Linku looked intensely at what lied before him. Several weapons were laid out on the floor; a sword, a dagger, even throwing stars. And ahead of him, dummies made from straw. They struck menacing poses, wearing armor and holding weapons like a warrior in battle would wield. But that menace was merely a front. They lacked something vital; they weren’t alive. Linku used to think training with these dummies was adequate, but now he saw it as a hindrance. He never fought an actual being.
‘Forget that’, he thought to himself.
‘What you do now is all that matters’.
The young lion looked once more at the lifeless stand-ins. He then looked down at his weapons. He picked up the sword, looked for a moment at the lustrous blade, set his sights on the targets in front of him, and ran towards them. For a split second, the pleasure of adrenaline surged through his body. The sword was his favorite weapon. He knew just the right angle he needed to attain the most damage. He knew the weak points in the armor, and how to exploit them. In theory, he seemed like a perfect fighter. But anyone can kick the head off a man made of straw.
Linku then looked up at what he accomplished. The dummies lied everywhere, dismembered and decapitated. It’s something he’s done countless other times. But only now does he really contemplate what it represents: the taking of lives, and the risk of his own.
“Nice work” said a voice from behind.
Startled, Linku grabbed his throwing stars and threw them towards the voice. The lion before him grabbed the weapon in mid-air, inches from his face. It was his father; N’Daku, the King of Masai Mara. He had a large presence, intimidating even to the toughest of facades. His mane was thick, proof of his royal blood. Linku’s mane had only just begun to grow, and was nowhere near the grandeur of his father’s. Although the King normally wore extravagant clothing, he came before Linku shirtless, further revealing his intimidating strength. His body was covered in scars, permanent reminders of his past in battle.
It was then Linku realized he almost killed his Dad.
The King of Masai Mara.
“Father! I didn’t see you there! I am so sorry!”
Linku continued to apologize profusely, flustering his speech with ‘uh’s’ and ‘um’s’. His father then cut him off.
“Save it” he said in his thunderous voice.
“How, how long were you watching me?” Linku questioned.
“Long enough” he replied. ‘I see you’re doing some good work, but your throwing arm could use some work. That throwing star should be embedded in my skull.” Linku chuckled awkwardly.
“I’m not sure how to respond to that” he replied. His father chuckled back, easing the tension.
“Come son” N’Daku ordered. “I want to talk to you about something.” He led Linku to the middle of the courtyard, located just outside his extravagant castle. This was where Linku usually came to train. In the middle of it was a huge fountain, depicting in stone several of the past kings: Linku’s grandfather, his great grandfather, and his great-great grandfather. He was the founder of the kingdom, the first to rule the great land of Masai Mara. Linku and N’Daku sat upon the edge of the fountain. After a good thirty seconds, N’Daku began to talk.
“Son, I can tell you are feeling…apprehensive…about what lies ahead.”
“What?! I’m not apprehensive” Linku denied. ‘I am becoming a part of something important, something that so many others wish they could be a part of.”
“Linku, I’m your father” N’Daku began. “I can tell when something is wrong. When I was watching you train, I could see there was something different in the way you composed yourself. It was something in your body language. Are you having any doubts?”
Linku began to think to himself. He knew he was having some doubts, but were they really more than any other his age would feel in this situation? Still, Linku knew that something was bothering him, and the longer he kept it in the worse he knew he would feel.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to fight in battle” he started. His father just looked at him for a moment, showing no emotion. After a bit of time, he spoke.
“I understand how you feel. I remember when I was your age, going through the motions just like you. I was scared then too, I think anyone in this situation would be. But important things tend to be frightening.”
Linku turned his attention to the fountain, pondering over the statues of his ancestors. Each one of them went through the exact same thing. Linku was at the precipice of adulthood, preparing for the time he would one day be king. But in Masai Mara, a king was expected to do much more than rule from a secured throne room. A king was expected to take action; a king was expected to fight for it’s kingdom. And that meant going into the front lines.
