MLK Writing Contest #41! [Voting!]

Which is the best story in WC 41?

The Legend of Mufasa the First and Ascari the Fierce
4
67%
Discovered
0
No votes
Prologue
1
17%
Ready to Reclaim the Throne from the Alien?
1
17%
 
Total votes : 6

MLK Writing Contest #41! [Voting!]

Postby DGFone » May 6th, 2018, 6:27 am

So this is an unusual round: There are four stories entered! And that's not even the unusual part: Three of the stories belong to new members who had never been in the contest before, and three of the four stories are well, long. Get ready for a lot of scrolling as you read! This was the main reason why even though I hoped to start this round on time, it got delayed by almost a week. I have a good feeling about this contest, so on to the stories!

Story 1:
The Legend of Mufasa the First and Ascari the Fierce: show
(This story is based off of Lion Guard lore and some characters from TLK 6 new Adventures books and takes place when Scar and Mufasa were only cubs. The idea itself is completely my take on the canon universe based on what Disney has given us so far, combined with African folklore.)

The Legend of Mufasa the First and Ascari the Fierce


Once again, the sun began its slow decent over the horizon, covering the Pride Lands in a blanket of orange light. At Pride Rock the great Lion King, Ahadi and his Queen, Uru watched from the tip of the rock ledge that jetted out from Pride Rock. Down below, their sons Mufasa and Scar were hanging out with some of the other cubs: Zira, Sarabi, and Sarafina, and telling them about the events that happened earlier that day. Scar was so ecstatic as he held up his brown paws and reiterated the story of how a baby bird was saved by a member of his Lion Guard.


Now, the Lion Guard was a group of lions who were dedicated to protecting the Pride Lands from evil forces that would want to disrupt the Circle of Life and endanger the Kingdom. Though Scar was still just a cub, he had been marked by the Great Kings to be the next leader of the new generation of Lion Guards. Of course, the current Guard still protected and kept the peace in the land, but they would also help train Scar and his recruits and encourage them to help other animals so that they can get an idea of what they would be doing in the future. Right now, Scar was telling his friends about how earlier today, his own Guard actually did some good in the Pride Lands.


“Ni was so brave!” Scar told the story about his Guardsman with excitement in his voice, “He saw that the hawk was at the top of the tree and was about to eat the baby birds!” The girls gasped as they listened intently to what Scar was telling them, scared to know the fate of both the bird and Ni, “So Ni climbed right up the tree and stood over the nest!”


Scar then began to swing his paws around in the air, trying to reenact the scene with Ni fighting off the vicious hawk. As he swung, Scar began to narrate: “He stood up on his hind legs and went- POW- and- SWUSH! Then he finished the hawk off with a… BAM!” the girls gasped as Scar slammed his paw down in the dirt, signifying the end of the battle. Then with a smug grin, Scar finished: “And just like that, Ni beat up the hawk and saved the birds!”


The lioness cubs looked at Scar with amazement before they all began to cheer and praise the brown cub for the amazing story.


“Wow, Scar! That was incredible!” Zira praised.


“Ni really was brave!” Sarabi added.


“That was so cool! I didn’t know Ni was so… heroic.” Sarafina admitted sheepishly.


Scar smirked, enjoying the positive responses from everyone, but it was all cut short as a mocking laugh filled the air. Scar looked back to see his golden brother, Mufasa laughing his head off. This annoyed Scar greatly. This was a serious moment where him and his Lion Guard did some good for the Pride Lands and here he was laughing about it!


“What’s so funny?” Scar growled as he narrowed his emerald green eyes at the bulky cub.


“O-Oh…” Mufasa snickered as he gasped for breath and kept a smug smile on his face, “I just thought you were going to tell them the rest of the story.” Upon realizing what his brother was talking about, Scar narrowed his eyes at the golden cub.


“Mufasa…” the brown cub growled at his brother, “I’m warning you.” Despite the threat from his younger brother, Mufasa looked back at the girls and decided to spoil it for everyone.


“Yeah, Ni saved the nest from the hawk alright.” Mufasa said to everyone else while trying to contain his laughter, “But then afterwards, Ni got stuck in the tree and we needed to get the real Lion Guard to help him because he was too scared to come down!”


“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!”


Scar laid his ears back against his head and wrapped his tail around his front paws in shame as he tried to ignore the mocking laughter that the group of cubs were now giving him. His once proud look was now replaced by one of embarrassment. So, what if Ni was scared and needed help from the grown-up Lion Guard? His team saved the nest and the bird, so that’s all that really mattered! Right? Thankfully for Scar, he wasn’t the only one who disagreed with the laughing crowd of cubs.


“Hey! Knock it off you guys!”


Scar perked his ears up and looked to see the cub, Zira standing up and growling at the group, silencing their laughter.


“Scar, Ni, and the others risked their tails to help the poor birds!” the tan cub defended, “That’s no reason to laugh about it.” Scar turned to Zira and gave her a soft smile, thankful for her help. His brother, however, didn’t see along the same lines as they did.


“Oh please,” Mufasa scoffed as he rolled his eyes, “We all know Ni is a scaredy-cat when it comes to heights. If Scar was smart, he would have used that roar of his to blow that hawk away instead of sending in his Bravest to do the job.” Scar was about to shout back that what Mufasa suggested was a stupid idea, but someone else beat him to it.


“Mufasa!”


A thundering voice boomed causing the golden cub to wince and shut his eyes in fear. He knew who was talking to him and judging by the tone he wasn’t happy with him. Looking back, Mufasa saw his father and mother looking down at him with stern expressions on their faces.


“Heh…” Mufasa let out a nervous laugh as he sheepishly greeted: “Hey… Dad. Hey… Mom. Um… nice evening?” Of course, neither adult was buying Mufasa’s innocent look.


“Mufasa…” Uru sighed as she shook her head at her first born, “What are you doing picking on your younger brother? You should know better than that.”


“B-But Mom,” Mufasa protested, “I was just… pointing out what Scar could have done instead of sending Ni up to get stuck in the tree!”


“No, you weren’t!” Ahadi growled firmly, causing Mufasa to wince once again, “You were deliberately picking on him! As for your suggestion, if your brother was to use the Roar of the Elders on the hawk it would have blown the whole tree down and most likely kill the birds living in there.”


“Well…” Mufasa looked at the ground, pondering what his father told him. Looking back at what he said, he realized that using the Roar just to stop a little hawk was kind of stupid. Still, that didn’t stop him from making a case about Ni. Picking his head up, he argued: “But Scar could have picked someone else to go up and help the bird! Ni is supposed to be the bravest but he’s scared when it comes to heights. That doesn’t sound so brave to me.”


“A scared lion can still be brave, Mufasa.” Ahadi corrected, “Ni was willing to put himself in jeopardy in order to help others. Being brave doesn’t mean to go looking for trouble, Mufasa. It’s about being there for others when they are in trouble.”


Mufasa looked back down at the ground for a moment. Of course, he knew that everything his father said made sense, but it still aggravated him. Scar was going to be the next leader of the Lion Guard and Mufasa would be stuck being a boring King. Sometimes, Mufasa hated to admit it, but his jealousy of his brother got the better of him.


Looking back over at Scar, he saw that the timid little brown cub from before was now smirking confidently at him. Mufasa admittedly was annoyed by this, but he knew when he was beaten at his own game.


“Fine…” Mufasa groaned as he looked back at Scar and apologized: “I’m sorry for what I said about you and Ni. I think you both will do great when you officially become members of the Lion Guard.” Scar looked back at Mufasa for a moment with a smirk. Though Mufasa’s words were sincere, it felt good to hear it come from the lips of the future king of the Pride Lands.


“It’s ok.” Scar said as he put his paw out and shook Mufasa’s, “I forgive you.”
Ahadi and Uru’s stern faces quickly turned into smiles. Though both of their sons could be… challenging… at times. They knew their hearts outweighed their grudges against one another. It was moments like these that reminded them that their pride had come a long way from where they once started all those years ago.


“Come along, boys,” Ahadi motioned with his head, “It’s time to head in for the night.” His command was met with a chorus of ‘awwws’ as all the cubs were rather disappointed with what the Lion King was asking of them.


“Come on, Dad!” Scar begged, “Just a little bit longer?”


“Please?” Mufasa backed his brother up.


