Ayasu gently pushed Aurelia forward by the small of her back. The light touch had a mother's care and leader's insistence. Her bright yellow eyes regarded Aurelia with respect. "Please forgive Juma. He never wanted to be chief. He loved the hunter's life and all the dangers that came with it."
Aurelia leaned against the cold stone and scratched her back against the rough edges of the wall, "I thought you were against Zinjo and I being together."
"I wanted to hate you. You are the one who stole my Zinjo from me, or at least that's what I thought at first," Ayasu smirked as a sigh of relief escaped the lips of the princess. "I saw the way my Zinjo looks at you. Many young lionesses tried to win his heart, but he would have none of them."
"Why?" the question burned in the back of Aurelia's mind like a hot coal."Zinjo always had a fascination with the outside world and desired to explore it. His father, Imamu, tried to talk him out of it, as did Juma. H
Zinjo and Aurelia stood shoulder to shoulder. The roared of the crowd echoed off the cold stone. Aurelia did not want to fight Zinjo's brother, Juma, but the rules said they had to. All because the young couple wanted access to the broken plains. It didn't help Juma held a grudge over Zinjos need to find Aurelia. Displeasure and frustration became Zinjo, and his eyes reflected the conflict within. Zinjo still cared about his brother and didn't wish to harm him, "My heart is not in this fight, dark princess. Juma is skilled but is rash with his moves." In those words, Aurelia formulated a way to end the fight as peacefully as possible. She glanced at Sahiri. Murder owned the lioness's eyes and suggested to Zinjo, "How about you take Sahiri, and I will take Juma." "Are you crazy? Juma will not hold back with you..." Aurelia's lips met Zinjo's, and she smirked, "I have a plan, my love, please trust me and this." Zinjo switched places with his mate.
The crowd's roar died down, and all that remained was the cold echo of the arena. Juma and Sahiri stood across from Zinjo and Aurelia. Ayasu stood between her boys. Her motherly gaze ensured silence from the siblings. Their tails swished between their legs, and their ears flattened against their fuzzy heads. She shook her head, "Aurelia and Sahiri, please stand next to me," the phrase was not a request. Sahiri and Aurelia stood next to the elder lioness. Like Zinjo, her scent struck the senses in all the right ways. "You two are shameless," Ayasu's tone bit into the minds of her sons. Sahiri and Aurelia winced, "Not only did you two fight over something trivial. You dragged your mates into the middle of it," Aurelia knew then and there, the guilt trip was a power all mothers possessed. "We are...," Juma started to say. "Did I give you permission to speak, Juma?" Ayasu's voice dropped into a low and sinister growl. Juma snapped to attention in a second
A brutal hot wind blew across the desolate landscape of the broken plains. Blackened plants jutted out from under rocks, black and crimson sand stretched out toward the horizon. Two days of travel did nothing to raise the spirits of the Three Lionesses. The water and animals were poison to the body. Sahiri maintained her silence, and Aurelia came to accept this was just a part of who the lioness was and spoke to her when she dared to speak at all. Ayasu kept her spirits high and wore a smile for most of the trip. "We should be at the old city of Matumaini by the afternoon. I know not what awaits us. I hope Nyo and Kuende have found a proper place to survive," Aurelia admired the care and concern Ayasu bore for her people, even the misfits. Sahiri gripped a handful of sand and let it run through her fingers, "Nyo will do better than Kuende. Kuende has particular tastes, while Nyo only cares if it's edible." The grains blew across the wasteland and joined the e