No other kingdom expected it’s royalty to risk themselves in such a way. But Masai Mara valued the leadership skills of one who could command in both the castle and on the battlefield. So, for his entire life, Linku had been training. Preparing for the time he must answer the call of his duty. Whenever that may be…
“….This is a very important time for you” continued N’Daku. Linku realized he hadn’t been listening to what his father was saying. He lost focus with everything he was thinking about.
“Linku, are you listening?”
“Sorry father” Linku replied. “I just got lost in my thoughts.”
“Go on” N’Daku persuaded. Linku hesitated for a moment, but realized he needed to get this off his chest.
“I’ve felt so sure about this my entire life,” Linku began hesitantly. “I thought I was teaching myself to be a great warrior; a great leader. I can fight with these weapons, but I feel I’ve learned nothing! What I used to view as strength now mocks me with it’s uselessness!”
Linku continued to pour his heart out, sometimes close to the point of crying. His father usually interpreted these feelings as weakness and would forbid them. But now he just listened as Linku talked. No expression marked his face; he was very good at showing no emotion. But there was something else different about him. Unlike some of the other adolescent problems Linku faced in the past, N’Daku seemed to take this seriously. N’Daku may have forgotten the woes of his long ago youth, but the scars of this transition are still fresh in his mind. And now, he’s seeing them unfold before him in his own flesh and blood.
When Linku finally finished, N’Daku didn’t say a word. Linku waited for a response, but got none. Instead, his father got up, and walked out of the courtyard. Linku just sat there, overwhelmed with anxiety. Unable to understand what happened, he just sat with his head down.
A few moments later, however, N’Daku returned. And he wasn’t alone. Standing alongside his father were two creatures Linku didn’t recognize, a rhinoceros and a crocodile. They were both very strong, built like walls. And they were adorned in armor; the armor of a warrior.
“Come with us” N’Daku said. “Your training begins.”
“It begins?” Linku asked confused. “Then what have I been doing all my life?”
“Hah, that was just a warm up. It just kept you from getting soft.”
Dreary from his lack of sleep, Fisi awoke as the sun coming through his window glared into his eyes.
“And so begins another long and stressful day” the poor hyena thought.
He puts on his clothes, washes his face, grabs a handful of food for breakfast, and heads on his way to the castle grounds. He walks out the door, leaving his house behind. It’s a modest shack at best, big enough only for himself. Even then, it was much nicer than many of the furnishings this area had to offer. It was once a proud village, making money from its strong fishing community. The lake it was built near was once a bounty of life. Fishermen would capture their prey by the net, often having a surplus. But the recent droughts have affected this area greatly. For several years now, the rains have been increasingly inconsistent. There was once a clear ‘rain season’ and ‘dry season’. Now the line between the two blurs. It may rain once or twice a year, but none of it substantial. The lack of rain has made the lake waters recede greatly. To make matters worse, what is left of the lake has been filling up with thick, green algae. The fish have been choked out, and most have died. The fishermen are now lucky to get a single net full.
As he proceeds to walk toward the castle, Fisi continues to notice the droughts effects on this once great land. Once lush and green plant life are now losing their luster. Crops are increasingly harder to grow. He notices once profitable farm land reduced to dry ruin, much like his lake side home. People have been forced to move out and search for greener pasture, outside the boundaries of the kingdom. But the land outside Masai Mara is cruel and desolate. Whereas the drought has only recently hit this area, surrounding nations have felt it long beforehand. All that is left in those lands are starving nomads and thieves desperate for goods.
As Fisi walks through these failing villages, the townspeople look at him in disgust. He can see in in their eyes; their judgement, their resentment, it hits Fisi in his soul.
Suddenly, before he can even realize it, a clump of mud splatters across Fisi’s chest. Fisi looks down at the stain, appalled and speechless. He then looked up, only to take a clump of mud to the face. At this point, any remaining peace is broken. A crowd of villagers run towards Fisi, out to get a piece of him. It erupts into a full on riot, and soon the entire village is in on it. Dozens of creatures begin to engulf him, yelling out expletives and throwing punches. They see all this poverty as his fault; perhaps he’s not completely to blame, but they feel he’s not making anything better for them despite his position. Otherwise things would be different. What hurts Fisi most is that he knows they’re right. He doesn’t even feel the urge to defend himself.