“Hmmmm…” the Lion King thought about it for a moment. He and Uru knew when it came to young cubs, they were a stubborn lot. The key was to give them a reason they would want to go inside. Luckily, Uru had an idea on just how to do it.


“If you don’t come in,” Uru chided with a grin, “You’ll won’t be able to hear the story that your father has for you.”


“A story?!” Mufasa and Scar’s faces brightened when they heard this.


“A story?” Ahadi repeated, taken back by his mate’s sudden offer to their sons. Uru, however, ignored Ahadi as she continued to talk to the group of cubs.


“Yes, it’s a very special story,” She said in a motherly tone, “it’s the one about the very first Lion King and Lion Guard of the Pride Lands. Would you like to hear it?” Uru’s offer was met with an ecstatic cheer as both Mufasa, Scar, and the others eagerly began to run inside the den so that they could hear the story that Ahadi had for them. Though Uru was quite happy with her plan, Ahadi had a different opinion.


“Oh come on, Uru,” Ahadi pleaded, “I had a long day. Can’t you tell them the story?”


“I could…” Uru shrugged, “but in the end, no one can really tell it like you, dear.” Ahadi remained silent for a moment. Uru had a way with words, and right now Ahadi could tell that she was trying to persuade him with flattery. Despite Ahadi obviously knowing what his mate was up to… he couldn’t help but go along with his sweet diamond’s choice of words.


“Well…” the Lion King grinned at his mate, “Guilty as charged.” Having said that, the king and queen went inside where the cubs were relaxing together and waiting for them to come and tell them the story of the very first Lion King and Lion Guard.


“Alright everyone,” Ahadi announced, getting the cub’s attention, “Are you all ready to hear the Legend of Mufasa and Ascari?”


“Yes!” Mufasa and Scar and the other cubs responded in unison. They loved it when Ahadi told them that story! It was so full of action and excitement! Most importantly, it reminded Scar of the true reason behind his name.


“Alright then.” Ahadi said as he began to talk in a deep and dramatic voice, “Gather around cubs as I tell you the tale of great legends!” While the cubs were mesmerized by Ahadi’s words, Uru just laid next to her mate and shook her head in amusement. Despite him being a rather strict and stern king, he always let his soft side show whenever he was entertaining their children.


“This story began long ago…” Ahadi began to tale, “During a time where there was no Pride Rock… where there was no Pride Lands… when there was no kings or guards of any kind. Back then, the savannah was home to many incredible creatures, the likes of which you will not find in the world today. Before the cheetah ever got its spots, before the elephant ever grew out his trunk, even before the stars first appeared in the night sky, there were horrifying beasts that roamed the lands. These beasts… were called… the NANDI!”


The cubs gasped in fear when the Lion King emphasized the name. They had heard the terrible stories of the ancient beasts. They were once a breed of bear that scoured the whole of Africa, eating and destroying whatever came in their path. One single Nandi bear was as wide as an elephant and was as tall as a giraffe when he stood up on his hind legs. The worst part was that their favorite food was… lions.


“The Nandi had full reign of the savannah in those days,” Ahadi continued the tale, “They would scour the land, killing birds and beasts of all shapes and sizes. They had no remorse for the lives they took… or how many they killed. The Great Spirit saw that these creatures were disrupting His good green earth, so He decided that something had to be done or else these beasts would destroy every living thing in the savannah. To counter this deadly threat, the Great Spirit sought out the one animal whom He believed had a chance at stopping the Nandi.”


“Lions!” Mufasa exclaimed in glee. He and his brother had heard this story several times before, but they always loved it when their father got to the part about the lions being chosen by the Great Spirit.


“Heh, heh, right.” Ahadi chuckled, “They were the very species of whom the Nandi loved to eat the most. Ironically, they were the only species willing to fight back against their hunters. One group in particular was led here to these very lands by a brave lion who actually killed a Nandi on his own. His name was lost with time, but to this day the lion has been called-”


“The First King!” Mufasa exclaimed again in excitement.


“Mufasa!” Sarabi scolded her friend, “Stop spoiling it!” Though Ahadi knew his son with excited for the story, neither her or the other cubs appreciated him interrupting constantly.


Giving his eldest a knowing look, Mufasa saw that he was aggravating his father, so he replied: “Sorry, Dad.”


“Ahem,” Ahadi cleared his throat as he continued, “As I was saying… the First King took his band of lions and traveled here to the Pride Lands and formed the very first lion pride. Living in Pride Rock, him and his followers remained secluded from the rest of the Nandi species, but the Great Spirit knew that one day a Nandi would find them, and that if something wasn’t done soon, the First King and his pride would once again be prey to the great bears.


“So, the Spirit sent one of His servants, in the form of a lioness named Malaika, to join the First King’s pride. History states that Malaika was the most gorgeous lioness to had ever set foot on this good earth. Of course, the moment the First King saw her he was smitten and it wouldn’t be long until they had cubs. Both of them would grow up, becoming the very first leaders of the Pride Lands. Their names were-”


“Mufasa the First and Ascari the Fierce!”


This time, everyone looked at Scar with wide eyes. Zira nudged Scar hard in the ribs, telling the young cub that he should really be quiet. They really didn’t like the story kept on being interrupted by the princes. Of course, Ahadi was too tired to address the interruption so he just continued on with the story.


“Yes… their names were Mufasa the First and Ascari the Fierce.” Ahadi continued, “Not long after the birth of their children, Malaika confessed to the First King that she was really an angle, sent by the Great Spirit of old to help them in their survival against the Nandi. By conceiving cubs in the womb of a heavenly being, these loins were blessed with special gifts. The eldest was blessed with unimaginable wisdom of a leader, while the younger was blessed with a power that would later become known as: The Roar of the Elders. Now, realizing just how serious this situation was, the First King and Malaika had to work to prepare their cubs for the time when the Nandi would find them.


“The First King taught his eldest about leadership, exposing him to right and wrong and about how by respecting life and nature around him, he too would earn respect and more. Malaika was in charge of teaching the younger son, showing him how to properly use the Roar of the Elders and grooming him for the day he would take charge of protecting his elder brother and his rule with this power. Years passed, and both brothers learned and grew in their skills, knowledge and understanding of their roles and their duty to their family. Though the brothers grew strong and wise… they weren’t prepared for what was to come.


“One day, a Nandi stumbled into the Pride Lands and started attacking everything. The First King and Malika led their sons and their pride into battle against the singular beast. In the end, they succeeded in slaying the beast… but the First King and Malaika were killed in the process. The Pride mourned, and in the end held a funeral for the two great monarchs. It was then, during their grief, the pride saw the first 2 stars appeared in the sky and the spirits of the First King and the angle Malaika came down and reminded the mourning sons that they were still with them… till the Pride Land’s End.


“Afterwards, Mufasa the First stepped into his role as king and set up a sovereign kingdom that became known as the Pride Lands, offering protecting for anyone who wanted to escape the wrath of the Nandi. Meanwhile, his brother Ascari put together the first Lion Guard to help him defend the kingdom against the Nandi who would come after them. Though he was blessed with this great power, Ascari knew he was still only a lion and needed help to defend their kingdom as well as his brother from the Nandi threat.”


It was then, as Ahadi was nearing the end of his tale, that he saw that both of his sons were now fast asleep. Mufasa resting on his side while Scar was curled up in his father’s paws. Uru was also asleep, having all of the girls sleeping soundly all around her. Ahadi looked down at his two beautiful treasures with a proud smile on his face. Though they were no longer listening, the Lion King decided to finish the story anyway.


“Since then,” Ahadi concluded, “The Nandi continued to attack the Pride Lands, but thanks to the might of Mufasa the First, Ascari the Fierce, and the newly formed Lion Guard, they not only drove the Nandi back but also destroyed any trace of them. With the savannah safe, both the brothers and their descendants lived happily ever after… till the end of their days.”


Ahadi then bent down and licked the heads of his two sons as he whispered: “My dear Mufasa… my clever Ascari… I gave you the names of legends because I saw greatness in both of you. You both come from a long line of great lions. I know, in my heart, that you’ll both make me proud someday.”


Having said that, the lion king rested his head between his two sons, dreaming of the day they would grow up and rule these lands… like the brothers of old.


THE END

Story 2:
Discovered: show
This story is called "Discovered." It's about the time when humans discover the Pridelands, and is kinda based around my view of humans' relationships with animals.

