“She’s gunna EAT me!” screamed a rather small adult lion, as he clawed his way under his friend, who was staring dumbfounded at his friend’s behavior. He blinked, turning his head to watch his friend run off, then he turned to see what all the fuss was about.
His green eyes widened as he noticed a full-grown adult lioness charging towards him. “She’s gunna eat me too!” he yelped, turning tail and running after his friend.
The lioness grinned devilishly at the cries of the two felines. They were rather small, she thought. About the size of an adolescent lioness. Yet they had their full adult manes. Probably some shaman put a curse on them or something. No matter. They would taste fine, cursed or not.
The hunter and the hunted continued chase until the hunted ran into a dead end. The lioness grinned, and went to pounce…
And suddenly was sent sprawling to the ground by something ramming into her.
She snarled and leapt to her feet, shaking off the pain, looking at her attacker. She was slightly surprised to find it was a lion. And a fully-sized one at that. So he wanted her well-earned prey, did he? Well, he would have to fight for it.
The two smaller lions stared as the other two went at it fiercely, clawing, snapping, and growling. But eventually, and to their dismay, the lioness pulled a fast one on the lion, pinning him to the floor with a paw to his throat. She bared her teeth and snapped as a warning, breathing heavily.
Staring up at her, the male couldn’t help but think his attacker looked familiar. Then it dawned on him. “Kiyama?”
The lioness stared at him, one visible blue eye widening. “Who ARE you? How’d you know my name?”
He couldn’t believe it. “It’s me! Joey!”
The lioness’s stare of surprise turned to one of pure shock, and then to an expression of fury. Her paw pressed down, hard, on his throat, causing him to gasp in surprise. “Did you hear me?! Ki!”
She stopped at that, blinking at him. “Don’t EVER call me that.” she snarled.
“Sorry, sorry. Can you let me up?”
Reluctantly, the lioness stepped back, and tilted her head, staring at him. “You’re alive. I can’t believe it.” she said, almost tonelessly.
“Don’t sound so happy to see me.” he returned, standing up and shaking the dust from his coat.
“Sorry. I just can’t believe it.” Why couldn’t she believe it? Because she personally, had watched the young cub that he used to be, become jelly under a pile of rocks that she herself, had dislodged. She had been Marik’s shadowy partner at the gorge.
“Believe it.” replied Joey, glancing over at the two smaller lions, who looked shocked, to say the least. “Oh, hey, Ki, these are my friends, Tristan and Duke.” he introduced.
The lioness growled when he used her nickname, but did nothing else about it. “Of course. My lunch happens to be friends of yours. It figures.” she said, sounding a bit disappointed. She hadn’t eaten a real meal in ages…
“Lemme get this straight. This…female-” Duke paused when the said female sent a warning snarl his way. “This…lovely lady…is an acquaintance of yours?” he asked Joey.
The blonde-maned lion nodded. “Yea. I knew her when I was a cub. We used to play together.” he replied.
Kiyama rolled her eyes. “You mean, you played, and I watched out for you. You were always getting into trouble. Always going places you weren’t supposed to…leading your friends into danger…” she said nonchalantly, making reference to several occasions in which Joey got into a lot of trouble. The latest being the gorge…
Joey shifted uncomfortably at this, then interrupted. “So what are you doing all the way out here, Kiyama?”
“Looking for a decent meal, how bout you?”
Ignoring her question, he asked another of his own. “A decent meal? You coulda gotten one back h-…in the Pridelands.”
The lioness burst into laughter, which startled the three males. “A decent meal in the Pridelands? That’s hilarious. The Pridelands is just a dust-dry land with a pile of rocks in the middle.” she informed the shocked lion.
“W-what are you talking about? The Pridelands isn’t dust-dry…far from it…” he stuttered.
The female’s expression saddened slightly, but she caught herself quickly and went expressionless again. “Things have changed, Joey.”
He was quiet for a second, then he turned to his friends. “Can you guys…excuse us for a few minutes?”
The two looked flabbergasted, but did as he asked, slowly slinking off into the jungle. Joey watched them disappear, staring at the spot where they had exited for a long time after they had left. Finally, he turned to the lioness and asked quietly, “How bad is it?”
“Remember the Elephant Graveyard?” questioned the lioness. She waited for the other to nod, then she gave a nod in return. “It’s worse than that.”
Joey stared at her in disbelief. “That can’t be true…” he murmured, mostly to himself. He couldn’t believe that the Pridelands could be anything other than what he had left them as. “Who’s the King now?” he asked her.
“Marik is, and rightly so.” was the response. “King Yami is dead, and so is Prince Yugi. You would have been next in line…but you left. Anyway, Marik deserves the position more than you. You were only adopted into the family. Marik was Yami’s brother.”
“He can’t be that great at it, if the Pridelands are the Deadlands.” Joey returned.
“If you wanna see a change, why don’t YOU come back and try it?” she retorted, growling. “The hyenas have gotten into the land, thanks to Marik’s new little friend, Liz. She asked Marik to let them stay.” She spoke of the female lioness distastefully. She had once been friends with the lioness, but since Marik proclaimed himself King, the lioness had self-proclaimed herself Queen and had practically pushed Kiyama out of the picture.
Joey remembered Liz. She had been an adolescent when he had been a cub. Kiyama had often hung out with her, and the young cub had considered the older lioness a sister-like figure. Apparently, they weren’t so tight anymore. “So you’re not happy then? But you still support Marik…”
“Marik raised me. He may not be King-material, but who am I to betray him?” she responded.
“You and the others will die if the Pridelands remain in the state they are now.”
“Since when do you care?!” she snapped, turning on him. “You LEFT! The Pridelands are none of your concern anymore! Everyone there, they are dying because of YOU!”
The male stared at her, horrified. “NO! It’s not my fault!”
“It is so!” she insisted. “Your mother, she’s hardly herself. She doesn’t even stick up for the lionesses anymore. And your sister! She’s the closest to death out of all of us. Dying of a grieving heart and lack of nourishment.”
“Yes. And she’s practically blind too.”
Joey stared at her for a moment, then turned away, sighing. “But I can’t go back…”
She was unintentionally trying to send him back to the Pridelands. She loved Marik as a father. She didn’t want to betray him. But deep down, she knew Joey belonged on the throne, and that he would take care of the place she called home. “Then your sister’s blood is on your paws.”
“NO!” He roared, then darted off into the jungle, away from the one that had brought his past back to haunt him.