A Spinoff of In His Shoes
A Descent Into Darkness
First, for all the copyright folks out there, I OWN NOTHING of the Thundercats, its fandom, or its characters. They are the babies of WB etcetera etcetera. Please don't sue me, I can't afford lawyers and I have horrible bills I have to deal with.
As you see, this should've made its way out to fanfic world about a month ago. But like some authors I was stuck….
Then there was the atrocity that was episode 14. Yes that was NOT helpful. Episode 15 redeemed it some. Then real life gets in the way and you're really in trouble.
For those who are not familiar with In His Shoes, you can access it through my profile. It's rated M, so please be warned it gets a little…no A LOT graphic. If you are below 18, just PM me and I will tell you what the premise of IHS is, sans the censored part.
This takes place in an alternative world so this Lion-O is not the king you know. Fair warning for Lion-O worshippers, don't say I didn't warn you otherwise.
So…without further ado, or in my case, further yakking, I humbly present for your consideration….
"You are one of us, Tygra." the lioness assured him with a validating embrace, the back of her hand wiping the tear that fell down his bruised 5 year old cheek. "Don't let anybody tell you different." she said as she kissed the pain of the wound away.
The little tiger sniffled, trying unsuccessfully to stop the rapid flow of tears. It stung the open graze on his face but what hurt more was the cause of the fight that brought it on. He had been playing with the other young royals when one of them had started calling him a "bastard" and "street urchin". Needless to say he injured himself trying to defend what he knew he was, but did not acknowledge.
"I love you son." the queen of Thundera ruffled his unruly orange mop. "I love you just as much as I love your little brother."
The tiger smiled. "I love you too Mommy." he hugged her. For as long as he could remember, Queen Iridia had been his mother. He never paid heed to the fact that neither her nor King Claudus looked anything remotely close to him. All he knew was they were his parents and that he loved them and his little brother more than anything in the whole world.
Two years later that had all changed.
An epidemic had taken rule of Thundera that one horrible stretch of summer. The queen had become one of those who had fallen ill and her life drained away from her slowly, agonizingly. Her passing had become more of a welcoming end to the pain and suffering she had endured. When they buried her, Tygra felt as though his heart had gone with her, as crushed as it was watching her wither away with disease.
The queen's passing signaled an end to many things.
Among that, his happy existence.
For King Claudus had gotten despondent and distant upon his beloved's death. He spent many a day languishing in misery mourning over her. He had almost shut down the two boys who had called him father and had it not been for a rude wake-up call by his advisor Jaga, he would've suffered the same fate as the queen, only from a different cause but of one definite end.
When he looked at the two children, his eyes had drifted to the younger one, his biologic son, Lion-O and realized the uncanny resemblance to his deceased wife. This boy was part of him and her, and was the only thing left he had to remind him by of the feline he had loved the most. That he must be cherished for the rest of his days was beyond question.
He then turned to his adopted boy, Tygra. The orphaned child of a dear family friend he had known through most of his life. They had taken him under his wing when Iridia had lost hope of bearing an heir to their throne. They loved him like their own, and they promised to continue to do so, even after finding out on Tygra's third birthday that the queen was with child. King Claudus intended to keep that promise.
Of course, not all promises get to be kept. And not all intentions, no matter how noble they are, come to good fruition.
The older the boys had become, the more King Claudus realized how much he missed his better half, and how much their biologic son was like her.
He was always curious, always happy, and found joy in the simplest of things. It was almost like having Iridia alive again, in the form of their child.
Despite his determination to keep things equal between the boys, the King of Thundera had found more favor with his younger son. Though he didn't seem to notice, the people surrounding him did.
"Look at me, Grune!" a nine year old Tygra had started to swing a heavy sword in play, showing the saber tooth his newly acquired skill.
The soldier had smiled at him. "You're very talented, Prince Tygra." He remarked. "Have you showed that to your father?"
"I did this morning." He happily replied. "Not sure if he noticed though. He was trying to teach Lion-O how to hold one of these."
"You learned it so much faster than he did." Grune noted.
"Yeah but I'm older." The young tiger reasoned. "I should learn things faster."
"I suppose." The saber tooth shrugged. "Would you like to learn more things you can do with the sword?"
Grune smiled…for more reasons than one.
"Ha! Beat you again!" the tiger proudly exclaimed
as with one flip of his wooden sword, he sent his brother's weapon flying across the courtyard. He then aimed the tip of his weapon at his younger sibling, signaling his triumph.
"I'm going to beat you someday." The smaller cat replied as he dusted himself off. "You're just bigger."
"I'm just better." Tygra stuck his tongue out at Lion-O.
"Now, now, Tygra." King Claudus reached out to the smaller lion who jumped into his massive arms. "What did we say about gloating?"
"That it's not a good thing to do." The tiger bit his lower lip, suddenly feeling ashamed of his victory. "Sorry father."
"It's okay, son." The king ruffled the older cub's head. "We just know not to do it next time, right?"
Tygra's shoulders fell as his father and brother turned about and headed back to the castle to get ready for supper. The tiger remained in the courtyard, looking at the sword that was no longer a source of his pride, but more of an embarrassment. He saw a massive shadow approach him from one corner.
"There is no shame in being a better fighter." Grune put his large hand on the prince's shoulder. "You father just babies your little brother too much."
The young tiger looked up at the saber tooth. "He's right Grune. I shouldn't be gloating."
"Your father isn't always right, boy." The older tiger stared at him intently. "What's wrong with being good and being confident about it? Why, if you were my son, I would shout to the entire world how incredible a fighter you are at such a young age!"
Tygra's eyes lit up like headlights, "You would?"
"How can I not?" Grune patted him proudly on the shoulders. "You're a very special boy, Tygra. Some days I wish you were my own."
"Sometimes I wish you were my dad too, Grune." Tygra said.
That comment satisfied the saber tooth more than Tygra would ever know.
