MLK Writing Contest #40! [Voting!]

Which story is the best in MLKWC 40?

Poll ended at April 10th, 2018, 5:23 am

New Dawn
A Lion and a Lombax Under the Stars
Total votes : 4

MLK Writing Contest #40! [Voting!]

Postby DGFone » April 2nd, 2018, 5:23 am

I promised to get the voting round started, so here it is! We were able to get three submissions in, so I think the week-long delay was worth it in the end. Let's get on with the stories!

Story 1:
New Dawn: show
New Dawn“Come now, Rafiki. You know it to be true, same as I.” Scar’s tone was matter-of-fact as he settled on the cool grass outside Rafiki’s Baobob tree. A full moon gave the Savannah a pale, pensive glow as a soft wind rustled through the sea of green.

Rafiki was hunched over in his ‘thinking’ position, knees hugged up close, his chin resting on his hand as he stared at the stars. Only this morning, Mufasa had perished in the stampede. Simba, miraculously, was alive, pulled from the aftermath by a lioness search party led by his mother.

The mandrill sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I do not understand why dese tings have happened,” he said. Scar waited--he could sense Rafiki was talking to the night and to the wind. Scar didn’t fully understand how Rafiki always knew the things he did. But he could imagine how it would feel, especially for one as prescient as Rafiki, to be blindsided so utterly. Rafiki sighed. “And now, 'de cub…”

Scar slowly rose and padded over closer to Rafiki before setting down again a scant foot or two away. He didn’t relish the proximity; the mandrill had a bit of an odor. “Yes,” Scar murmured. “The cub.”

“De boy’s mother will want—“

Scar cut him off. “Will she? Let the boy’s mother decide what she wants." Scar imagined Sarabi back in the den, trying to piece together the shattered bits of her son. "Putting him through the trials of learning to rule, now, at this age, reeling from this loss?” He craned his neck at the stars, lizard-like for a moment. “Strikes me as cruel,” he whispered.

Rafiki eyed the dark form in front of him. Somehow, Scar seemed to absorb the moonlight without reflecting it back out, like a void. “Dis' is selfless, oh?”

The outline of a lion rolled his shoulders and said nothing. Rafiki gave a chuckle, without any humor.

“Rafiki.” An edge to Scar’s voice now. “The boy cannot rule. He’s a cub! A shell of one, at that. The Pridelands are in a delicate,” he rolled that word around in his mouth before spitting it out, “situation. The hyenas. The coming of the dry season. Trials, Rafiki, trials even for my brother.”

The moon had drifted beyond the horizon. “I can take care of us. I can lead the pride,” Scar said quietly. “I can be king too,” he whispered, almost to himself.

Rafiki abruptly leapt to his feed and began ambling, with Scar quickly falling into step. They walked a long time without speaking, through meadows and glades, over brooks and around lakes. In every direction, embers slowly began to glow over the horizon, igniting reefs of clouds far away at the edge of the sky. Soon, they came to Pride Rock.

Rafiki stopped, admiring the way the monument rose against the morning backdrop. "I do," he said sadly, his eyes not leaving the monument. "I do know dis' to be true, Scah." He began clambering up the stone steps into the den, where even at the early hour, the keening of the lionesses emanated.

Scar didn't follow him. He padded up the steps slowly, unable to decide if he was overwhelmed. His senses were so acute in those instants, and he felt the cold rock beneath his paws as if for the first time. He reach the upper level and turned towards the promontory, registering the moment, quelling a pang of guilt as a sob escaped the den. Scar heard voices, briefly elevated, before falling again, and he knew the decision was made.

Pride Rock was permanent, immovable against weather and time, but under the weight of his brother's death, it almost felt as if it could fracture and fall to dust.

Sarafina would never leave Sarabi's side at a time like this. But Scar heard pawsteps, and saw Kiahana walking towards him from the corner of his eye, her movements thick with tension, her spine a coiled spring. Kiahana was a pale-furred lioness, slim but tough as the trunk of a Baobob in spirit. She was only weeks younger than Scar; they had played as cubs. Her hazel eyes, usually roaring, were muted.

He held the eye contact. She didn't speak, but stopped next to him, close enough for their coats nearly to touch. Once upon a time, way back in the edges of Scar's memory, Taka and Kiahana had been friends.

