Emerald dreamer96: Its back! Again! Time sucks, always running out. This chapter might not be our best but it felt fantastic to write just because it actually got written. Hopefully there will be a less of a gap next time. Still no promises.
Chu10: Hello again guys! Yeah, as my partner says, there was a little gap...due to a lot of time differences between mine and his timezones, and also, my tendency to get as lazy as a lion.
Without further ado, we hope you enjoy this chapter!
The raiding party were good at what they did. The herd of Impalas in front of them had zero clue that the tall grass and slight rise of ground was hiding five Lions. The youngest among the lions, Kubariki couldn't help a slight smile. Slightly built, lean and with a nice soft cream coat, she didn't quite fit in with the band of cut throats roaming Africa. Even after all this time, she still shivered whenever Shetani looked at her. Happier looking after the monsters dressed up in cubs' fur, she wondered what she was doing here invading a Kingdom. Still she wouldn't make a fool of herself. Tauni may have been Jehanum's mate and a savage witch in battle, but she might as well have been a crippled cub compared to Kubariki. She was the best hunter the Pride. Only Kujasi could match her in stealth and even he couldn't keep up with her at a sprint. It was a point of pride for Kubariki that in a Pride that prided itself on stealth that she was the best at it. She liked to think that was why Jehanum kept Shetani away from her. Sure her beauty was part of it, nothing wrong with that. She was well aware of how attractive she was, she found it amusing in a way. He himself wasn't hard on the eyes, sure he was a monster but every ruler needed a little of that just to survive and she thought she knew a softer side to him when complimented her fur or played with the cubs. Tauni may be the handsome King's mate but Kubariki couldn't help but wonder if this worked out and they won a land of their own maybe he would ask her to lead the hunting party. Today she'd prove herself.
Now, the plan was to take down as many Impalas from the herd as they could. Oh, Impala. How she loved the taste. Perhaps she could sneak a bite later…well why not, the meat was going to be wasted anyways. Muscles at ease, body language poised, tense and in command; the lioness and the rest of the hunting party made their way forward, following the direction of Tauni, the head huntress, for now. She watched the striped head of the other lioness through the stalks of lush savannah grass, all the while making her steps as stealthy as the wind. This was a chance, a chance for glory, a chance for food…a chance for a place to call home. And Kubariki was ready, so ready to taste it. Her Pride sister's silent signal went off. Not long now.
Three. Claws extended…
Two. Chest near to the ground, eyes on the nearest Impala –
And the hunting party leapt out of the grass, eager for blood.
Just nearby, two Secretary Birds stood on the mudflats of the Watering Hole, looking towards the group of Lionesses that was hunting the Impalas down. They were relaxed, waiting for fish - but the ruckus ahead of them made them turn their beaks.
"Hey Ndege, have you ever seen the Lionesses hunt so viciously?" The first one asked, nodding his majestic crown towards the hunting grounds.
"No Kuruka, I haven't...wow. They're making real quick work of those poor Impalas, huh..."
"Hah," Kuruka laughed. "Circle of Life all right...there's your proof, my brother. Wanna bet which Impala goes down first?"
His brother was always one to joke – but Ndege was the older one, and his instincts had always been better. As he looked to the Lionesses, he realised that something was wrong – something was terribly wrong. They weren't stopping, weren't trying to target one kill as they always did – no, they were running and slicing throats. What were they trying to get at?
"Kuruka - I think they're hunting more than one. Look!"
"Oh...nothing new." Kuruka got back into his hunting poise, body seemingly as still as a tree above the water.
"No, LOOK!" Ndege squawked loudly, raising his long, slender leg to kick at his brother. "They're being slaughtered!"
The other Secretary Bird turned, and his eyes grew wide. "Wow. I haven't even made my bet...hey, which one do you bet gets hunted next?" As he said that, another Impala went down – and in a rather shocking and gruesome fashion. But after the Impala went down to the ground, the Lioness did not stop to finish her kill – what shocked the both of the birds was that she left it to bleed out, and continued sprinting after more of the panicking herd, sending them into the jaws of her waiting Pride-mates.
"You are a complete bird brain! Remember what the hornbill said? Zazu? Remember what that crazy bird always ranted about? Murderous lions! They kill a herd at a time! It's them Kuruka! They're the murderous lions!" Kuruka's loud squawk had the same intensity as his brother's.
"You heard me alright! We have to report to King Mufasa!"
