A New Friend

Setting: Edge of the Kopje Valley

Characters Involved: Dakarai, Juvenile Lion / Amadi, Juvenile Lioness


Off in the distance, something is creeping through the tall grasses—the sound is distant and could easily be mistaken for a small puff of wind rattling the drying vegetation…but this sound has a distinct, rhythmic quality to it. Silence…and then rustling. Whatever it is, it's small and most likely harmless, lurking around near the Pride Lands border.

It's been one heck of a day for a particular Kopje youth. Trying, long, and with way too many emotions involved, Dakarai escapes from the remnants of disheartening "family time" by doing what any young male might. Killing something! Or rather, "trying to hunt" might be the better phrase, for it's with no poise or stealth at all that he comes barreling towards the border, hot on the tail of something too small to be seen within the grasses. A mouse, likely. "C'mere, y'stupid…argh!" A heavy pounce leaves him empty handed and clawing for footing as his prey darts right and towards its great escape. Having lost sight of it, he pants and slows to a lope, ears and head up. "Hey! Come back here!"

With the newfound rukkus, the mysterious creature near the border stops moving long enough to get its bearings—three short sniffs into the air seem to prove its suspicions. It doesn't take long for Amadi to reveal herself, pushing through the grasses with her snout and paws, and in plain view of Dakarai. She carries in her maw a plump cane rat, still struggling weakly in her grasp. Without a word, the cub drops the rat to the ground and gives it a sturdy kick in the direction of the other youngster. Finally, after a few seconds of contemplation, the girl says, "Here."

Whatever. He didn't want that stupid thing anyway. Deeming his hunt an utter failure, Dakarai swipes a paw against the grass, satisfied by the clipped blades that are left behind. He slows to a stop though, chest lifting and dropping quickly as he catches his breath in preparation of finding something else to occupy his time with. And, lo and behold, the opportunity presents itself! The sudden appearance of an unfamiliar face is startling enough, and he rears his head back as he stares in the lioness's direction. But then the realization that she has /his/ prey sinks in, and his eyes widen. Still, he says nothing and only watches as the thing is dropped and rolled his way. He stomps down on its tail, then fixes her with a flat expression. "I don' need your charity," he snorts, batting the poor rat back to her. "I can get my own."

Amadi regards Dakarai for a short time, her expression unwavering; a stoic, almost hardened look on her young face. "Okay," she breathes out and reaches down, securing the cane rat in her maw once more. She turns and lopes a few paces toward the valley's edge and hunkers down, crushing the rodent between her jaws. It seems as though she's forgotten about Dakarai completely, instead focusing on her meager meal; lifting one paw to hook her claws into the rat's flesh as leverage, pulling it into manageable pieces. The normal chuffs and growls that emanate from other feeding cats are notably absent in this one; she devours the small creature in utter silence.

Dakarai vaguely scowls and rolls his eyes as he watches her move off to take her meal. The realization that she's not one of the many youngsters that he calls "cousin", though obvious at first sight, is slowly reminded to him the longer that he watches her. No, this isn't a Kopje cub, and he folds back an ear as he approaches her, watching her like a scientist would a new specimen in a laboratory. Curious. Wary, almost. Not knowing what this new thing is capable of. "Where'd you come from?" he asks as he circles around her, pausing a handful of yards away with a quivering nose, trying to scent her from the short distance. "Ain't never seen you before."

Amadi flicks an ear in Dakarai's direction, listening to him intently as he questions her origins…but she doesn't respond until she's good and ready. She finishes up her small meal before licking thoroughly across her pale maw…and then each of her forepaws to ensure that she is gore-free. Dust, darker than her moonlight-blonde fur, runs across her whole body in streaks, suggesting that she came from a dry land; her answer seems to solidify this assumption. "Out there," she says presently, gesturing loosely with a paw to the west. "Somewhere out in the grasses." Her tail thumps against the ground a few times and she shrugs her angular shoulders. It isn't clear if she means 'who knows' or 'who cares'.

Dakarai waits…and waits…and waits for her answer. Granted, it's likely not /too/ long of a delay, but to him it might as well be the next day before her mouth gets moving again. He squints his eyes a bit, feeling his patience wearing thin. He's on the cusp of a verbal smacking, but the day is saved as she finally speaks…even though her words aren't exactly what he was waiting for. His eyes follow the gesture of her paw, and he gazes off towards the savannah with an arched brow. "Out there…where? You don' even know the name of your lands?" he asks, his amber gaze drawing back to her. His nose wrinkles now as he looks her up and down, noting the odd pale shade of her coat with a flick of an ear. "You ain't another one've /them/ are ya? One've those prissy arse princess girls who come wanderin' through here a while back. Kikora. Kaidi.." He narrows his eyes at her, as if readying himself to spot a lie. "You know them?"

