THE ROMANCE OF
NAHIFU AND UTAMU
Vikali - Nadhifu, Mahubi, Epsi, Utamu, Njaa, Vikali
Kousho - Utamu, Kousho
Balana - Balana, Nabana
Kizingo - Kizingo
Khairi - Khairi
Tangaza - Tangaza
Utamu writhes on her back on the ground, nnnnnnn! Her face twisted in concentration as she tried to get a hold of herself. She is the throws of her heat and with her mate Kubwa on border patrol, she has two sources of irritation: She couldn't relieve this burning desire she felt for a lion's belly against her back and his breath against her neck... and that meant she would have to wait to have a litter of cubs... She so wants Kubwa's little ones inside her. Damn it!
Not far away, Nadhifu lies concealed within one of the shrubs that litter this part of the grasslands where the pride makes their home, but he does far more than simply lie there. Frequently he has to start grooming his paws, just to keep himself calm. Over the past weeks... no, who is he kidding? The past months Nadhifu has started to grow more and more affectionate towards Utamu. In his eyes, she is the most beautiful lioness in the whole pride, even more so than his mate Mahubi. Just everything about her makes his heart leap into his throat... and with the most tantalizing scent rising from her, it is not only the lump in his throat that makes him feel nervous.
Utamu stood up and began to pace back and forth, her tail lashing, she almost felt aggressive she was so frustrated with the way things were turning out... she knows her mate has to fullfill his pridal duties as a male but... isn't tending to her one of his duties also?!
Nadhifu can't stand to watch his sweetheart fall into such a mood like this and chooses now to stand up, fervently glad that he now finds it a lot easier to move his hindlegs now - much more so than earlier - then decides to call out gently, "Utamu?" before stepping carefully and slowly out of the bushes towards her.
Utamu turns and her ears flush, "What?! O-Oh... Hello Nadhifu... I've been... a little stressed lately. Is there something you needed?" She forces a smile at the male and tries to concentrate on something other then how large and oddly handsome he looks to her right now.
Nadhifu dips his head to the lioness cordially, still moving slowly towards her until he is just about a length away; there he stops. "I- I know Utamu. I was wondering if- if perhaps I could give you some company... someone you could talk to." he stumbles out, the lion's own ears flushing a most deep hue.
Utamu sighs and looks away, seeming a little flustered - she had just been thinking that maybe Nadhifu would be good company... but in a slightly different way. "O-Oh... Well yes Nadhifu but... I don't know if you can understand what I am going through right now..."
Nadhifu takes the opportunity of his fancied looking away to step right up to her now and to place one of his forelegs around his shoulders, half-hugging her to him. When he does this, he is immensely relieved he is looking away, for surely should would notice the embarrassment in his face. Why couldn't he just have nuzzled her? Much simpler, far less obviously affectionate. Too much and she may simple just swat him.
Utamu blinks and her body responds to the embrace before her mind even fully digests what is going on. She lowers herself slightly and pins her ears back, her tail jerking to the side as her scent grows stronger while she growls for a moment. "RrrrrrR... Uh... oh my, I'm so embarrassed!"
Nadhifu leans down to his lioness and brushes his muzzle over her forehead, a paw slowly caressing the brilliantly soft neck for of hers and then moving it higher still to brush against her prominant cheek ruffs. "Utamu... please don't be. I never want you to be embarrased in front of me. My dear, do you know how long I have had feelings for you? Surely you can smell them now, of all times?"
Utamu blinks and blushes, then gently nuzzles back into Nadhifu's mane, purring softly as she murmurs, "Nadhifu... I.... please... take me and make me yours for tonight." She pushes her head up under his chin and closes her eyes, nipping along his jawline in a soft loving way, "This will be our secret from Kubwa and the pride... we musn't let anyone know that we...." She stops, not finishing the statement.
Nadhifu raises his head up while his greatest desire nibbles along his muzzle, bringing forth a soft moan from his lips and a strong yet tender nuzzle against her neck. "Oh Utamu... this will be our secret, and tonight you will give me the greatest pleasure I can imagine..." He plants a warm lick on Utamu's cheek before moving around to behind her, then steps over her as he gets into position. Before he starts, however, the lion leans forward to whisper, "Utamu, I love you more than life itself... tonight will be a night I shall remember till my final breath." Then he gently grasps his beloved's nape in his teeth, lowers his haunches, and willfully follows the call of the wild.
Utamu lay on the ground, her body shaking and her breath coming in pants and gasp. She and the wonderful lion behind her had mated to the point of roaring not once... but three times, and to say they are both at the end of their endurance for now was an understatement. She leans back and looks adoringly up at the handsome male, then takes his forepaw with her's and gently slips it down to her belly, nipping his mane as she sighed softly, "Oh Nadhifu... that was amazing.... Darling, don't worry, I'll never tell Kubwa... he doesn't need to know."
Nadhifu is almost in a state of shock. Had... had that really happened? His body is gripped with tension, yet at the same time he is so terribly weary... that had been one exhausted exercise. Wait, three exhausted exercises... He moved forward to lick across his lover's forehead when she looks back to him, then leans his head against hers when she pulls him down to her level. "Utamu, I... I had no idea there was such joy in the world to be had with you... and I'll never tell Mahubi, either. I... I'm sorry we can't formally be mates... but do know that I shall always love you, wherever you are, whatever you're doing." The male does not remove his paw from his dear Utamu's belly, nor does he break away from the snuggle, not until his tiredness gets the better of him and he takes a seat beside her, leaning into her with content finally present within his heart.
Utamu smiles and gives soft giggles of delight as she nuzzles and is nuzzles by her pride sisters, all of them congratulating her as they talk excitedly about what is to come. She has just told the pride she is carrying cubs and they could be expecting some new little ones in the coming months. "Thank you everyone for being so supportive., I don't mind saying I'm very excited about it myself."
Just out from the gaggle of fawning lionesses stands the father, undoubtably the father, yet none but him and his love will ever know that. His muzzle wobbles and tears fill his gentle green eyes, betraying the welling pride within him. His beloved is with cub. He will have a cub, and he shall love her more than any others in the whole world. Nadhifu dips his head as a soft chuckle escapes his lips, for while his joy is great so is his sorrow, for his offspring will never be able to call him 'daddy'.
Utamu nuzzles another lioness and while she and the other female exchange excited affection, she looks up and her heart goes out toward her secret love, feeling also his regret at not being able to be a father to their child.
Nadhifu looks up at that second and the two lovers lock eyes, his own staring deep into Utamu's crimson red ones... then before the other lionesses catch him looking at the taken female with such adoration, mouths 'I love you' and turns away, heading for his favourite sunny rock so the females can enjoy Utamu's full attention.
Utamu lies on her side and closes her eyes, she is several weeks along in her pregnancy now and she could feel the tiny life inside her kicking and moving. She has her own paw lying on her swollen stomach as she alternately purred and sang to the cub inside her. Although uncomfortable and sometimes sick, she keeps thinking to the future, when that little ball of fluff would leave the protection of her body and need her to care for it. That would be the best day, when she could touch it... hold it, nurse it and nuzzle it. She looks forward to hearing that small squeaky voice call her 'mommy' and call out for her attention. It makes her heart nearly skip a beat in joy. She hopes the little one could feel her love for it even as it kicks inside her.
Good, the lionesses have gone out hunting again. And if he remembers what Jaburu had said correctly, Uhodari is going off on pridal business to sort a few disputes out concerning one of the zebra herds and the impala, bringing along Kubwa and Njaa for the experience. Nadhifu had played the sick card and that's the reason why he now walks up to Utamu, unafraid of being seen, then leans down to nuzzle into her neck before lathering her in sweet kisses from his tongue.
Utamu opens her eyes and looks up in surprise as the male begins to show her affection. Then a smile crosses her muzzle and she offers the handsome male a few kisses of her own, purring as she pointedly takes his forepaw and places it against her belly with a whispered, "This is yours... Don't worry... I'm keeping it safe."
Nadhifu smiles as he places his forepaw over the bulge in her stomach, then lets out a very cubbish giggle when he feels a faint thud against the wall of his beloved's womb. "Tammy, can you feel it? It kicked!" he exclaims with barely controlled excitement, looking to and from his dear lioness' face and her belly with a chuckle, "Oh, with a kick like that it's got to be a girl."
Utamu giggles lightly at Nadhifu's cub-like enthusiasm, "Yes Hifu dear, I felt it. I feel it moving all the time. And if we are having a daughter she is certainly energetic." She thinks for a moment and then lightly brushes her paw across the male's face, "Nadhifu, I've been thinking of naming her Vikali..." The lioness, even in her mode of speech, seems to have decided it is a female cub as well.
Nadhifu lies down on the ground beside his lover, gazing at the round bulge while he gently caresses it, pondering the name curiously. "Vikali... they wild..." He snorts out a burst of laughter at the meaning of the chosen name, then turns to grin up at his lioness, "Tammy, it sounds perfect. She must have been kicking lots for you to have pick that!"
Utamu blushes and nods, "She sometimes keeps mommy awake nights because she refuses to settle down... when she actually is done and comes out she will be a little terror to put down for a nap, I can tell already." She leans forward and gives her lover another kiss on the cheek, murmuring, "I love it when you call me that..."
Nadhifu accepts the kiss with a gentle smile on his lips, then he reciprocates by planting one of his own across the bridge of her tan-furred muzzle. "I love it when you do that... and you know what, Tammy?" he murmurs, head moving upwards to nuzzle under her neck, "I think Vikali and me will end up having a lot in common together..."
Utamu lies on her side, looking down at her new daughter as the tiny female cub nurses and kneeds her while purring. She purrs back, both bonding with her cub and letting the little one know that everything is fine and mommy is right there with her.
A pinkish nose quivers near the entrance of the den, followed by a pair of pale green irises that try to perceive the relative darkness of the area his beloved is resting in. The stench of blood, placenta, and afterbirth fills the room, yet through it all Nadhifu cannot detect any other leonine scent but that of his Tammy. He takes a tentative step into the dark and asks quietly, "Is it safe?"
Utamu smiles up at the true father of her baby, "Yes dear... come in and see your new daughter." The lioness has cleaned herself up as much as possible and had eaten the afterbirth as he instinct had directed her too, but still the enclosed area is flooded with the scent of newborn cub and all that goes with it.
To ones of a more delicate disposition, entering a cave filled with the smells this one possesses would be like asking an elephant to try flying. But upon catching sight of his daughter, Nadhifu would happily live here for the rest of his life. He pads softly over to the two most treasured things in his life and whispers, "Oh, Tammy... she's so beautiful... she looks just like you! Look how small and precious she is..." The lion crouches down onto all fours and dips his muzzle to stroke it along the cub Vikali's back, joining in to make a trio of purrers.