Kongamato tasted a lot like chicken. After three days of dried meat, Aurelia's stomach welcomed the flying terror. The campfire crackled and popped. Showers of sparks dropped to the stone circle around the tiny blaze. The silence of the night air bothered Aurelia. In the wilderness back home, one could depend on the crickets and owls to make their night music. Sahiri's ears flicked back and forth, "I do not trust the silence," She said after several minutes. She tossed a bone to the blackened sand and examined A femur, "This will do nicely for Juma's partisan." "It is part of the madness of the Broken Plains. The silence plays with the mind and keeps a person on edge," Ayasu undid her bedroll and laid it close to the fire. "What will we find in Matumaini?" Aurelia found it hard to believe the Lions were once part of an advanced Civilization. Ayasu and Sahiri shrugged in unison, "We both have enough sense to stay out of the badlands, good daughter," Ay
Everything went still in the presence of Kivuli. Ayasu tried to push Sahiri and Aurelia behind her. Kivuli twisted his dark form until he stood as a man. His clothes were unlike any Aurelia had seen, a long white robe with gold-threaded lapels. His face bore tribal markings from a bygone age when the lions were human. A purple glow surrounded the serpentine eyes. Rows and rows of long sharpened teeth gleamed bright against his blackened form. Behind him was the source of the footsteps dozens and dozens of grey-skinned, bat-eared humanoids with holes drilled into their skulls looked toward the darkness for guidance. Their eyes shone with devotion. "I am Kivuli, and who are you to trespass into my city?" A hand adjusted the spectacles, "I don't have time to entertain guests. Not when I am on the verge of my monumental discovery. The answer I have sought for so long is in my grasp." Madness held onto Kivuli's voice. Ayasu and Sahiri stood frozen in fear. Aurelia
The loss of Kuende and Nyo cast a dark cloud over the journey back to Tambwe. They stopped off and retrieved the skull and some bones from Kongamato. Ayasu reasoned while they were not victorious in their search for Nyo and Kuende, to bring home a victory over a rival may soften the blow of losing the crafty hunters. The whole city came out to greet them, with Zinjo and Juma waiting ahead of assembled masses. Zinjo shoved all aside until he held Aurelia in his arms. She leaned into his shoulder and cried with joy and sorrow in equal parts. Ayasu raised herself above the crowd the heat of the afternoon sun beat down on her golden pelt. The effect made her look like a messenger from on high, "People of Tambwe, I have grown long in the tooth and wish to enjoy my golden years. To that end, I name Sahiri, wife of Juma, to be my successor." The people cheered loud for Sahiri, and Juma stood up a little taller. He gave Zinjo a smug look. Zinjo shrugged and gave an a
The weather favored the Nightingale's voyage to the far east. They encountered the blockades into the waters of Fā Tiáo Cheng. The naval ships were pleased to let them past, as the people of Fā Tiáo Cheng were consummate merchants. Gale clutched his bandana while he skillfully steered the ship into port. Aurelia noticed the humidity in the air almost immediately. As a human, she hated the hot and muggy feeling. As a werelion, she found comfort in the tropical climate. The port was alive with activity. Ship captains wheeled and dealt with passengers who sought adventure abroad. Merchants poured over the goods of recent arrivals. The scene seemed normal for a harbor, except the men made of metal. Each one differed in size and design, but they all had masses of gears and springs beneath their metallic chests and legs. A few had large knobs on the back, while others did not. "What are they?" Aurelia asked with awe
Things in the far east are not going well for Aurelia and her mate Zinjo. Their search for the Lemurian runes took them to the city of Fā Tiáo Cheng, an advanced city with clockwork servants. Under the advisement of their ship captain, Gael, they came to the slums of Fā Tiáo Cheng to speak with Límāo Xiǎotōu. A man who deals in lost treasures and artifacts. Only to be attacked by clockwork servants themselves. Aurelia hissed at the hand-painted faces. To see machines act like men unsettled the princess. Their movements devoid of purpose and soft scrapes of metal and ticks from the gears made them more terrifying than Kongamato. "These should not be," Aurelia commented as she raised the Lion's Fang in defense. Zinjo brandished the ancestral partisan and nodded, "I agree with you, dark princess. These things are abominations meant to rust away into nothingness." Each one stood about six feet tall with springloaded limbs to add force to their blows. In their che