A Shining New Era.A short Pridelands story by Chris Boyce.
20th February 1997.
To Elsa, the lioness of two worlds and the original spirit of the Pride Lands.
Note: Immue is in no sense a portrait of Elsa. Any resemblance between Immue and any person or animal known to the author is entirely coincidental.
_______Imagine, if you will, receiving an e-mail one day from a total stranger. The note is from someone several thousand miles away, who highly praises your wonderful text... and then utters some horrifying words:
_______Yes, I sent that note to Chris Boyce, upon my reading the first draft of his work "The Pridelands." I found it an interesting work, and suggested a few wording changes here and there that I thought might help a few difficulties he had hinted at. Dutifully, Chris proceeded to consider these... and ended up using several of them in his finished work. I was pleased that he considered enough of my suggestions to use them, and impressed by his willingness to solicit them in the first place; this told me that he was intent on making his work the best it could be.
_______Since then I've watched the world of Chris' "Pridelands" grow in complexity and richness, and have been left craving for more. And in this story, as all the others, he again finds something wonderful with which to surprise us all.
_______So take a few moments to read this, his most recent addition to his world. You'll find the time you invest here well spent.
_______I sure did.
_______David Morris, Wilmington, North Carolina
_______February 18, 1997
A Shining New Era.
_______"If you go in from behind," Akase had once said, "go in high and hold on tight." It was sound advice, though Immue did not always heed these words. Akase's next words however, were ones which Immue were to remember for a long time: "If you go in at all, go in to kill."
_______"Hmmm," she said inaudibly to herself as she parted the grass with her nose, "time to go in." She stopped and watched her unconcerned prey for a moment. The mandrill sat, his lilac rump showing close to the ground, his knees up close to his age-greyed chest as he picked tiny berries one by one with alternate hands from a low bush, stuffing them in his mouth and chewing noisily. After a few moments he looked carefully about the bush for any that he might have missed but found none. Before he could rise he found himself flung to one side into the mud by a massive force bearing down on his back that grew unstoppably until the sky darkened in pain which mercifully did not last long. "I do like you Rafiki", Immue said darkly, "I like all mandrills. But I don't think I could eat a whole one." She laughed gently to herself as she bent her head down with open jaws to lightly grip the short neck of her victim. She drew her jaws together slowly and deliberately, feeling the strong bones of the ape's neck crack between her teeth. A few unending moments later the elderly mandrill fell still, released from his pain at last. "I'm sorry my dear, it was simply too easy; yes, yes, yes." she said, dropping the limp meat. Immue licked her teeth greedily, "I think I can make an exception for you Rafiki - maybe I can eat a whole one after all." The body of her kill slumped over and its eyes stared unseeingly back at Immue. "Oh no!" she exclaimed in dismay, "Perhaps it really was too easy...."
_______"So young Scar," he said as he walked haltingly beside the dark, flame orange cub, "where's your mother this morning? Eh?"
_______"Oh, I don't know." Scar said vaguely. "Tell me - you give Mufasa all this?"
_______"What? Your brother all What? You tell Rafiki now."
_______"All this," repeated Scar scornfully in agitation. "...Where you been? What you doing? Who you with? All that. You're not MY mother."
_______"So, why you here eh? Why come and see a mandrill like me?"
_______"I..." Scar considered, searching for an answer to hide behind. "I want to learn something."
_______"Eh? Learn - learn what? Magic eh? Want me to turn you into a frog? Is that it?"
_______"Yuucck!" Scar turned away from Rafiki suddenly. "No way! Anything but that!"
_______"Ok, what about a mandrill? Like me?"
_______"Yeah, great! Wow, then I could swing through the trees!" Scar stood up and swayed from side to side, holding his tail high.
_______"Well now, not so fast, we're talking like me - a mandrill, not a vervet."
_______"Oh, yeah, Ok." There was a long pause in which neither spoke. Scar sat down, patiently at first, then he became increasingly restless. Rafiki sat quite still and calm looking beyond Scar to the west as if he were looking intently for something. Scar looked intently in turn at Rafiki as the waiting continued and became unbearable.
_______"Hey - monkey! Am I a mandrill yet?" Rafiki looked over all of the cub for a few seconds,
_______"Sure, now there are two of us on the Pridelands. What ever will your father say now that he has a mandrill for a son?"
_______"Well - I don't feel like a mandrill. I mean I don't feel all blue or nuffin..."
_______"Nuffin - Pabbbh? No? You're a young mandrill yet. You won't turn blue for years. Just wait - your time will come. Listen to Rafiki, he knows. The ladies will love you."
_______"No! Not yet - all that smoochy-smoochy, huggy-huggy stuff - no way am I going to have a lioness, I mean, whatever you mandrills call them." Scar shook his head in an exaggerated and forced way so as to add weight to his words.
_______"There'll be lots of little Scars one day, you'll see. Strong lads and beautiful lasses, fur as golden as the sunset."
_______"Hmmm, but I thought mandrills are grey..." Scar said probingly, wondering if he really was a mandrill after all, "and there's no way I'm having cubs." He sat up pushing his chest forwards and holding his head high. "I'll not have any time for that when I'm king."
_______"But my friend, you can't be king now."
_______"What?" shouted Scar in considerable distress. "Mum says I'm gonna." He rose and turned on Rafiki with bared teeth. "She says I'm gonna be the bestest king ever."
_______"Going to be the best." Corrected Rafiki firmly, "And mandrills can't be king. Only lions can be king. We haven't got the teeth - can't roar. See?"
_______"Oh!" Scar stopped and stood still. "You're right. Maybe I wanna be a lion again."
_______"May be. But you can be a lion any time. I'll not turn you into a mandrill again. You see? Enjoy it while you've got the chance? Eh, my lad?"
_______"Yeah, I guess so. But hey? Who am I anyway?" In reply Rafiki laughed loudly as he jumped back and forth waving his stick in front of the cub.
_______"You mean you don't know? Why you ARE confused!"
_______"No, no! Oh..." Scar sat back firmly, he was beginning to tire of the mandrill's cryptic talk. "I mean Scar's not a name for a mandrill, Hmmm?"
