The Lion King V

 Children of the Villain

Part two:

Journey of the Nameless One

 

 

Legal note;

The base of this story is the TLK movies. These are © to the Walt Disney Company.

All characters not found in the movies are my creation and protected under copyright.

 

This story will be split up in parts, this is the second, and the rest will be finished when they’re written.

(That will be when I have the time)

 

I would greatly appreciate comments on my work. Timba (at) compaqnet.se

If you wish to use characters from my stories, or base own stories upon some event in the stories, please ask me for

permission first.

 

This story continues from TLK III “The Legacy of Zira” and TLK IV “The Seeds of Goodness” you have to read them

as well to fully understand this story…

 

Authors note:

This story continues where TLK 4 left off. This story continues the fate of Kikafu, who was exiled as a

part of the half-demon Dunsj’s plot. 

All parts of this story will run parallel along each other and they will coincide in the final part.

 

Special thanks to:

Anna-Liisa Jones for giving me the idea for the characters Vekurah, Abmit and Abmis.

Those who has read the story so far and sent me feedback.

 

The Characters

 

Previously encountered characters:

 

Bithemi:          Wandering lioness, sister of Muzih. (Bih-the-mi)

Conhaba:       Son of Timba and Watabi. (Cohn-hah-bah)

Costiah:          The exiled prince previously known as Kikafu. (Cos-ti-ah)

Ehasna:          Stepsister of Timba, lioness of the Eastern Plains. (Ee-hash-nah)

Gandu:           Leopon, half-sister of Mneneth, daughter of Kubaki and Xiamu. (Ghan-duh)

Gikko:            Son of Hafifu and Sinita, twin brother of Kaho. (Gee-k-koh)

Inkhobi:          Black cheetah shaman of the Cheetah lands. (Ink-ho-bih)

Kaho:             Son of Hafifu and Sinita, twin brother of Gikko. (Kah-ooh)

Mazho:           Meerkat of the Cheetah lands, assistant of Inkhobi. (Matz-who)

Mneneth:        Leopard, half-brother of Gandu, son of Kubaki and Anasti. (M-neh-ne-th)

Muzih:            Wandering lioness, sister of Bithemi. (Moo-see)

Thezzin:          Wandering blind serval. (The-tsin)

 

New characters:

 

Abmis:           Daughter of Ehasna, twin sister of Abmit. (Ab-miss)

Abmit:            Son of Ehasna, twin brother of Abmis. (Ab-mitt)

Azeeka:          Son of Dixie and Zifa, evil half-demon. (As-seek-ah)

Keikam:         Fiend eel, companion of Azeeka. (Keyh-khamm)

Kitone:           Roaming Kerkath. (Kai-toe-nay)

Tarrche:         Cheetah/leopardess living in the cheetah lands (Tah-arr-tche)

Vekurah:        Cheetress of the Cheetah lands. (Uek-uhr-ah)

 

 

Chapters:

 

                      Prologue

C.17              Lioness Ehasna

C.18              Infected Wounds

C.19              Tarrche

C.20              Plains of C’gasah

C.21              C’gasahn Night

C.22              Thezzin

C.23              The Kerkath

C.24              The Last Dream

C.25              Minions

C.26              The Shade Duo

                      Epilogue

 

 

The Language of the Cheetahs.

 

The cheetahs in this story use their own language. It is basically English with some words replaced with Cheetah words.

This language is extended with each new part of the story. This one contains the words from previous editions as well as

the new words from this part.

 

Common words:

 

Yoah / Yobaduz = hi/hello

Mizhk / naklat = goodbye

Zhiech = thanks

Kobto = little/small

Ninibi / ikaba / bathar = see you later

Nam = my

Nim = one

Aka = two

Zik = three

Tieh = five

Rehm = six

Mira = tail

Raka = poor

Buko = stupid/idiot

Azna = father/dad

Faha = mother/mom

Ban = yes (not pronounced like the English word ban, the A sound is longer)

Cot = no (pronounced like “caught”)

Bitikibi = love/lover/mate (bi-tai-ki-bi)

Arkath = evil being/ demon

 

Species:

 

Zibihi, - = lion (see-bih-hih)

Kekaba, -s = cheetah (keh-kah-bah)

Hafuh, - = leopard (hah-foh)

Tekhan, -i = human/terran (the-can)

Kerkath, -i = Cheetah arch-demon. (Ker-ka-thh)

Harkath, -i = Leopard arch-demon. (Haar-ka-thh)

Zirkath, -i = Lion arch-demon. (seir-ka-thh)

 

Common Adjectives:

 

Ententa = spotted (ent-ten-tah)

Rasaw = filthy / unclean (Rasawah means Filthy One [Rah-sa-wah])

Uzuk = evil / twisted (Uzukah means Evil One [Uts-uk-ah])

Miak = pure / clean (Miakah means Pure or Blessed One [Miah-ah])

Costi = nameless / unknown / stranger (Costiah means Nameless One [Cos-taih-ah])

Nuraz = weird / strange (Nurazah means Strange One [Nuh-rah-sah])

Vekur = Abandoned / lonely (Vekurah means Abandoned one [Uek-uhr-ah])

 

Ancient Words:
(Is no longer commonly used)

 

Wej= You (in the meaning of many) [uey]

Kiic= I’ve (from Ki and Sic) [ki-ick]

Koic= you’ve (from Kou and Sic) [ko-ick]

Tyic= they’ve/She have/ He have (Multiple meanings. From Tye and Sic)

Sic= Have/had (only used as extension on other words, such as Ki, Kou and Tye) [Sek]

Kou= You/Your [Pronounced like Cou in Cough]

Tye= he/she (they make no difference between male and female). [Tie]

Sei= They [See-ii]

 

====

Ki = I

Akh = am       ==(used only when introducing themselves)

Kiah = I’m

====

 

 

Demon Words:

 

Words that demons and fiends often use. They have no exact meaning other than to give emphasis to certain words.

 

Tzeh=            Expression of dissatisfaction.

 

 

 

Prologue:

 

Somewhere in the dark, vast borderlands that occupied the gap between the western border of the Pridelands and

the immense cheetah lands, sat a lone creature. The faint light from the nearly eclipsed moon did not do much to ease

the otherwise dense darkness.

 

The creature, a recently matured lion sat and gazed longingly towards the east. That was where he had come from.

In that direction laid the place he could never return to. Even if he had matured, he did not look much. The faint light

from the moon above was enough to show the black tuft of hair on top of his head that was supposed to be a mane.

It also emphasized three parallel horizontal claw-wounds on his right cheek. They were still quite fresh, but they were

kept shut by stitches made out of grass.

 

With a pained sigh he tore his gaze from the east and turned completely around. He scanned the western portion of

the horizon with his eyes, but did not find anything that caught his interest. After letting out another saddened sigh,

and sending a last gaze eastwards over his shoulder he began walking towards the west with very heavy and slow

steps. He didn’t care where he went to, as long as it brought him far away from his past. Far away from the pain and

memories that had driven him out here.

 

He clearly remembered those words Aihatu had spoken to him when she had exiled him. The burning anger present

in her voice had hurt him more than most other things he had experienced. She had even torn his name away from him

and left him with nothing but a death sentence waiting for him, should he ever return. He was no longer the one he had

been just a few days ago. All the recent events confused him, why had Tanwe done what she had? Why had the vision

of his dead twin brother lied to him? He didn’t understand. Why had everyone been so angry?

 

A flash of intense pain from his wounded cheek broke him away from his thoughts. The same wounds inflicted upon him

by the one he had once loved, in a fit of rage. The pain pulsated through his entire face and prevented him from sinking

back into his own thoughts again. He forced himself onwards, against the urge to turn around and run back and beg for

them to forgive him for whatever it was he had done, or at least give him an explanation. He kept heading west; almost

hoping that he would find peace somewhere out there.

 

 

 

Chapter XVII

Lioness Ehasna

 

The lion slowly progressed during the day that followed. His mind was dark and burdened and his steps likewise.

His gaze was fixed to down into the ground a little ahead of him. He didn’t care where he went; he didn’t want to

see where he went either. All he saw was the various things on the ground that lay on his path.

 

Suddenly his nose picked up a very faint trace of a scent mark. The source of it lay on the ground straight ahead of

him. He examined it closer and found that it was faint and probably old and that it had been made by a lion. He had,

without knowing it, crossed the borders of another lions’ territory. He didn’t really care; all his mind was set at was to

get as far away from his past as he possibly could. The further away he came, the better.

 

Little did he know that his presence had been noticed. Two golden eyes was watching his every move. The owner, an

oddly shaped lioness, stalked the lion trough the high grass for a long time. The lions mind was too busy trying to find

any reason to all that had happened so he did not notice being stalked at all. The lioness caught a glimpse of his face,

and a grin spread across her face. She lunged towards the lion with quick leaps.

 

The lion hadn’t thought there would be anyone else near until the lioness pounced upon him from behind, knocking him

off his paws. Confused and shocked he turned his head towards his assailant. The lioness gasped as she saw his face up

close and she backed away, looking as if she was ashamed.

 

Lioness:          oh… pardon me, zibihi. Who are you?

Lion:              (sighs) does it matter?

 

The lioness seemed to get over her embarrassment and took a more aggressive stance with her voice.

 

Lioness:          ban, it does matter, zibihi. Now answer. Who are you, and why have you come here?

Lion:              (short silence) I am no one…

Lioness:          No one, eh? I don’t believe you.

Lion:              (snaps) then don’t! I am no one, nothing! I don’t have a name!

 

The lioness backed a step at the sudden outburst from the lion, almost anticipating an attack. But the lion just sat

down and glared intensely at the ground in front of him, showing little interest in the lioness.

 

Lioness:          Oh really, nameless? All right, Costiah, where do you come from?

Costiah:          What does it matter to you?

Lioness:          These are my lands, Zibihi, I ask any question I want and you will answer them.

Costiah:          (snorts) get lost…

 

The lioness grumbled to herself. Her patience with this lion was wearing thin, but she remained calm. There was more to

this character before her than met the eye, or ear for that matter. She recognized certain traits in his appearance. And she

knew perfectly well whom this lion resembled of.

 

Lioness:          okay then. Which direction did you come from, Costiah?

 

The lion made a diffuse nod with his head towards the east but he said nothing. The lioness seemed to be satisfied with that

answer, as it seemed to fit into her thoughts somehow.

 

Lioness:          I see… so… you are a rouge zibihi?

Costiah:          (sighs deeply before answering) yes… you could say that.

Lioness:          and, since you have no name… (Pauses) That leads to another question. Have you ever had a name?

 

The lion raised his gaze to glare blankly at her instead of the ground. His lower lip was quivering ever so little.

 

Lioness:          I guess that means that you did. How did you lose your name?

 

The lion gave out an uncomfortable snort and his gray eyes fixed with hers. The lioness saw the color of his eyes and she

recognized them. Her doubts of to who this lion was vanished bit by bit.

 

Costiah:          (snaps again) That is none of your concern, lioness!

Lioness:          (snorts with contempt) you ought to watch your temper… Costiah.

 

The lions’ expression changed from the previously annoyed to a less angry one. He gave out a deep sigh and tore his

gaze from hers, trying not to provoke her more.

 

Costiah:          why do you call me that?

Lioness:          because that is what you are, it means…

Costiah:          (cuts her off) Nameless one, I know that already…

Lioness:          and, just how do you know?

Costiah:          someone taught me…

 

The lion tried to keep his face expressionless, but a few of his facial muscles twitched, betraying that she had stirred

something very painful in his memory. The lioness noticed it and decided not to push more on the topic at this point.

 

Lioness:          so… where are you going now?

Costiah:          I… don’t know… anywhere…

Lioness:          you know, I would’ve normally have beaten you up and kicked you out of my lands.

Costiah:          be my guest… kill me if you want to… I don’t care…

Lioness:          no, there’s something familiar about you.

 

The lion looked up at the lioness again. She curiously gazed at his saddened gray eyes. She guessed it would upset him

more if she asked, but she was dying of curiosity to find out who this lion was.

 

Lioness:          who was your father, Costiah?

 

The lion glared silently at her and shook his head.

 

Costiah:          Why are you so curious? What does that matter to you? I am not his son anymore. I have nothing!

Not even a name.

Lioness:          no one can take your blood away from you, Costiah. Now, who was your father?

Costiah:          (snorts)

 

The lioness began to wonder why she bothered talking to this lion. But something stirred her curiosity, something faintly

familiar about his eyes. A faint memory from her childhood flashed in her mind, someone she had known very well

reappeared in her thoughts. She was just about to ask the lion when a loud roar interfered with her thoughts.

It hadn’t come from Costiah, because he had turned his gaze towards the place it came from and looked surprised

while slowly backing away into the grass. The lioness turned her head to see where it came from, and what she saw

was a cheetah come sprinting towards her, chased by two male lions.

 

The cheetah speeded past the lioness, and yelped out a plea for help. The lioness seemed to recognize the cheetah

and bared her teeth at the two lions, growling threateningly. The two lions halted their chase and glared at the

lioness, both wearing identical nonchalant grins on their faces.

 

Lioness:          (snarls) Gikko, Kaho! What are you doing on my territory?

Lion1:            Be silent Ehasna. These are our lands! You only live here as long as we allow it.

Lion2:            (fills in) Now, step aside. And your stay here will be extended.

Ehasna:          (growls) None of you have any claim on my territory, zibihi. I lived here first. Now be gone!

 

The nameless lion reacted when he heard the lioness’ name. He could remember someone having told him about

one with that name. He could hear the voice uttering it echo in his mind. He watched the two lions warily from his

hiding place. Those two lions were quite regal looking and strongly built. They were different from the only other

male lion he had ever seen, which was his father. The image of his father did in no way look anything like these two.

The lions had a dark brown color of their pelt, and their thick black manes.

They looked like exact copies of each other. The expressions were the same, the amazingly green eyes, everything.

 

He watched as the three other lions continued their verbal fight. The lioness stood between the two lions and the cheetah,

which had stopped and hid behind a rock a bit away, looking very nervous.

 

Lion1:            oh, listen. The little cheetah-lover tries to make her voice heard.

Lion2:            I’m afraid we have to teach her some respect, brother.

Lion1:            Yes. She should learn to obey us.

Lion2:            (grins evilly) Now submit, Ehasna!

Lion1:            show the respect your kings deserve!

Ehasna:          (growls loudly) Never…

 

The two lions now wore identical evil grins on their faces as they approached Ehasna. The lioness backed away from them,

snarling at them in an attempt to scare them off. But her threats did not seem to change their minds.

 

The nameless lion was a bit surprised the other lions hadn’t noticed him. He’d rather not get involved in this and decided

to just sneak away, leaving the lioness to whatever those lions intended to do with her. She didn’t matter to him; nothing

did so why should he bother? He saw how the two lions tackled the lioness in a very unfriendly manner and struggling to

hold her down. He didn’t want to see it.

 

Just as he turned around, his gaze met with two perfectly gray eyes. He jerked backwards in surprise as he saw that the

eyes belonged to the cheetah that had been previously chased. He couldn’t figure out why he had thought it was his

brothers’ eyes he had seen. His thoughts did not get far because the cheetah had begun to speak to him.

 

Cheetah:         please zibihi… help Ehasna.

Costiah:          (blinks in confusion)

Cheetah:         (sounds desperate) I beg you… do something… don’t let them hurt her.

Costiah:          no, it’s none of my concern.

Cheetah:         Please zibihi. She means a lot to me. Please stop them.

Costiah:          (snaps) No! Shut up!

 

Too late he realized his mistake. His exclamation to get the cheetah to stop bothering him had alerted the two lions

of his presence. He slowly turned around and saw that the two lions had stopped wrestling with Ehasna and was

glaring acidly straight at him.

 

Lion1:            what do we have here then?

Lion2:            a petty rogue came to play hero.

Lion1:            seems like we get more fun today than we expected, brother.

Costiah:          I have no quarrel with you two.

Lion1:            You have now (snarls)

 

Costiah and the cheetah slowly backed away trough the grass as one of the lions approached them with obviously no

friendly intentions while the other kept Ehasna down on the ground. Costiah did not want to fight. All he wanted to do

was to leave.

 

Costiah:          I will leave, lion. I am not interested in a fight.

Lion1:            Not interested, eh? What kind of rogue are you anyway, Weakling!