Amadi's watchful, almost pinched expression doesn't change even as Dakarai comes close to accusing her of being a princess—whatever *that* is. "No…" she says in an even tone, though one of her tattered ears turns back in response to the other cub's inquiries. "I only know my brother, sister, mother and Tau'." She pulls back from the other, glancing over her shoulder toward the drying grasses, as if she longed to return into their cover. It's almost as if she's had few encounters with others of her species, and Dakarai's third degree is grating, like a scolding from mother.

Well now. The fact that she isn't yet another lost princess cub coming to settle in and boss him around is comforting, and his expression almost relaxes at that simple answer. "Oh. Well…..uh, good," Dakarai says a bit awkwardly, not sure how to smoothly end that train of thought. His tailtip flicks slightly to the side as he listens to her, and his head tips in curiosity. "Where are they all now? Your mom, dad..sister… 'n… Tau'?" But he doesn't pause quite long enough to allow her answer before his brows shoot up, coming up with his own conclusion. "Did you run away?" he asks, diminishing the yards between them by two steps.

It's the girl's turn to offer a raised brow, and she shuffles one of her paws idly, grinding it lightly into surface soil. "I didn't run away, I went to find food." Amadi glances over her shoulder again, though the target of her gaze is obscured by the savanna grasses. "They're sleeping off…that way. I can find them again." Of this she seems solidly sure, and is not worried about retracing her scent—her trail was direct and unwavering for the most part. "Dad…?" She asks, turning her face to regard Dakarai with a new expression: genuine confusion. "I don't know what that is…"

"Food?" Dakarai quirks a brow at that, shaking his head. "Why're /you/ lookin' for food? You're jus'… Lionesses are supposed to get food. Big lionesses," he clarifies. "The grown ones. You're jus' supposed to eat it." Well, that's how it works here anyway. Talk about privileged, and he doesn't even seem to realize it. "But you're lucky y'get to go off by yourself. If I even think about goin' over the border, everybody spazzes out," said with a vague roll of his eyes, though soon her look of confusion is mirrored on his face. "A dad," he says again, as if this time meaning will accompany the word. "..Y'know. Dad. He's your mother's ma-.." A pause, and his expression sours. "Well, he's supposed to be your mother's mate. He helps ya with stuff and teaches ya things. Or…he's supposed to. He's like a mom, but…male. Don't you have a dad?"

Amadi watches Dakarai intently, almost-hawklike, as he expressions his definition of a 'dad'. "No…" she says slowly, shaking her head before continuing, "I don't have one of those. Just mother." She doesn't display any melancholic signs nor does she dwell on the subject. After all, how can you miss something you've never had? "I hunt because I'm hungry. I can't wait for mother to fail because 'Jani decides to wander off." This is said with only a twinge of emotion—a single snort, suggesting she's not pleased with her brother's occasional antics. "She'll cuff me sideways if she knows that I'm gone. I'm not allowed to leave her side, but I do anyway." Finally…something other than stoicism etches across her face: a shy smile.

"Oh." Dakarai can't recall having met any cub who doesn't have a father, or didn't know what one was. "Well, don' worry. Dad's ain't that great really," he assures with a vague wrinkle of his nose before shrugging off the subject. His ears lift with sudden inspiration though, and he glances off towards the valley itself. "Are y'hungry now? My mom brought me food, but I didn't really want it. I could bring it here, if y'want," he suggests, surprised by his own sudden willingness to give up his meal, albeit a morsel. "Whose 'Jani? A sister? I have three've those," he says with a snicker and a lift of his chin. "You don't have a pride, do you? I wish I didn't. If it was jus' me, my mom, and my sisters, I'd go off all the time. I bet you've seen all kinds've cool stuff, haven't you?"

Amadi doesn't respond to Dakarai immediately, instead pondering whether she should answer his 'cool stuff' question first, or wait until after she's accepted his offer of a meal. Rather than cheat the boy out of his own dinner under false pretenses, she approaches his last question first: "I've only been near my mother in the dust-lands. Different grasses, nothing…cool." She pauses, giving a nervous look over her shoulder before turning back to Dakarai. "Maybe an elephant or two. I saw a whole pride of lions heading south a few days ago…" She licks her maw a few times at the thought of food, but she tries her best to answer the rest of his questions. "'Jani…is my brother. Ajani. I'm Amadi. I don't want to take your meal, but…" the look on her face should be enough; if it isn't, her scrawny and underfed body would do the trick. "I'm always hungry."

