TLK III: The Broken Circle

 

By: Truro the Lost

 

 

 

 

Chapter One: Hierarchy

 

It was your typical savanna pre-dawn.  The fog was still thick through the lands, and the nighttime silence was being broken by the cries of birds and the brays of the herds below them.  An echo of insects began to set the place for the day to follow.

 

An announcement of joy was being spread throughout the vast Pridelands.  A future king had been born and would be introduced unto them that morning at daybreak. 

 

As the animals stirred, they awoke to find their comrades from far away had been traveling for the entire night to reach their destination, and this day.

 

At the site itself, great excitement was taking place.  The proud mother and father were content, with their two sons.  One of darker looks, a bit like his great-grandfather Taka, and one that reminded a few of the elder lioness’s of the young Simba.  Yet there was still a slight distress about Kiara and Kovu, for none could forget the results of Taka’s jealousy that led not only to the end of his life, but to the separation of the prides, and the battles that were to follow.  Now that peace had finally settled within the lands once again, the King and Queen did not want another such undesired result.  Still, there could be but one King…

 

The young queen smiled upon the shaman’s approach.  The two greeted with happiness as the baboon looked upon the two cubs.

 

“Rafiki.” Kiara began, “They are both boys.  I am certain everyone in this kingdom remembers the tales are the consequences of a very similar event only a few generations ago.  How can it be prevented?”

 

“Slow down child,” Rafiki placed his palms upon the cub’s heads.  He closed his eyes and began to chant in a low voice.  The lionesses gathered in awe around the princes and the shaman as the withered mandrill looked up to Kovu.

 

“Choose the strong cub.  I know that last time it did not work out, but this time…be sure to grant both every lesson, teaching, and rule of the lands, as if you were teaching both to be King.  I can see a good heart within both of them…and it is important that the leader be strong”

 

So it was Bantu that was presented unto the kingdom, while Taiani was dropped off wit his aunt Vitani, and her daughters Weusui, and Ura.  As the ceremony took place, Vitani remained contemplating her own decision for her own children.  Which would be the future queen? She knew she should choose the Eldest, as Rafiki had done for the King and Queen, but upon seeing her own blood within Ura, she decided against it. Weusui carried the heritage of an obvious pride lander, having light fur, and pink nose.  But that isn’t what Vitani wanted.  That would mean an end to all of her and her family’s genes within the royal family.  Both her mother, and grandfather had put forth an unsuccessful plan to rule, however they tried they had failed.  Now Kovu, her own brother wanted to diminish the existence of their lines. 

 

 

She smiled, looking at Vitani’s daughters, “Have you chosen a future queen?”

Irked by her comment, Vitani answered with false enthusiasm. “Yes, I chose my youngest, Ura.”

 

“But…isn’t that the one with dark fur, and a stripe?” The lioness asked with widening eyes.”

 

“Yes,” Vitani snapped, “what is it to you?”

 

“I don’t know, but isn’t it tradition that the older is supposed to-“

 

“To the gorge with that ‘traditional’ zebra shit!! I can choose whichever of my daughters I please, King Kovu granted me with the right of it!”  Vitani had interrupted, and said ‘King’ in such a tone, it silenced the other lioness completely.

 

That night, the elder son of Vitani, Adel, began to cry.  Thankfully for the rest of the pride, the mothers were in an entirely different cave, but there still was the disturbance of Vitani. 

 

“Mother! Mother!” he cried, and clawed her awake. 

 

With a dark eye that showed it needed much more rest than it was receiving, Vitani answered him in an aggravated voice that Zira had often used.

 

“What?”

 

“I saw someone! He looked kind of like Kovu, ‘cept he was real thin, and had a black mane! He also had a nasty scar on one of his eyes that looked like this!” Adel drew an eye and scar in the dirt.

 

“Go.To.Sleep.” Vitani just closed her eyes again.

 

Also awoken by Adel, Vitani’s ‘friend’ gasped.  “A Shaman!! Your son has much talent!! He can see the spirits! You should send him to Rafiki, and he could lead our future ceremonies!”