_______"Oh no, right again. It isn't. So, who do you want to be?" Rafiki drew close to the Scar and bent low to look into his eyes from just head's width away. Scar, drawing back instinctively, thought for a few moments before swatting ineffectively at Rafiki with a forepaw. "Eh? You have to be quicker than that if you want to catch a mandrill like us," said Rafiki as he dodged the cub's ill-aimed blow before rushing off. Scar jumped up and followed, surprised by the mandrill's speed and agility. As he ran he felt the stones slip on the soft ground beneath his pads and pushed his claws out a little to grip, they clicked and clattered on the stones as he ran after the leaping and bounding ape. The pair chased each other towards a clump of acacias, their dappled shade proving to be a welcome relief from the burning sun and moist heat of mid morning. The fully grown mandrill proved too fast for the young cub to catch and in a short time Scar gave up chasing and lay down panting on the floor of the thicket close to a thorny bush as all around him the rustles, whistles and shimmers of the breeze through the trees filled his softly furred ears and deep green eyes. Here the lion cub felt ill at ease and restless from the strangeness of his surroundings which seemed somehow higher than he was used to, the trees rose up around him and filled him with a sense of enclosure that frightened the cub so used to the expanse of the open savannah. The mandrill however was quite at ease in the half-shade of the thinly branched, parasol canopy of the acacias. Here it was Scar who was the weaker animal: the hunter was now the hunted.
_______ Rafiki stopped and looked back to see the small cub lying, cowering beneath the tree tops. He did not need to think long before he bounded back to sit beside the hunched and tense, dark furred cub. He spoke to Scar quietly and intimately, as a father to an uncertain son. "You can be Makedde, my brother."
_______"You... have a brother?" said the cub's head that was pressed firmly down to his forepaws, his tightly closed eyes loosening a little.
_______"Yes, of course! A brother and a cousin. He's coming to see me."
_______"Your brother?" asked the cub as he dared to open one eye just a little. Rafiki laughed gently as he lay his stick down on his open side.
_______"No, he's already here - You are here aren't you?" Rafiki did not wait for an answer from the cub who raised his head a little from his paws as he felt the warmth of the mandrill against his side. "My cousin, Faraki. He should be here soon you know. He's never seen the Pridelands. No, he'll get a surprise when he gets here. I know, yes, that's it."
_______"That's what?" asked the cub, his curiosity getting the better of his fear.
_______"He'll be stuffing himself somewhere. You know, don't know where he puts it. Me? I can't eat anything in my baobab with out wondering if I'll get stuck for days. You know, it will get him into trouble, sure it will. Ehh-heey." Rafiki put his arm around Scar as he chuckled, holding the warm cub and lifting him gently to his paws. For a few moments Scar luxuriated in the comfort of Rafiki's warmth then he pushed him away, remembering his mother's warning: "Never let anyone touch you my little one, you never know what they want from you, it could be something terrible.". Scar was uncertain as to what Rafiki might want, yet he could see no harm in this closeness. Indeed there was no harm: Rafiki held Scar out of genuine concern and unconditional friendship. The young Scar had no understanding of his mother's fear of adult's 'terrible' intentions. Before he was able to give much thought to his confused feelings he was distracted by a glimpse of something brightly coloured; a transient flash of blue and orange high above him. He turned his head skywards towards the flash. For a few moments his eyes were flooded with the unaccustomed brightness of the savannah sky, even though it was partially shaded by the canopy of acacia tops. As he squinted upwards the blueness resolved itself into the unmistakable form of a hornbill flying steadily, scanning the ground below. For a moment the bird flew on without spotting the unlikely pair of cub and mandrill through the tree tops. Rafiki drew a hand up to his forehead to shade his eyes from the glare as he too, in response to the minute sounds of the bird's flapping, turned his gaze to the sky.
_______Zazu opened his eyes wide and added an extra forward turning flap to his steady wing beat, causing him to slow in flight. Moments later he swooped down to the pair and alighted, absurdly small, on the ground in front of Rafiki. Turning to Scar, he said with a deliberate nod of his beak:
_______"So, there you are. Your father's been looking all over for you my boy."
_______"Tell the king he's with me. You do that. Go on, off you go!" Rafiki rushed forwards, grabbing his stick from where it lay on the ground and waving it wildly at Zazu. In a flurry of feathers and a couple of loud squawks, Zazu shot upwards to fly off indignantly towards the dark shadow of Priderock. "Go and report that. Ha, haah!" The mandrill jumped up and down laughing and waving his stick at the receding bird. "Hah! Gets him every time it does! Haah!".
_______Ahadi was not very keen on wandering all over the Pridelands looking for wayward cubs. He knew it was his duty and he performed it with diligence and due care, however he could not have been said to enjoy it. His mate, Akase, had been asked by Immue, at very short notice it must be said, to look after her son Scar while she went off hunting. No other lionesses had gone with Immue as the heat and humidity were oppressive. The young cub seemed unaffected by the heat of the day and had played with Akase's own cub, a male just a little older than Scar, for a while until a dispute blew up which escalated with the unsuspecting and substantial Mufasa taking the full force of a vicious claws unsheathed swipe from Scar. Akase never found out who or what had initiated the incident, no doubt some petty jealousy she assumed, however she thought it best if they were separated for a while. For a time peace seemed to have been restored and Akase allowed herself the luxury of a doze with her son draped over her forelegs. She felt the body of Scar settle at her back; when she awoke Immue's son was nowhere to be found. He had obviously wandered off somewhere by himself as there were no tracks or any other signs to show that any animals: friend, foe or prey had approached during their sleep. Scar's tracks, faint and faltering, lead off westwards for a short distance then disappeared into thick grasses in which the smells of fresh growth masked all scent of the cub. Akase knew he had to be found and quickly; the hyenas that frequented these parts had already shown themselves capable of taking a cub. Indeed Mufasa, then not even three months old, had been rescued from an opportunist hyena attack only by Ahadi taking drastic measures. He had had to cut down the bold hyena female as she tried to drag off the helpless cub. It was no time for reason and argument - the hyena had only released Mufasa; Ahadi and Akase's first cub; with her last breath. Mufasa was to remember that incident for the rest of his life, the hyenas were to prove to have similarly long memories.
