Penzi'Kali paced back and forth outside the small earthen den that he had helped dig for one of his many expecting mates recently. This particular one, Usiku'ua, was one of his most, if not the most, beloved of his mates. Penzi had a very large territory to defend and so he had very little time to spend with all his various mates, but the prolific leopard always insisted that he be present when any of his numerous offspring were born. Such was the case today.
He had not heard so much as a groan from inside the den since Usiku had felt the impending birth of the litter she carried and had secluded herself there. Penzi would normally have been inside the den with his mate, but Usiku forbade him from entering. Normally, he would have shrugged off the request and entered anyway. His name meant Strong Willed, and it fit him to a "T". But where his beloved Night Flower was concerned, he was only too willing to bend.
At last, the cry of newborn cubs wafted to him on the night air and he could not delay himself any longer. Stopping his pacing, he headed straight for the den's root-framed entrance; but was stopped before he got there by a soft female voice from inside. "They have arrived, Penzi..." it called, soft as a breeze. A smile spreading across the leopard's muzzle, he slowly entered the small den.
As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, the form of his cherished mate lying in one corner became clear, then brightened to include the five small newborn cubs surrounding her. Four had already found their way to Usiku's belly instinctively to suckle, but one remained between the leopardess' paws. This one was much larger than his siblings and seemed somewhat more subdued. While his siblings cried out blindly into the night, he was content to simply lie there as if gathering strength for the hard road ahead.
Usiku was gazing down at this odd one out with a soft smile, purring quietly to him as her mate arrived at her side. Penzi looked down at the litter with quiet pride in his steely gray eyes. Five, he noted: a personal record. And all fine, healthy looking cubs. Yes, these were certainly...hold a moment. As the leopard's eyes adjusted fully to the dim den's light, he could make out the cubs' coats now. The four suckling at his mate's belly were normal leopards to a one. But this one that was not crying, nor attempting to suckle, was as pitch black as the moonless night.
The two parents exchanged looks: the father one of surprise, the mother one of knowing. "He is special, my little shadow." Usiku spoke softly at length. Penzi looked once more at the panther cub. Never before had one of his turned out a shadowcat. Shadowcats had a reputation for being loners. Mysterious, callous, and often times secretive, the black leopards were nearly a species of their own. He had heard of lion prides claiming one as an advisor before. . .and rarely, something darker. Penzi found himself with mixed emotions concerning this development. He too felt that this cub would be special, but he did not find himself liking the idea of a shadowcat as his son. As he was raising his gaze to speak his concerns, one more look at his beloved Usiku'ua nuzzling the tiny little cub lovingly melted the iron-willed leopard's heart and drove all apprehension from his mind. If his son was a shadow, then so be it.
"I think I know what this one shall be called, my strong-willed love." Usiku said softly, breaking Penzi from his musings. The leopard smiled to his mate and nuzzled her gently. "And what might that be, my lovely night flower?" he said equally quiet. "My little shadow does not cry out as his siblings.", the leopardess replied, "He seems to know much though he is barely from my womb. His name, is Kivuli'Nyamaa." she said softly, licking the newborn cub gently. "Kivuli'Nyamaa...Silent Shadow..." echoed the leopard as he nuzzled his mate. He found that he liked it.