Chapter 1 - New Beginnings

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For many, conflict is a rare and unwelcome visitor in one's life. For others, however, it is an all too common companion on our journey through the Circle of Life.

In Mohatu's life, conflict seemed to follow him like a shadow on a cloudless day. The second of three sons born to a prosperous king, he frequently found himself playing family mediator between his older, headstrong brother and younger, carefree sibling. Nobody is perfect and the king was no exception. Showing strong favoritism for his first-born, he often left the two younger lions out of conversations and walkabouts, as he felt they'd never face the same situations their elder brother was destined to face.

The one bright spot in an otherwise teeth-grinding existence for Mohatu was his mate, Tetema. The daughter of a nomadic lioness who joined the pride several years earlier, Tetema was barely an adolescent when she met Mohatu. Though they initially fought more than siblings, love eventually grew between the two and they became mates shortly after reaching adulthood.

Bright spots have an unfortunate habit of being painfully brief. When Tetema became pregnant, Mohatu's father reacted with livid anger! He irrationally accused Mohatu of plotting to overthrow him and banished the two from the pride. As the pair bid goodbye to their pridemates, however, Mohatu's mother's wise words were able to calm the King enough to buy them a reprieve of sorts. Rather than banishment from his father's lands, Mohatu and his mate would merely be prohibited from entering the rocky, closed-ended canyon that served as the pride's home and sleeping area.

Prosperous kings rarely live quiet lives. Other prides compete for resources and wars break out from time to time when food grows scarce. One night as the pride lay sleeping, one such pride invaded their home and attacked without warning. The Prince was killed in the first attack and the king died shortly thereafter. The canyon was painted red with the blood of victims of the attack who found themselves with nowhere to go and nobody to turn to for leadership.

As luck would have it, his father's irrationality ended up being the only thing that saved Mohatu and Tetema from a bloody end. They slept nearby, but as luck would have it, on the night of the attack, the pair was downwind from the canyon and the attacking pride had no way of knowing Mohatu and Tetema weren't with their pride-mates when the rather one-sided battle broke out.

Awakened by the roars and other sounds of battle, Mohatu and his mate crept to the rim of the canyon only to catch sight of the last remnants of the fight - Mohatu's younger brother's throat being ripped out by an attacking lion. With a roar of anguish, Mohatu gave their presence away to the lions below, who immediately gave chase.

Running for your lives is never an easy task and it's made doubly difficult when your mate is pregnant. As the pair ran from the canyon, Mohatu realized they'd never outrun the attackers together. When they reached a river, he told Tetema to cross the rushing waters and continue without him while he ran along the river bank, intending to mislead those who were tracking the two. Though his intent was to double-back a short time later, he ended up taking hours longer than intended to retrace his steps to rejoin his mate.

The delay and the distance he was forced to detour made it impossible for Mohatu to locate Tetema's scent once he finally made it across the river. He was forced to spend days heading in the same general direction, hoping to catch up with his lost mate.

Tetema, meanwhile, had continued onward and eventually chose a point on the horizon to keep herself from circling back the way she had come. Only fear for the safety of her unborn cubs kept her on her path - it galled her that she couldn't turn back and help her mate or even find out if he lived!

Hours turned into days with barely a pause to hunt and keep hunger at bay, though stress was definitely taking a toll on her appetite. Slowly her chosen destination grew closer and despite having lost track of time, Tetema finally reached what turned out to be a huge monolithic rock formation in the middle of the savanna.

Never one to give up hope, Mohatu struck off in the same general direction. On his second night of travelling, fighting off waves of grief and guilt for not having done more to help save his family and pride-mates, Mohatu dreamt of his mother. In his dream, she spoke to him from the heavens - much as one of the Great Kings of the Past she'd often told him about when he was a cub - and told him to find the tallest peak on the horizon and to head for it. At first light, Mohatu awoke with that thought fresh in his mind and immediately set about trying to find such a sight. A cloudy day hindered his progress, but the next morning he awoke and was able to pick out the tallest peak on the horizon. As he headed for his chosen destination, he was overwhelmed with the fear that Tetema was dead and this was all for naught. Regardless, he perservered and refused to give up.

Unfortunately, the tallest point he'd chosen wasn't the same stone monolith Tetema had seen, but was rather a mountain a day or so from Tetema's destination. After a brief visit with a friendly pride of lions to recuperate a little, Mohatu headed out, determined to find his mate or die trying.

He struck off in the same direction he'd been heading before he found the friendly pride and in just a couple of hours spotted what could only be the 'tallest peak' he'd dreamed about. With renewed determination, Mohatu made the trek across the savanna in what some might consider record time. As he neared the strangely shaped formation of rocks, Mohatu caught scent of his mate. Overwhelmed with joy, he raced around a fall of rocks and skidded to a stop as he caught sight of his beloved - and their newborn cub.

Tetema lifted her eyes to meet her mate's gaze as he rounded the pile of stone, expression heavy with a sadness of such magnetude that even her the sight of her mate couldn't lift its weight. She cast her gaze around her in the hope that Mohatu would understand what had happened without her trying to put words to it.

Confused by her expression, Mohatu felt momentary joy as he spied three cubs at his mate's side. Fate quickly crushed the feeling as he realized only one was moving. Silently padding over, he leaned down and rested his forehead against Tetema's before silently setting about moving the stillborn cubs out of her sight and taking them some distance away from the rocks in the hopes that his mate would be able to rest better without being reminded of what the trek to their destination had cost the two young mates.

The sun began to set as Mohatu settled to his belly beside his mate, wondering what the next day would hold for the beleaguered pair.

And so our story begins with a new day dawning on the young family, with Mohatu struggling to come to terms with all he's lost and everything they've gained in such a short time. Only time will tell if the pair will be able to find their place within the Circle of Life.

"Hindsight can help a king avoid past mistakes. Foresight can make him a mighty leader. But to truly live and be the best king he can possibly be? He must stop and look around from time to time." --Unknown

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