Seasons passed. Both princes grew. The tiger had visibly outshone his younger sibling in matters of scholarly activity and in sparring skills. Mostly because he had never stopped trying to catch his father's eye. If Lion-O practiced for two hours, he practiced for four. If the lion battled with one of the palace guards, he would train with two or three. For every bruise and bump his sibling received, he had injured himself at least twice or three times as much. Tygra didn't care that he worked harder, he wanted to because for once, he wanted to see the pride in King Claudus' eyes. The King did acknowledge his efforts, but the older he grew, he realized that the amount of praise he got did not seem to be commensurate with the efforts he had put in.
"I don't know why you're trying to kill yourself trying to impress King Claudus." Urdu, a good friend and sparring partner once told Tygra while they were resting in between practice sessions. "There's no way in hell you're going to be king."
"I know I can't be king." The thirteen year old tiger replied. "I just want him to be proud of me. Just as much as he is with Lion-O."
Urdu managed to laugh a little. "Dear friend, you know that's never going to happen. Trust me."
The tiger's brows crossed. "Why not? I'm as good as he is, if not better."
The leopard stood up and patted the younger cat on the shoulder. "Tygra, every single person in this kingdom knows you're the better warrior, but in his highness eyes' no one is going to top his blood child."
Tygra angrily pushed his friend away. "My father is fair! He loves both of us."
Urdu shrugged. "I didn't say he didn't love you. I'm saying he loves your brother more. He's taken to him more than you because Lion-O is the spitting image of the queen."
The young tiger tried to hold tears back. "That's not true."
The older cat shrugged. "Suit yourself." He paused to pick up his staff before speaking again. "The earlier you accept the fact that you're not going to be number one, the easier it'll be on you when the time comes. You're my friend, Prince Tygra. I wouldn't lie to you and I don't want to see you hurt in the long run."
The prince stomped angrily away, his irate form followed by the stare of the older leopard.
"You'll know someday, Tygra." He murmured under his breath. "Life is not fair."
Urdu wasn't the only one who had pointed this fact to Tygra.
So had some of the more well-meaning soldiers he had known, and sometimes the other royals he had battled in practice. He had attributed this to nothing but misconception and malice. He had never stopped believing that his father was just and had loved them equally even if they did not share blood. He had turned a deaf ear to the whispers behind his back.
"Father! Father!" the tiger excitedly ran up to the study where King Claudus had been reviewing plans for the renovation of the solider barracks. Tygra flashed him a letter with the seal of a military school in the neighboring kingdom. "I have been accepted to train with General Arthos!" he excitedly referred to the area's most skilled military tactician. He was a laconic but exceptionally brilliant military leader who took no less than the best students around.
"That's very good Tygra." The king barely looked up from the plans he was studying to give his older son a passing glance. "But then again, I am not surprised. Arthos knows talent when he sees it."
"I want to train with General Arthos too, father." Lion-O piped up from a corner of the room where he was tinkering with an unusual looking disk.
"You're too young for that son." King Claudus turned to his younger child. "But perhaps in two or three years I can talk with Arthos and let you train with him."
Tygra tried not to let his father's sentence dampen his spirits. He didn't know the king could ask favors of the general. He had to go through a series of trials and physically challenging tests to even be considered for the spot. He had bested out fifty other cats just to get to even talk with General Arthos.
Maybe he just forgot that I asked him about it a few months ago, he thought. He smiled inwardly and just focused on the fact that he had been accepted to train with the legendary general.
"Your boy is an exceptional student, your highness." Arthos remarked about a month later, as he sat down to dinner with the king one evening. "He's got to be the best student I've had in the last ten years!"
"Tygra is a very diligent worker." The king commented as he took a sip of wine.
"You know, if you ever change your mind about crowning a successor to the throne…"
"Tygra cannot be king, Arthos." Claudus cut his friend's sentence short. "The written law is that a lion of the bloodline must take the helm."
"But surely you can make an exception?" Arthos asked. "This boy is very talented and smart. I think he will make an excellent king."
"Lion-O will make a great king." The monarch of Thundera replied. "He's just as intelligent, gallant and dedicated, if not more so."
Arthos raised a brow. "That's not exactly what I hear through the grapevine." He chuckled a little. "A little birdie told me he has a tendency to goof off in favor of this…technology."
A more serious expression crossed King Claudus features. "They are nothing but rumors spread by the jealous." He answered tartly. "You will know of his talents when you start training him."
"Are we skipping the natural process of selection now?" Arthos took a sip of his own wine. "You and I may be friends Claudus but I'd really like to put my potential students through the ringer first."
"You can't deny the future ruler of Thundera." Claudus laughed.
"If you put it that way…"
From behind the doorway, ears had perked upon listening to this conversation. The praise by his teacher had brought him elation, but his father's indifference pulled him back from that momentary walk in the clouds. Tygra walked away silently, not wanting to hear the rest of their discussion.
What's so special about Tygra anyway?
A different cat had been eavesdropping on the conversation between the two leaders as well, although he was on the other side of the room.
He never quite understood it.
For as long as he could remember, Lion-O had observed the difference in treatment between him and his older brother. While he knew his father loved him best, he didn't see the same kind of adoration from the other members of the king's court. Not that they didn't respect the future king, he just noticed they respected his brother more.
The most notable of them all was Captain Grune, who had no shame in flaunting that he thought the tiger deserved to be king. That he was in every way, shape and form, the better monarch of the two of them. Some high ranking ministers, military leaders and even neighboring kings thought so too. They mentioned that Claudus should just forget the rules and traditions in lieu of what would be best for the kingdom, and that was to make the tiger prince the ruler of all Thundera.
Needless to say, he was jealous.
That he was popular with the young females of the palace and every other kingdom for that matter, further fanned that jealousy. When they would attend social events, they all flocked to his older brother's corner. He didn't care at first, but as he became older and his interest in the opposite sex grew, he became resentful that they found his brother witty and charming and irresistible, while he was shunned to the side and was even callously rebuffed for his verbal inadequacies at the art of flirtation.