More footsteps; Zira was at his other side.

Rafiki cleared his throat behind them. The three turned. Behind them, the whole of the pride had emerged from the den. Grief and uncertainty were heavy in the air, and expectancy.

"My King," Rafiki breathed, bowing low.


Story 2:
A Lion and a Lombax Under the Stars: show
A Lion and a Lombax Under the Stars

Pressing himself back against the uncomfortable cave wall, he let out a frustrated sigh, not willing to believe what he was hearing still. “Aphelion, please, scan again! Clank has to be around here somewhere! Just do it, okay?” Ratchet didn’t even care that he got quite the number of confused looks from the lions around him. While they knew that he wasn’t talking to them, as far as he was concerned, to them it looked like he was shouting at the air in front of him.

Not that the reply in his ear from his ship was of any help: “I’m sorry Ratchet, but my sensors aren’t picking up anything. I already told you, as soon as I will pick up his signature, I will let you know.” While the ship couldn’t hear his groan of despair, she did add, “Also, your nav unit is still pinging your vitals as running high. Try to get some rest, then come back to me in the morning.”

Truth be told, Ratchet was feeling rather tired, but he doubted that he would be able to get any sleep right now, despite the darkness outside. What was supposed to be a routine trip over to Big Al’s to grab some supplies for his garage ended up with Clank missing, Aphelion busted up, and himself hiding from Tachyon and his newest goons inside a cave, uncomfortable and surrounded by lions. Sure, they were also cats like him, but Ratchet wasn’t still too sure how much he could trust them. Speaking of which…

“So you’re the new one Simba and Nala found? The one who knows who Tachyon is?”

Peering over to his side to where the voice came from, Ratchet was greeted by an older-looking lioness. Didn’t Simba say that she was his mother? “Yeah, I’m the new guy,” he picked up a pebble and tossed it at a nearby pillar of dirt. “And as for Tachyon, I’ve got quite the beef with him, so you can consider yourself lucky in that aspect.”

Sarabi sat down next to him, and Ratchet shuffled over to give her some more room. “I’m not sure how much Simba and Nala have told you, but we are on the constant lookout for more who can help us fight Tachyon and take our home back. The only reason why we haven’t tried yet is because we won’t be able to get past all the hyenas he uses now, but, and I hope that we are not asking for too much, but if you can help us out...” she grinned sheepishly at him.

Ratchet returned the grin, but it wasn’t a full one either. “Normally I would. Heck, I’d love to kick Tachyon’s butt another time, but I can’t right now. Aphelion needs to be fixed, and even if she were fine, I don’t have enough with me. Guns, ammo… last time I took on Tachyon, I was loaded, and it took most of what I had to bring him down. Now? I’m all out.” He tossed another rock in no particular direction. “Listen, I’ve been thinking. If I can get Aphelion fixed, I can go and get everything I will need to get rid of that Cragmite once and for all. But before that, I can’t say that I will be too excited at the idea of running in his direction.” He rolled over, figuring he might as well try and get some rest like Aphelion suggested.

“Even if your presence here won’t actually come to anything,” he heard Sarabi’s voice as she got up to leave him in peace, “I, and the whole pride, thank you. It’s not often that we find someone willing to even offer help during these times.”

As Sarabi left, Ratchet was left alone once more, which meant that slowly, his thoughts returned to wondering where Clank was. And since he didn’t know the answer to that question, a very unwelcome feeling grew inside of him: the memories of his frantic search across galaxies and space for his friend the first time Clank disappeared, no thanks to the meddlesome Zoni.

Knowing how useless it was to try and sleep in his bad mood, Ratchet pried off his nav unit and placed it close to his head as he lay down in a slightly less uncomfortable position on the cold, hard rock. “Hey, Aphelion, you picking up any radio frequencies?” he asked into it, knowing that his ship heard from the other end.