_______Scar had no fear of hyenas, indeed he had hardly any fear of anything. His mother kept on telling him that he had nothing to be afraid of while she was around to protect him and protect him she did. However her method of protecting Scar from the hyenas was unorthodox for lions to say the least - She had followed a mother with three pups, a female and two males, back to her lair one day and cornered her. Immue had not killed them, she had no need, indeed she wanted them to stay very much alive, for the time being at least. Immue did a simple deal with them - they would leave her son alone and Immue would leave them alone. Immue told the hyenas that her offer extended to all of the pack. They were free to harass any of the other lions, but touch her little Scar and they would all die at Immue's paws, regardless of the fact that Hyenas were at best unpalatable and at worst totally inedible. It was soon noted by Ahadi and his new personal assistant Zazu, that the hyenas seemed to act most courteously to Scar, sometimes verging on uneasy friendliness. Zazu found this to be 'Most odd Sire.'. Immue was careful not to reveal to anyone what she had done, but it certainly protected the small and weak Scar until he was old and big enough to fight back effectively for himself; and in time he began to respond in kind to the hyena's occasional 'Hello Scar.'...
_______Ahadi sat and looked around. All around his great paws were definite signs that a lion cub and ape, presumably the mysterious but friendly Rafiki, had recently been at this spot. Rafiki was something of an oddity, he had wandered over to Ahadi one morning, totally unafraid of the great lion and tapped him gently on the head with some kind of stick:
_______"Eh? Anybody at home?"
_______"What are you?" asked Ahadi somewhat distractedly, wondering what this ape might taste like.
_______"Lunch?" the grey-blue ape said as he gazed peered fascinated into Ahadi's flowing mane. For a moment Ahadi was at a loss, then he burst out laughing as the ape started to pick into his mane for ticks and other more juicy insects.
_______"No," Ahadi managed to get out between great mouthfuls of laughter, "no, no, what kind of animal are you? Hey, don't tickle!"
_______"What? Like this you mean?" said the ape jovially as he reached behind the king's ears. "Yes, like that.... I'm Rafiki, the mandrill."
_______"Get off!" However Ahadi was not entirely serious and he rolled over on to his left side as he laughed while waving all four of his paws in the air, barely missing the mandrill who kept on scratching the great lion's ear.
_______"No, no way. Much too much fun.... Who are you?"
_______"That's Ahadi, king of the Pridelands," said a smooth and gentle voice from behind Rafiki, "and you're messing up his mane. I spent ages sorting it out this morning". Ahadi jumped up, dumping Rafiki in the dust beneath his paws. He shook himself, filling the air with a cloud of choking dust. "Hey, watch it, what are you doing covering me in that stuff." The lioness rushed forwards and tussled Ahadi, the pair ending up rolling together in the dust once more as Rafiki looked on.
_______"King eh? Well, now you don't look much like a king to me." he said as he moved his head to one side then the other trying to work out which bit of lion was which, pulling back suddenly as a tail swished past within an inch of his nose.
_______"Keep out of this, Rifaka. Hey Akase, that hurt!" Shouted Ahadi as he once more found himself rolled over and under his playful mate. Rafiki decided that enough was enough and that the moment had come to separate these two overgrown cubs with a combined weight of over 1000lbs. He jumped around to the head end of the squirming pile and shouted:
_______"STOP!" as he held up one of his hands to a lion's face. He felt the moist warm breath of the male on his palm as he looked into his eyes. Ahadi closed both eyes and shied away,
_______"Hey, don't do that!" Ahadi said.
_______"Yeah, stop that, you never look into the eyes of the king." said Akase as she let her hind quarters slide from her mates back to the ground.
_______"The king eh? Well now, do you live in the cave on the rock? No. Have you been presented? No. Do you behave in a dignified way befitting the king? No. So what gives you the right to be called king Eh?" Rafiki ran back hurriedly to collect his stick as Ahadi lay looking puzzled, "And the name's Rafiki." No answer came so Rafiki jumped back and holding the middle of the staff tightly in his right hand swung it at the unsuspecting lion's head. It made contact firmly, causing Akase to jump at Rafiki, her claws fully extended.
_______"Oowww! Hey, cut it out you two." Ahadi shouted as Akase bowled Rafiki over onto the dust and raised her left forepaw to strike.
_______"My pleasure dear." She said as she brought it down on Rafiki's neck. It struck something hard that shot up painfully into her right foreleg just below the knee as she felt herself overbalance and fall onto her left side.
_______"Oh dear, can't see too well close up I see." said Rafiki as he picked himself up from the dust where Akase had pinned him. "It's best not to hit my stick. You see - it can hit back." He rubbed his side where the wooden staff had pivoted as Akase struck it, the bruise was already painful. Akase lay licking her leg where a few drops of blood had begun to well up. Ahadi stood up flinching from the half-inch deep cuts from Akase's claws. For a moment he blinked uncertainly then dropped back down again as the top of his head began to throb. "I told you to stop. Now then let's have a look at that." Rafiki said as he bent down to inspect Akase's leg.
_______"I don't understand. Why don't you run away?" Asked Akase as Rafiki gently pushed her nose away from the wound.
_______"Because you are hurt, and you are with cub," was all the reply she got.
_______"What?" blurted Ahadi with cub-like eyes. "How?"
_______"You don't know?" responded Rafiki as he inspected the lioness, gently holding her leg, "Oh dear, there is much more to teach you than I thought."
_______In time Ahadi and the lionesses he had brought with him from the far off marsh lands came to trust Rafiki and to accept him as a sort of occasional cub. They followed his advice and soon moved into the cave on the towering rock overlooking the plain. It caught the morning sun and the hard surface warmed rapidly in the early light. The cave was never cold, despite it's solid rock walls, indeed it could become stiflingly warm, even unbearably hot. However, by late morning the ledges and promontory of the rock became pleasantly shady allowing the lions to migrate outside where they could doze safely in the open and, if they so desired, they could watch the astonishing variety of herd animals grazing steadily and peacefully across the plains below.
_______Not long after the pride had moved in Ahadi was dozing idly in the cave one morning at dawn when Akase rushed in and prodded him with her cool nose.
_______"Wake up, come on, wake up!" Ahadi, half roused from a rather odd dream about warthogs and meerkats, peered up, hoping that whatever had woken him would go away. Akase prodded him again. "Up you get, come on. You've got to see this!"
