On the edge of the Desert, where the boundary between the desert and Jungle existed, there was an unusual phenomenon. A Chink of light hung in the hair. Unnoticed by many. Blue in color and visible from only two directions – facing it head on – it was highly unusual to say the least. But not unique. The Pridelands had seen many an unnatural aspect in the days gone past. And this was no exception. it was a Gateway – or rather the remains of one. Whether by design of some God, some fluke, some accident or chance, nobody knew. But it was still there. Through this same gateway, Rafiki and Yessen had disappeared only days before. Yet it had never fully closed.
Now it changed. It pulsed with more light and rippled. Suddenly it burst open. Light flashed across the desert. Behind the gateway, it was night time, but this side, it was still dusk, and out of the shadow-like landscape, stepped… a creature.
It was a Lion – though clearly different to any the Pridelands had ever seen. For two reasons. The first, was the face that it was unusually tall – its neck was long, but thin, leaner than most lions in the Pridelands, and not as well muscles. They were clearly faster though. Its mane was sparser than those often seen in the Pridelands.
The most distinguishing feature however, was its fur. His mane and fur were both as white as snow. He had soft red eyes, which was the only discernible color on the lion. As it made its way through the gateway, it quickly took a brief look around and turned to someone invisible behind him.
"Come on! Quickly!" His said.
Behind him came more. A three lionesses and a second male. These had the normal shades of fur you would expect from a lion - although their pelt was darker, a chocolate brown on two of the lionesses and the male, and a dark gold on the other females.
The male's mane was pitch black. Finally a fourth lioness stepped through the gateway.
She was gasping for air.
"Father…" She whispered, then collapsed unconscious. The white lion rushed to her side, nuzzled her.
"Sleep now, Sundar. I am so proud of you. Holding that open for as long as you did…" He spoke softly to his daughter. The Other male, a youth looked around.
"Where are we? A Desert?" He asked. The White lion nodded to the jungle.
"We'll find shelter there. Then we can plan." He said. The second male nodded in agreement.
Golgorath was abuzz with frantic excitement. Excitement? Well no, perhaps not excitement. But it was definitely frantic. Rish'ut paced throughout the Tower.
Sekmet had not yet returned. They had nothing to report. And worse – the Emperor was coming here. He made his way to the central antechamber – we only days before it had been the site of desperate fight-pits between animals – natural allies and enemies alike – over meat. Now it was to be the room where he would receive the emperor. Rish'ut paced again. Then he stopped. The air was humming with power. All went silent, and suddenly a Rift burst into existence. The flash of light blinded him, and when he blinked, he saw a familiar figure. Marsade, and next to him, the Emperor. Ben-Kai-Ra, as huge and powerful as ever. And flanking him, Rish'ut saw with distance, two others. Amun, and Mortread. Mortread was the youngest of the Shai'tan, and eager to prove himself. He was a decent sort, but Amun was a nasty piece of work – even by Tiger standards. Rish'ut disliked him.
Rish'ut bowed to the Emperor, who stepped forward, and looked him dead in the eye.
"Have you located the Prince yet?" He asked. Rish'ut gulped. He had hoped that the Emperor had not yet heard about it.
"Ah… No my Emperor. Sekmet is tracking the cub but –" Ben-Kai-Ra walked past him without another word.
"I am told you have not yet conquered the rest of the Pridelands?" The Emperor asked. There was no point in lying.
"Some vermin in the Shadowlands have not yet bent the knee. It is only a matter of time before"
"It is only a matter of time, before the Sun goes out, and moon falls, and the earth burns, Rish'ut. All of these things will happen within the next billion years, but it is still a matter of time. I want them dealt with now. Amun – Take as many Wilddogs and Snakes as you need to Carrocscir. Crush this pocket of resistance." He said, to the Tiger behind him.
"It will be done my Lord." He said. And left. The Emperor turned to Rish'ut.
"Where have you kept the Oracle?" The Emperor asked.
"She… She is in the catacombs… But I have tried extracting anything she knows. She is… resilient to any questions about the Prince, or Vitani the one who leads them." He explained, quickening his pace to keep up.
"I broke her before. I will do so again. She will predict events, once I have encouraged her…" He said. They made their way to the dungeons, where Marsade opened the sealed rock.
"Let us have some light…" The Emperor ordered Marsade, who, shrugging, conjured a ball o flames, which levitated high above their heads, this time illuminating the entire caves.
The cell was far smaller in the light. Rish'ut peered in and saw the Oracle. A Lioness lay on the rocky floor, staring up in contempt at them. Her back was hunched, and all four of her limbs were twisted, awkwardly, showing where broken bones had healed. She was covered in scars, but Rish'ut could no longer tell which they had found her with, or which were inflicted in the sessions during which she "predicted" the events.
"I know why you have come… But I will not give you the answers you seek. Not this time – no matter how much pain you bring." He told the Emperor, looking him directly in the face.
"Tell me everything you know about Kiava and Vitani." He ordered her.
"No." She said simply, and closed her eyes, preparing for the pain which will follow.
"Why? You did so once. With your knowledge, we broke the Pride and conquered the Pridelands… Why resist it now? You have no love of your home. You care not for the ones who cared about you."
"You know nothing, Emperor! All I did, I did out of the love I had for others! To Bring peace! Justice! To Avenge the dead and reclaim what was mine! And to my eternal shame, I betrayed them to you. I will not be made to betray my home again. You will get no answers from me." She told him defiantly. The Emperor drew his claws stalking towards her.
Marsade sealed the save door behind them.
The Emperor smiled.
"Then I will settle for your screams… Zira."