Cubhood is supposed to be the most wonderful and enjoyable time of life. If that is so, then I regret having missed that part of living. I started out with one strike against me, having neither parents nor past to speak of. I knew myself as Siombe by some miracle of memory, yet all else was a complete blank. As I wandered into a clearing with cracked and blistered paw pads, I began to cry softly at the terrible hunger gnawing away at my belly, and exhaustion from walking for so long. The world turned to haze and the ground swiftly met my face as I fell.

    A cool splash of water awoke me from the darkness of sleep. I shook off my now wet face and looked up with an indignant scowl for what had made me all wet. I looked directly into the paws of a gangly adolescent, much bigger than my year old form. My ears folded back tightly and I backed into a tree in fear. My fear passed slowly as I looked into his eyes. They were deep green, like the greenest grass, and they calmed me somewhat. I maintained my defensive posture as he approached before he spoke to me.

    “Easy there little guy, I'm not going to hurt you.” I paused unsure of what to do and just stared back at him. The fear must have been apparent in my eyes, because the adolescent spoke on. “My name is Kwasi, who are you?”

    “S-s-siombe.” I stuttered through gritted teeth. The lion smiled at me again this time more disarming.

    “Hello Siombe. You look a little lost, can I help you?” I shook my head quickly and again he perceived the fear behind my action. “You don't need to be afraid of me, I'm not going to hurt you. You look like you've come a long way,” he purred noting my appearance, “are you okay?”

    “I'm fine.” I spoke quickly. He was not convinced.

    “Are you hungry? I have food.” The gnawing pain in my belly and the agony of my body would not allow me to keep up this stance for long. I was starting to get tired just staying on the defensive. There was nothing to lose so I nodded slowly, much to the delight of my stomach. He turned and motioned me over. I watched him carefully as I padded after him. I didn't know what I was going to eat, and frankly I didn't care. The incredible drive for food was pulling me along against my will and I was powerless to resist.
    The young lion stepped aside and revealed a large half-eaten carcass. Sensing my futile search for food over, I rushed the carcass, ignoring the lion and nearly pouncing onto it in hunger. I felt my body stop short in mid-air as the lion whipped a paw out and snagged my form from motion. I gasped for air as I felt myself stop abruptly. My surprise was so great that I could not even offer resistance. The lion looked at me incredulously.
    “What do you think you are doing? You can't just charge an old kill, don't you know what could be in there?” I shook my head meekly, starting to cry again. He patted my head gently. “It's okay, I know you are hungry, but safety is important. Watch, and learn.” He padded over slowly and smacked it once with a paw. A quick hiss and a long black flash escaped the carcass. I was shocked. A snake! There was a snake in the carcass and I didn't even know it! I looked at the young lion with renewed respect and even a little bit of awe.

    “Could that have killed me?” I asked. He shrugged indifferently, like he had seen it a million times.

    “Possibly,” he looked at me with a smile, “but it didn't, and here is what you wanted.” He motioned to the carcass and I grinned back at him for the first time. I began to rush the food again but then stopped. Remembering what I just saw, I padded up and swiped the carcass with a paw. The lion looked amused. “That's the way.” I smiled and began to attack the carnage with newfound energy. Kwasi tilted his head as he watched me gorge myself. “You must be a long way from home. Where are your parents?” I looked at him quizzically.

    “What are parents?” His face fell like he had just seen something terribly sad. I didn't realize it at the moment, but he was looking on me with profound pity. A cub, lost and alone in the wilderness of the African Savannah. Not even an ally to call his own. After the pause, I resumed my eating not thinking another thing about it. However in the mind of that adolescent, he was going to make sure that I was taken care of.

    After devouring all I could, and a bit of digesting, I followed the lion through some bush to another clearing. This one was much more extravagant than I ever could have imagined. A cascading waterfall roared out an incessant greeting and the call of waterfowl added to the din. Flat green leaves floated in the rippling water and small animals jumped back and forth between them. A cavern yawned beside the falls, creating an ominous dark spot in the otherwise bright scene. I must admit, I was overtaken with awe at the splendor of this place. A young lioness lay silently looking out over the water. When she saw us enter, she smiled widely.

    “Kwasi!” she exclaimed, nuzzling him happily. Kwasi smiled and returned the gesture.

    “Zahara!” After a good nuzzling she spoke on.

    “I missed you, where did you go?”

    “I was just looking about for some new areas. How have you been?” She purred and nuzzled under his chin.

    “Much better since you got here.” I couldn't hold back and let out a cute giggle at the funny lioness and her words. She heard me, and looked down at me with a smile. I smiled back for some reason, somehow I felt more confident next to the adolescent who saved my life. The lioness leaned down to look at me. “Awww, what a cute little thing! Where'd you come from little guy?” I giggled again and hid abashedly behind Kwasi’s forearm. Kwasi smiled.

    “I found him collapsed in a clearing as I was searching. He was really hungry and tired so I gave him a little food.” He then leaned over to whisper something in Zahara’s ear. She blinked rapidly and got a similar sad face as Kwasi did a while back.

    “How terrible! Oh the poor dear.” She whispered sadly looking at me. I shot her a smile and then padded around the area looking at all the details of the place. As I pounced about on a stray grasshopper, the two older lions spoke with each other and looked at me repeatedly. For a moment, I began to worry if they were going to do something to me. Coming to a sliding stop near them, I looked up cutely, hoping they were going to say something nice. Kwasi smiled at me.