Before too much damage is done however, the chaos is disrupted. Several tall wildebeests come into the crowd, holding the assailants back. They carry spears, and point them towards the still angry civilians. It takes a while to fend off all the aggressive rioters, but the wildebeests eventually gain back control of the area. They then tend to Fisi, who is lying on the ground battered but mostly unharmed aside from a few bruises.
They are his personal body guards.
“Is everything alright, Sir Fisi?” the head guard asked him.
“Yes, everything is fine” Fisi responded, still flustered from what just happened. The attack happened so fast he barely had time to comprehend it.
“I’m sorry we hadn’t come sooner” the guard apologized. “We were held back at the castle.”
“No, it’s alright” Fisi assured. “You’re here now, and that’s all that matters.” The guards then walked him the rest of the way to his destination.
As they get closer to the castle, the scenery almost changes entirely. The small, dilapidated villages have given way for lavish and expensive housing. Fisi could live here; he was paid more than enough, but he’d rather stay close to home. I doesn’t help that he feels he basically just fell into his job anyway.
In this part of the kingdom, he notices something else: the waste of water. Water that can grow crops and quench thirst is used for unnecessary fountains. Any little water there is seems to all come here; and for what? Just to keep things comfortable for the wealthy, and let the rest just wither away? No, he can stand it no longer. The injustice is too great. Those villagers were right to be angry. He may not have a lot of power, but the power he has must count.
“Fisi, my old friend!” exclaimed N’Daku. “Come on in!”
Fisi, now in the castle, has entered the king’s private quarters. They have been friends since childhood. When N’Daku was a young teenager, he ran away from the castle, afraid of his coming responsibilities. He found himself at the fishing district, where he met Fisi. He would eventually coax N’Daku to return home and face his commitments. Although no one else was able to break through to him, Fisi did. He noted very early on Fisi’s intelligence and maturity even at a young age. That always stuck out to N’Daku for some reason. At that point, N’Daku made a promise to himself. Whenever he became king, he vowed that he would personally appoint Fisi as a member of his royal council. He kept that promise.
“Yes, it’s good to see you too” Fisi responded as he extended his paw for a handshake. N’Daku instead grabbed him into a tight embrace. Fisi didn’t feel like hugging back, though.
“So, are you ready to go?” N’Daku asked.
“Yes, I believe I am” replied Fisi. The two walked down the hallway into an enormous room. There was a large table, almost taking up the entire space. There were five seats around it, and at the end were two extravagantly decorated chairs for the king and queen. N’Daku took his seat and Fisi took his, which was at the far end of the table. This was where the King, Queen, and Royal Council would discuss the welfare of Masai Mara and try to resolve issues within the kingdom. But it seemed like the drought issue was constantly being side stepped. Every time Fisi would try and bring it up, N’Daku would sway the conversation a different direction. This strange behavior always got Fisi thinking. Was he hiding something? Or was he hoping the situation would just fix itself?
Soon, the rest of the Council members came in, each taking their seat. There was Dondi, a giraffe, and Ashanti, an elephant. They are both so tall that most of the table’s size was devoted to them. Next to them was Sokwe, a gorilla. His presence is sometimes even more intimidating than N’Daku’s. His short temper may had something to do with that. And by him sat N’Kazi, a buffalo. He was the one Fisi had the most respect for. Out of all the Council members, he seemed to be the most level headed. He has even defended many of Fisi’s arguments towards the Council.
Then, coming out of the hallway was N’Nitsa, the Queen. She wore an elegant gown, flowing all the way to the floor. Her stance was firm and unmoving. Much like her husband, she had quite a presence that demanded respect. And when both step into the room, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Oddly enough, N’Nitsa didn’t have a royal background. N’Daku met her on the same trip he met Fisi. She grew up the daughter of a fisherman. Not having any sons, he would take the young lioness on his fishing expeditions even at a young age. This work gave her an unusual amount of strength, both physically and mentally. This strength attracted N’Daku. Although the males in the kingdom went through many trials and tribulations, the more privileged females seemed to be handed everything. N’Daku knew at a young age that he wouldn’t find a capable queen in that squalor. But it was in that small village that he found exactly what he was looking for. They were together all those years ago, and are still together now. N’Nitsa took her seat by the King. Now that everyone was here, the work was to begin.