He may have the throne and his father's adoration at his fingertips, but he yearned for the one thing his brother had that he did not possess.
The people's respect.
There was no mistaking those rose colored eyes.
He remembered the day they first met many years ago, as he stood guard by the palace gates and she had asked for directions.
It was the first time he felt his young heart skip out of place and his normally smooth tongue tie up. No female feline had ever made him feel that way before, and no one has since.
He had been meandering around the local marketplace out of boredom when he had chanced upon her examining the local produce. He found himself staring at her for several minutes, words escaping his normally suave tongue as he took in how beautifully she had bloomed in the years he had not seen her. She had been sequestered in the house of clerics and try as he might to catch a glimpse of her he had been repeatedly dispelled by their head cleric Jaga.
"You highness?" she flashed him a smile that almost made his knees buckle. He didn't realize that she had caught him ogling her. She offered him the nectarine she had been examining. "You've been eyeing this fruit for a while, here, it's on me."
She laughed a little as she handed him the fruit and paid the vendor a coin for it. She picked up the rest of the things she had purchased and began to walk away. Tygra felt like he was rooted to that spot as his lead-heavy feet refused to budge. She was already about twenty feet away from him before he got the sense to run after her.
"Cheetara!" he called her as he ran past the crowded streets to get to her. She turned about, her hair tossing across his shoulders in a way that almost rendered him speechless yet again.
"Yes you majesty?" she stopped in her tracks as he put the brakes on about a foot away from her. She was smiling at him again and Tygra had to mentally slap himself to snap himself out of it.
"Hi." He smiled sheepishly as he tried to grasp for words that typically came on naturally for him. "Thank you for the fruit…well, you didn't have to pay for it."
"That would have been stealing." She laughed a little.
"Yes…of course." He felt the crimson tinge his cheeks again almost like it did many years ago. "What I meant was….thank you. Uh…let me help you with that basket." He took the load she had in her arms, his hand brushing hers in the process. He had goosebumps at the point of contact and he had to summon his willpower not to react to it.
"Princes aren't supposed to carry loads for commoners." She teased as he hoisted the load on his shoulder.
"Well you're not that common." He turned on the smile that had charmed many a feline off their feet. It seemed he had gotten his suave self back into order. "And stop calling me your highness. It's Tygra."
"Yes, Tygra." His name on her lips was like music to his ears. They took their time walking back to the palace subconsciously prolonging their journey as much as it was allowed.
Little did Tygra know that his name on her lovely mouth would be mentioned in more than just casual conversation.
For he had wooed her patiently since he had the fortune to run into her in the marketplace, much as she tried to discourage him. She had turned down plenty of his advances, and he knew it was more from a sense of duty than anything else. He gave her room and tried not to get in the way of her sworn servitude to the crown. He chipped away at her defenses little by little and he was rewarded handsomely after many, many months down the road, when she finally gave in and allowed him to kiss her for the first time.
When her lips gave in to his prying mouth, the young prince thought the world could end then and there and he wouldn't care. He had her in his arms, her body pressed warmly against his, and her hands enveloped his waist. He had pulled back, needing to, but not necessarily wanting to, and met her rose-colored gaze with his.
"I love you, Cheetara." He declared as he pushed a strand of hair away from her face.
"I love you too, Tygra…." She echoed back, blushing profusely as she did. "All this time…"
That kiss was the first of many, and it lead on to more…intimate things. The prince had never looked at another female again and what free moment his duties would allow, he spent with her. When they were together nothing else had mattered. He didn't care that he was second fiddle to Lion-O in their father's eyes. It no longer bothered him that he was never going to be king or that his brother was to inherit the sword of Omens. He had her, and it was all he needed.
Their relationship was something he had kept under wraps, not because he was ashamed of it. Had it been up to him he would have paraded their love throughout all of third earth. But she had her duties and he had his, and while neither of them neglected it, he didn't want the higher clerics questioning her dedication. The last thing he wanted was for her to be questioned about her ability to function as protector to the crown.
"I will be gone for a few weeks my love." She whispered in his ear as he they laid next to each other under the night sky. He sat up and put his arms around his knees.
"A mission?" he queried even if he already knew the answer. "Can I come with you?"
She laughed, knowing he knew that he can't. "I'm not going to ditch you for another cat if that's what you're afraid of."
"I'm not afraid of that at all." He turned to her and put his arm around her waist and pulled her close to plant a kiss on her lips. "I'm just concerned about your safety."
"I'm very capable of protecting myself your highness." She smiled as he withdrew from her.
"You have to forgive me for doubting that…" he raised a brow. "So far you've failed at protecting yourself from a very viable threat…" a glint in his eye hinted whom he was referring to.
"Whoever said you were a threat?" she yelped as he semi-tackled her onto the ground again. His mouth over hers silenced any further protests. If she was going to be gone for weeks on end, he wanted to make the most of what time they had together.
The day she left she had given him a present.
A hand carved old cleric weapon. A blow dart that could shoot miniscule poison arrows that could temporarily render the recipient paralyzed. It had an inscription on it.
For Tygra. I know this isn't much but it may come in handy someday. I made it myself. Take care, from Cheetara.
He couldn't wave goodbye to her as he saw her leave through the gates of Thundera, as he thought it would compromise their secret. He watched her through the cloak of his invisibility. She had left with King Claudus, Lion-O and a few other clerics. They were headed off to negotiate with the lizards and hopefully avert the eruption of War once and again. The kingdom was left under the watchful eye of Jaga and the prince.
Tygra sat in King Claudus' throne as he was allowed to at this time, being the royal left in charge. He felt an instant surge of power when he did, as visions of his court appeared before him. He knew every single one of the current ministers and military leaders and he already had in mind who would be perfect members of his council.
Of course, that was something he can only envision. For unless he was reborn a lion, he was never going to sit in this throne and rule.
What if Lion-O was never born?
Would they have allowed him to rule?
