Pride Lands Online

A short Pridelands story by Chris Boyce.
14th November 1996.

With thanks to my friend David Morris who proof read this and provided much valuable comment and suggestions. I reverently touch your mane.

_______Nala lay amongst the sleeping lionesses a little before noon. To one side of the group of six she lay with her rear paws draped over her mother, Sarafina, her head propped on her fore paws where she could feel the blistering heat reflected from the hard packed ground. The rains were now over and the savannah was at it's peak of greenness, in just a few weeks the browns would return to cloak the dust. The grazing animals were busy taking whatever advantage they could of this plethora of riches. Their cup overflowed and as it did so the predators: lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and even the jackals took whatever they could. It was a good time to be alive in the Pridelands. Unlike her mother, Nala was not asleep. She lay still thinking, going over and over the same thoughts in her mind, she had not been able to stop thinking and of what? What kept the beauty that stalked by sunset from her sleep? One name dominated her thoughts, one name was all that held her from sleep, one name: Tana. She flicked her tail thoughtlessly, it cracked down on to her mothers left haunch. Sarafina flinched and, almost lovingly, she murmured something through the mist of sleep.
________"Oh Scar, do it again. Please..."
'What?' thought Nala as she raised her head a little and turned her ears to her mother, 'At least she sounds happy.'. Sarafina fell back into whatever dream filled world she belonged to. Nala dropped her heavy head back on to her soft creamy fur that covered her fore paws. 'What,' she thought yet again, 'am I going to do about Tana?'. Sala and Tana's arrival into the pride had been received with mixed emotions, first they had been treated politely and with courtesy as befits guests, especially ones that had known Mufasa for so long. He had explained how he had met the sisters one day when he was hunting. He had, or so he said, rushed a gazelle and literally bumped into this beautiful creature. He admitted to more than a moment of desire. She had seen this clearly and had reportedly said:
______"I'm sorry, but we seem to have the same thing on our minds."
Mufasa had been taken abruptly aback by such forwardness and lost his usual self-assuredness and lapsed into incoherence:
________"I did...well...I didn't mean...that...sorry...I..." and turned to escape, his eyes fixed to the ground as he shook his head in embarrassment.
________"It's Ok, I thought it was a good gazelle too. Though I'll never find out now."
"Gazelle? You mean? Oh, I am so sorry I though you...well, I meant."
He lifted his head, still avoiding the small lionesses gaze. Her eyes could melt even the hardest of lion's hearts, Mufasa's was boiling over though he had already shown rather too much of the steam that had been produced.
________"Why yes, what else did you think I meant?" She seemed earnest, as if the thoughts that so troubled Mufasa were as far away as the Pridelands.
Mufasa shook himself, his mane billowing and flowing around his shoulders. The lioness watched him intently, bearing deep into his eyes to size up this great stranger.
________"Who are you?", she said as the last of the shake left his tail.
________"My name is...Mufasa, and yours?"
________"I'm Sala. That's my sister behind you.". Mufasa opened his eyes wide and twisted round in near panic to see another, somewhat bigger, more muscular lioness standing no more than a length behind him. He felt vulnerable and small, he had been caught unawares. He could do very little to regain his dignity and so opted to capitulate.
________"Have you been there long? I seem to have got off on the wrong paw. I didn't mean to be so indelicate."
________"Indelicate. I've not heard it put like that before. Now then - Mufasa Tell me, you're not from round here. I know ALL the lions around here."
________"Tana, careful. You mustn't, not now."
________"Sala, you've had your chance and you fluffed it. Now let me try."
Sala shook her head in resignation. Her sister, when in the presence of a lion, was not to be trifled with as many scratches on Sala's shoulders and sides could attest to.
________"Now then. You are a big one aren't you? We've not seen many like you round here, have we Sala?"
________"TANA!" Sala growled at her sister in a manner that carried more than a hint of 'stop that!' about it.
________"Oh, ignore her; I always do. Now, about you..."
Mufasa had been lucky to escape with only his dignity lost. He had had to invent some story about searching for his lost brother just to get Tana off his back, or rather, to prevent her from getting him on her back. However he was not so lucky as he tried to put some distance between himself and the sisters. He had wondered whether they were part of a pride, if so he might be in some danger from their male, or even males. On the other paw he supposed that they were quite likely, being still young, to be on their own. Yes, he thought as he rounded a corner of a massive boulder, that must be it.
