Vikali - Chanua, Umivu, Saiha, Bayana, Afnu,
Ujinga, Kimajo, Njaa, Msaada
Balana - Nabana
"Nya nya nya nya nyah nyah! Can't catch me!" "You just wait!" It is the morning, and the large African sun fills the Kupotea Grasslands with its warm glow, not only in brightness but in a satisfying heat - not too gentle, not too strong. As such, Queen Bayana and Kimajo have decided to get up early and take the pridal cubs up to the northern border, which always is particularly pleasent early on in the day. Along with the lionesses and the trio of cubs came two males, each of them eager to have a chance to look after the little ones while getting time with just them and their beloveds here. Chanua and Umivu are playing about in the shallows, a water-based version of 'Tag'; Saiha is sitting in a refined position a safe distance away to avoid any splash damage; Queen Bayana and her love Afnu lie in the shade; and Prince Ujinga rests out in the sunny grasses along with the lioness whom he fancies - Kimajo.
Were Nadhifu alive to see Nabana now, he almost might not recognize the male. Nabana has slimmed down, primarily in weight that he kept on by being a pridal, though his muscle tone has changed as well. It's less of the pure bulky muscle for strength, but more lean muscle that comes with stamina. His mane is also somewhat smaller, primarily the portion on his chest and back. He doesn't seem to have spent much time taking care of it or the rest of his pelt, and it sticks up haphazardly along his neck. He's too far off to have noticed the pride, just making his way closer to the scent of water. Should his form be visible, his head and tail are lowered, shoulders sagging, almost taking on a shamed posture.
"So... Bayana. Have you talked to King Msaada yet?" Afnu tilts his head inquistively towards his mate, to which she gives an affirmative nod. "I'll be announcing it publically in a few days time. I'll make sure I've brought in a big kill so everyone's nicely fed and can't put up much fuss when I decide to tell them." Chuckling, the dark-furred youth nuzzles into the queen gently. Meanwhile, a little distance away, Ujinga rises from his position beside Kimajo, then walks up to sit just beside the dignant Saiha. "So... why aren't you playing in the mud or the water with the other cubs?" he asks the younger male, who replies in his strictly learnt feminine voice, "It gets my fur dirty, and I don't like my fur dirty." "Well, if you get your fur dirty, that just means you get to have more cuddles and grooms with your Auntie Kimajo, doesn't it?" "I don't want dirty fur. I want to stare at that lion over there." The golden prince's eyebrows raise and he lets out a faint chuckle, before turning in the direction indicated and asks, "The lion where..." Spotting Nabana, he grunts a warning to the cubs to come back away from the water, then rises along with Msaada's Queen to eye the rogue curiously.
Though he's still a little while off, Nabana hears the grunt and gives his head the slightest of lifts, ears swiveling forward. Once he's seen that it seems to be a pride, his head drops again and he resumes his approach. There's no hesitation in his step, and in fact he adjusts his position to head over towards the other lions in the area. His steps seem to grow a little more purposeful, but his head remains lowered, posture not changing otherwise.
The Kupotea Pride hasn't had to deal with rogues before, though they have heard of them, tales... one of them killed one of their members, Kubwa. So understandably, Ujinga is a little nervous but the queen remains relatively calm, at least outwards. "Chanua, Saiha, Umivu, go sit over with Kimajo and Afnu." Three cubs look up over to the adolescent lion, then obey his orders and retreat immediately to the safety of the two non-royal cats. Raising the volume of her voice and stepping forward slightly, Bayana calls towards the foreign lion, "Can we help you? What is your business here?"
The lion continues his approach, eventually lifting his gaze from the ground before him, to focus on Bayana and Ujinga, since they're the ones who seem to be handling the situation. He doesn't even spare a glance towards the cubs. He also doesn't speak, and probably comes a little closer to the pair than would normally be considered comfortable for a stranger. Once he's crossed that threshold, however, he lowers his head in a little bit more of a bow than where he had it pathetically drooping, and speaks in a bassy voice, and a low tone. "I ask to know the name of this territory," the male intones, his gaze remaining set on the pair.
"This is the Kupotea Grasslands," Ujinga informs the exiled male, but while his gaze is wary Bayana's is curious. "What is your name, lion? Judging by your appearance, I take it you must be a rogue... are you from near here? And chin up, there's a good male." she adds, not a fan of all this bowing nonsense that she had to wave away when the two prides first merged. Following the queen's more relaxed handling, the prince chips in, "Take some water first if need be."