Utamu smiles as she watches the little cub and the lion she loves, her eyes getting a little watery as she feels her heart brimming over with love at the sight of father and daughter. "Oh Nadhifu... I-I'm so happy..."
Resting out on a shade-covered rock he tends to frequent lies Nadhifu, a troubled look visible on his muzzle. It was barely two weeks ago when his second daughter, Nusara, had died following a wildehond attack... He sighs heavily and closes his eyes, full of grief at how he failed to protect his cherised daughter in her moment of need. She had been so little and sweet...
Utamu has just returned with the lionesses from a hunt, the pride that fills her heart and the pleasure she gets from feeding her family is slowly sinking however as she wandered around the pridal cave area. Vikali was nowhere to be found. As the lioness goes round and round about the area, her happiness gradually gives way to rising panic.
The male heaves a shuddering sigh, then lets his shoulders slump down either side of him, allowing something to be noticed just in the corner of his vision. Nadhifu turns to spot his precious darling looking most distraught, so with a frown leaps down from his rock and trots hastily over towards her. "Tam- Tamu, what's wrong?" he asks quickly, disguising his slip of the romantic name 'Tammy' to a more formal version.
Utamu looks up, her face now filled with worry, so soon after the pride had lost one cub she was terrified her own daughter might be out there all alone... maybe dead already. "I-I can't find Vikali!" she squeaks in distress, her voice cracking, then lifting her head so that the rest of the pride hears she shouts it, "I can't find Vikali! Somebody help me look for her!" The panic in her voice now.
Nadhifu stares open-mouthed in shock and horror at his beloved, so worried he even forgets to breathe. "No... NO! Vikali!" he cries out, his gaze sweeping in a circle around them as his eyes start to tear up. No, please... not his daughter. Please... He lifts up his head and roars from their sorrow, then shouts for a lioness that frequents the dens most days, "Mahubi! Come with me and take the western plains!" before leaning close to bump cheeks with his beloved. "Utamu, you have to search with Kubwa, for the sake of appearance. Please, I will find our daughter, no matter what."
Utamu nods, whispering, "Y-yes dear..." Then louder to reinforce the idea that she is thanking Nadhifu rather then being tender with him, "Thank you so much Nadhifu! I know Kubwa will thank you for helping us find our little girl too!" She then wheels and starts away calling for her mate in an anguished voice, "Kubwa! KUBWA! Vikali is missing! Nadhifu and Mahubi are going to help search!"
"I'm coming Nad- Nadhifu, slow down!" Mahubi's calls float after the now running male as she sprints past the fearful mother, her paws struggling to keep up with him. A little ahead, Nadhifu's eyes have started to flood with tears as unbidden images of finding the little cub's body torn by hyenas, jackals, or worse. No. He won't give in. He will find her! He will not give up!
"... you're leaving." Nadhifu had known it the instant Utamu had come to see him, just from the sorrow in her eyes and slowness of her step. Vikali had failed to be discovered and two nights ago while out searching for her, Kubwa didn't return. The lioness before him had found his body the next day. Apparently is was an attack by a rogue, yet while such information should gladden him, would allow him to finally become Utamu's official mate, it grieves him so deeply the extent that his beloved has suffered by it.
Utamu stops with on paw still raised, her mouth hanging open as she freezes in the middle of starting to speak, then she looks about for a moment as if she was lost before lowering her ears, tears standing in her them. "Y-yes... I must find my... our daughter Nadhifu. It's too painful to be without her. I did love Kubwa... just as I love you darling. You were both strong, brave and kind males... but our innocent cub is out there all alone. I-I feel terrible. Kubwa lost his life looking for our cub... he loved her just as much as we did even though she wasn't his. If he could sacrifice himself for her... Nadhifu what are we still doing here? Can't we... shouldn't we at least do that much? She actually IS our cub."
Nadhifu steps forward to nuzzle against the lioness, his second most important thought at the moment to try and keep her from hurting. "Tammy, there's nothing I want more than to run off with you to find our cub, so we can all be happy once more... but I... I fear Mahubi is pregnant. She keeps giving me 'the look' and has started to pick up the habits you did when we... Tammy, I want to find Vikali, really I do... she's our little baby girl. She's the most precious thing to me and I'm sure to you in the world. But I can't leave Mahubi all by herself, not to raise cubs all on her own... and think of what the pride would say if I did."
Utamu nuzzles back and purrs still with tears in her eyes, "I know lover, I know I wasn't saying you should go with me. I know you have to stay with Mahubi... the same way I had to stand by Kubwa's side. Mahubi is a wonderful lioness and I don't wish her ill. I just wanted to tell you at least before I went. I'll do my best to find Vikali and bring her back to us. I promise my love."
Tears silently flooding his eyes also, Nadhifu tries to hide his sadness from the most beautiful female, then throws up a foreleg to embrace her tightly to him. "Tammy, please find her soon... I couldn't bare life without the two of you for very long. I'll think of you every night, stay up for when you and our daughter come running back through the grasses... I'll never stop thinking of you two."
Utamu gives a soft sob and buries her face into his mane, whimpering and giving a softer moan, "Nadhifu... I swear I'll be back as soon as I can!" With that she tears herself away from the male she loves so dearly, knowing that if she stays in his forelegs much longer she wouldn't be able to leave. She runs towards the edge of the pridal lands and doesn't stop.
Utamu had been walking for... how many suns? Oh she had forgotten... it seemed forever, yet she would not allow herself to stop. Her daughter was out there somewhere... maybe hurt, maybe dyi- No! She couldn't let that thought enter her mind! Vikali was alive, somewhere. And Utamu was going to find her and bring her back home. The determined mother lioness kept walking, she had been taking care of herself though... if she found Vikali and her little cub was in troubles she had to be in a shape to help. Yet four moons of placing one paw in front of the other was beginning to wear on her.
Whilst gliding about in the air currents over new, unexplored lands is fun, it only remains so for so many suns. Epsi is beginning to feel the strain too and it's only his wish to avoid adding any more weight for Utamu to carry that stops him from alighting on her back and going to sleep. He gives his wings a rare flap and looks from left to right across the marvellous vista. It is the evening, and his dear friend below now walks across what has a ridge in the land, offering both fantastic views and a terrible drop to those who lack care. The avian swoops down, gives his wings a flap to slow himself down, then alights on the lioness' shoulder. "Utamu, you really should stop for a day and get some food in you. You're looking terribly thin."
The lioness glances at her dear friend and offers him a slight smile and noses his dark feathers affectionately, he had been with her for as long as she could remember, it was almost like having a family member with wings. They had traveled through life together and although she was getting tired and there was the increasing danger of a misstep she purred at the avian, "Thank you Epsi, you are a good friend, I'll stop soon...just a little farther." She directs her eyes forward again, still lifting her heavy paws one step at a time, "What about you... I'm sure it must be tiring for you flapping about up there all day?"
"Me? Oh, it can get a little tiresome, but it's worth doing so to help you out, after al- stop!" The small avian squawks the word out to his friend with a rustle of his wings to show the importance. "Utamu, look over there!" Just under half a mile further down the ridge is an impala herd, not a very large one mind, but still... "You start doing your sneaking thing and I'll fly up ahead, I'll circle around any youngsters or elders so you know which ones to pick off!" And with that, the swallow beats his wings and rises up into the air, off towards the ungulates.
Utamu smiles after the male avian and perks her ears forward, "Maybe a bite to eat wouldn't be so bad..." As her friend gets out of hearing range she softly muses to herself, "Epsi... you're my best friend... I don't know what I would do without you." Lowering herself into a hunting crouch, she focuses on the herd, casting occasional glance up at her friend and guide to see which way he directed her. She didn't see the smooth stone until it was too late and she was slipping done the slope next to her. With a sharp, pained outcry that wasn't quite a scream she collided with a tree partway down and lay still, one paw flung haphazardly over her face.
Quite happily sailing on an updraft, Epsi is unaware of what has just befallen his leonine friend, his beedy eyes fixed upon the nearby herd, already picking out a few likely candidates. There, a young foal- no, it's with parents... ah, there! An elderly one, by the fringes of the impala! The dutiful swallow dips his wings and soars towards it, then before long enters a circling route, alternating between large and small rotations. A minute passes... then another... then another... What's keeping her? Frowning, he pulls out of the spiral and spots... no lioness. Feeling suddenly uneasy, he searches the grasses for her while moving along as slow as possible while still remaining in the air. Several anxious minutes pass before he catches the sun glinting off some tan fur, lying partway down a hill... "Oh my feathers!" Doing a relatively good impression of a falcon, he dives down out of the sky and swoops towards Utamu's body, barely avoiding crashing into it is his haste. He lands on the ground awkwardly and immediately falls over as his feet are made for sitting on twigs, then chirps loudly to get her attention. "Utamu, are you alright?"
Utamu gives a soft moan, her pain coming through clearly to her friend in her tone, "Oooohhhh... E-Epsi? I... I dunno, my back hurts badly... and it's worse when I try to move... stupid rocks."
Epsi actually feels a few of his feathers fall out. Flapping his wings once more, he says in a voice most contradictory to his words, "It's okay, it's okay, stay calm! Err, err..." The avian glances about himself, hopping around to get a better view, then looks out across the plains. They're not all that far from the bottom... well, maybe they are, but it's always easier going down... And just a little away, he spots an ideal place for her to rest. "Utamu, I want you to listen very carefully to me! There's a small rise just down this slope, it's got some nice flat rocks, a little up so things like jackals can't come pester you. There's even a tree there so you can keep in the shade. We need to head there, it's going to hurt but it'll be better for you than lying here in that position."
Utamu nods, turning slightly she winces and cries out as she begins to try and rise, or at least pull herself along towards the cluster of rocks Epsi had seen. The pain makes tears come to her eyes, but gathering her courage and all her will she finally makes it to her paws and slowly begins to walk, every step agony as pain radiates throughout her body. She squeezes her eyes shut now and then to clear them of the tears that come unbidden to her eyes, "Epsi... are we close?" she cried out as she slides a little down the slope, her back was killing her.
Never before has Epsi felt so useless or out of his depth. He rises up into the air when his friend attempts to make her way down past the tree, but it is tricky to even manage flight. He can almost feel the agony radiate from her, and from the aptly named bird's eye view he has of the lioness. And from what he sees, though he lacks healer training, he can tell it isn't good. Not good one bit. He swoops down to her level and lands on her forehead, bobbing and swaying there while she walks so he could offer her some comfort. "Hold on Utamu, we've not got far... it's a little less than twenty lengths down the slope, then... about fifty to the base of the hillock."