Otherwise that Tana would have not been quite so eager to impress. It was then that he had ran into the second lion of the day. This one however was no Sala.
________"Ah." Mufasa said as he stopped dead in front of a heavily built lion almost as big as he was. The pair stood no more that a length facing each other. Both not knowing who was more surprised.
________"Who are you? What do you want here?" the other asked gruffly. Mufasa considered for a moment. Here was a lion easily his equal in strength. He was clearly in no mood to be trifled with. Small talk would not help here, one wrong word and Mufasa was sure that he would be forced into conflict. In the past, when he had been king, honesty would have been the best, and indeed the only, policy. Now he was more circumspect. There seemed no reason to tell the whole truth all at once.
________"I was just passing through. Is this your land?"
________"Get out before I throw you out." Mufasa saw a glimmer of hope that fighting could be honourably avoided.
________"Oh, I am so sorry. I didn't know it was yours. You know you're so well known, I should have recognised it was you."
________"What? Known for what? What are you talking about?"
________"Why, for your greatness of course. Your name is said in whispers as we honour you." Mufasa hoped he wasn't laying it on a little too thickly.
_______"Honour me? Yes, you should honour the great Zimmale." Mufasa allowed himself a little smile.
________Yes indeed - the great Zimmale," dropping his voice to a reverent whisper, "ruler of the great lands." Zimmale stood for a moment then shook his head to one side irritably.
________"Pah, I've no time for this. Get out of my way, my lionesses have gone off on their own again. They know they mustn't leave me while I sleep." Mufasa backed away, lowering his head in deference to his opponent.
________"I cannot say if I have seen any lionesses. You must go and find them. Of course you must. I rejoice in our meeting."
________"Huh, rejoice eh?" with that Zimmale padded off growling under his breath. As soon as he was out of sight Mufasa rushed off as fast as he dared - in the other direction. He thanked the stars that he had taken so much time to listen to Zazu's daily waffle. He had never before realised that a few well chosen words could be mightier than the claw.

________Nala thought on as she tried to find a softer spot on her fore legs, 'Why can't Tana be more like her sister?'. Sala had taken to the Pridelands as though she had been born there. She spent much of her time listening and getting the feel of the pulse of daily life that breathed and flowed all around her. The rhythm of the pride flowed into her as easily as she had once suckled her mother's milk. She made great efforts to get to know every lioness by name and to know as much about their lives as possible. She always showed that she felt herself to be at the bottom of the pride hierarchy and made some lionesses feel slightly uneasy as she deferred even to Nyala on all matters. Sarabi, thinking that Sala deserved better than she had allowed herself, had decided that it was time for her, and thus also Tana, to show their skills in the field. Sarabi herself was still not entirely sure of her place, she had yet to get used to the idea that she and Nala shared the status as pride queen. She was to find that practically nothing had changed. She had, if only she had seen it plain, shared that status with Nala for nearly the year since Simba had returned. Nala protested at Tana's inclusion to the hunting party: Sarabi, Sarafina, Sala, Tana and herself. She did not seem at all keen to test herself against the wildebeest, zebra and, unusually for this region, the eland. Their great weight was more than sufficient to crush a lioness, particularly one as small as Sala. Sarafina had been said to have pulled one down single pawed, this though was viewed with some scepticism, though the carcass proved a kill had been made and no one owned up to assisting Sarafina: the great Saffi as she had been temporarily known. She found the adulation was rather too much for her taste and had quickly grown tired of having to thank everyone for their generous words. Sarafina soon resolved to confine demonstrations of her power to less formidable prey. It was Sarafina that picked Sala to partner her, the contrast in build between them being almost as great as between Nala and Simba. Saffi had a barely concealed weakness for Sala's brand of directness and a even less concealed dislike of Tana's. The hunt, only partially serious, had started badly. Nala had let her feelings get the better of her and had made a half-hearted attack on a wildebeest out of frustration when Tana had asked her once too often about Simba's habits. Sarabi kept back from the front line to size up the newcomers. She was not pleased when Tana failed to show any inclination to back up Nala, even though the attack had been ill-judged and quite out of character. Nala had got away relatively unharmed but her patience had now worn thin beyond what a huntress could be expected to hunt with. Sarabi pushed out alone into the open, beyond the cover of the longest grasses and scrub and up to Nala, who was lying panting and clearly in some distress where she had fallen after a bull had kicked her for her efforts. She was barely persuaded to retire to leave Tana for Sarabi to deal with. Sarabi had never had a daughter and being with cub again she felt it was perhaps a good time to get some experience with dealing with them. Nala knew her mate's mother was right and she secretly thanked her for taking the irritating Tana off her paws.