_______"Wha... see what? Come on, do you know it's still dark."
_______"No it's not, now get up - up, up, up."
_______"Oh Akase! Not that at this time of the day. Let a poor lion rest!" She stepped lightly round to his open side and forced a forepaw under his flank.
_______"Hey, that hurts!" Ahadi felt a bony lump under his ribs, "What's so great about today? Why can't I sleep?"
_______"Are you the king?" Akase said knowing full well what the answer would be.
_______"Sure, now let the king sleep."
_______"I know you're the king, but they don't know yet." Said his mate insistently.
_______"Who?" Ahadi open his eyes fully and looked into the gloom of the cave. They were, unusually for dawn, alone. "Look, there's no one here."
_______"There is: them - outside." Akase said forcefully, "Come on, you had better see this." She padded away towards the bright entrance. Ahadi forced himself up, muttering something about listening to his mother more, and walked stiffly after her, yawning loudly. There seemed to be something different about the rock that morning, the air was filled with a tangible expectancy. Akase, her sides full of their cub, stepped to one side as Ahadi crossed the threshold of the cave and out into the full force of the dawn sun. Before him stood a bright blue bird which stretched out it's wings and, in a gesture Ahadi had never seen before, bowed deeply before him. Ahadi started and drew back, uncertain as to who or what this might be. Rafiki stepped up to him, his stick held high, and put his free arm over the great lion's shoulders, burying it deep in his mane.
_______"Don't worry, that's only Zazu. You can get to know him later." Said Rafiki as the hornbill held himself low before the lion as if waiting for something.
_______"Er, thank you, er... Zazu is it?"
_______"At your service Sire." Replied Zazu rising to look at his king. "Any thing that you want, I will give to you. I am the king's most loyal servant."
_______"Pappbh! It is time." Rafiki said leading Ahadi, blinking in the sun, away from Zazu, who glowered at the mandrill in return, and across the still cool rock and up to the end of the promontory. "I can't lift you, you had better stand up straight and roar loudly instead." He confided as he whispered into the king's ear. Ahadi took one look beyond the rock edge and on to the plain. He felt unsteady and rocked slightly side to side. "It's ok, I have got you."
_______Assembled as far as Ahadi's half open eyes could see were more animals of more species than he had ever seen and still more that he had never seen. His instinct told him to turn and run back to the cave, hoping he would wake there to find that the day was just like any other. Rafiki's steadying arm around him told him that this was all too real.
_______"Help me Rafiki, what am I supposed to do?" His voice was unsteady and wavering, his eyes turned from the crowds below to look at Rafiki pleadingly.
_______"Just remember who you are. You are the King of the Pridelands are you not?"
_______"Do I have to be?" Ahadi replied doubtfully.
_______"Too late, all you have to do is roar and they'll all go away, but make it good. They are expecting a king not a cub."
_______"Just one roar? And then they'll go away, is that it?"
_______"Yes... it is time." Rafiki drew his arm back from Ahadi and stepped back to leave him alone at the tip of the rock. Ahadi tried to forget the animals of every type waiting below him. For a moment he thought he could not go through with it. He closed his eyes and felt the warm rays of the sun on his forehead. He threw his head up and opened his eyes to the full force of the dawn, the bright light blotting out everything as he drew in the cold air of the morning and roared out over the plain. As he finished he heard the faint echo of his roar die away, to be followed by the loudest sound he had ever heard: the entire population of the Pridelands erupted into voice together to proclaim him as their one true king. As the sound wrapped around Ahadi he felt his fear drop away and he let himself roar again, just for the sheer pleasure of it all. He was now the King of the Pridelands and he made a mental note to forgive Akase for waking him so early: she had been right, this was worth seeing....
_______The rock where the pride now lived and where Ahadi had been presented later became known as Priderock, partly as the pride lived there and partly as it was Ahadi's first pride and joy. Later this pride and joy was to be replaced as his first cub with his mate Akase was born there. However this cub, a male, was not the first to be born on the Pridelands. That honour had fallen to a female, named Sarabi, a couple of months before. She had a couple of sisters but Sarabi was always special as she was the first. Her birth had been surrounded by speculation and rumour. She certainly did not look much like Ahadi, who vigorously insisted that he was her father. Her dark fur was quite unlike Ahadi's golden coat and her mother's pale sand. Then there were her dark brown, almost black, ear rim marks and the smooth flow of her nose that gave her a dignified look even as a young cub. Sarabi carried her name like a badge, she was something of a mirage: her origins were forever shrouded in mystery and intrigue, even from herself. It was not until the birth of Mufasa that the rumours finally died down as now the lionesses had something new to talk about. A week later Immue bore a male cub, the fifth to be born on the Pridelands, in great secrecy. He was small and for a time seemed very likely to die. Immue kept him hidden from all, especially his father Ahadi, for well over six weeks. She was seen lurking around the pride and from time to time was seen hunting. She never ventured close to Priderock and no one ever found out where she kept her cub hidden, no one even knew if it was a son or a daughter until Immue lead him up to the rock at dawn. Ahadi greeted her respectfully as the mother of his cub. The two month old Mufasa rocked unsteadily up to his father's side to stare at his new half-brother.
_______"This is Scar." Immue said without being asked. "If anyone harms him they'll have me to answer to, do you hear?" There were murmurs and whispers all around her, one caught her ear: "However did he get that?". Immue did not dignify the comment with a reply, instead she simply picked up the wide-eyed Scar between her teeth and carried him up to the flat of the rock and lay down, placing him by her side. The cub stared out as the lionesses crowded round to inspect him. They quickly saw that the scar, seemingly a gash over the lids of his left eye that stood out boldly against the almost black hair that surrounded his eyes, was actually a hairless band of smooth flesh quite unlike the rough mark left by a true injury. It turned out that Immue had given him the name in the heat of the birth, as parents often do with new-borns: names such as Fluffy, Rolly, Giggles or Squirm; intending to give him something more fitting later. She had simply never got round to finding another name for her little Scar.
