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Further Fates Contest Entry“For Great Spirit’s sake, is she still sitting there?”Further Fates Contest Entry by KalahariMeerkatfan
Looking over their shoulders, the two lions scowled as they watched Zaidi burst into tears. The name ‘Tendaji’ constantly being heard between sobs. At one time, when Zaidi had first been brought to serve out her sentence, the other lions had felt sympathy for the poor creature. It wasn’t hard to have your cub taken from you, especially if it was for the good of yourself and the child.
That was six months ago, but yet the tears still came. At first the lions knew that Zaidi needed time to accept her punishment, now they knew that she simply wasn’t trying.
After a long moment, Damayanti turned to look at her companion, eyes exasperated. “What should we do now?” the lioness asked, speaking as if Zaidi wasn’t even there. In a ways, this was true.
Zaidi’s mind was shattered, completely and utterly. Her once motherly spirit had fled deep within the golden body, sealed and
Hiari – daughter to Omari, Ayari
Affiliation: White Shadows (birth), Crused Lands (exile)
Born: 166 AD
Hiari is the only child of her pride's leader, and glorifies in the position. From early on she loves being admired and complemented, and quickly masters the art of appearing cute. It's super effective - the whole pride dots on her. Their little princess.
When Hiari is a little older, her mother begins to educate her. A part of education means accepting that all creatures are equal and no lion should take advantage of other lion, even if they insist on worshipping him or her as a divine being.
This rule makes no sense to Hiari. Why not accept the admiration of others? If they are nice to her because of her good looks, is it really such a bad thing?
But mother insists that this is the grown up way of handling things. No creature should be treated as better or lesser based merely on looks. Everybody should be judged for their actions, for merits of heart and brain, not looks. This is something she could never stress enough.
“But what are merits of the heart and brain?" asks Hiari.
Ayari explains that a good lion always helps those in need. A good lion hunts to satisfy his hunger, not for sport. A good lion doesn't resort to violence, unless it's absolutely necessary.
“But mom, we kill other animals for food" insists Hiari.
“But our own bodies become food for the Earth when we die” explains Ayari. “Our bodies nurture the Earth, so grass could grow. And our prey eats the grass. It’s the circle of life”
Hiari still doesn't understand everything, but figures it's a grown-up thing. She'll worry about it when she actually is a grown up.
In the meantime she discovers that being kind is an easy way to earn admiration. Her parents praise her when she uses expressions like "Please" and "Thank you". Cubs who play nice are better liked than those who throw tantrums. It takes so little effort to be nice, and the effects are most satisfactory.
Another thing Hiari discovers is that adults find it very impressive when she repeats the wise words she’s been told by her parents. She doesn’t even have to understand, it’s enough if she remembers – which is easy, given the amount of lectures she receives. And thus everybody comes to view her as a smart little darling.
Being nice can also justify being weak. When Hiari begins her hunting lessons, it quickly becomes apparent she doesn't really have much talent. Other lionesses are faster, stronger, more agile and generally more successful. Still, as long as Hiari congratulates the successful hunters, apologizes for her own lack of progress and doesn't make a tragedy out of her failures, others will show her compassion and share their kills with her.
Moreover, being weak seems to attract the males. There always seem to be at least a couple of them willing to tutor the heiress in hunting, fighting, and all other necessary lion skills. They get to be helpful, she gets to bask in their attention. It's perfect.
But then comes a time when a male appears who really catches Hiari’s eye. The white prophet Gumumoya. She has never seem a creature as magnificent as him. This must be how all other lions view the white ones.
Gumumoya explains that he preaches about the Great Spirit who is both male and female, the father and mother of all that lives. Physical bodies have genders for means of reproduction, but souls are all of a kind, each as divine as the other. This is the truth that was twisted by generations of power hungry males, the truth he was entrusted with in his sleep and seeks to spread.
Hiari instantly knows – this is a lion who uses his gorgeous looks to his advantage. The lion who uses smart words and politeness as cover for his true intentions. He is just like her. This is true love.
Thus Hiari listens to everything Gumumoya says. She memorizes his teachings and repeats them every chance she gets. She praises his wisdom and asks for guidance. She is polite and supportive. He is just as polite, only a little reserved. But he will warm up to her. She knows he will. Everybody does eventually.
So she thinks until she spots her soulmate spending time alone with Nenekatse.
Nenekatse is old enough to be Hiari’s mother – and also Gumumoya’s, since he’s Hiari’s peer. The lioness belongs to a family unit that cooperates closely with Hiari’s parents to preach equality and wipe the notion of divine whiteness out of the White Shadows’ heads. Their policy is something Hiari has never really supported – since it’s plain dumb to give up on the benefits associated with semi-divine status – but Gumumoya seems to support it. And to see something in Nenekatse that clearly isn’t there. The lioness is a common rogue, old, and not particularly attractive. Still, he seems to enjoy her company much more than he does Hiari’s.
