My notes:

 

Well, been a while since I decided to write anything this large. Quite the time consuming project at that, I might add. But, I shall at least be giving it a try to get some lines done each and every day.

 

There is no denying the fact that one of my favourite characters from the TLK realm in itself is Vitani, so no surprise that this story details her fate in general.

 

So, here is to hoping that whosoever reads this will be enjoying themselves, as I give it my best attempt to tell you her story…

 

The events within take place some odd 6 months after Zira.

 

Oh, and one last thing. Michael/ Azima? Could you please stop bothering me already? ;)

 

From the author himself, T.G…

 

Oh, and please drop any comments, if any, using the address modeconfusion@tiscali.no

 

 

 

Chapter 1. Introductions and reasons

 

 

 

Vitani

 

The Pridelands

 

 Of lessons and learning

 

”Ok Kiara. Listen up. The art of hunting isn’t that difficult.”

The sun stood high in the sky, shining down on two lionesses in the lands known as the Pridelands. The one lioness spoken to nodded.

“So, in order for any misunderstood facts to be cleared out, I’ll run this through once again.”

The other said, her voice sounding a little hoarse.

“The wind plays an important role in your hunt. You get the wind on your back, then no price. Wanna know why?”

“Sure?”

“Because when you drop out of hiding a three day walk away from your prey…”

“Could you please stop mentioning that? It’s not like I am overly proud of it.”

“Damn right you are. It ain’t a bats loose drop to be proud of.”

“Hey! You gonna show me, or you gonna sit here all day making fun of me Vitani?”

The lioness named Vitani chuckled. Though slim in build, there were tell tale signs of hidden strength. Grinning broadly, her blue tinted eyes stared at Simba’s heir. Kiara…

 

“If I have to make fun of you in order for you to be more patient while hunting, then expect a hell lot more of it ‘till you learn princess.”

Kiara frowned, narrowing her red tinted eyes.

“Very funny Vitani. Let us just forget about hunting. I try to learn and pick up on what you show me, but I still can’t do it.”

Vitani rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Look. I am telling you princess. You are too impatient. One time, for instance, you did sneak skillfully. But? What then about the wind I told you of?”

Vitani grinned.

“It kept hitting your hind side, raising your tail to an entire new height. And then when you for once felt it touching your face, you manage to stumble seconds before your pounce.”

Kiara nodded.

“And what does that tell you, Vitani?”

“Honestly?”

“Yes. Honestly.”

“You would’ve been a bundle of sun bleached bones back in the Outlands.”

 

Kiara frowned and turned away from her.

“Maybe I would’ve Vitani. But still, I don’t have to take this from you.”

“Fine by me, princess. I didn’t ask for this anyway you know.”

Kiara walked away from her, the familiar shape of Pride rock in the distance her destination.”

“If I recall correctly, then it was a certain princess of Simba’s pride who came to me asking if perhaps I couldn’t help her but a little with her hunting skills.”


Kiara stopped, and turned to look over her shoulder. Looking Vitani up and down, it could appear as if she judged her intentions.

“Vitani?”

“Yes princess?”

“I do appreciate the help you would give me, but I don’t like it when someone makes fun of me for things I cannot quite grasp yet. It doesn’t exactly give me the little extra kick I need in order to understand fully.”

Vitani pondered a moment, and then nodded.

“True. My apologies if you want it princess. Guess my mood plays a big part in what I say and how I phrase myself. But, back from when I was living in the Outlands, then making fun of one and other was the extra kick we needed. Guess my mind still drifts back to some of those days.”

Nodding, Kiara chuckled.

“Perhaps it does. But, to get back to what we were talking about. It was something about not dropping out like a three day walk away from your prey?”

Vitani grinned.

“Well princess. There is this about vision and scent…”

 

“Eh… Right now Kiara, I am pondering whether I should berate you or ask you if you are ok.”

Kiara, from her position on the ground coughed clouds of dust.

“Soooo clo….”

Vitani arched her brow.

“What?”

She was replied by series of coughs. Vitani couldn’t help but grin.

“Eh, I think I’ll go for the second option. Kiara, you ok?”

“Dust… lungs…”

“Yeah, dust has a tendency to get in everywhere when you nosedive the way you just did a couple of minutes ago.”

Vitani sat down beside Kiara, patting her back.

“Sneezing works wonders, you know.”

Finally, Kiara seemed to regain control of her self.

“I was so close… Soooo cloooose.”

She said, paying Vitani an annoyed look.

“Yupp. No denying that fact. And to think your dive didn’t stop them is a question I will keep asking myself again and again.”

“Vitani? Please?”

Vitani grinned.

“Apologies princess. I forgot all about it.”

Kiara sighed.

“It is so difficult. I thought I had one of them. And then, they just decided to head on out to run on drier grounds.”

Vitani nodded.

“Hmmhmm. Instincts developed from eons on the plains Kiara. Each and every day the gazelles learn, and what they learn they give along to their offspring.”

Kiara, giving off one last sneeze, shook her head and stared at Vitani, her brow arched.

“You been around my father or something? I could swear I heard his words, though your voice was its herald.”

Vitani chuckled and shook her head.

“Not even in a million years would I start speaking the words of your father, princess. You have the heart of my brother, but that is as far as I am willing to let that go.”

Frowning, Kiara rose from the ground.

“It wasn’t like my father had much of a choice regarding your mother, Vitani.”

“I am aware of that, princess. I am not blind, neither am I stupid. Even though the blood of my mother is on your paws, it was still Simbas exile of my mother and her group of followers that eventually led to her demise.”

“I gave her a choice, Vitani. I really did. But she herself made the choice and let herself fall.”

Vitani nodded.

“I know. Typical behaviour of hers that. But, stubborn as she might’ve been, still my mother she was…”

 

Vitani turned westward and stared at the setting sun. After a moment of silence she rose from her seated position.

“I sometimes wonder if staying around here is not for me, princess. None of my memories regarding the Pridelands are of a good sort.”  

“If not here, then where?”

Kiara asked.

“I am not sure, but away from this place. The further, the better I guess.”

“Like, where? You just going to wander off with no aim intent?”

Vitani nodded.

“Why not? It’s been like this throughout my entire life so far. So, might as well keep on heading down that path, in style I might add, ‘till I drop out of old age.”

Kiara blinked.

“Vitani? That is an awful thing to say about your self.”

“I figure if I stick around here princess, it’ll get even more awful. At the moment I have the chance of stealing my brother away from you for a few precious moments if there are things on my mind that only he would understand. But, that ain’t gonna last forever. Like I said, you got the heart of my brother and sometime soon, you’ll have him entirely for yourself.”

Kiara frowned.

“And what the heck is that supposed to mean exactly?”

Vitani flashed a toothy grin.

“Late night strolling anyone? Hello? It won’t be long now, I figure, ‘till you got wee little younglings of yourselves wandering around causing mischief all over the Pridelands.”

Kiara felt her face redden from embarrassment.

“Vitani?”

“Yes princess?”

“Just… leave already…”

 

 

 

Kiara

 

The Pridelands

 

A lesson learned

 

Darkness was setting in as Kiara took the final steps up towards Pride rock. She was about to head inside the cave that the residing lions had made their home when a voice called her name. She came to a halt and turned, smiling softly to the one that called her name. Kovu…

“Hey Kiara. Did you learn something today?”

He asked as he approached her. She nodded.

“Yes, I did.”

She said, accepting his nudge with a soft rumble of content.

“That’s great.”

He said, chuckling softly. Kiara merely nodded and sighed.

“Is something wrong?”

He asked.

“Kovu. It’s Vitani.”

Kovu blinked.

“Uh, what has she been saying now then?”

“It’s not in the matter of what she’s been saying, Kovu. More, I’d say, in the manner of what she’s done.”

“And?”

“She’s gone, Kovu. She just upped and left.”

Kovu blinked and took a step back.

“Left? What do you mean?”

“What I just said. We were talking and suddenly, our conversation drifted along the path of your mother and brother…”

Kovu frowned.

“I take it she’s had one of her fits again, eh?”

Kiara nodded.

“That is… one way to put it.”

“Umm…”

Kiara smiled at him.

“Relax. You get used to it in the long run. Like I said, our conversation drifted along the lines of your mother and brother. The way she felt about it was that the only one she had left was you, and then, of course, silly little me had to come along and steal you away from her also. And this, she felt, left her with no one.”

Kovu sighed.

“Did she say anything to hurt your feelings?”

Kiara chuckled.

“Well, she did have a, shall we say, less invigorating description of our future plans together, my beloved. But, not too worry. In the long run, I cannot help but feel that she was right.”

“What do you mean?”

“There really aren’t any happy memories for her to be had here with us. And, had she stayed here within the pride, then I feel it as though she would’ve gone mad.”

Kovu nodded.

“She’s always been trailing along in my shadow. After Nuka and my mother, I guess I was the only one she had left. And, once she learned about you and me…”

“Then she came to the conclusion that the only one really left for her was herself.”

Kovu sighed and shook his head.

“Have I been negligent of her, you think?”

Kiara shook her head.

“Kovu? My dear, dear Kovu. Do not ask yourself such questions. The lack of an answer will tear you up inside. Instead, why not wish her luck on her journey of self discovery? Though she made it sound like that she’d never return, then I find that hard to believe.”

