Nyuki - daughter to Theluji, Hazika; sister to Matima, Ikenna, Wingu, Adaeza, Zahra, Olubayo; mate to Kuumba; mother to Faika
Afiliation: White Shadows (birth), Spiritlands (father's conquest)
Born: 144 AD
Nyuki is Hazika’s second daughter, born shortly after Theluji is reunited with Ashiki on the road to form his empire. She is a rather balanced individual, with a sense for adventure, but enough common sense not to seek trouble.
Early on proves to be an attentive student. She takes great pride in her origin, cares a lot for her family, and always listens attentively when her parents lecture her. Her memory is solid, manners impeccable and charisma impressive. This child knows how to act like a princess.
More importantly, she knows when she HAS TO act like a princess. When she doesn’t, her adventurous streak comes out.
As a child she is close to her sister Wingu, who delights in sharing her knowledge with the younger sibling. The two of them love exploring their father’s lands, playing and seeking treasures. Time comes, however, when they part their ways. While Wingu wants to see the entire world, Nyuki prefers to stay within the borders of the empire – there are enough interesting places to see, and she doesn’t have to fear for her safety. No, Nyuki doesn’t want to tempt fate. Whatever curiosity she may have of foreign lands, she is satisfied with Wingu’s tales of them.
Wingu’s and Kuumba’s, that is.
Kuumba is one of Theluji’s spies, whom he sends after Wingu when she leaves the empire. Ditching Kuumba is one of Wingu’s favorite games, which makes the lion’s job difficult. Nyuki admires him, even more so that he’s older than her and quite handsome. Very handsome. Must have.
It does take some time, but Nyuki does eventually gather the courage to get closer to Kuumba. He is hesitant at first – and rightfully so, since she is the emperor’s daughter – but Nyuki assures him he is high ranking enough for a fifth daughter in the family.
“If my father trusts you to keep my sister safe, why shouldn’t he trust you with me?” she remarks.
She can see the spark of interest in his eyes, the admiration for her looks. There is attraction. There is hope. She just has to be patient and persistent.
In the end, Kuumba cannot ignore the need growing inside him forever. And asks Theluji’s blessing right after he realizes he might have impregnated his princess.
What follows is a wonderful wedding and the joyful birth of a daughter.
Moja – sister to Pili, Tatu
Affiliation: Pridelands (birth), rogue (her mother's choice), White Shadows (adoption)
Born: 135 AD
Moja really wanted to be a good girl and make her mother happy. It was beyond her comprehension how any child could not wish for the very same things. Yet, her very own sisters have always been, as mother said, a nuisance. Why they had such a problem with being good, Moja had no idea.
Mother gave them quite simple instructions. Don’t yell. Don’t ask stupid questions. Don’t go too far away from Priderock. Play nice. Moja had no problem with any of these things. She was perfectly capable of keeping quiet and out of mischief, never questioned mother’s rules, nor disturbed her peace. The same couldn’t be said about the rebellious Tatu and loud Pili. They always gave mother a headache. Always complained. And made mother angry. And when she was angry, her bad mood was so powerful it scared the life out of Moja. She couldn’t stand it.
There were times Moja tried to make her sisters behave. To be good for mother. Poor mother just wants to rest after a whole day of hunting to feed the three of them, why can’t they grant her such a simple wish?
It always went along somehow like this:
Tatu: “She never plays with us!”
Moja: “Well, she’s tired…”
Tatu: “All the other lionesses are! They still talk to their kids, lick them clean, wrestle with them! Why not ours?!”
Moja: “Well, she’s not that strong…”
Tatu: “She always says we’re a nuisance!”
Moja: “Well, you do break the rules…”
Tatu: “And she tried to give us away to the White Shadows!”
Moja: “Well, maybe she thought the White Shadows would take good care of us…”
Tatu: “ARGH! Just stop! You’re giving me a headache!”
Thus, at some point, Moja stopped trying to make her sisters see reason. It only made them angry. And Moja hated making them angry. She hated it when anybody was upset because of her. So she kept her opinions to herself and focused on standing out of everybody’s way. Just in case.
