Here is the newest chapter to the Story of the Stars. I will now be reentering the present time. The history lesson from the previous chapter will not be continued until later. Hope you're all ready for what's about to come. Read and review!
Ed raised a paw to stop his hunting party. The rest of them froze as they waited for his next signal which was to indicate which creature was their target. After that would be the signal for who does what. The final signal was the time to strike.
The group of canines eyed the herd of zebra hungrily as they waited for the right moment…And there it was! The second signal. The group dispersed into two, the smaller one slinked to the other side of the herd while Ed's team waited patiently.
After a few minutes, the hyenas in the smaller group leaped out of the tall grass and gave chase to the fleeing zebras. The herd was in panic so it became difficult for Ed's team to see what was happening but they still waited.
Ed's eyes darted left and right, keeping watch of where the separated herds were moving. He noticed two zebras running into a small canyon to reach the other side. It was the smallest group of zebras but he didn't need to haul in the entire herd. Two would do for now.
After he gave the signal, his team rushed out from the hiding spot and ran after the stray zebras. The smaller group chased after another group of zebras but only targeting a few of them.
Ed's team continued until they were inside the crevice and that's when he noticed that it wasn't a canyon but more of a U-shaped rock wall. Their prey was trapped with no escape, this made it much easier for the hunting party.
'Almost too easy…' thought Ed uneasily. He knew that zebras were difficult to catch because they fought back by kicking their predators in the head with their strong back legs. And these zebras should know these lands better than he does, so why run in here?
The rest of his hunting party didn't notice these abnormalities; they were just preparing themselves to kill their prey and drag them back home. But before any of them pounced, Ed noticed something very wrong. These zebras weren't afraid, they stood there, not accepting their death, but stared at them as if they were looking at a prey themselves.
The zebras immediately broke off in break neck speed, splitting up to temporarily confuse their pursuers and ran around them to escape. Ed felt it before anyone else did, the rumbling coming from underneath his paws. "Everyone run now!" he shouted.
His team was surprised to hear their commander's voice but even more surprised when a shower of boulders came tumbling down on them from all sides. They all ran out of the trap as fast as they could and Ed pushed out anyone that didn't react fast enough. Before the rocks crashed down on all of them, Ed was able to help them all escape but got crushed himself.
"Commander!" cried out his comrades.
Ed coughed out blood as he attempted to pull himself out of the rubble. The majority of his body was crushed underneath the debris but the rest of him was okay. The other hyenas ran and tried to help him out but Ed paid no attention to them. He only noticed a single buzzard flying overhead with familiar marking on her left wing. After that, everything went black.
"Are you absolutely sure about this?" asked Sauda as she led Jelani towards hyena territory. "Out of every plan ever devised in history, this one has to be the most foolish and the most riskiest."
Jelani frowned as he regarded his canine companion with a look of partial confusion. "I know it is and I don't think there is such a word as 'riskiest'."
"I know there isn't!" Sauda retorted. "But look, Jelani, I really appreciate what you're trying to do but trust me, my mother is being very irrational and I don't think talking to the lion prince is going to help much in our case."
"I'd like to remind you that you didn't veto my idea and you actually agreed with me and thought it was a good idea just a little bit earlier."
"Well the closer we get to my home, the more I have second and even third thoughts about this."
"You mean my home, first of all. Second of all, as much as I'd like to turn back now and race back to my hiding spot, we're going to have to come to this situation sooner or later. Not to mention, me staying incognito isn't going to help anything."
"It'll help you and my father stay alive!"
Jelani pretended not to hear her, knowing that she was probably right but didn't want to seem stupid for not thinking of those consequences earlier. Besides, this might get them killed, or it might free her father from a life of imprisonment.
But there was one other thing that encouraged Jelani to continue with his risky plan. "You told me that your mother loves your father even if she doesn't show it, right?" To this, Sauda nodded to show he was correct. "Then she won't execute him. Besides, he saved my life, I have to repay him somehow."
"No offense to your sense of logic, but wouldn't dying just, oh I don't know, render the whole point of saving your life meaningless?"
"You've said enough to hurt my pride, you can just stop now."
Sauda rolled her eyes but couldn't help smiling a little bit. She was worried about his well-being but she knew she couldn't deter him from this plan of his so she would just have to go through with it. She just hoped everything would be okay in the end like her father had said.
