Emerald dreamer96: *Blows dust* Its been a long time. Sorry for the long absence but things came up. On the bright side we're back and so are our favourite sociopathic marauders and charming cubs. Hope you enjoy both.
Chu10: *chokes on dust*
Yay, back in business! I apologise, it was mostly me (being an architecture student does that to you)...I owe a lot to my partner, and I owe it to you guys for waiting so long. Love you all, hope you enjoy!
Sarabi lazed idly with her friend Sarafina and sister Naanda. The three were content to soak up rays, occasionally mumbling something, but mostly content to watch the world go by. A short way away the cubs were playing some sort of game, seemingly unaware or no longer concerned for the increased supervision.
"They seem to be better behaved today - less sulking anyways," Sarafina mused, taking the chance of a rest to groom herself.
"My friend, you know how good Mufasa can get when it comes to the issue of discipline," said Naanda, rolling her eyes good-naturedly and prodding Sarabi in the side.
"Well of course he is good at that – that's because I am his wife. He learned from the best," Sarabi mock-boasted, miming a clawing motion that curled rather low down and the three Pride-sisters laughed. One could note that Mufasa was approaching with a smile splashed across his muzzle, even from a distance.
Meanwhile, just a few metres away, the cubs went on with their little game.
"So…hide and seek is out of the question?" Mheetu asked, and Simba put a paw on his shoulder.
"Of course it is. Can you imagine the look on everyone's faces when they realise they can't see us anywhere?"
Mheetu looked sad. "Then…then what do we play?"
"We could play Hunting!" The older cub suggested brightly. But to his annoyance, a brown-furred cub disagreed.
"Urgh, I got sick of that game a million years ago." Malka sneered. "You're the Prince – maybe one of your 'Kingly' lessons should involve you learning how to think of better ideas."
"Hey! If you're so smart, why don't you think of something?"
"Oh, be quiet you both!" Nala snapped, pushing Malka away. "Why don't we ask Pepo and Mchanga what to do?"
All four cubs turned to look at each other, and then turned to face the Den. All of them thought the same thing – should they take a risk and sneak in to meet their good friends, or should they stay here and be good little cubs?
But of course, they knew the answer to that.
"If we all go, they will notice," Mheetu said warily.
"So stay here, just try not to snitch on us again," Simba spat, slightly bitter.
"I meant that maybe just one should go and the rest keep playing so no one notices... I don't want to get them in more trouble," Mheetu defended himself.
"He's right," Malka pointed out.
Simba looked like he would argue about it, but then he paused. He could see his father talking and laughing to his mother. His words were still on his mind and he didn't want to go out of his way to disobey him so soon... sending someone else was different than actually doing it himself, wasn't it? He'd only been told to avoid the older cubs.
"So who goes instead?" He finally asked.
"I'll do it," Malka volunteered.
"What?" Nala asked, "Since when did you like spending time with them?"
"I don't mind it and they're fun sometimes, even if Mchanga is an idiot. Besides that's the point isn't it? If the brainless wonder or Mr 'I'll jump off Pride rock to make you feel better' goes missing everyone with a brain will know exactly where they're sneaking to. With me, they'll think I just went for a nap."
Nala smiled proudly at his brains... and then ruffled his head roughly just so he didn't get cocky. Sisterly duty and all that, she thought.
"Good thinking, I'll go up to mom and ask for a bath or something, that will keep them busy for a bit," she decided.
Happy with the plan the cubs scattered with Mheetu and Simba left in slight awkwardness.
"Uhh…now what?" Simba asked.
"I don't know, you're the smarter one," said Mheetu, causing Simba to puff his chest out.
"You think so?"
"Yeah! Between us both, you always come up with the coolest ideas." Mheetu praised.
Simba had a wide smile on his face. "Thanks, I like the sound of that."
Mheetu returned the smile right away. "Uh huh! So, what's your idea?"
"Umm…my idea is for you to come up with an idea!"
"Wow. That's a hard one." The cream-pelted cub put a paw to his chin. "We have played tag; we have played hide-and-seek...oh! Let's play Follow the Leader!"
"Yep – one has to do what the other says."
