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FIREBRAND's LOSS

 The sun is low on the horizon, night is not far off.

Back on the Gizivan front, Kudura trots onto his ancestral land. He'd been following the shadow of what appeared to be Kuwaka, who's gone back to patrolling the new border in old Giziva. Kudura stops at the edge of Firebrand's new domain, while the shadow up ahead continues into Giziva.

"Why is she going on ahead..." The Firebrand King looks over her shoulder and then back, "Hey--."

From behind, the gray form of Sisimka dissolves from the Mwenge interior rushing up to him. "Kudura, Umlilo is missing," She pants," She's not in the cavern or anywhere else. Ukali says she didn't join the hunting party this morning either. Kuwaka and Ziyasha are still looking back in Mwenge, but I think she's gone, Kudura."

"Uh...woh, what? Kuwaka is in Mwenge? You sure?" Kudura looks back over his shoulder into Giziva,"I thought I just saw her go in Giziva..."

"I talked to Kuwaka just a before I talked to you. She was heading for the shadow valley, just as I came to talk to you. There's no way that-- Kudura!" Sisimka yells, as the male steers around into Giziva.

"Get Kura and Mbarika on the Pridelands border, have my father meet them there. Get everybody else on this border. It was Umlilo I saw enter Giziva and she can't be too far ahead!" The Firebrand King looks over his shoulder just long enough to get the orders across before turning forward.

"Kudura, wait..."

"Go! Hurry!" Kudura disappears into Giziva.

Sisimka shaking her head the entire time starts to head into Giziva after Kudura, but grows wide eyed when she sees a group of lionesses in the distance. "Oh...no." The lioness are gold and round like prideland pridals. That is what they are, with a few of the scarce Gizivan intermixed. "So much for our warning..." Sisimka rears back and gallops back to Mwenge.

In Giziva, Kudura ventures into unknown territory. The lands are lush and moist, but eerily silent despite the new plentiful herds that roam there. The moisture in the air makes it hard to sense Umlilo's flame, it's radiance cooled by the ever present fog. "Umlilo..." The king calls out in a low voice, his eyes unable to see more than a couple of yards in front of him. Kudura continues south, knowing the Gizivans have kept to the east ever since their run in with them.

"Umlilo," he calls out again, now as far south in Giziva as anyone can be. In front of him is the shallow gorge that has become a tributary of the River of Rage from the east since the last rainy season that brought back the Outlands. Even this far down stream, the waters are still turbulent and dangerous below.
Kudura leans over the edge of the gorge, "Umlilo?" His violets scan the waterway and the wall of the gorge looking.

"What?" says a voice from behind.

Staggering some, Kudura paws scramble at the edge of the gorge. Peddles fall, rolling off the walls and into the raging river. "Wha...What are you doing out here?!" Kudura demands, moving away from the edge of the gorge and toward the lioness. "Do you have any idea the danger you are in coming out here alone? I don't care. Hurry up, we need to get back to Mwenge before the Gizivans catch us here."

"I'm..I'm..so-" Umlilo tries to sputter off, moving up along side him.

"Not now. Let's just get out of here."

Just as the pair start to head back north, company arrives. "Woh...I thought they said Firebrand hadn't gotten this far, yet?" says the first lioness that appears. She is golden and round, as all prideland pridals are. Behind her, several other lionesses appear. Most of them are pridelandish in color and scent, but a few are Gizivan, dark and not as even tempered as the surprised Pridelanders.

"They haven't," says the dark Gizivan, growling immediately at the Firebrand King.

Kudura lowers his head in a defense stance, standing between Umlilo and the allied party. The pridelanders look back and forth between themselves, looking for a course of action now. Meanwhile, the two Gizivans find one of their own and aim tooth and claw at the Firebrand King.

Back in Mwenge, Sisimka storms onto the crimson flats and roars, sounding an alarm to the entire pride. The pride arrives from all directions. Kuwaka bounds out of the shadow valley, while Ziyasha leaps off the kopjes toward the gathering. Kura and Mbarika are there almost immediately, appearing before the Queen of Firebrand without hesitation. Nguvu arrives shortly after Ziyasha from the Kopjes, vouching for the trail rather than the daring leap off the kopjes itself.

"Where is Kudura?" the Fire twins ask of Sisimka, immediately.

"He's gone into Giziva," Sisimka says, swallowing down her last pant. "That's were Umlilo's gone."

"What?!" exclaims Kuwaka, narrowing her eyes. "You let him go alone?!"
Ziyasha growling under her breath,"Do you know what could happen if those Gizivans find him there?"

"I know, know...but-" Sisimka tries to says, her eyes frantically turning from lioness to lioness.