Alarmed, Hiari decides to use her social position. She confesses love to Gumumoya and explains that, in marrying her, he would become the next leader of the White Shadows. The whole pride would have to follows his orders and spread his beliefs. This would be a great asset to his quest.
To Hiari’s utter shock, Gumumoya turns her down.
She cannot believe it. After all, this was exactly the technique her mother had used to win her father over. Omari had agreed to change his whole pride's policies just so Ayari would marry him (at least this is what the old pride members said). How could Gumumoya not do the same?
Because he has genuine feelings for Nenekatse. So he says.
Hiari is furious. Until now she’s always been able to have her way if she was polite enough. She’s always had everything she wanted. Now that she truly, sincerely wanted something, she was denied it. Because of Nenekatse.
That rogue-born, old, ugly, equalist bitch stole her precious Gumumoya.
Hiari realizes this isn’t a problem she could solve with her usual tactics. She has to go to the extremes. The world seems to agree with her, for a storm starts right after her rejection by Gumumoya. Lions seek shelter in nearby rock formations. Hiari stands in the rain. And then a lightening strikes a tree not far from her. And a branch falls off, burning bright.
Hiari’s mind works fast. Everybody is hidden in caves. If she is quick, nobody will see her.
Acting on impulse, she takes the burning branch, throws it into Nenekatse's cave and runs off.
Seconds later Nenekatse runs out, fire spreading from her left shoulder. She is closely followed by her immediate family. And Gumumoya.
Hiari watches from her hiding place as the whole family throws Nenekaste off her paws and into the ground, putting down the fire. The rain helps, but the damage is done. The lioness’s shoulder, neck and head were affected. She will bear the scalds forever.
If Hiari had missed, that branch could have hit Gumumoya.
By now the whole pride came, alarmed by the sounds. They are horrified. Asking what happened.
Gumumoya’s eyes find Hiari. There is the question, the shock, the plea for denial. And she cannot find it in herself to say anything. He knows it was her. Everybody else catches up soon enough. They ask her directly if she's done it. And she cannot look any of them in the eye. They can very well see she is guilty. Why press the issue?
Thus the White Shadows travel to the Spiritlands. There Hiari is put on trial for grievous bodily harm. Disinherited. And exiled to the Cursed Lands.
She cannot bring herself to say sorry. Nor justify her actions. She knows very well no amount of politeness could get her out of this, or turn back the time. Why bother trying? She just wants to be left alone. Away from their disappointed gazes.
It would be years of worthless vegetation before she is ready to reassume her life.
Tayari – son to Alala, Shahaab; brother to Taonga „Tanglemane”; mate to Zahra; father to Tayari
Affiliation: Open Plains (birth), Shadowlands (marriage)
Born: 159 AD
Born as the second son, a whole decade after his brother Taonga, Tayari has always felt that nobody takes him seriously. It was fun being mom's little boy when he was little, but at some point it became annoying.
Whenever Tayari talked about his plans for the future, his parents looked at him as though he was adorable. When he attended training sessions for future border guards, he clearly was given more allowance than others. The commander wouldn't task him with anything important, even after Tayari has developed some skills. Worse yet, other members of the pride adopted a similar attitude, and appeared to believe they had to keep an eye on their little prince, so he wouldn't hurt himself on his quest to become productive. This was seriously annoying.
Still, Tayari was not this much of an idiot to search for independence and acknowledgement in the Freelands. He was a quite average lion, by no means a match for experienced rogues. He liked the safety and stability of a pride. He just wished there was something he could do to contribute to this wonderful community.
Since he prayed, his wish was granted – princess Raziya of the neighboring Riverlands was scheduled to marry the crown prince of the Spiritlands. Tayari figured he could come along with the princess's entourage. The empress just might be willing to make political ties with the Open Plains and obtain a quality husband for one of her sisters. If Tayari married a princess of the Spiritlands, his home kingdom would benefit greatly. He'd get to live in a pride and cherish his royal status while simultaneously gaining the independence he so longed for. It was perfect.
The young lion’s parents are initially reluctant to let him go, but he manages to convince them he’s old enough to make his own choices. Thus, princess Raziya’s entourage leaves, he joins in, full of hope.