“Negative, just radio silence. Again, I told you, as soon as I hear from Clank, I’ll-”

“No, it’s not that,” Ratchet quickly interrupted, not wanting to hear more bad news on how there were no signs of his friend. “I was hoping, well, if there was a music station you could find for me. You know...” he chuckled quietly, “like last time he was gone...” Even though he had no reason to, Ratchet felt rather embarrassed to be asking his ship to transmit some music over to him. He didn’t used to be much of a listener, but long days and even longer nights flying through space in Aphelion last time he was searching for Clank, he found that sometimes there was even a station on that would help him relax and allow him to focus more on the task at hand, rather than wallow in his misery like he did for a good year or so after Clank was abducted.

“Nothing live from here, but I do have some stored in my memory banks. Transmitting now.”

The funk component in this next track has been up g-g-g-graded to version to five point z-z-z-zero. Initiating in three, two, o-o-o-one. As a gentle electronica track started to play from his nav unit, Ratchet let out a half-amused smile. “Wasn’t that from the Bernilius sector? Well I’ll be darned...”

Still, no matter how much he tried, and despite his fatigue, even as other around him blasted his hears with their snowing, Ratchet wasn’t able to calm down enough to fall asleep himself. So in some ways, it was even somewhat nice when he heard gentle footsteps approach him.

“Ratchet? You asleep?” The hushed whisper was Simba’s.

“Nah, don’t think I can do that tonight,” Ratchet replied gloomily.

“It’s my turn to take up watch up top. Want to join me? Normally Nala’s with me, but she’s out like a rock right now, and I don’t want to wake her...” With a paw, he motioned at the nav unit, still relaying music quietly out of it. “That’s a pretty cool thing you got there.”

With a groan, Ratchet set up, rubbing his eyes. “You really care about here, don’t you? All right, I’m up for staying awake some more. At least I’ll be more useful that way.” He quickly grabbed his nav unit from where he left it on the ground.

“She’s my best friend, don’t know what I’ll do without her,” Simba confirmed quietly, “come, this way.”

Soon, the two felines found themselves under a star-filled sky. Compared to the inside of the cave, out here the air was fresh, and the gentle and cool breeze even made sitting up here rather enjoyable. Well, as enjoyable as being lost on a hostile world could be.

“Funny thing is, I don’t think any of the hyenas even come close to this place,” Simba added, “they don’t like to venture out here, but we don’t want to take any risks, which is why we continue to post watches every day and night. Still, I know sometimes others volunteered for this just to be outside.”

Next to him, Ratchet stared at the landscape around him, feeling uncomfortably nostalgic. “Looks a lot like Veldin, my home,” he muttered eventually. “Can almost see my garage, if I stare correctly.” Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Simba wasn’t even looking around – the lion’s gaze was very much fixed up at the stars above. Following the lion’s gaze, the lombax tried to see if he could recognize any of the stars above, a feat which he already knew was impossible.

“You know, a couple of times, dad and I would watch the stars at night,” Simba eventually said, “now that… he’s gone, I like to get out and stare up at them. Helps me calm down, you know? Although sometimes, I really do miss him.”

Normally, Ratchet knew much better than to say what he was about to. But perhaps it was the crash finally catching up to him, or just the loneliness causing him to revert to his more selfish self like he was back when he was younger. “Yeah? Well, at least you got to spend time with your dad!” He winced and mentally scolded himself as soon as the words left his mouth. He of all people should know better than to say something like that!

If Simba reacted negatively, he didn’t show it. Eventually though, he did ask: “You mean you never met your father? Who did you grow up with?”

Feeling incredibly stupid, Ratchet shrugged. “I uhh… I bounced around between orphanages until I was old enough to live on my own. Didn’t even know my father’s ma,e until some years back. Listen, I really shouldn’t have lashed out at you like that. It was very rude of me.”

Simba chuckled a little. “Don’t worry about it. Trust me, I know how you feel. I know I need to move on and all that, and I like to think that I do, but sometimes, it’s rather nice to just let yourself get angry at everyone and everything, am I right? Well, as long as no one else is around. If you don’t mind – what about your mother?”

A part of Ratchet wondered if his habits of traveling the stars shooting bad guys was his own way of letting go of anger, hiding beneath a mask of selfless service to helpless citizens across the galaxies. “Don’t know anything about her. Not even her name,” he finally admitted, “they both died when I was just a baby, so I have no memories of them.” Reaching into a back pocket, he pulled out a worn-out pocket watch. Clicking it open, he passed it on towards the lion. Inside was a picture of two lombaxes, and he pointed at the one on the left. “That’s my dad, see? This picture’s all I got of him.”