Dust lands? Dakarai seems intrigued by just that, and his ears raise in interest. "I bet it was cool compared t'here," he says flatly, giving a backwards look to his homelands that apparently have been deemed as boring. "Have y'ever seen a monkey? I've always wanted to see one've those. I was gonna find one, but I got caught tryin' to leave." An eyeroll is given at that, but his interest is caught again at the mentioning of migrating lions. The tuft of his tail flicks against his hind ankles and he bobs his head to her once. "Aw, you ain't takin' it. I'm offerin' it to you, aren't I? It's a …. gift. Sides, I don't want it. If I don't eat it, my sisters will, an' they're already fat." He snickers then gestures with a paw. "Stay right here, ok? I'll be right back," said as he already starts back towards the valley.

The gaunt, pale-furred cub is given just enough time to respond to Dakarai's question before he darts off into the valley, leaving her momentarily alone. "Just mandrills. They screamed when my mother was hunting and we weren't able to eat that night." Amadi says in a low tone, one that may suggest her dislike of the primates. "I would stay away from them. They have teeth like hyenas." Her tail swishes a few times, upsetting the grasses lightly, before nodding in approval. "I won't leave."

Mandrills. Dakarai's head swims with thoughts of hyena-esque monkeys swinging from vines, flashing their fangs menacingly. A frightful thought that sends a thrill down his spine. He's /got/ to see one of those things one day. His adventurous thoughts continue as he zips through the savannah, up the face of the waterfall cliff, and up to its summit to retrieve the meat left by his mother. The trip down and back is much slower, as though the small slab was easy for a lioness to bear, it's a bit more cumbersome for him. But, a while later, he does return, half dragging, half carrying what seems to be a portion of a zebra. "M'back," he says with a huff, dropping the meat which proved to be heavier than he thought. "Y'still here?" He grasps at the meat again to drag it nearer to the border, though in his haste he stumbles over his own paws, landing with a soft splat on his belly. Smooth.

Amadi has remained at the border of the valley, though it can't be told if it was out of loyalty to a newfound friend or if the offer of food was just too much to pass up. Once Dakarai crests the edge and returns to her field of sight, Amadi perks up and takes a few steps toward the other cub, ears up and turned forward. "I'm here," she says quietly, more aware of the scattered, sleeping bodies nearby. Her pale eyes widen as the male stumbles, and she breaks into a small grin, moving closer. "Look at this," she says in a friendly tone, holding out her forepaw for Dakarai to observe. "See that scar? I got that when I tripped over a *rock*." She snorts. As if it could *be* any more lame—a *rock*! "Mother says it will go away by the time we're grown. Tripping, that is." She turns her eyes now to the chunk of meat, feeling her stomach quiver in anticipation. "Can I…?"

Dakarai picks himself with a mutter beneath his breath, and he briefly shakes himself, doing his best not to look as foolish as he most likely looked. "Heh…huh?" Blinking, he peers at the scar that she offers him to see, grateful for the lack of laughter. "A rock huh? Well…y'd better look out cuz we got plenty. Heck, there's a /huge/ one with caves," said with a crooked smirk, encouraged by the news the youngster relays from her mother. "Really? Good. .. Not that I trip a lot or nothin'," he amends quickly. "If I /did/ then it'd be good to know." Ahem. Following her gaze to the meat, which he somewhat forgot about, he quickly nods. "Oh, yeah yeah. Go 'head," he offers, nodding towards the thing. "S'all yours."

Amadi laughs once Dakarai mentions the huge rock, one big enough to have caves, and the sound is flat and low, as if she's not accustomed to that kind of reaction. "I hope I don't trip over *that* one." She waits for the other cub to give her permission to eat his portion of the pride's kill, her tail swishing low arcs at her hocks. Once she is given an affirmative, she drops to her stomach unceremoniously and begins to gnaw at the chunk of flesh, almost ravenously. It doesn't take long for her to devour a considerable portion and she pushes the remainder away with her paws, eyes rolling. "Ohh. I haven't felt full in a long time." She goes about grooming herself meticulously, a practice taught by her mother: leave no trace so the jackals don't seek you out. "Thank you. I'm going to sleep for a while. I'm sure I'll be up before my mother." She offers Dakarai another small smile, but it seems unnatural on her stoic face; almost like unoiled hinges squeaking on an old, unused door. "Maybe tomorrow I can come back and we can find a mandrill."

Watching her eat is entertainment in itself, but Dakarai gives her room to do so and takes a few steps back as she devours what she can. It's impolite to stare, but stare he does, trying to count the seconds that go by, betting with himself how long it'll take her to inhale the whole thing. When she stops short, he smirks and cants his head to the side. "You're real clean," he notes off-handedly while she grooms, considering it a girl thing rather than a survival tactic. When she speaks of leaving, he bobs his head, fighting of a feeling of disappointment. None of his female relatives are quite as interesting! In fact, they're all rather a pain in the neck. But with the suggestion of another possible meeting, his spirits lift and he nods. "Yeah, sure. An' maybe you can show me places you've been. .. M'name's Dakarai, by the way. See ya."

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