| It was about this
time that Kwasi had fully grown, and was getting into
even more scuffles with Nuru. They had steered clear of
blows, but their vitriolic humor and attitudes trickled
down into both their families, causing misery on both
sides. Nalia was often alone while Kwasi left to sulk or
let his anger ebb. I never saw him angry, thank the
stars, but I could feel it when Nalia's heartbeat rose
and fell with the pains that his absence brought her. I
amused myself with the cubs, teaching them little things
and playing with them. They were incredibly bright and
energetic and provided Nalia and I with much joy with the
non-appearance of Kwasi.
Often though, I found myself yearning, wanting for that which I did not understand. For the answers I turned elsewhere, particularly to my newfound love Lukesia. Our coming into being as a couple had it's intense turmoil as well. Because of a pridal war, I was disallowed to see her for several moons. When I had returned to seek her out, I found that she was with my good friend Changa and deeply in love. Needless to say, or describe for that matter, I was crushed beyond my wildest dreams and raced desperately from the scene to erase the memory of the two together.
The notable thing that occurred here was my discovery of what I termed my 'special place'. While pummeling through the bushes like a panthress on dreamberries, the ground suddenly left my paws and I slid in an undignified manner down through deep underbrush. Several seconds of falling ended abruptly when I crashed into mother earth with a dull and somewhat wet thud. After checking myself for missing injuries I looked back up the slope from where I slid. It was an easy climb back up, but a long one. I must have fallen into a pit, or down into a valley. Standing, I shook myself off and took in my surroundings.
Stepping towards the center I could feel the ground give, as if suspended on a thick layer of water. The trees reached to the sky like animals waving their paws in grief at a terrible loss; they ended embracing a small circle of sky that allowed a ray of light to stream through and onto me; a gift from the heavens. A small pool where water had coagulated positioned to my right gave me an opportunity to quench the gnawing thirst that consumed me. The water was fresh, but still somewhat brackish as if composed purely of tears. Dreary and depressed branches drooped and dripped water from an invisible source, like tears falling from the muzzle of nature itself. I immediately took a liking to this place, not so much because I enjoyed it but because it suited my mood at the time. Here, it seemed as if the whole world was crying with you whereas all you received were idle sympathies from those outside.
I stayed here for several days, making my peace with what had transpired between me and my cubhood love. I had hardly begun to think when he showed up. A swift wind from the east caused me to turn away momentarily and make eye contact with the specter. I stood quickly in surprise at the lion before me.
"My apologies sir, I did not know this area was inhabited." The lion chuckled deeply and in that moment, there was a passing of tensions and a rising of a very large knot in my throat. He looked at me with a slight smile and I could not help but smile back, if not weakly.
"Still having trouble son? I am sorry to see you in such pain." I wanted to rush over to him and embrace him, yet I still had the feeling that I should stand firm.
"I-I am father." I looked down ashamedly, "I really wish you were still with me." Msmangu shook his heavily maned head and padded over to me.
"Pain is a part of lion life, Siombe, and love is pain, young one." I looked surprised.
"How did you..?"
"I have been watching you from above Siombe, you know I have. I am always watching you, and I know about Lukesia and all the trouble you have been feeling over the situation." I suddenly felt sick and flopped to the ground looking away from him. He put a very real paw on my shoulder that shocked me into looking at his face. In this moment, a look told more than words could begin to say. I felt him, and I felt his strength for a instant. I looked to the side; it was one of those times that you realize that the best solutions are found in silence and solitude.
"Father," I said as I looked back at him, "Thank you." Msmangu smiled for a moment before his form began to fade. I felt an instant of panic. "No! Don't go yet!" His voice floated over at me as his body slowly began to fade.
"I am with you Siombe, a part of you. Look within, and you will always win." The body faded more and I bit deeply into my lip as the head finally flickered and vanished, leaving two floating orbs staring deeply into mine. A painful moment passed, where I can remember finding my father's exit ironic. For the next few moments I remained there, and added another soft note to the chorus of dripping trees.