“Wow, and I thought Rafiki’s paintings were really good. They are all very abstract unfortunately,” Simba replied. “I would love to be able to carry around a picture of dad with me like that. But, guess all I can carry will be my memories. Hey, you look a lot like him, you know? I also look a lot like my dad. Funny, isn’t it?” He looked closer at the picture, noticing that the figure on the right had white fur. Didn’t Ratchet mention that his friend was white-ish as well? “Is that Clank next to your dad?”

Ratchet burst out laughing, taking Simba aback. “Clank? No!” he had to pause to catch his breath. “Nah, that’s Allister. He’s the one who gave me this watch, and the one to tell me everything I now know about dad.” Foolishly, he realized that he didn’t actually have any pictures of Clank on him. “I’ll need to show you Clank when I get the chance, preferably when we find him. You’ll never mistake him for Allister again. Ever!” Letting out a yawn, he decided that he would be more comfortable if he lay down on the grass beneath him.

“Think Allister will be able to help us?”

Again, Ratchet knew that Simba didn’t mean any harm, but he couldn’t help but feel a pang of anger at the lion. “He’s – he’s also gone now,” the lombax finally muttered. He didn’t add that the pocket watch wasn’t actually given to him by Allister, as much as he took it from his dead hands. Clank, wherever you are, you better come back soon! Deciding he had enough talking for tonight, he closed his eyes. “Aphelion, put some music back on, would’cha?”

Simba was rather amused when he heard the music start again, even if it was only faint. When the pride would sing together, it would be for celebration usually, other times for other reasons. But never to fall asleep. Lifting his gaze back up to the stars above, he began to wonder which one of the countless of stars above was his own father, watching down at them from the heavens. “My dad once told me, ‘Look at the starts! The great kings of the past look down on us, from those stars. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that they will always be there to guide you.’”

Instead of a reply, Simba heard soft snoring coming from next to him. Sure enough, a quick glance over proved that somehow, Ratchet had finally managed to fall asleep in those few seconds since he lay down. “Can’t fall asleep, huh?” the amused lion asked no one in particular, “don’t worry, as long as one of us is awake to keep watch, I don’t mind.”

Shuffling over to a relaxed stance, the lion allowed the rhythmic chirping of nearby crickets to wash over him, oddly feeling far calmer than he had in a long time. Slowly, his gaze lifted back up at the heavens above them.

“Dad? Wherever you’re up there, I just want you to know: I know that killing Tachyon won’t bring you back, but it will be the first step in restoring the Pride Lands.” He quickly glanced at the snoring Ratchet besides him. “I don’t know if Ratchet showing up was your doing or not, but I trust you. And… I trust that you’ll watch over us and make sure that everything will work out.” Simba didn’t get to have too many conversations like this with Mufasa, so he wasn’t entirely sure how to end it off. “Mom and I really miss you – we all do.” He let out a slow sigh. “Good night, dad. Take care of yourself up there.”

Story 3:
Untitled: show
The day ended and a new one just began. Kovu was still awake, unable to sleep, not just because of the cold that came with having to sleep outside of the den but also because of the thoughts that plagued his mind, as they often did.

How did this happen? He was the one chosen by Scar, he was the one that was supposed to kill Simba. But now Zira had a new favourite, Nuka. Zira could sense something was off ever since the day that Kovu had first met that pridelander. She had made him weak.

“Awaken Nuka!” Zira's voice echoed from inside the den. “While you sleep, the pridelanders grow in numbers. We can't afford to waste time.”
“Yes mother!” Nuka replied, coming to and getting up onto his paws.

“What is our mission today?” Nuka asked.

“Simple. Today you are going to feed your family.” She said to him, an excitedly evil tone. She didn't hunt because she needed to, she hunted because she wanted to.

Nuka knew what this meant, finally he would be able to go on a proper hunt with his mother. He had her love and he wanted to keep it.

The two of them emerged from the den.
“Kovu. You are coming too.” Zira said. Whenever she looked at Kovu, it felt to him like she was looking straight through him, as if he were an object blocking her view.
But he was the back up plan now. He was weak. But more importantly to him, he was in love.