Discovered


The Pride Lands had always been untouched by human exploration. It was almost a mystical place, the type of which you only see in legends and tales. Though it was still a predator and prey ecosystem, every animal held each other in great respect; every plant and creature, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, was connected in the great circle of life. It was a peaceful world, its natural beauty untainted by the greed and control of man.

Or at least, it used to be.

****

The pride made their way across the savanna, none of them speaking. The world was quiet in a way that they still hadn’t become used to -- no chirping of birds, no chattering monkeys, even the elephants’ trumpets had fallen silent. After the strange intruders had invaded the kingdom, all the animals had grown quieter; so many of their comrades had been captured and taken away by the trespassers, they feared what might be next.

Naturally, the animals turned to their king for guidance, but if the truth be told, Simba was just as lost as the rest of them. Of course he would never show it, but he felt helpless, seeing these strange creatures invade his kingdom and alarm his subjects in this way. He battled with himself daily on whether or not to lead an attack, but there was one thing that made him hesitate.

He didn’t know what they were, only that they were dangerous. The two-legged creatures carried them with them everywhere they went. At a first glance they resembled nothing more than long sticks, but they produced a terrifying sound. Rafiki had finally been consulted on what these strange things were.

“Dese creatures are dangerous,” he said, a worried expression tainting his ancient features. “Dey possess a sorcery, I believe. Dey have captured the thunder and lightning from the sky and kept it for demselves. I do not know how dey have done it, but I know that dey are not to be trusted.”

The only time they had gotten to hear the strange weapons’ sound was when the pride had dared approach the creatures, even from a distance; the noise that was fired into the sky was enough to make the lionesses take a few steps back and send little Kiara cowering between her mother’s legs. If such a thing could come from simply lifting the stick into the air, Simba was fearful of what it would do if pointed at a lion or some other animal. And he was afraid that might be next if they were ever to appear hostile again.

That was why he was leading the pride toward the border, to await the pieces of food the creatures gave to them each day. It was actually a nice ration, plenty to feed the pride; but no one liked the control these invaders seemed to have over them. However, when it came down to it, Simba didn’t think he had much of a choice -- he was determined to keep his pride safe, especially his mate and daughter. If that meant going along with the creatures’ wishes, he would do it.

The lionesses stayed back as they neared the barbed wire fence, allowing their king to step forward first. Simba exchanged a brief glance with Nala, who was sheltering their cub between the safety of her forelegs. She gave him a small, solemn nod. It terrified her every time Simba approached the dangerous creatures, silently praying they wouldn’t pull out one of their odd sticks with the intent of harming her mate. If they ever did, she would not hesitate to spring forward in an attack -- Nala knew she’d likely die trying, but that didn’t sway her fierce loyalty and undying love.

Simba stepped up to the fence, watching every movement the creatures made with alertness. Three of them emerged from a large box made of metal and steel, making their way toward the fence. Two of them carried large pieces of meat, while the other held one of the dangerous sticks in his hands. They were such strange looking creatures, walking upright on two legs like a monkey -- except they didn’t resemble monkeys. They were something different entirely, speaking to each other in some sort of language the animals could not understand.

Simba lowered his head slightly as the invaders approached, resisting the urge to bare his fangs in defense. The two creatures tossed the food over the fence and watched as the lionesses cautiously moved forward to take it away, while Simba kept a close watch on the intruders.

One of the creatures leaned down in front of the fence, her pale face only a few inches away from his, and their eyes locked. Her eyes were brown, almost the same color as his. They possessed a sort of depth to them, holding thoughts and feelings, just like his did. She smiled at him with the same expression he smiled at those around him. For a brief moment, Simba almost forgot all about the strange creatures’ weapons as a new thought occurred to him: were they really so different, these two-legged things and they?

The creature stood back up and stepped away from the fence, disappearing back into the metal box with her companions and rolling away. Simba slowly turned around and began to lead his pride back to Pride Rock with their supper in tow. The occurrence that had happened at the fence just now had puzzled him, and left him with a new sense of curiosity. Yes, these creatures were dangerous and appeared to be cruel, but did they have to be that way? Just like the animals, they possessed two eyes and two ears and a beating heart and a soul...what was it that made them so different, he wondered? Was it their language, their posture, or something inside them that told them to control the animals as they pleased?

He suspected he’d never know for sure. But it seemed silly, Simba couldn’t help thinking, that creatures who were so very alike to them must act as though they were a species from another planet. Silly that they couldn’t all just live together, without feeling hate and greed, as it was meant to be.

Wouldn’t it be simpler that way?

Story 3:
Prologue: show
Prologue

“Askari, wake up!”

“Yeah…I’m up…”

Askari righted himself up, bending backwards in a stretch while letting out mighty roar. As he blinked the sleepiness from his eyes, the African late morning sun shone through the opening of the cave, stinging his eyes. “Ugh, Mum, what time is it?”

“Enough that Kani’s been waiting for you. It’s not nice to make a girl wait.”

“Kani? Why is she-hevi kabisa!”

The cave Askari and his family resided in adorned the cliff face of the most majestic landmark in the land, Pride Rock. A mighty stone pillar, jutting from the earth imposingly, supports an eastward platform where the nobles would look out across the land. Askari, of course, was one those nobles, the second-born son of current king, although he had not spent the time to really appreciate the scenic view. He left that up to his older brother, Tian, who spent his days being groomed by their dad to become the future king.
Tian was ascending the precarious stone pathway when Askari, much too fast for his sleepy body to handle, smacked straight into him. “Ow. Look where you’re going, Askari. I wouldn’t want either of us to fall off the side.”

“Sorry, T. I’m in a hurry. Didn’t see you there.”

“I’ll pretend that apology was sincere.” Tian rolled his eyes as Askari ran past him, “Oh, Askari. Hold up.”
Askari stopped and turned, giving him an annoyed look.

“If you’re going out, do be careful. There were reports of demons skirting around our borders. If you encounter a demon, run.”

“Yeah, I know the drill.” Askari replied, dismissively. He was in a hurry and really did not want to be stuck in another one of his brother’s lectures. Hopping from rock to rock, Askari quickly descended the stone pathway.

1

“Askari! You’re here! I was worried for second! I might have had to go alone!”

When Askari reached the bottom, panting from how quickly he ran and his heart aching from skipping too many beats every time he almost fell off the path, he was greeted by the sight of his childhood friend. On the outside, Kani was just an ordinary lioness who had just hit adulthood. But Askari knew that inside, Kani was a hyperactive, fun, grinding, irritating, and always sticking her nose where it didn’t belong. Kani knew everything about Askari in return. He was a lion prince, nobility, stood firm and proud behind his brother and father, but when his family isn’t looking, he’s lazing about in hammock somewhere, his well-kept red mane fluttering in the wind.

“Sorry-*puff*-ani. Woke-*huff*-ate.”

“Hmm. Maybe I should have went with someone else instead. You know, someone who isn’t a lying snake of a prince.”

“As if you’re a shining example of punctuality. Besides, I said morning, didn’t I? It’s still morning…” Askari pouted.

“Hehe. Come on. Let’s go,” Kani smirked, “Before all the herds run off.”

Askari and Kani had planned to hunt together in the morning. It was less of a necessity to find food, and more of an excuse to hang out with each other. Askari would always be one of the first lions to eat anything that the hunting party brought back, although Kani was less lucky. She never had food handed to her on a silver platter, she had to do the hunting herself. On the days she caught something, she would relish the taste of victory with Askari, and he was always willingly to slide a few scraps under the table on the days she didn’t.

But today, everything would change.

2


“Askari, cut him off. Now!”

With his final wind, he sprinted as fast he could and made a sharp left, taking out the zebra’s front legs. The zebra tumbled forward, over and over. When he had realized what had happened, all he could see was the blue sky and feel heavy panting on his neck. As his vision went dark, he wondered what it would be like to be that fluffy thing in the sky…

“We *huff* it, *puff*,” Askari could barely move, his breath laboured and his head pounding. The last manoeuvre took all his remaining energy. Slumping down on his side next to Kani, he waited for her to finish confirming. His eyes slowly focused on the rest of the zebra herd quickly shrinking in the distance, the stampeding footsteps confounding Askari’s headache.