_______Scar's conception, as was suspected of Sarabi's, was shrouded in speculation. He was a son of Ahadi, at least Ahadi said so, then again he said that about Sarabi. Only the two mothers knew for sure, that much was known by all the lions on Priderock, what was less well known was that they each knew the truth about the others cubs. Immue had only been with the pride for a little over three months, for most of which she had been with cub by Ahadi, before that she had scratched out an existence as a lone and lonely lioness who had failed to join any of the many prides she had encountered. Her hold in the Pridelands pride was tenuous at best and many of the lionesses could not understand why Ahadi and Akase had accepted her, let alone honoured her with his cub. Ahadi made a big fuss of treating Scar as his son and tried to treat him just as he did Mufasa. The pair were brought up as full brothers as far as Immue would allow. However she kept Scar very close to her and would not allow any interference with what she felt was her right and duty in raising her son. No one quite understood what was going on, Immue would never talk about it and would tell anyone who asked to "go and stick your nose into someone else's business, my dear.". She had spent years alone and now treated any inquiry, no matter how friendly, as an intrusion. Those years of isolation had started when she had been released back into the wild after four blissful years as little more than an overgrown house cat. She never remembered her natural mother, she had regarded her owner as her mother, and even now it was her that she dreamed of in the moments that she allowed herself to sleep. The years had ended when she happened across a lioness alone with a dark brown, somewhat elderly lion with a full but well worn mane that was streaked black over his shoulders. His ears were fully black and blended into his mane. There was no doubt about what they were doing and no doubt that neither would be have tolerated Immue's presence had they known she was there. Immue did not recognise either the lion nor the lioness. She supposed that he was one of the long deposed pride heads that roamed around the savannah taking whatever opportunity came their way. Opportunity had come his way in the beautiful form of a well built but sleek lioness who, when not otherwise engaged, would prowl with a rare grace. Immue watched for some hours, the pair not roaming more than a hundred metres from the spot where she had first seen them.
_______Later, a little after sunset, she left the couple unseen by their eyes which were only for each other, and began to wander alone once more. She felt an emptiness and hunger that even the fattest of warthogs would not satisfy. She knew that there was little chance of it being sated, she knew she had little chance of joining a pride and bringing up cubs of her own, she felt herself to be destined to wander over the ridges and valleys of the uplands and never to feel the heat of a lion's breath on her back or the comfort of a cub nuzzling for her milk. She tried to sleep but the image of the lioness as the fatherly lion had taken her kept coming back to hold her close to wakefulness. She lay in the open, in grass barely tall enough to hide her. She paid no heed to her safety. As she dozed fitfully she failed to notice that she too was being watched for a time. Had she known she would not have slept at all; had she known she would have taken her chance then and there; had she known that her life was about to change she would have seen the lion who crept close, so close that he could have reached out and licked her, so close that he could smell the scents that told of her hunger. She rose out of her dream and open her eyes a little.
_______"Er, excuse me, but have you seen Narala?"
_______She lifted her head and struggled one eye open and focused it on the voice. It was too close to see clearly but she felt the warmth and moisture of it's breath that had clearly recently eaten.
_______"Wh..." she tried to open both eyes and focused again in vain. "What? Who's Narala?"
_______"Ah......" said the voice which carried warmth and strength and felt friendly and engaging. "You're not who I thought you were." The voice changed, growing slightly tense as it's owner backed away hurriedly. "I'm sorry to have bothered you. Must run," he called urgently as he turned away, "gotta find Narala."
_______"No, don't go, maybe I've..." but it was already too late. The lion had already put a couple of lengths between him and Immue. She saw the couple in her mind, but now she saw that the lioness was herself, and the lion kept on calling her name, over and over as he nipped her scruff with his worn and browned teeth:
_______"Narala, oh Narala. it's you Narala, it's you, you."
_______"No, No, NO! NO!!" Immue roared, the running lion stopped instantly and turned to face Immue holding his head barely above the level of his shoulders, his ears held back and his eyes forward as he tried to fight the voice of his mother that rang through his head. "NO!" Immue roared again to the vision. "it's not Narala, it's Immue, You have to know it's me!"
_______"You do know her...."
_______"You have to it's me! It's me - Immue."
_______"I know you are Immue, but where's Narala? I must find Narala." His voice lost power as spoke, it tailed off to leave him as no more than a cub. "I must find Narala. The pride expects me...." he could not finish and lay down and frantically swished his tail, while his ears remained held flat on his head. He closed his eyes and shook his head desperately as if to rid himself of a host of painful flies. Immue saw his pain but did not run to his side to comfort him but stood for a moment and watched this pathetic cub of a lion. He would never be a king she thought, he would never even be worth talking to. He would never be the father of her cubs.
_______"The pride? Your pride? You - you have a pride?" asked Immue, her curiosity driving her to reconsider. The lion, almost fifteen metres away, said nothing but carried on ignoring her, he was almost crying. No, he was crying. "Did you say you had a pride?" She insisted, regardless of his vulnerable state. He sniffed and raised his eyes to the Immue without lifting his head.
_______"I had a pride. Once."
_______"Oh, I thought you said the pride expects you to... to what, my dear?" She said 'my dear' but it had little meaning, this cub had little enough endearing features, and he certainly was not Immue's in any accepted sense, except in her power and that she realised soon enough. "Oh, my dear, you mean that... Narala was meant to be yours?" He picked up his head suddenly, his ears rising with it.
_______"So you do know her. Why didn't you say? Why?"
_______"So how exactly was she 'yours'? Hmmm?" Immue was warming to the intrigue.
_______"I..." he tried to look away but his mother's voice forbade him, "I, she, we, well..."
_______"Come now, let Immue hear it? yes, yes?"
_______"She and I were - 'together'."
_______"'Together'?" Immue thought for a moment then the truth fell upon her - this was not just a cub, this was a big cub and big enough to be with a lioness. "Oh you mean you were mating with her. Oh yes, yes, yes!"
_______"We still are when I find her."
_______"Oh, my dear, I don't know if I should be the one to tell you this." Immue fell silent, knowing the lion would not be able to resist her invitation. For a while he seemed surprisingly likely to prove her wrong.
_______"Tell me what?" He got up and walked very slowly towards Immue who sat back, seemingly content to let him make all the running. "Well, what is it?"