"Everybody settle," Nguvu tries to interject.

"We have to go get him." Kuwaka moves forward in the group. "And what about Umlilo? Is she with him?"

"You've put our King in danger," Ziyasha edges closer to Sisimka, her anger boiling.

"Enough!" Kura roars. Mbarika, meanwhile, comes alongside Ziyasha with warning eyes. The group gets quiet immediately, including Ziyasha who settles right down as soon as Mbarika comes beside her. "Did Kudura say anything to you before he left? Like how do you know Umlilo is in Giziva?"

Looking at each of her pridesister for a moment, Sisimka finally speaks,"Kudura says he saw her go in. He initially thought it was Kuwaka on patrols, and thought it was strange that she would go in alone. But as soon as I told him I had just seen Kuwaka here, he knew immediately that it had to be Umlilo." Sisimka tries to hold her attention on the elders, Kura and Mbarika, sensing Ziyasha's wildfire hasn't subsided. "He told me to have you and Mbarika take the Pridelands border and have Nguvu join you. Everybody else is to join me on the Gizivan border."

"Everybody else on the Gizivan border, why?" Ukali asks, having tried to absorb the situation. "There's not a large enough threat in Giziva for so many lioness. What's going on out there?"

"Pridelanders," Sisimka replies quickly. "The Gizivans and Pridelanders are together and I just saw a group of them in the distance after Kudura left. That's why I didn't go," She says, beaming a hard look at Ziyasha. "I would have stuck right out in that red fog and been no help to Kudura. So I came back for you all."

"Good," Mbarika shrugs, finally speaking . "Are we done wasting time now? Follow your King's orders and stop your bickering."

Mbarika moves away from Ziyasha and rejoins her sister. The twins and Nguvu group up, while the others remain motionless. "Go, now!" Kura growls.

Then from beyond Firebrand's southern border, in the depths of Giziva, a roar echoes out. The roar echoes into Mwenge, making even the warmest of Firebrand feel a tingle of coldness run through their bodies. Finally, the rest of the group stirs, nodding their heads.

"Let's go, Sisimka," Ukali says, while Kuwaka and Ziyasha come forward as well.

Kura, Mbarika, and Nguvu are already gone for the Pridelands border, when the young group looks back at them. They set out themselves, hearing the echoing sounds of battle and knowing it isn't too late yet so long as they can hear it.

 

In Giziva, Kudura has found more than he bargained for. The two Gizivan, without even consorting with their Pridelander allies, lunge at the Firebrand King. Kudura gives Umlilo a shove to make a run for it and tries to dodge the Gizivan claws. One pair misses him completely, while the other pair rakes as his mane to little avail. Despite her miss, the other lioness is quick to lunge at him again. This time, she jumps on his back, claws raking into his back.

Roaring in anguish, Kudura rears up and goes ballistic. He flings his claws at the lioness in front of him, backing her off. He turns his head and snaps at the shoulder of the one on his back and pulls her down. As soon as the Gizivan on his back hits the ground, Kudura attacks. No mercy what-so-ever.

As soon as it appears the Gizivans aren't fairing well against Firebrand, the Pridelanders step in. Umlilo finds herself quickly confronted by three Pridelanders, despite the fact she hasn't attacked anybody. They lunge at her with snapping jaws, overwhelming her from the start. Even the toughest of Firebrand couldn't face three lionesses at once. Still, Umlilo manages to stay alive and endure the onslaught.

Kudura, meanwhile, has only acquired more trouble. Two additional pridelanders come to the aid of the fail Gizivans, ramming into Kudura. Kudura is plowed over and brought to the ground by the two lionesses.

"Kudura!" Umlilo screams, seeing the brutal ramming from the corner of her eye and then losing total sight of him. Umlilo leaps away from her attackers, seemingly fleeing, but heading where Kudura disappeared. The Firebrand lioness treads dangerously close to the edge of the gorge, rocks crumbling off the edges, but doesn't hesitate to go further.

A pridelander in pursuit nearly falls into the gorge, not seeing the gorge through the fog until it was right there. "There's a gorge...A river down there," The lioness snorts, regaining her balance. She flicks her tail and goes after Umlilo.

"Kudura! Kudura!" She yells, coming through the fog until stepping on something. Looking down it's a someone's paw..covered with blood. The lioness staggers back,"Kudura?"

From beside her," Shhh." It's Kudura, quite alive.

On the ground, fog permitting, is the dead body of the Gizivan he'd been after since she jumped on his back. She was trapped beneath him when the Pridelanders rammed him. The impact with the earth and him falling on her killed her, a broken neck or something.