"Oh. Ok Mheetu, I am the leader!"
"But we have to draw lots first," Mheetu said uncertainly. What were the rules again?
A voice interrupted them. "Psst! Guys!"
Both cubs turned to face Malka, who was at the Den entrance. "All clear!"
Simba was confused at the change of plans but a glance at the adults showed his parents settling down for a nap and the other two wandering a short way off to give them space. Surely a few minutes wouldn't hurt?
"Simba the Leader says lets go talk to our friends," Simba said quickly, running up to join Malka.
"Hey but you're not the leader!" Mheetu protested, running to keep up with the Prince.
When the two of them reached the interior of the Den, they noticed a rather downtrodden Pepo. She seemed tired, and was coughing slightly into her paw.
"Hey guys." She rasped roughly, managing a small smile.
"You look awful." Simba observed in blunt surprise.
Pepo rolled her eyes. "Yes, and don't you look all bright and sunshine today."
"Pepo, what's wrong?" Mheetu asked, concerned for his friend. Pepo merely shook her head.
"Ahh, maybe I've had too little sunshine for too long."
Mchanga poked her playfully. "Precisely. You see, I have been telling her to ask permission for fresh air with me but she won't listen!"
"If you're so brave, why don't you do it yourself?" Pepo shot back.
"Guys!" Malka interrupted. "The day's not going to get any longer. Can we go play now?"
"Sheesh Mr Grumpy!" Mchanga laughed, ruffling the younger cub's tuft. "Let's play – right here."
"Yeah why not? Plus, it will save us from trouble if we are found outside…"
"Aww!" Said Simba, "Someone has to go get Nala now."
All the cubs fell silent. Now what? The adults surely would know what they were up to. They were probably used to excuses by now. Simba, noticing the silence, broke the tension up.
"Guys...what if, we play at night?"
Everyone's eyes went wide. Night-time was a dangerous time, but 'dangerous' wasn't part of a young Pride Lander's vocabulary. Night in the Pride Lands spoke of adventure, of games under the cloak of darkness and the gentle light of the moon. It was something new. Something…exciting.
"I vote yes, little brother!" Mchanga immediately jumped up in favour.
"I am not so sure," Malka shook his head. "It may not be safe."
"What, rhino got your tail?" Simba teased.
"I agree…" Mheetu spoke up, softly as ever. "It may be dangerous."
"Well, one more vote left – Pepo?" Simba asked, flashing his trademark toothy grin.
"Well…why not," Pepo said, winking at him.
"Yeah!" Mchanga cried, literally bouncing with joy. "Let's go! Mheetu and Malka, don't be so girly!"
Pepo rolled her eyes once more. "So says Mchanga the Valiant…"
Not far away, the savannah held a different kind of excitement. It was not the excitement of cubs - no, it was the feeling of anticipation, of an adult lion spotting its prey. Under the blazing heat, his mind was as cold as ice. The natural instincts refined over the years did prepare him for a silent stalk, but this - this was different. And he could feel it in his bones. Every ounce of him was pumping adrenaline, getting ready for the leap...and out Kujasi leapt, claws extended and teeth bared.
This was going to be one of the largest kills he'd ever make in his life.
Being a silent hunter, the sandy pelted Lion caught the huge buffalo by surprise. Bucking and baying, the buffalo leaped and kicked in panic, sending clouds of dust flying into the air. Kujasi reacted fast, staying light on his paws, twisting and turning to avoid being crushed by the bull. Then the few moments of kicking and leaping passed as fast as it came - and the two beasts stared eye to eye for what seemed like a long, frozen second.
Nice. A slight smile perked up on the corner of the lion's lip, and instead of leaping high, he took a quick running turn, aiming to get behind the buffalo. The large bull, however, was blinded by his own adrenaline, and instead tried to stab Kujasi with its huge horns - but that was rendered ineffective when the lion neatly side stepped, pivoting on two paws around the buffalo and leapt onto his back.