_______"My dear, my dear, you should find out for yourself. I mean this is not a thing you want to hear from a stranger. No, no, indeed no." Immue shook her head forcefully, her tail remained straight behind her, except the tip which bent off a little to one side. The young lion, looking a lot older now he had regained most of his composure, drew closer. Immue felt a strange force flowing in her that set her tail tip twitching erratically, she was not sure whether she wanted this feeling or not, though it grew strongly as he approached. She resisted it's call and remained sitting, however much she liked these feelings she liked the power she had over him much more. He came within a metre of her and sniffed at her.
_______"Who are you? What are you doing here. How do you know Narala and what do you know about her?"
_______"Well, you seem to know I'm Immue and I'm not doing anything. It's your Narala who's doing it, hmmm?" She raised her head as she finished to emphasise that she knew more, much more, than she was telling. "And anyway my dear, shouldn't you be telling me something about you. Yes, yes, yes that would be best - yes?"
_______The lion paused, and realising he was not going to get anything more out of Immue he decided to tell her everything. That was to prove to be the costliest mistake of his life but now all that mattered was to find the lost Narala. But it turned out she wasn't so much lost as bored.
_______"My name is Ahadi - and yes I was mating Narala but she wandered off."
_______"Oh my dear, that can't be right surely? Lionesses don't just 'wander off' with a lion such as you to attend to them."
_______"Well, Ok, so I wasn't as attentive as I might have been. She's very nice and all that but..." Ahadi felt embarrassed but now that he had his own pride he felt he had to rise above that sort of feeling. He rose straight into Immue's waiting trap. "...but I love Akase you see, I have to mate all the lionesses but I only love Akase, she's the only one I really care about."
_______"Oh, how awful, I'm so, so, so sorry. Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?" She continued in silent thought. "Oh he is such a dear cub."
_______"You can tell me what you know, I'll do anything to get her back."
_______"Oh, really? Anything. Well now, let me see. Hmmm - Oh yes, I did see her but she wasn't alone."
_______"Really? Oh no, one of the other lionesses have found her. I'm done for, you know how they'll talk, I'll never be able to hold my tail high again. Akase will have me for breakfast."
_______"Oh my dear, no, no, no it's not like that at all."
_______"It's not? Good for a moment I thought I was in trouble - deep." Ahadi lifted his head up and for a second looked as though he could head a pride.
_______"No, no, no, she's with a lion."
_______Ahadi could not believe what he was hearing, not only had Narala walked off on him but she had gone with another lion.
_______"At least she's not mating him." He thought doubtfully. The situation could hardly be worse, but he was wrong.
_______"Oh yes, yes, she's really with this lion, if you see what I mean."
_______"You mean she walks out from under me and straight under another lion?"
_______"Well, my dear, you must have been VERY inattentive. What did you do?"
_______"I..." Ahadi drew his head away and mumbled something into the night. _______"Oh my dear, I couldn't quite hear that - now, say it again, a little louder just for me. Yes, yes?"
_______"I... fell asleep."
_______"What? On her?" Immue laughed gently. Inside she prepared herself for the pounce on her prey.
_______"No - NO! We weren't actually... no, I just dozed off and she must have..."
_______"...Wandered off. Yes you said, no need to repeat yourself. So what's so bad about that. You felt tired yes, yes?"
_______"Yes, yes. But I took all these lionesses away from the marsh lands, they all look to me as their lion. Akase calls me her king for standing up to her father. I can't go back and say 'I fell asleep on Narala', I'll never be able to really be her king, the pride would never think I'm a real lion. Lions don't fall asleep with lionesses. Do they?"
_______Though she was certainly not going to admit it Immue did not really know, certainly the old lion had looked anything but asleep.
_______"Well now, you don't have to tell them my dear."
_______"I don't? But surely they'll find out from Narala."
_______"Oh my dear, I don't think so."
_______"Why not?" Ahadi narrowed his eyes probingly.
_______"Yes, yes, yes. You see I know that you'll tell all the lionesses that you are the father of Narala's cubs." Immue smiled knowingly at Ahadi.
_______"Why should they believe me?"
_______"Because I will tell them it is true. Yes, yes, indeed I will tell them."
_______"But you're not a member of my pride. They'll not listen to you."
_______"My dear, didn't you say you'd do anything? Hmmm?"
_______"Yes, well I..." Ahadi began to suspect something big was coming.
_______"Well, you did and what I want, well what I want is to be a full member of your pride."
_______"Ahhh... a member of my pride, just like Narala?"
_______"Oh yes, just like Narala, only..." Immue teased him mercilessly, "...only I won't let you fall asleep. No, no, no..."
_______"If I do this, what will you tell all the others? About Narala?"
_______Immue thought for a moment then raised a forepaw and, extending one claw, touched her chin gently.
_______"Hmmm, let me see....... Oh yes, that's simply too easy - I'll just say she's a trouble maker" then she added, accompanied by a vaguely waved forepaw, "...or something."
_______"Hmmm," he mused doubtfully, "Well, that wouldn't be far from the truth. I mean she always wants to be my queen, she'd take my Akase's place any time if she felt she could - Ok, I'll promise."
_______"Well my dear, it seems your problem is solved, is it not? Yes? Now all we have to do is find your Narala and makes sure she doesn't cause any more trouble. Yes my dear?" Then, once Ahadi had turned his back, Immue went on with a slight chuckle under her breath, "Simply too easy my dear, yes, yes, yes."
_______The pride had a shock a day or so later as Ahadi walked in, his tail held high, followed by a strangely subdued Narala and a subdued stranger. Immue never talked about her arrival in the pride. Narala never told about the days when she was with Ahadi. No one asked her as they knew such times were private. Soon Akase took possession of her great love and a week or so later Immue's time came and Ahadi, as he had promised and as busy and tired as he was, responded to her demands and made her a very full member of his pride.
_______In time, after the pride had arrived on what quickly became known as the Pridelands, Narala's cubs were born, all female. Ahadi made it known that despite their appearance; ranging in colour from dark sand to almost hazel brown with delicate spots of only slightly darker brown; one even had dark marks on the rim of her ears, she inherited her mother's powerful yet sleek build and grew day by day to move with all her grace and elegance; they were Ahadi's cubs and were to be treated just like any other cubs. This was not difficult as all the cubs in the pride were to be Ahadi's....