That point was moot, naturally. Because Lion-O did exist and the throne, the kingdom and the sword of Omens were all his to inherit. For the longest time he did resent this fact, as he knew he would be a very capable ruler, even General Arthos thought so as well as some outspoken members of King Claudus' court. Lion-O had a good heart, but he did have a tendency to be irresponsible and flighty at times. His brother had a lot of growing up to do, and the king spoiling him did not contribute to that.
Tygra sighed. No sense in pondering over things you cannot change, he thought as he stood up and looked out the window. They say there's always a reason why things happen and maybe him not being the heir to the throne has its justifiable causes.
Maybe kings cannot marry clerics, he thought.
He pulled from his pocket the token of affection Cheetara had given him earlier today. He smiled, a warm sensation enveloping his heart.
Lion-O can have the world, he said to himself. I've got all I need.
Wouldn't it be great to have everything though?'
The kingdom. The sword. The love of your life?
Yes that would be very nice indeed.
The tiger prince shook his head. Where did that come from?
It felt as though something had started invading his thoughts.
He looked around the throne room. No one else was there.
Imagine yourself with a crown, your queen at your side, and a massive, loyal army behind you.
You can more than rule Thundera, you could rule the all of third earth.
Why settle for a Kingdom when you can have an empire?
The tiger frowned as these thoughts permeated his brain, as though someone was feeding them into his head.
Maybe I need to eat something, he thought as he stood up and marched towards the royal dining hall. He had failed to notice the dark raven-like creature perched on one of the windows.
Your soul will be mine.
The next few weeks would become very odd for the prince. His thoughts were being invaded, to say the least, with visions of power shifts and conquering worlds. The came mostly at night time when he would dream, so vivid that he thought they were reality. He would be at the helm of a powerful empire, Cheetara at his side as his queen and Thundera merely a small part of his vast territory, his brother still king but answerable to him as emperor.
It certainly had a nice ring to it.
At the break of dawn, he would wake up, feeling somewhat disappointed that it was only a fleeting vision of his subconscious mind. He would wake up and cast a glance at the prosperous kingdom below him and it would hit him daily, that this was something he could never have.
He wondered if this was his place in life. Second fiddle to his younger brother, whom, if truth be told, did not deserve all that which has been granted upon him. For had it been based on skills and capability, he knew in his heart that he was the better cat. But that was not the law of the land, and he would just have to accept his fate.
Or make his own.
He wondered if there was something out there…a place he can call his own…start his own kingdom and start new rules and traditions.
Keep dreaming, Tygra, he laughed at his seemingly own foolish ambition. It takes more than one determined cat to build a kingdom.
Well, make that two, he thought as he remembered his beloved. She would be home in a few days and he couldn't help but count the hours until she did. He had missed her terribly and had come to a decision about their relationship when she returned.
His eyes wandered off to a beautiful sparkling trinket he had laid upon his nightstand. He had this one particularly made for her by the finest jeweler in all of Thundera. It had cost him more than an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. Carved out of the finest rose-colored diamond he could find, and almost as beautiful as the cat it had been meant for.
He picked up the box and held the ring to eye level.
Please say yes, Cheetara he thought.
"You have got to stop this foolishness." King Claudus spoke in a firm and final voice. He had never raised his tone but it carried just as much weight.
"I love her, father." Tygra reasoned out. "I love her more than my own life."
"This is not the time or place for flighty romances, boy." The king slammed a hand against the wooden table. "We are at the verge of war with these lizards and the last thing I need is a distracted prince and a love struck cleric!"
"Have you ever seen me distracted for the last two years father?" Tygra challenged.
"Is this how long this idiotic romance of yours has been going on?" Claudus snarled.
"Yes." The prince replied. "We know our duties and responsibilities to Thundera, father. We had agreed that duty comes first. Not once have we let our love get in the way of our obligations."
"You call your silly infatuation love?" the king did not appear impressed. "You are royalty. Clerics are servants and protectors of the crown. That those two things do not mix well in the grand scheme of things."
"I want to marry her, father." The prince spoke in a low, restrained tone.
"You are going to end this stupid dalliance at once." The king spoke just as ominously.
Tygra had never reacted this way towards his father but he had never had this problem with him before either. Back when he was romancing the ladies of the court, his father had even encouraged him, proud of his seemingly impossible conquests. Even with the princesses of other kingdoms, he had never objected so it was with much surprise that the prince was greeted with this vehement rejection of his relationship.
"I will do as I please." Tygra spoke finally as he turned his back and marched away defiantly. King Claudus firm statement stopped him in his tracks.
"I will have her taken out of the clerisy."
"No." he about faced, the fire in his eyes burning. "You wouldn't…you can't."
"I can, and I will." The king's last sentence resonated in the tiger's head. "This fling ends now, Tygra."
The tiger felt the world closing in on him.
It's not fair.
He was supposed to see her that night, but he didn't have the heart to. The tiger prince was atop one of the towers, looking up at the starlit sky, cursing his fate and shedding tears he had considered unmanly. He had sent Urdu to tell Cheetara that he was missing their rendezvous tonight because he wasn't feeling well. Which is in part true, as he literally felt the pain in his heart, as though it had been ripped so callously from his chest by no less than the man he had called his father.
Why do I even continue to call him that…Tygra thought bitterly. The lion king hadn't been a father to him for the last several years. He used to shun the rumors that the King had greatly favored Lion-O over him, and that the only reason he had not been kicked to the curb was from a sense of guilt. Now he was beginning to believe that these statements were true. While he was never mistreated, he was largely ignored anyway. His accomplishments always fell by the wayside compared to his younger brother's. For every praise he had gotten, Lion-O had gotten two or three more. For every misdeed he had been punished twice more harshly than his brother. But he had loved his father anyway, for the king certainly could have just dumped him in the servant's barracks and not allowed him the princely existence he had enjoyed.
Tygra closed his eyes, his head was beginning to hurt.
"This isn't a good place to sleep you know." A voice emerging from one of the towers broke him from his trance. It was the snow leopard he had considered his best friend. "Believe me, I've tried."