 

Costiah saw how the strongly built lion prepared for a leap. He didn’t hesitate at all. He spun around on his heel and

sprinted off. He could hear the pleas for him to come back from Ehasna mixed together with the angry shouts from

the two lions. He leapt with long and fast paces, wanting to lose the other lion. But it wasn’t the lion that followed him.

Instead, he noticed the cheetah running side by side with him, also escaping from the two lions.

 

The cheetah then suddenly made an unexpected move. It ran before him and skidded to a stop, forcing him to stop as well.

He quickly turned his head around, expecting to see his would be pursuer. But he saw no one.

The cheetah glared at him, the eyes being so intensely gray that it almost seemed unnatural. A loud shriek of pain came

 from where they had run from, followed by a few snarls and a loud roar. Costiah looked at the cheetah, his gaze meeting

with its. He heard another loud roar, and then loud and mocking laughter coming from the same place.

 

The cheetah snarled, not at Costiah, but towards the place they had run from. A very obvious hint of anger was displayed

on the spotted face of the cheetah.

 

Cheetah:         (hisses) those… bastards! I’ll kill them!

 

The spotted feline gave out an angry snarl as he tried to leap past Costiah. Without knowing why, the lion took hold of

the cheetah, preventing him from going any further. He knew that it would mean suicide for the cheetah to go against

those lions.

 

Cheetah:         (hisses) Let me go, Zibihi! I’ll kill them!!!

Costiah:          Shut up Cheetah!

 

The cheetah struggled against the grip of the lion for a while before finally calming down a bit. No sounds whatsoever

came from where they had left Ehasna. The only sound that was heard was the frustrated breath of the cheetah.

 

Costiah:          calm down… Nothing is worth wasting your life for, cheetah.

 

He slowly let go of the cheetah, which just sat down and stared at the lion with a cold gaze.

 

Cheetah:         (stern voice) what the hell do you mean, zibihi?

Costiah:          (equally stern voice) I meant exactly what I said, kekaba.

Cheetah:         (snorts) … Ehasna… I will go look if they are gone.

 

Costiah did not object as the cheetah stomped past him. Instead, he followed after, tracing his own steps back to

where he so cowardly had left Ehasna. Deep inside he felt ashamed of just having run away instead of having helped

the lioness. But what would he have done? He didn’t know how to fight. He would just have winded up dead together

with the cheetah. He thought again… he could have been dead now, all his pain would be gone. He cursed to himself for

having denied him death. He quickened his pace and began to run. He ran right past the cheetah towards where Ehasna

would probably be, hoping the lions were still there to kill him.

 

As he came to the little open area where he had met Ehasna, he found to his dismay that only Ehasna was laying there,

burying her face with her paws. He slowed down to a stop, watching the crying lioness. The cheetah stopped beside

him a few seconds later. Costiah couldn’t help feeling sorry for the lioness. The cheetah however, did not stand

apathetically and watch. The gray-eyed cheetah carefully approached the lioness.

 

Cheetah:         (whispers) Ehasna? Are you okay?

 

With slow movements, the cheetah sat down next to the lioness and gently touched her shoulders with his paw.

Ehasna looked up at the cheetah, her eyes full of despair and her tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. Costiah silently

watched the lioness as she just looked at the cheetah. He felt guilt of having run away. Why did he do that? She didn’t

matter to him, nothing did. He could just as well do the same thing to her as the two other lions had. But he didn’t.

He couldn’t stand himself even trying to think about it.

 

He wanted to at least do something to give comfort to the odd lioness. He couldn’t help notice how oddly she was built.

She sure did not look anything like the lionesses he had seen before. She reminded more of his father by the way she was

shaped than anyone else ever had. He shook his head to clear away the memory of his father and with some effort,

it slipped back into the darkness of his mind.

 

He walked towards the lioness, with slow steps not to seem aggressive or anything. Her hopeless sniffling made his spirit

sink really low. He fumbled with his tongue inside his mouth, trying to get it to say anything at all. All he managed to

produce was a retarded mumble. The cheetah gave him a glare so cold it could’ve have frozen the lion instantly.

 

Cheetah:         (hisses) go away Costiah…

 

Ehasna jerked her head up from the ground and glared intensely at the lion, her face carrying deep disappointment

and contempt. She cut the cheetah off abruptly by shoving him aside as she leapt up to her paws, her body

trembling in rage.

 

Ehasna:          you… (Angry sob) you cannot be related to the one I knew… He would never have abandoned

(angry sob) me like you did… you… coward.

 

Her eyes narrowed and her fangs were bared, her entire body language was screaming at him to run or face the

consequences. Costiah however, was insulted by the way the lioness addressed him. He snorted at her and scowled.

 

Costiah:          Oh I am so bloody sorry for not living up to whoever you thought I was! What should I have bloody done?

Ehasna:          (snarls) you could have done something! Not just run away with your tail between your legs like

a bloody lizard!

Costiah:          I sure could! I could’ve helped them, so you’d better be grateful!

Ehasna:          (snaps) BE GRATEFUL???

 

A long sentence consisting of seldom used cheetah profanity followed. Her anger set her words aflame, making them

even more powerful than they would’ve been otherwise. The intensity of her cussing along with the explanation to

how she was going to rip his limbs off and shove them up his nose made the lion shrink into submission.

The lioness used the full capacity of her lungs to tell him off.

 

When she was finally done, she drew deep angered breaths while staring at him like she expected him to just

vaporize and vanish. She trembled visibly. Costiah felt just like his own mother had told him off, just ten times worse.

He whimpered out an excuse.

 

Costiah:          sorry…

Ehasna:          (snarls) who are you, Costiah? Answer me or I will beat it out of you.

 

She stepped towards him, prepared to make reality of her threat if he did not comply. He was just about to respond

when two small lion cubs that came out from under a small thorn bush cut him off. The two cubs had a golden fur color,

and one of them had a reddish indication on the top of its head that it probably was a male. The two cubs dashed over

to stand before Ehasna, both hissing and spitting at Costiah.

 

Lioness Cub:  (hisses) you not hurt, faha buko Zibihi!

 

The sudden appearance of the two cubs made Ehasna calm down, or at least she tried to not to show her grief or anger

to the cubs. She shoved both of the young lion cubs in behind her with her paws and looked sternly at them.

 

Ehasna:          Abmis… Abmit, I told you to stay.

Lion Cub:       (flattens ears in shame) sorry Faha… we didn’t want you hurt.

Lioness Cub:  (still hisses at Costiah)

Ehasna:          (concealed acid voice) but he was not going to hurt me, in fact, he was just about to leave.

 

She raised her gaze to glare at Costiah once more, her face tightened and made a twitch. It was a clear signal for him to

leave immediately. He almost stumbled over himself when he walked quickly away from the lioness and the cheetah.

He was glad not having to stand the weight of her gaze any longer. He headed on, keeping an eye out so he did not run

into the two male lions again.

 

He was lucky. No sign of the lions were to be found, not even their scent traces. His mind was bothered. He felt like

 he had betrayed the lioness, even if he did not know her. He stopped to gather his thoughts. His wounded cheek was

a bit sore, he could feel it throb in pace with his heartbeats. The lioness had spoken about him as if she had known him,

or at least someone close to him. Her name had some vague connection to a memory in his mind, something he had now

chosen not to remember.

 

It disturbed him greatly. After a long time of pondering he shoved the thoughts aside by telling himself that she had

deserved what those two lions had done to her. Satisfied with that thought, he continued. He had not taken many steps

before another thought appeared in his mind to bother him. The eyes of that cheetah he had seen, when he thought of them,

he also thought about Rasawah, the one that used to be his half-brother. This time he couldn’t come up with anything to

shove the thoughts aside with. He knew that Rasawah had a twin brother. Could that cheetah be the brother?

 

His steps halted suddenly. It felt as if someone had slashed him across his wounded cheeks with their claws. The sharp

pain made him snarl in anguish. His face felt warm, and his heart began to beat faster, in turn causing the pain in the wounds

to throb faster. He shook his head and clenched his teeth, and tried to ignore the pain. He began walking again, the pain kept

his mind from doing anything else but try to block the pain out.

 

Gradually the pain faded away again, but it felt like his entire head was throbbing in rhythm with his heart. Ahead he

noticed a cheetah sit and watch him warily. He ignored it and headed on, aiming to some point at the horizon that would

not bring him anywhere close the cheetah he had seen. The cheetah however, came towards him.

 

Cheetah:         Zibihi!

 

Costiah did not bother stopping to wait for the cheetah. He ignored it and continued. He was angry because his joints

had begun hurting and he didn’t know why. He lengthened his steps, wanting to give the cheetah the impression that

he did not want to talk.

 

Cheetah:         Wait zibihi!

 

The cheetah trotted up past him and stood a few steps ahead of the lion. The cheetah gasped in shock as his

eyes met with Costiah’s gray ones.

 

Cheetah:         (whispers) cot… uzukah… you… returned…

 

The spotted cat backed away from the lion, visibly afraid. Costiah just snorted at the cheetah and continued,

ignoring him completely.

 

But then the pain returned in full force to his cheek. He roared out as he tried to cover his face with one of his paws.

It felt like an invisible creature had tore trough his skin. His vision blurred out, and he could hear himself scream in agony.

 

Then his voice drifted away along with his consciousness. The last thing he heard and felt was his own body falling limp

on the ground…

 

 

 

Chapter XVIII
Infected Wounds.

 

Costiah woke up again and found himself back in the Pridelands. He looked around, totally bewildered and not

understanding what was going on. He also found out that he was a cub again when he looked down at his paws.

He was confused, wondering if it all had just been a bad dream. He cautiously touched his wounded cheek with his paw,

finding that there were no wounds there at all. A smile relieved spread across his face.

 

Costiah:          (whispers) … it was just a dream…

 

He breathed in the sweet scents of his homeland. It carried the scent of a recently passed rain. He wanted to hurry over

to the Priderock, which he saw in the distance. He was not sure if the death of his mother and brother also had been a

part of the dream. The cub scuttled across the plains, startling birds out of the grass, but he didn’t care.

He was back home again.

 

Near the Priderock, he saw the lionesses of the pride lay basking in the sun. He saw Aihatu lay and groom Leesha,

and even better… he saw his mother lay grooming his brother. Overjoyed he spurted over to his mother and clung

to her neck, hugging her tightly and feeling her comforting scent. A few of the lionesses giggled at seeing Costiah hug

his mother. His mother looked a bit confused at him.

 

Pinja:              oh… hello Costiah. My, are you happy to see me.

 

Costiah didn’t notice the name his mother had called him. He was too busy being happy being close to her again.

Small tears of happiness escaped his eyes as a happy purr came from his throat while he uttered small sounds that

obviously were meant to explain how much he had missed her in his dream. His brother looked bewildered at

Costiah, while wrestling out of Pinja’s grip.

 

Sidun:             hey Costiah. What are you so happy about?

 

The cub couldn’t contain his joy but couldn’t possibly express it all. Pinja nuzzled Costiah gently and put him down

next to his twin brother. Costiah happily snuggled up against the lioness, purring like his life depended on it.

 

Pinja:              (giggles) what happened to you, Costiah?

Costiah:          (purrs) I love you mom!

Pinja:              (smiles) I love you too, sweetheart.

 

Costiah felt how he dozed off in his mothers’ warm embrace, but just as his eyelids closed, the secure scent and the

warmth of his mother disappeared. He immediately opened his eyes and felt a stabbing pain on his cheek. He gasped

 because it felt like his skin was being pulled right off his face as he moved his jaw ever so little. The warm Pridelands

were gone, as were his pride, mother and brother. What he saw was the walls of a small cave made of tightly packed

dirt, with a few roots breaking trough here and there.

 

The pain on his cheek throbbed in rhythm with his heart and it nearly blinded his eye on that side of his head.

He quickly realized that the scene with his mother had just been a dream, and his mood dropped like a stone.

Was he loosing his grip of reality? As he looked around at the cave-walls, he noticed what appeared to be splotches of

differently colored paint. He tried to rise up to examine them closer.

 

But as soon as he put effort into using his legs, his vision darkened. Scared by the loss of sight, he tried to struggle onto

his legs again. His increased struggle was futile as he just slumped back onto the ground again as his sight slowly returned.

His breathing has increased and his heart had increased its pace, which made the pain in his cheek throb faster as well.

He was terrified, he did not know what was happening to him, his eyes rapidly moved from side to side searching for

anything that might give him a clue to what was going on.

 

His eyes quickly found a field of darkness on the ground a bit in front of him. His eyes fixed on this dark spot and the

longer he looked at it; the more it looked like the sleeping form of a cheetah, a black cheetah. He also distinguished

small golden yellow dots in the fur of the cheetah, making it look like an ordinary cheetah that had its colors switched.

He tried to stay silent, not wanting to stir this strange cheetah in front of him from its sleep.

 

But when he held his breath, it felt like the skin on his injured cheek was burning. The gasp of pain he uttered made the

cheetah’s ears turn towards him, and a second later a pair of calm faintly glowing blue eyes were gazing on him.

Costiah froze and held his breath, with the same result as before just twice as bad this time.

 

Costiah:          (groans loudly and whispers) stupid… wound… stop hurting.

 

His voice sounded weak, and even if he had wanted to scream out what he had just said, it was only a whisper that

came from his mouth. The black cheetah’s blue eyes were intimidating to behold. They were unnaturally calm and blue,

and worst of all, they were looking straight at him. He felt afraid by being in the mere presence of this odd cheetah.

 

His heart almost skipped a beat when the black cheetah rose to its paws and stretched out with a yawn. He had

expected something to happen, but nothing did happen. The cheetah sat down and watched him curiously.

After a moment of awkward silence, the cheetah decided to speak.

 

Cheetah:         well, how do you feel, Zibihi? You looked pretty bad when I found you.

Costiah:          (whispers) I… what do you mean?

Cheetah:         you were in quite the bad shape, lying unconscious on the ground, some vultures had even begun to

pick on you.

Costiah:          (whispers bewildered) vultures? But… I’m not dead, am I?

Cheetah:         I certainly hope you aren’t, because being an undead is a horrible fate.

(pauses) You certainly seemed more dead than alive when I saw you.

 

Costiah felt much at ease with just hearing the voice of the black cheetah. There was something about the cheetah that

seemed to beam out tranquility and calmness. His initial fear of this unnatural creature had faded away and had been

replaced by curiosity.

 

Costiah:          (whispers) excuse me for asking, cheetah, but… who are you?

Cheetah:         I… zibihi, carry the name Inkhobi. (Nods slowly as a greeting) May I ask of your name?

Costiah:          (whispers and groans a bit in pain) I… I don’t have any.

 

Inkhobi raised his eyebrow slightly as he listened to what Costiah just had said.

Costiah felt how the glowing blue eyes were scanning him.

 

Inkhobi:          but surely you once had one, did you not?

Costiah:          (sighs and looks away, whispering) yes… I once had a name.

Inkhobi:          very well. You should go back to sleep, zibihi. You need rest.

 

In a slightly arrogant manner, the black cheetah turned away from Costiah and lay down on the ground. The lion

sighed again and rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes, trying to drift back to sleep again, but his wound

did not give him any rest. As he lay on the ground, he noticed that there was a dim light in the cave he was in. He tried

to figure out where it came from, but he found no possible source for it.

It seemed like the light came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

 

Eventually he drifted back to sleep as the pain gradually vanished from his face. His mind soon came back into a dream

of the Pridelands. He found himself as a cub yet again, sitting at the base of the Priderock accompanied by a few lionesses.

The lionesses were all glaring at him with cold and indifferent eyes. He gasped as he felt their gazes weigh on his shoulder

and their cold expressions. He remembered this all to well.

 

Lioness:          (cold voice) be silent, cub.

 

Costiah closed his mouth tightly, not daring to utter any sound at all. Something bothered him, he had always been in the

company of Leesha and they had never been separated. His thoughts were shattered by the appearance of a leopard with

strongly yellow-glowing eyes. He gasped silently as he beheld the regal looking leopard. The way he moved, everything he

did seemed to speak nothing but cunning evil. Costiah looked around and saw all the lionesses bow their heads in respect to

the leopard, and one of the lionesses’ paws forced the cub to do the same.

 

Lioness:          (cold voice) the Pridelands are yours, your majesty.

Leopard:        (grins victoriously) the sweet scent of victory…

 

The leopard took a deep breath, inhaling a lot of air and then letting it out again with a sigh. The leopard then laid his

eyes on the cub Costiah with an arrogant gaze.

 

Leopard:        (smirks at Costiah) What have we here, hm?