_______Ahadi looked around for any signs of Scar. He could see a few tracks, distinct and clear, leading away; the depth increasing and the stride length extending as the ape and cub had run off. That would be the best way to go: to follow and hopefully catch up with Scar and Rafiki. Ahadi knew that Rafiki would take care of Scar, so his fears of earlier now subsided. The only problem was who was looking after Rafiki? It seemed, thanks in no small part to his ceremonial stick which he carried at most times, that Rafiki could look after himself well enough but would the pair be safe from those hyenas? Then again, Scar seemed to act as a deterrent to even the worst of the pack. One, the young and particularly troublesome female, Shenzi, had even been seen talking to the cub on vaguely friendly terms. Ahadi had tried to get to the bottom of whatever had been going on but had merely ended up with a set of scratches on his hind legs that made sitting less comfortable than it had been previously. The hyenas still hunted the Pridelands of course, and from time to time the ever present tension flared into outright violence. One night a few weeks before a particularly bitter argument erupted over a hartebeest carcass Ahadi was guarding. He had stood his ground until overwhelming pressure of numbers had forced him to release the meat. It didn't end there however and Ahadi found himself surrounded with the hyenas closing in relentlessly. Akase and Falasha had arrived just in time with flying claw and ripping teeth to break the line of hyena. A couple of hyena had been killed in the ensuing bloody brawl, one of whom had been Shenzi's mother.
_______Ahadi broke into a run, his pads landing alongside the prints of his son. It was not long before he entered the thicket, slowing to a steady and cautious walk through the trees that could hide almost any animal. This was leopard country and he was taking no chances. He looked to both sides as his paws fell rhythmically on the thicket floor. Ahead he thought he heard a sound, a voice... a mandrill's voice, followed unmistakably by Scar's:
_______"You don't like Zazu much do you?"
_______"Zazu? Well, he's all right. He is rather nosy eh? You know."
_______"All right Rafiki," thought Ahadi as he approached unseen from downwind, "that's enough of that."
_______"But he thought I was still Scar, a lion cub."
_______"What? No? You are a mandrill. Listen, you do trust Rafiki?"
_______"Yeah, well, Dad does so I guess I should too but sometimes it's hard."
_______"Yes, it can be hard to trust others."
_______Ahadi padded quietly into the pair's field of view.
_______"See, now do you trust him?" Said Rafiki quietly into the cub's ear. Scar did not answer, he just shrank down fearfully as he realised that Zazu must have found his father as sent him here to collect him and take him back to Priderock.
_______"Well now Rafiki. Who's your fine mandrill friend? I've not seen him on the Pridelands before?"
_______Scar lifted his head up in surprise.
_______"He is my brother, Makedde. He is visiting me."
_______"Your brother? Well now, Makedde, it's a pleasure to meet you."
_______Rafiki whispered into Scar's ear.
_______"Better say hello to the king, Makedde. He's a very nice lion when you get to know him."
_______"Your majesty, I..." but Scar could not finish, after a few moments Ahadi broke the tension.
_______"Don't worry Makedde, we can talk more later. I'd best be getting back now. Tell you what, why don't you two come with me, then you can tell me all about yourself and how Rafiki managed to keep so quiet about you for all this time."
_______Scar looked at Rafiki for a lead, he gave it by holding his staff out in the direction of Priderock and nodding gently. Scar lead off and Ahadi stepped forward to his side smiling. Rafiki fell in behind the father and son. On the way back they chatted about the weather and mandrill's favourite foods and the difficulties of getting really fresh bananas. Rafiki never did see his cousin again....
_______On the flat, sun-warmed boulders below Priderock all was quiet as it usually was in the heat of the late afternoon. Akase lay relaxed as she waited for Ahadi's return, hopefully with the wandering Scar. She hoped he could be found before Immue arrived. Falasha lay nearby grooming herself lazily, paying particular attention to her left fore paw, which was still a little sore after receiving a cut just above the pads whilst out hunting. She slurped noisily as she moistened the wound and ran her grating tongue along the hardened skin. The little Mufasa played nearby, pouncing at insects, grasshoppers mainly, in the grass a short way off. He seemed totally engrossed in catching them only to release them soon after, waiting a few moments before pouncing again. Akase knew that he would be out of harm's way for a while longer. All was as it always was and the pride, or those who were not out on the plains, were at peace.
_______It was just getting round to the time when Akase grew restless and hungry as the heat of the day began to wear off when Immue slunk in silently. She came straight up to Akase and said in a tense tone:
_______"All right, where is he?"
_______"Who, Immue?" asked Akase trying to stall Immue in case Ahadi had just arrived at the rocks behind Immue.
_______"You know very well who, don't give me that 'innocent' stuff. Where's my son?" All traces of her normal veneer of politeness were gone, this was Immue in the raw.
_______"Your son? Oh you mean Scar. Well now, he's around. Er, Mufasa?"
_______The cub drew up from his pounce-ready crouch and answered his mother.
_______"Yeah Mum, what's up?"
_______"Mufasa dear, do you know where Scar is?"
_______"Yes, you little furball, where's my son?"
_______"Now then, that's enough." Akase snapped at Immue, clenching her teeth and giving a low, rumbling growl that was intended to signify: "Back off!"
_______"Well, now if it isn't the 'Queen'? I'm just as much Ahadi's mate as you are! And my son's going to be the next king!"
_______Akase pushed her forequarters up from the rock, tensing her shoulders and holding her snarl, she growled again; louder so that Falasha heard clearly.
_______"He'll never be king while I live. And where have you been today?"
_______"I don't have to tell you anything. Ha, call yourself a Queen?" Immue refused to back down in the face of Akase's warning and stood her ground proudly with her tail high.
_______"You do if you've been hunting and made a kill." Akase growled and eased her hindquarters from the rock to stand full square in front of Immue. Her bulk was much greater than that of the relatively slightly built upland lioness Immue, if blows were to be exchanged then Akase would be sure to prevail.
_______"I've not killed today. I may have been hunting, but that's not a crime is it? Or does the Queen have other ideas?" Still Immue kept up her defiance. Akase knew the time was getting close to when she would be forced to act or admit humiliating defeat to Immue. Akase was not know for being aggressive and this clear and public challenge to her position put her in a difficult and dangerous position. She looked intently into Immue's eyes for a few seconds before speaking again, all the while keeping up a continuous rasping growling.