Now it was a wild rodeo ride - a lion fighting to get his jaws around the buffalo's thick neck, and the buffalo trying to fling the lion off and kill him. Kujasi growled, a mixture of frustration and excitement - then smacked his paw down into the buffalo's hide and dug in, claws piercing flesh. Pulling himself forward, he bought his jaws down with a crunch onto the back of the prey's neck. Baying in pain, the buffalo slowed down, it's pace coming to nearly a halt. With one quick movement, Kujasi retreated his jaws, kept his paws on its neck, his weight tearing down its side unleashing rivers of blood as he leapt off its back and swung forwards for a huge bite into the buffalo's windpipe. In what seemed like the longest chokehold he ever gave - the large beast finally gave in to the jaws of death, sinking to its knees.
Panting, Kujasi met the dead, rolled back eyes of his prey. A hunting party would be proud, he thought. Just for a moment he allowed himself to flow out of his inner citadel of wary ice. He could feel his heart beat faster than a cheetah, and feel his mud plastered chest pushed in and out in a violent lively rhythm. He lived for moments such as this, the cold satisfaction of invisibility just could not compare to sheer thrill of another creatures blood on his fangs. Ever since he was a cub he had deadened himself to the world - until in one of the world's little jokes only death could bring him back to life.
He admired his handy work, the Buffalo was big, huge in fact, it would take whole Prides to bring down such a beast yet he had done it alone. He lovingly gazed at each slash and bite mark, noting the froth at the Buffalos mouth and the beautifully sharp horns, and shivered appreciatively at the thought of the damage they could do. The image of his aunt's broken body filled his mind. At the time he had thrown up and cried and generally tried to purge the carnage from his mind, now it was enough to add an exotic new flavour to his bubbling mix of emotions. Fear. how he loved its taste. He could have stayed there for hours but felt himself being dragged away from his ecstasy and forced to acknowledge the two young buffalo that had just gasped as they had come upon the scene. Sons of his victim? He mused. He drank in their shock and fear yet to turn to grief and felt briefly connected, just for a moment he was a cub again just for a moment - No! Focus! - he berated himself. Already, more Buffalo were arriving. He had to move now. He pulled up his walls and forced down the mess of emotions, and his face lost all expression except a determined glare as he calculated options.
The Lion suddenly exploded into motion, causing his onlookers to gasp and draw back as he leaped over his victim and sprinted, no place for stealth, just the clumsy unrefined hasty exit. His last unguarded thoughts were of displeasure but that soon disappeared behind the battlements. He was cold and invincible once again. He moved swiftly, soon leaving them behind in the dust. The last any of them saw of him was a speck disappearing from view in the distance near an outcropping of rocks in the direction of the border. It appeared that the unknown Lion had made his escape leaving a carcass and two orphans behind.
Too long, the thought slowly made its way through the vicarious sweetness of his mind, too long since he had a moment like this. Too long since he felt the grass mix with his fur, too long since his world extended to the light warm pressure of his mate on his side, too long since the warm air that ruffled his mane in a constant comforting rhythm; too long since he understood his place in the world could be nowhere else than curled up with the Lioness he loved in the sunlight. Too long. He could feel his lips curling upwards even as his mind spiralled downwards into the warm inviting depths. He knew that soon someone would wake him and the troubles of the world would settle into their well-worn places on his shoulders. But that could wait, right now he was... something. Giving up the thought as a pointless distraction, Mufasa submerged and it was good.
A hesitant push. Hooves, not paws. Not a Lion, probably important...ahh, maybe not so important. Surely a few more mome-
That voice was a Lioness. Furaha. She'd practically helped raise him, cousin of his mother and if not a second mother than at least an aunt, how many memories did he have of her? Nursing him as tiny cub, watching his first steps, playing, singing, advising, consoling...and never letting him just get those few priceless moments of peaceful slumber.
"Mufasa you overgrown hairball! Wake up a rogue attacked!"
That was enough to stir him. His eyes shot open and he immediately began clawing his way to a standing position, knocking Sarabi over who let out a yell. He ignored her, focussing on the Lioness and the beasts behind her, dozens of them.
This was bad.
"What?! Where?!" He demanded, trying to find his centre. He'd never lost a challenge yet, but there was something unnerving about the stench of fear that flooded his miraculously well designed nostrils.
"Practically climbed Pride Rock!"
"In the heart of the Pridelands!"