________Sala meanwhile was hanging back and watching Sarafina carefully.
Sarafina wanted desperately to tell Sala to get ahead and take the initiative, to lead the hunt and show what she was born to do, but she had to keep silent. Sala only wanted to watch and learn and to leave the leading to those she felt were more capable of it than she. Thus it was to be Sarafina that broke first on the next wildebeest cow that wandered too far from the herd in search of even greener grass. Sala, anxious to show she was marking Sarafina carefully, rose from cover a second or two after Sarafina. The delay was only to ensure she had read Saffi's mind correctly. She had indeed judged correctly and now opened out her strides to cover the ground to the wildebeest. Her speed amazed the watching Nala. She was by Sarafina's side in no more than ten strides. She read the wildebeest's turns as if she were making them herself and easily outran the much heavier Sarafina. So it was Sala who struck first and as she leapt gamely for the wildebeest's forequarters it seemed likely that she would claim her first kill alongside the queens of the Pridelands. She had aimed well and struck cleanly, by all the stars she should have killed the 'beest at the first attempt, however her lack of bulk allowed the wildebeest to remain on it's hooves, even with the determined lioness at it's throat. It could not do the same when, a few moments later in close support, Sarafina added her phenomenal forequarters strength and weight to the attack. The hunt honours were shared that night. The queens were in awe of Sala's speed and agility. Here, they agreed, was a weapon of considerable tactical usefulness. It seemed probable that she would open up the hunting of the smaller antelopes, gazelle, tommies, impala and even springbok, which had previously been thought of as not worth the effort. Sala was obviously game enough for larger prey but her skills would be better directed towards the smaller, faster species. However much as Sala impressed, Tana was a bitter disappointment. She was almost the size of a Pridelands lioness and yet her heart was not in the hunt; her heart was distracted by other things which, Nala was determined, would not be given up to her lightly.
________Tana spent more and more time with Zenani. At first this seemed innocent enough, but little by little Tana probed Zeni on her parent's habits, likes and dislikes. Zeni tried to keep her distance from Tana much as she had managed to keep away from Immue. Tana however was not as cold as Immue had been, she seemed genuinely interested in Zeni and to a lesser extent Nyala. With Immue the cubs had always been on their guard, except under times of stress. Tana always steered their talks towards Simba: what he did, who he saw, where he went, what his routine was. Since birth Tana had always had things her way, she had had a clear understanding with Tana and they had both always lived in small prides. Here, on Priderock, Tana was faced with what was, to her, a challenge too great to simply give in to. She had, or so she thought, to take the best lion. That meant she had to take Simba. She was so bound up in her plotting that she hardly noticed when Sala and Simba disappeared for a few days. When Sala came back, quietly pregnant, Tana became even more determined to get what she felt was her birth right.
________Tana had showed one amazing capability: she always seemed to have a plausible excuse for not going hunting. This allowed her to stay behind with the lions. Simba pleaded with Nala to get Tana off his paws but short of force there seemed no easy way to do it. That force was finally unleashed when Tana attempted to prevent Nala from getting back to Simba after a bad evening's hunt a few days after Sala's success. Tana actually tried to cut Nala off from Simba. Nala saw Simba's frantic gestures and heard him pleading with Tana to let his mate pass into the cave mouth. Tana foolishly stood her ground between Nala and Simba:
________"Nala, you must understand he's a mate to all us lionesses. Just look at Sala."
________"Tana, you get back where you belong or you'll have to crawl back."
Nala was not really prepared to back up her threat, that was until Tana spoke next.