"How is she, Urdu?" he asked.
"She's fine. Very fine indeed." He laughed when the prince managed to kick him in the shin. "You are one lucky bastard to be getting your hands on that. Ooomph." Urdu yelped as the prince kicked his leg harder.
"You are not to talk about my Cheetara like that." The prince snapped at the army captain. "We haven't gotten that far yet."
Urdu shot him a look of disbelief. "Wow, you are serious about her."
"Very." The tiger replied. "Unfortunately my father does not approve. He said we are on the verge of war and that he has no use for distracted princes and clerics."
"Funny." The leopard observed. "He didn't seem to object when your brother was hitting on her."
This caused Tygra to bolt upright. "What?"
"You forget, I was with the party that went to negotiate with the lizard kingdom." Urdu reminded him. "Lion-O wouldn't leave her alone the last few weeks. Last I heard, Jaga had her watch Lion-O's back, as part of her clerical duties but with the way he was salivating around her, I doubt she would have a hard time fulfilling that part of her job description."
Tygra disappeared before Urdu could say another word.
"That might have been a little much." Urdu spoke under his breath. From the other corner of the rooftop, a large shadow materialized.
"I have to say, I couldn't have done a better job of pissing him off." The shadow spoke. "Excellent tactic there, captain."
"I've done as you asked, Grune." The leopard replied irritably. "Will you release my brother now?"
"Only if we get the results we are hoping for." The saber tooth emerged from the dark recesses of the towers. "You sure you don't want to join us? It's better than getting killed in battle."
"Over my dead body."
"As you wish." The sabertooth laughed maniacally as he hopped off his perch, leaving the guilt-ridden leopard behind.
"Forgive me, Tygra." He said somberly as he turned away and slid down the rooftops. He started heading back towards the soldier barracks, hoping against hope that the sabertooth will keep his end of the bargain.
"Are you okay?" Cheetara asked as they sat quietly under a tree close to a clear stream just on the outskirts of Thundera. This had been their favorite meeting spot.
He forced a smile on his lips, meeting her worried gaze with his. "Just tired, babe." He replied, reassuring her with a kiss on the cheek.
"Are you thinking about the possible outbreak of war?" she asked, not completely convinced that he was merely physically spent.
"Among other things." He said. He raked her with his eyes, taking in every beautiful feature. He was suddenly reminded of how his father wanted him to break up with her. He didn't know how to go about it, nor did he want to do it in the first place. "Come away with me Cheetara…"
Her eyes widened at the proposition. "What do you mean?"
"You and me…get out of Thundera…start somewhere else. Marry me…"
"Tygra…what…I don't understand…"
He took her hands in his, looked deeply in her eyes. "My father wants me to break up with you babe." He spoke bitterly. "He doesn't want us to be together but I can't…I can't live without you."
He ran an exasperated hand across his head. "This place…this place hasn't been good to me…I mean…it has...but it hasn't been fair." The tiger sat down, rubbing his hands in repressed anger. "All my life I've been reminded constantly that I'm just a piece of dirt my father has picked up from the streets of Thundera….that I'll always be second rate to my brother. That I am not worthy of ruling or even worthy of being prince…that I will never be good enough for anything around here because I am not a lion."
"You know that's not true…"
"Now they want to take you away from me too…" his voice turned ominous "Urdu told me that my brother was hankering for you when you took that trip to the lizard kingdom. Now my father wants me to break up with you so his favored son can have what he wanted."
The shock registered immediately on Cheetara's face. "That is a lie! Your brother was not making advances towards me. He was only being friendly."
"Jaga had you watch his back too." He spoke angrily. "They really want him to have you, don't they? Make sure you're around him all the time."
"You're being ridiculous, Tygra!" she stood up and motioned to leave. "I am not going to stay around if you're going to make these insane accusations."
"Urdu would never lie to me!"
"Well neither will I!"
She took off so fast he didn't get a chance to follow her.
He stood motionless, his eyes following the path she took. The prince sank to his knees, his head filled with anger and regret.
From a distance he was being watched by a pair of sinister eyes, a diabolic smile lighting up its dark face.
Not long now, he thought. Your path to the dark side has been paved, young prince.
A map lay out on the king's desk as he stood above it, surrounded by his sons and his trusted generals.
"We have word that the lizards are harvesting Thundrillium at Cloud Peak Mine." Lynx-O spoke as he pointed to a spot on the map. "One of our spies has identified at least half a dozen of them guarding the entrance."
"We must put a stop to it immediately, your highness." One other general piped up.
"Send a party before the crack of dawn." The king of Thundera ordered. "They should have their guards down by then."
"I want to go, father." Tygra spoke up. All heads turned to the tiger prince when he said so.
"This is a minor mission, son." Claudus said. "We'll have a few soldiers and lieutenants go."
"I just want to get my hands on some reptile scale…please?" He smiled as he looked at the king, to which the Thunderan monarch smiled back.
"Want to get a taste of the real world, huh?" King Claudus commented. "Very well, you may join the party in the morning."
The meeting adjourned after plans were finalized. Tygra headed off to his quarters, excited to join his first major mission.
He was slightly taken aback when he saw her leaning by his bedroom window. His room was dark, with mostly the Thunderan moonlight filtering through the windows. Her silhouette was cast against the thin curtains that blew with the gentle breeze. He hadn't seen her since their argument by the stream a few weeks ago and her presence tonight concerned him.
I wonder if she's still mad at me.
"Hi." He greeted her tentatively.
She smiled at him warmly, which greatly relieved him. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all.
He approached her slowly. "I'm hoping this means you're not angry at me."
"I'm not angry with you Tygra." She said as she closed the distance between them. She took his hand in hers which surprised the tiger prince. She's not usually the one who took initiative when it came to physical contact. "I just wish you would trust me more."
"I do trust you." He took that hand and kissed the back of it. "My brother I don't trust."