 

Vitani scoffed, “ And maybe your son is a zebra-colt!” she shook her head, “Don’t tell me you believe that load of Elephant dung? Anyway, all Rafiki is, is a creepy monkey out to get safety for his ‘remedies’.” She turned to Adel.

 

“Now as I said earlier, go to sleep.”

 

“But-” Adel shut his mouth when he knew that this conversation was over. Reluctantly he settled down beside his mother and sisters, and quickly forgot the entire ordeal as he fell to sleep.

 

Chapter 2: Games and Lessons

 

            Kovu nudged his two sons awake.  A small moan from Taiani and yawn from Bantu preceded before the brothers awoke. So far in their lifetimes, neither had been denied the lessons that every King must learn, and both had been offered equality in all that was given to them.  That is all but the kingdom.

 

            “Come on you two,” he chuckled, “We are going to visit you grandfather.”

            “Our Grandfather?” Bantu asked.

            Taiani’s eyes widened with excitement, “Simba!”

 

            Kovu nodded, leading the two outside, where Nala was waiting to greet them.  As the cubs nuzzled their grandmother, she gave each a little kiss, and smiled at Kovu.

 

“I can see you blood in Taiani.  He shall certainly be his father’s son.”

 

“Let us pray,” Kovu said gravely as he bit his lip.  The trio continued a little ways out into the savanna, before they finally stopped.  The stars were fading slowly, giving proof of the approaching sun.

 

Kovu began the speech that Simba had taught him.  The speech that Mufasa had given Simba, the same Ahadi had given Mufasa…

“Look at the stars.  The great kings of the past look down at us from those stars.  They are always watching us. They watch us as we hunt, as we eat, as we love, as we celebrate, as we weep, and as we suffer. They all want us to do better than they did, as we should regard them with respect.  One day it will be your mother and I looking down from those stars at your own children.”

 

Suddenly breaking the mystical mood Bantu cut in, “Can I come with you?”

 

“You will someday as well,” he ruffled Bantu’s mane and turned to Taiani, “You both will.”

 

“But I thought it was the great kings that look down from the stars, right?” Bantu, not having half the wit of Taiani, did not realize the sting of this comment toward his brother.  Taiani immediately began to gaze at the ground, pretending to be interested in something else to hide his hurt.

 

Kovu tried quickly to right the situation. “When one says the great Kings look down to us, one means the kings at heart.  It is far more important to be a king at heart than to be a cruel ruler.”

“Oh.” Bantu registered the trifle of information, and began to fire away question after question, some having answers more obvious than others. Taiani sat still, staring back again at the stars, pondering what lie ahead.  Where was his place among the stars? What were the plans of the great kings?

 

Although he would find as time passed, he did not know then of the great happiness as well as sorrow he would face in the future. 

 

By midday, their lessons had finished; Kovu dropped off the two cubs at Vitani’s, for Adel to watch, and then left to complete some unfinished business.

Ura rushed out to greet them, pouncing upon Bantu with force that knocked both to the ground.  With unspoken introduction, the two future-monarchs began a heated wrestling match, while Taiani strolled over to a rock and began a small snooze.

“Ouch! That was my tail!” squealed Ura, bopping him on the nose.

“They are so immature…” A sneering voice behind Taiani made him sit up and turn his head toward the intruder. 

“What’s up Weusui?” Taiani blinked, still a bit groggy from his nap. 

“Just look at them!” She sighed, and shook her head as she looked at Bantu and Ura.  “They are SO immature! Jumping and pouncing on each other! What is wrong with them?"

Taiani yawned, uninterested, “What is wrong with you?  You’re always moping, and sulking when they are enjoying life for the moment.  Don’t criticize them for it.” 

Weusui gave a short ‘humph’ and shoved him off this rock as she turned and left. Taiani stood up, and shook of some of the dust, before remounting the rock. 

“Taiani! We’re going’ down to the water hole! Want to come?” Adel shouted.

“Sure!” Taiani came down again, and followed his brother and Ura to their destination.