"Why do you care so much," Kuraka straightened his gray-and-white feathers and rearranged his legs in the mud. "It's not as if they'd eat my chicks...!"
"Oh they will eat your chicks, you selfish bird!" Ndege cried, hopping a few steps and taking wing. "I'm off to see the King!"
The hornbill sometimes envied his cousins across species. They could hover gracefully and glide. Race across the kingdom at speed and fly so high that other creatures looked like insects. He could never fully enjoy that, riding the terminals and letting life flow through his wings, he always had to work for it. Flapping his wings with manic energy and pushing his tiny lungs to the limit grasping for air that did less for him the more he needed it. So it was some envy and slight irritation that he watched the secretary bird descend from high above him casting a carelessly arrogant shadow on the Majordomo before looping around and flying abreast although the smaller bird noted with some satisfaction that he had to land instead of vainly trying to stay level without much air under his wings.
"Well what is it? I assume you have a reason for seeking me out." He demanded with spiteful authority.
The other bird apparently didn't recognise the tone.
"I came to raise the alarm! You need to warn the King those Lions you warned us about, they're in the Pridelands! Killing everything!"
No time for wounded pride or further pettiness the Majordomo rapidly barked out a series of well-practiced questions collected over his long term of service. He soon knew enough to know he didn't know enough, always important but he also knew he had to alert the king and send birds to track down any Lionesses out hunting. In an notably short time the well-oiled machine that was the Pride Lands first defence was serving its purpose as birds scattered throughout the Pride lands with some heading back to the scene of the massacre to keep tabs on the Pride. Well experienced and ready for anything, the usually petty Majordomo made his rounds, checking that the birds nearby were in order - and he flew down back to Pride Rock, his trained eyes looking for a golden lion with a red mane. When he found it, sitting in the midst of the tall rock structure and talking to some lionesses, he dived down, landing quickly and slightly clumsily at his sovereign's giant paws.
"Oh Sire! Sire, we need to raise the alarm!"
Mufasa raised an eyebrow, looking around at his lionesses who wore the same expression. Oh no, not another one of Zazu's uncontrolled reports that raised unnecessary panic -
"Sire! Rouges in the Pride Lands! We need to catch them while we can!"
Zazu's feathers ruffled as he squawked. At the mention of rouges, every feline within hearing distance shot up to attention. Mufasa's surprised expression was quickly replaced with a stern one - one that said he meant business - and turning his eyes towards the grasslands, he spoke to Zazu with no eye contact.
"Have the birds found out where they are?"
"They are still very much on the search, Sire."
Zazu nodded, slightly pleased that he was very involved in this important matter. Mufasa sighed at the useless answer.
"Yes or no, do you know where they are?" He asked shortly with a slight growl Zazu flinched and stepped back.
"Zazu!" Mufasa barked impatiently.
"I'll find out sire!" Zazu said desperately.
Mufasa sighed and resisted the urge to paw his face. Sometimes he swore that when Moyo created birds he'd decided to leave out brains to save weight. He had been about to tell him to organise an over watch so the Rogues couldn't escape now the Majordomo would need two trips and Mufasa was stuck here waiting on the useless little bird.
"Uh sire, your claws are out." One of the Lionesses observed.
"So they are..." Mufasa said kneading the soft earth in a rapid frustrated manner as he gazed up at the sky. Soon rewarded by the sight of his majordomo returning.
"Sire! Beg to repo-"
"Where are they? How many?" Mufasa barked.
Already his pride was starting to form around him with two going off to round up the cubs. Thank the Kings he'd kept them so close, he knew what rogues did to cubs. Perhaps that thought added a little extra rage and pace as he blasted forwards almost before Zazu had finished his second report. He just hoped the stupid bird hadn't cost any lives today. The poor hornbill was left standing in the dust that the lionesses had kicked up atop Pride Rock, his pride slightly wounded and feeling rather disappointed.
"Oh well, at least I reported..." he said to himself, rubbing his cheek with a wing as if he'd just got slapped.
"Quite uncalled for, I must say..." Taking off once more, Zazu slowly flew over towards the grasslands, taking note of where the lionesses were heading together with their King. They took the shortest path possible, blazing through the Pride Lands and getting to the location of the reported rouges as fast as possible.