________"He's not yours. He's ours now. He needs us more than he needs you!"
________"Tana," Simba pleaded, "Just let my mate pass, Nala's mine and don't you ever dare forget it."
________"Not any longer." Tana bared her teeth and snarled aggressively at Nala who for a moment seemed likely to strike Tana. Her expression softened and she backed off a little from Tana. She turned away and looked determinedly at Sala who watched horrified from a short distance.
________"Tana," Simba tried again to release himself from Tana, "don't do this. You can't win, so there's no need to fight." Nala smiled at Sala who stared hard into her eyes, then she pushed her body round, pivoting on her rear paws in an instant and leapt upon Tana with such speed that she could not stand and was turned over to quiver helplessly on her back. Nala's left forepaw, it's claws extended, ripped down Tana's side leaving four cleanly bleeding wounds some six inches long. Nala looked down on the lioness who had dared to usurp her place and said, in a slow, low voice that carried to all parts of the rock. Her sides moving strongly with her deep breathing:
______"Pinned ya..."
Sala watched for what seemed like the longest seconds of her life as she saw her place in this great pride crumbling under Nala. Tana's blood trailed down her fur onto the rock to stain the spot that was to mark Tana's last stand. No one present dared to say anything, the loudest sound was that of Nala's breath. Tana lay helpless and terrified under the now undisputed queen of Priderock.
_______Tana closed her eyes and waited for the end. It did not come. Instead she felt the great weight and warmth of Nala ease from her to leave her free to rise to her paws. There was no question of her renewing her defiance, she had lost and had done so completely and publicly. Tana was humiliated as well as defeated. She wished the ground would open up and take her under. The rock was not so accommodating. Tana rose to her feet, her head low and submissive, her ears flat against her head, her tail dragging on the ground. She walked slowly away thinking that this would be the last time she set paw upon the rock she had so desperately tried to call home. All the lions on the rock watched her leave, all felt that she had gone too far. All except Nala felt that she had not deserved to be humiliated in quite such a comprehensive manner. It was perhaps unfortunate, or merely imprudent, that she had decided to make her move at the mouth of Nala's home. She had unthinkingly chosen the worst spot on the whole of the Pridelands. To prevent Nala from coming and going freely from her shared home with Simba was to cut off the two in a much more intimate way than Tana could ever have envisaged. Tana, it seemed, had never really loved a lion and could never have understood that the cave was much more a part of Nala than it might appear.
________Where Tana spent the next few days is not known. Some thought she had left the Pridelands altogether, others that she was lying low in some thicket somewhere, some even went as far as to suggest that she had taken up with the hyenas and was living in the graveyard. Simba was genuinely concerned for her safety, as was Mufasa. Mufasa even went as far as to go to the graveyard and search for her there. This caused uproar and gave Zazu sufficient information for a weeks worth of reports. Ghosts were seen everywhere. All the animals seemed to be seeing white lions in clouds; Ed even managed a coherent word: 'Mufasa'. Shenzi was reported as lying shaking in a hollow somewhere, not daring to come out in case 'he' was out to get her. Eventually it was to be Pumbaa who found her, or at least Tana found him, down by the waterhole one evening. She simply walked down the rough track that led from Priderock and stood by his side as he drank. She was thinner, dustier but seemed none the worse for her experiences, apart from four healing scars on her side. She said very little and Pumbaa asked little thinking it was best to let her say what she wanted to in her own good time. Nala had long since forgiven her and now realised that a good swipe would have been all that was needed to have put Tana in her place.
________"Do they want me to leave?" she had asked Pumbaa a day or so later as they met once more by the waterhole.
________"Who? Leave where?"
________"Here, the Pridelands? I will, if the lionesses want me to. I don't know if I can stay here, no one wants me."
________"Sala wants you and no, no one wants you to leave." he paused wondering if this was the right time to say such things, he decided it probably wasn't but who could tell, "They just want you to stop chasing after Simba. Hey, I feel sometimes that I should leave here too."
________"You do? But you're part of the Pridelands, it wouldn't be the same without you."
________"No, I'm just a smelly pig, a bit of bacon that's being fattened up for when times get hard. It's only Simba and Timon that like me."
________"What about the cubs? What about Mufasa, he likes you?"
________"He's all right but those lionesses, they look at me sometimes, you know..." Tana didn't really know and said as much.