And a dozen more even less useful reports. This was going nowhere - worse, it was heading towards outright panic. Mufasa decided to put a stop to this immediately. He let out a roar that actually made one at the back faint, but the rest stiffened and although clearly terrified were now in that vital shut-up-and-listen frame of mind.
"Calm down. Friends, I apologise for frightening you. Now take breaths and recover yourselves, I will not let anyone hurt any of you today." He soothed.
That done he turned to Furaha, nodding for her to speak. The lioness was made of sterner stuff than most of his other present subjects and quickly made her report. A rogue had managed to sneak up on the Buffalo herd, (in sight of Pride Rock no less!) and actually managed to bring down one by himself. That sent a tingle of concern running through his brain before he quashed it. Last seen fleeing towards the border. That was strange, just what was happening here? Why kill if not to eat? Why take on such a tough target? Why creep into the heart of the Pride Lands seemingly only to murder a random beast? He was growing more concerned the more he heard but knew that fear was the most dangerous enemy there was. He had to calm everyone down.
"I will send out the birds to find this murderer and I will make him pay for this atrocity. In the meantime I want you all to remain vigilant - but most of all to remain calm."
He could see them visibly relaxing at his words, not entirely but noticeably, the wildness deserting their eyes, their stance becoming firmer, their instincts giving way to reason.
Then his Majordomo showed up.
"Murder! Sire! Sire! It's awful! Its murder! It's horrible, dead! They're all dead!"
His Majordomo was a vital asset, close friend and practically family to the King who couldn't imagine ruling without him. That didn't mean that Mufasa didn't on occasion consider plucking his feathers one by one. This was one of those times. He noticed the panic return in full force to his subjects.
Looking around, he sighed as he requested a report. He just knew that he wouldn't be curling up in sun beside his mate again today. Too short, he thought, too short.
Life goes on, and it brings its rewards to those willing to accept them. The mild oppression of the heat, slightly countered by an occasional breeze mixed with the best efforts of small but eager babbling brook and that natural urge to enjoy the tender grace of sunlight and nourishment all conspired to have the small herd of Antelope scattered across the savannah, lazily munching on the tiny emerald forests sprouting from the rich dark earth or dozing quietly, content and secure.
Only one member of the herd showed any energy; young, sleek and with an desire for only the best, he danced lightly on his oh so spindly legs as he made his way away from the herd towards a patch of lush grass at odds with the drier sparser patches that broke the rock hard earth. Maybe there was an underground off shoot of the brook, maybe the soil was richer. All the simple animal knew or cared about was that this perfect patch of grass amongst a pile of rocks on a lazily warm day was begging to be eaten and he was only too happy to oblige it.
The grass was just as tasty as it appeared, and the young animal munched away at it, idly looking around and ahead hoping to see if there were any similar patches nearby - and found himself staring into twin pools of blood. His mind just had time to notice that red ovals were encircled by a face before Tauni leaped forwards with a snarl, ducking under his horns and bringing him down with her full weight. He felt bones crunch – were those his?! - but before he could even scream he felt a piercing pain in his windpipe. His cries were muffled as the fangs pierced him before the strength of the jaw crushed his throat.
In less than a minute it was over for him - but his herd's ordeal was only just beginning. They ran in blind panic in the opposite direction to the attack, just as planned. Even as the previously concealed Lions ripped into them from all sides like snarling demons from the land hidden from the sun, they were still too frightened to realise the true nature of the attack. Four Lions and a Lioness evenly spaced out and throwing themselves forwards. The panicking creatures tried to run around them hoping that they would target one of their fellows instead of them. Instead of going in for kills however, the Lions launched savage kicks and swipes aimed at the antelope's faces and legs. A series of bone crunching falls and gory lacerations later and there was nearly a dozen antelope were on the ground in various states of agony. Then the true horror began as the wild Lions bean tearing into them...piece by piece, the usual natural efficiency of a hunter being put aside for raw butchery, reducing the animals to a bloody mess. After a minute of this the Lions suddenly broke off and ran, not even picking up any meat. They left behind them the ragged remnants of the herd like islands in the middle of a red ocean.
The siege against the Pridelands had just begun.