“*huff*-over,” Kani let go of the zebra, his head hitting the ground with an audible thud.

“*huff*-Feed-*puff*-me,” Askari rolled onto his back, mouth open.

Kani ripped a piece from the zebra and dangled the piece over Askari’s open mouth. Although he was taken back it actually working, he closed his mouth, ready to taste the sweet sensation of victory.
Nothing.

“Wha-?” Askari’s eyes snapped onto Kani and saw the last bit of zebra meat flicker around her mouth before going into it. “No fair...”

“Hehehe. My bad. Here let me try it again.”

Askari opened his mouth again, saliva drooling all over the sides of his mouth. Kani, with the precision of a surgeon, lowered another piece into his mouth. *SNAP*

Nothing.

Askari glared at Kani as she cracked up in a fit of laughter. “Oh, Askari. You should try this. It’s really good.”
“I could if you would just drop it in my mouth.”

“Again? I caaaan’t believe it didn’t go in the second time.”

Kani lowered a third piece into Askari’s mouth. Lower, lower. Askari’s eyes crossed, focused on the meat. If looks could kill, then the zebra just got killed again. Lower…lower…stop! Askari lunged at the piece of meat and snatched it from her mouth!

“Mmmhmmm. You’re right, Kani. It is pretty good.”

“Blah! You ruined my fun!”

“Really? I think the fun just started!” Askari sprung to his feet and began ripping mouthfuls from the zebra!
“Hey! Not the thighs! That’s my favourite part!” Kani followed suite, although with flames of anger in her eyes. I’ll go for the ribs. I’ll show him for eating my favourite part!

“Oi! Yaargh eading maaah farfourite paht!” Askari cried!

“Sawree! Cahn’t ear yoou!” Kani retorted.

As Kani and Askari tore the carcass to shreds, the grass behind them began to part. Rustling noises muffled by the sound of two adults tearing flesh from bone. The sound of dried sticks and leaves hidden by the sound of cracking bones.

“Ahhh that’s the last of the-!“ Askari looked up at Kani, but his eyes locked with eyes that were not hers. Dilated pupils. “Kani, behi-!”

The figure burst from the shadows of the grass, revealing a lioness! A lioness who was once part of their pride. And had gone missing. Before Kani could even process what was going on, the stranger pinned Kani to the floor and began taking massive swings of her claws across the prone lioness’s back! Kani yelped in pain! Her lighter, exhausted body pushed uselessly against her assaulter’s older body!

“Get off her!” Askari charged at the stranger at full force, sending her flying. Getting to her feet, wobbly and unsteady, the stranger growled at them. Saliva began oozing from her mouth. In the break of the action, Askari saw her body was constantly convulsing. Her legs, her torso. She wheezed through her mouth. Askari knew what these meant.

“A demon!” Askari exclaimed!

At the provocation the demon attacked again! Duck, sidestep, back step! Askari had never ever seen a demon before in person. In fact, he only knew two things about demons. One, “you should always run away.”
Kani staggered to her feet. Pain radiated from her back. But as she saw her friend fighting for his life. The pain in her back subsided. Replaced with indignation!

“BACK OFF!”

Kani charged recklessly towards the demon. She was adamant. She wanted one thing. To end the demon’s life. The demon spun around. Kani lunged. With a crushing grip, Kani severed the demon’s connection from her head. The demon went limp.





The grass began to whistle in the wind. Birds returned to the ground to forage. But all of that was background noise to Askari.

Uncertain that the battle had ended, Askari slowly approached his friend from behind. She held the corpse of the demon, still refusing to let go. Askari congratulated her. Complimented her bravery. How amazing she was. All fell on deaf ears. Askari, worried that her wounds may be worse than it looked, began licking it clean. She shrugged him off.

“Kani! What’s wrong-?” Askari started. He finally walked to the front of Kani, and saw large gashes on her shoulder.
Bite marks.

“I messed up.”

The second thing Askari knew about demons, “Never, ever get bitten!”
3


“It’s not true…is it?” Kani stood, stoically, “what they say about demons.”
Askari backed away from her.

“Tell me. It’s not true…” she continued.

She’s been bitten! She’s a demon!

Askari sputtered half sentences and mumbled incomprehensibly.

“I won’t become a demon…right?” Tears began to well up in her eyes.

If you encounter a demon, run.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Askari turned and bolted!

“ASKARI!” Kani collapsed to the floor, more from the pain in her heart than in her back, sobbing.

Askari could not tell how far he ran or how long he had been running. The familiar throbbing in his head returned, all the more incessant. His already exhausted body was pushed to his limits. His legs began to cramp and his chest failed to take in air. His vision began to fade, in sync with his heart rate as the afternoon sun dipped below the horizon and his world was shrouded in darkness. He collapsed in a heap on the warm grass.

She was my friend! How could I abandon her like that? Why did she have to get bit? She must be terrified, betrayed, hurt. I let her down! After all she’s done to me! After all we’ve been through together!

Muttering to himself, Askari let his mind loop these thoughts until exhaustion finally set in…

A cool nightly air brushed against his fur, sending shivers down his spine and stirring him from his slumber. The moon was shining low in the sky, which a young baobab tree stood defiantly in the way, casting a shadow over Askari. Looking around, it was apparent that the grasslands that he took an impromptu nap was not the same place he had awoken. But the throbbing in his head, that had not changed at all.

“Well, well. Good morning,” an old voice crackled from the baobab tree.

“Who’s there?” Askari craned his head to identify the voice

“’tis naught but an old shaman making his way across Africa,” the voice replied.

Askari craned his head around the multiple branches. Whoever the voice belonged to, was not keen to show himself. “A shaman? What is that?”

The shaman was a practitioner of rituals and medicine, trained in the art of communicating with and balancing good and evil spirits. “A shaman also keeps balance of good and evil spirits in the body. For example, you who has not drunk for a day, especially in this blistering sun, have a weakened water spirit.”
Askari rolled his eyes dismissively, “…so I was a little thirsty. What about it?”

“When your spirits are out of balance, the body and mind suffers. Your reflexes slow, your precision drop, and your judgment falters.”

“Can you remove evil spirits?” Askari’s scepticism receding.

“Just where do you think maladies come from? Of course I can.”

“I need your help! My friend! She’s been bitten by a demon!”

The sound of footsteps slowly etched its way towards the lion. Pushing past the leaves of the baobab tree, the shaman finally revealed himself. A mandrill, with colourful array of dull colours decorating his wrinkled face. It seemed like a miracle that his body could move at all, his muscles deteriorated by age. Pressing his face against the prince’s, he spoke in a soft whisper, “Ahh. The demon’s curse. A foul spirit that must possess a host to remain in the mortal realm, spreading from one host to the next in order to starve off its own demise. The one malady that no one has ever cured."

Askari’s eyes widened in dismay. Just when he thought he had found hope, the carpet was pulled straight under him.

“No! There must be another way! I have to make things right!”

With a shook of his head, the mandrill solemnly returned to his spot deep in the canopy of the baobab tree. Askari could hold it in no longer. The realisation that his best friend will die had set in. Tears started flowing down his face as he angrily clawed at anything in each. The dirt, the tree, the roots. She’s going to die! If only I was keener, I could have saw it coming sooner. If only I was stronger, faster, Kani wouldn’t have had to jump in and save me! Damn it! Damn it!

With ragged breath, he looked up to see the mandrill had returned, quietly observing his little tantrum. Wiping the tears from his face, Askari apologised. “I didn’t mean for you to see that.”

“Your friend means a lot to you.”

“Of course! I’ll do anything for her!”

The mandrill’s face scrunched with exertion, contemplating his next words very carefully. He passed Askari a stick, decorated with shells of insects and fruits if various species tied to its end. The Bakora staff’s significance was lost on Askari, but the reason for the gift was not.

“The mortal realm may not have the answer you seek, but perhaps you will find peace in the great spirits,” the mandrill pointed a crooked finger to a mountain range a small distance from the Pridelands, “The tip of Theluji Mountains is a gateway to the realm of spirits. Take this staff and your friend to the summit, and if the spirits grant their blessings, you may be blessed with the power to destroy the demon’s curse.”
“I - I’ll be able to save Kani?! Thank you! Thank you so much!”

“Make haste. For the journey is long and time is of the essence.”