Before Kudura and Umlilo can attempt an escape, the pridelanders and last Gizivan are already on to them. "Umlilo make a run for it! Go!" He shoves her with his shoulder and rushes forward, to confront them all.

"Kudura!" a voice in the fog cries out.

"Umlilo I told you go!" Kudura growls, batting off one lioness only to have another take her place. It's a never ending struggle and Kudura is growing tired, wounds on his shoulders and sides starting to get the best of him.
Finally, as Kudura snaps and flings a lioness off with a kick of his hind quarters, he notices that none come back. Looking over his shoulder, he sees the Pridelanders and the single Gizivan lined up, staring towards him.

"You've left some for us?" the same voice from the fog rings out, it's speaker dissolving from the mist along with three other bodies. "Umlilo, you okay?" She says, the voice being that of Kuwaka.

"Yes.." Umlilo pants, rubbing a quick paw over her wounded muzzle.

Kudura, with a great big breath of relief, sets his eyes on his lionesses: Sisimka, Ukali, Kuwaka and Ziyasha. "Took you long enough, Sisimka," He says, as teasingly as one can when you've just been beat up.

"Wasn-" Ukali was about to explain to Kudura, before a roar interruptes her.

"This isn't over!" The Gizivan roars, stepping in front of her Pridelander allies. The Pridelanders growl, nodding their heads. Most have only been agitated with stinging scrapes to their sides. Though, the death of the Gizivan as set them off.

"Y-" Kudura starts.

"-No, it's not," Sisimka roars back, joining her mate as he strolls up to their side. Ukali, Kuwaka and Ziyasha roar, echoing the same feeling and challenge.

Like that scene in LK2, the two sides of lions rush toward each other and the battle begins. Firebrand verses the Gizivan resistance. Numbers and strength are favorable for the Firebrand and it's from the beginning. Kudura, no longer out numbered, takes his quarry with ease. Sisimka rushes in to aid Umlilo. Umlilo didn't appear that worse for wear when they arrived, but her energy has quickly run out since the fighting started again..

"Hold on- Ah!" Sisimka tries to say to Umlilo as she slides along side Umlilo to fend off the attack of a pridelander, but is whacked quickly in the chin by the pridelander. The Pridelander then rushes and lunges at the seemingly weaker of the two, Umlilo.

Umlilo is tossed in a round about way to the edge of the gorge, her hind legs sliding off the edge. Just as she starts to pull herself back up, the Pridelander that threw her appears in front of her. "It's over for you..." She sneers, lifting a paw to strike Umlilo off the ledge.

"Rah," Kudura roars from behind them, raking teeth and claw into the pridelander and casting her off the ledge. The lioness flies off the ledge, over Umlilo, banging off the side of the gorge wall before crashing into the raging waters below. "Come on, Umlilo," Kudura grabs the scruff of Umlilo's neck and begins pulling her up.

Ziyasha and Kuwaka are getting the better of their adversaries, taunting them as all Firebrand do with flicks and easy nips. Sisimka and Ukali together work on the last Pridelander, whose made several daring attempts to escape instead of fight.

With Umlilo back up on the ledge, Kudura looks back, surveying the flat. "Where's the other one?" Kudura asks, lifting his chin. Umlilo just shakes her head, unknowing. Kudura had thought she was dead, but her body is not on the ground anymore.

"Hah!" screams the lost lioness, her bloody body lunging out of the dark mist at Kudura and Umlilo. Both get bump back a little, but their on the edge of the gorge and fall back. Umlilo falls completely over, landing into the torrent waters. Kudura falling, drags the lioness with him, letting go of her. Her body tumbles many times off the rocky wall of the gorge to her death and into the river.

"KUDURA!" Ukali cries, eyes growing wide and sensing the worse. She leaves the enemy to Sisimka, whom also looks stricken. The enemy takes the moment to flee and escapes.

Rushing to the ledge, Ukali looks down. Sisimka is there a second later. "Kudura!" They shout. "Kudura!? Kudura?" Sisimka mouths opens again to shout, but nothing comes out. "Umlilo?" Ukali's voice breaks.

Roars of sorrow are thrown to the skies from the ledge, their pain forcing Kuwaka to let her quarry flee and Ziyasha to release her's who is dying. Ziyasha starts toward the ledge, but stops after several steps noticing Kuwaka does not follow. Kuwaka just shakes her head, unmoving. Ukali and Sisimka sit side-by-side, Sisimka's head pressed against Ukali's neck, tears in both their eyes.

 

Sometime in the night, the four Firebrand lionesses leave back for Mwenge just as the came, just the four. A few wonder how they will tell the elders, but from the roars they hear back in Mwenge on their way...the elders already know.