... there's a good male? What an odd thing to say. However, Ujinga's words got to him first, and his ears flatten back into his mane, form deflating a little bit as he lets out a resigned sigh, his voice lowering to just above a murmur. "I prefer to withold my name for the time being... but I need to speak to your king." At the offer of water, he inclines his head slightly to Ujinga, and gets back up, almost slinking over to the river's border, and crouching down for a drink. He is thirsty, after all.
As if on cue, the moment Nabana bends down for a drink the three cubs walk out from behind Kimajo and peer over at the rogue suspiciously. "He looks scruffy." "He looks smelly!" "He looks both!" "Ahem." The lioness in charge of them looks around to them with an 'is that appropriate?' look on her muzzle, to which they all reply with apologetic grins as they settle down. Ujinga makes a step closer towards the new lion, then seats himself in a hopefully regal position before asking, "Which one?" then Bayana leads on with, "We have two kings, Msaada and Njaa."
This would have to be even more difficult now, wouldn't it? As if just getting here wasn't difficult enough, now he's got to have this put off even longer. He pauses in his drink to look aside at Ujinga. "Whichever one of them... or both if it so happens to be that way... may have known Nadhifu." It's at that point that he returns to his drink.
"You would want King Njaa then," the royal male says, "My father. If you want to follow after you have taken your fill, we can take you to see him. It's probably time these cubs returned home for their lunch, anyhow." The cubs all start to speak at once now, all pawing and asking questions of Kimajo about what it is they're eating, what bits will be left, can they hurry so it's still warm... as they continue on and on, Afnu and Kimajo give in to their demands by rising to her paws, then start heading off downstream in a brisk trot. "I'll tell Uncle Njaa to expect a visitor!" Afnu calls back over to the remaining three lions, his voice becoming more distant as he tries to encourage the cubs to run back.
The male's ears twitch as he listens to Ujinga speaking to him, but he takes his time at the water's edge. He probably takes longer than really necessary, and ends up looking at his reflection in a bit of a lost fashion. It's not too late to turn tail and run... but what would his son think of him? If he fails here... he pretty much may as well keep going. Not because of what it means to this pride, but because of what it means for himself and his future. Eventually he straightens himself up again, turning to move towards the pair of remaining leonines. "At your lead," he says.
So... a visitor. A rogue lion. "He's really scruffy-" "Yeah, and smelly-" "And he looks like has hasn't washed since dad was a cub!" King Njaa frowns down at the gaggle of cubs interrupting his though time, then waves them off to go play with their father. King Msaada is rather more relaxed than his brown-maned counterpart in this case, for instead of ponderous thinkings he is floating out in the shallows, just deep enough so he doesn't touch the bottom, his mane fanning out about him. The majordomo, Epsi, is out hunting insects, so that leaves Njaa brooding... that is, until Queen Bayana, his son, and the rogue come into sight. He rises to his paws atop the large, flat rock he likes to come and think on, but also because it adds to his air of majesty... he thinks. Greeting grunts are exchanged between father and son when the small party draw nearer, while Bayana informs Nabana in a low voice, "This is King Njaa. He's quite nice, so he shouldn't bite your head off as long as you place nice."
During the trek, Nabana tries to figure out just how he wants to approach this. He'd really just as soon keep his posture how it is. He doesn't much feel like trying to pull his dignity together. The male has pretty much hit rock bottom, and he knows it. He definitely wasn't ready for his little visit to his homeland. No, he's got a lot to deal with before he tries that again... and now is the start of things. An ear twitches towards Bayana, and Nabana simply nods to her. But his gaze lifts up towards Njaa, and for now he just waits until it seems he ought to speak up.
King Njaa raises his head slightly and on signal, Bayana and Ujinga retreat to opposing sides of the monarch's rock. The less formal and more curious pair, Kimajo and Afnu, sit not far away, drawn by their curiosity. The Lion King looks down at the bedraggled male and addresses him in a clear voice, "You wandered in from the northern savannah. You declined to give Queen Bayana or Prince Ujinga your name, and where you are from. And you asked to speak to the king who knew Nadhifu. I ask, what have you to say?"
To stay standing, or to sit? He's tired. He'll sit. All the while, his gaze remains locked on Njaa, to the point that it might start to get a bit eerie after a while. He takes in a sharp breath, clearly hesitant and a bit unsure where to begin... but eventually, he finds somewhere to start and continues speaking in the same low tone. "If I am to understand correctly, this is formerly the home of a young lioness by the name of Vikali, and also that of the the lion Nadhifu. As for myself... I'm from the far north. Formerly of the pride that Vikali relocated to. The story behind what has brought me this far is of a personal nature, and not especially relevant to the nature of my visit."