_______"If you haven't killed then why is there blood on your cheek?" Her growl rose as she finished and she lunged at Immue in a final attempt to assert her authority as the senior lioness. Immue was surprised by the sudden rush of Akase and despite outward signs was not going to wait around to exchange blows. She turned in the face of Akase's lightning burst of power and ran as fast as she could, her tail flailing wildly as she bounded away.
_______Akase slowed and stopped after only a few paces, her sides heaving. She roared after the escaping Immue. She felt relieved that Immue had been so selfish with her kill, thus giving her a way out of the stand-off. She felt even more relieved when, a few minutes later, Ahadi returned with Scar and Rafiki.
_______"Oh Ahadi, thank the stars you've found him." She turned to the cub. "And where have you been? Don't you know it's dangerous out there? There's all sorts of animals that would like to take a young cub like you?"
_______"Hmmm, you have no idea." Replied Scar sarcastically.
_______"What? Now then I'll have none of that. If you were my cub I'd make sure you felt the back of my paw for that. So, where have you been?" Akase demanded, half expecting some retort or other, she was not disappointed.
_______"Well, I'm not your cub. You're not my mother. She says what I can and can't do, not you!" Scar turned away from Akase. He made the mistake, however, of turning towards Ahadi.
_______"But I am your father. Now, that's no way to talk to a lioness who cares about you. You had better say you're sorry or you'll not share a kill for two whole days." Scar stayed facing Ahadi but looked out to one side, across the plain. "Do you hear me?" Ahadi raised his left fore paw, not to strike Scar, but merely to warn him that he could do so if he felt the need. Scar mumbled under his breath as he turned back to Akase:
_______"Temper, temper." For a moment he refused to meet her gaze, then he raised his head and with all the conviction he could muster he said "I'm sorry Akase."
_______Akase saw Scar's expression carried a hint of remorse about it and smiled gently in reply.
_______"That's ok, but I do need to know where you went. I have to be able to tell your mother all about it you know. She cares about you very much."
_______Scar felt a little guilty at this. He hadn't realised his mother could be hurt by one of his little adventures.
_______"Well I..." Scar started, but Rafiki stepped in and spared him from any further awkwardness.
_______"He was with me all afternoon. We talked. He was a good little mandrill."
_______"Hmmm?" Scar felt a little embarrassed and foolish to have believed that Rafiki had really turned him into a mandrill, but he was certainly not going to admit that to Akase and Ahadi, and definitely not Mufasa who was standing a few lengths away.
_______"Hmmm indeed Scar. I hear you were a very good mandrill, do you want a banana?" Jested Ahadi gently. Scar turned away and dropped his head close to the ground in shame. "Oh, come on young'un." But Scar did not 'come on', instead he sank to the ground in front of Akase.
_______"Ahadi, what did you say that for?" Glared Akase in a whisper over scar, then raising her voice as she bent down to lick the top of Scar's head. "Up you get, I think I'd better take you home to your mother." Scar looked up and smiled uncertainly at Akase who looked reassuringly down at him. She offered him a paw, placing it gently by his side to hold as he got unsteadily to his paws. She lead him away, pausing only to throw a comment on the breeze to Ahadi: "You just can't trust lions can you?"
_______"...I see you brought him back then. You had him hidden did you?" Immue was impatient and did not wait for Akase's reply. "Well, give him here and be on your way, come on - I haven't got all day my dear." Immue stood on the ledge on the northern face of Priderock outside the cool cavern she called home. The cavern was not enclosed, at the far end, no more than ten metres from the north entrance, the floor sloped up to a narrow rock platform reachable from either side only by a powerful leap. "Come here my little one." Scar did not wait for Akase to respond to his mother and leapt to her and threaded his way among her forepaws, standing, albeit a little crouched, with the top of his head rubbing her dark and warm underfur. Akase realised that her carefully prepared speech was not going to help the situation and so it was consigned to her memory, never to be heard. She turned, unsmiling and resigned, and walked back the way she had come, back to her own cub, Mufasa, who would be expecting his evening feed.
_______Scar fed voraciously that evening. Immue lay back and enjoyed the company and intimacy of her only son as the light finally faded to leave the cavern dark and foreboding. She drew the tired cub to her with a forepaw and in time he dozed quietly on her forelegs, pressing his back up to her breast which moved gently with each breath. Scar felt secure and at peace, Immue licked his head and shoulders, not so much because he was dirty, but because she longed for the smell and taste of his young fur. Scar said little as he wavered in and out of sleep. In ten or more minutes the only words he said clearly were:
_______"I love you mother." In reply she gazed longingly at her cub and, softly and gently at first began to sing. Not a lullaby but words of love for her cub who was all she he ever had in the world:
I wanna call the stars down from the sky.
I wanna live a day that never dies.
I wanna change the world only for you,
Oh the impossible I wont do.
I wanna hold you close under the rain.
I wanna kiss your smile and feel the pain.
I know what's beautiful looking at you,
in a world of lies you are the truth.
And baby, every time you touch me I become a hero.
I'll make you safe no matter where you are
and bring you everything you ask for,
nothing is above me.
I'm shining like a candle in the dark
when you tell me that you love me.
I wanna make you see just what I was.
Show you the loneliness and what it does.
You walked into my life to stop my tears.
Everything's easy now I have you here.
And baby, every time you touch me I become a hero.
I'll make you safe no matter where you are
and bring you everything you ask for,
nothing is above me.
I'm shining like a candle in the dark
when you tell me that you love me.
In a world with out you,
I will always hunger.
All I need is your love to make me stronger....
And baby, every time you touch me I become a hero.
I'll make you safe no matter where you are
and bring you everything you ask for,
nothing is above me.
I'm shining like a candle in the dark
when you tell me that you love me.
_______Scar sat smiling on a rock below the promontory
of Priderock as his lionesses dispersed in dismay whilst all around cane
the baying hordes of Hyena. The moon shone down unwarmingly and Scar looked
up to it and remembered. He was at long last the King of Priderock. He had
finally triumphed over Mufasa and Ahadi and what had so long been denied
him was now all his. Power, pure power to do anything he wanted, just so
long as the hyenas agreed of course. More and more poured over the rocks
behind him, voice after voice lifted up to the moon until one voice in particular
caught Scar's ear.
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