Kovu nodded and smiled at her.

“You’re right. But…”

“But?”

“I still wish I could’ve said farewell before she decided to take off on her own.”

Kiara smiled and nudged his right cheek using her nose.

“She’ll return someday, Kovu. And, knowing her as I do now, you’ll have a second chance at saying farewell…” 

 

 

 

Vitani

 

The Pridelands

 

 Westward bound

 

“Just… leave already.”

 

“Heh. Fine by me, princess.”

Vitani thought, striding forth in the direction of the setting sun.

“I never asked for a homeland anyway. I never asked for my brother to go off and get himself killed. I never… EVER… asked for my mother to kill herself.”

Her pace came to a halt. A realization entered her mind slowly. A gentle tug at first. An all too familiar feeling.

“I really am angry.”

She thought to herself.

“There really is nothing else I want. Nothing. Nothing, but to kill, in the most brutally fashion possible; the murderers, of my family.”

She shook her head.

“No. My… family. Kovu, he is my family. He…”

She shook her head.

“Now listen here, thoughts in my head. I know the truth. It was like Kiara told me.”

She inhaled and exhaled slowly. Her anger subsided a bit.

“Mother allowed anger to be her guidance. And I witnessed firsthand where that course took her in life. My brother, Nuka, allowed himself to be guided by his ego. To want nothing more but too prove him self. There was no need for him to chase Simba up those logs. He could’ve been alive had it not been for my… my…”

Her thoughts trailed off and for a moment she refused her self to breathe. The stings of pain endured from suffocation began taking its toll on her. Her claws dug deep into the ground and her face frowned, baring her fangs in a grin of death. She released her self from deaths grip by a slow inhale of air.

“Alive.”

She thought.

“Had it not been for my mother. Had it not been for the way she treated him. Like an insect.”

She turned to look behind her, to see the familiar shape of Pride rock in the distance. But the approach of darkness had it covered in its embrace. The scene itself seemingly barring her return, as if telling her that now was not the time to return, now, was not the time for having doubts. Returning her glance westward, she saw the final sight of a sun about to sleep. No. Her choice was made…

 

 

 

Rafiki

 

The Pridelands

 

Slurred wisdom

 

“Vitani? Going somewhere, are we?”

Half startled, Vitani spun around. As she glanced frantically in every direction, she felt a light tug on her tail. Spinning around again, she saw nothing still.

“May ten thousand ants crawl up your nose, mandrill. Stop playing these games already and face me, would you?”

Feeling something land on her back, she sighed and turned her head to look at Rafiki, the shaman of the Pridelands, a weird individual whom at that moment sat cross legged on her back. Held in his hands, palms up, resting comfortably on top of his crossed legs was his walking stick, without a doubt the most natural cause for head aches in the Pridelands.

“Well, I take it you are exceedingly comfy where your rump rests, mandrill. Might I inquire what it is you want with me?”

She was met with silence. Rafiki just stared at her.

“I see. The silent treatment then, I take it? No words hidden behind slurred wisdom? No speeches that usually confuse instead of making sense?”

There was a tug at the far end of Rafikis lips, hinting at a smile being formed there.

“What? Keep on talking and be assured that in the morning I’ll wake up with a headache? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

Rafikis lips kept on curling into a smile and finally, he spoke.

“No Vitani. There will be no speeches that lead to nowhere. There’ll be no slurred wisdom, as you so wisely, though less nicely, put it.”

“Yeah? How come? Usually you take clarity and muddle it into confusion.”

Rafiki chuckled.

“Is that how you perceive it, Vitani? Is that how you allow your mind to read my words and the meaning hidden there?”

Vitani blinked.

“Hidden meaning? Now look here, you old coot…”

Rafiki hushed her down.

“Now is not the time for philosophical debate, Vitani.”

“Very well. Then… what?”

“Not to worry. I shan’t be keeping you long. Actually, I just came along to wish you well on your journey of self discovery. And also, too tell you that you were right.”

Vitani blinked.

“Right about what?”

“There is no future for you here, at least not at present. Just remember that the future is ever changing while the past is securely anchored.”

Vitani sighed.

“There you go with those damn annoying sentences of yours again.”

Rafiki chuckled.

“Then tell me Vitani, for the last time, how you perceive the last sentence I just spoke.”

“It doesn’t matter a rats ass how I perceive something you say.”

“Oh, but it does. Do try it. Use your own thoughts and your own words.”

Easing her growing frustration, Vitani pondered a moment and said.

“That which lives today could be dead by the morning. And that which died in the past is still dead.”

Giving her a loop sided smile, he nodded.

“True, though it was a rather morbid description of my spoken sentence. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Go with my blessings Vitani. And remember, you are never truly alone. Look to the past for answers that detail what you experience in the future.”

And with that sentence spoken, Rafiki was gone.

“I hate it when he does that.”

She thought.

“I blink my eyes and poof. Crazy old coot…”

 

 

 

Vitani

 

Outskirts

 

The right choice?

 

At midnight, having been wandering at a steady pace for the past 5 hours, she decided it was time to stop for a while and rest. Sniffing the air, she made an attempt at picking up traces of water. And sure enough, after a minor course direction from her intended destination, she soon found her self busy drinking water from a seemingly abandoned waterhole.

“Abandoned? Abandoned, my arse.”

She thought. Having picked up the telltale traces of animals, she concluded that they were nearby. Hidden, though just from her immediate line of sight. She could hear their hearts beating. Sensing their fear and their urge to just get away from her as quickly as evenly possible. And yet, they chose not to run. A fatal choice, had she been in the mood to hunt. Though she had not eaten for a great deal of hours, the hunger was just not there.

“Eons to learn their lessons right.”

She thought.

“And thus they still believe that being out of sight means being undetected. Idiots. There is no wonder the leonine of us are at the top of the hierarchy chain.”

That last thought sobered her up a bit, her mind drifting towards the Pridelands.

“Though some leonines apparently, are a bit higher up than the rest of us leonine.”

Shaking her head, she looked around for a soft spot to sleep for the remainder of the night. A moment later, while making her self comfortable, a last thought entered her mind before she drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

“What have I gotten myself into…?”

 

 

 

Vitani

 

 Westward bound, part 2

 

Talking with spirits

 

The sun stood high above the plains of a place taken out from a dream. Underneath its gaze, a scene of nature played its violent course. A gazelle, whose final act in life was to tremble one last time before its neck gave way to the massive pressure of a pair of jaws, were the play.

“Die already.”

The lone wanderer known as Vitani thought.

“I’m hungry as hell.”

Finally, the gazelle moved no more and wasting no more time, Vitani fed greedily off the carcass…

 

A little later, leaving behind nothing more but a bundle of bones, the tenth one in just as many days, Vitani was again on her way. Ten days having passed since her hasty leave of the Pridelands. Her goal not being known to her at all. Though there was not a doubt in her mind that she had made the right choice, the reason for her action found her none.

“It’s as if I am being guided toward some weird destiny.”

She told her self, half snickering by the thought of the wizened old mandrill’s words. Her pace came to a halt and she looked around. Seeming as though no one was in the immediate vicinity, except for above her, she sat down.

“HERE I AM!”

She exclaimed loudly and gazed at the sky, both of her forepaws stretched as far as they could to each side of her head. Above her, the vultures fell a bit out of their circling formation, nearly bumping into one and other because of the unexpected high shout from below.

“MIGHT TELLING ME WHAT THE HELL YOU WANT WITH ME? HUH?”

There was no answer but the light rustling of the wind whistling gently through the bangs of hair covering her brow.

“Heh, it figures. I had almost half expected one of them vultures up there to relieve it self on me.”

She got up.

“I wouldn’t even have batted my eyelashes in surprise had that happened. Crazy old coot. And his antics about unseen spirits and guidance and… and…whatnot.”

Her pace brought her westward again, muttering still…

 

The tenth day following her self imposed exile was coming to an end. The terrain in which she travelled was beginning to change from vast open plains to a more closed off and isolated segment consisting of grass up to above a meter in height. For a moment she looked around, pondering her choice of directions. Apparently, it did not matter which destination she chose.

“I can’t say I enjoy travelling blind.”

She thought.

“There is no indication as to how long this type of terrain will carry on.”

A smirk crept across her face.

“Return is not an option, it seems. Though hopefully, history will not leave with me being entitled as ‘The one who lost her way in grass that grew as high as the sky.’”

After glancing around a few moments more, she made her decision. Just like it was ten days ago, westward bound still…

 

 

 

Vitani

 

Somewhere in between

 

Adventures in the grass, part 1

 

She ventured through the grass at a slow pace.

“I thought I’d seen the worst of places back in the Outlands. Damn me indeed how wrong I was.”

She thought. Glancing up to look at the sky, she found it was nearing dusk.

“Wonderful. Just like me to not even notice that it was getting late before I decided to head on inside this exceptional masterpiece of a gods mind gone spare. Baah, no other way to go but where the nose leads…”

 

Darkness had found the sky when she finally appeared at what seemed to be a vacant space in the vast ocean of grass.

“I’d say it is about bloody time.”

She thought as she ventured out into the open, only to find a familiar scent touching her senses. Slowing down, her heart rate had quickened and she noticed a shiver to her own limbs as adrenaline coursed through her veins.