Invigorated with newfound hope, Askari grabbed the stick with his mouth and ran off in search for Kani.
4

Askari edged towards the entrance of a familiar cave. The cave had not changed, weathering the many wet and dry seasons since Askari had last seen it, but it had given in to the natural flora. Vines drape its tight walls, compressing the already tight squeeze for an adult lion, mould growing in the damp cracks in the floor. The musty smell intermingling with fresher smell of blood. Braving the entrance, his eyes fixated on the white scratches on the walls. On the left lie crude drawings of lions fighting off hyenas and saving the Pridelands from all sorts of disasters. The right, bizarre interpretations of the many wonderful views in the Pridelands that Askari had thoroughly ignored his entire life. With a strong sense of forlorn nostalgia, he entered deeper into the cave, but as the final rays of moonlight dissipated and his eyes went completely dark, he could not see the end of his own muzzle. But with the light behind him, it was quite easy for Kani to see him.

“Go away, Askari. Leave me alone.”

“Kani?! I knew I would find you here!”

“Let me guess. You’re here to kill me before I turn into a demon. Is that it?” Kani’s voice brimming with venom.

“No! That’s not why-“

“Get OUT!”

“Kani. I’m sorry.”

“Get out or I’ll bite you!”

Askari backpedalled his way into the moonlight. His eyes locked onto the drawings that he and Kani made so many years ago. Their dreams and aspirations; Want they wanted to do ever since they were small. He wanted to be guard so badly, to be admired, responsible, and Kani wanted to see all the world had to offer, to feel the world, in its every wake. But as they grew older, they threw away such silly notions. A member of royalty should never throw himself in front of another, and outside the Pridelands is much too dangerous for a lone lioness.

“Kani. We have to go to the Thelugi Mountains,” Askari whispered, softly.

“Thelugi Mountains? Why?”

“They say there’s way to remove the demon’s curse. But we have to make it to the tip!”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way there’s we –,“ Kani ended as abruptly as she started. “Let’s go.”

Askari could not believe his ears. The shadowy figure of Kani carefully emerged into the light, roaring to go, despite her current appearance.
5

The African sun beat down across the cliff path, sending pulsating waves of heat on their exhausted bodies. In spite of this, the pair of lions shivered and drew in harsh breaths. Kani had been faring well, though her usual cheeky demeanour was nowhere to be seen, only responding when Askari spoke up. During their frequent rest stops, Askari made sure clean her injuries on her back, and while they have scarred over nicely, Kani’s strength still seemed to be waning. Somehow, Kani had the willpower to keep pushing on. Every time Askari glanced at her, she would be looking at the way the trees grew or in the direction of a particularly noisy critter in the underbrush, and was having the time of her life. When she glanced back, she would beam a smile that would make his heart flutter before getting distracted by the shape of a rock.

“Kani. There’s a river up ahead. Let’s make a stop here.”

Resting in the shade of the tall trees, the canopy gave them a well-deserved respite against the beating sun. The river converged into a waterfall, and it did not take long for Kani to be leaning precariously off the edge, gawking at the sight.

Alas, Askari did not have time to rest. They had not eaten in while, and he feared that if they did not find food soon, they would starve. After gulping down mouthful after mouthful of fresh water, he left Kani alone to find anything that would sate their hunger.

As soon as Askari was out of earshot, Kani could finally relax. Exploding into a coughing fit, she tried massaging her throat. Despite nothing visible obstructing it, there was a continuous, irritating sensation in her throat. It felt sluggish like it was resisting against her own body. Even sipping tiny slurps of water would make her choke, and she would consider herself lucky if she could keep down any food Askari brought back.
Why? Why did this happen? If-if-if…I-that lioness-no, that demon-

Her headache told her to stop thinking. She rolled onto her side and gazed out to vast wilderness before her, her eyes reflexively snapped onto distant movement. The strong mountain breeze brushed against her exposed ear, each time compounding her headache. She eventually started zoning out, all the stimuli nothing more than white noise and she did not notice Askari’s presence behind her.

“Kani, I’m ba-!”

Startled, Kani jumped out of her skin! Glaring at Askari, she snapped, “What was that for?! You don’t have to scare me like that.”

“Huh? I didn’t mean to!”

“You do a lot of things you don’t mean to.” Kani responded bitterly.

“Like you’re one to talk!” Askari retorted.

They ate in complete silence. Askari was an adequate hunter, but he was fish out of water here in the mountains. Trees kept getting in his way and the abundance of dry leaves on the forest floor were a personal storm siren for critters. But as they finished their meagre meal, Askari felt even hungrier so he was surprised to find that Kani was stuffed after eating half of a diseased rabbit. Putting their feud behind them, they continued up the mountain trail, ascending higher and higher.
6

The sixth sun has set.

Without the warmth of the setting sun, the cold drafts cut into their bodies to the bone. The tall trees from before had been slowly replaced with conical ones, that did nothing to stop the howling winds. But the pair remained ever hopeful. The mountain trail, which had become noticeably inclined, began to slowly plateau out. They were almost at the peak!

Kani’s condition had deteriorated even further. She became restless, waking up from rests in agony, clutching her legs or chest. Her body shivered constantly, even when she felt warm. When her voice could only produce mumbles and growls, she gave up on talking. Even Askari knew what these signs meant.
“Kani, you can do it! We’re almost there! Just hang on!” He called out behind him, equal part encouraging Kani and equal part soothing his own fear.

Askari peered over a rock wall, struggling to keep his eyes open against the wind. On the other edge of the summit, stood a stone platform, defiant against the raging wind that ate at the surrounding earth.
“Kani! We did it! We’re at the peak!”

Askari began laughing with joy, and started sprinting towards the platform with newfound energy. The icy wind that once sapped at his strength could do nothing to hinder his charge. Even Kani felt rejuvenated by the sight of the platform. As Askari stood on the platform, waving the Bakura staff around, Kani stood gobsmacked at the view from the platform. The white snow that she had once despised glistened in the evening moonlight, the trees stood proud and resilient against the harsh weather. The sense of pride and accomplishment that came from climbing the tallest mountain in the Thelugi Mountains, she could not wait to return home and fill in that last bit of wall in their cave.

Exasperated and frustrated, Askari stabbed the platform with the stick. Something had changed. Subtle at first, the wind petered out, before returning in a spiral in front of them. The nearby clouds were dragged into the spiral and began to take shape of lion.

“It’s true! The stories are true!” Askari was overcome with joy.
Kani gave him a puzzled look.

“Great spirit, I need your help! My friend, she’s afflicted with the demon’s curse and I’ve come from the land far away to seek your aid!

TO RECEIVE A SPIRIT’S BLESSINGS, YOU MUST MAKE A SACRIFICE OF EQUAL EXCHANGE.
“I’ll sacrifice anything! Please help my friend.”

THE POWER TO PROTECT THOSE DEAREST TO YOU, CAN ONLY BE MET BY SACRIFICING THE DEAREST TO YOU.
Askari racked his brain, thinking of what he could sacrifice. His pride, his dreams, his memories, himself. But each time, the spirit refused.

“Askari…Sacrifice…me…”

“What? No way. I’m not sacrificing you. I’ve came all this way to save you.”

“I…don’t think…the spirit can cure the demon’s curse.”

“Spirit, what is the power to destroy the demon’s curse?”

With a mighty roar, the spirit shattered the mountain behind them. Askari went pale. After all this effort, the power would not be able to save Kani.

“Askari…”
“No! I’m not doing it!”

“Do it…for me… The curse will take me soon. I don’t want my death to be in vain.”

“I can’t, Kani!”

“You can and you will. My life is waning. I feel the demon encroaching my every thought.”
With tears in his eyes, Askari bit down on Kani’s throat. “I wanted to spend my entire life with you!”
With tears of regret, Kani mustered all her strength, “Promise me…you won’t let anyone else…fall to the demon’s curse.”

Closing in her eyes in peace, she let body drop limp in Askari’s mouth. When he realised, he screamed out in agony.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” A terrifying roar echoed throughout the valley, trees uprooted from the force, and brought down massive avalanches across the mountain range. The roar returned to him, sending Askari flying through the air.

Painfully, Askari rose to his feet.

This is…the power to destroy the demon’s curse.

I promise you this, Kani. I’ll crush them. Every single one of them!