________"No, I have no idea."
________"Like I'm not worth chasing. But hey, life's too short to get down like this. You know what I say?"
________"No. What do you say?" Tana was intrigued and a little confused.
________"Hakuna Matata!"
________"It means there's no worries here. There may be somewhere else but right here life's good. You know, if you stopped chasing lions then maybe they'd chase after you."
________"No, whenever I get close they just run away."
________"Look at your sister, she got a lion. She didn't chase anything."
As the conversation progressed a warthog sow came cautiously down to drink at the far side of the waterhole. She drank for a while then looked up and saw Pumbaa across the expanse of the pool, now filled with the rains. Pumbaa felt her stare and glanced at her uneasily. She stared back seemingly sizing him up, she did not seem to be at all concerned about the rough looking lioness standing by his far side. She only had eyes for him. Pumbaa went rigid, for a moment he did not know what to do.
________"She seems a bit serious about you." Tana said as a little of her former self returned.
________"Oooohhh!" Shouted Pumbaa as he rushed away up the track, Tana followed at a run, neither stopped until they were safely under the lee of the protrusion of Priderock. Safe, that is, until Nala ran across to see what all the rush was about. She saw Tana and froze, her fur on her back bristling up and her claws extended.
________"What are you doing here? Didn't you learn your lesson?"
________"Nala, Tana wants a second chance. She has come back to apologise."
said Pumbaa decisively. Nala was taken aback by Pumbaa's directness and clarity. She had previously only thought of him as a joking threat to her mate. Here was a quite different warthog, he even smelt a little better. Tana picked up the olive branch and held it up to Nala with sincerity.
________"I'm sorry, I thought I would never get to love a lion.
When I saw what you did I knew I had no idea what it was to be a true mate. Can you forgive me?" Nala considered this for a few moments, she could not endure the endless feud that a lack of forgiveness would entail. Here, in front of her, almost alone stood the biggest single problem on the Pridelands. It could almost be solved here and now. She could simply kill her with a single blow as surprise was on her side. She took a step towards Tana, within a fore leg's reach of her head. She stopped and stared at her tormentor and knew she had to end it now. Nala stepped forward and raised her right paw, resting it on Tana's shoulder as she brushed her head against Tana's.
________"I forgive you, but I'll not forget so easily." She detected a familiar scent, one which told her that Tana was more than ever in need of her lion. Tana cried gently as Pumbaa backed away and scurried off to tell Simba of Tana's return.
________Nala lead the subdued Tana back up on to Priderock. Nala sat silently on the bare rock just outside the cave mouth, carefully covering the stain marking Tana's stand as if to erase it from their memories. Tana stood ahead of Nala, her head low and her shoulders pressed down. Neither lioness said a word. It was Tana that broke the tension by turning away submissively. Nala called after her: ________"I'll talk to Simba. I'll ask him to forgive you too: he forgave me."
________"It's too late. I won't be needing him anymore." Tana replied sadly.
________"What about next time? There's always a next time for young lionesses like us."
________"Like us?" said Tana incredulously.
________"Yes, us two and your sister." Tana raised her head and tail and walked towards Nala pushing her nose to the side of her head, feeling the warmth and strength of a lioness perhaps not so much unlike her....
________Tana's injuries inflicted by Nala kept her away from the hunt for a few days after her return to Priderock. Sarabi decided it was best to arrange a few day time sorties to get her back into the feel of things. It was Nala who volunteered to take her out one morning. She had already talked to Pumbaa about giving Nyala her first serious hunting experience and that meant with live bait. Nala had arranged for Pumbaa to be just a little north of Zazu's reporting stone atop the ridge later that day. Nyala was to try to stalk him. She was very excited at the prospect of actually chasing after something real and fast. Nyala still had some way to go before she was adult but she could now run well and keep it up for some distance. Her young supple body was ideally suited to matching the twists and turns of a warthog as he bounded through the grass. This, thought Nala, would be ideal practise. However she did not manage to find Pumbaa that morning after her talk with Sarabi. So it was that Nala and Tana lay silent in the grass watching a trotting warthog cross the track that led to the river. Behind the warthog they could just see Nyala trying her best to keep out of sight. She was not making too bad a job of it when something large, noisy and green slid along the track towards the warthog and stopped and fell silent. Tana watched anxiously.