“I figured it was only a question of time before those lowlifes would make an appearance. Hyenas, and judging by the different scent marks scattered around here, there’s quite the number of them. Just what the hell I need right now.”

Standing perfectly still, she glanced around the small pocket of vacant space. Surrounding her in all possible directions were formidable walls consisting of grass. She fought back a growing sensation of panic as the words her mother once had uttered while training her back in the Outlands returned to her.

“There will come a time Vitani, when you alone cannot rely upon your eyes. Let what you hear and what you smell be your guidance.”

She perked her ears and listened intently for any telltale traces of movement. The only sound she picked up was the wind gently brushing through the grass.

“Very well.”

She thought to her self.

“Let me try something different then.”

Exhaling, she inhaled slowly by the use of her nose. The hyena stench filled her nostrils to the point where she had to force herself not to heave.

“Leave it to the hyenas to kill you by stink alone.”

She thought, letting a silent cough escape her.

“Definitely not that way, I’d say.”

She sniffed around some more. The further she tried, the more she felt her mood beginning to drop. From not even a single direction, except back the way she came, did the scent seem to drop a notch in strength.

“Well, if this just isn’t great.”

She paid a quick glance up towards the night sky.

“You know just as well as I do that going back is not an option. Couldn’t you just for ONCE work with me a little?”

From her point of entry into the space were she now found herself and a little beyond that, she heard the whisper soft touches of grass allowing passage for approaching paws. Biting back a cuss, she dove as elegantly as she could into the western bound grass wall.

“I guess not. Why the hell am I talking to an empty sky for anyway? Fat load of good that been doing me these past days.”

She thought, paying one last look at the night sky. Making a run for it now would only make a lot of noise in which her unseen foe could follow with relative ease. No, there was nothing else she could do now but to wait and see what would emerge from her point of entry. She felt anger grow inside her. She would NOT allow some filthy hyena or anyone else for that matter take away the future she knew had to be awaiting her out there somewhere.

“Come and get me already, would ya? I dare ya…”

 

Holding perfectly still, she questioned the sanity of the action she had now taken. She could’ve made good time by venturing further westward into the sea of grass, getting some distance between her self and whoever whom was about to enter the vacant pocket of space in front of her.

“Crazy… crazy”

She muttered silently to her self. Above her, the moon had returned from its slumber, giving the area an eerie gloom. Breathing tensely, she let her claws flex in rhythm. Inhale, claws in, exhale, claws out.

“Come on…”

 

From out where she had arrived only moments ago came two lions, both male. One, who she saw was in lead, was fairly slender in build, while the other appeared to be of a size equal to that of Simba, if not larger. There wasn’t much she could make out of their features, due to the fall of night time. But, if she were to make any guesses, then the colorization of their manes were near identical.

“Brothers?”

She silently asked herself as she watched the two come to a halt. Apparently they had also picked up the hyena scent, and for a moment Vitani actually felt grateful for the stench, since it covered her own trail. The larger one grunted something incomprehensible and after a short moment later the other nodded.

“What did you just say?”

Vitani silently asked herself, eyeing the larger of the two…

 

 

 

Chac’kra

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

Morning reports

 

“Sire?”

“Hmmph?”

“A thousand pardons sire, that I had to awaken you.”

The messenger, a scrawny and dirty lioness said. Bowing deeply, she awaited her sire to become more aware to his surroundings.

“You’d best have a good reason for waking me, Riig.”

Swallowing deeply, the lioness looked back up.

“Again, a thousand pardons sire. But you requested to be notified at once should anything of importance happen and…”

She was paid a look displaying nuisance and her words trailed off.

“Riig? Cease your endless chatter and get to the point? Why awaken me if your sole purpose is to bore me back into sleep?”

Riig blinked.

“Oh, a thousand pardons sire. I get so carried away that I at tim…”

“GET TO THE POINT, YOU INCESSANT LITTLE PISSANT!!!”

Startled, Riig blurted and spat out her message, incidentally covering her sire in drivel.

“I was to say that Azima and CorsahTa’rna have returned from their journey to the Northlands, sire. Please, forgive a hard working soul her mistakes. I… I am not the supreme perfection like you, sire.”

“Ju… just get the hell out and tell them to enter at once.”

Riig bowed deeply.

“At once, sire. A thousand apologies for disturbing you and…”

“NOW, DAMN IT!”

Yelping, Riig turned and quickly high tailed it out of the chamber…

 

“Useless creature.”

Chac’kra cussed. Using his paws, he wiped his face dry from Riig’s drivel, making an attempt to at least gain some royal posture. Looking up to the ceiling of the cavern, he exclaimed loudly.

“To wake me up like that just to spit me in the face. Why do I have to be surrounded by nothing but mere PISSants?”

Sighing, he ran a paw through his greying black mane. A moment later, a voice coming from beside him a few meters away startled him.

“Surely sire? Not all of us are considered to be pissants? I am sure such a statement would serve naught but a severe blow to the morale of those in your rule…”

 

Glancing to his right, Chac’kra let fly another curse.

“May you thrice be damned, Azima. It is customary to state your arrival while in the presence of your king.”

“Correct me if I am wrong, sire. But didn’t I just do that?”

Chac’kra waved him off, wanting the discussion to end before it even started.

“Cease. Just… cease. Don’t give me an even harder headache.”

Grinning broadly, Azima bowed before his king.

“Understood, sire.”

Chac’kra nodded in return.

“So, you’ve returned from the Northlands and…”

Chac’kra paused, and looked about the chamber. Azima blinked and coughed innocently.

“Umm, you seem to be quite vacant minded this morning, sire?”

Chac’kra let the comment pass as he exclaimed loudly.

“Where the HELL is the boy?”

There was a cough coming from further back in the chamber, more precisely put, the entrance.

“I am present sire.”

“Then why in the bleeding hells are you all the way over there for, my boy?”

“Because I had a matter I needed attended before arriving in your presence, sire. And while I had this matter taken care of, not to mention that I turned my back on him for nothing more but a mere second, then Azima here slipped away into the shadows, as he usually does.”

Chac’kra sighed.

“Just get over here.”

A moment later, the two young males sat in front of the king, watching as he rubbed his temples, obviously nursing a head ache.

“Now then, where was I?”

“The Northlands, sire?”

Azima suggested, and was rewarded by a stabbing look from Chac’kras red tinted eyes.

“I know where I was, Azima. It was just a matter of speech, nothing more. Could you be quiet for a moment?”

“As you wish, sire.”

Azima said and grinned broadly. Chac’kra sighed, obvious to the fact that he’d never learn.

“So, you’ve returned from the Northlands. Is there anything of importance to report?”

“Nothing which is already known from those parts of the outer reaches of the Shadowmoon, sire.”

The male named CorsahTa’rna responded.

“It can seem that it doesn’t matter what we do to deter them. Wherever these creatures are coming from or whosoever commands them really has a knack for sending them out where they do us most harm.”

 

Chac’kra nodded and looked more closely at him. CorsahTa’rna, or the Grin, as the lionesses had taken to call him, had not seen more than five seasons. He sported a dark brown mane, an even darker shade of brownish fur and had blue eyes that never seemed to light up, no matter what situation he faced. Erratic scar markings crisscross his face, the one most eye catching detailing a loss of his right upper lip. Whether this was the reason for the lionesses of his pride to have dubbed him this name, or based on the fact that he never smiled, or laughed, weren’t known. CorsahTa’rna himself was indeed sketchy with the details detailing how this had happened to him. The only thing Chac’kra knew for certain about it was that it had happened to him during his cub hood.

 

“So much of the facts are blatantly obvious, my boy.”

 

He said, glancing in the direction of Azima. He was, he saw, a slender and black maned individual with blue eyes whose wit could drive even the most gentle and tolerant creatures of nature mad. That aside, he was about the same age as CorsahTa’rna. Chac’kra had again and again pondered how such a pairing between the two could at all be possible. CorsahTa’rna didn’t exactly sport the necessary humour or wit in which Azima without a doubt possessed, and neither did he possess a long fuse. CorsahTa’rna, he thought, could be described as an endless ocean of dry grass. One spark and you’d have a fire that’d rage ‘till the end of time. But, he had come to the conclusion that opposites attract one and other in some mysterious way. And judging by those two, then opposites weren’t even close in describing that case.

 

“But, what we really need to know is how to deal with the nuisance in the first place.”

Chac’kra said, dividing his attention between the two.

“Any suggestions to how we’re supposed to handle this?”

“Go for the brains of the entire hyena outfit?”

CorsahTa’rna suggested.

“Forgive me for asking, but whenever did hyenas actually develop a brain that could stand coherent thinking?”

Azima shot in dryly, and he was rewarded by a soft snicker coming from the entrance of the cave. Chac’kra looked up, and a hint of a smile tugged at the ends of his lips.

“Ah, my daughter Kisa.”

He said in a soothing voice.

“Come join our debate, if you please…?”