"He's not making any moves on me." She stressed. "He knows my heart belongs to someone already."
A smirk found its way to the tiger's mouth. "Really?" he raised a brow. "And who would that lucky cat be?" he gently pulled her towards him. She slid her arms around his waist while he put his at her back. He closed the distance between their faces before she had mumbled her answer. Her lips were parted slightly and he took that opportunity to slide the tip of his tongue into her mouth. He kissed her firmly, longingly, trying to make up for those days that they haven't seen each other. He felt her kiss him back with as much fervor. It wasn't long before the prince felt his inner temperature rise as well as feel changes on his body. He pulled back knowing if he didn't stop now he was going to cross the line they had defined since the beginning of their relationship.
She opened her eyes, meeting his that had darkened with repressed longing, she licked her still moist lips, probably realizing that that action had added to the prince's dilemma.
"Why did you stop…" she asked as she reached out a hand to touch his face.
"Because in a minute I wouldn't be able to…"
"You don't have to."
"But I want to…"
With that she reached out to the lapels of his shirt and started undoing his top.
Tygra took her wrist and kissed her palm. "Are you sure?"
"Of course." She whispered. "I wouldn't be here if I wasn't."
"What about my father?"
"What about him? He's not my type."
Tygra chuckled as he pulled her close again. He started to kiss the side of her neck as his hand reached to the sides of her cleric uniform and started pulling it up.
"We'll just have to prove him wrong." She said as she pulled him closer.
"We will." The tiger prince said as he gently led her to his bed.
The cheetah was gone when Tygra woke up early next morning. He smiled inwardly despite his sleep deprivation. He had given her the ring he had made for her, to keep as a promise that they will be together once the threat of war was over. Right now there were other important things to do. He put a hand to the spot where she had slept the night previous. It was still warm from her being on there, some strands of her golden hair evident on the pillowcase. A spot of blood was on the sheets as well and for a minute he felt a tinge of guilt for having done what they did.
He tried. Tried to keep himself from breaking their agreement when they started, but she had been a willing participant, reminding him repeatedly that she wanted to be with him despite the king's objections. That they would never let their relationship be a hindrance to their obligations to the crown. She had offered herself to him as proof of her love and devotion to him.
Tygra dressed to get ready for his mission. He was excited. This was his first actual venture into the mines and that he was actually going to have some action made him amped up with anticipation.
He picked up his whip and happily ran down the stairs.
This was going to be a great day.
"What happened out there, Urdu?" the king demanded of his young captain. The snow leopard had been with the party that invaded Cloud Peak Mine earlier that day and had returned by himself, battered and severely injured.
"We were ambushed, your highness." The young officer reported. "Lizards…dozens of them…out of nowhere…"
"Tygra…what happened to him? Where is he?" the king demanded, shaking the already traumatized cat.
"He fought gallantly your highness….he took many of our enemies down…I didn't get to see everything…but…he may have gone down the ravine…"
The king dropped Urdu like a habit and bellowed at the guards stationed close to the throne. "Find my son…do not rest until you have him…"
The guards scurried out hurriedly as the king sank on his throne, running his hand through his mane. "I shouldn't have let him go."
Jaga spoke up from the sidelines. "The boy wishes to prove himself a man, your highness."
Claudus turned to the head cleric. "I still shouldn't have allowed it Jaga." He cursed under his breath. "I know you think I favor Lion-O, but Tygra is my son too."
"Mayhaps you should be telling that to Tygra, sire." Jaga spoke. "The way he has been acting lately it seems he does not think so."
"You think I have been unfair to him, Jaga?"
"Unfair would probably not be the word I choose." The jaguar said. "But he probably thinks that his accomplishments are not treated with the same recognition as his brother's."
The king was speechless. He wasn't sure what to tell his advisor. He certainly didn't mean to belittle his adopted son's accomplishments. Perhaps he had just gotten too focused on Lion-O, grooming him to be the future king and making sure that he was cared for and attended to. He can't blame Tygra if the latter resented him for that.
He hoped it was not too late.
Where am I?
When Tygra awoke he found himself chained to the wall, he winced as he felt the wounds on his body. He was in a dungeon, dark, empty and damp, with torches lighting what appears to be a vacant hallway. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. The last thing he recalled was fighting off at least a dozen lizards. They were armed with weapons he had never laid eyes upon. Their crew was ambushed and he remembered one too many of them falling to these unusual looking things that the lizards were armed with. He bit his lip as he was reminded by a gash on his temple that he had injured his head from a fall. He wondered where his comrades were.
"I see you are awake." A familiar voice resonated from the hallway. Tygra looked up to see it was the saber tooth.
"Grune!" he felt somewhat relieved. This rapidly dissipated when he found two lizards flanking the general. "What is the meaning of this? What…"
He was silenced by the appearance of a fourth figure. A mummy, encased in a red hood and wrapped in bandages. He looked frail and weak but his eyes said otherwise.
"Welcome to my domain, Prince Tygra." The mummy spoke, laughing diabolically as he did. Tygra flinched as the creature ran a bony hand across his chest, as he felt his heart being squeezed. He was able to breathe after a few seconds of suffocation from an invisible force. "The seeds of darkness have already been planted…." The mummy observed. "It just needs to be cultivated."
Tygra wasn't sure of what was going on but he pulled with all his might against the chains that bound him. He turned to the one familiar face in the room. "Grune, what's going on here?"
The sabretooth flashed him a demonic smile. "Lord Mumm-ra has just chosen you, sire."
"I don't understand."
Grune took a few steps forward and stopped a foot away from the tiger prince. "He has deemed you worthy of being granted your deepest desires…to rule your own kingdom without being limited by your bloodline." He smirked. "Be the master of your own land, not have to answer to your inferior little brother, marry whomever you wish without a king trying to step in the way."
"That's not my wish."