Then a miracle took place. The sisters’ father came to the Pridelands. He wanted to take them and their mother with him, to have a family. Mother was so happy, happier than the girls ever saw her to be. Moja knew, cause she did manage to overhear a couple of conversations concerning the male in the past. Apparently, he first told mother she was beautiful, he made her feel special, and was everything one could ask for in a mate. Other lionesses told mother that her chosen male was just a common rogue and could not be trusted, whereupon she called them names and left in anger. On her behalf, Moja believed mother. Surely she knew the lion better than anybody else, so her opinion mattered the most. The other females must have been jealous.
Since the five of them became a family, changes were inevitable. Father made the rules. Expected the cubs to behave and not bother him and mother. He did seem harsh, but he was a rogue male, so such an attitude was to be expected. Moja was afraid of him, and felt guilty about it. This was her father. He only wanted the best for her. All those harsh words and rules and punishments were supposed to make them stronger. Like him. Mother said so. Said father is wise and knows better and they would all be thankful to him one day. And Moja believed her. And did her best to be good.
But being good was hard. Father had way too much faith in the endurance of Moja and her sisters. He made them spend the night in the pouring rain. But they were weak, cowardly, pathetic cubs. They did not inherit his endearing traits. They were a failure. They barely coped.
It was because of this weakness that Moja agreed to follow Penda. The stranger, a member of the White Shadows, who said she wanted to help. Who fed them and gave them a shelter. Moja felt so guilty about accepting all of this. But she just couldn’t stand the cold and exhaustion anymore. She hoped she could somehow make up to her parent for this act of betrayal. She so hoped.
But Penda took them away and they were too weak to fight.
Mother and father almost managed to win them back, but Penda’s family came and sealed the sisters’ fate. The cubs belonged with the White Shadows ever since.
Moja hated herself. Mother and father surely though she and her sisters betrayed them. Abandoned. That they were ruthless, ungrateful, horrible cubs. Sure, the parents did offer their cubs to the White Shadows before, but surely they meant one. To remain childless was not what they asked for. Right? Or maybe not? Would it be easier for them, since they had no cubs to look after? As long as they had each other, they should be okay. Right?
Time passed. Moja’s nightmares became less frequent, less heartbreaking. She followed her foster mother around and assisted her in her duties. Penda was kind to her. So were the others. But Moja never quite opened up to them. They’d tell her she didn’t deserve such a cruel fate. They’d tell her her parents never deserved her to begin with. But what could they know?
Over the years Penda adopted more cubs. Moja knew she did so in good faith, but she still felt sorry for all the families her guardian tore apart. She never said so, mostly because she didn’t want to hurt Penda, but also because she knew her opinion didn’t matter. She wasn’t brave, nor strong, nor smart. It was for the best she didn’t interfere with anything important.
There was but one exception to this rule. The coaching for foster siblings.
Penda adopted all sorts of cubs. Some were violent. Some clueless. Some silent. And, as much as she cared, the lioness just couldn’t give them all the kind of help they needed. So she asked her eldest three children for help. Because they knew what these cubs have been through. Because they understood.
And sometimes Moja did look in the eyes of those new cubs. And she saw the reflection of her very own soul. And those cubs must have seen the same, for they approached her. Oh so wary, oh so anxious and hopeful. And she hugged them. Suffered with them in silence. And sometimes – when nobody else could hear them – she spoke. Of her betrayal. Guilt. Of how she clearly wasn’t what her parents asked for, but it didn’t make her a bad person. Of Penda being a good person, of committing bad deeds motivated by love. Of learning to accept the past, since it can’t be remedied. Things happen, but life goes on. And them – the runts – still can do something useful, still can help. The cubs listen. And cry. And heal. And Moja along with them.
Penda never questions Moja’s methods. Simply smiles and says “Thank you. I couldn’t have done this without you”.
Which is all the acknowledgement Moja needs.