“Gentlemen,” N’Nitsa began, in her elegant yet strong voice. “We have a few problems we need to talk about.” Fisi wondered about what unimportant topic they would discuss today.
“We need to talk about riots.”
This immediately got Fisi’s attention. A million questions fired into his head.
Is she talking about what happened to me this morning?
How did she find out so fast?
Are they going to blame me for the riots?
Are they going to punish the villagers, who honestly have the right to be angry?
Suddenly, N’Nitsa turned her attention to Fisi. She just looked at him, as if she was just waiting for a response.
Oh great, they’re going to blame this on me now.
“So, you know what happened” Fisi said to her. N’Nitsa gave him a chilling look before she responded.
“Your escort, the Captain of the Guards, told us about what happened this morning.”
Figures, should have known he’d say something.
Fisi looked over to the wildebeest, who was guarding the door to the Council Room.
Funny, I don’t even know his name. Does anyone know his name? It’s not important, only his title is needed.
“I had no control over the situation” Fisi finally responded. “I walked down the normal path I take, and before I knew it, I was engulfed.” Fisi tried to determine the Queen’s intent. Was she trying to blame him? What point was she trying to get across?
“Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident” N’Daku stated.
“Indeed” Dondi interjected. “Just last week I was shopping in the market place when people started throwing rotten fruit at me.” Ashanti related an experience when she was attacked while just walking in the forest outside her house. While the other council members related similar stories, Fisi started to wonder why his incident was picked out in particular. Was he being singled out for his past outspokenness? Or was this particular riot just one too many?
“This has gone too far!” Sokwe yelled, infuriated. “We can’t even leave our own homes anymore!”
“I agree, Sokwe” N’Daku stated. “But we need to figure out just why these attacks are happening.” Fisi began to rise up.
“I can tell you why!” he said angrily. “It’s this accursed drought that we’re not doing anything about!”
“Watch your tongue” Sokwe warned as he slammed his fists on the table while letting out a huge snort.
“Sokwe, calm down” N’Daku told him. “Fisi, for the last time, there isn’t a drought. We have more water than we could ever need.”
“Yes, you have water. But outside the homes of the privileged, there is nothing.”
Fisi was right. The King’s castle was built in the middle of a large valley for a reason. Whatever water there was would find itself in the lowest parts. That’s why this area was so sought after. While other areas struggled with drought, this area always seemed fertile. This also seems to show how disconnected the Kingdom has become to it’s subjects. They seem blissfully ignorant of what happens beyond their precious castle walls.
“Fisi” N’Daku began. “You have been a good friend to me for a long time, but I cannot just ignore these frequent outbursts.”
“Perhaps he is right” N’Kazi interrupted. “We do have water, but if other areas are struggling what’s stopping us from sharing?”
“If they are truly in need of water, why don’t they just come here?” Sokwe asked. Fisi just shook his head.
“It’s not that simple” Fisi tried to explain. “Lakes are drying up. People rely on these bodies of water for their livelihood.”
“We can’t stop that!” argued Ashanti. “If they can’t make a living there, they should leave.”
“To where?!” asked Fisi. “These people have nowhere to go! They can’t afford to move where the water is, and leaving the kingdom is suicide. As bad as the drought is here, it’s ten times worse elsewhere.”
“So what is it you want us to do?” Dondi asked. “We don’t have the power to control nature.”
“No, you don’t. But we are a government, and we can control what we do from here.”
“If you have a solution we would love to here it!” Sokwe snapped. Everyone looked to Fisi, waiting for an answer. After a second of thought, Fisi responded.
“I think we should let those in most need of help come and stay here where the water is.”
The council room erupted in argument. Everyone seemed to think it was a crazy idea.