Lukesia and Changa eventually broke up, and I was fortunate enough to be the next suitor. Lukesia and I had a very interesting relationship, but that belongs in another story. Kwasi found new lands and moved the family there. We became the royal family of the Kopje Valley, a valley that turned out, ironically, to be the same one where I was visited by my father. I became a prince and could not have been more pleased. Around this time Kwasi took it upon himself to be with us more and attempted to stop his politics. Unfortunately, it did not work and the real shock of my life came one morning, when my mate to be and her friend were waiting for me to wake up. Needless to say, I was shocked.
"Lukesia? Narina? What's wrong?" Lukesia looked at Narina and then they both looked to me. Their quiet demeanor made me very squeamish, and when Lukesia spoke, I felt even more sick.
"Brace yourself Siombe, something terrible has happened." At these words my heart raced; what had happened?! A hyena attack? A fire somewhere? Someone I cared about in a fight? A thousand things raced through my head. Then, Lukesia spoke again, saying that which I never expected, or wanted to hear. I gulped.
"Kwasi is dead." She paused with a sad look at me, "I'm sorry." Never before had I experienced such a push of blood through my body, never before had I such a pain in my heart, and never before had I experienced such a shock than at this moment. I was so stunned that I did not even have enough wit about me to cry. I did not know what to do. I was thrown into a world of colors and meaningless images that swirled about my head like a mad swarm of bees. It was as if my entire world came down at that moment. My mind was a worthless blob of goo suspended in my head. Then came the anger; a pulsating, throbbing, intolerable anger that made my eardrums beat out a singular tune: REVENGE. I jumped to my feet, dry eyes and stone-faced.
"Who did this." I asked in a solid tone. "Who killed him?" Narina shook her head.
"It was a group of them, lead by a lion named Naiko." I saw red that moment. Naiko was one of two new rogues that were around the pridelands. Kwasi never trusted them, and rightfully so, because they proved to be not only deceitful, but dangerously cunning as well. They had never been on good terms, and the two lions had taken a liking to tormenting Kwasi. Unfortunately for him, Kwasi was not too popular at the time, and the two lions masterfully turned the popular dislike into dissent and led a group against Kwasi that night. Unfortunately, I was only an adolescent and there was no way that I could defeat a fully grown lion as big as Naiko.
While my mind raced, my countenance hardened. Some invisible force from above grabbed me and held me firm at the moment that I could have fallen forever. It was as if something was triggered in me; some quality or attribute that I never knew existed, was born into my soul at that precise moment. Neither tears nor fear were in my mind at the moment. There was only one thing I could think of. I took charge.
"Lukesia, Narina. Gather all lionesses at the promontory in the valley. Get Nalia to meet me on the cliff summit first. Find all pride officers and get them to the promontory." The two lionesses nodded and took off to complete their assigned tasks leaving me alone for the moment. I glanced to the sky quickly and then raced for the promontory trying to run off the energy that had built in my muscles. Much had to be done, and so little time. The dream had to survive, and somehow I realized it was up to me to do that.
Looking down from the cliff summit, I could see the animals gathering on the promontory below. The kings were merciful, and kept me focused on the task at hand. Telling Nalia was going to be the hardest thing that I could possibly think of. She and Kwasi were so close, and so was I. I guesses it would be better that I break her heart, and hopefully we could come through it together. Her soft footfalls caught my ear as she approached from behind. I turned quickly.
"Hello mom." Nalia looked worried.
"Siombe, why have you called everyone together? And where is your father, he didn't come home last night?" I felt a moment of weakness as the question was asked, but I tightened my resolve and looked at Nalia as steadily as I could.
"He is gone, murdered last night by Naiko and his group." I fully expected Nalia to break down at that moment. Instead, I saw her face constrict for a moment, then return to a semi-normal gaze that rested on me. She nodded quickly.
"You must tell the pride son, you must be king now." She spoke simply and turned. And just like that, she passed on the torch onto me. I shook my head, happy at her resolve but yet still sad at the grim task I had to do next. We padded down to the promontory together. As we arrived the hushed mumblings of pride members ceased and they looked to us. I didn't even make eye contact as I scaled the raised rock that served as a platform. Then, turning slowly towards the group, I spoke.