Meanwhile out in the distance, the rouges had already completed their rampage on the herd of Impala, and were starting to retreat back into the taller grass, licking the fresh blood off their lips. Satisfied, and still silent on their toes, they darted back into the safety of hiding, leaving behind a whole mess of dead animals. The Pride Landers would never know what hit them... Proud of their progress, they retreated, ready to rest and come back for another strike soon. - After what seemed like a whole lot of running in the savannah, one of the lionesses picked up a strong, familiar metallic scent. Slowing down, she turned her head upwind, catching more of the strong, strong smell...
"King Mufasa! I think we may be close..." She shouted to the front of the group.
As everybody came to a halt, the red maned lion came running up to her, his own nose sniffing at attention as well.
"Close by they are..." he growled, moving forward against wind direction.
The scent got stronger, and stronger, turning into a full blown smell - and after Mufasa struggled through a tall glade of grass, shaking the bugs out of his mane - there they were. A group of fifteen Impala. Dead Impala. Mufasa let out a roar of rage. He glared futility in the distance scanning for any sign at all of the attackers - and he found none. Fortunately by this point another bird had flown in and informed him of the rough direction the rogues had fled in.
"There must be a whole pride of them..." One of the Lionesses judged.
The group looked at the grisly aftermath with varied reactions. Some quickly grew bored and turned their attention to sniffing around for clues of the raider's numbers and composition. Others with the cold calculation of huntresses admired the wounds and reconstructed the massacre, curious at the unusually barbaric nature of the attack but also impressed at the obvious forethought, if surprised by its wastage. And finally there were those who treasured the circle or the spirits who felt utter disgust at the massacre. Mufasa fell into the latter category but didn't quite fit. His rage was far fiercer and more deadly and savage in intent. These monsters had killed his subjects in his kingdom, his renowned temper flared at the impudence, the sense of justice despaired at the pointless murder and vowed vengeance, but beneath this there was something more. First something primal, he could smell males had done this, on some level he understood exactly what this was... a challenge. He felt the full force of a thousand ancestors' fear and wrath - he needed to protect, his pride, his family, his heir. Finally however there was something he didn't quite understand, it was as if the carnage had opened something up, he imagined exactly what he would do to the attackers, horrible savage thoughts that would never have occurred to him before, something ugly had woken up. He didn't have time to wonder at the nature of the beast, he just focussed on burying it for when he would need it. And this he knew, it would be needed.
Outside the border of one of the most beautiful lands in this part of Africa was the ugliest. Even the sun seemed to shine differently here, duller, angrier. Reflecting red off the hard cracked ground. No one with much choice would spend much time there, making it the perfect hiding place. A pitiful small pool of water and a dead tree was the only diversity on offer, perhaps it was natural beyond mere matters of necessity and survival that it would attract the other unusual sights, such as the small pride of killers taking refuge there. The Outlands never really changed. Hot, dirty, empty. Very little survived there and what little did was unpleasant. That was as true for the snakes and vultures as it was for termites. Kings above the Termites - or were they fleas? They bit like fleas, but when Shetani had roared in disgust and panicked rage earlier it had been about the termites climbing around on him, and there were termite mounds everywhere.
Potea sighed, wondering just how in the world he had ended up in this murderous pride hiding out in this hellish place wondering if he was being eaten alive by termites or fleas. The brown pelted, black maned Lion looked around mournfully. Kujasi was a short way away, still as stone with his eyes closed sleeping or giving the appearance of doing so, and even now he blended into the scenery. More than once Potea had forgotten he was there until he looked. A bit further away Shimo was lying as far away from Shetani as she could now that he too was asleep. Potea shuddered slightly and looked away, she had been resigned to it and barely made a sound but still, Potea had felt a bit of pity for her. Kubariki had moved to comfort her. Potea had for a moment considered doing likewise but it just didn't feel like his place. The others would laugh their asses off and he wasn't her friend anyway. Besides...if he really cared he would have told Shetani to back off... but he didn't, he never did. He never did anything! All his life, he had been told he was lazy, useless, unfit to rule. Either harshly by his brother, softly and indirectly by his father or confirmed through poor denials by his mother. The eyes of his pride haunted him, he knew long before he came of age that he would never be granted ruler ship of his homeland. The thought did not bother him much, he had barely let out a murmur of protest when he was stripped of his title. Perhaps if he had made some effort, shown some level of commitment or strength his father wouldn't have listened to the harsher 'advice' given by some of the older Lionesses. Perhaps Potea wouldn't have been exiled "For his own good." Perhaps he wouldn't have been sent out to survive on his own to "Develop character". He had to admit that there was something in what they had said he had changed, within days he was hungry and for the first time in his life he felt the need to work, to struggle, just to live. He hunted, sometimes failing sometimes succeeding, he grew stronger and fitter and more independent than he ever had been.