 

 

Chapter 3: Something More

 

 

Moons passed, the herds left and came, and the young grew.  Bantu, to no one’s surprise, began to grow very quickly, and larger than his brother.  Though not to the extent of difference as Taka and Mufasa, Bantu had certainly the upper paw.  He held a majestic appearance with a chocolate/deep auburn mane that filled in with little delay and a sandy coat that covered rippling sinew and muscle. As Taiani grew into adulthood his coat a deep, but mellow brown, he developed a handsome ebony mane that grew into his eyes as Simba’s had. 

 

Weusui and Ura as well began to change.  Weusui became the jealousy of the huntresses, with a soft tan pelt, and twinkling green eyes.  Only a light dashing of brown on her back and a pointed black nose showed for her Outlandish heritage.  Ura grew the tone of her mother, with the bangs and blue eyes as well. And though not stunning like her sister, was ever generous, and had certainly the heart of a Queen.

 

Quite to her disappointment, Weusui could never get the attention of Taiani, or at least the attention she desired.  Sometimes sick at the thought of having to wed her, he would run to the empty savannahs, away from the rest, and away from Pride Rock, until the massive structure itself seemed not nearly so colossal. Often he would seek the counsel of the Great Kings, but after much effort with no result, he decided it a milk-tale for cubs with reason to live and needing explanation of death.

 

Adel had left with Vitani when he had reached of age, to great disappointment of Taiani.  Taiani had always enjoyed listening to Adel speak of the great Kings.  It was then that Taiani began to yearn for more than life at pride rock could give him.

 

It was soon to be the mantlement ceremonies for the two princes, a time when they could marry, or in Bantu’s case take the throne.  Taiani decided to talk to his father about his yearning, so not to be trapped just yet in the marriage if Weusui was to catch something on the night’s hunt.

“Father?” Taiani entered the King’s cave.  In the low light he saw the outline of Kovu, beside him a sleeping Kiara.

 

“Taiani? What is it?” a muffled response came from Kovu, as he stood up.  Yawning, he walked out to the base with Taiani, and sat down.  “Is there anything you want?”

 

“I can’t explain it! It is so strange! I know I should be excited to wed Weusui, and to live and birth my cubs here.  I know I should stay and be ready to take my brother’s place should something befall him, or to give him support in tough times.  But I want something. Something more…”

 

“What is it you seek?” Kovu asked him.

 

“ I want to leave Pride Rock…”

 

“What?”

 

“Just for a little while! I want to adventure, excitement! I don’t want to waste my youth!”

 

Kovu chuckled.  “I see now. After you mantlement, I will grant you right of passage.”

 

“But, can I not leave now?”

 

Kovu closed his eyes, and remembered the path he had gone, versus the one chosen for him.  His life was for the better, and perchance this was a way for Taiani’s life to improve as his had.

Simba, Mother, will he be all right?

 

As if a response the breeze picked up, swirling the leaves, dust and ash to the stars, and carrying them away to the rising sun. Kovu knew the inevitable.

 

“Go my son… let the Kings guide you.”

 

“Yes father.”  The two nuzzled for what could be the last time, and Taiani was off, his dark siluette radiant against the pink morning sky.

 

Chapter 4: Timbabati

 

So off into the world went Taiani.  He did not know where he was to go, nor what he would find, but he enjoyed pondering of what could be.

 

After nearly a moon, Taiani had reached further than any lion of Pride Rock, living or dead, had dared to venture.  The land grew more lush, and flowers more colorful and abundant. Taiani had picked up a trail of antelope only hours ago, and had been since stalking them. Their trail suddenly became much easier to follow, and it seemed that they had bunched and stampeded at one point.  Upon the earth, he followed the imprints of cloven hooves, and then to his right spotted a strange print.

 

Closely examining it, he saw it indeed did belong to a feline.  It was far to small to belong to a leopard, or cheetah.  Besides, cheetahs, and leopards didn’t surround their prey. 

 

“Who lives here?” Taiani said to himself.  He sniffed the print again.  Female, he thought, less than a day ago…  he glanced up at the trees, far denser than those of his home. 

 

He continued along the tracks and found that one had veered off to the side.  Along that side-trail lay threads of blood, remnants of fur and not quite sun-bleached bones.  It was apparent by the setting that they had not tried to extract marrow or the extra meat away from the carcass.