Utamu gave a little groan and tried to regulate her breathing much the was she had done when giving birth to Vikali, it helped with the pain a little... but only a little, her legs felt as if they weren't moving quite right and every step she took towards the haven Epsi directed her to was torturous, yet she still managed to grit her teeth and press on, "Sorry I was so clumsy Epsi..."
"There there dear, it couldn't be helped... I should have warned you about the pebbles by the slopes, I should have made you take a rest... it's not your fault." Epsi has to stretch out his wings and adjust his tail when they reach the bottom, sheerly to prevent himself from falling off the tired female he rests upon. "Look, we're down the slope now, so we just need to go over to that little rise there, the one with the rocks and acacia on top."
The wounded and weary lioness nods and winces as she turns to focus on the destination murmuring to herself, "Almost there...almost there..." She almost slips once when she gets to the rise and begins to climb it, causing her to gasp and cry out in pain again, "AhhH!" Then with a sharp intake of breath she finishes the odious climb and begins to lay down atop one of the flatter rocks, "Thank you so much Epsi... for all you've done for me. We both need to rest, but after you are feeling better my friend I would like to ask you one thing. Could you continue the search for my baby alone? I would like to see her but I don't think I can walk for awhile..."
Epsi flutters down to the rock beside his friend's head, tilting his own and then pecking forward to remove bits of grass and small twigs from amongst her facial fur. But when he is given his honourable charge, he abandons his current duty and performs the avian equivilant of a bow. "My dear friend, I have been with you since the beginning and would be most honoured to search for Vikali, for you. I will sleep here for the night, but after that I shall head north in search for her, and you will not see me again until I have news of your cub."
Utamu smiles a little even though she is still in pain, but if she stays very still the pain is greatly lessened, she purrs as her avian companion begins to preen her facial fur. "Epsi, we grew up together and you have always been my very best friend. I want you to know how deeply I care for you. Thank you for staying with me through thick and thin."
Though it is hard to with a beak, Epsi manages to pull off an embarrassed look as he fishes out the last bit blade of grass from her face before murmuring a soft, "Thank you for not eating me." with a small, playful peck to her nose. "Get to sleep Utamu, then before you know it I will return with your daughter."
Utamu smiles and slowly closes her eyes with a deep purr dispite her pain...maybe it will be gone when she wakes up. "Alright...good night Epsi."
Another night with little sleep. She had been having a fantastic dream about her and her beloved mate, walking the lands of the Kupotea together... Utamu sighs deeply. The lioness had been awoken from her dream by her back. All she needs to do is move it in the wrong position and it starts hurting. The way she is lying now, however, means that she is free from back pains and can keep an eye out over the nearby lands. Although the view, while magnificent, starts to lose it's 'oomph' after more than a dozen days of watching it. When will Epsi get back? Her friend has been far too long...
Utamu tilts her head to one side, away from the sun, and begins the customary search of the skies, then is surprised to see a familiar shape flying towards her. And, looking down, she could see what appeared to be a cub running through the grass... The lioness raises her head up higher, looking eagerly at the new arrivals. It must be them! Ignoring the protests from her back, the lioness stands up and leaps down from the rocks, trotting as fast as she can towards the cub.
Reaching the base of the slope, Vikali starts to run right up it, watching with a rising heart as the lioness on the rocks jumps down and makes her way towards her. The juvenile exclaims, "mom!" loudly when the two leonines finally reach one another, the young cub eagerly rubbing herself against one of Utamu's forelegs, purring deeply. She had found her mother, at long last!
Utamu's face breaks out into a smile as her little girl reaches her, answering the juvenile with a heartfelt, "Oh, Vikali!" The lioness leans her head down to rub her muzzle against her daughter's neck, tears of joy leaking gently from her eyes. "Oh Vikali, I've missed you so much... I've not stopped worrying about you since the day you ran off from the pride."
Epsi flutters to a halt mid-air, watching with a tender smile on his face his dear friend re-unites with her daughter. They'll probably be want to be left alone... Ah well, he could use some more sleep as it is. The swallow swoops down towards the acacia and lands neatly on one of its branches, before settling himself into a comfortable position and closing his eyes.
Vikali finishes circling Utamu and looks up at her moher's face with slightly bloodshoot eyes. It had been so long since she had seen her. "mom... I... I didn't mean to leave the pride, really." she explains with a great measure of sadness in her voice, "I was just following you and the other lionesses hunting... I only wanted to do a bit of exploring, but then you all ran off after something and then I couldn't find you or the way back..." The words tumble in a rush from her mouth, having waited so long to explain herself to the lioness she has missed so dearly, trailing off as she feels tears well up in her eyes and threaten to slide down across her cheeks. Speaking softly, she mombles a small, "I'm sorry." before burying her head in her mother's leg, sobbing gently.
Utamu gazes down at the cub as she speaks, listening with a mixture of curiosity and want for her daughter to get the troubles off her chest. When she apologizes and tries to hide her face in the elder lioness' foreleg, Utamu wraps her other gently around Vikali's body body, holding the juvenile tight and close to her. Leaning her muzzle down to her young's ears, she whispers in a soothing voice, "It's alright dear... please, don't cry."
"Mom?" "Yes sweetie?" "Tell me about dad." One what must be the forth day, late in the afternoon, and the two lionesses are sitting upon the rocks talking when Vikali decides to ask about her father. "I can't remember anything about him mommy... I- I mean I can remember a face, but I can't remember anything more." The cub shuffles her forepaws about and leans in against Utamu's chest, then murmurs a gentle, "I feel really guilty because I've always remembered you but I can never remember dad..."
She was wondering when Vikali would finally ask about her father. Utamu sighs gently, then wraps a paw around the cub to hold her close, thinking back to the enjoyable days when life was fine and well in the grasslands of the Kupotea Pride... she had promised Nadhifu that no one should find out... what about her daughter, though? Should she risk telling her upon the chance that, if she wants to go home, she ends up telling the pride before her and her beloved get a chance to? Instead of answering straight away, she delays with a softly-spoken, "Describe the face you remember?"
Vikali's forehead crinkles up into a thoughtful look as her ears slick back and her eyes close, trying to bring up the memory from deep within her brain. "The face is male, I know that from the mane. It's black... his fur is... sort of a pale reddish-yellow... and he's got green eyes. That's all I can rememb- mom?" Utamu's eyes had clouded over with tears while the young female talked, and now one thought lies in her head: she remembers her true father. Nadhifu will be thrilled to find that out when they return to the Kupotea Grasslands! "Hmm, what?" the adult asks distractedly, looking about her before down at her girl. "What is it dear?"
"Mom, your face went all funny... are you okay?" Vikali asks in a concerned tone of voice, her head tilted to one side while she gazes up at the lioness, only to have her fur there ruffled by one of Utamu's paws. "Yes, I'm sure I'm okay honey. And yes, the face you described is your father's. He was the most handsome lion I have ever set eyes on, not to mention the most passionate and the most loving."
Vikali nods her head against the lioness' chest, smiling gently while she thinks of her father and how wonderful she makes him sound... but before her daughter can ask any more questions, Utamu leans down to plant a lick on the juvenile's head and nuzzles into her. "Anyhow, I'll tell you more about him later, but now you need a bath and while I'm getting you all nice and clean, you can tell me more about that lovely Tangaza you mentioned. Have you met his mother and father yet?"
"Eek, not a bath!" Vikali attempts to run away from her mother, only to find herself already caught by the sly lioness as she drags her daughter close to her. "I'm not dirty..." she mombles, before changing to a more upbeat, teasing voice, "And for the last time mother, -no-, I don't think I've met Tangaza's parents, or know who they are. Although I do know he's the King's nephew, or something like that."
"Oh? Really? Does he have a mane yet? What sort of food does he like?" Utamu asks curiously, her tail swaying about against the surface of the rock, "Is he well-mannered?"
Honestly, Utamu is almost as bad as her. Giddy and excitable as a cub... although Vikali at least had an excuse for that. Giggling at her mother, she inhales deeply and replies, "He doesn't have a mane yet mom, he's too young, I'm not sure what food he likes although I've a sneaky feeling it's pretty much anything he can get his paws on, and -sometimes-." She is left panting when she finishes, due to speaking all of that without taking an extra breath.
Utamu smirks at her daughter and stretches one of her forelegs over to ruffle the top of Vikali's head with a paw. "Silly." she playfully chastises the cub the cub, then reminds, "You should take your time with your wor-" before stopping mid-sentence with a grimace. White hot pain had just shot straight up her spine, causing the lioness to arch her neck.
Vikali giggles and half-heartedly bats her mother's paw away when it ruffles up her head fur, tail flicking about as it always does when she's in a playful mood. At Utamu's grimace, however, the smile fades from the cub's face to be replaced by a look of worry. "Mom!" she cries out worriedly, getting to her paws and padding a few steps forward until their chests press against one another, "Mom, are you okay?"
The honest answer would be 'no'. Utamu's back pains have been getting worse over the past few days and her stomach isn't in a much better state, due to the lack of food she consumes. Although she would never tell Vikali, she doubts her chances of living much longer. Wincing slightly, the lioness lowers her gaze down to the cub and replies in a strained voice, "No... I'm not, Vikali. My back's getting to me again, and my stomach's not helping things."
Vikali leans her head up to gently nuzzle her mother, purring softly in a loving attempt to comfort the older female. "I'm sorry about your back mom... but I may be able to help with your stomach, if you like. I just hope the diet of mice isn't getting too boring. I -could- always see if Epsi would mind getting you some insects, if you would prefer..." The young lioness casts a glance up at the sleeping bird in question, perched neatly on the acacia tree above.
Utamu returns her daughter's affection lovingly with a purr, before moving her head back so she can hear Vikali some better. At the offer of Epsi's hunting skills however, she hurriedly exclaims, "No!" before moderating her tone to a slower, less frantic one, "No, don't both Epsi with it... I'm not big on insects at the moment. But if you want to go hunting dear, please feel free too. And no, I'm not getting too tired of mice." the lioness adds with a wink. Utamu dips her head down to the cub and gives her a tender lick on the forehead, messing up Vikali's fur.
With a bright smile, Vikali gives an enthusiastic, "Sure! I'll make sure to try and get you some extra big ones mom!" while gazing up happily at her mother. When Utamu leans down, the cub gives her chin a friendly lick before she turns around, climbs down from the rocks, then sets off down the side of the hill, on the look out for tonight's meal for the two of them.
