Author's Note: Thanks again for everyone who's been suggesting ficlet ideas and whatnot! I take all of your suggestions under consideration, but remember that in the end, I'm going to write what I choose to write. Don't be upset if I don't write exactly what you want me to write, because I really appreciate all of your ideas! :)
Someone commented that Tygra's abilities were limited to illusions in the old show and it was Cheetara who had "sixth sense" abilities. I'm actually fully aware of this, but, as I have stated before, I will take whatever liberties I want to take. I've already taken several haha. Personally, I think it's more interesting if I take Tygra's powers of illusion one step further and have him be slightly telepathic as well.
Phew, this is a long chapter! It's kind of choppy in my opinion, but urgh, I just don't know how to fix it. Also, I think Jaga is slowly turning into Dumbledore in this story...
Disclaimer: You know the drill.
Chapter Seven: Blessings
It was one of the smallest sections of the palace library, tucked away in the farthest corner with only a handful of books gracing its shelf. When Lion-o had asked about it at dinner, Claudus had paused for the briefest of moments before telling him it was nothing he should concern himself with; those were books better left to collect dust.
Naturally, that had only piqued Lion-o's curiosity. The next day, to the consternation of the maids, all of the dozen or so books in the section mysteriously disappeared.
"Listen to this," Lion-o said excitedly, his bright eyes fixed on the open book in his lap. "'Commander Caraco once stumbled across a colony of wayward mutants in his travels...'" He stopped and looked up at Tygra. "What does 'wayward' mean?"
"Changing or turning in different directions," Tygra supplied, frowning thoughtfully. "Or disobedient."
"Who were they disobeying?" Loin-o questioned.
"I don't know! Just keep reading," Tygra said irritably.
"'The mutants, Caraco discovered, had old, broken down metal carriages, which they said once moved on their own, without any aid from mounts,'" Lion-o read breathlessly. "Wow!"
"Sounds bogus," Tygra dismissed, turning back to his homework.
"Nuh-uh!" Lion-o retorted. "Technology's real! A bunch of our ancestors have seen it!"
"Don't believe everything you read," Tygra said. "There's no proof that technology ever existed."
Lion-o wanted desperately to argue, but he had to admit that Tygra was right. There wasn't any proof that technology was real. Maybe it was up to him to find that proof.
Without any other means of finding what he was looking for – and not really knowing what it was he was looking for, himself – Lion-o resigned himself to traipsing down the back alleys of Thundera with Snarf in tow.
"The city has many hidden secrets," Jaga had once told him. "One just needs to look for them."
Lion-o hadn't the slightest clue where to look, but he hoped that, through relentless searching and sheer luck, he would stumble upon the right secret.
It took him three months and several painful blisters on his feet to find it, but he did; a small, rickety shop in the recesses of a foul-smelling alley, in a questionable neighborhood. Snarf's hackles had been interminably raised for the past eight blocks, and he kept making nervous noises every time someone shot them a suspicious look.
Parting a dingy scrap of fabric that was hanging over the entrance to the shop, Lion-o stepped inside and lowered his hood. The shop was small and crowded with shelves stacked high with strange objects. A lantern placed on a desk in the center of the room was the only source of light, bathing everything in a soft, yellow glow.
"What's this, now?"
An old cat emerged from behind a shelf, appraising Lion-o with one milky eye; the other eye was missing, light scar tissue taking its place. He was tall and bulky, and as he approached, Lion-o saw that he heavily favored his right leg.
"What's a cub with a fancy cloak like that doin' in these parts?" the shopkeeper questioned in a gruff voice, eyeing Snarf as he hid behind Lion-o's leg.
"I'm, um... looking for technology," Lion-o said, trying not to stare at his empty eye socket.
The cat tipped back his head and barked a laugh, causing Lion-o to jump. Snarf pawed insistently at Lion-o's leg, eager to leave.
"Well, I never thought I'd see the day," he said, shaking his head. "What for?"
Lion-o stared up at him silently, absently kicking his leg to dislodge Snarf.
"Alright, I get it. We all have our reasons. You want to see technology, do ya?" the shopkeeper asked, waiting for Lion-o to nod before proceeding. "Well, follow me, then."
Excitement blossomed in Lion-o's chest at the prospect of finally reaching his goal. He followed the old cat as he first paused to take the lantern off the desk, then headed toward the back of the room. Snarf trailed behind reluctantly.
"I pawned this off a traveler years ago," the shopkeeper said, nodding to the pile of wires and metal on the desk. "Took it apart and put it back together more times than I could count, but I can't get the blasted thing to work."