 

They must be having good hunting, not to want all of the food.

 

Taiani himself hadn’t eaten for a day or to, and instead of going off to hunt, decided to scrimp off of the fly-attracting leftovers. The bones were no longer flesh-warm, instead they were sun warmed, thus the meat was tough, and had begun to decay.  Taiani worked to pry the last of the meat from ribs, and eventually began to crack them for the marrow.  The work turned out to be harder than he had expected, so he gave up, and left the remains, following the printed trail through the jungle.

 

 

Taiani grew tired at nightfall, and decided it was time he rested his eyes.  As he dragged his paws over to a large moss-covered rock, he noticed a shadow pass by him that was not his own. 

 

The next morning the sun shone through the trees overhead making the earth of the jungle below dotted with bits and pieces of sunlight.  A heavy fog had settled upon the ground, making visibility far more difficult.

 

“What be your cursing?” An invisible harsh voice penetrated the peaceful forest. 

 

Taiani peered through the curtain of mist, seeing only a pair of glowing blue eyes, eerily floating as if not attached to anything.  They were soon followed by more, staring eyes, all sky-blue, and all with a defensive expression.

 

“Who are you?” Taiani attempted to see the strangers.

 

“We asked you first stranger.” The same harsh voice stated. 

 

“T...Taiani...” he stuttered, not sure whether he should try to run of fight them off.

 

“Welcome then, Taiani, to the Pride of Timbabati.” A lion began to appear from the fog, almost as if he had been a part of it, for his coat shone ivory, as pure as the clouds of the sky. His blazing blue eyes as well had captured the endless sky, and others came with him.

 

“Follow me.”

 

The male, a prime and strong lion, led the way, and carried his head highly.  Taiani suspected this could be their king, so decided it better to do as he said.  No conversation was passed between the small group, consisting of another four lionesses.  The forest began to become less dense as they went on, until they had reached a clearing, whereupon Taiani looked in awe at their home.

 

A waterfall cascaded down from dark ledges, pouring into the basin beneath it.  Smaller trees and ferns lined along the shore, creating almost curtain-like entrances to the pond.  Soft moss shaded the entirety of the kingdom a tint of green, and the lions were abundant.

 

 Most of the lions were not truly white, holding a slight golden hue, while others a slightly browned out-shading.  Yet still, Taiani’s black mane and red brown hue stood out like a hyena among a pride.

 

The lead lion stopped, and excused the rest of the team, leaving just Taiani and he alone. He then motioned for Taiani to follow him. 

 

The two began a slightly steep hike up to the waterfall, which to Taiani’s surprise were the caves of which the lions lived.  In what he perceived to be the Royal Cavern, he noticed an older lion, of a light tawny hue awaiting them.  He was even larger than his guide, and seemed to hold more presence.

 

“Your Majesty,” The lion who had led him bowed his head, “This is the lion who was found in our jungles.  I am sure he means no harm.”

 

“Thank you Mentone, your are dismissed.” The King seemed to regard Mentone with less respect than Taiani thought appropriate.  But, who was truly the judge of that?

 

“You. Dark one.” Taiani looked up, awakened from his daze.

 

“Yes sire?”

 

The king smiled upon hearing the ‘sire’ that was uttered.

 

“What are you doing here in Timbabati?”

 

“I come from the west, to find my place, and to learn of the world other than that of which I was born.”

 

“So you ran away from home, eh?” The lion chuckled, and began to circle him. “What is your name?”

 

“I am called Taiani.”

 

“Good then. Taiani, you will know me and answer to me as ‘sire’, ‘majesty’, or ‘your highness’ accompanied with a bow. I do enforce those laws, despite age or ability of the lion in question.  As I see, you met Mentone, who I am sure did NOT explain the rules, protocol, ect. I do not have time myself, thus I suppose you shall have to ASK him. Understood?”

 

“Yes.” Then he added, “Your Highness.”

 

“Good, then off with you. You have one day to learn the law of Timbabati.”

 

Taiani obeyed, followed by a quick bow, and left to explore this new and beautiful land.