Story 4:
Ready to Reclaim the Throne from the Alien: show
Ready to Reclaim the Throne from the Alien?
Oh jeez, not that bloody crossover story again!


Nala made her way up to the small hill where she knew Simba liked to keep watch during the nights. Sure enough, there he was, silhouetted against the early morning sunrise still looking out at the horizon. Not surprising though, was that the lion looked rather tired and on the verge of falling asleep. Then again, how else would he be after a long night of staying on watch, so his state was hardly surprising to her. What was, Nala had expected Ratchet to be with Simba, whom she had noticed out of the corner of her eye had gone up as well during the night. Now, Simba was alone, with the lombax nowhere in sight.

“Morning, Simba,” she greeted, “ready to head inside for a nice nap?” To her amusement, his response was to emit a long, rather loud yawn. “All right you big goof, go inside already. I doubt you’re of much use up here at this point anyways. Also, where’s Ratchet? I saw him with you last night.” She was about to nudge him over in the direction of the den when he shook his head, letting out another yawn.

“Nah, I’ll stay up, Nala,” Simba replied. “Ratchet complained to me that he couldn’t sleep, so he went up with me. Would you believe it, Nala? He was out of it like a rock in no time at all! Anyways, he woke up not to long ago and insisted on heading over to his ship, so that’s where you’ll find him. Just let me a bit of time to let the others know, then I want to also go there, see what he’s up to.”

“All right, then let me go with you. I’m not on hunting duty today, and I’m also curious as to what Ratchet’s doing over there.”

While it didn’t take too long to make the detour inside to let Sarabi know where they can be found, but it did involve one very embarrassing incident: Sarabi insisted that they take Zazu with them.

“Mom, we’re not cubs anymore! We don’t need him watching over us all the time!” Simba whined loudly, causing the lions throughout the den to start laughing. For once, the majordomo also agreed, but:

“While I do not understand the necessity of myself having to accompany the two of you, I can understand the wishes of a widowed mother to take care of her son, so for the sake of her, would you please not complain so much and just do as she asks, young master?”

Resisting the urge to grown in frustration, Simba beckoned for Nala and the annoying blue ‘escort’ to follow him. “Fine, fine! But I’m doing this for you, mom! You know that now I have the right to order Zazu not to follow me!”

It didn’t take long to get back up and over to where Simba and Nala had found the lombax before. Although. As they got closer and started to edge down the newly formed crater, Ratchet was nowhere to be seen. That said, it wasn’t hard to guess where he was, if only by guessing the interesting metallic banging and clanking coming from below Aphelion.

Walking the last of the distance over, Simba peaked beneath the ship and saw that there was now a small gap beneath the bottom of the ship, and sure enough, a lombax underneath it. “Ratchet? What are you doing down there?”

“Fixing my ship! Just give me a second!”

More metallic noises followed suit, but once they stopped Ratchet did slide himself out, emerging covered in dust and grime. “Morning you two,” he muttered in greeting the two lions. “Didn’t expect anyone to show up this early, and I wanted to start fixing my ship. Aphelion’s grounded still, but I am sure I can change that rather quickly.”

Despite catching a nap the previous night, he still looked half asleep and ready to keel over, much like Simba was feeling now. “And how’s that going? Any way we can help?”

Ratchet shrugged. “Last time I had to fight Tachyon, I had an entire arsenal with me. First thing I did just now when I got back was to check what I have with me, and well, it’s not much. Actually, it’s hardly anything at all. Considering that, I would never attempt to attack him with what I have now. If I can fix Aphelion, I will feel much better about our chances, which right now I would place at about zero.” He rubbed his head, glancing over his ship. “I’m not sure how she crashed, but she’s surprisingly in one piece. Still, unless you know anything about the internal workings of a Lombaxian interceptor, I doubt you can do anything to help. Feel free to stay and watch, but this is something for me to do alone.”

Simba looked up at the sky. “Well, the sun’s out, so I don’t see why not staying here...” he let out a yawn, “… and take a nap. What about you, Nala? Feel like staying out in the fresh air or heading back inside?”

Nala let out a quiet laugh. “I’ve had it staying underground, it’s not too often I get to enjoy the outdoor air, not with Tachyon’s hyenas running about all over the place! Besides, if things get really boring, I always have Zazu to keep me company.”

Next to them, the majordomo huffed and ruffled his feathers. “Glad I can be today’s entertainment, ma’am.”

Grinning, Nala nudged Zazu with a paw. “Aww, don’t be like that, Zazu! First of all, Simba wants to take a nap, and I don’t want to interrupt him. You know how he gets if he is when he doesn’t get his sleep,” nearby, Simba emitted a grunt of agreement, already busy with getting his nap in. “Anyways, I am rather interested in why another feline would think that crawling under the dusty ground is time well spent.” She was referring to Ratchet, who was almost invisible, busy with his repair work on his spaceship.

A good part of the day had passed before Ratchet emerged from beneath the ship, now even dirtier than before. “Great news!” he announced loudly, grabbing Nala’s and Zazu’s attention. “Just two things left to fix! The warp drive and the cooling system for the guns. Just watch, should be a quick fix!” This time, he started work on the back of Aphelion, and had exposed the inner workings in a short few minutes. However, as soon as the area was revealed, the sudden drop of his smile and ears proved that something was wrong. “I uh… I might have uh, been slightly wrong about that...” A slight bit of fiddling with his wrench followed, after which he reached in and pulled out a messy jumble of wires and broken bits of metal, freeing his hands to cover his face, rubbing his forehead .

Not knowing what she was looking at, Nala tried to get a better look at what he was holding. “So, what is that you just pulled out?”

Instead of replying, Ratchet simply sat down with a frustrated sigh. Glaring at the metal scrap in his hands, all of the sudden he let out a growl and tossed the whole mess away, starling Nala and Zazu. “That was the warp drive, or what was left of it, in any case. Not much I can do with it with the state it’s in.” Raising his head up just enough to glance over at Nala, it was clear just how upset he was. “Look, I’m going to be honest here: I have a lot of beef with Tachyon. You wouldn’t believe how much... So yes, I will still help you get rid of him.” He motioned around at the area they were in. “But this all, this place… It’s not my home. I was hoping that as soon as Tachyon was dealt with, I would get to go home. Still gotta find Clank and all. But without that warp drive: I’m stuck. Aphelion will hardly be able to leave orbit without it, let alone this system, wherever the heck this is. And that just plain sucks.”

Nala tried to think of something that might help cheer him up. “You really looked like you knew what you were doing not that long ago. I’m sure you will figure something out after this whole mess is done with.” While she knew that Ratchet was upset, she still caught the impression that he didn’t think much of their home. What a strange fellow he was: so ready to make friends from someone he just met, then insult where they live the next moment.

Ratchet waved a hand at her in dismissal. “Nah, there’s nothing. I might know a thing or two on how to fix ships, but I don’t know a thing when it comes to how the various parts work. That was always more of Clank’s shtick.” He glanced at Simba’s sleeping form nearby, then back at Aphelion. “Well, there’s still the guns to be fixed. They can at least be used against Tachyon.” Getting up, he returned to working at the exposed rear, though now noticeably with less enthusiasm.

Once again, Nala didn’t know what she was supposed to be looking at, and truth be told, she was in fact engaged in a rather cheerful conversation with Zazu when they were interrupted by a startled yelp from Ratchet. Quickly looking over at the commotion, it looked like Ratchet was quickly trying to undo something when he got a muzzle-full of a bright crimson fluid, soon covering his entire top half as he tripped over his own legs in his haste to backpedal away from the squirting liquid, yelling in a combination of pain, frustration, and the occasional swear word mixed in.

“Ratchet, you all right?” Nala ran over to make sure that he hadn’t hurt himself, wrinkling her nose at the foul smelling fluid. She tried to get a good look at it, worried that it might be blood, even if it didn’t smell much like way she was expecting it to. Still… “It’s just blood, let it clear out.”

“It got into my eyes!” Ratchet screamed back, “Aww f--, it burns!” As Nala came close to try and help him cleaned up, he pushed her head away furiously. “And it’s not blood! It’s the cooling hydraulics! Stuff’s poisonous, and really hot as well. Ugh, the burn!” Stumbling over to the front of his ship, he gave it a strong kick, only to let out yet another yelp, hopping about on one leg as he clutched the now bruised one. “Aphelion, open up!”