 

 

 

Kisa

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

Reasons

 

Kisa approached the three and sat down between the two young males. Here was a lioness, sleek and trimmed, sporting a brownish pelt whom herself had seen fights after fights with the hyena scourge. At the moment there was a hint of relaxation dotting her red tinted eyes, usually when she found herself among friends or family. While out on the plains however, either hunting or if the use of violence was imminent, did her eyes seem to be ablaze with a hellish fury, promising whomsoever was facing her nothing but an eternal visit to the abyss. The lack of scars that normally covered a lioness her age told much of the skill she indeed possessed. She faced her father and bowed before him. The bow, in which described her total commitment to the king is as follows. Sitting down, the individual whom faced the king stretched ones fore paws to the sides on the ground. The nose, because of this gesture nearly touch the ground, displaying ones neck to the king.

“I see Azima still lacks the respect one would normally show while in the presence of you, father?”

She asked as she ended her bow and glanced in Azimas direction with a poorly hidden smirk to her face. Chac’kra sighed and nodded.

“To be honest, my daughter, one do get used to it. Though it helps my head aches none.”

“You have head aches still, father? Why have you not, like you promised me, talked to Senaii about it?”

Chac’kra snorted.

“I’ve been alive long enough to very well know my own body, daughter. And besides, I’ve come to the conclusion that paying our root dependent shaman a visit is something I’ve deemed to be a last resort only.”

Kisa frowned.

“You keep on doing this to yourself, ignoring the signs your body try so subtly to tell you, and it might turn into a last resort quicker than you might believe father.”

Chac’kra cussed and glared at her.

“Stop being so damned much like your mother…”

 

CorsahTa’rna raised his right paw and coughed into it. Chac’kra glanced in his direction, irritation burning in his red tinted eyes.

“Perhaps Azima and I should leave, sire? It seems as though the two of us are intruding on matters that are meant to be solved in private?”

The king shook his head.

“No, stay.”

He said, looking back at his daughter.

“My daughter is right, and there is no point trying any longer to hide the fact any longer that I am dying.”

Kisa blinked.

“Dying? Stop saying such things, father.”

Chac’kra waved her silent.

“Quiet, daughter of mine. I am, as I said, dying. Had I been in my prime, then I would’ve sought out Senaii without as much of a doubt to my mind. But I am old. And any display of weakness from my part would’ve ensured that a challenge had occurred from the three residing prides within our realm before I’ve had my say on several things.”

His eyes glanced around, resting on each of three individuals in front of him in turn.

“One of the…”

He began, but turned silent. For a long moment, the only thing being heard were the quiet and controlled breathing of the four gathered inside the king’s chamber. Neither of them as much as looked at one and other. Taking a deep breath, the old king began speaking again.

“One of the things that are of utmost importance is the fact that I have no heir.”

He said, looking toward his daughter.

“Do not get me wrong, my beloved daughter. Had it been up to me, then…”

“Father? It has been like this since the beginning of time. I take no offence to this.”

She said to him in a soothing voice and ended her sentence with a smile.

Chac’kra nodded and most of the pressure he felt dropped a notch.

“Then, I am relieved my daughter. I wish to implore to the three of you gathered here the importance of keeping the fact I just let you know to yourself. At least, for the time being.”

Three pair of eyes stared in the direction of Azima.

“Hey? HEY!? NOW WHAT THE… hell… is that stare supposed to be?”

Azima exclaimed and frowned.

“Sure I shoot my mouth off at times that cannot exactly be described as fitting, but HELL if I am that stupid.”

“Don’t EVEN get me started on that remark of yours.”

CorsahTa’rna said, glaring at him.

“And what, oh face full of teeth, is that supposed to mean?”

CorsahTa’rna frowned

“It means, oh sole reason for my countless fits of irritation and severe ulcer, that you are at times more trouble than the entire hyena scourge together.”

Azima smiled, a mock gesture.

“Always it is a pleasure to be of service, oh existence of woe.”

CorsahTa’rna growled, baring his fangs.

“Watch it, oh wing clipped bumble bee, lest I’ll give you an existence of woe.”

Azima was about to reply, but was cut off by a loud hem coming from the king.

“Are the two of you done already? By the countless gods of humility that wipe my arse. That has got to be the most annoying conversation I’ve ever been forced to listen to.”

Azima looked at the king, plea of innocence present in his eyes.

“Hey? He started it. I just defended myself from the assumption that I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut.”

Kisa laughed out loud.

“Oh father. I do so strongly doubt that what you just heard classify as the most annoying conversation you’ve ever listened to. Do you not, by chance, remember when there was a dispute between the meerkats and the giraffe to the south of our land? You told me this story yourself.”

Her father turned to look at her and for a moment he was all but silent. Then, at the edges of his lips, a smile tugged there, blossoming into a full smile of remembrance. Chuckling softly, he nodded in acknowledgement.

“Ah yes. That little ordeal I remember most well. The entire situation was so absurd in itself that I wasn’t too sure what to do.”

“Umm, when was this, sire?”

Azima asked.

“Oh, it was a few seasons before your coming into this world Azima.”

The king answered him.

“I am afraid most of the details that caused this enmity between them have left me for a more shadowy realm of my mind, but what I do remember is…”

He laughed a little.

“Imagine a meerkat standing next to a giraffe. And then imagine quotes like… ‘I’ll jump as high as wind and gravity wills it and I shall bite you where the sun never shines. Or, ‘Hold on while I bend down in order for my opponent to see an eye to an eye.’”

Kisa and Azima laughed heartily at the image the king presented to them. CorsahTa’rna, on the other hand, merely shrugged it off.

“Thank you, daughter of mine, for reminding me of that little ordeal.”

He said, and smiled at her.

“At least for a little while did I manage to forget that which lies ahead of us. But now, onto the tasks that lie ahead…”

 

 

 

Azima

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

The companion by my side

 

The following meeting took several hours. The four gathered discussed between themselves actions to be made or considered. Apparently, and from Azimas point of view, the hyenas were no longer nothing but a disorganized rabble, but had transformed themselves into a force to be reckoned with. Though they weren’t even close to the sheer numbers that had existed when the Shadowmoon was formed generations ago, their tactics dictated that someone with an extreme sense of cunning was now running the show. Upon discussed what to do, CorsahTa’rna had come up with the suggestion that what first needed to be done, was to pinpoint where exactly the hyena scourge made their home. The king had agreed to this, and upon questioning CorsahTa’rna how this should be done, Kisa had shot in, suggesting that perhaps the three prides residing within the boundaries of the Shadowmoon itself could offer some clues. Though the three prides weren’t officially a part of the Shadowmoon, it was obvious that they too were having problems with the hyenas running rampant, at least that was the word being carried about by delivery from messenger birds. The king adjourned the meeting, mentioning to Azima and CorsahTa’rna that the preparations for the visits the two would be making to the other prides would take some time. Requests for audiences and other rubbish, as the king so less eloquently had stated it. In order to pass the time, then the king ordered the two to head on out and take a look around on the plains and report back anything out of the ordinary. The hyenas in themselves would be bad enough on their journey, but also could the visits being paid to the other prides be a cause for concern. Their culture and views on things differed greatly from that within the Shadowmoon itself…

 

Pausing outside the entrance to the chamber for a moment, Azima seemed to ponder what the old king had told him inside. CorsahTa’rna, on the other hand, rapidly descended the trail leading to a waterhole located no more than a few hundred meters from the rocky formation that made up the Shadowmoon prides home. Obviously, learning about Chac’kras rapidly declining health hadn’t improved CorsahTa’rnas mood any, something one could easily tell by the fact that he merely grunted to passing lionesses instead of saying hello. But, that aside, his mood swings weren’t news within the pride.

“Just another gossip too be shared around a fresh kill.”

Azima thought and sighed.

“Well, someone sounds blue?”

Azima turned around and watched as Kisa emerged from the chamber herself.

“Well, you know me. I’m always a laugh and joy. Just a shame the one by my side so seldom joins in.”

“Know what you mean.”

She said as she walked up to him. Standing by his side, she used her nose to nudge his right cheek.

“There always seem to be a rainy cloud on top of that ones head. Though it has grown into a storm instead of light summers rain.”

Azima nodded, a light smile present on his lips from the attention he brought upon himself from the kings daughter, Kisa.

“Yeah. That he is in a foul mood isn’t exactly news Kisa. But, it is just that lately he’s seemed to be slipping more and more into a constant… I…I dunno…”

Azimas words trailed off.

“A darker state of mind?”

Kisa said and finished his intended sentence. Azima gave a nod.

“Yeah. It’s not like I feel he is evil or something, but it is the way he acts nowadays. Constantly aloof, not too mention that it seems he doesn’t give a damn about himself. Take whenever he fights for instance; He constantly leaves himself open to an attack from his foe, as if he enjoys the pain a drawn claw injects whenever it hits him. A year ago, he barely had any scars to show, except for the lip thing of course. Now… Well, you’ve seen the present.”

She nodded.

“Yes, I have. And, I would believe it is easier to face ten hyenas alone than it is to be getting details out of that one.”

Azima chuckled softly and nodded.

“Tell me about it.”

He said, smiling softly at her.

“But, speaking of the present. I’d best go see what he is up to.”

Kisa smiled and nudged him again.

“You do that. And I admire your loyalty to him. Another would’ve left him well much alone a long time ago.”

He nodded.

“True. But, something keeps on telling me that I need to see this entire hyena ordeal through together with him by my side. I don’t know why, but it just feels to be the right thing to do…”

 

 

 

CorsahTa’rna

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

The anger within

 

The image floating in the water before him told stories of countless fights. Each and every scar that ran its erratic course in his face had its own story.