When they had reached the outskirts, they became completely silent lest they get caught. They found their way by sneaking past every other hyena and then Sauda left Jelani hidden in the bushes so she could butter her mother up first.
"Mother?" called Sauda as she entered the den. The first thing she saw was her mother pacing back and forth with a worried expression on her face and her advisors standing around her, trying to keep her from losing her mind from the looks of it. "Mother?" she called again.
This time, Shenzi responded. "Yes! Sauda, it's just you…I'm sorry; I'm just a little worried about Ed and the rest of his hunting party. They've been out there much longer than usual. I'm just afraid they might've been attacked by the lions."
Sauda frowned as these words played through her mind. "Um, mother, about the whole conflict between us and the lions. Don't you think we've taken things a bit too far? Maybe we misjudged the lions."
If it wasn't her own daughter, the matriarch would've started shouting right there and then. But since it was, she sighed and looked at Sauda almost regrettably. "Sauda, you are very kind and I honestly love that about you, but you cannot let that get in the way of clear thinking. Just look at what the lions did to us a few days ago, they killed off at least thirty of our hyenas. How can you say we 'misjudged' them?"
"Mother, I don't think this is fair!" argued Sauda. "Just listen, I have proof that not all lions are bad and if things go right then this war will be over and there won't be any more deaths."
Shenzi exhaled exasperatedly but decided not pursue further into this argument. The sooner it was over with the better. "Fine, tell-!" Shenzi could smell a familiar scent in the air mixed with the noxious scent of blood.
Jelani caught the scent as well as he pushed his body closer to the wall of the outside of the cave. He watched as a huge group of hyenas rushed in carrying a bloody mess on top of them. It had the same shape and size of a male hyena and that couldn't be good.
"Matriarch Shenzi, we bring dreadful news!" called a young hunter as he tried to catch his breath.
The group of hyenas laid the mangled form of Ed in front of her. They all gasped upon seeing their top commander in such a pitiful state. Shenzi lowered her head so that she could look at her age old friend up close.
She felt his weak and hot breath touch her cheek. "He's still breathing" Shenzi sighed in relief before turning to her advisors. "Take him to see the medics and make sure he is treated right away! And don't you dare come back until you've done exactly that!"
"Yes ma'am!" they saluted. They gathered around Ed's body and carried him out of the den.
After they were gone, Shenzi turned her attention back to the hunting party. There was about half of them present so she guessed that the rest of the party was dragging back their meal if they caught anything in the first place.
"Mother?" whispered Sauda after the matriarch didn't respond for a while.
"Who…What happened out there?" asked Shenzi in a broken voice.
"We were chasing after two zebras when they led us into a trap. It was intentionally set up and we stupidly fell for it" reported one of the hyenas from the group, presumably the second in command. "The other half of us caught them and found that it was the enemy pride that had ordered them to do this…"
While Ed's group tried to free their commander out of his crushing prison, the rest of the hunting party chased after the fleeing zebras. It was one thing to let their prey get away, it was another to let enemies of war escape.
They were able to catch up quickly and they leaped onto the zebras. Pressing them down so they wouldn't be able to escape but they didn't kill them. Instead one of the hyenas bent down and snarled at the frightened expression on one of the zebras.
"That trap was set up. By who?" he snapped ferociously.
The zebra whimpered pathetically which was in complete contrast with their confidence from earlier. Of course, this fact went by unnoticed by this hyena considering he didn't see their confidence from earlier.
"It was King Malka and King Simba!" blurted out the other zebra. "Please don't kill us; we were only following orders from our higher ups! Honest!"
The hyena stared at both of their faces before giving the group of hyenas on top of the zebras the signal which Ed would've given them meaning, kill them on the spot with no second thoughts. And the ruthless party did just that.
Shenzi growled loudly to express her pent up frustration and anger. "Those two kings did this to him?! I can't believe this and yet it doesn't surprise me!"
"Matriarch, it seems they're making much bolder moves. It's as if they are fighting without any care for their lives or their subordinates. I think it's time we retaliate their refugee camp with our entire army" suggested one of the advisors that had stayed behind.
Shenzi nodded in consent after some much needed thought. "Yes, I agree, it's time we fight back!"
"No, mother, please, don't do this! I'm sure there must be some sort of mistake or some sort of misunderstanding!" shouted Sauda as she tried to change her mother's mind. "The lions have been docile up until that attack a few days ago but there must've been another reason!"