Utamu watches her beloved daughter as she makes her way down into the grasslands with a gentle smile. It had been worth the journey and trials to see her again... well worth it. She glances up briefly at the dozing swallow. It couldn't have been done without Epsi. He had been her friend since she was but a small cub... The lioness returns her gaze to the sweeping grasses where Vikali is hunting, watching as the juvenile makes an overly-dramatic leap accompanied by a declaritive cry. The smile grows some more as she thinks back to her life as a cub in the Kupotea Grasslands, running about with Jaburu and Kubwa, going 'hunting' with her little sister Mahubi, getting ever so excited when the younger female would catch something... her family. It is decided. When her daughter returns, the lioness will tell her about her real father and offer to take her back to the grasslands. She would understand if she didn't want to, but the option will be there.
She then looks over towards the setting sun and all of a sudden, an immense feeling of tiredness falls over Utamu, as though she has been sprinting under the hot sun all afternoon. It's time for a nap... yes, now would be just perfect for a good sleep... The lioness looks over towards her daughter once more, who appears to be having a bit of luck with the mice, then gently lowers her head onto her paws and closes her eyes. That cub of hers is so like her father... she'll be so excited to finally meet him. The Kupotea lioness lets out a long, contented sigh, then falls still. When Vikali returns to her with a muzzle full of mice, she does not awaken. Nor the next morning. Nor the one after that, or the one after that...
Seven moons. Seven long moons that seem more like seven dozen. Nadhifu had been spending more and more time out on his rock of late, becoming increasingly anxious over the whereabouts of his dearly beloved and concerned about how much time has passed. The rest of the pride have not seemed to be quite as affected as the peach-furred lion, however. Life has been busy in the pride, for the rest of them.
Shortly after Utamu left, Uhodari stepped down from his position as monarch and declared Njaa the new Lion King. King Njaa had then openly declared his love for Jaburu, who willingly joined his side as mate and Queen. His suspicions had indeed been correct about Mahubi, for shortly after the coronation outward signs of her suspected pregnancy began to appear. Before long she was accompanied by Jaburu into the world of pregnancy and thinking about their future cubs.
Luckily, the birthings went without mishap. Jaburu's cub was even named following a suggestion of his, although it had been more of a joke than anything else. Every time the bundle of apricot fur tried to suckle from his mother he missed, even if she assisted him with use of her paws, so he joked that they should call him 'Ujinga'. Perhaps not the nicest of things to say to a new mother, but the parents both liked the name and it stuck. It's meaning? 'Ignorance.' That cub's bound to thank him when he gets older.
Then there was the birth of his third cub. While his eyes were definitly those of Mahubi, his colouring is a complete mystery. Presumably he inhereted it from one of Nadhifu's parents, but the origins of Afnu's fur colour is irrelevant, for his mother and father adore the reddish-brown mischief maker regardless. However, a small dampner was added to things in the black-maned cat's eyes. Over several nights of passion, King Njaa had succeeded in getting Mahubi pregnant. First hearing the news, Nadhifu couldn't believe she would betray him like this, but then he later calmed himself with the thoughts of how he loves both Utamu and Mahubi, coupled with the knowledge of how Kubwa would have felt if he discovered their union.
Utamu... Nadhifu hangs his head, eyes drawn down to the early morning mist that hangs above the grass. She's been gone for far too long to have not found Vikali by now. So where has she got to?
A heavy paw sets down into the dew-dampned grass, most of the lands covered in the thin mist that always appears late at night and early in the morning. The owner of the paw looks over towards the rock and its familiar occupant, then with a curious expression on his face King Njaa continues forward, not stopping until he reaches the stone. "Isn't it a little bit early to be up, Nadhifu?"
The dark-maned lion starts, his head whipping around with a wild stare to find- "Oh, it's just you Njaa. I do wish you wouldn't creep up on me like that..." Nadhifu raises a paw and runs it through his mane, trying to make himself look at least vaguelly presentable in front of the king. Normally he is keeps himself immaculately clean and proper in appearance, but as the months without Utamu his concern for her becomes more and more prominant, until even his personal hygiene starts to lack. "I was just... thinking. Worrying. It's that new pride we've been hearing rumours of."
"Ah." Throughout the kingdom, certain animals friendly to the Kupotea have been reporting to them about seeing a small collection of lions who seem to be frequenting the lands near the southern border. Njaa can sympathise with his sister's mate, even though the king is unaware that Nadhifu is just making it up, and draws level with him before sitting down. "I've been thinking about it too... I just wish we didn't hear rumours, that we could just hear cold, hard facts." He sighs, "Father says Epsi would try and go without sleep to fufill a task for the pride..."
... that's it. Though no outward signs are given, Nadhifu's mind suddenly brightens up as a plan starts to form, a brilliant plan! Under the pretence of going to find Epsi for King Njaa, he could also look for Utamu and help her bring back little Vikali without the pride suspecting anything! A frown appears on his face and he straightens up until he sits back upon his haunches, gazing out into the distance for a long minute before he declares in a soft voice, "Njaa, I would like to request permission to find our old majordomo. He's bound to be with your sister Utamu, so he'll be easy to track."
The Kupotea King stares off into the mists for several moments, then turns his head to look at Nadhifu. "And what of your mate, my siser? Mahubi is looking after your cub-" "Along with the help of Jaburu and Naima." concludes the black-maned feline as he turns to face the monarch also. "Njaa, please, consider: Afnu and Mahubi are in the best possible paws. We /need/ Epsi, we need his skills. And wouldn't you like to see your sister and niece return here?"
Njaa lapses into silence following the question, his mind whirling. On the one paw, Nadhifu isn't the largest member of his pride and while his fighting skills aren't too bad, he could easily be beaten by a larger opponent. On the other paw, Nadhifu still is an extra lion. A male lion. Without him, it would be down to the king and his father to mark the lands, repel intruders, and deal with the local fauna. Still... to have the majordomo back...
"You may go." he declares eventually, though is quick to add, "But before you leave Nadhifu, please go and inform Mahubi of your plan. For both our sakes." This said, the Lion King turns away from Nadhifu's rock and heads off along the border, reasoning that while he's up he may as well do the morning patrol. Apart from it being common sense to now that he is up, it would give him an excuse to avoid witnessing his brother-in-rite's departure - that would be too much, even for him.
If lions were capable of perspiring, Nadhifu would be soaking wet by now. For two whole moons the lion has been on the move, sprinting when he has the energy, then slowing down to a walk, before speeding up into a trot and then a run once more. Lions need their sleep and easily overheat in the daytime, so he has been utilizing the night to cover the most distance before resting for just over half of the day - still not enough to satisfy his body, but he forces himself to make do with it. All the exercise and the lack of a pride to bring home kills are also having an affect on him physically: his skin is a little closer to the bone, not dreadfully so, but still faintly noticeable if one pays close enough attention. The comfortable plumpness that comes with pridal life has vanished also, along with most of his personal grooming.
Since Nadhifu set out from the Kupotea Grasslands, he has been keeping to a nothern route, barely diverting from it to make an attempt at hunting or to find somewhere to drink from. He knows, somewhere out there, Utamu and Vikali are waiting for him. He's not going to keep them waiting. As chance would have it, he had struck upon a southwards flowing river not long ago and from following it, he now stumbles across a moderately sized waterhole. Being the early hours of the morning now, he is glad for a chance to rest and so does so, flopping down heavily at the nearest bank before leaning forward to lap thirstily at the surface, savouring the feeling of cool water down his throat.
He is not the only one present at the waterhole, however. A small, black-feathered bird curiously watches the lion from a rock on the other side of the pool, trying to work out if who he sees is who he thinks he sees... In the end, the avian spreads his wings and gives a few flaps, rising up into the air and then gliding the rest of the way towards Nadhifu, landing with little easy on a rock closer to him before giving the lion a twitter.
Nadhifu doesn't catch sight of the swallow making its way over towards him; his eyes are closed, it would be impossible. But the very noise of the twittering seems to wear him out even more, for at hearing it he lets out a sigh and turns his head reluctantly to face the source of the noise, asking weariy, "What do you want?" before opening his eyes and spotting- "Epsi! It's you! Where's Utamu, is she here? What about Vikali, have you found her yet?" In a flash the lion is up on his paws, head turning this way and that in hope of sighting his two most beloved felines, an excited smile on his feature.
"Utamu's... not here." comes the noticably less-thrilled swallow, his head lowered to stare at the ground. The look is not noticed by Nadhifu, who continues twisting and turning in hope of catching sight of his sweetheart. "So where is she? Is she out hunting?" Epsi lets out a thin sigh; he had been dreading having to do this. He takes off from the rock and flaps twice through the air, before landing on the lion's shoulder, careful not to meet his eye. "She was hungry and I located a herd of impala for her, but... she was injured while stalking them. She hurt her back, and..." He breaks off with another sigh, then continues on a slightly lighter note, "I was able to find Vikali and take her to visit her mother before she passed on. I'm so sorry."
"... what? No, she couldn't have, Tammy- Utamu's always been fantastic at hunting, she couldn't ha-" "She slipped over and fell down a hill, Nadhifu. It could have happened to anyone." "But... it wasn't just anyone, it was Utamu..." Overcome by mixed emotions of joy, disbelief, and sadness all at the same time, the black-maned lion holds his head up high and roars out his grief, his terribly cry ringing throughout the lands. Determination now grips Nadhifu, his muscles tensing all over his body. His love is dead, the only thing he needs to do is find- "Epsi, take me to Vikali! She's coming home!"
Vikali has spent most of the day so far lounging about at the Edge of Kopje Valley, near the western border - one of her favourite places to relax, much to the concern and worry of some of the pridal adults. The borders can be dangerous, after all. But this juvenile isn't worried in the slightest. In fact, she is currently giggling and laughing as she runs in circles after a butterfly, making the occasional leap after her prey. "Ha! Come back here mister butterly, come- ha!" The insect dodges out of the way every time, but the lioness cub doesn't get upset, for that's what makes the game so fun.
So that's her. His daughter. His and Utamu's offspring. Vikali. Nadhifu stands a little distance away, just across the border, but after a few minutes of watching the cub play he steps over into the Kopje Valley and greets her with, "Good afternoon Vikali." The cub herself jolts at being spoken to by one with an unknown voice, causing her to whirl around and find a strange lion standing relatively close to her. "Who- who're you?" she eventually asks, sounding scared.
The gentle smile that has not appeared in so long returns to the Kupotea lion's muzzle as he leans down to look at his cub some closer. "I'm called Nadhifu, but you can call me 'Uncle'." In reply, she looks up at him blankly and asks, "Huh?" "I'm the mate of Utamu's sister, Vikali. I was sent out to find where the three of you - yourself, Epsi, and Utamu - had got too. I'm so glad you're alright. Come here, give me a nuzzle."
With a sense of curiosity and mild disbelief, Vikali trots forward to offer her real father some affection, nuzzling against his cheek and giving him several licks, to which he reciprocates tenderly. Though she can feel the closeness between her and this male, she can't understand it... why would she be feeling like this just by nuzzling her uncle? It feels almost as good as when she nuzzled Utamu... After a few, long minutes, Nadhifu straightens up and smiles at his baby girl. "Now, let's go home Vikali. Then we can all be one happy family together."