Stories, that in themselves told him nothing.

He raised his right paw and flexed the wrist, an all too familiar move. His claws shot out and he eyed them closely, almost on the verge of admiration for something so natural and yet, so deadly to whomever was on the receiving end of them. At the root of them, near invisible, he noticed clotted and dried blood.

Stories, that in themselves told him nothing.

Looking to his left, he spotted a nearby erect tree trunk. Flexing his wrist again, the claws retracted and he put his paw back down on the ground. For a moment, all he did was breathe. The quiet around him allowed him to hear the rushing of his own blood through his veins. He closed his eyes and tried to calm down. In what could be described as a blur he opened his eyes and dashed towards it. The tree trunk shuddered with impact from his slash and his claws raked it deep. He hit it again and again, pieces of bark and wood splinters being flung in all directions around him. Then, in a final gesture he rose up to stand for a short moment on his hind legs and with all the strength he could muster, he dropped forward, venting all his rage into one final downward rake on the now rather shredded piece of wood. A voice spoke out to him but a few meters away. Breathing deeply, he turned around…

 

“Eh, you want me to notify its siblings, or, in this case, rootlings? Or perhaps I should let it return to its roots?”

CorsahTa’rna sighed.

“Now is not the time, Azima. I would thank you kindly if you could just leave me alone right now.”       

Azima did not approach him.

“If there is one thing I do doubt would be the best for you right now, then it is being alone.”

Silence ensued and the two just stared at one and other. Around them, several lionesses, four in all, appeared. They’d been alerted, no doubt, by the commotion that passed only a few minutes ago. One of them, a rather burly built lioness named Makala approached Azima…

 

 

 

Makala

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

What’s with the noise?

 

“I take you’ve been shooting your mouth off in his direction again, eh Azima?”

She asked, her brown and tired looking eyes staring at him quizzically. Azima shook his head.

“I haven’t said a thing. Sure, I balance a bit when it comes to him, but hell if I am suicidal.”

Makala merely nodded. For a moment, she said nothing more. Yawning deeply, scratching the back of her brown furred head, she looked in the direction of CorsahTa’rna.

“Grin? It may not have occurred to you, but my sisters and I encountered quite the bundle of drivel mouths here the other day out in the plains. It well and put wore us out and we had hoped for some rest and relaxation.”

Her brown eyes grew dark and her voice followed swift.

“No sooner had I drifted away into a peaceful sleep when I woke rapidly. Want to know why I woke so rapidly that my heart nearly gave out on me?”

CorsahTa’rna frowned and matched his voice with hers.

“Just go away, woman. I am in no mood for this right now.”

Makala cussed loudly, causing Azima to take a few steps back. Having seen Makala pissed off had not been a pretty sight. Neither was it seeing CorsahTa’rna pissed. The two of them, however, being pissed off in unison, not to mention that their anger was aimed at one and other, would be rather titanic indeed to witness. Thus, it wouldn’t hurt getting some distance between him self and those two. Around him, having withdrawn a bit as well it could seem the lionesses had also come to that conclusion.

“You think clawing your backside is a lot more different than clawing that of hyenas, Grin?”

CorsahTa’rnas eyes grew cold. The way he stared at her, emotionless, irked Azima and made him shudder.

“Why don’t you give it a try, Makala?”

He said, his voice matching the way he stared at her.

“You might be surprised…”

 

 

 

Azima

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

Supreme Diplomacy

 

They started circling one and other, CorsahTa’rna and Makala did. Their heads were held low as they sized one and other up and their throats both let out menacing growls. Azima let out a silent cuss. This would without a doubt need carefully chosen words.

“Eh, ok? OK!!! Time out, hold it and all that diplomatic stuff I really never pay attention to.”

The two would be combatants paused. In unison, they raised their heads and looked at him.

“I’m not sure it has occurred to the two of you at all, but our foes are out there somewhere.”

Makala snorted.

“I am very much aware, Azima, that our enemy is out there. But this facial featured excellence is asking for it.”

Azima frowned.

“Makala? I am trying to defuse a rather volatile situation here. Trading insults, especially in his direction is hardly the trigger I need to do so.”

Makala laughed, displaying a mock gesture of amusement.

“Well, that’s rich coming from you.”

Azima had to fight the urge to not blush.

“Yeah, it is kind of awkward, I know. But, what I am saying is true.”

He took a couple steps towards them, talking as fast as the words entered his mind.

“You’re tired, Makala. You said so yourself. And when you are tired, then you tend to overreact and state things that wouldn’t necessarily be said at all.”

Makala nodded, though her tenseness did not subside.

“And my companion here obviously has issues of his own.”

“And what gave you that idea, genius?”

Makala asked and snorted in disdain.

“He’s been totally unbearable for the past season.”

Azima gulped and paid a quick glance in CorsahTa’rnas direction, but to his amazement there was no reaction to Makala’s words at all from him. Shifting his attention back to Makala, he carried on with his task.

“Yes, I am aware of that. I was about to ask him what his issues are when the four of you showed up. So please, Makala, do me a favour and go get some rest. I promise I’ll drop by the four of you later with a freshly felled impala. Would that suffice as an excuse?”

Makala turned silent for a moment, eyeing Azima quizzically. After a few more heartbeats, she gave a nod and relaxed.

“That sounds good, Azima.”

She pointed her left paw across her shoulder towards CorsahTa’rna.

“But keep that scarface of yours on a leash. Hell if he disturbs me again.”

Nodding, Azima sighed a silent breath of relief.

“Don’t you worry. I’ll punish him later today.”

“Heh, that’d be something I’d love to see.”

She said.

“Well, come along sisters. Let us go and get some muchly needed rest. Good day to you Azima…”

 

Azima watched the four of them vanish into the bushes surrounding the water hole.

“I’d say you pick the oddest of times to develop a spine, Azima. I had expected her to attack outright.”

CorsahTa’rna said, displaying a hint of amusement in his voice. The amusement in his face faded as Azima turned to face him. He’d never seen him this angry.

“Just SHUT THE HELL UP.”

CorsahTa’rna blinked.

“Beg your pardon?”

“SHUT UP!”

CorsahTa’rna did as told and just stared at him, amusement slowly coming back to his face. Azima pointed to a spot by the water hole.

“Move your scarred ass over there and sit the hell down.”

He did as told, and a short moment later Azima did the same and locked his eyes with his own.

“The two of us are going to have a talk now, CorsahTa’rna. I’ve had it up to the sky with your moods these days. One way or another, I am going to find out what the hell is eating you.”

“It ain’t squat wrong with me, Azima.”

Azima rolled his eyes and gestured frantically with his paws.

“Nothing? Absolutely NOTHING is wrong, you say? Are you even aware of the fact that you were this close to getting your own backside clawed from a lioness that can actually manage to match your anger tone by tone?”

CorsahTa’rna shrugged, his voice having a casual tone to it.

“I’ve faced worse?”

Azima nodded.

“I am without a doubt that you have, ‘buddy’. But the difference with Makala here is that she is actually on our side, remember? And you know the law within our pride just as well as I do. Two may fight one and other if, and I cannot emphasize it enough, IF, a challenge has been made. You were this close to breaking that one most sacred code.”

CorsahTa’rna didn’t respond to that one, something which made Azima lighten up a bit.

“Good.”

He thought.

“He is on the defensive…”

 

The code which Azima mentioned to him can be described as follows. Two lions within the pride may legally fight one and other for either supremacy or sport only if a challenge has been made. If a challenge has been made, then two combatants will fight one and other by the use of sheer force, claws and fangs forbidden, till either one of them is knocked out cold or a yield has been made. There will be no loss of honour during a challenge. If a fight were to break out between two members of the pride unless a challenge has been issued, then the fight would have to continue until one has been killed. The aggressor would be dubbed honourless and, if victorious, banished from the pride. The defender would retain his honour, either in living or death. If two were to be the aggressor, in other words, willingly attacking one and other, then they’d both be dubbed honourless. The loser could consider himself lucky for dying, while the victor would be given the chase of his life, dubbed free game for the entire pride in general. A code developed by the king whom at first founded the Shadowmoon pride in an attempt to teach his followers humility and coherent thinking. The hidden text in general stating that one must be able to rely upon the one by your side in the heat of battle…

 

“Eh… I… I guess I wasn’t thinking straight, Azima.”

“You just scored one point for managing to piece together that one.”

CorsahTa’rna sighed and stared at him, his eyes detailing that old familiar give me a break look.

“Could you ease off already with those bleeding sarcastic responses of yours? I’m trying to display at least a minor inkling of humility here.”

Azima grinned broadly. Using his right paw, he gestured for him to go on.

“I forgot the teachings of the pride and it does not excuse my actions made. I nearly allowed my anger to guide me.”

“Yeah, I kind of witnessed that first hand. But, I’ve been meaning to ask you for a time now. What the hell has gotten into you these past days? Sure, I am very well aware of the fact that you could match a Cape buffalo when it comes to sour moods, but damn me if lately you’ve been a challenge to just be near.”

At first, CorsahTa’rna didn’t answer. Azima sighed, thinking that was the end of that. When he did respond however, he sounded tired.

“I do not sleep well at night. I mean, I sleep, but I do not rest.”

Azima arched his brow.