Lioness:          (states proudly) we found him hiding in those bushes (mentions with her paw), your highness.

Leopard:        (chuckles and looks down at Costiah) very well. Who are you?

 

The voice of the leopard was commanding and it had forced the answer out of Costiah’s mouth before he had even had

time to think about answering.

 

Costiah:          (frightened voice) Costiah…

Leopard:        (nods slowly) Lost everything you had, haven’t you… Costiah?

 

The cub remained silent; tears began to blur his vision as he stared at the evil leopard. The empty feeling that his

mothers’ death had left inside him returned to his mind. The leopard smiled at him, but the smile contained no trace

of friendliness or love, it was plain cold and devoid of any warmth.

 

Leopard:        you have, haven’t you? All your loved ones are gone; everything has crumbled to dust around you.

You have nothing left now, Costiah. I am going to give you a proposal.

 

Costiah narrowed his eyes, glaring at the leopard. His fear for this evil creature mixed with his fear and made him tremble.

He hated every word that came from the leopard, every move… everything.

 

Leopard:        (continues) either you can starve to death out here, cold and alone under the stars… or…

(Smirks) you can come with us.

 

The leopard lifted his paw towards Costiah, inviting the cub to come to his side. Costiah glared at the leopard, hating

the spotted cat with all the power his mind could muster. He noticed how the lionesses all were nodding towards the

leopard, urging him to accept the proposal. He clenched his teeth and narrowed his eyes even more. Tears of anger

pressed out from his eyes.

 

Costiah:          (hollers) NEVER!!!

 

He launched his little body towards the leopard, intent on doing whatever he could to harm him. The leopard that had

slaughtered his family just smacked him down on the ground with little effort. Costiah came up on his paws again,

and to his horror, he saw that all the lionesses had changed to those of the pride before the leopard had appeared;

even his own mother was there. And they all had the cold indifferent gaze.

 

Leopard:        (chuckles evilly) see, little one… they are all here. Come with us and everything will be fine…

Costiah:          (stutters in horror) no… t…t…they…. You killed them…

Leopard:        I did… and now they are with me… alive. Everything will be as before, little one…

Costiah:          (screams) NO!

 

Suddenly the scene vanished and his eyes shot up wide. He found himself back in the cave with the black cheetah again.

 His head had a hammering headache, and his cheek burned. It felt like sand had poured into every joint in his body,

making every move painful and difficult. He saw the black cheetah sit and somehow sort some things with his paws.

Costiah slowly reached out his paw towards Inkhobi.

 

Costiah:          (whispers) In… Inkhobi?

 

The black cheetah slowly turned around and let his calm blue eyes meet Costiah’s gaze. The lion felt how the cheetahs

gaze seemed to be full of concern, and it made him feel calm and relaxed, even if his body was stiff and inflexible.

 

Inkhobi:          (calm voice) yes zibihi?

Costiah:          (whispers) where am I?

Inkhobi:          you are safe here, zibihi. You are in my home here in the kekaba lands.

Costiah:          (whispers) how… is this real?

 

The cheetah watched him silently for a moment, seeming to attempt to come up with a suitable answer to Costiah’s inquiry.

 

Inkhobi:          (nods slowly) I assure you that this is real, zibihi. Why do you ask?

Costiah:          (shrugs and whispers) I… I don’t know… I don’t know what is real…

 

The lion closed his eyes and gently rested his head on the ground again, falling silent for a few short moments before

opening his eyes again and stare out into nothing ahead of him. Inkhobi watched him, also silent, seeming to be curious.

 

Inkhobi:          would you care to elaborate, zibihi?

Costiah:          (whispers) I… I can’t see the difference between dreams and memories… its like its fading away.

Inkhobi:          what are those dreams about? What is it you see?

Costiah:          (sighs and whispers) my past… or what was my past, it doesn’t belong to me anymore. I see twisted

versions of my memories, things that could have been and things that never happened…

 

He slowly slid his left paw over his face, covering both his eyes with it. Everything felt chaotic inside him, as if he

hadn’t fully comprehended his own exile. He had so many questions that no one could answer.

He felt calmer in the presence of Inkhobi that he had for a long time, nearly as calm as when he had been

with his mother… his real mother… the one that he had no claims on anymore.

 

Costiah:          (whispers to himself) god… what did I do to deserve this? Why, I don’t understand…

Inkhobi:          (is silent for a moment) I cannot answer your questions or heal your mind, zibihi, unless I know what you

speak about. You have lost yourself, it seems.

Costiah:          (whimpers and whispers) they… they…

 

He was unable to finish his sentence, as another stab of pain radiated into his brain from his cheek.

He let out a pained sigh before his consciousness drifted off again.

 

He woke up, sitting under the cool shades of the promontory rock. He was adolescent and he watched out over a few

lionesses that were playfully fighting and goofing around a bit away. He didn’t know what he was waiting for, but he was

soon poked in the side. He turned around and saw his childhood friend Leesha smile at him.

 

Leesha:          hey Costiah! What’s up?

Costiah:          (he smiled) Hello Leesha. I was just watching…

Leesha:          (cuts him off) come! I’ve got something to show you.

 

The young lioness bounced off, and Costiah felt urged to follow her so he followed her. Leesha leapt up the path that

led to the main cave of the Pride rock and entered. When the darkness of the cave engulfed Costiah, and his eyes had

adjusted, he was met by Aihatu and Zantzeh. The old lioness nodded to him.

 

Aihatu:           good afternoon Costiah.

Zantzeh:         hello your highness.

Costiah:          (nods) hello to you two.

Aihatu:           there’s something I’d like to talk to you about, Costiah. That is why Leesha brought you here.

 

The young lion nodded, wondering what the old lioness wished to talk to him about. He sat down and waited for her

to speak. The old lioness came a bit closer to him and sat down right in front of him, face to face.

 

Aihatu:           Costiah… (Pause) I have been aware of your recent… thoughts. It is fully natural of a male in your age

to have that kind of… fantasies.

Costiah:          (seems a bit embarrassed) you… know? I didn’t mean to…

Aihatu:           no don’t worry; it’s completely natural I tell you. I think it is time I’d have the little ‘talk’ with you that

your mother would have had with you, if only things had been different. (Pause) come with me.

We’ll talk more elsewhere where we can be alone.

 

The old lioness nodded to him and then rose up to her paws and slowly walked towards the exit of the den, while

Costiah got up as well and followed her. It seemed like they just teleported to a more secluded part of the gigantic

rock, and neither seemed to notice either. Aihatu sat down comfortably and Costiah did the same.

The old lioness gave him a comforting smile.

 

Aihatu:           as I said… there are things I must talk with you about. You’ve been having…

dreams of lionesses lately, haven’t you?

 

Costiah felt a rush of blood to his face as he felt embarrassed. The lioness only chuckled.

 

Aihatu:           it is nothing to be ashamed of, Costiah, just tell me if you have or not.

 

The adolescent lion nodded slowly, feeling really embarrassed. Aihatu nodded in return before she continued.

 

Aihatu:           it’s nothing to worry about Costiah; it’s just a sign of you growing up. You’ve already become

quite the handsome lion. If you haven’t noticed, then I can tell you that quite a few of the lionesses

have been watching you.

Costiah:          (confused) watching me? Why?

Aihatu:           (nods) because you’re handsome, that’s why (chuckles) they are anxiously waiting for you to make a

move on any of them.

 

Costiah gave her a strange look, not really sure what she meant. The expression on her face didn’t tell him much of

what the reason for this talk was. The old lioness shifted her body a little and lay down on her side, still facing him.

 

Aihatu:           you know, start courting one of them and eventually… asking someone to be your mate and queen.

Costiah:          mate? Queen? (Looks confused at her) but… whom should I ask? There’s so many

Aihatu:           oh silly, its up to you to decide. Perhaps you should start out by talking, and maybe you find one you

enjoy talking to and being around more than others… and maybe you’ll even fall in love.

Costiah:          well… (Looks embarrassed) I think I could’ve figured that out by myself.

 

The lioness smiled heartily before speaking again.

 

Aihatu:           indeed you would, but there’s a few things you might want to know… you know, so you don’t go

make any fatal mistakes or such.

Costiah:          (perks his ears, showing interest) oh? What is that then?

Aihatu:           a few basic things…

 

The voice of the old lioness seemed to change as she spoke. It became more sinister for each word she uttered.

 

Aihatu:           (darkened voice) you should be quite aware of what you say. You wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, would you?

Costiah:          Aihi… what’s with your…

Aihatu:           (continues, ignoring him) and you shouldn’t be afraid to show your affection to a lioness, and you

shouldn’t be too pushy either. And if she answers your feelings, you should only show her your feelings.

Because showing more than one your affection only leads to disaster…

 

A realization came to Costiah’s mind. Aihatu was telling him things he got to know the hard way. But why was he

remembering her having this talk when he knew it never happened. The place had turned into a nightmarish version

of itself, and so had Aihatu. Her old grace had been replaced by a vile demonic spiky look and her eyes were

burning and the entire thing was reeking evil.

 

Aihatu:           (Continues as if nothing happened) there are a few that are a bit more willing to return your feelings,

you ought to speak to them a bit if you like. Tanwe and Illaya are among them.

Costiah:          (stutters) Aihi… this… this never happened! You never told me this!

 

Suddenly he awoke again, screaming out those last words he had spoken in the dream. He cut his own words off when

he found out that he was gazing straight into Inkhobi’s deep blue orbs. He jerked backwards and managed to get up,

only to hit his head on the ceiling and then fall on his back. He quickly got up and saw that it was indeed Inkhobi,

which calmed him down a bit.

 

Inkhobi:          oh sorry, did I startle you Zibihi?

Costiah:          (blinks a few times) no… I’ll be fine… I just had a dream.

Inkhobi:          (nods) I know… you speak in your sleep.

 

Costiah swallowed hard, wondering what Inkhobi had heard. His mind came to the conclusion that he’d better ask.

 

Costiah:          w…what did you hear me say?

Inkhobi:          it was just before you woke up… I heard you speak to someone about mates and queens…

then you woke up screaming.

Costiah:          I did… I mean…

 

The lion gave Inkhobi a strange gaze, wondering how much the cheetah actually knew. From the tone of his voice,

Costiah began to wonder if this Inkhobi had knowledge about him.

 

Costiah:          wait… it feels like…  like I know you…

Inkhobi:          (raises a curious eyebrow) is that so, zibihi? You remind me of someone too. When I think of it…

I think I know whom you remind of. The one they call Uzukah around here.

Costiah:          … (gives Inkhobi a strange glare) ‘evil one’? No, you must be mistaken.

Inkhobi:          perhaps… (Pauses) either way… I have something good to tell you. Your wounds are healing

as expected, and your fever has dissipated. I would need you to stay at least one more day,

in case you got worse.

 

Costiah’s mind couldn’t really connect the word fever to the wounds on his cheek. He looked at the black

cheetah again, meeting the calm and tranquil gaze with is own.

 

Costiah:          fever? Where did I get that from?

Inkhobi:          those wounds on your cheek were badly infected, zibihi, and your body tried to counter it with a fever.

I’ve seen too that your wounds are clean, and now when the infection is gone, they should seal quite soon.

You might still feel a sting now and then, but it is nothing you can’t live with.

Costiah:          I see… 

 

He felt like he wished to tell Inkhobi everything that had happened to him, but he couldn’t. He wanted to open his

mouth and speak, but his mouth stubbornly remained shut. He sighed and looked at the wall of the cave.

He noticed the splotches of paint he had seen before and cautiously moved closer to examine them. As he came closer

he noticed that the shapes of color actually looked like something. He was pretty sure that an orange one was a lion or a

lioness, but his train of thoughts that followed was broken by Inkhobi’s voice.

 

Inkhobi:          those are pictures of the past, zibihi. They show major events here in these lands.

 

Costiah turned away from the wall and felt dizzy. He slumped back onto the ground because his head seemed to spin

around violently. He let out a loud sigh and closed his eyes again. His mind was bothered by all those references

to his past all the time. He heard Inkhobi wish him a good rest before his mind went out again.

 

 

Chapter XIX

Tarrche

 

For once, Costiah’s dreams were not haunted by any dream at all. He sort of just drifted around in a comfortable

darkness without anything else but him. When he finally woke up, he felt rested and quite full of energy, as if he had

been a cub who just got out to play after a long night. He slowly opened his eyes and noticed that nothing hurt this time.

He got up and stretched and yawned, surprised that none of his joints gave any sign of discomfort of doing this and he

did not feel dizzy either. Suddenly a small, yet slightly annoying voice was heard.

 

Voice:            ye might want to wait fer Inkhobi, lion.

 

As he turned to see who it was, he saw that it was a Meerkat who laid with his back leaned against the cave wall,

and lazily gnawing at something that might’ve been the largest bug Costiah ever seen. With a crunch, the Meerkat

chewed and swallowed the rest of it before speaking.

 

Meerkat:        the name’s Mazho if ye wanna know. Ye must be the Costiah I’ve heard about.

 

Costiah gave no reply. He just stared blankly at the Meerkat, noticing that he wore some kind of collar of a material he

had never seen before.

 

Mazho:           and if ye plan to eat me, yer in for a nasty surprise.

Costiah:          (groans) could you just… shut up or something? Your voice annoys me.

Mazho:           I guess I could, but I was told to wait here with ye ‘til he came back.

Costiah:          (grunts, dryly) can I at least go out, or do you plan to keep me inside here forever, oh mighty Meerkat…

Mazho:           (smirks) if he let me, I’d gladly keep ye as me pet forever, Costiah, but he doesn’t.

So yer free to go out and stretch yer legs a bit if ye want.

Costiah:          that’s… great. I’m sick of this cave anyway.

Mazho:           (still smirks) well, it is not exactly a cave, lion. It’s a termite mound.

 

Costiah’s eyes widened as he heard the Meerkat say what the cave actually was. The lion hurried out trough the

opening, thinking that his fur was full of termites wishing to bite him to pieces. He ignored the sharp sunlight as he rolled

back and forth on the ground, trying to get the imagined termites out of his fur.

 

Then he suddenly realized that there were no termites crawling on him, and then he heard a chuckle belonging to the

Meerkat. The lion stopped rolling and got back up on his paws and squinted his eyes towards the Meerkat, looking

a bit ashamed for just having made a fool out of himself.

 

Costiah:          (annoyed) shut up, Meerkat… it isn’t funny.

 

The Meerkat tried his best to hold his face from bursting out into laughter, resulting in a snorting giggle.

Costiah glared sourly at the Meerkat before shrugging it off and taking a deep breath of fresh air instead of the slightly

damp air inside the termite mound. He didn’t really recognize the immediate surroundings, and it sure had a lot of

unfamiliar scents. As he sat and enjoyed being outside and watching the quite beautiful surroundings he began to feel

a lot better. He closed his eyes and did not move at all.

 

His moment of peace was ended when someone poked him in the side. He opened his eyes and glared down at the

meerkat Mazho.

 

Costiah:          (annoyed) what is it?

Mazho:           well, I was jus’ wondering if ye were hungry or something.

Costiah:          (snorts) no, I’m not hungry. I was busy enjoying the silence when you absolutely had to ruin the

moment by opening your mouth.

Mazho:           gee, sorry. Yer even snappier than Ehasna was when she came a few days ago.

 

The mentioning of the lioness that he had left in distress quite successfully dispelled any happy thoughts from Costiah’s

mind and replaced it with dripping guilt. He glared coldly at the meerkat, wishing that he could just reverse time a minute

and have eaten him before he could’ve even have opened his mouth.

 

Costiah:          (snorts) you talk too much, meerkat.

 

With a quick move he turned his back at the meerkat, making it obvious that he did not want anything to do with the

little animal. Instead he looked at a few trees a bit away, thinking about how badly those lions had treated Ehasna,

if she was hurt or injured. He sure hadn’t acted in the best possible way when he thought of it. He wanted to ask

Inkhobi if he knew anything whenever he met that cheetah again.

 

While the meerkat seemed to get the hint about leaving him alone, someone else came close enough to disturb his

thoughts. He heard the light sound of paws treading on the ground and he slowly turned his head to see who it was.

Much to his surprise, there was nothing where he looked, which was up in the air, where the head of most adult

felines would be. He slowly looked down until his gaze met with the bronze eyes of a cub.

 

At first, it seemed to be a cheetah cub, judging from the spots and the tear-lines. But there was something odd

about the cub that Costiah just could not figure out. And it wasn’t the fact that she was missing her left ear.

