Morning broke with a red hot sun rising from behind the hilltops. Its burning heat was already so strong that the grass wilted at the thought of the remainder of the day. Through the long yellow grass the Chitika old lioness plodded painfully along. Her nose was battered and her thin ragged flanks were scarred with battles that she had fought.
Too old now to mate and slow to hunt she had been rejected by the pride. For here in her world only the fittest survive. Hungry thin and desperate she knew it was time to eat. The hyenas laughing as they do slinked behind her, they seemed to be laughing at her hopelessness. Turning her once majestic tawny head Chitika roared at them as they turned and fled in terror. With a proud flick of the black tufted tail she moved on to her destination.
Knowing only too well that she needed to eat today, for it had been three days or more since her last meal. A sparse one no more than a snack, consisting of the scraps left after the main pride had eaten their fill. Though that too hadn’t been easy to get to before the African jesters had arrived. How she detested the hyenas. They followed her on her daily quest awaiting her certain death.
The water hole, all the animals young and old would be congregating here to drink before facing the hot and humid day. Panting hard she lay down in the shade of the Msasa tree. The beauty of its two toned russet and gold leaves were lost on her. The hunger in her became the focus of her existence. Only the young and the very weak would be her prey, taking her time she selected him. Tipo was a new born sable lagging behind his mother. His velvet eyes moving from one point to the other in fear not know what he feared but nature had built that into him. He did not have to see Chitika to sense she was close at hand. Moving closer to his mother he nuzzled at her teats.
Choosing her moment and the place Chitka began her stalking. Flattening her body, she became one with the ground ears tight against her head. Yellow eyes focused and she moved, one inch at a time. Mouth-watering tastes were racing through her mind today she would be the queen again. She would eat her fill and roar in defiance to the sky. As if to prove to world all was not lost she would live another day. A day in which to show the jesters that she was still the reigning queen and age had not diminished her skills To obtain the grudging respect that that they gave to all of her kind,
Then just as she was in striking distance, the hyena pack returned. Skittering and laughing as they came to drink their fill of the water. Startled by the noise the sable herd took flight. Racing away their hooves kicking up clouds of dust the sables moved out of reach. They never knew how they had left the dethroned queen to her plight. Dejected and hungry she slunk away into the swaying grasses. Her trail of laughing jesters was right behind her. Patiently waiting as they always would for the moment of her death.
(c) p knee