The sun had fallen over the horizonline hours ago and the moisture in the air had thickened into a dull, swirling mist. The humm of insects soon replaced the haunting silence.
Lazarus had stirred as the heat of the day was replaced by the damp cool of night. His 'daughter' slept happily amongst the small garden he'd created in the hollow of their den. Stretching the stiffness in his shoulders and back away, the pespete slipped into the growing haze beyond his den.
He had been asked to fetch fresh bones and a few teeth. He'd managed to scavage an abandoned gazelle two nights prior, but the herds had drifted from the territory out towards the flats. His walks became longer and longer.
Sanka's wanderings had taken her far--very far. The pride she left was still heavy on her heart, but thoughts of the life ahead were uplifting. It was rare for lionesses to decide to leave the shelter and safety of the Antianeira. Sanka still felt strange about it. But she was ambitious and stubborn, and once an idea planted itself into her mind, it was hard to drive it out.
Freedom of solitude and images of the unknown spurred her on, and so there she was--a lone lioness, away from home and family and all she knew. But she would be fine, she thought. After all, she was no weakling.
Following the whims of her growling stomach, Sanka trotted out into the open and away from the shady shrubs. The land around her was still completely unfamiliar, but she was sure there was food somewhere.
His walk became a brisk lope as the boarder fell behind him. He was a small lion with a thin figure, a shaggy mane, and high, boney shoulders. A sullen pair of eyes gazed out from dark, unkept bangs. His maw was twisted into a grimmace, his movements guarded.
Sure enough, the lingering stench of decay caught his attention, altering his course towards the east. It was likely that the kill, whatever it would be, had been picked clean by scavangers. Hyenas or vultures- troublesome creatures.
Another scent had his body going ridged. A stranger...
He rose up to attention, his head rising up above his shoulders. Sure enough, the gray haze revealed a dark, slender form a few yards off.
Sanka didn't have to walk for very long before the putrid, delicious scent of a carcass filled her nostrils. Tail flicking behind her, the lioness picked up her speed, eager to arrive at the kill before every last scrap of meat was gone. Most of her mind told her she was crazy for thinking there would be anything left for her to eat, but the lingering feeling of optimism was enough to keep her going.
Damn scavengers, she thought, but then bit her inner-voice's tongue.
She was a scavenger herself at the moment.
Why did she leave, anyway? Was it because she felt trapped? Suffocated? Was it because she was overly curious? One thought itched at her mind the most--that she had been naive.
Sanka never wanted to be naive. She was smart, she was strong--she wasn't an adolescent anymore. But still...maybe...
She had left too quickly...
Ears flicking back and body twisting on the spot, Sanka stopped all she was doing to listen. She had heard something...
Laz's body trembled with a shudder. A rogue this close to the boarder...perhaps whomever it was had lost their way- there hadn't been a time when hostility had loomed on the outskirts. The pride kept mostly to itself, hiding in a territory that most other prides would turn their noses up at. He was no boarder guard, no soldier, but the prone, small form of his neice sleeping blisfully unaware, and now unprotected, back at his den flashed through his mind.
His den was close enough to the boarder to leave her vaunerable...
Sucking in a deep breath and swelling his chest, the adolecent trudged through the fog, his eyes narrowed.
A female... an older female. He froze just within sight and the corner of his maw twitched. It might have been a grimmace or the start of a growl. What on earth was she doing out here?
Frozen like a gazelle in the sites of a lion, Sanka stared on through the fog. For the first time in a long time, the sick feeling of fear made a nest in her stomach. There were no lionesses to back her up in times of danger. No, she was alone. She had made that choice.
She never really considered the possibility that her choice could mean her death.
Finally, the silhouette of another animal became clear before her. It was smaller than her. She felt a small ounce of relief. But after a few whifs of the air, her guard was up again.
Sanka had been taught all her life to be wary of males. It didn't help that she had been very young during pridal turmoil--a complete take-over by male lions. But she hated those feelings. She hated being afraid.
So she bellowed, "What?"
Wow, that was...scary. Yeah, she was tough, all right. Gods...
The dreaded male stood still, his posture slowly relaxing. 'What'? Really? That was her choice of words when encountering a stranger. Mentally,he scratched 'threat' off the list of possible explanations for the lioness' presense and replaced it with 'nimrod'.
He sneered and took a few more steps forward, sniffing at the air. He'd not answer her- honestly, why should he? What. Of all things- what!? What indeed. He should be asking her that.
The silence of the male was perturbing, but Sanka held her ground. Maybe he was deaf? Or dumb?
Okay, so maybe she was the dumb one, but that wasn't the point. When two strangers meet, each one a possible threat to the other, and one called out to the other, the other was supposed to answer. Right? Obviously right of course she was right she was always right oh gods why didn't he reply.
WOAH, she was getting way too nervous. Sucking in a breath in an attempt to level herself out, she managed somehow to hold onto the breath instead of release it, and in the process made a strange sqeaking sound. Face flushing, she released the air slowly through her nose, body shrinking as her lungs emptied themselves.
Maybe she should say something else? But what? Perhaps it was safer to just...keep walking. But for some reason, she couldn't look away from the adolescent.
She wasn't from around her...her scent was completely alien to him. He could smell traces of other lions- which would mean she either had a large family somewhere or she belonged to a pride.
Perhaps she was lost.
He lifted his eyes to meet hers and stared silently, searching for any sign of malice. Finding none, he shrugged and brushed past her.
Whatever. She was lost. He had a job to do.
The moments in which Sanka found herself subject to a miniature staring contest were some of the tensest moments she had ever experienced in her entire life. She held her breath the entire time, nostrils twitching in some sort of muscular reaction to the lack of oxygen.
When the other lion moved past her without a word, Sanka remained in the exact same position she had been in the entire time. When the footsteps of the male faded, the lioness sucked in a violent gasp and let it out loudly.
Turning around on the spot, Sanka immediately began to walk somewhere else. Anywhere else, really. Far away from that foggy land. Yeah, she needed a sunnier place--she hated fog, anyway. And carcasses? Pff, who needed carcasses, she could have whatever meal she wanted, she totally could, whatever.
Body stiff as a piece of driftwood, the lioness sprinted away--far away.