Wind and rain are never a cat’s best friend, and this was
very much the case for a lioness named Elsa, her cub’s Tembi and Tembo, and an
adult lynx and her cub, who refused to
give their names. The group had started
out consisting of Elsa and her two cubs, the adult lynx and her cub had
attached themselves somewhere along the line between the
Elsa had left her home on the
Elsa wished she could do something for her cubs, and she’d passed many a sleepless night wondering if what she was doing was right. She had been cast out of her pride soon after Clarence had suffered the same indignity. Elsa had been close to giving birth to her cubs then, and had been forced to have the cubs alone. Elsa remembered the birth of her cubs, a painful, lonely, and terrifying time, where she’d been torn between listening out for danger and giving birth to her cubs. her body had taken over however, and Elsa had given herself up to having her cubs. She was relieved when they were born and she could protect them once more. Now she was dragging them away from their marshy homeland to somewhere, the location of which she didn’t know. Elsa knew one thing, and this was that the place she entered would be her final home, she couldn’t keep dragging her poor cubs all over the place. Tembi she couldn’t drag, Tembo however was a different matter. The way he’d been behaving, Elsa would have dragged him twice round the earth as punishment. Tembo had twice attacked Tembi, the female cub totally unprepared for her brother’s attack.
Elsa, now numbed in body and mind to almost everything around her, wondered if she would ever find a home for her cubs. Turning up a side alley, Elsa led her cubs and the two lynx along the path.
Suddenly Tembi stopped walking and lay down on the concrete, utterly exhausted. Elsa stopped to help her, when Tembo kicked his sister savagely:
“Get up you wimp!” He snarled, swiping at her with a paw. Tembi mewed in protest, but couldn’t stop Tembo’s attack. Elsa rounded on her eldest cub, but even she could hardly raise a paw to him, so exhausted was she. The lynx however, seemed quite fresh, and the adult female walloped Tembo hard! Tembo yowled with pain and shrank back from the large lynx. Elsa lay down and took Tembi in her paws. The tiny cub was trembling violently, and Elsa knew she wasn’t trembling with fear.
“We can’t go on any further,” Elsa thought, “we’re stopping here.” Elsa struggled to her feet and went towards a gate in the fence to one side of the alley. Pushing at it with a forepaw, she found it gave under pressure. Returning to Tembi’s side, Elsa tried to lift her cub by the scruff of her neck. It was then she realised how exhausted she herself was. Elsa couldn’t lift her own cub. Closing her eyes, Elsa braced her paws and put all her strength into lifting her cub, but she couldn’t lift her. Tembi had grown, but not by much. She was only a month old, if that. Elsa wondered if Tembi would see two months old, for the way she looked at the moment, it looked doubtful. Elsa stopped struggling to lift her cub, leaving Tembi lying limp on the concrete for the moment.
“Let’s go in here,” Elsa said, pushing open the gate. The large female lynx picked Tembi up and gave Tembo a kick.
“You follow,” she snarled at the male lion cub, leaving her own cub to crawl along behind her, which he’d been used to doing.
On entering the place beyond the gate, Elsa found herself in an enclosed place with grass under her paws. There was noone in sight, but, as she watched, the door to a house opened and a large white animal with black spots put its head out into the daylight. Looking round, it spotted Elsa and her exhausted companions.
“can I help?” Amber called to Elsa, who didn’t have a clue what she was.
“I don’t know,” Elsa replied, confused and a little scared, “we, we’re looking for a place to stay, tonight, forever, eventually that is.” Amber left the security of the doorway and ventured into the garden to take a look at the newcomers.
“You lot look finished,” she said, “What on earth have you been doing?”
“We’ve had a long journey,” the female lynx said.
“I’ll say,” Amber replied, “well, you’d better come in and stay a while.” Elsa nearly ran into the house, but checked her pace. Amber, realising how desperate the lioness was, and remembering her own long journey, held up a paw to stop her.