________"What's that?"
________"Tana, keep quiet, how can you ever catch anything if you talk all the time?"
________"Sorry. I just thought..."
________"Shut up and watch." Pumbaa thought he heard Nala's voice on the wind and stopped but decided it was just the rustle of the grass. He walked on, hearing clearly the pawfall of young Nyala behind him.
________"Time to get a move on." He said to himself as he broke into a trot.
Nyala walked forward onto the track and across the green things path. She looked in and just for a moment thought she recognised those eyes, but where? She walked on for a moment forgetting that she was meant to be stalking Pumbaa. Her fore paw slid off a round stone and her pads crunched on the dust. Pumbaa immediately reacted and broke into a run. Nyala felt the stone under her paw but still she tried to remember. Remember that she was after Pumbaa and there he was getting away! She felt foolish as she tried to spring ahead, her young hind legs lacking the strength to propel her with any real force. She accelerated as best she could as Pumbaa, surprisingly light on his trotters, turned hard right. Now Nyala found out what her tail was really for as she leaned into the turn her tail flying out to take her hind quarters round behind her. She ran fast now and had managed to close on Pumbaa just a little. Where, she thought as she ran, was her mother? Surely she had to be watching this from somewhere. Surely she couldn't be hiding anywhere here?
________"Now!" shouted Nala as Pumbaa rushed headlong past her and Tana who rose from the grass a little behind.
________"What! It's an ambush! They're gonna eat me!" yelled Pumbaa as he saw from the very corner of his eye that two unrecognisable lionesses, looking seriously dangerous, were chasing him as well as Nyala.
________"Come on you two!" shouted Nala into the rushing air that she forced herself through. Pumbaa ran for his life, Nala had asked him to be a hunting target, he had not imagined that it might be for real. He ran as fast as he could and soon reached the track, he crossed it and just as he was about to reach the relative safety of the longer grass beyond he felt his fore trotters being taken from under him by some unseen obstacle. He felt his life falling from him as he hit the ground. He felt a massive weight of fur and sinew flow into him as Nala stopped dead over him. He expected that his last sight would be of this lionesses soft and warm belly fur, instead he saw it ripped from him as Tana rushed Nala.
________"He's my friend, he saved me!" It was all that Nala could do was to lash out haphazardly at Tana. She felt her left rear paw strike flesh as she slid painfully over the ground beyond Pumbaa.
________"I wasn't going to kill him! I was just stopping you blundering into him." Nyala was approaching by now and slowed to stand and watch as first Pumbaa and then Nala and Tana got up. Pumbaa shook himself as he said: ________"You mean you two weren't going to eat me?"
________"NO Pumbaa. Though that clumsy..." she bared her teeth and glared at Tana. "...she'd have flattened you. She certainly flattened me! The pair of you - get out of here!" Nala stood and took deep breaths as she tried to calm herself down. Tana backed away uncertainly, she hoped she hadn't got on the wrong side of Nala again. She ran off over the track to lie in cover just on the other side. From there she could make a quick getaway if things got any more serious. The blood from her nose dropping on to the dust beneath her.
________"Mum, Tana didn't mean it." Nyala said as she moved to her mother's side.
________"Yali, I guess I know she didn't." Nala growled at Tana with a barely disguised smile. "But it doesn't hurt to know your place in the great circle.
Doesn't it Tana? Hey Pumbaa are you Ok?"
________"Yeah, you gave me a fright there, you didn't tell me about Tana."
________"Hey, queens don't have to tell everything. Come on, we've got to run through this twice more at least before midday."
________"All right, I know when I'm not wanted." With this Pumbaa ran off and Nala and Nyala walked over to Tana who rose to meet them.
________"Tana, come on, up you get. Does that hurt?" said Nala as she dropped her head down to Tana's.
________"No, it's just a scratch", Tana thought for a moment and remembered what Nala was capable of when she was really serious. "I'll be fine."
________"Are you sure? Just be more careful. Speed is all very well but if you can't stop you'll end up hurting someone."
________"Yeah, I'm sorry Nala, I'm really sorry."
________"I'm sorry too, I've got to learn to save my claws for the kill. Let's give Pumbaa a while to get away then we'll do it all over again...".

Text Version of Time For Tana.

The Pride Lands Online Fan's Gallery Archive