In Spiritlands, the empress is surprised to be offered an extra royal offspring, but does not send Tayari home. After some considerations she introduces the prince to her youngest sister Olubayo, the overseer of a province called Shadowlands. She, in turn, introduces Tayari to her friend Zahra, commander of the so called Cursed Guard. As they explain, a part of Shadowlands has been adapted into Cursed Lands, the place where the criminals from all over the Spiritlands are sent to - the empire's alternative to regular exile. The two lionesses ask Tayari if he’d be interested in joining the Cursed Guard. He very much is. To become a noble, brave guard, protecting the empire from the bad guys, this was exactly the job he’s always dreamed of. Moreover, if he proves himself, princess Olubayo might decide he's a good candidate for a husband. That would be something!
Tayari comes to regret his decision soon enough. Shadowlands are almost completely barren. There is virtually no game – local lions catch fish in underground rivers. In fact, they spend most of their time underground. The rightful citizens of the empire live in just as harsh conditions as the criminals do. On top of that, they are give off such a strange aura that gives Tayari the creeps. Just what exactly did he get himself into?
Just as he had hoped, nobody gives a damn about his royal status. He is at the very bottom of the Cursed Guard hierarchy, unable to keep up with the rest. These officers are Shadowlanders or partial Shadowlanders, used to eating fish and living in darkness. Also, they seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to detecting danger. Not to mention they climb rocks with little to no effort. Tayari cannot keep up with them to save his life.
Much to the lion's irritation, princess Olubayo seems to enjoy watching him struggle. She looks down on him, teases him, and any sort of help she offers is delivered with a great deal of patronizing undertone. Tayari comes to believe she had no intention of marrying him ever and merely wanted to amuse herself at his expense.
Commander Zahra is a different story. The dark red lioness actually listens to what Tayari has to say. She is sympathetic about his situation. She admires his dedication and encourages him to keep on doing his best. Those who work hard are always rewarded, she says. Even if Tayari feels inadequate now, he will become a great asset to the Cursed Guard in the future. Since he struggles so much, he will be able to understand the convicts and help them see the errors of their ways. Her words cheer the young lion up. He decides not to give up. To wipe the confident smirk off Olubayo's face. And to see Zahra smile.
The beginnings are hard, but it gets bearable. Like all officers, Tayari spends 3 weeks on duty, and 1 week off – he uses this time to go to the Capital and remind himself what fresh grass looks like. Fish don’t satisfy his hunger, but Zahra brings him goat from the mountains, for which he is grateful. All in all, he misses his home and family, but ambitions make him stay. He won't go back to being a momma's boy. He has the motivation to become a proper lion.
He has since given up on wooing Olubayo. The lioness is okay once you earn her respect, but by no means a candidate for a mate. The one Tayari feels genuine connection with is Zahra. A commander of the Cursed Guard is not quite the same as royalty, but high ranking enough for the second prince of a small kingdom. Besides, Tayari’s family want him to be happy, so he shall chose a mate based on this criterion.
But then Zahra reveals to him a terrible secret. Two, in fact.
Firstly, she is, in fact, the twin sister of Olubayo, a daughter of the emperor.
Secondly, the dark red coat of hers is the result of applying red dust to her fur. Beneath this cover there is nothing but blackness.
Which is why her relationship with the ruling family is strictly confidential.
Tayari is so shocked he is completely out of words. He has always thought that black lions were a legend. That leopards could be black, but not lions. If a black leopard crossed your path, it was a bad omen. A black lion was a sign of a tragedy approaching. This was how the Great Spirit communicated his will – white lions prophesized prosperity, black lions disasters.
But this black lioness was supposed to be a daughter of the white-born emperor. Could it be that this whole empire is doomed? That the ruling family has angered the Great Spirit somehow?
Tayari’s first impulse is to run away. He turns tail and runs all the way to the Capital, whereupon he faints.
Upon waking he tries to convince himself it all had been a nightmare. Zahra is not really black. They did not have this conversation.
But then, he somehow woke up in the Capital. In the company of the former emperor Theluji.
The old lion is very well aware of the confession Zahra had made to Tayari. He calmly tells the young lion of the night he first met his twin daughters. Yes, Zahra is indeed his child. Yes, he was terrified when he first saw her. Yes, he did assume that she was a sign of the Great Spirit's disappointment with him – since he took advantage of the Shadowlanders to expand his empire – and had since done his best to be a model ruler. Yes, he was afraid of losing his privileged position because of Zahra. Yes, he did find it hard to love this daughter like he did her sisters.
NONETHELESS, he insisted that Zahra was just as normal as any other lioness. She had a brain, a heart, and all organs typical of lion. Only that they were wrapped in a coat of black.