The cub looked curiously at him with her bronze eyes deciding to say something.

 

Cub:               yoah zibihi. How are you?

Costiah:          I… err… I’m fine.

 

He couldn’t really stop glaring at the cub, his mind not being able to figure out why there were leopard rosettes among

her cheetah spots. The cub gave him a slightly saddened gaze in return.

 

Cub:               you’re looking at my spots, aren’t you?

Costiah:          I… err… no, not at all.

 

The cub just snorted sadly at him, obviously being quite used to others staring at her. She sat down and tucked her

tail around her, or at least what was left of her tail. First now, Costiah noticed the rather obvious lack of half her tail,

and the little naked spot at the tip of it.

 

Cub:               stare all you want, zibihi. I don’t care! I’m proud of what I am. Faha said I should be.

 

Costiah didn’t really know what to do. The cub was pretty much knocking the air out of him with her mere words.

First now it clicked inside his head. The cub had to be a crossbreed of sorts, since her body lacked the usual sleek

elegance of a cheetah. It was more like a stocky leopard.

 

Costiah:          eh… sorry, I didn’t mean to stare, cub. It was just…

Cub:               (looks down in the ground) I know… everyone stares at me until they figure out what I am…

Costiah:          uhm… perhaps we should… you know, just take this all from the beginning and forget my mistake?

Cub:               (shrugs) well, if you wish. Kiah Tarrche.

Costiah          (nods) I’m… …

 

His tongue slipped when he was just about to say his name. Then he remembered that he didn’t have any, not since

Aihatu had stripped it from him. He noticed Tarrche’s inquiring bronze eyes look up at him. He feigned a cough to

hide his sudden hesitation. Just to make some sort of excuse.

 

Costiah:          I… say… aren’t your mother around or something?

Tarrche:         (sits down and traces her paw along the ground) well, she’s out hunting with azna. I got bored so

I came to see Inkhobi. Have you seen him?

Costiah:          (shakes his head slowly) no, sorry. I haven’t seen him.

 

He felt slightly relieved that he had diverted the question about his name. Now he wondered if he could get the

strange cub to go somewhere else and leave him alone. However, the cub did not seem to have any plans of leaving.

She just sat there and watched him curiously.

 

Tarrche:         I haven’t seen you before, you new here?

Costiah:          I’m… merely passing by; I won’t stay here for long.

Tarrche:         aw, a pity. You seem nice enough.

 

The cub tilted her head and kept watching him silently for a few seconds until she noticed the scars on his cheek.

She gave out a squeak of some unidentified emotion, causing Costiah to jerk slightly backwards.

 

Tarrche:         (oddly interested) you have scars! How did you get them?

Costiah:          (hesitant) I don’t… want to talk about it, ok?

 

Obviously, Tarrche hadn’t heard his answer and continued to babble. She pointed at her chin, where three vertical

scars were barely visible underneath her fur.

 

Tarrche:         I got those from a serval when I tried to take its lunch from it. Are you a fighter? I bet you have a lot

of stories to tell.

Costiah:          no, look. I don’t…

 

Once again, his words were just cut off by the chee-leopard cubs’ babbling. She continued to speak, not even giving

him a chance to say anything.

 

Tarrche:         I always wanted to be a fighter too. But faha says I shouldn’t, she says I should stay here in these lands,

get a home of my own and be content. Kekabas aren’t that good at fighting tough… Faha always let

azna win when they wrestle, its fun to watch but I know faha is stronger than anyone else here.

 

Costiah gave up on trying to say anything and just let the cub babble, hoping she’d grow tired after a while. He didn’t

put much attention to listen to everything she said, but he gave her the appearance of being moderately interested in

what she was saying.

 

Tarrche:         Faha’s a hafuh, She can climb in trees but Azna can’t. She always vexes him by climbing up in a tree

when they’re playing. But then again, he can always run away from her. They say I’m the best of both

species and I should be proud.

 

Costiah rested his head on his paws and continued to listen with even less interest than before. He pictured what a

leopard and a cheetah would look like together and chuckled slightly as he saw some hilarious scenes that might occur.

He hadn’t paid any attention to Tarrche, who suddenly were giggling with him, as if she had just said anything funny

that he hadn’t heard.

 

Tarrche:         (giggles) you’re funny, zibihi.

 

She had laid down right next to him, which made him feel uncomfortable. She treated him as if she had known him

all her life. He was just about to complain about it when her mouth began babbling again.

 

Tarrche:         I wonder what the lands beyond the borders are like… (Looks up at him) do you know?

 

Costiah’s gray eyes met with Tarrche’s bronze orbs just as she asked him about what lied beyond the cheetah lands.

She actually went silent to let him answer. He blinked twice as he pondered on what to respond.

 

Costiah:          there’s… nothing good outside… just pain and suffering.

Tarrche:         (gasps) suffering? How horrible. Is there nothing that can be done to help?

Costiah:          (shakes his head) no… nothing.

 

The cub looked down and seemed to think about what he had said, then her ears perked up to catch a sound that

came from the near distance. Costiah heard the noise as well and was quick to look up. He was a bit relieved to see

 Inkhobi approach him. He wasn’t really in the mood to explain to Tarrche’s mother what the cub was doing with him.

 

The black cheetah seemed pleased to see them as he was smiling as he came closer.

 

Inkhobi:          yoah zibihi, yoah Tarrche.

Tarrche:         yobaduz Inkhobi!

 

The cub bounced over to the black cheetah and hugged his front legs quickly before letting go. The black cheetah

watched the cub and smiled warmly.

 

Inkhobi:          (slightly surprised) why, you are happy today. Anything special happened?

Tarrche:         (nods eagerly) ban, I’ve met this cool zibihi (mentions at Costiah)

 

Inkhobi nodded as he watched Costiah, who looked somewhat confounded. He gave Tarrche a pat on her back before

he spoke again.

 

Inkhobi:          so, what can I do for you Tarrche?

Tarrche:         well… (Traces a small circle with her paw) I was a bit bored… so I wondered if you had any time to

tell a story?

Inkhobi:          (smiles) certainly, which one would you like to hear, kobto nim?

Tarrche:         (smiles widely) how… about the one of Rasawah?

Inkhobi:          are you sure you want to hear it again? You’ve heard it many times already.

 

Costiah’s ears perked as he heard the name of his ‘former’ half brother Rasawah. He groaned silently as he tried to

push the associated memories aside again. He heard the cub try to convince Inkhobi to tell the story. He felt how

something was gazing into him and when he looked up, his gaze met with Inkhobis.

 

The black cheetah patted Tarrche gently on her shoulder and looking down at her. The cub looked quite expectant,

hoping to hear the story she wanted to hear. But Inkhobi slowly shook his head.

 

Inkhobi:          I am sorry Tarrche, but I’ll have to devote some attention to the zibihi. He was badly hurt when he

came here. If you come around a little later, I will tell you whatever story you want, ok?

 

Tarrche flicked her ear as she listened. Then she nodded when he was done speaking and bounced off in a somewhat

clumsy but graceful way. Inkhobi watched her until she had gotten far enough away. Then he turned his gaze directly to

Costiah, and there was sincerity in it that had not been there before. Costiah felt very uncomfortable with having to bear

that kind of gaze upon him.

 

Inkhobi:          Costiah, there is something I want to ask you.

Costiah:          go ahead…

Inkhobi:          I saw your reaction when I mentioned Rasawah.

Costiah:          what about it?

Inkhobi:          You know him, don’t you?

 

Costiah felt forced to look away, trying to avoid the question. He knew Rasawah very well, but he couldn’t admit it.

He wanted the past to just go away and never bother him again, but it constantly made itself reminded. Why could it

not just leave him be? He looked up and glared acidly at Inkhobi.

 

Costiah:          (snaps) No I don’t!

 

Inkhobi sat and was unnaturally calm. His face betrayed no emotion whatsoever as he silently gazed back at the lion.

Costiah felt infuriated by the cheetahs’ total absence of fear. Why did he keep asking things about his past?

Why did he care at all?

 

Costiah:          (furious) just… leave me alone! I don’t want any healing!

Inkhobi:          (calm) what do you want then?

 

Costiah felt his growing anger make his blood boil. He wanted to let out all of his grief in violence. He glared acidly at

Inkhobi as the thought of attacking appeared in his mind. Inkhobi however, seemed to sense what was going on inside

the lions’ mind. His slightly glowing blue eyes fixed straight at Costiah’s gray ones.

 

Inkhobi:          I would not advise you to attack me, Costiah.

Costiah:          (smirks) and why not? It’d stop your damned questions!

 

The lion crept together, preparing to leap at the cheetah. The calmness of the cheetah angered him.

Inkhobi just sat silently and stared at him, not moving a muscle at all.

 

Then Costiah leapt straight at Inkhobi, but before he even had come near he had been struck right over his wounded

cheek by a blow from the back of Inkhobi’s paw. The strike had come so suddenly and with such force that it knocked

the lion out of his course and sent him straight into the ground next to the cheetah. Utterly confused the lion remained

laying on the ground, trying to make any sense of what had hit him.

 

He looked up and gazed into Inkhobi’s eyes again. The calm gaze of the cheetah overwhelmed him with guilt.

He began to whimper pitifully.

 

Costiah:          (whimpers) I… I’m sorry… I… I don’t know why… I did it

 

The black cheetah remained silent while his eyebrow raised slightly in a very skeptical way while his eyes remained

fixed on the lion.

 

Inkhobi:          I think you do know, Costiah, but you don’t want to know.

 

The lion did not respond as he sat silent, barely daring to breathe. His gray eyes, silently pleading the cheetah for help,

betrayed the pain he hid inside.

 

Inkhobi:          you wanted to harm me because I asked you questions, did you not? Questions whose answers you

wish to forget.

 

Costiah absently gazed into Inkhobis blue calm eyes. He felt like he was dragged into those two deep pools of

comfort that he saw. He almost lost himself when the cheetah suddenly blinked, severing the gaze for a brief moment.

Costiah snapped out of his trance-like state and slowly nodded in response.

 

The cheetah seemed to be content with this answer and suddenly he did not seem even half as foreboding as he had

done just a few seconds ago. The calmness was still present, but it was intermingled with friendliness.

 

Inkhobi:          I thought so… you see, Costiah, violence does not always solve things. Sometimes discussion clears

a problem up, other times a friendly smile does.

 

The lion seemed to have swallowed his tongue in shame. He tore his gaze from the cheetah and closed his eyes,

whimpering ever so silently.

 

Mazho, who had came across the discussion and seen most of what had happened and right now was leaning lazily

against a rock, decided to make his presence known.

 

Mazho:           ye ain’t getting nowhere with him, Inkhobi.

Inkhobi:          (keeps watching Costiah) I am aware of your presence, Mazho, you need not to remind me.

Mazho:           pfft… just look at him! Ye aren’t helping him by smacking your superiority in his face. What he’d need

ought to be some decent time for himself, not a lecture.

 

The black cheetah gave the meerkat a slightly annoyed gaze, staring for a few seconds before returning his attention to

the lion.

 

Inkhobi:          well, Costiah. If you have calmed down, I will have a look at your wounds.

 

The lion complied and just closed his eyes as the cheetah came closer. He could feel the breath on his now sealed

wounds and oddly enough, it had a soothing effect. He could sense that the cheetah was looking very closely on his cheek.

 

After a few seconds the cheetah withdrew his head and Costiah slowly opened his eyes again.

The cheetah was briefly glaring at the meerkat before turning to the lion.

 

Inkhobi:          your wounds look just as I had expected.

Costiah:          … meaning?

Inkhobi:          they have healed just fine, Costiah, and you shouldn’t need any more help from me now.

Costiah:          so… I’m free to leave?

Inkhobi:          (nods) whenever you like.

 

Costiah actually felt slightly relieved because he now could leave. The thoughts about getting further away from

where he had come from had returned. He gave Inkhobi a somewhat mediocre smile.

 

Costiah:          well… no offence but… I think I will leave right away.

Inkhobi:          I understand, zibihi. I wish you luck on your travels Costiah, may Madun protect you.

Costiah:          (mumbles) thanks… I guess…

 

The lion rose up to his paws again with a rather melancholic expression on his face. He watched the location of the sun

and then began walking away in a direction he knew would not bring him back to where he had come from again.

 

Inkhobi sat and sadly watched the lion vanish in the distance. The meerkat was picking his teeth with a twig he had

found on the ground and spat out a piece of his last meal that had gotten stuck.

 

Mazho:           well, good riddance to that creep. I’ve never seen anyone so unfriendly.

Inkhobi:          do not mistake desperation and melancholy for unfriendliness, Mazho.

Mazho:           what’s the difference? To me, he was just another of those arrogant lions.

Inkhobi:          you are quite wrong, my friend, that one… there’s more to him than his looks grant.

Mazho:           (sighs) not another one that’s ‘chosen’ is it?

 

Inkhobi gave the meerkat another glare before chuckling lowly for himself.

 

Inkhobi:          no, not that extreme. But, I think we’ve both met his father. I’d almost bet my life on it.

Mazho:           (snorts) right… well anyway. Was there anything ye wanted me to fetch for ye?

Inkhobi:          indeed there is, Mazho… (Chuckles and repeats) indeed there is.

 

 

Chapter XX

Plains of C’gasah

 

Costiah had expected to feel relieved to once again be on his own, but instead he felt even more lonely and miserable

now that he had left the cheetah shaman who had helped him. He felt an urge to turn around and return but his mind

made up a scenario how everyone would just laugh at him.

 

Discouraged by the scene that was visible in his mind, he continued onwards, forcing each step to get out from the vast

lands that were occupied by cheetahs only. He did see a few cheetahs along his way, most of them were just silently

basking in the sun and watching him, while others didn’t pay any attention whatsoever to his passing. He didn’t want to

care about them either, but he couldn’t help noticing that some of them were happy while others had cubs tumbling

around them.

 

He also did not care that the sun was doing its best to scorch his back, he ignored all the inviting shadows offered by

trees and outcropping rocks. However, when he came across a small waterhole he did stop to get a refreshing drink.

No one else was around and only a few dead trees were surrounding the pond. He walked up to the water-edge and

looked down into the oddly clear water. He could see his own reflection look back at him from the water surface.

 

The scars on his cheek were dominating his facial features, overshadowing pretty much anything else.

The fur around them had grown thin for some reason he did not know, making the healed wounds even more visible.

He gave out a deep sigh that madethe water ripple and relieving him the sight of his own face. He lowered his muzzle to

the water to drink.

 

A sudden yelp came from his side, and before he had managed to turn his head to see, something small and heavy

landed on his shoulder, almost knocking him over. For a few seconds he was confused as to what had happened until

he heard a very cubbish giggle and felt something hug his leg. When his mind had comprehended enough to decide what

to do, he looked down and saw the cub he had met earlier.

 

Tarrche:         (very happy) yoah zibihi!

 

The cub rolled away from him, almost bubbling with glee as she bounced around in a way that only could mean that

she was hyperactive at the moment. Costiah sighed slightly and sat down; trying to calm down from the shock she

had given him when pouncing him.

 

Costiah:          hello Tarrche, what are you doing here?

Tarrche:         (giggles uncontrollably) why, buko, I live here! I mean this is where faha and azna live.

 

He watched the cub paw at his legs, beaming out loads of joy into the world. A thought struck him that he might be

happy here. But then he felt that it was still too close to his former home, he couldn’t stay here.

Tarrche:         (paws at his leg and looks up at him) zibihi? Are you all right?

 

The lion sighed heavily; the innocence of the cub was disturbing him. Would he dare to tell the little cub everything that

was bothering him? He faked a smile to the cub, which made her lighten up again.

 

Costiah:          yes, I’m all right, Tarrche, its just some old… wounds that bother me from time to time.

Tarrche:         (looks concerned) you’re not hurt, are you? Didn’t Inkhobi fix you?

Costiah:          (cringes) I guess he did… but… lets say it is… scars…


The cub looked puzzled at him, not knowing what to make out of his answer. After a moment she just shrugged in a

cute way and began wrestling with herself and seemed to have forgotten everything about what had puzzled her a

moment ago.

 

Costiah sighed silently as he watched the cub utter cute aggravated noises as she tumbled around on the ground.

He didn’t want to pester anyone, and least of all such an adorable creature as Tarrche was.