His words knock the smile right off Vikali's face. She takes a few steps backwards, shaking her head, and protests, "I like it here. The pride's all really nice and friendly, and all my friends are here." Nadhifu frowns down at the juvenile and forward steps, matching her retreating ones, then cautions her in a telling-off voice, "Vikali, your place is with your pride. Now come along." He leans down to pick her up by her scruff, but she jumps backwards and exclaims, "This is my pride! I don't want to go back!" before turning and running as fast as her legs will carry her to the large acacia. Without slowing down, the small cub throws herself onto the trunk and her claws sink in, before she starts climbing upwards and away from her 'uncle.'
By the time the surprised Nadhifu reaches his daughter's chosen tree, she is already a good few metres above the ground and out of reach. "Vikali, get down here NOW!" "No! I don't want to!" It is at this time when a swallow flies his way up to the edge of Kopje Valley, followed quickly by a blonde lion and a bit behind him another two, one an elder lioness and the other a juvenile cub. Back at the tree, the male makes another attempt at grabbing Vikali with the growl, "Vikali, if you don't come down here I'll come up there."
From a distance Kizingo can see that there's a lion bellowing up into one of the large acacia trees up here on the border, that being the logical place to assume that Vikali is at now. Hrm. No one elese about that he can see, so he continues to hurry that direction, calling out a deep chuff to announce himself. With any luck the sight of a fairly large lion running this way will ward the other lion off.
With a lioness hot on his tail, Khairi tries to run faster, making haste for the borders. He just wants to take a peek at the other lands again, but now it's become a conquest. "Can't get me!" he calls back towards his grandmother, undoubtly trying to act brave by poking his tongue out towards her as they run.
"I will eventually!" the lioness hollers at Khairi as she does her best to catch up with him. Well, hopefully he'll tire out before she does, or he'll be stopped by somebody else or be tripped up by something. Anything else going on or anyone else present doesn't register just yet, as they're some distance from the others and the tree.
Nadhifu takes another swipe at the cub, trying to grab her tail so he can pull her down, but her tail tuft dangles about a metre higher, out of his reach. He's about to pull himself up the trunk after her when he hears Kizingo's chuff, and instead swings his body around so his forepaws land back on the floor before opening his muzzle and letting out a loud roar in reply. He's not in the mood to deal with any local lions, he's only here for his niece. At odds with the dark-maned male, Vikali is quite pleased to see the sight of Kizingo rushing towards her. Maybe the healer could shoo him off!
Aww beans... this one's gotta be aggressive. Kizingo is in no shape or skill to do anything to fend this one off, but he can, at least, keep the lion distracted till his foolish roar draws Mzo or any of the other lions can arrive. As such he continues to bound towards the tree till he's far enough away that he has space to turn about and retreat should the lion assault him, "Who are you and why do you have Vikali up in a tree?" his voice is calm, if a bit more slurred than usual due to the strain of the situation and while this can present an poor image his size and firm gaze reveil otherwise.
The roar was enough to startle him and make him stumble. Khairi rolls through the grasses for a feet paw steps. Finally, he rests with a loud "Oof!" upon his back, staring directly up at the sky. Quickly he rolls over to his stomach to try and get up to take off again. Before he can though, his attention is stolen by those at a tree. He doesn't recognize either lion, even if Kizi is a uncle he hasn't met officially. "Vikali?" he raises a brow for a moment, forgetting he's probably about to be snagged or seriously cuffed by his grandmother.
Alright, this isn't funny anymore! It wasn't funny to start with! But lions are not known for their ability to run distances. The roar gets Balana's attention as well, but doesn't make her look away. She keeps following after Khairi as he starts for the tree, coming to an abrupt halt as she takes notice of the stranger. Startled, she reacts by flattening her ears, showing her fangs, and growling in the strange lion's direction, an unusual move for her to make considering she often tries to be diplomatic with strangers.
Baring his teeth at the approaching lion, the foreign lion glares in irritation at the healer. Who'd think getting a cub to come down a tree would be so difficult? Speaking gruffly, he replies, "My name is Nadhifu, and I'm trying to get MY NIECE," he throws Vikali a glance, "To get down from there and come back to her home. Do you have a problem with that?" Nadhifu jerks his head around at Balana's growl with a snarl, although he's not lost on the maths here. There /are/ two of them, and one of him. And one rather reluctant cub. "But I don't WANT to come home, THIS is my home!"
Indeed.. it is rather surprising to see mother so immediately aggressive, but that tells Kizingo that mother is already aware of this lion and his state of unwelcome in this land. He doesn't share the aggressive posture of display, but he head lower his head down and whip his tail swiftly, "I do not know if this is not true.. but if it is true..." eyes shift up towards the young lioness as she speaks in a manner that works in the stranger's favor, "Rrrm... I suggest you calm yourself if you want to have any chance of getting what you want." calm, less slurred than before but still grave in his tone.
Khairi blinks as he watches this, then looks back toward shis grandmother. Her look is enough to make his eyes widen with shock. Luckily that look wasn't for him... yet... At the call of his new friend, he looks towards the tree. "Leave her alone!" he calls out towards the unknown lion, "You can't take my friend anywhere!" The boy growls lightly, stepping forward once as if he can really do anything but make the overgrown lion die of laughter.
Plus another cub who is where he really shouldn't be... but Balana isn't in the mood to deal with Khairi for now, save for standing protectively over him. She eyes Nadhifu, her fur bristling slightly. She listens to the explanation given to Kizingo... and Vikali's subsequent response, which is enough to suggest that Vikali does know him. She takes on a slightly less aggressive expression, drawing herself up authoritatively and giving the male a very serious gaze. "I don't care who are, or who you think you are, but here and now Vikali is under the protection of the Kopje Valley pride, and to take her without knowledge of the king would be an abduction of one of our pride's youths, an act of war against the pride, as WELL as extremely foolish. So unless you would like to return home with a bloodied face--if at all--I suggest you go over there, sit down, and calm down. Do I make myself clear?"
Ignoring the blonde lion in mild contempt, Nadhifu turns instead to face Balana, reasoning that she seems to be the one in charge. He raises an eyebrow, then retorts, "I don't care who you are either, or likewise who you think you are, but Vikali is my niece and I'm taking her home. She is not a member of any Pride but the Kupotea." If Njaa ever hears about this from the cub, then he's going to get a good telling off. But she needs to return to her family. Disregarding the rest of the elder's warning, he spares Khairi a silencing glare before slamming the side of his body into the Acacia, trying to loosen the juvenile's grip. And he succeeds, partially, as Vikali slides down the tree to just within reach before she can dig the rest of her claws in again.
That works, too... a bit more on the violence thread than Kizingo's way, but sometimes that's necessary to get through the rage that this lion is clearly displaying. Oh how he wishes there was some way to deliver the tranquilizing mixtures he knows how to mix from a distance in order to force situations like this to end abruptly... maybe some sort of bird with a sharp beak could fly in and stab a bit of it into the target's flank... hmmm... Nah, too impractical. He gets caught up in this thought process and, thus, leaves the matter to be handled by mother... at least till the tree is jostled and the cub skids down a bit. This prompts him to draws nearer and sound a warning rumble, "Stop... you do not wish to have Balana biting on your neck."
"Leave her alone!" Khairi growls, darting out towards the lion. So he wasn't the smartest one in the bunch. Lowering his head, he plans on planting it right into one of the legs of this lion for trying to make his friend fall. Death wish? Serious hurt? The boy laughs at danger.
"You've had your warning, lion." Balana hisses out as the lion charges into the tree, moving around to place herself right alongside the base of the tree, hollering at the young male. "Khairi!" At the moment, though, things are moving a little too fast for her to deal with both of them at the same time, and she figures Vikali is the more critical one right now. Should her uncle get a hold of her and take off, he's very likely gone.
"Silence!" Nadhifu snarls at the healer, wishing that the lion would just go off and mind his own business. "Go chew on a gazelle." The sooner he gets her, the better. Glancing up at his daughter, his moods lift to see that she's sunken down and, choosing to ignore Balana's reminder, rams the tree again, hard. Vikali's claws are shook from the tree, and after a short fall lands on her uncle's back with a soft thud. Before he can try to escape the two Kopje lions, however, a third promptly headbutts one of his back legs. "What the...?" Raising a hindpaw, he idly kicks Khairi to one side, sending the cub rolling along the ground.
Fine, going to go around ramming into things two can play at that game... well, three actually, since Khairi's ahead of him on that front, proving himself useful by delaying Vikali's uncle just long enough for Kizingo's large figure, untrained as it may be, to get to the tree and slam into the stubborn lion's forequarters, no doubt ejecting Vikali from his back in the process and, hopefully, helping mother in snagging the callous lion in more than he bargained for.
Khairi rolls after being kicked from the lion. That actually hurt a little! "Vikali!" he calls out through a wince of pain in his side. Getting up to try and run towards him again, he winces, thinking maybe something might be bruised on his side. "... dad... mom..." he whimpers to himself, but then manages to run again towards the lion, to try and headbutt him again in one of his legs even though his small form couldn't possible do anything.
In this case, her grandson might've just been the distraction needed. As soon as Nadhifu looks over to kick at Khairi, Kizingo is on the move. And that leaves Vikali... where, exactly? Hopefully dazed on the ground. Should that be the case, the elder lioness is quick to try and snatch up Vikali in her jaws by the scruff. If she makes it, Vikali will likely notice the grip to be considerably tighter than is typical for the elder.
Just as Nadhifu's turning his head back around to face forewards, Kizingo's shoulders ram into his fore, crushing him hard against the acacia and eliciting another roar from the lion. Unaware that his passenger had been knocked off, he struggles to try and free himself from the larger male, then tilts his head to one side and attempts to go for the healer's throat - in reality he misses and gets the shoulder instead. Thankfully for the pale-furred lion, the smalle one hasn't had to fight another of his species before, and remains quite unaware of the advantadges of a mane. Meanwhile, with Balana, Vikali is a bit dazed from her drop, but still quite aware of the tightness of the elder's fangs on her nape. As the irritating cub headbutts him a second time, Nadhifu draws back the leg properly and delivers a much harder kick to Khairi, hoping that the blasted thing would get the hint.
Kizingo backs off immediately after the body slam, adding a swift cuff when the retort is deflected by his dense mane. Rather than spar further with the lion, seeing that mother has snatched Vikali up, he chooses the retreat option, though not before doing much the same to Khairi, snatching him up once he's done recoiling from the additional paw strike. With any luck the aggressive male won't try to persue or, at least, be injured enough by the body slam to slow him up so that the healer doesn't get an unpleasent presence on his back.
