Epilogue: Castle of Bones
If Golgorath was a desert than Carrocscir was a wasteland. It was grey, withered, and rotten, littered with bones and the dead remains of elephants from ages past, the behemoths' bones forming spikes and towers sharper and more imposing that the tallest of the outlands spires. the ground around them hissed with heat as far below them geysers and blast-pillars shot steam, smoke and occasionally flame into the air. The ground around them was withered with heat, and the entire chasm was void of plants or leaves of any kind.
But it was not without its life. They scuttling like insects, avoiding the light and keeping to the shadows, its inhabitance hungered. a group of four shadows lurked nearby, eight eyes visible in the gloom.
The Shai'tan watched them with interest.
"Tell you leader that we have come. There will be no escape for him this time. if he surrenders and swears fealty to the Shai'tan, he will retain his life." Amun said.
"But not his freedom!" came the response. Amun didn't blink, he was used to the denial by now. the four pairs of eyes winked out of existence, and he was sure the scouts were now on their way back to their home to report to their leader. Still, he was cautious. In the past, one had stayed behind where over's had left, using its group as a diversion. they were excellent spies, shrouded in darkness and perfect for the terrain. Even for him, Carrocscir was a maze. the bones and rotting flesh of giants long dead formed banks and valleys of its own, and the winding path ways and narrow stairways of its cavities were difficult to see, much less move safely. Amun looked behind him at his "Army". He had twenty Serpents, thirty or so Wilddogs, fifteen jackals, and a cheetah at his command, all loyal servants of the Shai'tan. He didn't know how many of the insurgents lurked in the Graveyard. Ten? Twenty? Fifty even? Some of his followers guessed there were closer to two hundred of them. It was impossible to say. If he had expected a straight-out fight then he was disappointed. The insurgents fought like thieves – which was unsurprising. They fought only at night, attacking under cover of darkness and melting away into the night, using the smoke and mists of the geysers to hide their presence until they were always onto of them. And they could move about the graveyard as if it were a cub's playground.
Amun frowned, counting his number again. Then he growled.
"Where is Dhago's Pack?" He said, referring to one of the Wilddogs. A Jackal next to him shrugged.
"Dead by now, if he hasn't rejoined us." he said. Amun rolled his eyes in frustration.
He knew they were the superior force. He knew that if he could just find where the insurgent's leaders where, were they slept, where they rested and fed, then he would be able to crush this final pocket of resistance without trouble, but that goal eluded him for now. The Shai'tan made his way back to the centre of his army, when suddenly, shadows leapt from around them, biting into the flank of his pack of jackals. The Wilddogs span, and chased after him, but other shadows emerged from the sides to strike the now exposed serpents.
Abyss hissed, the great purple python coiling itself and stretching himself high, then struck at a moving shadow, seizing it by the neck, and throwing it over its shoulder with a neck that was all muscle. The shadow crashed to the ground, even as Amun sliced at one which came within a paws reach, and punctured its chest with claws the size of reeds. Blood splashed to the floor and the Hyena fell to the ground.
The scum were everywhere in this blasted graveyard. Easily the largest of the clans he had ever encountered. Striped – most spotted Hyenas had sworn loyalty to the Shai'tan in defiance of their darker cousins, but the Hyena Clans of the Pridelands had, for the most part, remained neutral in the conflict thus far. Only when Rish'ut had began to bring their lands under control did they begin to organize. And now a huge number inhabited the Elephant Graveyard and the White Tower known as Carrocscir. It was a mess.
The lead Hyena of the pack turned to him, and met his gaze. Then she gave a maddening smile, and let out a laugh.
"Amun! How good to see you again!" She said, and Amun growled in frustration, but her mirth turned to a snarl as he turned away, and attacked a nearby Hyena who was striking cautiously at a serpent, anxious of its venomous bite and unaware of its surroundings. She barked another order, and the Hyena's around her began to turn and run, melting back into the mists. The Wilddogs began to give chase and follow, but Amun had only fallen for that trick on the first occasion they had clashed. His forces restrained their fervor and instead focused attention only on the Hyena's who had lingered, or been unable to flee, cutting them down.
The lead Hyena fled last, and only when she was certain that her comrades had escaped, or else were dead, before slipping between two Jackals even as Amun made his way towards her. Amun growled in frustration, before taking stock of the situation. He had lost several Wilddogs and a pair of Jackals, but the Hyenas had bleed far heavier this time, as little by little, her forces withered. Amun's growl became a smile.
As frustrating as it was, the result was inevitable. Eventually, the Hyena's forces would crumble. They were stretched too thin to properly defend their homeland, much less present a challenge to the Shai''tan. It wasn't war. It was exterminating vermin. Amun laughed, and his own laughter sent the humorless laughter of the Hyena's into panicked silence.