He gathered his courage to tell the cub that he would be leaving,


Costiah:          uhm, Tarrche…

the cub stopped moving and looked at him, with all her attention dedicated to him.

 

Tarrche:         ban?

Costiah:          I… think I must leave now.

Tarrche:         (blinks) leave? Why? Why do you have to leave, zibihi?

Costiah:          I…

 

He thought quickly to come up with a useful reason to his sudden departure. He looked down at the chubby cub

that was flicking her ear and tail idly.

 

Costiah:          I have to go home, Tarrche.

Tarrche:         oh (smiles) all right! Will you be back soon?

Costiah:          no… I live far away from here.

Tarrche:         aw (flattens ears) I’ll miss you, zibihi.

 

The lie he had just uttered gnawed at his heart, but he kept his façade tight. He did not want to upset the cub.

 

Costiah:          I’ll miss you too, Tarrche.

 

The cub suddenly wrapped her large paws around his leg in a hug.

 

Tarrche:         will you come see me someday?

Costiah:          yes… I probably will

 

He gently patted her back with his paw, stroking her soft fur. The cub then let go of him and smiled somewhat sadly.

 

Tarrche:         (smiles) don’t hurt yourself Zibihi.

Costiah:          I’ll try not to… take care, Tarrche.

 

He feigned a smile to the cub and watched her for a moment before he continued in the direction he had.

After a few steps he stopped, looked over his shoulder and saw Tarrche wave at him. He nodded in return and then

turned his head back in the direction he was heading.

 

Leaving the chubby cub behind made him feel slightly guilty. He had lied to her about going home, because he didn’t

have one. He hadn’t even told her his name. His steps fell heavily on the ground as he went on. He was still in the

Cheetah lands and he definitely had no plans on staying here. He knew that his father had grown up here; no one

could know what people might recognize his parent trough him. He sighed and stopped. He looked around a bit

bewildered, because he seemed to have lost track of how long he had been walking.

 

Suddenly he heard a very angry voice shout displeasure nearby. He perked his ears in the direction it had come

from, to see if it was directed towards him. He saw nothing, but he heard another voice that seemed to try to calm

the first one down. He soon found out that the voices were coming from a depression in the ground a little bit away,

making it impossible for him to see the owners of the voice.

 

Female:          (snarls) I’ve had it with you.

Male:             please, don’t…

Female:          (cuts off) shut up, Conhaba, I’ve seen you spend more time with that… (Spits) zibihi than with me.

You… (Stutters in anger) zibihi lover!

Conhaba:       but…

Female:          (hisses) that’s enough from you! You can’t even give me cubs, you bastard… Leave my territory… now!

Conhaba:       but I…

Female:          (yells) NOW!

 

A low thud was heard from the same place as the voices, and then a yelp of pain. Then he saw the cheetah he met before

come rushing at him, and another cheetah chasing him. When spotting the lion, the first cheetah skidded to a stop in

front of him, the other cheetah doing likewise.

 

F. Cheetah:    (snarls) what’s this? Another of your damned zibihi friends? Get out! Both of you!!!

 

He just snorted at the cheetress and turned away and left, walking arrogantly away from the cheetress.

He didn’t bother looking back, neither did he bother where that other cheetah went. They could all burn… all except

Tarrche, he thought. He didn’t listen to what the cheetress was shouting after him, it didn’t concern him.

 

Soon the profanity died out in the distance, much to Costiah’s pleasure as his ears would probably have begun to

bleed if he had been forced to hear more of it.

 

He noticed someone run past him, and as he turned to look, he saw the cheetah he met earlier, Conhaba.

The expression the cheetah wore was not a pleased one. Costiah glared at the cheetah and snorted.

 

Costiah:          what do you want?

 

The cheetah remained silent, glaring back in quite the same manner as it blocked the path of the lion.

 

Costiah:          look, unless you wanted anything, move out of my way, cheetah.

Conhaba:       (hisses lowly) Costiah.

 

The lion just sighed and took a sidestep to be able to pass the cheetah, but much to his dismay, the cheetah moved to

once again block his path.

 

Costiah:          I am not in the mood for games, cheetah, Move!

Conhaba:       (hisses) Why is it that you’re near when something bad happens?

Costiah:          (snarls) Shut up, spot-head. I don’t care about what you think!

Conhaba:       (hisses) Do you care about anything at all?

Costiah:          no, should I? (Snorts) now why don’t you go get yourself a lioness, you seem so fond of them.

 

It seemed like the last words made the cheetah think. He stood silent and frowned. Costiah just snorted and walked

past the cheetah and onwards. He did not get long, however, before the cheetah came darting past him again.

 

Costiah:          (mumbles) this is becoming a bad habit… What is it you want, damn it!

Conhaba:       (backs off slightly) I am sorry, zibihi, but Ehasna means a lot to me.

Costiah:          (sarcastic) like your ‘mate’ obviously didn’t?

Conhaba:       (ignores the remark) but she never cared about me… I wonder if.

Costiah:          (cuts him off) no.

 

The cheetah pulled his head slightly backwards at the response.

 

Conhaba:       but you didn’t even let me…

Costiah:          (cuts him off again) no!

Conhaba:       (stutters angrily) Listen to what I have to say!

Costiah:          I still don’t care, cheetah! Piss off.

 

He simply shoved the cheetah out of the way and stomped on, muttering to himself. Conhaba stared after the lion for a

moment before following him, at a distance.

 

The day slowly passed by, the lion relentlessly padding on and the cheetah following him.

Quite suddenly, near the end of the afternoon, the surroundings changed drastically. Large, barely overgrown craters

littered the lands, heaps of metal twisted beyond recognition and bleached bones scattered across the ground.

 

Costiah noticed it, but he did not care, Conhaba on the other hand, did.

He had recognized the place, and he knew the dangers that lurked. He felt that it was his responsibility to warn the lion.

With determined steps he decreased the distance between him and Costiah.

 

Conhaba:       Costiah! Wait!

 

The lion stopped dead in his step, gave out a very dissatisfied grunt before he turned to the approaching cheetah.

His entire face had wrinkled up into a scowl. The cheetah stopped as well, at a respectful distance from the lion.

 

Costiah:          (snarls) WHAT???

 

The cheetah pulled back a little at the snapping lion, but regained his stance again.

 

Conhaba:       listen Costiah; you should not go any further into this land. It’s dangerous.

Costiah:          (snorts) if I wanted your worthless advice, I’d asked for it.

Conhaba:       (does not give up) Listen for Maduns sake. This place is death! It’s the plains of C’gasah!

 

The lion gave a snort and narrowed his eyes. He recognized the name C’gasah from the tales his father had told him as

well as the stories Rasawah had spoken to him about. He eased a bit on the scowl.

 

Costiah:          C’gasah is nothing but a thing from tales you scare cubs with.

Conhaba:       It is not a matter to joke about, zibihi. Lord C’gasah is real! It was C’gasah who caused this place to be.

The touch of C’gasah has marked these lands. We should not trespass.

Costiah:          does it look like I care? I go wherever it pleases me!

 

Arrogantly, the lion turned away from the cheetah, continuing onwards towards what seemed to be the sad twisted

remains of some kind of vehicle. Naturally, he had no idea what it was, but as it did not move, he assumed it was harmless.

Glaring at it for a moment he then walked straight up to it and intended to walk past it.

 

The cheetah perked his ears towards the heap of metal debris. He heard something from it, some kind of twisted laugh

emitted from within the rusty hull. The lion had heard it too. He had stopped and slowly sidestepped away from the wreck.

His senses sharpened and he prepared himself for whatever it was.

 

Suddenly a yellowish blur leapt out from a large hole in the hull of the wreck. It landed right in front of Costiah, nearly

knocking him over in shock. He stood as frozen as his eyes identified the creature that had appeared from the wreck.

It was a cheetress. Her face was twisted into a deranged grin and her eyes were totally devoid of any sentience.

Her fur was ruffled and very dirty and in some parts, it was even missing completely, revealing her skin.

Her ears twitched uncomfortably as did her nose.

 

Cheetress:      (cackles) zebra snout is good for antelope venom! Lord C’gasah shall reward rocks for the sky and

reveal my mountain to the water!

 

Costiah dropped his jaw as he heard the jarred voice of the cheetress, and the utter nonsense she spoke.

He stood as dumbstruck, staring at the cheetress without being able to tear his gaze from her soul-less eyes.

There was something unnatural about her, it was like there was no person behind those eyes, they were empty.

The cheetress looked him over, gave out a shriek and ducked back into the darkness provided by the twisted heap of

metal she had emerged from.

 

Costiah stood silent, staring into the darkness, wondering if that which had just happened actually did happen.

He heard Conhaba approach from the back.

 

Costiah:          (whispering) what… was that?

 

Conhaba came up to his side, and, he too glared into the darkness, shivering slightly as if he was cold.

The cheetress slowly came out again, tiptoeing as if she was trying to sneak away from something. Another thing struck

Costiah about this cheetress. She was fat. Her belly hung beneath her, but she did not seem to be pregnant or anything.

This too was unnatural. He heard Conhaba whisper something he did not entirely understand.

 

Costiah:          who…. What is that?

Conhaba:       (whispers) Madun save us… (Shivers) it is Vekurah.

 

The cheetress stopped dead on her tracks, hissed at a particularly long straw of grass that had tickled her nose.

Then she turned around to face Costiah again, her emotionless eyes fixed on something behind him.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) the bushes will slay your trees with their bolt of monkies. The flyers fall from the ground!

All Dead! (shouts) ALL DEAD STILL ALIVE!

 

Costiah was beginning to wonder if the rambling cheetress in front of him was anything but annoying.

He watched the miserable creature jerk around and sprint off and vanish in behind some boulders. He blinked a couple of

times before turning to Conhaba; he had never heard the name Vekurah before.

 

Costiah:          Vekurah? What does that mean?

Conhaba:       (shudders) Abandoned one… She was here when this…

 

He made a sweeping motion of his paw across the plains ahead.

 

Conhaba:       (continues) happened…

Costiah:          and… what exactly happened here?

 

The cheetah gave him an odd look for a second before answering.

 

Conhaba:       lord C’gasah led two tekhan tribes against each other here. They fought for days until no one was left alive.

C’gasah claimed them all.

Costiah:          and what exactly does that have to do with this… Vekurah?

Conhaba:       She was here, as I said. She faced lord C’gasah and… C’gasah claimed her soul while she was still alive.

 

The cheetah shuddered when mentioning the fate of Vekurah.

 

Conhaba:       she lost her mind, not even Inkhobi was able to restore her. She has… lingered here ever since. Everyone

avoids her because… you can’t talk to her and she does all kinds of weird things.

(Shudders again) she is like a living dead.

 

Costiah did not say anything. He was gazing towards the place where the strange cheetress had vanished.

He did not really know what to think. The cheetress was downright creepy, and now that he knew her fate,

he couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for her.

 

Conhaba:       we shouldn’t be here… the lingering remains of the dead could take us any moment.

Costiah:          lingering remains?

Conhaba:       yes… their spirits.

Costiah:          wait… did you not say that C’gasah claimed them all? There shouldn’t be any spirits here then!

 

The cheetah went silent, pondering on what the lion had said for a moment.

 

Costiah:          see, no spirits or anything? And Vekurah, has she ever harmed anyone?

Conhaba:       (cringes a bit) no, not that I recall having heard.

Costiah:          then it should be perfectly safe to walk around here. I’m not going back the way I came.

 

He left, walking onwards in the direction he had intended to go before he had been stopped by the cheetress.

Conhaba stood still for a few seconds, his mind processing the rather obvious facts Costiah had just spoken into his face.

He looked around at the scattered wrecks that littered the place; then he darted after Costiah, not wanting to be alone.

 

As Costiah went on, he could not quite understand how all those wrecks could possibly be covering such a wide area.

Some of the wrecks were almost turned outside in, others resembled of metal ribcages and some seemed to have been

so totally destroyed that there only were scrap metal strewn about along the rim of a crater. Most of the pieces were rusty

and partially overgrown by grass and other things.

 

No matter for how long he walked, he could not see the end of this graveyard of vehicles, and most likely, humans,

but that he didn’t know. The night began to approach as the sun lowered itself to the horizon. Conhaba had long

since tired of walking, but he would under no circumstances be left alone there, so he kept up. Eventually, Costiah

came to a halt. He too was tired, and not that very inclined to walk more. Without bothering about checking up on the

cheetah, he leapt up on a large boulder and laid down on the warm rock. The cheetah followed suit and sat down on

the warm surface of the rock.

 

He watched the sun as it cast its last few rays for the day. He was a bit frightened by the frightening and jagged

shadows cast by the countless wrecks. It was like black limbs reaching towards them. He couldn’t tear his eyes

from the shadows, as they grew longer and longer, all until the sun hid completely behind the horizon, coating the

lands in the darkness of the night. Costiah had already fallen asleep and was breathing in a calm rhythm. Having few

other alternatives, Conhaba laid himself down too and found that the warm rock was quite comfortable when the cooler

air of the night swept in.

 

 

Chapter XXI

C’gasahn night

 

Conhaba was jerked out from his sleep by something tugging rather harshly in his ear. His eyes shoot up immediately

and he tiredly looked around to see who or what had awakened him. But there was no one there that he could see.

A cold shiver ran down his spine as his eyes surveyed trough the night. It was calm, like most nights, He could barely

see the landscape, just some faint outlines. He slowly calmed down and tried to return to his sleep, but just as he had

closed his eyes, he felt something biting down on his ear. He attempted to yelp out because of the pain when a paw

blocked his mouth so that all that came out was a muted ‘phhh’. He couldn’t see whoever it was, but he could see

the paw, and the leg attached to it.

 

The easily recognizable voice of Vekurah crooned right into his left ear, and he could feel her cold breath down his neck.

 

Vekurah:        (crooning) silent be, life keep alive. Noiseful be and lost you are.

 

There was cohesion to what the cheetress were saying, something he hadn’t heard earlier. The paw lifted from his

mouth and he slowly turned around to see the cheetress known as Vekurah. Her empty eyes stared straight into his

and her expressionless face was as if set in stone.

 

Vekurah:        (whispering) evil speaks in tongues tall, Silent skulls tell their stories. Evil travels you on with, before

light of earth strikes the spear.

 

Conhaba glared at the cheetress, wishing that she would just leave him alone. He was just about to tell her to do so

when her paw suddenly pressed against his muzzle again, shutting him up rather effectively.

 

Vekurah:        (croons again, silently) silent must be, less loss of life you gain.

 

Conhaba’s body shivered. Once again there were that touch of that there were some cohesion to her words.

Although it still was nowhere near normal speech, it was extremely unsettling. Her eyes were fixed onto his all the time,

and he could have sworn that she was pretty much aware of him.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) lightly sleep, good, keep alive. Deeply sleep, bad, death at dawn.

 

She removed her paw from his muzzle and snuck over to the sleeping Costiah, leaned close to his ear and stared into

it for a long time. Conhaba did not dare to move over and push her away, any less saying anything. He watched as the

deranged cheetress pressed her nose into the lions’ ear, causing it to twitch.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) names… names… evil you! Bad tree roots the cloud. Nameless evil turn nameful.

(mutters) run to back, quick for life. Spoken dreams of past futures lost in water.

Scars rip the sky bellow, you return as… (yells at the top of her voice) DAMNED!!!

 

The whispering and muttering of the insane cheetress hadn’t stirred Costiah from his sleep. The sudden yell right into his

ear had. Startled out of his sleep he leapt to his paws, baring his fangs in fear and staring around almost panicky.

Then he noticed Vekurah, who had started rubbing her paw against the rock they were on, occasionally licking on it.

 

Costiah:          (calming down, narrowing his eyes) Vekurah…

Vekurah:        (attempts to bite on the rock) nameless evil no good, lost you are to the dark of day.

 

Costiah turned away from the cheetress, quite enraged by her mere presence now. He did not want to see her sagging

body or her degenerated condition or her lifeless eyes. The way she had spoken the word ‘nameless’ had bothered him.

He noticed that Conhaba were awake, and, seemed to have been that for a little while.

 

Costiah:          you were awake, cheetah? (growls) Why did you let that creature… scream right into my ear?

Why didn’t you…

Conhaba:       (cuts him off) shhhh, Zibihi.

Costiah:          don’t hush at me…

 

Now Vekurah paid attention to them both again, leaping straight in between them and then launching her full weight

against Costiah, managing to topple him off balance. She gave out a rather noisy mix between a hiccup and a sneeze

right in his face before she leapt off him and then off the rock and disappeared into the night.