Awoken from the commotion, Simba appeared by Nala’s side. “What’s going on with him?” Interestingly enough, the lion wasn’t so much paying attention to Ratchet as much as glancing between the lombax and the spurting fluid from the back of the ship, mentally figuring out what he had missed out on. “Should I go an fetch Rafiki? Might be a good idea, just in case.”

Ratchet, meanwhile, was losing patience when the canopy failed to open. Hobbling back, he pounded on the side with a fist. “Aphelion, I said-!” he was interrupted by a sudden hiss of air escaping as the canopy finally did open up. Scrambling in, he allowed himself to fall haphazardly, reaching out half blindingly to where the glove compartment was. Finding it, he showed his hand inside, and managed to find what he was looking for – a small bottle of water. Crawling back out, he hissed in pain due to forcing his eyes wide open as he poured the water over them, rinsing them out. It was only when he was done that he seemed to realize where he was. “Well, that was… Ugh...” he rubbed is eyes, clearly reddend with agitation. “Sorry,” he mumbled apologetically.

Simba and Nala could only watch with a feeling of sorrow towards the lombax as he began to reassemble the back of his ship half-heartedly, only pausing to clean up the mess from his earlier work.

“He looked so hopeful in the morning when he left in the morning to come here,” Simba said softly so that only Nala can hear, “I’d hate to think what’s going through his mind right now.”

Ratchet, finally finished with closing the back few panels to where they belong, let out a long sigh as he patted Aphelion’s metal surface. “No warp drive, no guns, not much use you will be.” As though realizing that there where lions nearby, he turned his attention to them again. “All I can do now is boot Aphelion back up and hope for the best. Figure non of you have seen something like it before, so come and take a look. Leading them back to the canopy, he hopped into the pilot’s seat and began the startup procedures.

“-What the..?”

Instead of the usual sequence of events he was used to that would lead to a greeting from Aphelion after a successful power on, be was instead greeted by lines of text across the various screens on the dash.

Text in Lombaxian. Which he didn’t know how to read. So what else was there to do?

Ratchet groaned and began to bang his head repeatedly against the control yoke in front of him. “Tomorrow’s going to be a better day. Tomorrow’s going to be a better day.” He kept repeating the phrase over and over again, not caring how foolish he looked. - the day so far really wasn’t going well for him.

Simba grinned a little despite knowing that he really shouldn’t – he also knew what it was like to live through a day when nothing seemed to go correctly. However, he still wanted to help rather than just be a spectator to someone else’s frustration. “Look, I’m sure you can-”

“I don’t want to hear about it!” Ratchet interrupted. “Do you know you way around command line interfaces written in Lombaxian?”

Simba blinked, confused. “Uh, no..?”

“Well then shut up!” Ratchet returned to banging his head on the yoke, not caring if he hurt the lion’s feelings or not.

Nala cared, though. “Listen here, Ratchet. I don’t care if you are frustrated or not. Believe me when I say that we all know what it’s like to have a very bad day. That doesn’t give you a reason to be a jerk.” She only received a shrug in reply.

From behind her, she heard a new voice, though not an unfamiliar one. “That is good advice she gave you, young one. Better not to ignore it!”

“Rafiki?” Simba stammered, “What are you doing here? How did you find us?” Well, it was a rather stupid question since he had told the pride where he was going to be, but he never expected the monkey to show up. Ratchet had finally stopped his banging at Rafiki’s voice, but other than that, made a show of not reacting and not caring at the new presence.

“Oh, no reason. Ol’ Rafiki was simply minding his own business when Mufasa told me that I could be of aid, so here I am!”

Easily leaning over the side, Rafiki took a good look at inside the cockpit. “So what seems to be the problem, visitor from far away? Care to tell a humble shaman?”

Ratchet glared at the monkey. “One, I don’t know who you are. Two, nothing you can do will fix the problems, so I would appreciate if you left.” He again ignored a verbal scolding from Nala.

If he was insulted, Rafiki didn’t show it. “Do you not trust a simple tree dweller offering some help? I may be old, but I am not a fool. You do not look like you got your troubles handled on your own.” He got a single word in reply.

“No.”

Simba cleared his throat to try and get attention to himself. “Ratchet, I know this may sound silly,” he chuckled nervously, “but Rafiki tends to know things. He gave me and Nala plenty of advice when we can’t explain how he got it in the first place.”

“I still don’t trust him. I don’t want him messing with Aphelion.” Ratchet mumbled in reply. “She’s my ship.”

Simba thought of what to say, but only came up with, “I trust him.”

Ratchet looked at Simba, then at Nala, who nodded in confirmation to Simba’s explanation. He then looked back at Rafiki, who was simply grinning back, and oddly looking way to much like… like Clank might. “Fine,” he finally relented, crossing his arms in defeat. “But don’t[i] hurt her!”

“That settles it then!” Now with Ratchet’s permission, Rafiki got to work… by reaching over and pushing a few buttons on Aphelion’s dash. “Take your hand and press there,” he then instructed, guiding Ratchet’s gloved hand over to the main screen.

Hesitating slightly, Ratchet allowed the monkey to move his hand over and pressed where instructed, feeling completely foolish but still not deciding not to do it, for whatever reason. To his surprise, Aphelion did start to emit the usual noises associated with a normal boot up. “That… that seems to have done it,” he admitted, “how did you… know what to do?” He looked up to where Rafiki was just standing moments ago, but the monkey was already gone. Not even visible as someone walking away. “Where did he go?” he asked, “What just happened?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Simba replied, now grinning genuinely. “That’s just how Rafiki is. Don’t question his ways, unless you want a really bad headache.”

“Well, okay...” Ratchet trailed off as he resumed starting his ship up, now knowing what to do. When he got to a certain point, he paused, holding his breath. “I hope this works.” Reaching down, he pushed a large button, and was rewarded by the sweet if rather loud noise of Aphelion’s engines starting up. Not familiar with the procedure, Simba and Nala took the opportunity to back up to a safe distance, just in case. Only a few seconds later:

“Welcome back, Ratchet.” It was Aphelion, operational once more. “Thanks for repairing me, though I do detect a missing warp drive, and… Ratchet, I told you not to try and fix that part,” without hesitation, she ship was already scolding her pilot. “Scanning. Confirming weapons as nonoperational. Cooling levels below minimum. And they appear to be all over you, Ratchet.”

Ratchet could only stammer in reply. “But, but- I really needed your weapons to work,” he finally explained, “you’re the only thing around here I know that can handle Tachyon. I don’t have enough ammo on my own...”

“And you didn’t think that my telling you not to attempt a field repair was just casual advice?”

“I was hoping that I would be able to fix everything,” Ratchet whispered in defeat.

“Without Clank around, you really do tend to make rather stupider decisions,” Aphelion said, though her tone was not condensation as much as of understanding.

Sighing, Ratchet beckoned the lions over. “We’ll figure something out,” he added after a short while. “Even without Clank or my own weapons, I’m not leaving this place while that Cragmite is around. Hopefully… someone else who can help will show up. How’s the search for other signals? Anything?”

“Negative.”

“Still no? Are you sure all your equipment’s working?”

“Ratchet! Don’t make me eject you in space!”

Top tip for survival: Never ask a ship running a sentience AI that implies that they are malfunctioning and not realizing it. “Ok, ok, Aphelion! Don’t need to do anything rash now, just checking!” The lombax leaned back in his seat, drumming his fingers on the dash as he thought of what to do next. “Any way to extend to range of your search?” he asked, “or transmit further?”

He watched as more lombaxian script scrolled down Aphelion’s screens, but this time he knew it was because his ship was deep in thought. “Well, there is a way, buy you won’t like it,” she replied.

Ratchet simply waved a hand off. “Bah, with the day going as it is, I don’t care. Tell me the bad news!”

It was then of course that someone else decided to interrupt instead: Ratchet had just about forgotten that Simba and Nala had arrived with that blue bird Zazu in tow, and it was now at this perfect moment that he decided to remind Ratchet of his presence. “Simba! Nala! Hyenas, real close and heading this way!”

“How much time do we have to get away?” Simba asked, now all business.

“Umm, not much, young sire,” Zazu replied, clearly nervous, “I am afraid-”

Nala butted in. “How much is ‘not much’, Zazu?” she demanded, “do we need to leave right away, or do we still have some time to figure out what to do?”