"As many of you know, or have heard rumor of, Kwasi has been killed. I am sorry to have to be the one to report it to those who did not know. But, despite his absence, the pride must go on. His dream must live, and I intend to see that it does. With your help, we can all overcome this crippling loss and make this pride what he wanted it to be." I paused, feeling a slight waver in my voice. "May the kings receive him with kindness." An eerie silence followed my words, one which words alone cannot express. After letting the silence linger for a moment, I took the last step between prince and king; I roared to the sky, and before long the heavens was filled with the din of pridal sorrow.
Later that day, after I had spent many hours comforting the pride and the various members, I went alone to the savannah grasslands of our pride. The sun was beginning to set like a great red orb beyond the horizon. I looked up. There was a sort of peace left after it all, a supernatural peace that came into my body. While resting, and processing what had just happened, I heard a sob break the silence of the dusk. Twisting my ears to the sound, I pushed my way through the grasses, silently trying to identify who was making the sound. Peeking my head through the bush, I made out Nalia's form lying on the ground in a heap of tears. I padded over silently and put a paw on her shoulder, giving her a quick start. When she saw it was me, she calmed slightly, and resumed her silent tears.
"I can't believe he's gone. My love, my dear, dear love." she cried. For some reason, I remained stolid and patted her shoulder. She had been trying to help heal the pride all day, and I am sure it was wearing her thin because she had lost a mate instead of just a leader and friend. I tried to sound soothing.
"We can get through this mom, I know we can. We just have to put this loss behind us." Nalia put a paw on my own and nodded, lapsing into tears again. Her sobs attacked my ears like a harsh sound, shaking my soul with the same power and vigor as the hyena attack on my father. Feeling a moment of insecurity, I laid next to her, and wrapped my paws around her in a gesture of comfort. She leaned back into my growing mane, wetting my fur thoroughly but I didn't care. Nalia stood silently after a few moment and licked the tears from her face.
"I must go, the hunt is on tonight and I must lead." Nodding sadly, I watched her pass out of view. I could see that she was in pain, but at least she realized that we had to move on. With a deep sigh, I turned my eyes skyward, wishing for some inspiration. Fortunately, my call was answered.
"Siombe..." A voice rumbled through the sky. My eyes widened slightly and I stood.
"Kwasi? Is that you?" Like the first rays of sunshine forming in the morning, the form of the familiar lion appeared in front of me. I was not new to such visits, but to see him again caused enough shock for me to gape openly. He smiled warmly and nodded.
"Siombe, son. I am sorry this had to happen." I shook my head and looked at him sadly.
"Oh dad, why did you have to die? Why now? When there is so much work to be done?" Kwasi shook his heavily maned head several times before speaking to me again.
"I cannot explain why this happened son, nor will I attempt to. The great kings of the past work in mysterious ways, ways which we are not to question, nor doubt." I looked down when he paused and sighed before looking up at him again. His form began to rise off the ground slowly, and merged to the form of one large head looking down on me from a cloud in the sky.
"Wait! Dad! Don't leave me yet!" Kwasi continued to fade away from me.
"I will be here Siombe, in spirit. You must carry on the dream, you must not let what we worked for die. Trust yourself son, you can do this. Let go of this tragedy, or else it will consume you, and make you do the wrong thing. Above all Siombe, remember me, and do not forget what we have been through together. You are king of the Kopje Valley with my blessings. Make me proud son..." he called lightly on the wind as his form completely disappeared.
I looked up to the sky where my dad had once been. Just like that, he was here, and he was gone. It was up to me now, to carry on that which he had dreamed for all his life. I hovered for a moment, unsure of what to even think. Reflecting on his words, I realized that I had not even allowed myself to mourn his passing. It hit home that he was not coming back, and that he was gone for good. My inhibitions left me and my composure quickly followed as I collapsed on the ground, pouring the pain in my soul out of my eyes.