 

Costiah:          (very annoyed) argh, damned… gah.

 

He got up on his paws again; Vekurah was beginning to get on his nerves. The pity he had felt for her earlier was as

good as gone. He snarled in the general direction to where the cheetress had gone. He considered stalking after the

insane cheetress, but a sudden chill tore his mind from the gory things he had started to plan for her. Something was

not right, in fact, something was horribly wrong. He turned his face towards Conhaba, who were looking horrified.

 

Costiah:          What are you staring at?

Conhaba:       hush! Listen!

 

The lion did not need to ask what to listen for. His ears had picked up two slightly distant but still audible voices.

There was a certain disturbing ring to them, but he could not quite detect what it was. Wanting to see the owners of the

voices before they saw him, he dropped flat onto the rock, watching the cheetah doing the same thing.

 

The voices, which seemed to be bickering, came closer. The words were distinguishable now.

 

Male:             (annoyed hiss) you worm! We agreed on letting you lead, and what do you end up doing? You bloody

led us around in circles! What is it; the seventh time we see this blasted rock?

Female:          (snort) watch your forked tongue, you wandering muttonhead! This is not the same rock.

Male:             (growl) you animated intestine of a goddess! This is the same rock, look, it even has the mark I put on it.

Female:          your mark, feh! You mammals are just too disgusting, that could be anyone who fills the criteria of being a

smelly four-leg flesh-heap like you.

 

A sudden silence occurred as the two entities had reached the base of the rock. The lack of sound was downright

frightening, but the two who were hidden on top of the rock managed to keep calm. They could not see the two

others, and they dearly hoped that the others did not see them. A slight relief came to them as the two unknown

things began to bicker again.

 

Female:          tzeh… perhaps you managed to guess something right, you rotten spot-generator. But you would have

gotten lost inside your mothers womb if you got the chance.

Male:             (snickers) hurts to admit that you’re worthless, doesn’t it, Worm!

Female:          (incoherent hisses and curses)

Male:             if it hadn’t been for me, you’d been digested and forgotten long ago. Don’t you ever forget that, Keikam.

 

The female, whose name seemed to be Keikam gave out a rather unnatural smacking sound… or somehow produced it.

 

Keikam:         I had perfect control over that situation, waste-ball. Your meddling only made it dangerous, you third-rate

inbred half-demon mold-heap.

 

Conhaba could not help holding his breath as he heard how the argument developed. He could not be sure, but the

way this Keikam had uttered the word demon worried him deeply. It was like she meant it in a literal way.

The two creatures continued to argue, totally oblivious of his and Conhabas presences.

 

Male:             (chuckles) aw, you flatter me so much, worm. I sometimes wonder if you aren’t madly in love with me.

Keikam:         oh you give yourself too much credit, slime-mouth. Not even your mother would love you even if she

got all the power in the universe.

 

Suddenly the two creatures switched language, or spoke total incomprehensible words. Neither Conhaba nor Costiah

could understand anything they said. Rather than words, the noise the creatures made felt like maggots were crawling

under their skin, causing both of them to shiver uncomfortably. Then it went silent again. Conhaba sent a gaze to Costiah,

who did the same thing in return. The fear was present in their gazes and neither knew what to do. They remained silent,

the look on the others face had been enough to agree to don’t say anything.

 

A sudden gust of air in his ear made Costiah slowly turn his head. He closed his muzzle shut not to yelp as he saw

Vekurah there again. He had not heard her at all; neither had he felt her presence until now. She was staring right into his

eyes, meeting his gaze perfectly. He noticed something, there were a flicker of purpose within her eyes now, and she was

grinning widely. Not the lunatic grin he had seen before, this one was intentional.

 

He was as petrified; the grinning cheetress could not be the soulless creature he had seen before. His eyes were locked

with hers and he barely dared to breathe. Her grin flickered into a brief frown before turning into a smile of sorts.

She then leaned closer, her muzzle being right in his ear.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) you’re afraid now, aren’t you? Maybe… you should confront your fears rather than running

away from them. Think about it, zibihi.

 

His heart almost stopped. She had spoken to him. Her words had been perfectly arranged in a sentence and it had not

been total nonsense. He felt her breath in his ear, as if she had more to say.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) how would you know that there is anything to fear? Why don’t you just…

(speaks out loud) Have a look?

 

Before Costiah had time to even react to what she had said, the cheetress had somehow wrapped her paws around his

head and with unnatural strength hurled him over the edge of the boulder, straight down to the two unknown entities.

He felt the pain of hitting the ground in an awkward way.

 

When he regained control of himself a moment later, he heard a lot of cursing from underneath him. It hit him that he

had landed on whomever it could be that he had heard. Horrified he got up and skipped away to see what it could

possibly be. It was a leopard cub… and… some sort of snake it seemed. Neither seemed too dangerous, but he kept

a distance. He had heard their voices. The leopard cub was quick to get up as soon as it was no longer mangled under

a lion. Costiah watched how the cub opened its eyes to reveal two nearly burning red orbs staring right at him.

It could not be anything but a demon.

 

Cub:               (hisses) so… would you look at this, worm, a hapless lion falls from the sky.

 

The snakelike creature untwisted itself and rose up, and… began to float a little over the ground. Its eyes were also

glowing in red and its pupils fixed on the lion. Costiah felt as if he wanted to scream in terror, but he was as if

paralyzed by fear.

 

Keikam:         oh really? And it isn’t just your lice that have invaded that hairball to brain of yours?

Cub:               (hisses) shut up, worm.

 

From the boulder, Conhaba were watching the trio at the ground. He knew that Costiah would not fare well against

those two, but he did not know what to do. Costiah would be dead if he didn’t do anything, but the risk was that he

himself would be killed if he did. He almost panicly watched as the floating serpentine thing moved around the

paralyzed lion, ending up coiling around his head like some sort of halo, having its head floating upside down in

front of his face.

 

Keikam:         (snickers) why good evening, Lion. Picked a decent night to take a stroll, didn’t you?

 

Conhaba heard the lion whimper something illegible, he could see how Costiah was trembling, unable to order his limbs

to move. The leopard cub moved around the lion and easily jumped up on his back and started batting at his ears with

his paws.

 

Cub:               (slightly disappointed) my, my, what a lousy mortal you are. You’re not worthy of death.

Keikam:         (coils tighter) you are quite right… for the first time of your worthless life, Azeeka. This…

lion is not worth the effort.

 

The serpentine creature uncoiled itself from Costiahs head and began floating before his face instead. He could now

clearly see that it was definitely not a reptile of any kind. It more resembled of some cross of a fish and a snake.

It even had fins. The leopard jumped up on the lions head and batted down at his muzzle while weighing his head down.

 

Azeeka:          Now what to do with you instead of killing you, hm?

Keikam:         (floats around, examining) full of betrayal and self-pity. His self-esteem is even smaller than your brain,

rot-fur.

Azeeka:          (ignores Keikam) perhaps… I sense that he has a potential to become cruel

(snickers and pulls at the lions ears) mm yes… a tyrant of unfathomable proportions.

 

Costiah finally managed to get his body to do anything instead of shivering. He jerked backwards and tripped over

his own hind legs and ended up on his back. The leopard cub was quick to skip up on his chest and bury its claws in

his muzzle and stare straight into his eyes.

 

Azeeka:          ah, good idea mortal. It is much easier tormenting you now. (Snickers) now… what is this on your cheek?

 

The demon cub traced the scars on Costiahs’ cheek with its claws.

 

Azeeka:          (speaks lowly) now what can have given you those, hm, more betrayal perhaps? You know what you

are, lion? You are a weakling. Think of it, you can get those who did you wrong back…

slaughter them, for that is what they deserve. Those who yield to you will be your slaves for eternity,

obeying your every whim… I sense you would like that.

 

The leopard smirked and planted his paw on Costiah’s forehead. Its red eyes locked with the grey ones of the lion.

 

Azeeka:          (chuckles) that will be your curse… you will destroy lives to rebuild your own…

 

The demon cub extended its claws and punctured the skin on Costiahs forehead. Small droplets of blood began to drip

from the small wounds. Then Azeeka just withdrew his paw and skipped off from the lions’ chest.

 

Azeeka:          consider yourself lucky, lion. If you had any slightest chance of ever be happy again, I would have killed you.

 

Costiah whimpered pitifully as he watched the demon and the serpent thing vanish. The words that Azeeka had said were

lingering in his ears. The demon had spoken of betrayal… his banishment. Why he had been spared was beyond his scope

of comprehension. However, he was greatly relieved that the demons had left him alone. He just lay there on his back,

breathing slowly.

 

 

From atop the boulder, Conhaba could not believe his eyes. The evil creatures had left Costiah alive.

He did not dare to go down yet. He wanted to be sure they were gone first.

 

Long moments passed, and noting except for Costiah’s relieved breathing was heard. Conhaba decided to take the

chance. He peered over the edge of the boulder again, he saw nothing but the lion lie there, staring up into the sky

and blinking occasionally. Gracefully he skipped down and landed next to the lion.

 

Conhaba:       (whispers) zibihi… are you all right?

 

The lion slowly raised his head to look at the cheetah. His mere gaze said that he was very shaken.

He slowly got up and gazed at the ground, he then looked up at Conhaba again. Those demons had done something

to him, he was almost certain that they had. He could not utter it however; his mouth did not obey his mind.

And another thing, Vekurah had literally thrown him out from his hiding place. If it hadn’t been for her, he would probably

be unharmed. His eyes met with Conhabas… he wanted to tell it all, but he couldn’t.

 

The cheetah gave a concerned expression, walking around Costiah to look for any visible wounds. He found none,

except for the four reddened spots in the fur where Azeeka had planted his claws.

 

Conhaba:       Costiah… can you hear me?

Costiah:          (somewhat surprised snort) eh… yes, yes…  I can hear you…

Conhaba:       are you ok? What did they do to you?

 

Costiah couldn’t respond. His mouth had locked itself again, this time because he saw Vekurah slink down from the rock a

nd pad towards her. He could clearly see the malicious tint in her eyes. The hairs along his spine rose up as if someone

were pulling in them. He backed off as she approached.

 

Costiah:          no… no get her away… (Shivers) get her away from me…

Conhaba:       what are you talking about… she’s harmless.

 

The cheetress turned to Conhaba, stared at him for a second before leaping towards him and slapping him across his face

with the backside of her paw. He gazed surprised at her, seeing she had a smile printed on her face that were beaming

out a “proved you wrong” message. She then solemnly turned back to the lion and pushed him over as easily as if he had

been a little cub. She began gnawing on his ear, muttering random things as she treated him as a general chew-toy.

 

Costiah did his best to struggle, but somehow the cheetress were overpowering him.

 

Costiah:          V…Vekurah… please… let me go.

Vekurah:        (stops gnawing for a second) lighten dark space, loss of name. Rise to evil. Rise from good.

 

She leaned her muzzle to his ear again and whispered.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) I have a proposal for you, zibihi. Listen carefully, as I will not say it again.

 

She silenced, as if waiting for a response. Costiah was quick to nod, hoping it would make her continue.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) I want you to leave with your kekaba friend. If you as much as utter a word about this to

anyone, I will know… and if I know, then I will find you and drag you back here and make you live

the rest of your life here with me… live like me, understood?

 

Costiah could nothing but nod. He wanted to get away from this creature as fast as possible. She seemed even worse

than the demons now, way worse.

 

Vekurah:        (whispers) good. Although. If you want to return to me, I will be ready for you.

 

She planted several licks on his face and cheeks before backing off. He saw she was smiling to him, a devious smile.

He dared not think of what she had meant, because it felt like it was something horrible.

She then turned away from him and skipped away into the darkness, humming something horribly out of tune.

 

Conhaba quickly skipped over to the lion as soon as the cheetress had left.

 

Conhaba:       wh…

Costiah:          shut up.

Conhaba:       but…

Costiah:          We’re leaving… now.

 

Before the cheetah could object, Costiah had gotten back on his paws and began to run in the opposite direction as

Vekurah had headed. The cheetah stood as stunned for a second, the last thing Costiah had said had been an order

rather than a statement. He hurried to catch up with the lion, not daring to say anything.

 

 

Chapter XXII

Thezzin

 

The silence endured throughout the night. Costiah seemed relentless as he kept walking, his eyes firmly fixed to the

direction he had chosen. The silence was a downright unnerving experience for Conhaba. He wanted to know exactly

what had happened to his friend, but he was frightened to ask. It was like the lions’ mood had turned from bad to worse.

His body was aching for rest, but the lion showed no signs of wanting to stop.

 

Eventually, the morning broke the darkness of the night. Conhaba struggled with keeping up with the lion and keeping

from just slumping unconscious to the ground. The lion still showed no signs of tiring, and did not seem to care if

Conhaba definitely were.

 

Conhaba:       (very tired) Costiah… can’t we stop… I need to sleep.

 

The lion just continued marching as if he had an endless supply of energy.

 

Costiah:          no… not here.

 

The short answer made Conhaba bite his lip. He wondered why he was following this lion. He wanted to just stop there

and not follow him anymore, but since the last night, there was something that pulled him along. Or was it just his

imagination, he wasn’t sure. Beginning to tap of his reserves of energy, Conhaba struggled on to stay close to Costiah.

 

After a few more hours, the heat of the day started to get unbearable. Not even Costiahs relentlessness could fight it.

He reluctantly stopped in the shade of a few acacias, planting his rear firmly on the ground and keeping his eyes fixed in

the direction he intended to go. Conhaba was more than happy to stop and was quick to lie down. Soon the cheetah

drifted off into a well-deserved rest.

 

Costiah remained awake, staring at the horizon. All the time his mind had been worried about what that demon had done to him.

He felt completely different now. The demon had subconsciously told him things about him that he was not aware of.

He could easily go back and teach them all a lesson. Mark them all as they had marked him. Tearing their identities

away from them just like they had done.

 

Then he finally looked at Conhaba. The cheetah had already fallen into a deep sleep. He hadn’t realized that he had

been walking non-stop for so long. Maybe Vekurah had done something to him as well? He hadn’t though of that

until now. He followed Conhabas example, laying down and closed his eyes.

 

A sudden feeling of something breathing on his shoulder tore him from his rest. He quickly leapt up to his paws, staring

around to locate whoever it could have been. It was not Conhaba, because he was lying a bit away. He frowned as he

did not see anyone, then he looked down…

 

He saw a serval stand right in front of him, staring into his leg it seemed. He was not sure if it was another weird creature

like Vekurah so he quickly made his mind up about what to do.

 

Costiah:          who are you?

 

The serval answered to him addressing it by crawling together, trying to be as small as possible.

 

Serval:            (whimpers) please don’t kill me…

Costiah:          I won’t harm you… unless you don’t tell me who you are.

Serval:            I… you won’t hurt me?

Costiah:          (snorts) your name… now.

Serval:            oh… I am… Thezzin.

 

Costiah was content with the response. He nodded and waved the serval off with a motion of his paw.

 

Costiah:          just leave, ok?

 

He turned his back at the serval, lying down to continue his rest. He was certain that the serval would bugger off

and not return. However, just as he was about to close his eyes, he felt something bump into his hind leg.

Annoyed he sprung back to his paws, staring at the serval again. It had not gone away; instead, it had walked

straight into him.

 

Costiah:          did I not tell you to leave?

Thezzin:          please don’t hurt me…

Costiah:          Piss off!

Thezzin:          but please, don’t hurt me…

Costiah:          (very annoyed) I said, PISS… OFF! What part of it can’t get trough to your brain?

 

The serval backed up a bit, its large ears folding back to the back of its head and it looked really small and insignificant.

But it was not running away as it was supposed to, it wasn’t even trying.

 

Costiah:          What are you waiting for?

Thezzin:          but… are you sure you won’t harm me?

Costiah:          (snarls) Leave or I’ll tear your HEAD off!

 

The serval responded to the lions’ death threat by slowly backing off a few steps. Apparently appalled by the outburst,

the small spotted feline had silenced. However, Costiahs’ loud words had brought Conhaba from his sleep.

Disgruntled by being forced from his well-needed rest, the cheetah opened his eyes to see the lion threaten a serval.

The mere look on the face of the lion was enough to stall Conhaba from directly telling him to leave the small feline alone.

 

Conhaba:       gee… zibihi, what’s with the serval?

Costiah:          (glares at the cheetah) it disturbed me.