Wham! The kick sends the boy towards the tree but he misses barely. Even though it was enough to make his side feel like it was going to cave in... Before Khairi could really register the pain, he winces as Kizingo snatches him up, blacking out within his grasp as his body goes limp.
As much as Balana would love to go help Kizingo, her first priority is to get Vikali and Khairi out of harm's way. Somewhat surprisingly to her, though, Kizingo is apparently taking care of himself, and is also going to get a hold of Khairi. Good! That done, it's time for a hasty retreat. Which Balana has no desire to delay on, and once again puts her running muscles to use as she heads in to the valley with Vikali dangling from her jaws, presuming no holdups.
Thanks to Kizingo's body slam and the cuff to his head, Nadhifu's a bit disorientated for the moment, almost swaying on the spot. He shortly regains himself, however, and realises shortly before sighting Balana that his niece has disappeared. Roaring again in a mixture of pain and anger, he rumbles out, "Vikali!" before setting off after the elder, his eyes focused on the small tan juvenile in her muzzle. While he's certainly not catching ground fast, it is clear that this lion is not going to relent and go back to his King empty-pawed.
Kizingo concerns himself with getting far enough into the valley that others might be alerted and present more of an obsticle to the invader, noting how he gives chase to Balana. Balana may be in good shape, but she is old, so there's not much disparity in speed. Thus, still holding the now collapsed cub, he veers his course to get in the way of the stranger so that Balana can get away with Vikali.
And Balana doesn't intend for him to just turn around and go home. However, she's not willing to discuss the matter with Vikali in a tree and fighting going on. She doesn't even so much as glance back at either her son or Vikali's uncle. No, as it is, Balana is going full-throttle into the valley. Nadhifu would have to be a complete idiot to chase her into the midst of the valley, and no doubt the waiting paws of some of the lionesses, or maybe even Mzohari or Nabana. She's old, but in good shape and a little lighter, so she can hopefully keep far enough ahead that he tires or gives up or they reach someone else in the valley.
Almost a third of the way down the slope that leads to the valley floor, Nadhifu slows to a halt. There's no way he could catch that old female, and this stronger lion seems determined to keep him at bay. Snarling in frustration, he turns around and heads back up the slope, grumbling under his breath. The slam against the acacia certainly hasn't done him any good, and neither did the swipe to his head. He'll wait a while, take some rest and recuporate just out of the pride's borders, before trying again to retrieve his daughter back from this so called 'Kopje Valley' and take her back to her real home.
No border guards... that was lucky. What is even luckier for him is being able to recover from his encounter with Kizingo, just inside the Pride Lands. Not putting on as much stealth as would be wise, Nadhifu moves with relative ease through the grasses of the valley, aimlessly wandering. After a few minutes, he decides to gather his thoughts under the shade of a nearby baobab and heads towards it, unaware of the flora already being occupied.
Kousho relaxes once more into his sitting posture, his thoughts run over and over in several veins. He looks quite unhappy. The tiny panther cub has grown a couple of inches since Vikali first discovered him beneath the big tree, not yet a juvenile himself, although he's edging in that direction. He's starting to lose his roly poly shape and get more of an awkward look to him as a prelude to entering a new phase of his life.
Nadhifu allows himself a small yawn as he walks, his pawfalls light and tail swishing behind him slowly. Still no sight of his cub yet, not since he had seen that old female run off with her. Maybe he'd have some luck now that he's down here. After all, she couldn't possibly run away from him - While not the strongest, well-built, or smartest of lions, even he is able to run faster than a small juvenile. Reaching the shade of the tree, however, he is mildly surprised to see a small panther cub sitting underneath it. He vaguelly remembers meeting some panthers once back in Kupotea, with his mate Mahubi. Working things out briefly in his head, the lion reckons the black furred male may be of some use to him, so he puts on his best friendly smile he uses with Afnu, then lowers his head down to Kousho's level and says, "Hello there, little one."
Kousho doesn't smile back, but alternatively doesn't allow himself to look any more unpleasent. He looks at the adult lion very seriously and half lids his eyes, asking flatly, "Who are you? You're not part of the Kopje. I've never seen or smelled you before." The small black face seems extremely distrustful and while feeling perhaps a little aggressive and disagreeable, the panther boy is not stupid. He moves closer to the grass surrounding the baobab subtly. Seeing his big sister deal with the other panther cub yesterday had forced Kousho to come to a realization regarding his own behavior. And the statements made to him by the big one-eyed panther he had met last night rolled about in his mind even now.
Nadhifu's smile drops for a moment at the cub's sullenness, working hard to avoid a frown while he forces the smile back up. This gives him time to do some fast thinking. He can't use his own name, surely the whole pride would know it by now. Maybe he could use his brother-in-rite's... "True, I have not seen or smelt you before either. And I am not of the pride who lives here, no. My name is Njaa, King of the Kupotea. I've been given permission by the king here to explore these lands, and on my travels I've heard of a local cub called..." The lion puts on a suitably confused look, tilting his head up as he pretends to think. "Vikhala, I think? I've been told a fair bit about her, and would love to meet her before returning to my Kingdom." Now, if the real king finds out that he's been impersonated by his sister's mate, in addition to what Nadhifu has already done... He'd rather not think about it. What Njaa doesn't know won't hurt him. "Have you seen her about, at all?"
Kousho stands, silently watching the lion, his tail swinging back and forth slowly as his eyes roamed over the other male in a measuring way. His normaly soft, almost femininely lovely face has a tinge of hardness around the eyes and mouth. He has stayed up all night thinking about what Mister Ighili, Doppo, and most important of all Mister Mashaka has explained to him and had come to some conclusions. Now with measured caution, he slowly tips his head, replying, "I know Vikhala, mister Njaa..." That was all he offered in reply.
Looks like he'll have to do a bit of work to find out her location from the cub. A pleased expression comes across his face before he says enthusiastically, "Oh, that's good then! I was beginning to think I wouldn't be able to find her!" Sitting down on the floor to make himself look less intimidating, and to also get some time off his paws, he tilts his head to one side. "Where did you see her last?" the lion asks, smiling toothily as he does so.
Kousho looks at the sky thoughtfully for a moment, scowling, "Let me think..." He lifts a paw, inspecting his claws as he seems to consider the question. "She said she was going somewhere... I think." He couldn't remember most of the names of the places he had been when wandering with his older brother but one name did jump out at him, "I think she was visiting a friend over in... Shek'won? No that wasn't it... it, I think it was on the other side of the Pride Lands...." He is an amazingly good little actor, making a nice show of rubbing the bridge of his muzzle as though really giving the answer a lot of thought.
Likewise, Nadhifu displays his best acting, looking as though he really believes what the cub is telling him. Inside, the false King isn't that foolish. He's been by the western border for a few days now, and would of spotted any leaving lions. Besides, if they were trying to protect Vikali, then they wouldn't let her go wandering off out of the lands, and out from under the Pride's watchful gaze. But still, he may have a bit of fun with the cub, and decides to call his bluff. "Okay then, young one. Would you mind leading the way?" he asks politely, gesturing with a forepaw idly, keeping it in the air.
Kousho slowly stands once more and nods, something about the look in his eyes as his so readily agreed mind have seemed somewhat unsettling if one happened to see how hard and cold those little blue orbs became as he turned away from the lion, "We have to go in a round about way Mister Njaa, the place we are going is a little tricky to actually get too." He begins to trot away, his ears flat against his head and a vaguely troubled look on his face.
Grunting as he stands up, Nadhifu climbs back up onto his paws and then shakes his dark mane from side to side, vaguelly wishing it was as long as the real King of the Kupotea. Watching the cub carefully, he slowly begins to walk after him, his strides just long enough so he doesn't fall behind Kousho's trotting. "That's fine with me, just lead on and I'll be right behind you." the lion replies with a gentle smile. There's no way the black leopard could run off, and if he tried to lead him into a trap, he can just grab him and sprint back here. Either way, a feeling of confidence settles upon the large male.
Kousho glances back, looking as if he is truly concerned with not losing the lion, then as he trots he begins to sing softly under his breath for several minutes. Then he pauses and inquires without looking back, "Mister Njaa, may I ask you a question?"
As he's walking, Nadhifu's tail twitches in time with the cub's singing, letting his mind wander a bit as they walk along. He's caught off guard by Kousho's question, not from the question itself, but being caught with his thoughts elsewhere. "Hmm?" he replies curiously, trying to regain his composure, then adds once he has remembered, "Of course, young one." He's certain the cub knows where Vikali is, else he wouldn't lead him off somewhere, most likely the other direction. For this matter, he appeases the feline's curiosity for now, and does his best to act like a true monarch.
Kousho twitches an ear back towards the big male as he sniffs at a blade of grass in passing, "Where do cubs come from?" He actually knew the answer, but wanted to find out how this lion would answer.
Nadhifu stops, an eye twitching, before continuing forward again. Thankfully, his own cub hasn't approached him with this question... yet. When it did, he'd probably tell him to go ask his mother. Tripping over his tongue as he tries to think of an answer, the 'king' says, "Uhh... In life, males and females get certain urges, and sometimes they get so strong that a male and a female decide to..." He stops again, raising a forepaw to rub the side of his head gingerly before commenting, "Actually, I think you should ask one of the pride here. I'm sure they would be glad to explain it to you." Getting moving again, he then adds, "How far is it till we get there?"
Kousho quietly smiled to himself, for as much as the subject bothered him on a deep deep level he found it somewhat funny that the 'king' was made so uncomfortable. "Okay... Almost there!" He suddenly bounds forward as he crows the final comment as though excited, "Come on!" He weaves in and out of the grass, his tail swinging wildly in a circle.
"Perfect, just zoom off why don't you?" Nadhifu mutters under his breath, breaking into a fast trot to keep up with the weaving cub. He loses him for a few seconds, then spots the much younger male dodging about ahead and bounds after him, trying to keep up. Cubs, honestly. This one's mother must be worn out by the end of a day with him.
Kousho pauses at the entrance of a cave just outside the Kopje's southeast border, then turns and stretches his neck up, looking for the lion. He actually rises for a moment onto his hind legs, calling, "Mister Njaa? We have to go through here."
"And you are sure Vikhala is through here?" the lion asks dubiously, his forehead creased in a frown as he draws closer to the cub. Glancing down at him, he then nods his head towards the entrance and says, "Keep on going then, cub." debating how far he will let the panther lead him before grabbing him and forcing him to tell him the right way.
Kousho smiles and nods, "Yep," the little black ball of fluff leaps into the darkness of the tunnel without another word. "We're close now!" He bounds off into the darkness, calling back, "You still following mister Njaa? Don't get lost!"