Lion-o stood on his tiptoes and peered at the odd metal contraption gleaming in the candlelight.
"What's it supposed to be?" he asked, reaching forward to touch a wire.
"Hell if I know," the cat admitted. "Some sort of weapon, most likely. See that handle there?"
Lion-o nodded, staring in wonder at his first taste of technology.
"That's not all. I got all kinds of weird gizmos back here."
"Do any of them work?"
The cat laughed again.
"Kid, if it worked, do you think I'd still be a shack smack in the middle of this filthy neighborhood?"
Lion-o didn't say anything, turning once again to the desk, this time with mild disappointment. He may have found what was once technology, but he was still nowhere near proving its existence.
"How much for it?" he asked suddenly, reaching for his coin pouch.
Much to his father's dismay, Lion-o soon became obsessed with technology. Every week, he would go out with his allowance come home with new gadgets, a determined expression on his face. Then, he would sit for hours in his room or out on the balcony, tinkering and pulling things apart with renewed persistence. Attempting to talk him out of it proved useless, so Claudus gave up and left Lion-o to his pursuits, hoping it was only a phase.
Tygra was inclined to let Lion-o do whatever he wanted; he had always been a strange one, so Tygra was not surprised when he heard of his new hobby. What he wanted to know was, why technology? While most believed that the intriguing and the enigmatic nature of the subject alone was enough to capture the young prince's interest, Tygra knew his brother better than to believe that. He had a feeling there was more to his obsession than fun and games.
One warm, cloudy day, he strode into Lion-o's room where, as he had expected, the prince was seated on the floor, surrounded by wires and with a screwdriver in his hand.
"Hey, Lion-o," Tygra said amiably, coming to a stop next to him. "I'm going to the market. Do you want to come with me?"
"No thanks," Lion-o replied, not looking up from what he was doing.
Tygra dropped onto the floor next to him and picked up a circular piece of metal, turning it over in his hands.
"Why do you bother with this stuff?" he asked as Lion-o plucked the device from his hands. "It's just junk."
"It's not junk," Lion-o said, scowling at nothing in particular.
"Could've fooled me," Tygra mumbled. They sat in silence for several minutes, Lion-o taking the device apart and Tygra watching him. After a while, Lion-o carefully put his tools down and stared at his hands in his lap.
"Do you ever miss your parents, Tygra?" he asked quietly.
Tygra stiffened and looked away.
"I don't remember them."
"But do you miss them?" Lion-o asked again.
Tygra gave him a searching look.
"Sometimes," he confessed. "But it's not so much missing them as... wishing I knew them."
"It's the same with my mom," Lion-o said. "Maybe, with technology... if I can figure it out..."
Tygra's stomach dropped as he realized what Lion-o was getting at.
"Lion-o, that's necromancy," he cried, aghast.
"Dark magic," Tygra explained impatiently, outraged. "You can't bring people back from the dead!"
"But it's not magic!" Lion-o protested, ears sinking low.
"I don't care what you call it, it's wrong," Tygra said firmly.
Lion-o burst into tears, bringing his knees up to his chest and hiding his face between them. What Jaga called his 'big brother instinct' kicked in and Tygra pulled him close, wrapping his arms around him.
"I can't believe that's what this is about," he muttered, pulling back and wiping away Lion-o's face with his sleeve. "I know you wish you had a mom. I understand, really. But the dead should stay dead, Lion-o. That's just the way things are."
"It's not fair though," Lion-o hiccuped.
"Unfortunately, that's how life works," Tygra told him.
He recalled a time when he was around Lion-o's age, wallowing in the cruelty of it all. How he had wished he could travel back in time and see his parents' faces; whose eyes did he inherit? Was his father brave and proud? Did his mother smell like lavender? The feelings of grief and self-pity had been overwhelming, and he had curled in on himself, hiding from the world.
It was Jaga who had found him huddled in a secluded corridor, and he had thanked the stars it wasn't Claudus. If the king had found out he had been crying, Tygra would have felt forever ashamed in his presence. As it was, Jaga had crouched down next to him and listened to his troubles, his wise eyes free of judgment.
"Life is seldom fair, Tygra," he had told him gently. "But we must work with what the fates have given us, and make the best of it. Do not dwell of what you've lost, but rather, what you have been blessed with."
Tygra wiped away the last of Lion-o's tears and gazed upon him serenely. He had long since learned to appreciate what had been given to him; a home, a kingdom, a father, and a brother whom he loved above all others. He hoped that, one day, Lion-o would learn to count his blessings as well, and that Tygra would be included in them.