Grune burst out laughing. "Of course not…not what you want the world to believe of course." The general met the tiger eye to eye. "I knew your father…your real father. Not that sad excuse for a king who sits on the throne of Thundera. Your father is Lord Tiberus, once the prime minister. He was a smart, powerful leader, and when Claudus felt him a threat to overpower him and take the throne, he had him executed and made to look like he died from an accident."
"You lie!" Tygra snapped, trying unsuccessfully to pull away from the chains that held him in place. "My father would never do such a thing!"
"You can believe what you want to." Grune snarled. "You know that the only reason Claudus kept your sorry ass with him is to constantly remind him of the threat that he quashed. Thus he had kept you under his thumb, make you feel inferior to his son so that he can be sure you will never overthrow Lion-O because you think you're second best."
Tygra seethed, the anger burning brightly in his eyes.
"The truth hurts, your highness." The sabertooth resigned. "One day you will accept this and realize you are far greater than any lion that walked this third earth. Maybe then, you can make your real father proud and give him justice."
With this, the foursome left, leaving the tiger prince by his lonesome. Tears started to sting his eyes and when they were beyond earshot, he had let them flow.
Tygra didn't know how long he had stayed in that dungeon. He had lost track of the days, unable to tell the rising and setting of the sun from the lack of windows. They had moved him to a cell and for some reason had slowly given him more leeway as time passed. The food they threw his way started to get better and slowly they had let him out to get exercises. He was unsure why they were treating him well. By the time he suspected he was in his third month of captivity he was getting the royal treatment. With the exception of the chain on his leg that kept him from escaping the pyramid.
Extremely puzzling, indeed.
Grune visited him daily, sparring with him, chatting, telling him stories of olden days of Thundera. No mention of Claudus at all. Instead he heard stories of his biologic father, Prime Minister Tiberus and of his greatness.
"Your father would have made a mighty king." Grune suggested. "An even greater king than Claudus, as I am sure you would have been had it not been those lions trying to repress you." The general leaned forward and spoke in a lower tone. "How dare they try to put you down, you are far stronger, smarter and more cunning than a dozen Lion-Os. I've seen your gift when you were a child, as did Jaga and Claudus. They have seen what you are capable of, and they did their best to make you feel inferior. Are you going to let them get away with that?"
Tygra tried to close his ears to what the saber tooth fed him on a daily basis, repeating to himself that these were nothing but fabrications. But there are days that he began to wonder if any of them had even a hint of accuracy in them.
The longer he stayed at the dark pyramid, the more the lizards have been welcoming of him, much to his surprise. He knew that Grune had probably tipped them off. They treated him like one of their own as opposed to their prisoner. That the prince found this puzzling and disturbing at the same time was an understatement. He wondered what plans they had for him, as they don't seem to be intent on keeping him imprisoned, but have no plans on setting him free either. The longer he had stayed, the more he had become sympathetic to their cause.
"Thundercats have taken the best of what third earth has to offer." One of the lizards had said. "We are left with nothing but the trash you have thrown upon us."
"Your race has claimed all the fertile lands. Our race has suffered in starvation with the barren deserts you have left us with!"
Tygra did his best to turn a deaf ear to their complaints, yet these would nag at him constantly when he laid in the silence of his now furnished cell.
One time he had been wandering around the hallways of the pyramid when he heard the unmistakable sound of battle.
He peered his head into what appeared to be a training room and watched as two reptiles engaged in friendly combat using weapons he have never seen before. These were not just metal weapons, they would shoot lights from their tips, burning whatever happened to cross their paths. He stood there, fascinated with the power of these weapons. It was at this point where he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see the sabretooth smiling at him.
"Incredible isn't it?" he asked. Grune stepped forward and took a laser gun that leaned against the wall and threw it to the tiger. "Here…try it."
Tygra stared at the pistol that Grune had thrown at him. He took aim at a target on the wall, pulled the trigger and shot at it, the beam burned a hole right through the middle of the steel bullseye.
"There's many more where that came from." The sabertooth laughed as he watched the prince's curious eyes examine the weapon in his hand.
The look in Tygra's eyes satisfied the older cat. "Show me…"
Unknown to the tiger, Mumm-Ra had been watching his every move, this latest one brought the biggest grin on his evil face. He turned to Slithe who stood steadfast by his side. "Looks like we have a new commander in the making." He laughed diabolically, the reptile joining him.
Meanwhile in Thundera, a figure was seen standing before a relatively new tomb that graced the line of royal gravestones. The figure had placed a flower on top of the epitaph as tear fell on its marble surface.
The flower was a day astrid.
The figure pulled the hood that covered her tear-stained face.
She still couldn't believe it.
It can't be.
He can't be dead.
But it had been six months, and despite the extensive search that the king's men had done on the pass where he was last seen, there was no trace of the prince to be found, other than smatterings of what they though may be his blood among some rocks. King Claudus had thrown in the towel and had acknowledged that his older son had perished in the hands of lizards. A royal funeral had been held a month after he had disappeared. It has been many moons since then, but she had not completely accepted his death.
Cheetara wiped the tears with the back of her hand. She had tried not to show any emotions during the ceremony where they had symbolically laid the prince to rest. She would let her guard down when she was by herself, sequestered in her quarters where the thick walls hid her sobs. Her pain was indefinable. She had held on to the ring he had given her when she had seen him last, as it was her last memory of her first love. She would relive the one night they had spent together, when she had given him the gift of herself many times over in the course of the evening. His touch, his kiss, his words of endearment in her ear….she cherished all of that, as it was all she had left of him. A memory.
She replaced the hood again as she stepped away from the tombstone. Walking away, she did not look back.
"Are you okay?"
Cheetara looked up to see the lion prince before her. The concern in his eyes genuine, the tone of his voice was comforting.
He had been a good shoulder to cry on when she first started grieving. During the time that she watched over him under Jaga's orders, they had become friends. She had at one time relayed to him her relationship with his brother, to which he didn't seem surprised. He had been given her solace as they both sorrowed over the tiger's death.
"I guess it still hasn't completely hit me that he's gone." She tried to ward off the shaking in her voice.