"Sauda, there is no room for argument, my decision is final! There is no such thing as a good lion; they're all deceitful and unfair to our kind. That's just it, nothing good has ever come from siding with their species."
"You're wrong mother!"
"Did you even see what happed to your Uncle Ed!? Or do you not even care?"
"How can you say that?"
"Ed needs intense medical attention and it's all because of Simba, Malka, and the rest of their cruel prides!" Shenzi shouted loudly, not caring whether Sauda was her daughter or not.
Sauda was struck speechless by her mother's outburst and couldn't help choking back her inner tears. Shenzi saw this and immediately regretted her actions. Before either could respond though, Jelani leaped out in between mother and daughter.
"Matriarch Shenzi! I am the one at fault, do not vent out your frustrations at the lions at her!" stated Jelani.
Almost every hyena froze there when they saw the appearance of the lion prince. The first to react was Shenzi, and her fury returned in her expression one hundred-fold. "So Banzai lied to me again! You're still alive!"
"Yeah, I am, but you shouldn't have punished Banzai for such things as keeping me alive. He was a kind soul to me when I was at death's door, he's done so much good and yet you're willing to let him, your own mate, rot in a cell!" retorted Jelani feeling his anger rise within him. "And your daughter is the same, they don't deserve punishment."
"As matriarch…It is my duty to punish those who defy me and my kind. Even if they are my mate and my daughter…They've betrayed their pack" said Shenzi emotionlessly. "And you as well, deserve punishment for your crimes as lion prince."
Jelani shook his head as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "That may be your duty as matriarch but what are your duties as a mother and a mate? This is what your daughter and your mate have taught me while they took care of me. We lions and hyenas are different, yes that much is true, but we are more alike than you think. We understand the good and the bad of family, of friends, of love, of betrayal, of life, and of loss. We may be different species but we all understand what life is and what it means to be alive. This is what I've learned from your daughter."
"Mother…Look at us…We're friends, and I know you were friends with a lion once. We can mend the bridge if we try, and if we can't, then we can build a new one, this time supported by both sides" said Sauda.
Shenzi heard their words and thought back to the times of Taka. They were all so close back then and nothing seemed like it could go wrong. But when Scar was born, everything changed, and it was like all the happy and simple times died along with Taka. Then she thought to all the things Scar had said about them before he had died and she gritted her teeth in anger.
'No, a lion couldn't be friends with a hyena. It wasn't just about Scar, there was more, throughout history; hyenas have been subjected to prejudice and abuse by these big cats. Well, no more! It's time they got the rights they deserved and no less than that. The lion prince was probably just like the rest of his species, he would tear apart what's left of her daughter's heart and she would not allow that to happen.'
She shook her head at them to brush off their words like they didn't matter to her. "No, we cannot mend the bridge that has been broken for generations nor can we build a new one to replace it. I'm sorry Sauda, but we're going to have to arrest your…'friend'…"
"No!" Sauda cried out but Jelani stopped her from saying any more.
"It's okay Sauda…" he told her with a small smile. He became serious again as he faced her mother. He bowed his head low to show he would not struggle and would only submit to her will. "I will be your prisoner as long as you don't jail your daughter and free your mate. They don't deserve that kind of life…"
The other hyenas in the den that have stayed quiet for so long began spewing different punishments to dish out. Many involved torture or even death in the cruelest method ever imaginable. Shenzi silenced them with a single roar before looking at the bowing lion in front of her. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you on the spot" she said.
"I am worth more than anything to my father. You can use me as ransom to end this war. I know you love your family and what your family wants more than anything else is for this war to be over. If you give me and my family a chance to live life anew somewhere else and yours a life they desire, then I promise my kind will never bother you and your pack ever again."
Shenzi remained silent as she considered this but it didn't take long for her to come up with a final decision. "I've learned my lesson from that peace treaty…I won't fall into another mockery of a promise of peace ever again. I sentence you to execution!"
That was the cue for the hyenas to move in and kill him. This wasn't the answer Jelani was hoping for and it sure wasn't what Sauda was hoping for either. The female hyena barreled herself into one of the hyenas who landed on the wall and fell to the ground. She ran into the fray and pulled Jelani out with all her might, "Run!" she ordered.
The two of them rocketed off as fast as they could away from hyena territory. Neither bothered to look back to see if they were being chased after, the enraged barks were enough to inform them of their pursuers.
