Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by Maureen V. Hanover

“Do you see it? Way up there?”

Ayize squinted her eyes hard. “I don’t see anything.”

“It’s just above those trees.”


Lungile laughed. “I don’t know how else to explain it to you!”

“I don’t know how else to find it,” Ayize grumbled.

Her mother claimed that she saw a lion in the stars, but all Ayize could make out of them were scattered spots of light on a dark background.

“Keep trying,” Lungile urged her daughter. “Look harder. Those two really bright stars are his eyes. The ones just below that are his nose. He’s staring out at us, protecting us. Do you see?”

“No. Not really.” Ayize sighed. She figured she wasn’t as dreamy as he mother often was. It made sense, what she was saying, only didn’t. No matter how hard she looked, Ayize couldn’t see a lion. She couldn’t. It was so hard to tell which stars were which that every time she thought she might know what Lungile was talking about, she lost it again. It took forever to find them. All stars looked the same to her.

But the stars didn’t do much. They weren’t very important. Since when had they ever protected them? Sometimes Ayize thought her mother really was crazy. The stars couldn’t protect them from fire. They couldn’t protect them from hostility or hunger. Since when had they ever protected them from loneliness or sicknesses? But Lungile was here, with her, so she guessed that must be worth something.

And that’s something that Ayize agreed with her mother on.  She was glad to have her here. Even if she raided her brain with crazy stories. Even if she said things that sometimes made no sense at all. Even if she had an unrelenting faith in the Great Plains that drove Ayize insane.

The Great Plains were where the Great Hunters lived. Those who had done good in their lifetime and had left the earth. Lions and lionesses, newborn and full-grown, tawny, black, grey, white, brown. All of them went there to live on eternally in the Great Plains. Her mother believed that they always watched over them. Ayize, however, didn't share her mother's undying faith.

Lungile sighed. “Well, just know it's there. And that's the direction we'll head in the morning.”

“Do you think we'll find them?”

“I know we'll find them.”

“Will they really accept you back?”

“And you,” the tawny lion growled. “You're the worst of them.”

Lungile flattened her ears. “Why? I've never been any threat to you, Isidlali.”

“Oh no, not to me,” he drawled, stalking in a slow circle around her. “But to them.”

“Never. I'd only do what I know is best.”

He pulled away, perking his ears in mock surprise. “Oh really? What about that little skirmish with the loner?”

“Hold on, Isidlali.” A grey and black lioness spoke. “You know as well as the rest of us that loner was starving. The prey he had was only carrion. It was no use to us and he hadn't come looking for trouble.”

Lungile lifted her head, blinking a ‘thank you’ at the lioness Vusumuzi.

Isidlali snarled close to her face. “He was on our territory and our prey is scarce. If he was starving he should have raided some other pride's land or given up and died already. And, if you're so quick to defy me, you can join Lungile and Gabadi in exile.”


“I can't have traitors in my pride.”

“Vusumuzi,” Lungile called gently to her friend. “Come with us. You'll be treated well and we won't cast you away.  We can live on as we always have.”

Vusumuzi blinked sadly at her. “But what about the others?” Her gaze shifted to Ubaba. “I'm sorry Lungile, but my home is here.”

“Anyone else ready to make some treasonous decisions?” Isidlali hissed in annoyance.

“Mauaji! Mauaji don't!” Frantic hissing came floating from the circle as a trainee stepped forward to join in their defense. She was a spotted lioness, and Lungile knew her well. Mauaji was fiery and opinionated, but also a fierce and determined learner, fighter, and hunter. Isidlali would do right by trying to keep her with the pride. But clearly, none of this mattered now.

In an instant he was upon her, snarling furiously, ripping her belly open with one quick swipe. .

A frightened shriek rose as a similar-looking lioness, a sister, dashed forward to the trainee's side. “Mauaji! You'll be okay, I just need….” The lioness placed her paws over the wound, trying to hold it together, but Mauaji only gurgled weakly in response as her life spilled over the dusty earth.

“Your skills will do you no good, Fundisia,” Isidlali said breezily, licking the blood from his paws.

She wailed in grief as she watched her sister slowly die. Lungile's heart seemed to break in two for her friend, but there was nothing that could be done now.

“You killed her!” Gabadi snarled next to her. “You killed Mauaji! You're a murderer!”

“I also killed Kweli.  What's your point?”

Gabadi flattened his ears and hissed, lips drawn back and teeth bared. “You're not fit to be king! Kings don't doubt the loyalty of their pride! Kings don't kill their pride members! Kings aren't selfish and greedy and manipulative!”

Isidlali sneered in his face, bristling with anger. “I'm giving you the chance to escape with your life! I should kill you now, just like Mauaji. And if I ever see you again, that is what I'll do. Leave. I hope you die slowly of hunger and your bones not fit to feed buzzards.”

“We'll see who's bones aren't fit to feed buzzards.” Gabadi hissed. Turning tail, he raced away from the camp, Lungile following close behind.

© 2019 Maureen V. Hanover

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Added on January 17, 2019
Last Updated on May 24, 2019


Maureen V. Hanover
Maureen V. Hanover


Relatable teenager who has a spiritual connection with rhinos on multiple levels. more..