Oh, I'm bad. And not bad good, I mean bad bad. I haven't updated in forever, and I and so very sorry to the few but loved readers I have. A bit of a longer chapter here with more characters being introduced. I've hit a bit of a block but I promise the next chapter will be up ASAP! Plus, for those with a hankerin' for the angstin', I've got a oneshot or two lined up for posting.
HAVE SOME LIONS!
He always felt a giddy thrill whenever he met someone new, and this lioness, this River, was no exception. It was an odd name, true, but it strangely suited her, like it'd be wrong to call her anything else. But then she was a rogue; their naming practices were usually a bit different than pride folk. He briefly wondered who her parents were. She was built and colored like a lion of the HillLands, but her face and extended claws suggested rougher roots, perhaps in the Red Valley. She was beautiful to be sure, an exotic wonder he couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of.
That explained why Shoka had been so surly towards her. She was very lovely, and it was true he had been flirting with her a bit, but it had been just harmless fun. She seemed to understand that, even if his stick-in-the-mud friend didn't. Besides, he would never betray his betrothed. He was an honorable lion, if anything.
While his internal monologue ran through his head, he hadn't stopped talking to River. It was a talent of his, being able to focus on two trains of thought at once. He fancied himself a bit of a genius, much to the chagrin of his teachers and peers. Well, not all of his peers. There was one who adored him absolutely and completely.
"'DITHI!" And here she was. A tan blur streaked towards them, bowling Hadithi over in seconds. River reeled back, startled at what she evidently thought to be an attack if the low growl in her throat was anything to go by. He gave a little smile to the young lioness squirming on his chest, though he had to wince a bit. She was making it a bit hard to breathe.
"Hello, Tunza," he managed to wheeze out.
"Oh, 'Dithi," she squealed in delight. "I was thinking about you the whole time you were gone! How was patrol? Did you miss me?" He gently pushed her off his chest so he could reply.
"I was only gone for a few hours, Tunza. It's not like you wouldn't be here when I returned." His reasoning apparently fell on deaf ears as the girl nuzzled into his mane.
"Yeah, but I hate being away from you," she pulled away then to pout up at him. "Why can't you just let that stupid brother of mine do the patrols? Then you could stay here with me!" She looked so hopeful when she suggested this. Hadithi just shook his head at her. Tunza had always had a bit of trouble grasping what his role as Crown Prince actually entailed. She was nearly always glued to his side when he hung around Pride Rock. If he were honest with himself, patrols were his only reprieve from her rather oppressive companionship.
"You know I can't do that. It's both of our responsibility to see to the safety and health of the kingdom. We have to see that everything's running smoothly. Shoka can't do it by himself and neither can I. We're a team, and we need to stick together. Do you understand that?" Tunza nodded sadly, her bangs falling into her face and obscuring her eyes. But the frown was gone almost as soon as it had appeared, and she was once again bouncing around him happily. She came to a stop in front of him and pointed at the foreign lioness, who up until now had been completely silent.
"Who's your friend, 'Dithi?" She asked, genuinely curious. Hadithi's smile grew as his gaze shifted to the pale gold lioness.
"This is River," he said cheerfully. "And River, this is my fiancée, Tunza." River stayed silent at his statement, her expression unreadable. Had he done something wrong? He considered all that had transpired since Tunza had shown up, and he couldn't figure out what he'd done to upset her. But was she even upset? Maybe she was jealous of the attention he was paying to the younger lioness. But River didn't seem like the kind of person who would care about that. Perhaps she had taken his flirting seriously? But Shoka had informed her of his impending marriage within the first five minutes of meeting her. So that wasn't it. What was? She was becoming ever more enigmatic. He might like that. That probably wasn't good.
After a moment River smiled and stuck a paw out in greeting. "Wonderful to meet you, Tunza. Hadithi was telling me about you." Tunza beamed as she shook paws with River.
"Really?" She asked excitedly. She swung around again, crouching in a playful position before the prince. "I just knew you were thinking about me!"
"Of course I was," he exclaimed. From his slightly exaggerated tone, River could tell he wasn't being entirely truthful. Interesting. "I -"
"Your Highness." A strong, feminine voice cut in. The prince's head swiveled to address the source of the interruption. River followed his gaze to see a massive lioness looming over them. Hadithi and herself were easily three forths her size, and Tunza perhaps half. Her expression was stern, marking her out as the type not to take nonsense from anyone. She was also the darkest lion River had come across so far, her pelt colored a dull brown, bordering on gray. She had an overall scruffy appearance, but her size and flame orange eyes made that seem an inappropriate term for her. Rugged seemed to describe her better. Rugged and intimidating.
Not that any of that phased River. She had encountered far more threatening figures in her various illegal escapades than this lioness.