At the mention of Vikali's name, the members of the original Kupotea Pride perk up their ears and look to the stranger attentively. Their eyes go wider still when they hear of Nadhifu... well, they had heard from Epsi the incidents that had happened, including the cub's uncle travelling to get her, but that's all and from the slightly jaded view of the swallow. "You speak of things we know yet hide those we do not," comments the king cryptically, "Continue, lion."
Whether he notices the others or not is hard to say. If he does, Nabana doesn't acknowledge them. "On a side note, to perhaps put some fears aside, my presence is not for bringing ill news of Vikali--last I saw of her, she was happy and healthy and had taken an interest in my nephew, my brother Mzohari's son. He's the king of the Kopje Valley." As if it really matters, especially since... "... but I no longer represent my brother's pride. My purpose for coming here is as a starting point to atone for some of my past sins. When Nadhifu got it in his mind to bring Vikali back, he ended up taking a cub hostage in an attempt to get past me at our border. That cub was my son. And it was in seeing Nadhifu's treatment of my son that I set it in my core that I would see his end or die trying."
If their is a reaction from the Lion King, it would be the slight raising of his brow and a sterner look coming into his eyes. But before Nabana can conclude his explanation, he twists his head to one side and barks out in a warning tone, "Afnu!" The adolescent had risen to his paws and had started to march towards Nabana, an angry look in his eyes - that is, until Bayana rushes over and places herself in front of him. Working with Kimajo, they manage to keep the male at bay and from waltzing right up to the visitor to attack him - the king seems to think they have done a satisfactory job, at least, for he then turns back to Nadhifu and rumbles, "Continue."
As Njaa looks aside to Afnu, Nabana's gaze drifts away from the king to land on the adolescent, whom he looks at for several long moments. "His son," he finally says, stating it rather than asking. He doesn't have to ask. Turning his amber gaze back on Njaa, the male continues. "Tangaza--my son--put up a fight, and in an effort to get him to stop, Nadhifu shook him and knocked him against the ground with a ferocity that I thought surely had been the end of my son. He let him go and went on, still determined to find Vikali and take her back. He found her hiding in the caves with one of the lionesses. It probably could have ended non-fatally, at least for the time being..." Nabana takes in a breath and finishes his explanation... "... but I gave in to my desire for revenge. My name is Nabana--and I am the lion that took that young lion's father from him."
It's only the stern gaze of his love and Kimajo that keeps Afnu back, all other things reasons why he shouldn't attack are disregarded. He can't just talk about his father like that, he can't... "Murderer!" the black-maned male shouts, his whole body starting to tense up and prompting a worried look to be exchanged between the two lionesses holding him back. But then the second Kupotea King makes his presence known - Msaada, with his fur sopping wet and dripping water, comes up from behind Afnu, then flops onto his back. Feeling relieved, Bayana and Kimajo draw back a few paces. The younger king of the grasslands places a firm paw around the male who he is sitting upon's muzzle, then presses it slightly into the ground so Afnu cannot interrupt any further. Njaa has not taken his eyes off the confessing lion for one second, though now he descends from his plinth and walks up towards the rogue, stopping less than a foreleg's reach away. "You seek atonement for the murder of one of our pride, Nabana?"
Aside from an occasional twitch of an ear or tail, Nabana doesn't make any movement, not taking his own gaze away from Njaa even as the king comes so close. "I come to answer for one of the sins I have committed over the years," he confirms to Njaa. "I will not, however, answer to a charge of murder. Wrongful death, yes--for it was also in defense of my pride and my son against a lion who had made a prior attempt to take Vikali when she did not want to go with him, and who also refused our offers to explain himself and speak things over peacefully. Aside from what that swallow and Nadhifu had apparently told her, Vikali had no recollection of who he even was."
The king raises a paw and gestures it low, to the side before shaking his head. "Wrongful death and murder end up the same for our pride; a son whose father will never come home and a mate who has to mourn him. But you shall not answer for murder, for Nadhifu was in the wrong." Njaa turns to one side and makes a few steps in that direction, then turns, pacing as his mind works. After about a minute he stops walking and tilts his head to Nabana, an enigmatic look on his face. "I have a solution that should satisfy both of our needs, if you would be willing to hear it."