"What are we supposed to do now?" asked Jelani as he ran.
"What else? We get Jambo and get out of here as quick as we can!" called back Sauda.
Jelani nodded. "Then we'll head to the refugee camp! We'll be safe there for the time being."
Tama could feel her patience and ability to tolerate her companions wavering. Almost every day since they set out to look for the prince of the Coast Lands, Kula and Chaka had argued about something. Despite how calm and collected Chaka may appear to be, he was about as hotheaded as her best friend was.
"I told you to go left!" shouted Chaka.
"And I told you it didn't matter!" Kula retorted. "Going right was just as good as going left!"
"No! I was heading right! And you were heading straight ahead, right for that zebra's back! What if it had kicked you in the head?!"
"Then I'd brush it off! What's the big deal; we caught the damn thing didn't we?"
Tama knew that there was only one quick and efficient way to get these two to stop with their pointless arguing. It was amusing and funny at first but now it was just getting on her last nerves. "Aw, you two sound like an adorable old couple" she said monotonously. 'One…Two…Three…'
"We do not!" they both snapped at her simultaneously.
Kula's expression softened when she realized how her best friend's spirit needed to be revived. "Are you okay Tama? You don't seem like you're doing so hot."
"Can you blame me? You guys argue all the time and I'm just not sure if I can even take it even more!" Tama sighed exasperatedly. "I love you Kula, but if this is just going to continue on between you two then you can just take me back to the pride. I'm sick of this."
"Your own best friend gets annoyed by you, that really says something" Chaka remarked with a smug grin.
Kula lightly cuffed him on the shoulder. "Look Tama, I didn't realize how much I was irritating you but you know you can just tell me about these things right? We're best friends, it's not like I can't be reasonable or I can't handle criticism."
Chaka gave a faux cough. "Liar!"
Kula ignored him. "I promise we'll try to get along better. Right Chaka?"
"Right, I promise to try and get along with you better. No matter how much I don't want to" Chaka stated more towards Tama. He then turned his next statement towards Kula. "I'm impressed Kula, you're being incredibly mature about this."
"Well one of us has to be."
The three of them chuckled together when they suddenly stopped. They could hear something from beyond the bushes behind them. It didn't sound very threatening but it's not like they could really base off something dangerous with a noise they just heard.
"Hello? Is anyone here? Mama, Jelani?" called a young voice.
It sounded way too young for it to be someone that would be able to harm them. But to be safe, the three of them remained as silent as possible while Chaka crawled towards the area where they heard the voice. He peeked through the bush and saw a hyena pup looking lost and confused.
"Are you lost little one?" asked Chaka as gently as he could.
The hyena pup turned to the male lion and brightened up immediately. He quickly hopped over to him excitedly with absolutely no signs of fear or hesitancy. "Oh wow, another lion! So cool! Are you a friend of Jelani's?"
"Well, yes I-whoa, wait! How do you know Jelani, and who in the world are you, and hasn't your mother told you not to talk to strangers, and why aren't you afraid of me?" Chaka asked a mile a minute.
"One question at a time dude and don't forget to breathe" said Kula while rolling her eyes.
The hyena pup immediately ran up to the two lionesses and didn't even bother answering a single one of the male's questions. "Oh, wow, lionesses, they really don't have manes like Jelani said!" he said flamboyantly.
"It's very nice to meet you, but could you tell us who you are?" asked Tama.
"Oh, I'm Jambo, I'm the grandson of the matriarch!" he said proudly. "I came out here to look for my mom and my friend, Jelani. Oops, mama said to never tell anyone about him. I'm going to be in trouble."
"You mean you wandered out here all by yourself? You do realize how dangerous that is right?" asked Kula.
"But…But…I just wanted to see my friend…"
"It's fine, but do you know where Prince Jelani might be? We're part of his pride and we're looking for him" said Tama.
I'm not sure, but maybe he went to the pack. Over where my home is!"
The lions glanced from each other to the hyena pup. He seemed way too young and innocent to be deemed untrustworthy, but if he was right and Jelani was in hyena territory, then things just took a turn for the very worst.
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. Also, the bad thing that's going to happen in the Pride Lands will happen in the next chapter. And it's going to surprise a lot of you and some of you might hate me, but it won't be something you guys will expect. Can't wait to hear from you guys again so don't forget to review!