The old emperor made it clear he would protect Zahra from prejudiced masses. As her father, he owed her at least this much. If Tayari wishes to harm the black lioness, or expose her secret, he will be executed. And his dynasty wiped from the surface of Earth, if it’s the last thing Theluji does. However, the old lion hopes that Tayari would see past Zahra’s color and accept her the way she is. If she chose to reveal her secret to him, surely he must be somebody special.
Tayari is conflicted. He understands no good could come out of him revealing the truth to the general population. The empire could fall apart. Besides, the old emperor seems to have taken the measures necessary to appease the Great Spirit. Zahra has served her purpose in reminding the old lion of his obligations as a ruler. It was a good thing. Right?
This was what she was. A tool of the Great Spirit. A reminder of truth. The message was for Theluji himself. And he accepted the "scolding". He could have killed Zahra, but he acknowledged that she was innocent. And refused to punish her for his wrongs.
Tayari respects the old emperor for his decision. And begins to think that maybe the Great Spirit wanted to tell him something as well. But what could it be?
After much consideration, the lion decides he lacks the brains to figure this out. Thus he returns to the Cursed Lands and reassumes his duties. He apologizes to Zahra for running off, but cannot help being awkward around her afterwards. She is sad, but understanding. And willing to give him the space and time he needs, which he appreciates.
Zahra confesses that there was a plan. She was not supposed to tell Tayari about her blackness until after she's given birth of his child. Olubayo had hoped a white child could be born out of their union, which would prove that Zahra was not cursed. But Zahra had come to like Tayari, and could bring herself to use him. And she felt she was right in telling him the truth. He did return. This was the first step.
Tayari understands why the sisters came up with such a scheme. He also understands why Olubayo is looking down on him. Who could blame her for wanting her sister to be happy? Tayari could not.
In the end, is he really that much different from the twins? He had chosen to leave his home because he was tired of being treated like a child. He wanted to be seen for who he was, not for what he was. To be Tayari, not Royal Baby. Just like Zahra wanted to be Zahra and not a black lioness.
This was the Great Spirit’s message to him – our parents give us our physical form. Our souls we shape ourselves.
To watch over the convicts has become Tayari's mission, something he intended to devote his life to. Alongside Zahra. True love cannot be ignored forever.
The two marry in a quiet ceremony at the Shadowlands’ border. They are later blessed with a normally colored son.
Quinisa – daughter to Kamau, Matima; sister to Zalira, Zaidi; mate to Uttara; mother to Jivana
Born: 160 AD
The eldest in a litter of three, Quinisa has always been the responsible one. She was proud of her heritage and took the job of the future governess seriously. If there was a skill a lioness in power was likely to need, Quinisa was sure to practice it. It was a matter of honor. And a source of adrenaline.
Ambitious cub eventually became an ambitious young lioness. Even more so that she became aware of the gender stereotypes and the possibility of an arranged marriage for herself and her sisters.
Quinisa was not about to let some lion outrank her. Thus she insisted on being trained as if she were a male. It didn’t matter that males were stronger than females – she was bent on becoming as fierce and swift fighter as possible. It was a matter of honor. Especially since Zalira was fine with being average and Zaidi with being less than average.
“Queenie, chill out” Zalira would say. “Nobody expects us to act like males”
“And that’s why we have to train” replied Quinisa. “So we could smack some sense into any stupid lion mom and dad want us to marry"
Zalira shrug her shoulders. “You think they'd want us to marry a stupid lion? I think they'd prefer somebody real nice. And real cute" she speculated, becoming dreamy.
Quinisa rolled her eyes and went her way.
Soon Lord Kamau and Lady Matima revealed they have been talking with the governing family of the Spotlands. They had a son to spare. Named Uttara, two years younger than the triplets. The sisters know who he is and consider him a neutral acquaintance. Or used to before he moved in to live with them. At that point Quinisa became determined to hate the guy with burning passion.
Lord Kamau and Lady Matima assured they were not going to force any of their daughters into marriage. Taking Uttara in was a step in evaluating him as a potential consort, not a final deal. With three daughters, all of them so different, one just might decide that Uttara is the right guy for her. Quinisa sure knew it was not going to be her.
Soon the relationships crystallized – Zaidi was neutrally polite towards Uttara, and he treated her in similar manner. Zalira approached the lad like she would any other male, without any regard to his status – the attitude that allowed the two of them to develop a budding bromance. Which left Quinisa to take the position of the young lion’s sworn rival. Soon enough they were challenging each other left and right, verbally and physically, taking turns in inventing new contests.
Quinisa managed to maintain the status of champion at first. She was 16 when Uttara was 14. Two years later they were equals in terms of size and strength. Another two years and the male gained the upper paw.