Letting a growl loose, he orders Kousho, "Slow down! I can't keep up with you." Which isn't true, but due to the low light it makes running about difficult, so he has to make do with trotting as fast as he can. Thankful for the weird glowing moss, he manages to keep the panther mostly in his sight, but due to the black fur he could easily lose track of him.
Kousho suddenly darts off with a slightly sinister giggle, "What's wrong, 'Your Highness'? If you want Vikhala you'd better not get lost." The tone in the little panther's voice is mocking. But when it came again, all the mirth had gone out of it and it was a little eerie to hear a cub that young saying these words, "I'll never let you touch my big sister Vikali... 'Mister' Njaa. I'll kill you if you do."
Ah... he didn't expect that. How had he known? Nadhifu blinks a few times, turning about at random, trying to locate the panther without success. His act dropped, the male snarls out, "Big words for a small little cub such as yourself. You couldn't kill a lame rabbit in its sleep, let alone a full grown lion at the peak of his prowess." To demonstrate this, he lifts his head high up and roars.
Silence follows the roar for a moment or two, then Kousho's voice floats out of the darkness again, "Very impressive... I'm sure it takes much power to make that much noise. But what can noise do?" His voice recedes a bit as though he has moved father off but it is still audible, he continues in a almost conversational tone, "You know... last night I did much thinking. And I came to the conclusion that I will never mate. And I hope you believe me when I tell you this, if you try to take my sister away from me you never will again either... goodbye mister Njaa. I hope you like this cave... it may take you some time to find the way out."
Nadhifu looks a little worried when the panther sounds to be walking off, glancing about himself and trying not to give into his nervousness, instead letting his anger get the better of him. "You just come back here, cub, or you'll end up part of my next hairball!" Although he isn't worried by the silly threats to remove his... more delicate parts, the male does shift his hindlegs closer together while his eyes flicker around. Where is the way out? The false king roars once more, then sets about trying to find the exit out of the dark cavern.
If he ever gets hold of that panther... Growling to himself in frustration, Nadhifu shakes his short mane about in an attempt to losen some of the weird mossy stuff from the tunnel. Somehow, it had managed to get into his fur while he had slept, and now it is bugging him beyond belief. Letting out a loud roar as he makes his way closer towards Waterfall cliff, this lion is in no mood to put up with any hassle. He doesn't care what he's got to get through today, he's bringing his beloved daughter home with him before the sun sets, and that's THAT.
Where is that roar coming from? And who? And why? Grr! He's been made aware of the Utatu refugees... but this comes from the back border to the southeast, not from the west. On the alert, the Kopje lion makes his way closer, keeping his eye on the border. He's got no intent of letting anybody through, and that's final!
The roar wasn't heard by only the grown lion, Tangaza had heard it too and his curiosity was getting the better of him. Surely he could go see who it was making all the ruckus, and if they weren't being friendly he could go and warn someone. Yes, that would be perfect!
Breaking into a run, Nadhifu begins to shorten the distance between himself and Waterfall Cliff, having spotted it a few days before and made note of it, he has decided that it would be a good place to try to find Vikali. However, at sight of a golden lion in the middle of his path, the Kupotea lion slows down to a trot, and then to a walk, frowning as he tries to discern whether he's seen the feline before or not.
As it happens, Nabana doesn't see Tangaza. He does, however, catch sight of Nadhifu. The local male's head lifts, ears perking forward as he pulls himself tall. There's definitely another male lurking about. Not one Nabana recognizes on sight. He stops where he is, striking a hopefully imposing pose.
Upon his arrival, Tangaza immediately saw one unknown lion and his father already there to handle the situation. Perfect, he didn't even have to go warn anyone now. Dad could handle it and he could watch - or maybe help! He wanted to start asking questions but he stayed quiet just a little longer, seeing if his silent questions would be answered anyway.
Letting out a low warning growl, the peach-hued adult continues to approach Nabana, his teeth bared, and stops only a few metres from the male. "Out of my way, mjinga." he gruffly snaps at other adult, his tail swishing about behind him. "I've had a long night, and I don't need to be held up any more."
Rather than risk injury outright, Nabana keeps up his posturing, tail curling up over his back, form tensing, pupils narrowing. His jaws part, lips pulling back to scent around. Yep... it's the same scent that was on the tree after Vikali's uncle had been there. "There is no 'out of your way' about it, lion. I will listen to what you have to say, and I will be fair with you, but I will not be ordered around, nor will I be intimidated or bullied, and least of all will I stand aside for you to enter my pride's territory."
Tangaza smirked at how his father handled the unfamiliar lion, imagining handling rogues and stuff like that in the near future. So for now he just keeps trying to creep closer and closer, watching and waiting for what was going to happen. Something had to come of this meeting!
Continuing to glare at the other lion, Nadhifu regards him with a mixture of distate and wariness, before striding towards the left of the golden-furred individual, intending to go around him if the cat doesn't move himself. Honestly, why can't some lions mind their own business? Treading closer towards the sneaking Tangaza, he blows out a snort of air from his nostrils in irritation, tail flicking about in mirrorment of his feelings.
It's pretty clear that Nabana's not going to just stand aside. Nope! Perish the thought! As Nadhifu starts to the side, the Kopje male matches the foreign lion's movement, letting out a low, growling rumble, keeping his form stiff and pulled tall, head angled downward slightly, tail curled high over his back in a dominant posture. It's meant as a nonverbal warning that Nadifu had best back down if he knows what's good for him.
Tangaza perks his ears and rises slightly to see above the grass, Go dad! is all that is racing through his mind, idolizing his father and his posture, unable to wait until he is taught all the stuff Nabana promised!
An eye twitches when Nadhifu halts, glaring with more fervour at the stubborn golden male before his gaze flickers down towards the freshly appeared Tangaza, granting him a swift snarl before his attention turns back to Nabana. His voice sounding strained as he attempts politeness, he informs the other adult, "I'm just trying to take back what's mine, then leave you in peace. No violence, no blood, no deaths. That's /ALL/."
That flickering of Nadhifu's gaze and the snarl accompanying it is enough to alert Nabana to the fact that someone else is there. He doesn't dare take his gaze off of Nadifu, but his voice is distinctly directed back behind him. "If that's one of the Kopje pride, say hello and nothing more so I know who it is." That done, he returns to speaking to Nadhifu. "You are certainly who I suspect you to be. Have you not stopped to consider where it is your niece wants to live? We've been taking good care of her, and this is where she wants to stay. Her parents have passed, and there is absolutely no reason why it should be anyone's decision but her own." At least, from what he's been told it sounds like her parents have passed. "By whose orders are you fetching her?"
Tangaza winces slightly as he's noticed, but growls in response to the snarl in his direction, confident in that papa would protect him. He was reluctant at first when he heard Nabana's command, but after a moment passed he agreed to it anyway. "Hello." he says, knowing it would be obvious as to who the voice's owner was.
"Pah, I don't believe for a second that Utamu or Kubwa have died. Has that idiotic swallow been feeding you and my niece more lies?" Nadhifu turns to pace from side to side just in front of Nabana, tossing his mane, although the effect is somewhat lessened by its stunted growth. "And I am here on orders of no less than King Njaa himself! He demands that she is brought straight back to her rightful home, regardless of her state, location, or temperment." More lies spout from the foreign lion, but here's the thing - They can't prove him to be lying, even if they may suspect it. As he passes by Nabana yet another time, he glances down at the nearby cub before his gaze returns to the adult, a plan forming in his mind.
Yep, he knows. "Get behind me and stay there," he once again directs towards Tangaza. The last thing he needs is his son's presence right now, but better to know he's there than not, and to know where he is. He listens to Nadhifu. "Well, you can just go back to your king and tell him that we are not going to send Vikali anywhere she doesn't want to go with a lion that she barely knows." As he sees the lion glance in Tangaza's direction, he immediately snarls, form shifting from a dominant posture to one preparing for an attack, voice raising. "And if you so much as LOOK at him again I'll break your sorry neck!"
Raising an eyebrow at the snarling male, Nadhifu comments, "Temper, temper... You wouldn't want to start a war now, would you? I'm only the messenger, trying to- Yah!" Whilst making another pass, the black-maned lion darts forward, swiftly clamping his jaws around Tangaza's waist, then swivels about so Nabana has a view of his son, while the Kupotea lion slowly begins to backtrack. He can't attack him without risking the cub's life! One quick bite and it's all over for him.
Dammit! Tanga is SO getting in trouble when they get home. A nice few whallops. Maybe NOW he'll listen when he says lions are dangerous. Doubtful. If Nabana is worried, he doesn't show it, but instead lets out another snarl, holding his ground. Of course, the small problem nowis that Nadhifu can't speak. But Nabana can. "Oh, very good. I suppose now you're resorting to ransom."
Nadhifu is about to let forth a rather colourful retort to the lion when he remembers the cub in his muzzle. Ah. Wrinkling his face up in a silent snarl, he begins to circle the lion and then backtrack towards the cliff, a small growl rumbling through Tangaza's fur. Now he has some sort of leeway over the adult. Tilting his head downward in a sign of dominance, similar to Nabana's show earlier, he slowly begins to turn around, before breaking into a fast trot towards the falls.
Not backing down, Nabana turns to face Nadhifu as he moves, immediately taking off after the foreign male once he moves. He leaves a bit of distance between them, but not much. Only as much as Nadhifu earned himself with his backing up before turning and trotting away.
Tangaza frowns and starts to pout at the command he was given, going to miss anything from behind his father's bulk if he went over there. This is the stupid lion that's trying to take one of his best friends away, and he growls back again, still not having moved into the position he was told to. When Nabana started yelling though, that reminds that juvenile that he really should listen and re-locate over there. He is going, not incredibly fast, pouting you might say, but he is going nontheless. Before he has gotten too far though the other lion charges at him, barely giving Tangaza any time to react. First he is on the ground and the very next thing he knows is that he could feel sharp teeth around him. Uh-oh. He is simply too shocked at first and remains rather passive in this whole ordeal, maybe it is even the sight of his father being right there and sure that he will end up safe with him there. When Nadhifu turns around though, the cub really starts fighting, going to let the lion have a piece of his mind. He begins struggling and writhing to free himself as well as swiping and slashing with his claws, trying to get at the bigger lion's eyes especially. "LET GO OF ME" he demands, starting to get a little worried.
Stopping and clenching his eyes shut when the little cub starts retaliating, Nadhifu blows a strong spurt of air through his nose before putting a little more pressure on the cub's stomach and back, lifting his lips so he can let out a muffled snarl. For good measure, he gives Tangaza a little shake from side to side, not enough to do him any serious damage, but enough to warn him to not try that again. With that, he starts trotting forward once more, determined to punish the cub more so if he misbehaves again.