 

 

Chapter 5: Of Joy and Pleasure

 

Mentone arrived back swiftly, having finished the King’s errand.  With a pleasant, friendly smile he motioned for Taiani to follow him.

 

“I am Mentone, which you already know, but there is a lot you do not know.  The rules are strict, and enforced very quickly, so watch yourself, especially since you don’t want to get me into trouble!”

 

Mentone chuckled, and led Taiani to the mouth of the river that was caused by the waterfall.  A stream was all that there really was, but the soft bubbling of the water made a very serene atmosphere.

 

The white lion lay down upon a rock, and Taiani decided to as well.  Soon a lioness appeared, one with an enlarged abdomen, as well as a motherly smile.

 

“Taiani, Please meet my wife Simprianna!” Mentone smiled and nuzzled her.

Simprianna sat down.

 

“It is a pleasure to meet you Taiani.” 

 

Taiani grinned.

 

“Mine too.”

 

“So you are the Dark One, from a distant land I hear?”

 

Taiani nodded.

 

“Yes, I am.”

 

Simprianna lifted her head, as if in interest, and asked,

 

“Tell me of this land.”

 

Taiani smiled fondly, remembering the land of his birth. Until then he had not thought much about it, but now he began to feel a little homesick.

 

“The Pridelands they call them. They have rolling golden hills, with animals of all kinds and colors dotting the landscape…”

 

A soft smile from Simprianna, which quickly turned to a wistful sigh, gave Taiani the idea she wished she could be there.

 

“Mentone!” A distant voice of a femme called.

 

Taiani looked up to see the intruder at the base of the lake. A pure white lioness stood with defiance.  Her deep-set blue eyes glanced down to Taiani for an instant. That instant Taiani’s legs nearly gave way. He could not tear his eyes from her beauty.

 

Mentone had meanwhile, already reached her, and the two left.

 

“Who?” Taiani managed to ask.

 

Simprianna laughed slightly. “Oh, that is Anisa, the most beautiful lioness in Timbabati, and evidently from your face the most beautiful in Africa. Her mother named her ‘joy’.  However many of us refer to her other name meaning.  She is the ‘pleasure’ of the King.”

 

Taiani’s heart dropped as she mentioned the bit about the King.

 

“So she is the Queen?”

 

Simprianna nodded solemnly. Taiani sighed, and gazed back in the area that she had been. The King was old, and this lioness could not have even had her first heat yet.  Taiani sadly looked back to Simprianna.

 

“Yes, I know, she shouldn’t be with him. Mentone doesn’t like it either.”

 

“Why?” Taiani asked.

 

“Oh! You didn’t know that Mentone is her brother?” Simprianna they lay down by the stream, as if tired out, and motioned to Taiani to sit by her.

 

“Look Taiani, it isn’t worth falling for her. Even if she did love you, The King would crush you, and torture her. Don’t do it.”

 

“I suppose you’re right...”

 

“Good, now get some rest, I expect they will be rousing you very early to get the understanding of this place.”

 

Taiani yawned, a small rumble coming from his stomach.

 

“Alright.”

 

 

In a few hours, the middle of the night, Mentone, who motioned him to be quiet, as to not disturb Simprianna, roused him.  Mentone led Taiani to the top of the waterfall to overlook the kingdom, reminding Taiani of that day Kovu had led them to the top of Pride Rock.

 

“I hear you have taken an interest in my sister?”

 

Taiani rolled his eyes, and then would not make eye contact with him.

 

“I know, I know, she is way out of my league.”

 

“Listen, she is my sister, and the Queen. I don’t like the situation much myself, but she decided that, not me. I can’t let you start anything because it will be both our hides, and possibly my Simprianna’s. Don’t do anything rash.”

 

Taiani began to realize just how much this mattered to Mentone and Simprianna.  Just one wistful look had sent them into a frenzy of telling-off, and threats.

 

“All right. I will not disturb the peace.”

 

A sigh of relief spread across Mentone’s face.

 

“I am glad to hear that.” 

 

 

Chapter 6: Wind Blows Backwards

 

            Taiani tried his best to ignore the Queen of Timbabati in the following weeks.  All the pride seemed to admire him, and the lionesses that had not yet been paired off seemed to flock to him, for his ‘uniqueness’.  Taiani did not really care for them, not because of their beauty, but because he could tell they were merely shallow and lonely, somewhat like Weusui back home.