Hadithi greeted her warmly, a spark of what looked like relief of all things present in his eyes. "Ah, Rejesha! Have you come to collect Tunza for the hunting party?"
"Indeed I have, Highness." The lioness, Rejesha, replied. Hadithi scoffed at her.
"What have I told you about all this 'Highness' nonsense, Jesh? We've been friends since we were cubs, there's no need to be formal around me." He padded over and butted her in the shoulder. She looked down at him fondly, as a sister might at her younger brother.
"I apologize. I was only trying to be polite."
"Well stop. You know how I feel about manners."
"Exactly." River had to snort at that, earning her a grin from the cheeky young lion. Rejesha spared a glance at her, and nodded at her in acknowledgement. She had a feeling that was all the introduction needed for this particular lioness.
While Hadithi was bantering with this lady of little words, Tunza had been looking at River expectantly. River couldn't be sure what exactly was going on in the girl's seemingly erratic mind, but she had an idea what it was going to be about. She had the same look Amy always wore as children when she wanted something she knew she wasn't likely to get.
"I have an idea," Tunza suddenly announced. "What if instead of me going on the hunt, River goes instead?"
Well, she certainly hadn't been expecting that. It suddenly became very apparent that she had absolutely no clue about how to hunt. Not a very good skill for a wild lioness to lack. Hadithi was now gazing at her curiously, Rejesha observing silently at his side.
"Oh no, I'm quite useless at hunting," she said quickly. "I'd only slow you down." She could tell by Hadithi's raised eyebrow that he didn't buy that, but he said nothing. Tunza's face fell at the negative response, plodding her way to stand beside the larger lioness. Rejesha looked down at her little friend, and nodded once. They both turned and walked away then, Tunza casting a forlorn expression back at her betrothed. Hadithi didn't seem all that displeased by the parting.
"Tell your mothers I wish you all luck!" He hollered after them. Rejesha halted then, shooting a small smirk over her shoulder at him. It was the first hint of expression River had seen from her thus far.
"You could accompany us and ensure our success, couldn't you Highness?" River smiled at the teasing tone of her voice. It only grew wider when she saw Hadithi blush hotly under his fur.
"No, that's fine. Tell Aunt Vitani that I'll take a rain check." A chuckle escaped from the brown lioness, soon followed up by a chiming giggle from her companion. The two of them hurried off after that, no doubt in a bid to make it to their destination before the rapidly setting sun fell.
Once they were out of sight, the prince turned his gaze on the remaining lioness. "Useless at hunting, eh? I find that hard to believe for a rogue." The knowing smile spreading across his face was so very familiar. River felt her mouth slipping into a sly little grin in response.
"Who ever said I was a rogue?" She volleyed smoothly. Hadithi's eyebrows shot into his mane in a rather comical manner.
"Aren't you? I'm sorry, but I just assumed. What with you traveling alone through unknown lands and all…" He paused for a moment, face scrunched together in contemplation. "If you're not a rogue, then where are you from?"
"Oh, Sweetie," she purred, running her tail beneath his chin. "Spoilers." And with that she trotted away up the slope they had come down, back into the hub of Pride Rock.
Yes, he decided. She was definitely an enigmatic lady. And he definitely liked it.
And here we meet Tunza and Rejesha! As you've probably guessed by now, Shoka and Tunza are Vitani's cubs. Rejesha is the daughter of the lioness fan-named "Spotty", whom I call Huzuni. Now it's time for your lesson in Swahili!
Translations (Swahili to English)
Tunza = Reward
Rejesha = Restore
Huzuni = Distress, Mourning, Grief
Tunza: Tunza resembles her mother in most ways, from her build to the tuft of fur hanging in her face. She is more of a golden shade than Vitani with pale peachy belly and muzzle fur with uncolored toes. She has more Pridelander-like features, most notably her nose, which is a more reddish color than Shoka's but very similar. Her upper eyespot is a very dark brown, much darker than the rest of her pelt, and her lower eyespot is a lighter shade of her belly fur. Her tail tuft is a darker shade of brown than her brother's but on the same color scale. She inherited her mother's freckles and blue eyes.
Rejesha: An extremely large and well-built lioness, she rivals Shoka in size and can be mistaken as a maneless male from a distance. Her main coat is a dusty-brown color; her belly, muzzle, and toe fur is a sort of beige color. Her eyes are bright orange, and her eyespot is one dark ring around her eyes, a darker shade of her main pelt. She has a series of five spots under both eyes, a dark reddish-brown that is unrelated to the rest of her coloring. She has a Pridelander nose, dark brown in color. With fluffy cheeks and a partial tuft on her head, she has always been scruffy looking, but it just serves to make her more intimidating.
Not sure where to take the next chapter. I have it half written; River goes back to check up on Amy and Rory. But beyond that I'm stuck. Any ideas?