The three of them went on together, barely saying anything as they descended down the large rocks that their den raised by, they chose this location because it was easy for them to reach but not so much for other hostile that roamed the outlands.

“Kovu, today Nuka and you will hunt alone, I will watch from here. You will help your brother, I want you to teach him how to hunt.” Zira said. She stopped to let the two of them go on ahead.

“But why me?” Kovu looked back at her and asked. He hadn't got on with his brother well since he became the new favourite. His mind was on other things but its in the nature of lions to be jealous and resent proffered members of their prides.

“I told you to teach, him, not to ask questions.” She hissed back at him.

Kovu wanted to turn his back on her but he knew better by now, his mother was not one to allow disrespect. “Yes mother.” He said reluctantly.

As they walked through the grassy lands, Kovu couldn't quite believe hos much his brother still didn't know. Missing all the obvious signs that wildlife was around.

“Nuka slow down.” He said. “Look around you, any prints? Panes of grass that are bent? Listen to the songs of the birds, do they sound different the further away they are? I mean you aren't just expecting to walk right into something.”

“The sounds of the birds? No wonder why mother prefers me now.” Nuka said, dismissing Kovu's tips.

“She doesn't.” Kovu simply said back. And he knew this was still true.

“Oh really, so that wasn't me sleeping in the den while you were told to stay outside? Its not me she's feeding extra to?” Nuka was trying to get to Kovu but it didn't seem to be bothering him much.

Nuka may have taken his mother's love from him but Kovu had a different kind of love, one that neither Nuka nor Zira could ever feel.
“Look at this.” He said, as they stopped at a print in the ground.
“Okay then genius, why don't you tell me what this belongs to?”

Nuka looked at the print, the shape of it and the indentation it had made meant this animal was more back heavy. It didn't look old either, the ground where the print had been made was noticeably damper than the surrounding area.
“A buffalo. No more than a few minutes ago.” He said.

“Right. Now the thing to remember about these is to attack from behind, the front of their heads are shielded by their horns. And the buffalo out here have fused horns, so even the space between the horns is rock solid.” Kovu had remembered this from the story his mother liked to tell about how Scar got his name sake scar.

“Got it.” Nuka said and he edged forward, following the direction of the tracks, staying low and hidden in the grass as each one was fresher than the last.

“Kovu raised his head as Nuka went on ahead of him. He could see their target just ahead, drinking water out of the small body of water that had formed in a hole in the ground. The hole was not made by nature, it was left their by another animal, the water was dirty and not really something they would drink but in the outlands you were surviving, not living.

Suddenly the thoughts of... Her. Returned to Kovu. No. No not now. “Ah!” He shouted out just as
Nuka leapt from the grass, springing himself toward the buffalo with his hind legs and his sharpened claws were out for the kill. The buffalo heard Kovu's shout though and had turned around.

Kovu was no longer in the hunt with his brother. Instead he was reliving those happy memories again. “What's the matter don't you know how to play?” the young princess said to him. He ddin't know, all he knew was how to kill. How to hate. But she had broken that down, he didn't hate her. He liked her. He loved her.

How long had it been now since he last saw her? She would now be a young beautiful lioness being taught how to be a future queen.

“Kovu!” Zira's voice rang inside his head. Followed by a paw that struck him so hard, he fell straight to the ground. The buffalo was gone, Nuka lay on the ground where it had just been.

“He-he did that on purpose.” Nuka said to Zira, in a pained wince. “What's his deal?”

“I know now. That look in his eye just then. Its the same way I felt around Scar. He's in love.”
She said

“Ew!” Nuka shivered at even the concept.

“We might be able to use this to our advantage...” She looked back at Kovu.

In Kovu's mind he saw her again.
“I''m sorry.” Kiara said.

Voting will run until Monday, April 9!

Usual voting rules apply: Don't vote for yourself, and don't vote for a story that you simply know was written by a friend. Don't ask others to vote for your story either. Read each one carefully and give all the stories the same consideration before you make your decision.

Good luck authors!
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Re: MLK Writing Contest #40! [Voting!]

Postby FlipMode » April 7th, 2018, 1:41 pm

Mad respect to whoever submitted that Ratchet and Clank / TLK cross over story. I love that game series so I really enjoyed reading that.
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