Thezzin:          please… I wish no harm to you, I beg you not to wish any harm to me.

Costiah:          (growls) Silence!

 

Conhaba walked over to the lion and watched the serval closer. There was definitely something off with it.

Something was wrong but he could not determine what it was. It was almost as if the serval wanted to be horribly mutilated.

It was something in its voice that was making him suspicious.

 

Conhaba:       zibihi… I don’t think you should… touch the serval…

Costiah:          (snaps back at him) And why not?

 

The sudden snappy response made the cheetah skip to the side in surprise.

 

Conhaba:       look at it… can’t you see there’s… something about it?

Thezzin:          please Mr. Lion, don’t hurt me. Please… I beg you.

Conhaba:       we should leave it be, it is unnatural.

Thezzin:          No! don’t leave…

 

Costiah took a shallow breath, calming his bloodlust down a little as he did give the serval an extra examining glare.

Conhaba was right, something in the features of the small feline was not right. Then he suddenly saw it.

The eyes of the serval were… clawed on. Precise cuts in each eye had robbed the feline of its sight.

He took a step back, not sure what to expect, but prepared for the worst.

Conhaba had detected the damaged eyes the serval had as well. His reaction was a sickened gasp.

 

Conhaba:       your… your eyes. What happened to them?

Thezzin:          my eyes? They…(mumbles) cross…

Costiah:          (growls lowly) speak up!

 

The serval once again shrunk to the ground as if trying to become invisible.

 

Thezzin:          Please, don’t get angry… I cannot harm you Mr. Cheetah.

Conhaba:       I am not going to hurt you, serval… … (Realizes something) what did you call me?

Thezzin:          you will not harm me, Mr. Cheetah?

Conhaba:       How do you know I am a kekaba? You’re blind!

 

The serval shrunk even deeper into its posture of utter submission.

 

Thezzin:          I… I assumed you were… you… you spoke their language.

Conhaba:       makes sense… but, You said something before that… cross-something. What was that?

Thezzin:          I… I cannot tell, Mr. Cheetah…

Costiah:          (irritated snarl) Why not? Out with it!

 

Conhaba gave Costiah a sour glare. He could not for all in the world understand why the lion was so angry.

It made no sense to him, and it had slowly gnawed at his patience to the degree where his irritation was greater

than his fear for the lion.

 

Conhaba:       Shut up, zibihi, the serval has done you nothing.

Costiah:          Don’t you dare tell me what to do, you stupid cheetah.

Conhaba:       Watch your mouth, zibihi.

 

The blood of both the lion and the cheetah had began to near the boiling point. Their words came as shouts to the

others’ face. However, Conhaba was not the one Costiahs’ anger was directed at.

 

Costiah:          I care not for what you say, I will kill that stupid serval, then I will de…

 

He turned to stare at the serval and attack it, but instead of seeing the quivering form of Thezzin, he found nothing.

It was gone and there were no traces of it. He quickly forgot everything about Conhaba and lowered his head to

sniff at the location of the serval… but he found nothing. The ground was not even warm, it was as if the serval

hadn’t been there at all. He quickly regained his posture as he stared at the cheetah.

 

Costiah:          enough of this. Go back to sleep.

 

Conhaba was confused of the sudden disappearance of the serval, but he had not forgotten his irritation with his companion,

 he had merely suppressed it for the time being. He was still aching for rest so he followed the command the lion had given.

His doubts of why he was following Costiah had grown considerably, and it alarmed him. He returned to his

previous resting spot and laid down on it. He wished he had stayed in the cheetah lands…

 

 

Chapter XXIII

The Kerkath

 

Costiah had no trouble returning to his sleep. It had just been a matter of getting comfortable and closing his eyes.

However, his dreams were more troubled. In his dream, he had been brought back to his cub hood.

All the laughter, all the fun, all his good memories were boiling in his mind along with all the tragic ones. He saw two happy

faces that he recognized. One of them were his own, the other one belonged to… Leesha. Suddenly the faces began to

burn and within a few moments they had disappeared. In the dream, he was himself as a cub. He shivered in discomfort

and turned around, away from what he had seen. He saw Aihatu. She was smiling at him.

 

He began to run towards her, he wanted comfort, but when he reached her, her smile had turned into a malicious smirk.

She looked down at him and began to laugh mercilessly as she pushed him away in a rejecting manner. Disheartened,

he turned around again, away from Aihatu.

 

This time he saw Rasawah. With a yelp of hopefulness he sprinted towards his half-brother. He could not help but notice

how regal the half-breed looked. It was as if he was beaming with a warm glow. Costiah came up to the adult half-breed

and wrapped his paws around him and began to weep into his warm fur.

The only thing Rasawah did was to glare down at the lion cub with a chilling glare.

 

Rasawah:       buko kobto zibihi… what have you done?

Costiah:          (stutters) I… I did not mean to… forgive me… please… forgive me.

Rasawah:       (ignores him) It was your fault, Costiah, don’t you dare to deny it. Azna is dead because of you, buko zibihi.

Costiah:          (whimpers) p…please Rasawah… help me… I beg you.

Rasawah:       (pushes him away forcefully) There is nothing you can do to redeem yourself, fool.

                      You are lost (hisses) you are… forfeit!

 

Costiah felt the piercing gaze of pure contempt fall upon him. He seemed to be avoided by light itself while Rasawah was

literally bathing in it.

 

Rasawah:       I am the ruler, Costiah. You are a disowned branch of my family. You have never existed to any of us.

You are Costiah (snarls) you will be greeted as an enemy, should you ever dare to return…

 

Costiah saw how Leesha walked past him, ignoring him completely as she went to greet Rasawah affectionately.

He felt a sudden rage boil inside him. Leesha had been his friend for so long, he had known her all his life, and yet she

ignored him. He watched Rasawah as the half-breed smirked condemningly at him. Costiah couldn’t stand seeing them together.

He turned around and sprinted away…

 

Suddenly he heard laughter behind him and slowly it dawned to him that it was a dream. He heard the laughs get louder and

closer until the point where he managed to open his eyes and wake up properly. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and

raised his head slightly. The first think he saw was Conhaba sit and laugh together with two lionesses. Annoyed at the mere

sight, he turned away from them and covered his ears with his paws. He was definitely not in the mood for laughing.

 

Conhaba on the other hand was busy telling jokes and funny stories to the lionesses, much to the ladies amusement.

 

Lioness1:        (giggle snorts) oh you’re just too hilarious, Conhaba.

Lioness2:        (chuckles) where do you get it all from?

Conhaba:       (smirks) can’t tell you, my ladies.

Lioness1:        (still giggling) aw, come on Conhaba

 

Both lionesses gave him a pleading look, which only made his smirk widen even more.

 

Lioness2:        please?

Lioness1:        Pretty please with a gazelle on top?

Conhaba:       (shakes head, smirking) cot zibihi, I just can’t tell you, my lovely ladies. It’s a secret.

Lioness2:        oh really?

 

The two lionesses nodded to each other and began to poke and prod the cheetah, repeating their demand.

Conhaba couldn’t help but laughing as the lionesses began to tickle him.

 

Lioness1:        (giggles) out with it, Conhaba

Conhaba:       (laughs and squirms) All right, all right! You win Muzih. Please (laughs) you win!

 

Costiah raised his head, glaring at the trio, obviously feeling agony just watching them. He saw one of the lionesses pin the

cheetah to the ground, something that he seemed to enjoy greatly.

 

Lioness2:        (giggles) let us hear then, Conhaba.

Muzih:            we’re all ears.

Conhaba:       gee, just give me a second, my ladies.

Muzih:            alright (smirks) let him up, Bithemi.

 

The lioness named Bithemi reluctantly let go of the cheetah and let him up. Conhaba took as much time as he could to get up.

 

Conhaba:       ziech zibihi…

Bithemi:          (perks her ears towards him) we’re waiting.

Conhaba:       ok ok… (Whispers secretly) it’s my spots… they’re telling me things

 

He ended the whisper with giving them a wink. It took the lionesses a few moments to figure it out, and then they both

gave out a shriek of laughter. Costiah quickly covered his ears again, groaning with displeasure of the noise.

However, his noises just attracted the attention of the lionesses.

 

Bithemi:          oh look, the sleeping one is awake.

Muzih:            ah, at last. (Grins) Conhaba! Introduce us.

 

Costiah sighed and rose up to a sitting posture. He knew they would not leave him alone now.

He fixed his gray eyes on the lionesses.

 

Conhaba:       very well. My ladies, that is Costiah. Costiah, this is Bithemi and Muzih.

Bithemi:          pleased to meet you, Costiah.

Muzih:            (giggles) a friend of Conhaba can’t be that bad.

 

The lion gave out a snort-like sigh. He was not in the mood for talking to anyone. He gave them a nod each before

turning away from them, quite visibly ignoring them. He hoped that was signal enough for them to understand that he

did not want to be bothered any further. However, his ignoring of them seemed to be an insult to the lionesses.

 

Bithemi:          what’s with him?

Conhaba:       (sighs silently) I don’t know really, he never told me.

Muzih:            what kind of friend is he?

 

Costiah quickly turned his head towards the lionesses, it was obvious that they could not take the blunt hint he had given

them by turning away from them. Would it be so difficult to understand that he did not want to talk?

 

Costiah:          (glares at them) Why should I tell anything? It is none of your business!

 

The two lionesses blinked silently as they met his gaze, unsure of what to say or do. Conhaba watched the lion as well,

he was not sure, but he thought himself seeing that the lions’ eyes had changed slightly, as if there were a barely

noticeable glow in the pupils.

 

Bithemi:          Excuse me, sourpuss, I was just curious.

Muzih:            you don’t need to snap at us like that either.

Costiah:          (snaps back) I snap all that I want to. I did not ask for your presence, you can all go to hell!

 

With having said that, he stomped angrily away form the lionesses and cheetah, his tail flicking violently in anger.

Muzih looked at Bithemi and shrugged, the other lioness did likewise.

 

Muzih:            Conhaba… why do you bother following that hothead around anyway?

Conhaba:       (looks at the ground) I don’t know really…

Bithemi:          then, why don’t you just leave him to rot in his own anger? You could stick around with us if you like.

 

Conhaba grinned nervously. He truly did not know why he stuck around Costiah. The lion was nothing but rude, moody

and very unpredictable. But there was something that tugged at him by the very core of his being.

 

Conhaba:       now that is an interesting proposal, my ladies.

Muzih:            (nods) take it or leave it.

Bithemi:          just think of all the fun we’ll have.

 

The lioness gave him a playful wink and a grin.

 

Conhaba:       (looks devious) so… I can choose between Costiah…and the two of the prettiest zibihi I ever laid my eyes on…

a tough choice (he smirked) I think I’d rather stick with the two of you.

Bithemi:          (chuckles) a wise choice, spotty.

 

A brief moment later, the two lionesses were playfully tickling the cheetah again, much to his pleasure it seemed.

 

From a distance, Costiah could still hear the laughter. It sickened him to hear it. He felt as if he wanted to stomp out

every trace of happiness in the world. He turned around and snorted with contempt at the distant felines. At least he

did not have to drag that stupid cheetah around any longer so he could continue down the path of oblivion that he had

been forced onto. He ignored the little fragile thought in his mind that implored him to go back. He was not going back,

not now. When he returned, it would be in a full fury. They would feel the sharp end of his anger.

Content with his own reasoning, he turned north and started a somewhat quick trot.

 

After only a few minutes he came to a stop. He had seen a cheetah sit on a large boulder and stare down at him. Its gaze was

unforgiving and foreboding, but it did not say anything or move. Costiah ignored it as he walked past the rock. As he came

past the cheetah, he noticed that the boulder did not have any visible points where it could be scaled, and he began to wonder

how the cheetah had gotten up there in the first place. His curiosity got the better of him and he turned around.

 

He peered at the large stone, then at the cheetah. The cheetah was still glaring at him, only having turned its head.

 

Costiah:          (shouts) Hey you!

 

The cheetah did not respond. Its eerie eyes just fixed onto the lions. Costiah walked around the rock and discovered that

there were indeed no places to get up on it, and it was too tall to jump up. It was puzzling him because to his knowledge

cheetahs were not very skilled at climbing. The cheetahs’ gaze fell heavily upon him, but he did not fear it even if his mind was

telling him that he could have feared it. It was confusing him.

 

Costiah:          (shouts) Yoah, Kekaba!

 

He tried again, this using one of the few phrases of the cheetine language that he knew. This time, the cheetah blinked,

and instead of the eyes it have had before, they were now strangely dark golden with a glowing red rim around the

bright white pupils. The unnatural colours would have been intimidating to anyone else, but to Costiah, they felt more

familiar than anything else.

 

Cheetah:         so, you speak the language of the lost, don’t you?

 

The voice was strangely normal, lacking any expected dark tones or evil touch; the only thing that was off about it was

that it lacked a distinct gender. Costiah braced himself. He did not know what this cheetah was, so he’d better play it safe.

His gaze met the cheetahs’ and he instantly felt how the cheetah seemed to read his mind.

 

Cheetah:         (smirks slightly) interesting… there’s taint in you, nameless one. Enough taint to be critical even.

Costiah:          who are you?

 

Costiah’s demand seemed to have been expected, as the cheetah responded before he had a chance to complete his inquiry.

 

Cheetah:         Kitone.

Costiah:          very well Ki…

Kitone:           (cuts him off) you should turn back and backtrack the path you have chosen, nameless one.

Costiah:          my path is none of your concern Kito…

Kitone:           (cuts him off again) You have a choice still, nameless one.

 

Costiah felt offended by the way the cheetah kept cutting him off. It was not just that Kitone spoke when he did, it

seemed like he was unable to speak once the cheetah had started. He kept his gaze fixed upon the strange eyes of the

cheetah, determined not to look away.

 

Costiah:          If I had a choice, I would have made it long ago. Do you understand, Kit…

Kitone:           (cuts him off once again) You are as blind as the rest of you who are bordering to damnation, namel…

Costiah:          (cuts Kitone off) Do you understand? And don’t cut me off, Kiton…

Kitone:           (cuts him off effortlessly) Silence! You are barely worthy of knowing my name, less uttering it.

Heed my command, mortal, or we shall meet again. Turn away from your path, as you are not welcome

among those at its destination.

 

The cheetah then opened its mouth and seemed to utter a noise, but instead of sound, Costiah got the feeling of things

crawling beneath his skin. He shivered uncomfortably as it was not a pleasant sensation. He was hearing things with his

complexion. Kitone was speaking to him, to his body, and he understood what was being said. It was a dire warning.

As suddenly as it had begun, the strange feeling vanished as the cheetah closed its mouth.

 

Kitone:           I know you understood the meaning, Costiah, no one are welcome to be what you are heading towards.

Fare thee well!

 

The cheetah then just vanished before Costiahs eyes. Where the sleek feline had been just a moment ago, there was now

nothing but empty air. The sudden disappearance was unsettling, but strangely enough, the visage of the cheetah had just

strengthened his determination. No one should order him around anymore, not even a cheetah with unnatural eyes.

However, a sudden sleepiness flooded his mind, and before he knew it, he had slumped to the ground.

 

Chapter XXIV

The Last Dream

 

Costiah found himself back in time, to the time when he had been a cub. He sat on the very top of the priderock that

had once been his home. He was alone up there. He slowly let his gaze wander across the seemingly endless plains that

unfolded beneath him.

 

As he beheld the Pridelands, he suddenly noticed someone sitting next to him. At first it creeped him out and

made a cold chill run down his spine. He did not dare to turn his head at first, but then he finally gathered courage.

As he turned to face whomever it was, he saw a very familiar face.

 

Costiah:          Sidun?

 

He watched the other cub in silence. He knew that it was his former twin-brother who was sitting there with him.

Sidun just watched him silently, seeming to be more like a ghostly visage than a real cub.

 

Costiah:          Sidun…

 

He paused. He did not know what to say, something had popped up in his mind. The last time he had seen

Sidun in a dream, he had given him some very poor advice. It was Sidun who had told him to do those things that

had made things go so horribly wrong.

The ghost of Sidun continued to watch him silently… it almost seemed sad.

 

Sidun:             no brother. You needn’t speak. It is I who should explain things.

Costiah:          yes… Explain. Why?

Sidun:             Kikafu, it was not me you saw in that dream, it was a demon that wanted you dead.

 

Costiah sent a suspicious glare at the ghost. He did not want to trust this specter of his past. He felt a deep anger

suddenly burn within his chest. A hate directed towards Sidun.