“I’m afraid there’s not enough time for any of those,” Zazu stammered out, “there is no way they won’t see us. We need to run, but away from the rest of the pride, and hope to lose them...”

Upon hearing that they had company, Ratchet had bolted out of Aphelion and scrambled up the side of the small crater left by Aphelion’s crash, carefully peeking out from the top of the rim. Almost immediately, his eyes widened, and he scampered back down as quickly as he could. “There’s a whole load of ‘em!” he announced as loudly as he dared. His eyes glanced over Aphelion, but not before spotting the still open canopy. “I have a better idea: get inside!”

Jumping back into the pilot’s seat, he gave both Simba and Nala a glare that gave them a very clear signal that they were not to argue with him, and furiously motioned at them to get in the back seat. As soon as they followed him, he smashed the canopy switch as hard as he could, waiting impatiently for the gold-tinted glass to seal them up inside. “Not a word, and [i]don’t
move!” he instructed in a whisper as soon as his passengers untangled themselves from the cramped back space. “This glass is only see though in one direction. With any luck, they will think we’re not inside.” Mostly, he was relying on the hope that hyenas won’t know that someone can even be inside the ship, but even as he said this, he gripped his wrench tightly.

Simba and Nala glanced at each other, both with wide eyes. Was this really such a good idea, or should they have made a run for it?

Not moments later, voices from the intruders could be heard. “...they have to be in this hole! There’s no where else where they can be. Hey, who wants to eat whatever we find ‘lion’ around down there? Let’s go get ‘em”

While Ratchet looked rather nervous, Simba and Nala were starting to look completely terrified. Not only did they blow their chance to make a break for it, now they were also trapped inside Ratchet’s ship. Simba was already getting himself ready to try and force Ratchet to let them free when:

[/i]-What the? There’s no one here!”[/i]

From inside Aphelion, the three could see as one, two, more and more hyenas made themselves visible as they looked down inside the crater.

“It’s just that thing we found last night! one of the hyenas complained.

Only to have another one, most likely a leader, give a smirk. “Take a look at it: someone’s been here, and very recently. They are still around here somewhere, hiding.” A large section of the hyenas easily and quickly made their way over to Aphelion, sniffing and inspecting everything they can find or found curious and/or suspicious.

From inside the ship, Ratchet glared at the hyenas outside. “If you so much as scratch her!” he hissed in a warning, clenching his wrench even tighter, if it was possible.

“I can smell something! A lot of somethings! They were definitely here, and just now too,” came a voice from outside. “Then there must be a trail of them leading out,” was the reply. “Find it!”

Inside Aphelion, the mood was extremely tenses. Then made even more so as one of the hyenas jumped up onto the ship’s hood, just in front of the canopy. The occupants inside froze even their breathing as they waited for the inevitable as the hyena approached the glass, a curious but intense look on its muzzle. “Hey, I can see myself. That’s really cool!” the hyena was clearly heard saying. It got even closer, no doubt wanting to get a better look.

From inside, Ratchet thumbed a blaster nervously. The bit of ammo it had left wasn’t meant for a simple hyena, but if it was about to discover them, then he wouldn’t hesitate on using it.

To his luck, he didn’t have to. “Get down from there!” The hyena let out an annoyed huff, its gazing jumping to whomever barked the order at it. “Are you looking for those stinkin’ lions, or are you admiring your own ugly face? Get back to work!” Inside, the occupants let out a silent sigh of relief, able to breath again.

They hyena only shrugged, seemingly not concerned. “And wa’ya gonna do? Report on me? Tachyon’s gonna kill both of us! That what you want?” Still, the hyena jumped off Aphelion to go and continue searching the crater’s ground.

After what felt like several of eternities, the number of hyenas started to slowly dwindle as they came to the slow conclusion that they were the only living souls in the area. Still, just as the lions and lombax hiding inside the ship thought they just managed the impossible and got away scot-free, they overheard this bit of troubling news:

“You know what this means, right?”

“Uh... no..?”

“This means that lions are living ‘round here! Tonight: we attack! And when they are all dead: Tachyon let’s us eat well for once! We’re heading back, boys! Report to that ugly lizard and prepare for a fight tonight!”

As Aphelion was left alone, no one inside moved even after it was safe to do so, still taking in what they heard.

“That’s it, then,” Simba breathed out, “we will have to make another run for it. Guess it was always going to happen someday, but seriously...” he let out a low growl, “always running! How I hate it!”

Ratchet stayed still, finally deciding his mind, “No,” he insisted. [i]Lombaxes don’t run!
“No more running. No more hiding. If they want to fight… You’re right, we won’t be waiting here to be run over and killed. No, we’ll be at Tachyon’s front door. Blowing it wide open. Those hyenas want to bring their army tonight? Then that’s when we attack.”

“But that’s crazy!” Simba tried to argue. “We’re not ready, non of us are prepared to attack Tachyon himself! It’s the worst thing we can do!”

“Which is exactly why it will work.” Ratchet was grinning, but it was more of a dark gallows type of humor: even he wasn’t confident in an offense strategy against Tachyon. But realistically, what other option did they have? “Tachyon would be a fool to not know that there is something going on now,” he continued, “and as much as I hate to say it: a fool he is not. No one who single handedly started an empire is one. You said it yourself: the only reason why you all didn’t attack yet was because you needed more help. Well here I am! I’m the best chance you got, so use it!”

Nala didn’t want to know who she agreed more with in this case: Simba was correct in that rushing into a fight just like that was not a smart thing to do. But Ratchet had a point: If they run again, will there ever be a point when they will stop? And Ratchet… sure, he was a feline like them, but also a small and scrawny one. Nala had no doubt that if they fought against one another, the lombax would be a pushover. But Aphelion, his ‘wrench’, even the strange things he was wearing: there was far more at his disposal than just claws and teeth. In short, Ratchet was very likely worth far more than an entire pride of muscled, aggressive males in their prime just from everything he was able to use outside of brute strength. But still…

Then she got an idea. “Um, Ratchet, you kept asking Aphelion, or however you call her… it?” Ratchet shrugged, chuckling a little. Nala wasn’t sure how to refer to the ship, which they were currently in. Like it had swallowed them whole – a strange concept to try and understand, to say the least. Either way… “What about her being able to call for help? That you have friends that can help you out. Why not wait for them?”

“Because they’re not coming,” Ratchet replied quietly. “Even if they somehow found out where we are at this very moment, if they were not able to contact us now, it means that just the time it would take to get here is too late. Days, weeks even. We have until tonight. So that means: we’re on our own.” He grinned wider. “Tachyon knows something is going on, but he doesn’t know that it’s me. He’ll be in for a surprise when I show up knocking. What’ya say, Aphelion? Ready for round two at beating up that cragmite?”

“Always, Ratchet.”

“All right then. Let us out – we actually do need to form some kind of plan. But tonight? Tonight’s going to be for the lombaxes.”

“And our pride,” Simba added, seemingly convinced that there was no other option than to fight. “Those who are no longer with us. He will feel their revenge tonight!” He turned to the blue bird, largely forgotten for now. “Zazu, fly back to the pride, let them know. Ratchet’s right: We are no longer running. It’s time to bring this war to an end!”



As I mentioned above: Three of the stories are long! While I am very excited to see that, it also comes as with a word of warning: Take your time reading all four stories! It's not often we see it, but there is a lot of material to cover here. Take your time and try no to skip anything, otherwise your voting might not be completely authentic. With this exciting bit of news out of the way, onto the usual rules:

Voting will run until Monday, May 14th! I gave you all a little extra time to cover the longer stories. And to think that the length rules were added because early on the Writing Contest was plagued by a lot of short stories to the point where members started to complain. Now we get to deal with the opposite problem!

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 #41! [Voting!]

Postby FlipMode » May 6th, 2018, 8:41 am

Not often that I need multiple sessions to read all the entries properly but I think I will this time :)
Seriously good effort everyone who has entered!
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Re: MLK Writing Contest #41! [Voting!]

Postby Azdgari » May 9th, 2018, 3:01 am

What a crop! Some really great stuff here. Good technical writing, but also real creativity and inventiveness, which is what it's all about. I'm sure glad I didn't enter--I would've gotten smoked!
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