    “Would you like to have a home Siombe?” I looked between him and Zahara curiously.

    “A home? What's a home?” Kwasi paused.

    “A home is a place, where you can rest and relax, somewhere where your family and friends are. It's a place where everyone likes everyone else and no one is ever sad.” I smiled and lashed the ground several times with my tail.

    “That sounds neat! How can I get one?” Zahara smiled softly.

    “We would like you to live here Siombe. I'm sure Nuru wouldn't mind. We'll ask him for you.” I smiled and jumped around happily.

    “Wow! A home! I'm going to get a home!” I grinned and pranced about proudly as the two older lions smiled. I did not know exactly what I was getting into, but for the moment I thought that all my troubles were over. If only I could have realized how wrong I was.

    Meeting up with Kwasi turned out to be the best thing for me. I now had a home, a family, and a group of others who cared for me. It was an incredible difference, and I found myself emotionally moved with happiness often. More than anyone else however, Kwasi turned out to be the most supportive and caring of the group. He always seemed to make time to play, talk, and find out a little more about me. He was basically a big cub and served as the perfect first brother for me. In time I grew to love him as I would a brother, and depended a lot on his support and advice.
    Unfortunately, he had problems of his own, particularly with Nuru who had adopted him as well. I never really knew the full extent of their quarrel, but it's effect made Kwasi depressed and often sad. It pained me to see him like this; however, I could do nothing to remedy the situation. Nuru was a big lion, and I was just a little cub. Very soon after, Kwasi disappeared from where he usually was, and once again, I was alone. Gathering up courage, I approached Nuru and found out that he left Zahara and his pride. Nuru was dispassionate about the situation, and I gathered that he was pleased that Kwasi was gone. Sucking up my pride and putting myself out on a limb, I set out in search of Kwasi. I found him, injured and downcast under a small tree in the Great Plains.
    Our reunion brought him some happiness, but it was quickly overshadowed as he explained how Nuru had cut him off. I really didn't understand. Something about being too old to stay with Nuru and an old tradition of kicking adolescents out of prides. I nuzzled under his chin and licked a tear away from his large muzzle. It was then that I determined I was going to stay with him. We moved on together, arriving at The Great Plains. A lion Kwasi knew, named Werevu, reigned over the area. They were on good terms together fortunately, and we quickly moved in.
    I remember fondly having my first ‘other’ friends there. In particular, a spunky lion cub named Changa. His playfulness and energy introduced me to the wonders of pouncing and wrestling. The goal: to get the other person to admit you were better pouncer. It was not easy mind you, it always seemed to involve some interesting pins and some merciless tickling. Very soon, I met Kwasi’s new mate. Her name was Nalia, and I was scared of her. When I first saw her, she was attacking a lioness friend I knew. It was quite terrifying actually, and I was afraid of her for a long time. It was appropriate that she scare me at first, because we never were on that same level of fear with each other again. She seemed nice, yet dangerous. I could not expel the vision of her taunting, threatening, and tormenting that poor lioness into leaving. That was only a side thing though, I remember more the good times here than the bad.
    Curiosity took over my body for most of the day time, but at night, nightmarish dreams filled my head. Scenes of torment and agony, like I had never seen before, or wanted to see. And most interestingly, the dark lion that always came to my rescue. Through some miracle of cognition, I related with him, and realized that lion was my father. I had never known him, nor had any inkling of his looks. But that was him all right, I could feel it. Every night he would call to me, reach out for me, but we would never connect. It drove me to tears and I woke up crying and cub-roaring in frustration at the situation. Eventually I knew what had to be done. I approached Kwasi one morning.

    “Kwasi?” I purred lightly. He turned, he was much older now, two years older than I and the differences were visible in his growing mane versus my cubbish ruff. He smiled down at me softly.

    “Hello Siombe, how are you?” I pawed the ground in front of me several times trying to hide the vibrations of nervousness that afflicted my paws. I swallowed and looked at him.

    “I must go somewhere for a little while, somewhere far. I have to leave for a bit.” He frowned with obvious concern.

    “Why? Is it those nightmares you've been telling me about?” I nodded with a lowered head.

    “Yes, yes it is.” Raising my head I looked into his eyes, “I have to find him Kwasi, I must know who my real father is. You understand don't you?” He nodded and turned his eyes to the ground. A painful moment of silence passed between us.

    “I understand. But traveling alone will be dangerous, are you sure you do not want help? I would be more than happy to go with you.”

    “No, you have done more for me than anyone I know and I am so grateful for that, but this is something I have to do alone. It is something so deeply personal I do not understand it yet. But I must go, I must follow my heart.” He nodded again and looked at me. If I did not know it to be the light, I would still say to this day that he had a tear in his eye.

    “Will you ever come back?” I padded up to him and rubbed myself against his foreleg.

    “I will, I promise to return and let you know how it went. I could never just leave you after all you have done. You saved my life, I won't forget it.” He smiled and placed a heavy paw on my head.

    “Then go on Siombe, find whatever it is that your heart is searching for. And I hope that you return safe and sound. I’ll be waiting for you.” He gave me a light hug with a paw and then swatted my rump lightly to push me along. I smiled back over my shoulder and trotted off into the horizon. I will forever remember this day, because the next events would change my heart from that of a cub, to that of a lion.


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The story of Msmangu

Chapter 2- The Story of Msmangu