“Sleepwalking?”

CorsahTa’rna shrugged.

“Hell if I know. I haven’t heard any comments from any members of the pride regarding that suspicion yet. In other words, they haven’t seen me at the oddest moments of the night.”

“Ah, then it is quite simple. You suffer from sleepstalking.”

CorsahTa’rna closed his eyes and let out a low cuss.

“Could you at least for one bleeding moment try and retain some sort of focus regarding the subject we are talking about here?”

Azima gave him that one grin that told him he was back to his usual light headed self.

“Apparently not. Give me back the Azima that just saved me from making a mistake?”

“Sorry, he has left for the day. Could I take a message?”

“Don’t tempt me.”

CorsahTa’rna snorted and got up. Stretching, he motioned for Azima to follow him.

“Come on, witless. Let’s go get that kill you promised Makala…”

 

 

 

Makala

 

The Shadowmoon pride

 

Surprise, surprise

 

Later, as the sun started descending in the horizon, Makala opened her eyes. There, only a few meters before her lay the carcass of a huge animal. With her eyes going as wide as evenly possible, she got up from her sleeping position and carefully approached the carcass. Her eyes did not deceive her. It was the mightiest of all possible prey animals residing in the plains, the Cape buffalo. She examined the carcass more carefully and saw that its throat had been squeezed flat. At the sides of the carcass’s shoulders, she saw entry wounds the size of claws. Someone had without a doubt held on for dear life. Darting her eyes back and forth across the carcass, she noticed something that seemed like scribbling on its stomach. Taking a closer look at what it was, she did at first feel her anger from before returning to her in full force. Then, out of nowhere, she thrust her head back and from deep down she laughed out loud. On the carcass, the following was written.

“And surprised you were…”

 

“Guess Makala found her surprise?”

Azima said and perked his ears as he came to a halt. CorsahTa’rna did the same and they both listened to Makalas laughter off in the distance.

“Yeah. Though I had expected she’d hurl curses instead of laughing.”

“I can’t say I would’ve blamed her for that if she did. You did after all leave her quite the message on that carcass.”

CorsahTa’rna shrugged.

“What else was I supposed to do? Grovel at her paws begging forgiveness? She was just as near breaking the sacred code as I was.”

“True.”

Azima said, suppressing a yawn.

“Oh well, let us get going already. The plains won’t patrol by themselves.”

CorsahTa’rna nodded. Setting their course east toward the seas of grass visible in the distance, the two walked off at dozy pace. An hour later, as darkness began setting in for full they had reached the sea of grass that measured at least a meter in height…

 

 

 

The dynamic duo

 

Somewhere in between

 

Of patrols and headaches

 

“Did you hear the story about those leopards who ventured into this grass?”

Azima asked, staring uneasily at the tall grass.

“No, but it doesn’t matter if I say no and that I do not want to hear it, right?”

“Right.”

Azima said, not really paying attention as he made his best attempt at brushing away his growing uneasiness with a grin. CorsahTa’rna sighed and awaited him to continue. A minute or so later, there having been said not a word, he couldn’t help it.

“Oh, for the love of the lip I lost. Get on with your lame arsed story already.”

Azima blinked, and looked at him, puzzled.

“Pardon?”

“Didn’t you have this exceedingly lame story about some leopards that got lost or some such nonsense within the boundaries of this grassy sea?”

“No, I mean, what is there to tell?”

CorsahTa’rna frowned.

“What is there to tell? For crying out loud, why the hell did you state those leopards in such a fashion that it seemed like you had a story about them?”

“The reason there is nothing to tell about them is because they ventured inside and came out again a couple of hours later, totally unscathed.”

CorsahTa’rna’s neck turned limp and for a moment he just stared at the ground.

“Hey, I didn’t say I had a story about them. Umm, did I…?”

 

CorsahTa’rna looked back up.

“Azima? Where exactly, in that deep recess of a mind of yours, do you venture, when face to face with possible danger?”

“Hey, I’m sorry. It is just that whenever I get nervous, I tend to pull things out of nowhere and blow it out of proportions.”

CorsahTa’rna shook his head and sighed.

“Whenever did you start developing such problems, Azima? Usually, you bother your opponents into submission with your constant chatter whenever a fight is imminent. Hell, it even gets to me at times and we’re on the same side.”

Azima shrugged and didn’t seem to be calming down.

“I… I don’t know. But, there is something with this grass…”

CorsahTa’rna looked at him, puzzled.

“Oh, all right. What is with this grass that gets to you?”

“I really don’t know. But, I get this sneaking suspicion that there is more here than meets the eye.”

“Yes, I am well aware of that, and what meets my eye is a sea of grass that one could easily loose ones way in. But, I do not smell a rat, and by that I do not mean our four legged rodent friends.”

Azima sighed, not seeming to cheer up at all.

“Look, just forget I said anything, ok? There was just this tug at the back of my head.”

CorsahTa’rna nodded.

“Well, c’mon fickled one.”

He said, thwapping the back of Azima’s head lightly.

“Let us go see if we come across some of those leopards of yours…”

 

 

 

The dynamic duo

 

Somewhere in between

 

Adventures in the grass, part 2

 

“For the love of my waning sanity? Could you stop doing that?”

Azima fought back another sneeze and itched his nose frantically.

“Sorry. One grass straw did really venture far up my nostril there, you know.”

CorsahTa’rna sighed and waved him off with a paw.

“Look, just try and bend your neck a bit downward and you shouldn’t have anymore problems with the grass crawling up places you really don’t want it heading. Besides, trying to use your eyes to look around and about this place is rather hopeless anyway.”

“Should I raise my backside a bit as well, oh wise and fearless leader?”

CorsahTa’rna snorted and shook his head.

“Look, if a straw of grass ever crawls up on you from that direction, then by all means, never EVER feel the urge to be sharing it with me.”

Azima chuckled.

“Point taken. So, here we are then. Got to love this place, no?”

CorsahTa’rna shrugged.

“Well, one thing being positive with this exceedingly overgrown place is that if you got someone on your tail, then the chance of them finding you is relatively small.”

“Look, the chance of even finding oneself in this overgrown haven of idiocy is even smaller than that.”

“So I noticed. Well, if that is the case, then this is rather pointless, no?”

Azima nodded, displaying his all too familiar look of someone who was just told the obvious. CorsahTa’rna decided, for once, to ignore it completely.

“Well. Let us take a different route out of this mess.”

He said, nodding in a new direction.

“Is there any reason for that choice of yours?”

Azima asked, looking in the direction being pointed out to him.

“Not really. We’re on a patrol after all, no?”

“Point taken. Lead the way, oh fearless leader…”

 

“What the hell?”

Azima stated, using a whisper soft touch to his voice. CorsahTa’rna stopped dead in his tracks and turned his head to look over his back.

“What is it now, and pray tell me it is of importance for once?”

He asked, letting his voice match his in tone.

“Uhh, either we’re moving around in circles, or…”

CorsahTa’rna blinked.

“Or what?”

Azima picked up a broken piece of grass and held it up between his claws for CorsahTa’rna to see.

“Or, someone else who’re also of a leonine nature ventured here just a moment ago.”

CorsahTa’rna arched his brow. Exhaling, he inhaled by the use of his nose, tasting the air around him.

“I’m not picking up anything. Are you sure about this?”

Azima nodded.

“Yeah. You were, after all, the one who told me to hold my head low instead of high above the ground due to penetrations of the grassy kind, remember?”

CorsahTa’rna shrugged and remained silent for a moment, obviously contemplating this new information.

“Well, if that is the case.”

He said, motioning for him to move on.

“Then you lead the way.”

Azima nodded, and as he moved past CorsahTa’rna to follow the new trail, he added.

“Trust me that I shall lead you with high excellence, young grasshopper.”

Falling in line with him, CorsahTa’rna let out an indigenous snort and a roll of his eyes…

 

Above them, the moon had arisen from its slumber, bathing their surroundings in an eerie gloom. The two, having followed the trail for the past half hour did so at a careful pace. Then, out there, in the middle of nowhere, did the grass seem to part way and allow for a small spot of vacancy. As they both stepped out into the open space, surrounded by massive seas of grass in ever direction, did they instantly pick up a new scent.

“I think that we might be in trouble.”

Azima whispered to the one by his side. He was replied by a grunt, nothing more. Azima nodded and as he turned to look at his companion, there was the familiar tug at the back of his mind again. A feeling of being watched. Breathing deeply, he managed to get his spastic muscles under control. Not that he was afraid, but there was no denying the fact any longer that anytime soon, this’d get bloody and complicated indeed. The scents surrounding them were indeed fresh, perhaps no more than an hour old. He looked down, and there, among quite the number of paw prints, exceptionally subtle indeed, he noticed what seemed to be a point of origin for someone who had made themselves heavy in order to leap somewhere reasonably fast.

“Someone not a hyena was here.”

He whispered.

“How long ago?”

Came the reply.

“To be honest, then I’d say a mere minute ago.”

He pointed to the ground where he had made his discovery.

“It isn’t easy to notice, trust me. More luck than skill, I admit. See how the older paw prints appear a bit smudged? And how the ground seems to be dug into a little? Just the way a lion does whenever he or she decides to pounce.”

CorsahTa’rna nodded.