The honeymoon soon ended however, drought struck and it seemed that the whole land had died overnight. He had gone home to beg sanctuary, they had granted it, some even commented that they were impressed by the changes in him and he received more than one hint that if he kept it up he would be welcomed back with open arms. But hints weren't enough, he had survived and thrived out necessity, he still hated hunting, still hated fighting other predators and he still hated his family for forcing him out into a cruel world that demanded he did plenty of both. He had pleaded and begged but to no avail. So once more he was forced from his home. This time however, he found he wasn't the only one wandering. The pride had found him before he had found them. He still didn't know why Jehanum chose to ask about his origins instead of playing with him like he usually did with the strays and rogues that were unfortunate to cross his path. All he knew was that the marauder King had made all the right noises of sympathy and shared some prey. It was on their fourth meeting that Jehanum had offered a solution to Potea's problems... typically it involved blood. Potea hadn't come to the decision to betray his family lightly; in fact he had almost warned them until his brother had chased him off with threats of murder. That had settled the matter. Potea waited a few more weeks before returning, making sure to pick the right border guard to approach with before his new 'friends' revealed themselves. It had been cub's play to get the small pride welcomed into his homeland. Jehanum's pregnant mate had probably played a part in that. He had always intended just to kill his brother and force his father to crown him, that had been the plan... but when the pride attacked and massacred everyone he had stood there in shock not acting until his brother attacked him, he nearly died then until Jehanum killed him. They left that night, Potea had still been in shock but had somehow realised that the pride was his place in the world now. He owed Jehanum his life for starters, but also knew that he wasn't cut out to be a rogue, as messed up and twisted as the group were he was frightened of being left behind as the failure he was. Jehanum had promised him cubs and a fertile land to live on full of easy prey and lionesses who he could call his own.
He sighed somewhat bitterly, hunting, fighting and hard work. The things that he hated enough to commit treason. The things he grown used to enough to barely care about now and that would probably win him happiness if Jehanum's plan worked out. How could life be so perfectly cruel even when getting better? He noticed that Tauni was playing with her cubs, she had complained at them and even yelled at first when they started playing around her roughly but soon found herself involved gently knocking them over and letting out fake roars, even Jehanum eyed them with pride and Potea couldn't help but smile slightly at the strange softness of the scene. He caught Shimo's eye, they were still dull but he could have sworn they were less broken than before.
Potea didn't know why but he was glad when one of the cubs had spotted him staring and charged at him landing on top. Potea usually would have been embarrassed and too scared of the parents to do much more than grunt and walk away, perhaps that had been what the cub had been expecting. Not to be lifted up and dunked into the pool. Potea then started walking away careful to leave his tail floating in front of the shocked cub who soon smiled and bit lightly down. "Argh! The monster's got me! Save me!" Potea yelled out lightly. He dramatically fell to ground and pushed himself backwards while pretending to struggle. Shetani had woken up and looked on in confusion and irritation, Jehanum wore a similar expression until Tauni ran forwards pushing Potea into the pool fully. Soon Jehanum and his other cub were also involved in the farce leaving the others wondering just what had happened. If this was Potea's life now, he was going to at least live it. Maybe belonging to this pride wasn't so awful afterwards.
As if in an ironic contrast of events to the Outlands, the Pride Lands were devoid of the usual softness that always came along in its name. The subjects were in turmoil, their feelings extremely troubled by the recent massacres, and tension was on an all-time high. Out on the plains, where the lands started to approach small streams that bordered the ancient lands, the red-maned King patrolled, with two lionesses at a good distance, hidden in the grass and not far off behind him. Mufasa kept his eyes scanning the borders, shoulders hunched intimidatingly, and his walk slow but like a stalk. He was no proud King overlooking his Kingdom, he was a fierce father, a protective mate, and a ruler who wanted to chase down and catch the troublemakers that were slowly tearing up the Pride Lands. Stressed as he was, he knew the last thing that he could rely on were his instincts, built into every male lion - fight for it. He would catch those killers, teach them a good lesson - chase them off his lands for good, and his family would be safe. He would go every way to make sure that everyone in the Kingdom was.
No matter what.