Asante nursed a paw, it was bleeding, but mercifully, unbroken. As she had fled, and jackal had snapped at her, and snapped at her rear paw, causing her to stumble and nearly trip. But a lifetime on the slopes of Carrocscir was enough to ensure stability even on three legs and she had ran without pause, heedless of the pain. Now though, it sent waves of pain thorugh her limb. She sighed another distraction.
"How many did we lose?" She asked.
"Seven, Asante. We lost Seven." One of the Hyena's replied. She sighed.
"And how many did we kill?"
"I think maybe three? Four at the most…" She said, grinding her teeth.
"This isn't working…" She muttered as she and her followers returned though the winding valleys of the elephant graveyard, back towards the huge collection of bones that had become their den.
"We have the numbers but not the strength…" She lamented, but she and her companions stopped all talk as they approached the central tower. Following Scar's defeat, the Hyena's had adopted a hierarchy inspired by the Lion Kings, and Carrocscir formed some twisted variation of Pride Rock. It was a symbol of power, and of might. It was the abode of the Matriarch, and her consort. By now they had been joined by dozens of other Hyenas, some returning from scouting mission, others from poaching food from the Pridelands, and they were met by steady gazes as other Hyenas counted the number of returning fighters. Mates and parents for the most part. Hyena pups were few and far between – Carrocscir was not suited well for raising a family, though they replenished their numbers frequently enough to survive if not thrive. They learnt long ago the dangers of having too many Hyena's in one place. Not that Asante would turn away extra fighters. They were stretched thin as it was.
The Patriarch walked down towards them, as they made their way towards the the group.
There was no ceremony or ritual, now bowing or prostration before leaders in the Hyena clans. The Hyena's knew who was powerful, they didn't need to show it with every action. The Patriarch surveyed the returning fighters.
"We lost Seven scouts." She told him immediately. He frowned but said nothing.
"Are any of you injured?" He asked first, before any other discussion could take place. A few exposed wounds, and one injured Hyena was carried by another pair to safety. Asante reluctantly showed him her paw, and his eyes narrowed in concern.
"It's nothing. A scratch. It will not affect my judgment or my ability to lead." Asante said quickly. He paused and nodded.
"Then you had better get yourself cleaned up girl. Your mother will want to speak to you." He said, and Asante winced.
"Can't you tell her I am busy?" She pleaded.
"She is the Matriarch girl. What am I supposed to do?" He asked, and Asante groaned, but another voice interrupted them.
"I've only just got back… Can't give me a little time to myself?" She asked. He opened his mouth to speak, but another voice interrupted her.
"If you must, then go. Get some chow, and take a break. But I will want a full report later." Came a voice. Both turned, and saw the Matriarch herself stepping towards them, coming down from the den to see what was taking so long. Even as a young Hyena she had never been content to wait around for others, and was always on her feet, often going to people, instead of having them come to her. She claimed to need the exercise, but her mate suspected it was a gnawing restlessness which even he still felt after all these years.
Asante nodded gratefully, and turned back.
"Oh and Asante… I am glad you're not dead." She told her daughter awkwardly, and Asante felt a moments shame for forgetting that her mother likely had only wished to reassure herself that her daughter was alive after returning from the scout-pack she insisted on leading.
Once she and her crew had gone out of sight, the Matriarch turned to her mate.
"Oh Banzai… Why did we have a daughter? She's so infuriating! Always doing her own thing! Did you know she had volunteered for this scout? Without telling us? If she had been killed…"
"Asante's far too smart for that. She got your brains, not mine. She's fine out there. She's not a pup." Banzai told her.
"She's not an experienced fighter either. The Shai'tan are coming closer every day. Eventually they'll come here…" Shenzi retorted as Banzai laughed (Hyenas did a lot of that).
"And when he does, we'll be ready for them. You are just sore that you're Matriarch and people still don't listen you the whole time…" Banzai told her, as next to them, and old friend began to chortle uncontrollably.
"Shut up Ed…" Shenzi said absently.
And that is all folks!
Coming Soon: The Lion King Legacies – The Storm:
Danyal and Sundar discover secrets lost for centuries as Yessen and Rafiki tell of what they found in the Imperium, and of their battle with Marsade. The Heart Of The Empire is explored, and The Origins of the Emperor are revealed.
Kiava and Zuri encounter an old friend from many years before.
Sara, Koron and Inti's fates are decided. Golgorath remains a pit of despair… but in its darkest recesses, an Oracle stirs…
The Lionesses time for plans are over, and the time for action is now.
An old trio stir in Carrocscir, where bad blood lingers, and the war for the Pridelands enters a whole new front…
And the Emperor's greatest secret is discovered.
All coming soon…
A Storm is coming… And in the Pridelands, lightning strikes twice.