"Deka, what do you MEAN he's found a new pride!" roared a voice from inside the shadowy den of an alpha lion. Deka, the pregnant lioness, cringed, but waited outside for any instructions her king had to give. She bowed low and kept her eyes on the ground.
"What do you want me to do your majesty, High Lord Busiris?" she asked, voice calm and devoid of emotion. A large, black paw appeared in her line of sight, soon followed by the other. She looked up. Towering above her bowed form was a large, muscular, solid lion. He had a black mane, as well as black back legs and front legs from the elbow down. His muzzle, stomach, chest, and tail were all black as well, the rest of his fur being a medium grey color. Four black stripes on his lower back were the only other markings he had. His red eyes flashed angrily. This was High Lord Busiris.
"You will accompany me to visit this pride." He said coldly, "In three sunrises, we will visit them and demand my coward of a son's return. Be ready." Deka nodded and backed away from the king, who turned to face the direction his son had run off in. His blood-red eyes narrowed. Then he turned back around and went back into his den to plot his next move.
"We're almost there!" Adina called back happily to the cub attached to her tail. Jelani let out a muffled reply that sounded something like 'alright'. Jelani could smell the scent of other lions all around him, and he could here cubs playing and adults grooming themselves and their cubs. He could also hear several lions turning to look at him as he followed Adina down an obviously well-worn path through to meet her father. Jelani was so busy listening to the things around him that he walked straight into Adina's behind when she stopped all of the sudden.
"Hello, darling." Came a warm, female voice, obviously from Adina's mother, as no one else would call her darling.
"Hi mom!" Adina replied. Jelani smiled a little. This lioness sounded nice.
"And who is this little one?" the lioness asked. Jelani could feel her looking at him, but it wasn't a bad feeling, so she must have been smiling.
"This is Jelani." Adina explained, "I found him all alone out in the savannah. He was almost too weak to stand up, so I let him rest and then brought him here. Can he stay? He's got nowhere else."
"You'll have to ask your father, Adina." Adina's mother said, then Jelani heard the sound of heavier paw-steps, "Well, speak of the devil, we were just talking about you Akinyemi, dear."
"Were you now, Ashaki." Came the voice of a male lion, apparently Akinyemi, the leader of the pride, "What about? Oh, well, who have we here?" His voice got closer, and Jelani could tell that Akinyemi was examining him. Jelani stepped back a little, shying away from the leader of such a powerful pride. Akinyemi chuckled.
"Come now, you don't need to be afraid." He assured, "What's your name little one?"
"J...j-Jelani...sire." Jelani stuttered. Akinyemi chuckled again.
"No need to be frightened little one." Akinyemi said kindly, "I don't intend to harm you or kick you out. Where are you from little one?"
"I'm...I'm from...another pride, sire." Jelani replied, a little nervous about explaining his past to them.
"Which pride?" Ashaki asked, voice as kind as her mate's, "It will not cause us to judge you in a negative way, young Jelani." Jelani sensed that she was telling the truth. He took a deep breath.
"I'm from the Negus pride. The pride of High Lord Busiris." He said shakily, "High Lord Busiris is...my father." He heard Ashaki gasp.
"I've heard about this 'High Lord' Busiris." Came Akinyemi's voice, grimmer now that he knew, "I've heard rumors and facts, none of it good. From what I know, you were lucky to make it out of their pride alive. Also from what I've heard, he will be coming after you. He lets no one leave nor does he let anyone join his pride unless they are born into it."
"You poor dear." Came Ashaki's voice, Jelani could tell that she felt sorry for him, but also that she wanted to help, "Did he...did he cause your blindness?"
"Yes ma'am." Jelani said, "He got angry at me and threw me into a rock. I think. I can't quite remember much from that day..."
"You poor poor thing." Ashaki said, while Adina just gasped, "You can stay here as long as you like."
"But my father is sure to come." Jelani said, panic spiking his voice.
"I'll protect you from him." He heard Adina murmur to him, "I promise." The dedication in her voice sounded clear in his mind. He smiled a small, nervous smile in the direction her voice had come from.
"ADINA!" came a wildly happy cry, and Jelani heard a few fast-paced pawsteps and then a leap and a few 'thud's and 'oof's.
"Urgh, get offa me Negasi!" Adina grunted, and there was another 'thud' and an 'ow'.
"Ooh, who's this?" came the voice of a male lion cub, who sounded just a little younger than Jelani.
"This is Jelani." Adina explained to the new cub, "Jelani, this is my baby brother, Negasi." Jelani smiled and bowed in the direction their voices had come from.
"It's a pleasure to meet the prince of the pride." Jelani said in a respectful tone.
"Aww, knock it off." Negasi whined, "I hate it when people do that. Don't bother bowing. We're gonna be friends anyway, so you don't need to worry about formalities." Jelani could hear Akinyemi and Ashaki chuckling lightly. Jelani rose awkwardly. Suddenly everything faded into view again, he could see again!
In front of him stood Negasi, a cub only slightly smaller than Jelani with sandy-brown fur. He had bright green eyes. He also had darker brown marking, his rump was dark brown, as was his lower jaw on down his chest to his stomach. The top of his nose was also dark, his ears, and his paws from the elbow and knees down. His front two legs had two oval-shaped markings above the brown on his paws, one on the shoulder and one just below that. The puff of fur on his tail was darker brown than his marking. He was running circles around Adina.
Over to the side a little was a lion and lioness who could only be Ashaki and Akinyemi. Akinyemi was rather lean, which struck Jelani as strange as Busiris was always well-fed and rather thickly muscled. Akinyemi had kind, blue eyes. He also had light orange fur with bright golden markings. A stripe up from his nose over his forehead as well as his chest and stomach were that golden color, as well as two patches from his shoulders to his elbows and his back paws with a thin strip going up the back of his hind legs. But it was Akinyemi's mane that caught Jelani's interest. It was a light chocolate brown, but had strange stripes in it that were darker, almost brown-green. The stripes appeared to be a plant juice of some sort.
And Ashaki was right next to him, her grey-blue eyes smiling as much as her mouth was. She had darker golden-brown fur with lighter patches on her head and neck, front left leg, hind right leg, stomach, chest, and the base of her tail. The puff of fur on the end of her tail was darker than all the rest of her fur, much like Negasi's was. Ashaki also had a large patch of scraggly fur on her stomach, under which Jelani could see a large scar. She was talking with Akinyemi, probably deciding the course of action to take when Busiris came to claim Jelani.
Behind all of them, on a large rock, sat the mysterious lioness, her golden fur glowing with the light of the sun. She smiled at Jelani again and nodded to Akinyemi and Ashaki.
"Stay." She said, her voice musical, and seeming to have many different tones all at once. Jelani nodded slightly and then the lioness turned and jumped off the rock. Everything had faded back into darkness before she hit the ground.
"Here, Jelani, dear. Take my tail." Ashaki spoke, "Let me show you to the cave and we'll find you a sleeping spot." Jelani felt her tail whisk by his nose and grabbed on lightly, following her to a large cave near the rock Jelani had seen the mysterious lioness on.