"It's okay Cheetara." Lion-O offered his arms which she accepted. He wrapped her in his embrace, his hand rubbing her back as she sobbed. "We will all miss him."
Not too far away, stood the king, observing as his younger son comfort the cleric. He remembered well how he vehemently objected to his demised son's romance with her. Now that Tygra was dead he had felt a pang of regret. He felt as though he had taken from his adopted son the one thing he could have had that would make him happy.
He wished he could take it all back.
But wishing was all he could do, for no miracle on this third earth could bring him back to life. Not a thing.
Forgive me, Tygra, King Claudus bent his head down, as a tear uncharacteristically ran down his cheek.
Back in Mumm-Ra's pyramid, Tygra stood overlooking the vast desert, deep in thought. Funny how he didn't feel like a prisoner here anymore, save for the magical cuff on his ankle that prevented him from escaping. He had attempted multiple times in the past to get away, but the spell cast upon it was so powerful he nearly died trying. At some point he had given up and resigned his fate.
In some weird, twisted way, this pyramid had become home.
The lizards had treated him well, and whether Grune or Mumm-Ra had anything to do with it was anyone's guess. But he received here what he didn't always get back at Thundera.
Not that he had never gotten that back in the thundercat kingdom. He did, although now that he truly thought about it he believed he didn't get as much as he deserved.
He was always treated number 2, even if deep in his heart he thought he deserved to be number 1.
Neither Mumm-Ra nor Grune or even Slithe questioned him when he would intervene in the lizard's training. They had let him do what he wanted, without question, without doubt. He liked that. He liked that very much.
Yet from time to time he would wonder what was happening back in Thundera. For he did miss his home, especially Cheetara.
He could still recall that night they had spent together before he was captured. It was the one thing that kept him going in his first few months of captivity.
He wished he could go back and take her with him, maybe start fresh somewhere. Mumm-Ra had promised him his own empire, and while he was still a little cynical trusting the mummy, the thought of ruling his own kingdom put a smile on his lips.
King Tygra? No….Emperor Tygra.
Yup, it still sounded right to his ears.
Tygra marched back into the pyramid, heading for the visionary body of water that sat in the middle of Mumm-Ra's throne room. It was the one way he could look back at Thundera and while at first Mumm-Ra never allowed him to use it, the last few days or so, for some weird reason the mummy had given him free access to it at all times.
He sure has strange way about him and Tygra would never understand it. He was thrilled of course when he was first given permission, but until now he had not the courage to try it.
"Show me Cheetara." He spoke aloud, commanding the waters. The fluid mirror swirled, lighting up the otherwise dark, desolate throne room. Tygra was excited. He had not seen her in all this time other than in his visions and memories. That he could actually see her was a treat he was anticipating with much enthusiasm.
What was this?
The vision before him was something he didn't expect.
His arms were around her.
His hands on her back, caressing her hair.
And his father….in the background, watching them.
Had he not known that the water mirror can show no lies, he would've thought this was all being done in deceit.
How could she?
He hasn't been gone a year and she had already replaced him with his brother.
Mayhaps because he could do things for her that he cannot?
Make her Queen of Thundera.
His father…without signs of objection, observed them from a short distance.
So he was not allowed to have her, and yet the King had not shown an ounce of trepidation when his brother wanted the same thing?
How could he…
How could they…
He wasn't even dead…
This can't be.
The one time he had the chance to see the last person who mattered and he witnesses her in his brother's arms?
It's not fair.
He could not stand it. With a command he banished the despicable vision from his sight.
Tygra was seething.
His heart hurt, literally.
How dare they….
How dare they do this to me.
Has he truly been expendable? A minor inconvenience his father put up with?
No wait…King Claudus was not his father. Lord Tiberus was. Claudus was the one who kept him under his thumb and made him feel inferior to his younger brother. And there were nary a day that he was not reminded of it.
They can't get rid of him that easy.
He was going to make sure they know it.
Tygra is not going to go down as the prince who was second place, not if he can help it.
Unbeknownst to the tiger, his captors were watching him in the background.
Grune stepped towards the prince. He placed an arm around the younger cat's shoulders.
"Mumm-Ra thinks it's about time to set you free, your highness." He had said. This caused Tygra to rapidly turn his head towards the older cat. Was he hearing things?
Before he could utter another word, the clasp on his ankle opened and disintegrated before his very eyes. He picked up his leg and looked at the spot where it had sat for months on end. He rubbed against that area of his fur where it was rather sore from being bound so long. He took a few tentative steps from the border where it usually set off a shockwave through him when he tried to escape.
He turned around. Mumm-Ra and Grune stood a few feet away. The prince met their content gazes with his trademark smirk.
Mumm-Ra reached out and from thin air produced a black metal armored suit with the twisted snake logo in the middle.
A sinister smile appeared on the mummy's mouth.
Tygra walked towards him and took the uniform in his hands.
"Welcome to my invincible army, Commander Tygra."
Despicable enough for you?
As I've previously mentioned, this is not the Thundera, Tygra or Lion-O you know. This is an alternative universe….a prelude to In His Shoes. If you haven't read it, please do. It will explain things to a certain degree. Should you not be able to handle it, let me know as I can show you a not-so-graphic version of the story.
Comments, reviews and requests most welcome. Flames, not so much, but go ahead if you wish.
Lion-O: How come you get to be so badass?
Tygra: Because I already am.
Lion-O: Will (Friedle)! Do something about this!
Will Friedle: What are you looking at me for? I'm not the one writing this crap.
Tygra: I don't know what you're complaining about. You already get the sword, the crown, the girl, father's approval in this fic. If anyone should be whining, it should be me. Look what I got…Mumm-Ra, Slithe, Grune…
Grune: I can't be that bad.
Tygra: Well you're not a hot, blonde cheetah now are you?
Mumm-Ra: That can be arranged.
Tygra: Ummm…no thank you.
Part 2 coming up…..soon…hopefully not next month…lol.