It was to be expected. When a standard size male faces a standard size female, if the two of them are equally well trained, it is the male who has the advantage.
Still, it was a very bitter pill to swallow for Quinisa.
But the most surprising blow came soon after Uttara's coming of age, when the young male came to her and said he loved her.
She didn’t believe him. He was free to marry Zalira, since the two of them seemed to be such good friends, but she was not going to pretend she even liked him. She will not become the vessel in which he could breed his heirs.
Uttara explained he genuinely liked both Zalira and her, for different things. The both of them contributed to forming him into the lion he was now. Zalira accepted him the way he was while Quinisa constantly pressured him to improve. The combined influence of sisters created a lion who felt safe and content in their land, but was aware of his strengths, weaknesses and responsibilities. For this, Uttara was grateful to them both. Yet, although he did find Zalira attractive, it was Quinisa who really made his heart beat faster. She was the one he truly wanted. Not as a vessel to breed his heirs, but as a partner.
Quinisa didn’t know how to respond to this. she asked Uttara to give her time to think. He did so gladly.
She did think. Long and intensively. And it came with difficulties. She was so used to hating Uttara. Wanted to keep on hating him, to make things simple. Yet, the more she thought on it, the more she concluded there was nothing worthy of hatred in the male’s personality, not his looks. Uttara respected her for her skills, even if his were superior. Never really judged anybody based on their gender. Liked her and Zalira for who they were. All convictions she had regarding his true intentions were a product of her own insecurity.
It was hard accepting such a surprising truth. It was even harder to acknowledge that Uttara had, over the years, become somebody really important in Quinisa’s life. Somebody who motivated her to work. A loyal rival. A dependable comrade, even when they fought.
She missed their little contests.
He must have known this. At some point following her seclusion from him, he begun to approach her, challenging her to duels, throwing in mean remarks. Just like the good old times. As if nothing had changed.
She was grateful for the act of kindness. For the status quo.
In the end, it was Zalira who took the initiative, assuring Quinisa she wouldn't mind sharing a mate, and it would be really cool if they both had cubs with Uttara. All those talks of future and the family they’d have irritate Quinisa, but also give her food for thought. And she realizes she cannot stand the idea of being left out. Of watching Zalira and Uttara's children while boiling in her own bitterness.
In the end, there is no escaping the conclusion that she loves this lion and wants to have a family with him.
And with Zalira. She would never let anybody think she was possessive of a male. Even one as great as Uttara.
The sisters marry their male and each bears a daughter.
This was one sad week for our family. But don’t worry – I’m mostly over the things I am about to describe. I just wish to have this written down.
This Saturday we had to put down one of our dogs. We’ve known for 2 or 3 months that Fanta had cancer, and she was taking medicine. However a new cancer developed – a 24h cancer – and our vet said there was nothing more we could do. The only choice was weather keep her alive one more day or end it now. We chose to end it now.
It was my mother and brother who brought Fanta to the vet. They later called my father and me and told us to come.
As we walked there my father told me to go ahead, because he wanted to get something to drink. That moment I was appalled. We were about to say out final goodbye to Fanta after all. But I only said “Okay”. I thought: did I really have the right to judge him, if I am such an unfeeling person myself?
On our way I was worried. I was worried that I won’t be touched by this. I was scared of not being affected by Fanta’s death. I hoped I would show some sensitivity.
I did cry a little. And it made me happy, because it proved I wasn’t entirely unfeeling. And instantly I became sad again. I am such a cold, calculated monster.
My brother reacted a lot like me, from what I saw – cried a little bit. Our mother sobbed hysterically. We took turn whipping her nose as she held Fanta.
My mother is the kind of person who takes everything to heart. Every smallest thing affects her. And death of an animal she cared for is traumatizing.
I should probably mention – just last week some wild animal broke into our enclosure and ate one of our parrots. There were only feathers left. Ever since we’ve been leaving the terrace open so our dogs could go into the garden at night and scare off intruders. We’ve also put an extra net around the enclosure. But mom is still affected by this. She says she cannot forgive herself, even though there was nothing she could have done to prevent this. I feel so hopeless in such situations, because I have no idea how to make her feel better. I try to be comforting, but I feel hopeless at it.
Back to Fanta.
I watched her die. And it made me sad.
She was so vulnerable. So defenseless. And we intentionally ended her life.
That moment I understood why some people oppose euthanasia.
But then, I was mostly fine by the next day. And I worry that maybe my grief was not sufficient.
Fanta was my favorite dog. I chose that name. She was a good dog. A great mother. She barked a lot, for little to no reason. I really liked her.
May she rest in peace. Along with Rozi (the parrot who got eaten).