“Order, order!” commanded N’Daku, trying to elevate his voice above the argumentative crowd. Then, he let out a thundering roar, the kind of roar only a lion could belt out. The Council fell into silence, giving all their attention to the King. “Fisi, that kind of plan would be impossible” N’Daku responded.
“No, not impossible. Only inconvenient.” That statement released gasps from the entire council room. Undeterred, Fisi decided to continue. “We don’t need everyone to move into this area. Only those most affected by the drought. There is adequate housing to suffice. And even if there isn’t, the wealthy should have more than enough room in their homes and food on their tables to share. Plus, it wouldn’t be for-”
“I’ve heard enough!” N’Daku roared. ‘I’m sorry Fisi. I thought you had more sound judgment than this. If you continue to speak out like this you’re going to have to give up your seat in the council and cut off your pay.”
“Why even have a council if you’re going to shut me up like this?!” Fisi then turns to the other council members. “Does our input not matter?” he asks. “Aren’t we a government?”
“No Fisi” N’Daku corrected. “I’m the government.” He then dismisses the Council members, and leaves.
And so ends a typical day of work for Fisi.
Leaving the council room, N’Daku heads towards the courtyard to watch his son train. He finds him with Busia, the rhinoceros, and Kisumu, the crocodile. They are some of the strongest fighters the kingdom has to offer. They have both fought in wars, and lead armies in battle. For a future king and warrior, there are no better trainers.
“I want you to forget everything you think you know about fighting” Busia told Linku sternly. “All you’ve ever fought were still puppets. Try your fortune on a real creature.” He then hands Linku a bo staff. “Pretend it’s a sword” he tells him. “You know the spots on the body to hit. You know weak points in the armor. But do you understand living reaction?”
Linku looks at brute that stands in front of him. He stands at least twice as tall, and probably three times as wide. He carries a staff much like his. But the armor he wears is just like the ones on the dummies. So Linku knows what to do, in theory anyway. Linku lunges toward Busia, aiming his staff at his neck. But then suddenly, he finds himself on the ground. He’s pinned down at the neck with Busia’s staff, his strength impossible to overcome.
“You’re dead” he says in his deep voice. He then loosens his grip on Linku and sets him free.
“Well, I was right” states Linku.
“About what?” Kisumu asks.
“Well, I knew fighting dummies all my life would just be a hindrance” Linku answers.
“It wasn’t hindrance” corrects Busia. “You gained some valuable knowledge from that training. At least you actually know how to use a sword.”
“But it’s not just swords or spears you have to worry about” begins Kisumu. “There will be many opponents you will face on the battlefield. Many different species. And each have their own set of skills and unique weapons.”
“Kisumu’s correct” Busia starts. “A crocodile will often use his tail in battle. One swipe will knock an opponent off his legs, long enough to give the final blow. We rhinoceros’ have a naturally made weapon, our horns. Charging head first in a group of soldiers will take many down efficiently and lethally. “
“But that’s not all” warns Kisumu. “Buffalo and wildebeest also have horns. Leopards and cheetahs have speed and agility on their side. Gorillas and apes have both brains and brawns. Birds rain weapons from above. Snakes have venom. And a squadron of elephants are almost a sure win for an army.”
“But lions have weapons too” N’Daku added. “Although we may not be as agile as leopards or cheetahs, being feline gives us an inherit amount of speed. But that’s not all, we also have these.” He extends his paw, and retracts his claws. He then asks Busia to bring in a wooden dummy. With a single swipe, he knocks of its head. Splinters fly everywhere.
“Now ask a cheetah to do that!” N’Daku boasted.
Busia then brings in another wooden dummy. “Now you try” he says. Linku then goes up to the dummy. He looks at his own paws. They are big, but nowhere near as impressive as his fathers. He swipes, and becomes pleasantly surprised. He cuts it off as cleanly and as easily as his father did.
“Wow” Linku says under his breath.
“Wow indeed” Kisumu replies. “You have more strength then you realize.” Linku then takes a glance at his father. He has a look of approval on his face, even cracking a small smile. A feeling of elation overwhelms Linku. He feels like he’s accomplished something great. Not only has he proven his own strength, but he’s also made his father proud. But there was still much work to do.