 

Weusui. The name sent a small shiver up his spine.  Would she still expect marriage from him when, or if he was to return? He decided not to think of her, and all of her terrible harrowing behavior. She was part of the reason he left.

 

“Taiani?”

 

A familiar voice, high and sweet pierced the gloom of his thoughts. His head swerved, and he saw before him Anisa.

 

“Is there anything you need your Highness?”

 

He was sure to be polite, and not stare at her to long. But then, of course, no one else was around to tell him off.

 

“No, but I do want to talk to you.”

 

She sat down, blinking her eyes from some flies that had landed on her nose.

 

“About what your Highness?”

 

“Stop it!”

 

“Stop what?”

 

“ ‘ Your Highness’. Don’t say it.”

 

Taiani shrugged at her words.

 

“If you wish.”

 

She rolled her eyes.

 

“Just because my husband is strict, doesn’t mean I require to be called ‘your highness’ and ‘majesty’ at every turn! I do care about more than that.”

 

Taiani stared at the ground, then asked quietly.

 

“Why did you marry him?”

 

Anisa, too, looked to the earth, and will a soft voice answered.

“ If I had not, my brother and Simprianna would have been exiled. I did not want that, but that must have been a mistake, for you talk of a bountiful land yourself.”

 

Taiani felt ashamed for asking.

 

“ I…I’m sorry…”

 

“Don’t. I don’t need charity. I need a miracle.”

 

“That could happen.”

 

“Yeah…and one day monkeys will rule the world.”

 

Taiani laughed. 

 

“Miracles are not impossible.”

 

“Name one.”

 

Taiani strained to remember one of the stories that his father had told him of the great kings.

 

“Once there was a prince, whose father was killed by his uncle...”

 

Taiani began the story of his Grandfather Simba.  As the stories turns and bends unfolded Anisa watched him amused.  Whether it was by the story or by him, Taiani could not tell, but he could see the beginnings of a bond.  An everlasting bond...

 

                                                            ~

 

 

The sun peeked through the waterfall, and into Anisa’s cave.  Or, ‘The King and Queen’s Cave’.  Refreshed from her talk with Taiani the night before, she hummed to herself and she greeted her mistresses and subjects.  When her eyes locked with Taiani’s, her face lit up even brighter, as she returned his wink.  How she wished she could leave.  In the few minutes they had spent together, she felt more connected with Taiani than the many moons she’d spent with her husband. If only…

 

“Why Anisa…” The King breathed upon the back of her neck. “It is so lovely this morning is it not?”

 

She turned around with a look of disgust on her face.

 

“Darling… I prefer you don’t try anything in the light of day at the watering hole?”

 

He smiled.

“Why my dear, of course we can go to the…”

 

He glared across the oasis.

 

“Do you have an acquaintance you would like to introduce to me?”

 

She lifted an eyebrow.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

He snarled.

 

“I think you know EXACTLY what I mean.”

 

He struck her with a mighty blow upon the face.

 

“And I want you to stay in the caves from now on...”

 

“But-“

 

“GO!”

 

 

Chapter 7: Come What May

 

 

Taiani noticed Anisa had been absent for near a week now.  However, when he brought this up to Simprianna or Mentone they always changed the subject.  He decided to investigate for himself.

 

Entering the waterfall, as he had only once before on his first day, he could smell her scent.  Thankfully, Taiani had seen his Majesty leave earlier that morning to redirect sentries with Mentone.

 

“Anisa?”

 

A faint voice answered him.

 

“Taiani? Is that you?”

 

Making his way around the curved of the caves, Taiani stared in horror. Anisa was lying upon the hard stone, scratches and claw marks upon her beautiful face, her frail body heaving. He rushed to her side.

 

“Oh by the Stars!”  He gasped. “What happened?” 

 

“The King…he was upset…and he wanted you to die…and I told him we weren’t together, but…”

 

He nuzzled her.

 

“Hush.  Are you fit enough for a journey?”

 

She looked at him with curiosity.