Seeing his son shaken, even just a little, is enough to infuriate the Kopje male, but he keeps following at a distance. It does, however, seal Nadhifu's fate in Nabana's mind, just as soon as he gets a chance...
Tangaza growls back himself as he feels the jaws tighten around him, digging in painfully but just the same, thankfully not puncturing the skin. That and the shaking made him settle down for a moment, before he uses one of the last shakes as momentum, trying to twist around just enough to get the lion really good in one of the eyes. So much for that warning.
One of Tangaza's ivory claws finds it's mark - puncturing Nadhifu's right eye and dragging down, leaving a deep gash that leaks a copious amount of blood and making the foreign lion stiffle a roar with a lot of difficulty. At that moment, he is so tempted to bite the irritating cub in half there and then, to sink his fangs through the small male's pitifully small body and to have done it... But that would leave him without leverage. He makes do with shaking the cub much harder from side to side, then lowering down to the ground to smack the cub into the dirt. Soon he rises up, expecting the cub to be more sedated now, then breaks into a sprint. He can't do much good with only one eye bleeding like this, so it's now or never to fetch Vikali.
It's hard to tell just what is going on there. Tanga's flailing about and trying to get him in the face... and then there's the scent of blood. The next thing Nabana sees is Nadhifu shaking Tanga and then thumping him about in the dirt. As far as Nabana can tell, it's something intended to be deadly. Part of his heart cries out, but it's nothing compared to the roar of pure rage he emits. Nadhifu's pause to thump Tanga against the ground was a mistake, for in that moment Nabana rushes forward, claws unsheathing, jaws agape, a heavy pounce aimed at Nadhifu's hindquarters, claws trying to find purchase in the lion's flanks, fangs aimed at the smaller lion's own spine. As far as Nabana knows, he's just witnessed the murder of his boy, and nobody gets away with that and lives as far as he's concerned.
Tangaza has just enough time to flash a smirk across his face when his claws found purchase and he could tell the lion is in some pain. He completely expected to be dropped at this point. He did not expect what occurs however. The vigorous shaking, combined with sharp teeth pressed into his soft belly, eventually dug in enough to tear and cause Tanga to start to bleed, not life-threatening at this point but enough to bring a stronger scent of blood in the air, especially laced with his own scent. The smack into the ground and the dirt leaves him reeling, dazed and stunned for the moment. He hangs limply, his brain trying to catch up after being rattled around like that. More sedated he is, but also turning out to be the perfect model for what horrifying outcomes might be going through his father's head. Any outside observer would only be able to see a limp lion cub hanging in the mouth of an adult, bleeding from where Nadhimu's muzzle gripped him and not to mention the largest lion of all three charging at the smaller pair.
Just as Nadhifu starts to make his way to the cliff, Nabana descends upon him, claws tearing into his hindquarters and the latter's teeth scraping around the base of his spine. Reflexively throwing his head up in a roar of utter pain, Tangaza is inadvertently thrown from his grip, sailing through the air backwards and away from the lion. Trying to turn around, he tries to launch a kick with a hindleg at the angered father's stomach, shaking himself with another roar in hopes of getting Nabana off.
No way. He's not letting go now. Nope. Nuh-uh. Screw that! Nabana digs his claws in to Nadhifu's hindquarters to keep his hold on the lion. His jaws go on trying to bite into Nadhifu's spine, despite the shaking and being kicked at. He's running on rage now, and unphased by the kick to the stomach save for a grunt.
Tangaza goes flying now, still not sure what is going on, but getting that strange feeling of falling and floating at the same time, which seemed to slow down for the few moments he soared through the air until the crushing impact leaves him in an unmoving heap of slightly-bleeding lionboy. He is going to have one heck of a headache after this, the way his head keeps being rattled around and bashed on things.
With another roar, Nadhifu struggles to pull away from the adult lion, throwing a few more alternating kicks to Nabana's lower stomach and a hopeful couple at the lion's nethers. Gritting his teeth and clenching his eyes shut, the peach-furred lion manages to pull away from the golden-hued male, although the latter's claws manage to scrape several very deep scratches into his behind. Barely wasting a moment more wincing, he launches off into a run once more, ignoring the burning pain in his rump and his ruined eye.
The kicks land mostly in Nabana's stomach, but there is one that comes very close to landing too far back. The instinct to protect, coupled with Nadhifu's pulling away, allows him to get away fairly easily. It's at that point when Nabana realizes that Nadhifu's jaws are empty. Although it gives Nadhifu some time to get a head start, the Kopje male pauses to look around. Spotting Tangaza's body laying a little bit away, he immediately heads over to pick his son up in his jaws and try to catch up with the foreign male. Nadhifu will pay for this!
As soon as he comes close to the cliff, Nadhifu can smell his daughter's scent, creating a satisfied smile on his face while he draws closer to the pool. A quick glance around is enough to tell him she's not down here, so swiftly moves up the path to the cliff. Ah, much stronger here... Spending some time on the promontory, he sniffs around the base of the rock, his sight marred thanks to his recently acquired wound, before approaching the entrance to the main cavern.
Just as the big lion was heading in, Khairi just so happens to be heading out. Of course he recognizes the lion and remembers well the kicks he had taken from him. Figuring he must be going after Vikali or searching for her, he decides to play as a distraction again. "Halt!" he calls as loud as his lungs can carry, standing his ground in front of the cavern as if it means anything, "You're not coming in here!"
Unsure of Tangaza's condition, it was pretty much Nabana's gut-reaction just to snatch him and not leave him laying out there. He hustles himself back to the waterfall, rage boiling. Nowthe lion is in the middle of their territory... and he hears Khairi's voice shouting from the caves. He may've already lost one cub, he's not going to see that happen again! The male gently sets Tangaza down in the grasses near the lake before letting out another roar, immediately turning to pursue Nadhifu.
Nadhifu barely slows down when Khairi moves into the centre of the opening, snapping a quick, "Out of my way!" before swatting the juvenile to one side with the back of his paw and continuing onwards. He only gets a few paces, however, before he comes face to face with Balana, and more importantly, a cub trotting up behind her. His cub. "Vikali!" the lion cries out, glancing from her then to the elder, then decides to ram the older lioness backwards, lowering his head and using what strength he has left.
Stepping out into the main cavern, Balana moves so she can see the entrance to the cavern. Just what's going on out there? She can see the rear end of a cub... appears to be Khairi. And beyond... she catches sight of Nadhifu. Who has then just whapped Khairi and is heading towards her. The lioness barely has time to brace before the male has made contact, sending her stumbling backwards, losing the footing of her hindpaws and slipping to the cavern floor.
Is it fate that he keeps getting smacked by this lion! Khairi is pushes aside almost into the side of the cave but skidding to stop a stop he turns. "GRAMMA!" the boy yells, watching her get rammed. Growling out at this, he runs after the lion trying to bite into the back of one of his legs. He might not be able to damage him much but maybe this will slow him down further!
Alright, that is ENOUGH! It's probably not really possible for Nabana to get much more pissed... He's had it. The male makes quick work of the path up to the promontory, and doesn't hesitate at all in his attack. Instead of just pouncing on Nadhifu, he attempts to completely leap upon the smaller male's back.
Nadhifu continues forward with his barge, and seeing the elder lying on the ground, he lunges forward, intending to wrap his maw about Balana's throat, only to be countered at the last minute by Nabana landing on his back. Instead of managing to grip the old lioness, he simply ends up landing heavily on her - the weight of two full grown adults. Struggling to his paws with Nabana on top of him, not particually caring who or what he treads upon, he runs sideways into the cave walls in an attempt to dislodge the heavier feline.
A sort of instinctual flail is directed at the lion as Balana sees him coming for her throat, but she doesn't manage to hit anything. All she gets is flopped upon by the two males, her maw opening to let out a cry of pain that doesn't make it. Once Nadhifu makes it back to his paws, despite the intense pain running through her, the lioness struggles to get out of the way of the fighting pair and into the back cavern.
Khairi of course missed his bite when his father jumped upon the lion. Though not moving out of the way fast enough he's stepped upon then kicked through the struggle. This sends him sideways in a roll until he reaches the wall where he rests, just watching the pair now, wide eyed and in shock.
Being rammed into the cave walls certainly doesn't do well for Nabana, causing bruises, scratches, and a little bit larger wounds in some places. The adrenaline running through him keeps the pain from reaching his mind right now, though. He's focused entirely on one thing as his claws try to get better purchase along the lion's sides, jaws once again trying to find his spine, this time aiming for Nadhifu's mid-back, just behind where his mane ends.
"Rrgh! Get off!" Unleashing a roar of frustration and of pain, Nadhifu comically tries to throw Nabana off his back by bucking wildly, although his jumps are far less impressive due to his earlier rump wounds. And all through this bustle of fur, claws, and blood, Vikali tries to struggle over to join Balana, careful to avoid being trodden on. Pain starts to overwhelm the lion from Kupotea, and he lurches towards the elder once more, still trying to dislodge Nabana.
In a sort of half-stumbling walk, Balana tucks her tail and does her best to get back towards the back cavern. She's awfully wobbly, and nearly falls twice, but manages to stay a step ahead of Nadhifu.
"VIKALI! GRAM!" the boy manages to scream out with a rush of pain in his side. Khairi though his side was better, but apparently all this has aggravated things. Unable to move out of the way, he howls in pain as his front paw is stepped upon, causing an instinct swipe at whichever was closest being the lion or his father if in range.
There's no shaking Nabana this time. Jaws close around Nadhifu's back. And once there, Nabana gives his head a vicious shake, snarling and growling all the while. His intent is pretty clear, that being to break the lion's back, or sever his spinal chord entirely, and finish off the Kupotea male.
Snarling back at Nabana as the other's teeth tears into his back, Nadhifu attempts to bash him into another wall, but the swipe from Khairi manages to set them careering in a different direction. The golden-furred male continues his work, biting and snapping at the male's spine, until- SNAP! His eyes shooting wide open, they force him to stare hopelessly at his daughter, how he had failed... he had failed. Njaa, Mahubi, Utamu... everyone. And he never told Vikali... The terrible snaping sound echoes throughout the pridal caves caves, then with a gasp of air rushing from his spent lungs, Nadhifu collapses on the floor in front of his beloved cub, the only thing left in the world with him fading before his very eyes as they start to mist over, then roll into the back of his head while his consciousness departs from the ruined body.
For years to come, Vikali will travel at night to the top of Waterfall Cliff, then sit there and speak to her mother, knowing that even if she can't respond, she can hear her. But where Utamu's spirit now resides, she is not alone. Along with her are two lions - one with a dark mane, and one with a brown, both smiling with the lioness they love down at their daughter far below.