The end may be the same for their pride, but they do not mean the same for him. Murder is a far more serious charge, and he knows not if this king is the sort that believes in a life for a life. That he's not willing to give. He's quiet as Njaa goes on and paces, his amber gaze not leaving the local monarch. He gives a simple, single nod of assent to indicate that he's willing.
Njaa turns to face the rogue Nabana fully with something oddly similar to a smile on his lips for the briefest of seconds, then his look returns to vaguelly curious. "My pride lost a lion; you are a lion who has lost his pride. Take Nadhifu's place here, become one of the pride, join in the patrols, daily life, mingle with us... and I will consider your sin atoned."
Oh. Well, along the same lines as what Nabana thought he might say, but not quite what the male was thinking. He definitely doesn't jump at it right away. "If it were merely another pride I were seeking, I would not have traveled so far," he responds. "How long of a term are you speaking? I could not commit to something indefinite--eventually I intend to return to the Kopje Valley. However..." His head lowers slightly. "... I have a lot of healing to do before that day comes."
The king regards Nabana thoughtfully, before turning his head as Queen Bayana trots over to whisper into his ear. It's a lengthy whisper. A few minutes later, she backs off once more and Njaa resumes his walking, though this time it is in a slow circle around the rogue. "A minimum period of two moons is what I ask for. You may stay longer if you wish, but after then you may leave the pride. Upon the second pass of the rogue's hindquarters, he also comments, "And it would do us well to have another non-related lion in the pride. We are rather isolated, as you probably could tell upon your arrival here."
That's significantly less than what Nabana thought the answer would be. He again doesn't respond immediately... but does ultimately nod his head in assent. "I had noticed. Though I'm not so sure that I'd be the one to help expand your gene pool," the lion says carefully. After all, he's gotten himself in trouble more than enough with that.
Njaa dips his head slightly, then runs his gaze from the underside of his tail to Nabana's chest. Not a bad build... "I do hope you will consider it... apart from Naima, pretty much any lioness who is interested in you and vice versa has permission to copulate with you. With that, we are pretty free hear. Naima, however, is the former king Uhodari's mate, and he is very protective, so she's a special case. But I can think of at least three lionesses that are capable of going into heat..." The monarch concludes his investigations then nods at the peach-hued feline. "Do you accept my offer?"
Now why didn't he come here a couple moons earlier? He would probably have quite gladly given cubs to every single one of the lionesses. "Understood," the lion says of the lionesses, his gaze settling back on Njaa as he gives another single nod. "I accept," he says quietly, not quite sure how to feel about it all. But at the least, it's only for two moons. He's been gone from Kopje longer than that, possibly even twice as long.
A smile finally breaks out on Njaa's muzzle and he offers a much friendlier, "Splendid! Now, you look like you haven't had a good bath in some time if you don't mind me saying, so do feel free to use the river just down there. The lionesses should be back soon with something to eat. And Afnu," the king then calls over, looking towards the subdued male as Msaada shifts his forepaw, allowing the dark-maned cat to reply, "You've now heard both Epsi and Nabana's explanation of why he killed your father. It was in self defense of his family. Now will you forgive him and promise to behave?" Afnu continues to glare up at the rogue, then mutters an audible, "Forgive..." before continuing in a louder voice, "I promise to behave. Forgiveness will take some more time." Msaada seems satisfied with this, so he lifts himself off the adolescent, who promptly scurries off towards the large hill and away from the newcomer.
There's a vague glance over at the river as it's motioned, but Nabana doesn't seem too inclined to move towards it. Now, however, he does look over at Afnu as Msaada lets him speak and then lets him up. "I don't expect his forgiveness. There might be progress made if he no longer glares when my time to go has arrived."
King Njaa offers his departing nephew an affectionate frown, then comments idly, "You talk too full of sadness and with not enough joy, Nabana. And if my eyes are not mistaken, the lionesses are returning back with their kill - do get yourself looking vaguelly presentable while I go inform them of what's going on." With that, he nods curtly to the new pride member and turns to go trot towards the four huntresses in the not-so-far distance, already grunting greetings off to them. Apparently the meeting has been closed.
Apparently. No comment is made to Njaa's observation, but soon enough Nabana turns and moves over towards the river, putting a bit of distance between him and the others. It'll take him a while to get presentable, that's for sure. Truth be told, right now he'd rather just be left alone. It may not be for long, but for now... he'll take it.