 

“What are you getting at?”

 

“I think it is time I returned home.”

 

She nodded.

 

“And I want to you to come with me.”

 

“But what if…”

 

He licked her cheek.

 

“Let yourself rest. I will come again soon.”

 

“What about Mentone and Simprianna?”

 

Taiani stopped.

 

“They shall come with us.”

 

“Come back in two days.”

 

 

Taiani hurried out of the royal cave, and headed to the water to wash off any scent he might have carried.  Thankfully, Simprianna was the only one present today.

 

“Simprianna.” Taiani approached her.

 

“What is it Taiani?”

 

“Do you want somewhere better to raise your cub?”

 

“What?”

 

“Ok…forget being diplomatic.  I am leaving Timbabati in two days with Anisa. It would be dangerous for you to remain.”

 

She snorted.

 

“It is dangerous for you go anywhere need Anisa.  Leave alone.”

 

“But I Love her.”

 

Simprianna shook her head.

 

“You love the way she looks and the fact she is a Queen. All of the males do. The only reason I know I am safe is because Mentone is her brother.”

 

Taiani glared.

 

“That isn’t true. I would die for her.”

 

Simprianna shook her head.

 

“By the end of it you will wish that will be all.”

 

“We are leaving whether you choose to or not. The consequences will be yours and Mentone’s if you do not come with us.”

 

“You will regret your choice Taiani.”

 

As he left he could still feel the remnants of their argument. He did love Anisa. He would fight the King for her if he could, but that was not an option.  He would be beaten, and Anisa would be tortured, if not killed as well.

 

What if Simprianna told? The thought struck him hard. 

 

He would have to leave tomorrow.

 

Chapter 8: The Journey Home

 

“Anisa!” Taiani crept into the caverns.  He could hear the King’s grunts and snores from outside the cave, so he proceeded quietly.

 

“Taiani! I am coming out…wait there.”

 

There was a small shuffle and thump, before Anisa emerged, thankfully in better health, and with no more injuries.

 

“Are Mentone and Simprianna waiting for us?”

 

Taiani shook his head.

 

“I was going to have you ask them tonight. Simprianna rejected the idea when I presented it.”

 

“Ah.”

 

They paced to Mentone and Simprianna’s caves, as silent as the surrounding shadows.  With a small nudge, Anisa awoke her brother.

 

“Anisa? What-“

 

“Shush! Follow me, both of you.”

Simprianna was roused, and both filed out of the cave after them.

 

“Come with us.” Anisa pleaded.

 

“Mentone!! What will become of your title, and post! Knock some sense into this lovesick cub.”

 

Simprianna lashed out.

 

Taiani tried again.

 

“This isn’t about title or being in good rank. This is about not living under the rule of a tyrant who would kill you because your husband’s sister would refuse to marry him.”

 

It was quite the mouthful, but it got the point across. 

 

“He is a tyrant Simprianna.” Mentone nuzzled his spouse.

 

She sighed.

 

“We leave then…”

 

And so, the small group, consisting of Mentone, Taiani, Anisa, and Simprianna began their journey to the Pride Lands.

 

                                                            *~*

Through the dense jungle of Timbabati they hastened. Thankfully, Mentone knew every route. However, with Simprianna so heavy with cub, their plight was delayed.  By sunrise, they had managed to just barely reach the outer-boundary of Timbabati.

 

“They are probably already looking for us.” Mentone muttered.

 

“We have to cover more ground!” Taiani shook his head. “Maybe we should split up. Anisa and I could take a longer route, and you two a direct route. Then they will follow Anisa’s scent instead of yours.”

 

Mentone wrinkled his brow in thought, while Simprianna answered.

 

“Seems fine. I need a rest though.”

 

Anisa nodded.

 

“The Pridelands are directly west, until you get to the ‘Outlands’. It is south from there.”

 

Mentone and Anisa nuzzled.

 

“We will await our reunion.”

 

Taiani and Anisa began to leave a long and intricate maze of clues and trails for the likely search party that was to follow.  Hopefully they would pursue them, instead of Simprianna and Mentone.  It was their only hope…

 

::: To be continued :::