“No need to run,” she said, “I know how it is for you.” Elsa walked into the house, Amber picking up Tembi and carrying the cub in after her, with Tembo and the two lynx following.
Once in the living room, Amber laid Tembi on a rug. The poor female cub made no protest as Amber checked her over from nose to tail.
“One extremely exhausted little lioness,” she said gently. Amber looked up from her examination of Tembi, straight into Elsa’s terrified eyes.
“Tembi will be okay,” Amber said, “but I don’t have the knowledge to look after her. I will have to give the responsibility for her care to someone else.” Amber looked over at Clarence, who’d crawled alongside Elsa, seemingly without the lioness noticing.
“I’ll leave Tembi in your capable paws Clarence,” Amber said, heading for the door. Elsa looked round, and when she saw the gentle eyes of the lion for whom she’d been searching, and in pursuit of whom she’d dragged her cubs across seas and countless lands, Elsa didn’t know what to say. The huge lion took Tembi in his massive forepaws, gently stroking her. The tiny cub showed no reaction, no recognition of the huge lion who had sired her. The truth was, Tembi was worn out.
Drifting in a daze, Tembi felt Clarence take her in his paws, but didn’t have the strength to react. She remembered her sire’s scent, and it pleased her, beyond that, she let things take their course, for she could do little else.
Clarence settled down with Tembi between his forepaws, while Elsa took Tembo and the two lynx to another part of the room. Very gently, taking Tembi with him, Clarence moved towards the place where he slept, gently placing Tembi on the sofa, then lying down himself. Taking Tembi in his paws, Clarence hugged her tenderly. Tembi’s exhausted state saddened him, he could see how the journey had taken its toll on the tiny cub. Clarence looked at his cub, and his vision blurred with tears.
“My cub,” Clarence sobbed, stroking Tembi’s ears, “what happened to you my sweetheart?” Clarence guessed that Elsa had wandered with her cubs in search of him, but Tembi’s exhaustion wasn’t all down to walking. He knew Tembo had mercilessly bullied his younger sister, and this made Clarence very angry! Clarence slept after a long time of gazing at Tembi.
Hours later, Tembi woke, feeling herself in the embrace of a larger lion, Tembi turned her head and looked into Clarence’s face. Then, very gently, she touched his cheek with one tiny forepaw. Clarence woke at his cub’s touch.
“Tembi my dear,” Clarence said, “How are you feeling?” Tembi flexed her paws one by one. They were stiff and ached horribly, but, over all, she felt a lot better than she had for weeks.
“I’m okay,” she replied. Clarence smiled, stroking Tembi’s right forepaw, the one with which she’d touched his cheek. Tembi shook herself:
“My fur’s all wet!” She mewed. Touching her paw to her ear, Tembi then licked her paw.
“Salt,” she said, “I can taste salt!” she looked at Clarence, noticing his red rimmed eyes, and dirty, tear streaked facial fur.
“You soppy thing,” Tembi laughed, taking Clarence’s huge left forepaw in both of hers.
“the thought I’d never see you, Elsa or Tembo again nearly tore me apart Tembi,” Clarence choked. Tembi snuggled up to Clarence, the huge lion setting to nuzzling her tenderly, then grooming her from nose to tail. Tembi submitted herself happily to her sire’s attentions, loving every minute. Clarence even gently stroked the pads of Tembi’s paws, this action seeming to soothe the cub even more than the grooming had. Tembi curled up tightly between Clarence’s forepaws, making sure her forepaws rested on one of his, and that his free forepaw was resting over her back like a warm soft blanket. Clarence submitted to Tembi’ arranging his paws, happy she was with him once more.
Meanwhile, Elsa and Tembo were having a less convivial time of it. Elsa, having slept for a few hours, now took the opportunity to say everything to her eldest cub that she’d meant to say during the journey. And her words weren’t pleasant ones.
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Martin Wilsher © 2010
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