upon bumping against my eardrums. Once again, I entered a brief state of peace, this time interrupted by the clatter of anxious little paws sprinting towards me. Whoever was approaching would run me over.
Luckily, the sound vanished into thin air less than an inch from where I lay.
"Hi, mom!" called a little girl about my age, judging from the tone of her voice. "Who… What is that?" she inquired innocently, excited and amused, sniffing my back as if trying to compare my scent to something familiar to her.
The mother beamed and giggled softly. "Darling, it's a she… not a thing. I think she's a leopard cub."
I could picture the cub's eyes glittering like melting ice under the sun. "What's her name?"
"We don't know that yet; she hasn't woken up since we found her."
"Where did you find her?"
"I'll explain tomorrow, dear," whispered the tan lioness in intermittent yawning sighs. "Now you should sleep; you must be exhausted after playing outside all day."
A sad and in a way awkward silence fell between mother and daughter. Obviously, the first had said something she shouldn't have. Quiet sniffles from the second broke the stillness. Sarafina hushed them tenderly and, as I unshielded my left eye for two seconds, nuzzled her cub affectionately.
Wow! The girl was a younger version of her mother; she bore the same light-colored fur and enviable sapphire eyes. The tears she'd shed dried up and her eyes suddenly shimmered with excitement instead of sorrow as they swerved in my direction.
"She's awake!" she sang out loud, waking almost the whole pride up. All heads in the den swung toward me and froze.
Nooo! I slammed my eyes shut at the speed of light and went back to pretending I was still asleep. Apparently, nobody gave much importance to the cub's call.
"Oh come on!" she whined, walking closer and nudging me with her paw. "Why are you faking?"
"Nala, give her a break!" ordered the tan lioness, raising her voice. "She's been through a lot. Just let her have some sleep."
"Okaaay," sighed the daughter, frustrated.
Sarafina's body flopped onto the stony ground close to me, leaving a narrow gap between us that Nala filled with difficulty almost instantly afterwards. Not much time passed before snores of different pitches mingled harmonically in a windy, mind-numbing melody. Completely sure that all the lions were fast asleep, I allowed my prickly eyes to take a look around. Great! The coast clear, I prepared to rise as quiet as possible and slink out of the cave.
I was getting up, holding my breath so as not to make the faintest sound, when something forced me down, although not physically. My body collapsed at the sight of wide open amber eyes fixed upon me. They belonged to a golden cub snuggled up to Sarabi and the owner of the first voice I'd heard. What was his name again? The lionesses had mentioned it more than once. Sim-something. Whatever. Did it really matter? I was so busted!
I decided to shoot a friendly grin at him, but all that came out was a scary and stupid grimace. However, he didn't answer back. Those eyes were lost in something else. Somebody else. They looked pretty much like Mom and Dad used to look at each other. I sorted out to rest until he drifted off. How long could it take? Ten, fifteen minutes, tops. Besides, a short sleep would suit me quite well…
So what did you think? Like it? Not? Remember, this story depends on reviews. SO REVIEW! xDDDDD
I wanted to use Russian names for my original characters, but I didn't like the ones I ran into. I don't know, they just didn't seem like "cubby" names. So I chose Finnish names. There are no snow leopards in Finland, but it's still pretty cold there.
I know the quote at the top is not from the song this story's inspired on. I just liked it and decided to put it up there.
I'll try to post a new chapter before Christmas, but first I have to finish off Vampire Heart's Chapter 9.