 

Costiah:          (snaps) I am not Kikafu… I am Costiah now, all thanks to you.

Sidun:             please Kiká, let me explain…

Costiah:          (cuts him off) You have nothing to tell me, you traitor. You betrayed my trust!

Sidun:             Kikafu! Listen to me! It was not I who told you to…

Costiah:          Silence! It is your fault, you bastard, if you weren’t dead already, I’d kill you.

 

Costiah trembled visibly in anger as he gazed hatefully at his twin brother. He felt his mind be consumed by a strange

soothing force. A wicked grin flashed across his face. The ghost seemed to become sadder than before,

which only made Costiah feel even better.

 

Sidun:             Kikafu… please come back. They want to forgive you and let you back in. You are not the nameless one;

you are my brother, Kikafu. Please brother; the path you’ve turned in on will forever separate us.

Please Kikafu… I beg you…

Costiah:          (hisses angrily) No one will tell me what to do. Not you, not anyone. Be gone from my life,

you’re no longer a part of it.

Sidun:             no, Kikafu… please…

 

Costiah had tackled the ghost before it could complete its sentence. Strangely enough, he was able to touch and topple

the ghost over. He felt strangely powerful now, as if the world would tremble at his command. A wicked grin flashed

across his face again as he began to push the ghost of his brother towards the edge of the rock. He saw the panic and

sorrow in his brothers’ face grow as the distance to the edge shrunk. It did not stir any emotion within his mind;

it only made him feel even better.

 

Sidun:             please…

 

Without responding, Costiah effortlessly pushed the ghost out over the edge. With a deep satisfaction he saw as his

brother fell down from the Pride rock, leaving him alone again. He felt better than he had for a long time.

 

As Sidun vanished from visibility, so did the scenery. Costiah slowly woke up and found him back in the place where

he had just encountered that weird cheetah. He slowly got up, still grinning wickedly. He had effectively severed the

last link to his past by expelling the vision of his brother from his mind. He peered towards the south, but he didn’t see

anything, so he decided to continue on.

 

He was just about to leave as he noticed a slight anomaly in the air right ahead of him. He wasn’t sure why he

could see it, as it was just slightly different from the air itself. He could make out the shape of something that

had the size of a cub… and something floating right next to it. He narrowed his eyes as he made a guess as to

what it was. It had to be the miserable demons that had spared him earlier.

 

Costiah:          (hisses) don’t bother trying to hide. I can see you.

 

He spoke right out at the shapes, and he saw how they attempted to hide in the grass, but to no avail.

He held his gaze firmly fixed on them. He walked confidently towards them. He did not fear them for some

odd reason. It felt like they were inferior to him. He walked right up to them and simply pushed the larger of the

shapes over, feeling his paw hit something fuzzy, and also causing the affected shape to curse loudly.

 

Costiah:          tsk tsk tsk… pathetic!

 

The shapes changed to be the solid forms of the demon Azeeka and his companion Keikam.  The floating fiend was

leering towards Azeeka with a scornful expression.

 

Keikam:         aw look at that, little half-blood maggot-spawn got detected.

Azeeka:          shut up, you angelic halo.

Costiah:          (snarls) that’s enough, Shut up!

 

The commanding voice from the lion made both the evil creatures freeze in the mid of their talk.

Costiah were glaring them down with a heavy stare, making Azeeka shiver slightly.

 

Costiah:          that’s better. Now, Piss off!

 

He watched scornfully as the leopard demon got up again and began to limp away, muttering to himself.

 

Azeeka:          (mutters) you are just too lucky to survive a Kerkath…

 

Costiah had heard the remark the leopard had made and easily leapt towards Azeeka, knocking him over again.

 

Costiah:          What did you say??

Azeeka:          (cringes) I said nothing!

Costiah:          (snarls) I heard you. You said something about a Kerkath.

Keikam:         (rolls her eyes) A Kerkath, cheetine arch-demon. You just met one of them, lion, and you are still standing.

Costiah:          (very skeptic) oh really… if that was an arch-demon, then I am a god.

Azeeka:          Maybe you are too lucky for your own good, lion.

 

Azeekas snappy comment caused Costiah’s snarl to deepen.

 

Costiah:          that is enough! Leave before I beat you to death with that worm-friend of yours.

 

He allowed Azeeka to get up again, watching the demon looking anything but dignified. The red eyes of the

demon glinted with anger, but it did not concern Costiah. He was not afraid of these pathetic creatures.

 

Azeeka:          very well… But your friend will pay for your insolence!

Before Costiah had a chance to reply, the demon vanished and the serpentine Keikam likewise.

He sat silent for a moment pondering on what Azeeka had meant. He had no friends… or did he? Then it dawned to

him that Azeeka had to be referring to Conhaba who was not with him. Why would he care about the cheetah anyway,

he thought. A slight guilt started to gnaw at his mind and he stood for a moment, considering his options. Then he broke

off into a quick run in the direction he had come from, determined to reach the cheetah before the leopard demon.

 

 

Chapter XXV

Minions

 

Conhaba felt oddly alone even if he was in the company of the two lionesses. He was missing Costiah for some odd reason,

and he silently wished that the lion could be there to share all the fun with him. Even if he had just been separated from the

lion for a few hours, it felt like it had been months.

Muzih was not late to notice that the cheetah seemed thoughtful. She nudged him gently with her paw.

 

Muzih:            Conhaba… What’s up?

Bithemi:          why so gloomy?

Conhaba:       I… I don’t know.

 

Muzih studied the cheetah for a moment, seeming to try to puzzle him out.

 

Muzih:            you aren’t missing that grumpy lion are you?

 

Conhaba thought about it, maybe he was missing Costiah. But he didn’t understand why. Muzih slowly nudged

him on his cheek with her nose.

 

Conhaba:       maybe… I don’t know. Why should I miss him?

 

He felt having said that seemed to hurt his mind. He felt like he wanted to stand up and scream.

 

He got as far as standing up, and then he felt something sit on his shoulders and gnaw on his ear.

It wasn’t any of the lionesses, because they were right before him and were looking horrified. With a yelp he shook

himself violently, causing whatever it was on his back to fall off. He froze in horror as his gaze met the evil eyes of Azeeka.

 

Azeeka:          (grins widely) Why hello cheetah. Having fun with your little lionesses?


Conhaba managed to gather himself enough to display a snarl against Azeeka, and this made the two lionesses snarl as well.

 

Azeeka:          now-now, why the hostility? (Chuckles) Oh yeah, you think I’m about to kill your sorry hides, don’t you?

Muzih:            (snarls) we have no quarrel with you, demon, leave us be!

Azeeka:          oh, not with any of you two lovely ladies (grins) but your little half-blood lover has!

 

Conhaba felt how something slithered up along his leg. With a yelp he threw himself backwards and jerked his

leg to get rid of whatever it was. He was not successful as he felt how the thing slithered up around his neck and

ended up curled around his head like some sort of crown. He slowly looked up and stared at the cold eyes of the

serpentine fiend Keikam.

 

The cheetah tried to shake his head violently to get rid of the fiend, but he was not successful. However, before

either of the two evil creatures could do anything, Costiah came running towards the little gathering. The first thing

Conhaba noticed was that the lions’ eyes seemed to glow faintly. The sudden appearance of Costiah made

Keikam slide off the cheetahs’ head. Something about the charging lion seemed to affect the two demonic creatures.

 

Keikam:         (stutters) Azeeka… he’s turned!

Azeeka:          tzeh!

 

Before Costiah had come anywhere near them, the demonic creatures turned on their heels and fled rather swiftly from

the scene. When Costiah saw that Conhaba was no longer in peril, he slowed down to a trot. When he finally

approached the three remaining cats, it became clear that his eyes were slightly different.

Conhaba and the two lionesses watched the lion silently, almost as if his mere presence had robbed them of their voices.

The lion came up to them and watched them silently for a few moments, until the cheetah snapped out of the silence.

 

Conhaba:       (to Costiah) Zibihi!

Costiah:          Yes, I can hear you; you don’t need to shout right in my face.

Conhaba:       (lowers his voice) I’m sorry… I just… those… creatures

Costiah:          (cuts him off) they’re nothing. See how they fled like cowards.

 

Conhaba silenced, dropping his gaze to the ground. He was at loss of words. The lions’ words seemed to make so

much sense that he almost felt ashamed of being afraid of Azeeka. And still, there was something troubling about the

way he had said it. He raised his gaze to watch his two new lioness friends, and they were both gazing at him.

 

Bithemi:          Conhaba…

Costiah:          (cuts her off) follow me, Conhaba.

 

The words felt so completely overwhelming that his voice had uttered its response almost before he had heard the

complete sentence. He almost felt compelled to bow down, but he managed not to.

 

Conhaba:       ban, Costiah… (Pauses) can… Bithemi and Muzih come with us?

 

His voice had shrunk in volume, almost as if he did not want to provoke the lions’ wrath in any way.

He did not know why, but the mere presence of the scarred lion made him feel strange now.

He watched Costiah with a compelling gaze, and the lion answered with only silence.

 

Bithemi:          Conhaba will be safe with us!

Costiah:          And how safe did you just keep him?

The lioness silenced as Costiah just had shut her up with a piece of obvious fact.

 

Costiah:          As for your question, cheetah, they can come along… if they want to.

 

He sent a quick glare at each of the lionesses, watching them nod in acknowledgement.

To Conhaba’s surprise, the lion then gave a small smile and nodded slowly.

 

Costiah:          seems like they made their minds up.

 

He then simply turned away, aimed his direction towards the east and began to march away. Slowly and reluctantly,

the two lionesses and the cheetah got up and followed the scarred lion towards the east.

 

 

Chapter XXVI

The Shade Duo

 

As the time passed by, the quartet made their way trough one section of high grass to another in what seemed infinity.

Costiah was in the lead, and the three others almost followed him like cubs following their mother. Conhaba was in doubt

of himself as he followed the lion. There was something that had changed utterly about his friend. Something strange about

his voice and his eyes, but no matter how closely he listened or looked, he could see no difference from before.

It was disturbing him greatly, and he had a feeling gnawing within, a feeling that resembled of panic, but he was still in

full control of his limbs… or so it felt like. He wasn’t sure if his mind was still within his control. It almost made him feel ill.

 

After what seemed to be an eternity of walking, Costiah finally came to a halt. The lion sat down heavily, and then almost

collapsed onto his side. Conhaba felt reluctant to actually go see if it had been on purpose or not, but then he saw the lion

send him a glare that made him think differently. The two lionesses came up and stood on either side of Conhaba,

both giving him questioning and curious gazes, as if he knew what had suddenly happened to the lion.

 

Conhaba:       Costiah… are we going to rest here?

 

His voice seemed timid and weak; it felt strange and unnatural. The lion turned his head to him again, then giving a nod.

Conhaba turned to the lionesses, but before he could say anything, Bithemi spoke.

 

Bithemi:          All right… we’ll go find something to eat. I think I saw something earlier.

Muzih:            yes… you want to come with us, Conhaba?

 

Conhaba answered with a rather agreeing gaze, but then he shook his head.

 

Conhaba:       cot… I’ll stay here and… watch over him.

Bithemi:          (nods) All right. We’ll be back before you know it, sweet spot.

 

The lioness attempted a giggle, but it seemed bland and artificial. She then sighed and nodded towards the way they

had come from. Muzih nodded as well, turning away from the cheetah and the lion and soon the lionesses had vanished.

 

Costiah remained laying on the ground, almost as if he was resting, but he did not seem to be comfortable.

He looked rather disturbed. Conhaba just remained where he was, sitting down on his haunches. It all felt so unreal to him,

Costiah’s sudden appearance in his life and the just as sudden changes that had come with it. He felt more uncomfortable

now than he had ever done before in his life, and the gnawing feeling in his chest did not make it any better.

It was almost as if he feared Costiah now.

 

He was interrupted in his thoughts by a sudden noise coming from nearby. It couldn’t be his lioness companions,

as they had left the other direction. Out of instinct he let out a warning-chirp to get Costiah’s attention.

 

Conhaba:       Costiah, we have company!

Costiah:          (uninterested) where?

 

The lions’ response seemed hollow and without any attention. Conhaba peered anxiously out into the tall grass from

where the noise had its origin. Then he suddenly heard a voice speak from the same location.

 

Voice:            Right here!

Conhaba:       Show yourself!

 

He felt like his voice did not have any authority at all. But to his surprise, the owner of the voice obeyed, and a

moment later he saw a young leopardess emerge from the grass, closely followed by a young leopard.

Costiah did not pay the two strangers any attention what so ever.

 

Conhaba:       Two hafuhs, eh? Just head on, we won’t stay long.

Leopardess:   right… we won’t stay long either… Come Mne, we’ll leave those two to their own business.

Leopard:        wait Gandu… (Watches the lion for a few seconds, then looks at the cheetah) you called him Costiah,

didn’t you?

Conhaba:       that is correct, hafuh.

Leopard:        is there any reason that you call him the Nameless?

Costiah:          quite simple, he IS nameless. I don’t know why you’re asking.

Leopard:        just curious, kekaba… just curious.

 

He noticed that the leopard gazed straight into his eyes, and they had an odd yellow color. He blinked twice, as the

leopards’ eyes seemed to shift between different yellowish colors. Then it struck him that the leopard had spoken

cheetine words.

 

Conhaba:       you use words of my language, hafuh.

Leopard:        ban, kekaba. Ki does know your language quite well.

 

Conhaba noticed the leopardess lose interest for him and the leopard and turned to Costiah, who only glared

apathetically at her. She looked at him for a moment before she turned her gaze to him. He was about to gasp,

when the leopard started babbling to him about the various aspects of the cheetine language. Happy to speak about

something familiar to him, he indulged the odd leopard.

 

He did not notice that the leopardess tried to speak with Costiah, nor that she did not get much of a response from him.

Eventually she came over to the leopard and prodded him in the side, interrupting a very deep discussion about Madun.

 

Leopardess:   right, we’ll move on now Mne.

Leopard:        Ki agree… (Turns to Conhaba) It was nice talking to you, kekaba.

Conhaba:       well, I was surprised that a hafuh knew so much about our ancestral lore.

Leopard:        well then… Mizhk then, Kekaba.

Conhaba:       Mizhk, hafuh.

 

He watched as the two leopards walked away, leaving him alone with Costiah again.

He did feel a little better now, for some odd reason. Maybe seeing the two rather normal leopards had soothed his

mind a little. But he was still unsure of what to think; he lay down, resting his nose against one of his paws, closing his

eyes tightly. He wanted to think happy thoughts now. He wanted to feel comfortable and safe, but the only thing that

came to his mind was destruction and despair. He whimpered silently, not wanting to disturb Costiah.

 

This was truly a nightmare.

 

 

Epilogue:

 

Near the location where Costiah had saved Costiah, the leopon demon Azeeka sat, muttering silently.

Keikam was floating before him in the shape of an ‘8’, studying him closely.

 

Azeeka:          Tzeh! I cannot believe it. That… wimp… is a Zirkath!

Keikam:         (corrects him) he’s about to become one, he isn’t one… yet.

Azeeka:          That’s not the point, worm. A Zirkath…

Keikam:         come on, it’s not like you to be jealous, stain-fur. A zirkath’s business is not for us to interfere with.

 

The leopon half-demon glared sourly at the floating fiend. Then he flashed a rather unhappy expression.

 

Azeeka:          he knows our names, worm, and whom do you think he’ll come after once he’s completely turned?

Keikam:         (swallows)… us.

Azeeka:          exactly. He will come and kill us.

 

Azeeka watched the leopon half-demon anxiously, her body twitching slightly.

 

Keikam:         so… we’re screwed, aren’t we?

Azeeka:          maybe not… we could… ‘make’ things happen the way we want them to.

Keikam:         (glares curiously) what do you mean?

Azeeka:          oh (grins deviously) you’ll see… you’ll see, worm…

 

The leopon snickered sinisterly before stalking off in the direction that he had seen Costiah leave in.

Keikam remained floating in the air for a moment, shivering slightly, before she drifted after the feline.

 

What Azeeka had in mind, she had no clue about, but whatever it was, it sure seemed to be sinister,

and it had better save their lives from the wrath of a zirkath.

 

 

The end of Part Two

 

I started writing this part the 11:th November 2003 and it was finished the 24:th November 2005.

The long time since the last part is blamed on a lazy author.

 

Sigurd Engerström.