“All weight being shifted to the hind legs, the claws digging a bit into the ground for leverage. You’ve done nothing but impress me all day, Azima. Please, make a habit out of it?”

“Doubtful.”

Azima said, his voice unusually flat. It was apparent to CorsahTa’rna that he was indeed overly worried about this place. Shrugging, he looked more carefully at the tracks on the ground.

“Any indication as to where our mysterious individual might have gone off to?”

Azima shrugged.

“It is hard to tell. But… if I were to… hmm… hold on…”

Using his right paw, Azima placed it upon the marks on the ground. Shifting his paw in various directions, he began making an attempt at pinpointing wherever whoever was here might’ve jumped off to. CorsahTa’rna watched him, when all of a sudden, as he glanced to his left, he saw what could just as easily have been the wind rustling lightly through the grass. Perking his ears, he listened intently. Azima looked up, after having sensed the sudden tenseness in his companion and looked in the same direction as he did, but there was nothing he could see. Then, a thought struck him and he looked down again. There, on the ground, his paw faced the same direction CorsahTa’rna was looking.

“I think… we got something here.”

He said, glancing in the direction his paw pointed. CorsahTa’rna was about to take a step forward, when from behind them hyenas appeared…

 

They came, six of them, all in different shapes and sizes. The larger females and the smaller males of the most hated foes ever possible for a lion to have. Azima immediately sprang up and stood by CorsahTa’rnas side, shivering with anticipation. CorsahTa’rna, on the other hand, seemed unnaturally calm. One, out of the two female hyenas, a brutish hulk with facial features that only a mother could love snorted and spat on the ground before them.

“Baah, we leave to hunt for nothing more but a few hours and already the likes of you intrude on our domain.”

CorsahTa’rna came to life and hissed out his response.

“This land has been under the guidance of the Shadowmoon ever since the likes of you were driven away generations ago. So do not pretend to claim ownership here.”

“Or else you’ll do what? Bleed on us after we tear your face off?”

Azima, seeing that these hyenas in question weren’t exactly at home in the intelligence department calmed down and he coughed innocently.

“Well. I don’t think his face could take any more hits. But in your case, madam, I’d say it’d be quite the improvement if it happened to you.”

One of the hyena males, reasonably less than bright, laughed, only to find himself a moment later to be knocked out cold by the target of his laughter. She cussed loudly and glared at the remaining three males, daring them to even glance in her direction. They didn’t. Azima couldn’t help but grin broadly.

“One.”

He said, aiming the word at nothing in particular. The hyena who had just knocked the other out cold glanced in his direction.

“Why did you just say one?”

She asked, obviously puzzled.

“Oh, for no obvious reason. I kind of like the word one. Like you, for instance. With your features, madam, I must say you are one of a kind. And I cannot emphasize enough how blatantly pleased I am with that. As far as beauty goes, then you sure fell flat on your face in that department.”

Another one of the male hyenas seemed to choke on something, and was paid a warning glare by the female in question. It didn’t help. He burst out in laughter and a moment later he joined the first one, knocked out cold. CorsahTa’rna shook his head and sighed while Azima, on the other hand smiled even broader.

“Two…”

 

 

 

Vitani

 

Somewhere in between

 

Adventures in the grass, part 3

 

Though Vitani had a hard time hearing what the two males were talking about, then it was obvious to her that they were onto her. Or, at least the smaller of the two had his suspicions. The decision to turn and make a run for it became ever present in her mind and once they both looked in her direction she was but a mere second away from doing just that. And then, no sooner had the larger of the two made a movement in her direction when out off the surrounding grass hyenas appeared. She bit back a curse due to the two choices now present in her mind. Either she could use this to her advantage and slip away into the night, but by doing that she’d leave behind two lions, who she at that did not know outnumbered by an ancient and most hated foe. So, she decided to go along with her second option. She’d not make her presence known, at least not yet and instead just keep back and watch how this would develop. She need not wait long…

 

She could hardly believe the gall the smaller of the two showed in the face of the opposition. And the surprise she felt when the female hyena in question actually knocked out one of her own after the carefully chosen words from the smaller one she could not help but smile. When the second one was knocked out cold as well, then she had a hard time holding her own laughter back. The hyena in question was furious.

“Again you say words. This time you say two. Why?”

The smaller one, Vitani saw, merely shrugged and smiled playfully, the moonlight making his smile seem exceptionally bright. And then, apparently after a lot of thinking, and if one were to look closer at the other female hyena present, one could without a doubt see steam coming out of her ears. She interrupted the other.

“Wait. I think I see what is going on here.”

“What you mean?”

The other asked, puzzled.

“He play us for fools, he does. Tricks us into beating ourselves.”

Frowning, she turned to face the two lions.

“Hah, a neat trick, but it won’t work anymore. Do you take us for mindless fools?”

The smaller one merely shrugged and answered in a sarcastic tone.

“Madam, why ask a question you already know the answer to?”

Vitani bit back another giggle. The hyena hissed and spat, flinging drivel all over.

“Isn’t she charming?”

The smaller asked his larger companion as the larger grimaced and wiped the side of his right eye clear of drivel that had hit him there.

“ENOUGH! YOU DIE! NOW!”

“I think that must’ve been the most coherent sentence she’d spoken all day.”

The larger one of the lions, Vitani saw, shrugged, let out a grunt and shook his head…

 

Vitani tensed as the situation before her eyes escalated. Apparently, the smaller one’s tactics succeeded in thinning the numbers of the opposition, but they were still outnumbered two to one. That was, however, until the larger one of the two made his move and all of a sudden there were only two left. She could not believe the speed in with which he moved. It was like she witnessed a morbid dance with death being the sole entertainer. No sooner had two of the hyenas fallen, the males, before the two females made up their minds and attacked. The two females however put up a bit more of an opposition. The smaller one of the two lions dropped back a bit into the background. The reason, she saw, was because the two females had the larger one cornered. They drifted around one and other, the hyenas and lion did, circling the sparse vacated space within the sea of grass. And it was when one of the female hyenas had her back to Vitani’s position that she gave no more time to thought and acted. These two lions whom she had witnessed had displayed nothing more but bravery in face of their foes. Unknown or not, she was not about to be witness to them dying. As she leaped out of her hiding place, her own perception of Rafiki’s words came back to her.

“That which lives today could be dead by the morning. And that which died in the past is still dead…”

There would be deaths tonight, but neither of them if she were to have a say in it, would be leonine in nature…

 

Vitani’s leap brought her landing full force on top of the hyenas back, her weight alone forcing the victim on the ground. The hyena, in her surprise managed a startled yelp, but nothing more. Vitani dug her claws fully into her body and her jaws found the hyenas neck. She bit down as hard as she could and without any further elegance did the hyena in her grasp die. The remaining hyena, having been startled as well by the yelp her companion uttered, glanced in her direction to see what had happened. Too late did she realize her mistake and the last thing she saw upon returning her attention to her opponent were the largest fangs ever… 

 

 

 

The trio

 

Somewhere in between

 

Nice to meet you, now shut up

 

“Woah, ok. Now that was sweet.”

The voice, uncommonly cheerful after what had just occurred, brought Vitanis attention back to her immediate surroundings. It was no longer but a mere moment ago she had still been uninvolved in the events taking place.

“Live by the moment.”

She thought and brought her blood soaked bearings toward the source of the voice. There, in front of her, grinning broadly, were the one she had dubbed the witty one.

“Damn madam, a minor word of advice. Remember to flush your choppers after that bite.”

A grunt and a spit divided her attention from the smaller to the larger one of the two. He was in obvious disdain, having bit, she saw, right through the hyena’s throat. 

“See what I mean?”

Said the witty one and pointed with exaggerated gestures towards his companion.

“That just wouldn’t become you, you know.”

Arching her brow, Vitani became acutely aware of the sour taste in her mouth. Hacking, she started spitting as well.

“Told ya.”

The witty one said, chuckling. With a final snort, she cleaned the inner workings of her nostrils and sent saliva mixed with her own spittle and hyena blood flinging to the ground.

“I’ll be damned. Did you happen to have a sister you were unaware of, Cor…?”

The larger one kept on coughing.

“Uhh? You ok there?”

The smaller asked in a concerned voice. In a final violent cough, the larger ones neck went limp and he heaved a large doze of blood and saliva directly unto the ground beneath his paws.

“Oh, I see.”

The smaller one said, sounding amused.

“Not too worry, madam. I’ve seen this happen before.”

Vitani grimaced, totally perplexed by the sight.

“Sometimes, by pure stroke of luck I might add, he bites directly through the larger arteries of his opponents. It works wonders, though seldom a pretty sight.”

Vitani blinked a few times and merely shook her head.

“So I see.”

Vitani replied, sounding overly sardonic. The smaller one arched an eyebrow at her comment.

“Heh, you haven’t known us for even two minutes and already you’re getting cosy with us…”

 

Cursing and muttering brought their attention back to the large one.

“How’d you feel, buddy?”

The small one asked and the voice replying sounded far from being happy.

“As if I am standing underneath the one eyed side of an elephant at the wrong moment. Now bite your damned tongue a moment and allow me to gather my bearings.”

“I wish you the best of luck with that endeavour.”

The small one replied, snapping.

“But could you get your inner workings in order and get over here? I’m sure this one here would like to know if there is more to you than coughing, cursing and muttering.”

The large one moved towards them, uttering gathered collective and choice selection of curses. Standing by the side of the smaller, Vitani could finally make out his facial features. He was angry, not a doubt in that and yet he was smiling? Or… no, not smiling. She saw it now. From his right temple and downward, puckering his cheek on its journey she saw the four erratic lines of scars. At where his right upper lip used to be the line of scars vanished. The larger one couldn’t help but notice her stare. Grunting, he snapped off a line her way.

“Yeah, what is it, woman? See anything you like?”

“Doubtful.”

She replied, matching his voice tone by tone. The larger one, taken aback a moment blinked his eyes.

“Don’t you snap at me, woman.”

He responded, having gained back his bearings.

“I snap all I want, smiley.”

She replied, matching his mood as well as his voice.

“SMILEY? Now LISTEN HERE you…”

The smaller one stepped in between.

“Woah, ok. Time out part two. Eh, no offence to the both of you, but could we hold off this exceedingly interesting discussion at a place more leisure than this haven of hyena intestines and stink?”

Silence ensued as the trio of felines looked about and in unison they nodded. Giving way and trudging through the grass once again, the large one took lead with Vitani in the middle and the small one last. No more than ten steps into the grass later, a voice, being female in origin were heard.

“I cannot believe you actually puked on your own paws.”

“SHUT THE HELL UP, WOMAN…!”

 

One painstaking hour later, the trio emerged from the grass.

“So? Where to, oh soiled paws?”

The small one asked.

“Anywhere but here, and watch it, you annoying piece of elephant dung! I’ve had it up to here with you already.”

The large one answered. Apparently not even noticing what the other said, the small one grimaced.

“Might I suggest the nearest waterhole? Because damned be me if the two of you don’t stink like the wind from a warthogs arse.” 

“Please? Never, ever mention warthogs again?”

Vitani said, frowning.

“I’ve had more than enough of my share with those individuals.”

“A story to be told later, I am sure.”

The small one said and grinned at her.

“Well, you know the way, oh contents loose. Let’s get a move on, lest we’d attract more drivel mouths.”

The large one glared at him. Growling an incomprehensible reply, he led the way…

 

An hour past midnight, the trio finally arrived at a waterhole. To the west, somewhere out in the darkened shroud, the Shadowmoon pride resided. At least that is what the smaller of the two, Azima, had told Vitani during their journey there. The large one, whenever spoken to by Azima had merely grunted and by that had made it perfectly clear that he wished to be left very well alone..

“Charming fellow.”

Vitani thought. Azima had introduced him as Corsah… something. She found him intriguing however, since he seemed to possess an inner strength she’d seen only once, and that was within that of her mother. Strong and aloof, a no nonsense individual whose single-mindedness would get whatever task tossed at him done. She decided to wait until later in the night, after cleaning themselves up a little to talk to him…

 

 

 

Vitani

 

The Shadelands

 

So, come here often?

 

Another hour having passed, with Azima sound asleep, she decided to make her attempt. Getting up, she stretched and looked around. There, sitting next to the water, obviously lost in thoughts or some such, she found him. Moving towards him carefully, he did not appear to notice her presence until she had seated herself next to him. Shrugging, he slid a few meters away from her.

“Touchy.”

She thought and shook her head.

“I just want to talk to you.”

She said, and was paid a silent stare in return. Not exactly progress. Shrugging, she got up. And that was when he spoke, a voice void of feelings.

“If you want to talk, then talk, but know it doubtful that you’ll uncover anything of use.”

Ok, so at least it was a small bit of progress. Making herself comfortable again, she searched her mind, pondering about things to say…

 

Rule number one; when having been rude from first off in the face of a possible friend or ally, apologize…

 

“First off, I want to apologize for the way I… snapped at you. I was kind of tired from my long journey and not to mention that grassy area back there in itself really ticked me off. Hyenas and all, you know.”

He merely shrugged and returned to look into the water…

 

Rule number two; once apologies have been made, and if the recipient has seemingly accepted it one way or another, try and determine what seems to be getting the individuals interest…

 

“Uh, might I ask you what you are looking for, or at, for that matter?”

It took some time before he looked at her again, his eyes, if she read them correctly, displayed a searching, a longing for something seemingly unattainable.

“I’m trying to find a story.”

She arched an eyebrow.

“A… story?”

“Yes.”

He said, sounding strained and reverted his eyes back to display the harshness seemingly ever present there. And that, apparently, was just as much she could hope to get out of that detail…

 

Rule number three; engage in small talk, like for instance about today’s happenings…

 

“Got to hand it to you back there you know, in the grass. You sure know how to fight.”

It was a compliment, sure, and yet, it didn’t even grace his facial features with the slightest inkling of emotion.

“Any a lion knows how to fight”

He said, and pointed across his shoulder back to the form of the sleeping Azima.

“Though that one over there, he turns them inside out with words instead.”

Vitani nodded.

“Yes, he does seem to have a knack for doing just that.”

She said, and was replied by a snort in return.

“You have no idea.”

“Mind if I ask what the story is between you and him?”

She asked and for a moment silence ensued. He was, she saw, trying to piece together words.

“I’ve known him for about a season.”

He finally said, sounding overly strained by having to talk about him.

“He was a rogue. I find no doubt that he was banished from the pride he used to call his own. Judging from the way he talk and act at times, then I think it strange that they did not have him killed on the spot.”

She merely nodded at this, her thoughts going back to someone she used to have by her side, her brother Nuka. He noticed the way she looked and shook his head.

“I take it you yourself knew someone like him, since your facial features turned upside down a moment there?”

“Yeah, but… he wasn’t too reasonably bright, rest his soul.”

“I see. Guess there is one for all of us out there, isn’t there? Just waiting to latch onto you and feeding off you like some damned parasite.”

She nodded and turned sad a moment.

“Though in my… brother’s case, it was termites.”

“I see.”

He said and shrugged his shoulders.

“It can seem as though it doesn’t matter what kind of subject you choose to talk to me about, woman. One way around or the other, I always seem to level it down to something that ticks you off, heh, ticks everyone off actually. You apologized to me though, so allow me to do the same to you. I apologize for snapping at you the way I did from when we first met. Also, I wish to apologize for any offence you might’ve taken from my parasite remark.”

She waved him off with a paw.

“Don’t concern yourself with that. I have a certain knack myself for not being to… how to put it… charismatic. And, I accept your apology.”

He nodded and turned silent for a moment again.

“But, I drifted away from your question in the first place. To make a long story short, the day I met Azima for the first time was when I was taking a look around the Northlands. The Northlands, if you want to know, is a wasteland so barren that you’d be lucky to find even insects living there.”

“Trust me, I know about wastelands.”

She said, causing him to arch his brow a moment before continuing.

“While there, I came across several sets of fresh paw prints heading deeper into the Northlands. The reason I started following the prints was because in between them there was also a minor trace of blood. It made me curious and as I took a closer look at them I recognized the numerous prints to be those belonging to that of wild dogs surrounding another set of bigger paw prints which of that again belonged to a lion. It was in between the lion prints the blood originally hailed.”

“So, I take it you saved him from them and gained a friend not much wanted?”

“Yes, you are right on both marks there. But that is something I really don’t feel like talking about right now. I would suggest you go and get some sleep now, woman. Tomorrow, I would believe, will be a most busy day for you.”

“What will happen tomorrow?”

She asked, not really having been thinking that far out in advance.

“To be honest, I do not know. You are to be brought before our king, Chac’kra and there you will without a doubt be questioned. If he finds you likeable, you might be given an opportunity to join the Shadowmoon pride. Truth be told, we’ve lost far too many lionesses to the hyenas already and fresh blood would do no harm to us, I am sure.”

“And if he does not find me likeable?”

She asked, her voice a borderline between a joke and concern.

“As I said, I do not know. But, if I could come with a minor suggestion, then drop the attitude you addressed me with earlier today. However, if you don’t feel up to it, then tell you what. Whenever I decide to drop and sleep, I seldom wake up before someone wakes me up. And, if you should decide to continue on your journey, then I won’t be awake to stop you. Make your choice, and do so with care.”

“I’ll take my chances, thank you very much.”

“If that is your wish, then so be it, woman.”

“One more thing, if I may?”

“Yes?”

“The name is Vitani, not woman. Stop calling me that… smiley.”

For the first time since their conversation started, there was a tug at the far end of his lips, hinting at a smile, though barely noticeable, forming there.

“Go get some sleep, and Vitani?”

“Yes?”

“Not a word about our conversation to that… whatever he is, who is sleeping over there, got it? I might’ve just started to like you but a little. Don’t give me a reason to develop a dislike for you.”

“Hey, smiley? Why not try and develop a sense of humour and perhaps let your smile be intentional once in a while, and I’ll be doing what I can for you to not dislike me. Got a deal?”

“I cannot give any promise that I could hold such a deal, but I shall at least be giving it a try.”

He said, motioning for her to get a move on.

Now, shoo on you and go get some sleep… woman.”

He added last, with a strained, though ample effort at being witty.

“Think you’re going to need a lot of practice if I were to believe that was an attempt at being funny, smiley.”

She said, sounding sardonic. Before he could reply, she winked at him.

“But, at least you gave it a try…”

 

 

 

 

To be continued…