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The Lion King
PM/Discord, Pacific NW
Let me preface this by saying I wasn’t scheduled to conduct any interviews today. So you can imagine my shock when I was merely taking a leisurely stroll down a forest path, minding my own business, smelling the flowers, admiring the trees and in general being at one with nature when something large dropped out of the sky on top of me.
I screamed as I toppled, knocking my knees together and then against the rather unforgiving earth beneath me. Thrashing and kicking, I was surprised when the weight disappeared, and as I scrambled upright to get a better look I found myself face to face with an enormous black cat. A panther, no doubt. It regarded me curiously, it’s tail swishing gently back and forth, and it sat down. My heart still beating frantically in my chest, I began brushing myself off, and glared at the now entirely docile beast. It looked content – dare I say, it looked pleased with itself.
“I suppose you thought that was funny,” I told it. Then realized it was a cat – it couldn’t understand me.
“It was, actually. Very funny. My jaw hurts but I suppose I took the risk.”
Where there had been a cat moments before, there was now a woman, her arms crossed over a bright red tunic. Now she looked properly amused, and pleased with herself. I stood up and narrowed my eyes at her.
“You! You’re Imami!” I exclaimed. She raised her eyebrows at me (it looked sort of like she was trying to raise one but didn’t realize she couldn’t, so one side of her face was a bit squinty). However, she said nothing, and I found myself even more cross. “I’m not supposed to be interviewing you until tomorrow.”
“I know. But then I saw you and I couldn’t help myself. The screaming was a little much though,”
“I thought I was being eaten!”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh trust me, you would know if you were being eaten.”
“Is that supposed to comfort me?”
“No, it’s so you don’t squeal like a naked chicken next time something like this happens to you.”
I decided to let the comment go, still brushing myself off and realizing that I might as well get this over with now than risk being attacked tomorrow. “Okay then,” I sighed. “Let’s do this now.”
I don’t think I’d ever gotten a response like that from an interviewee, but it encouraged me that this might be quick; sometimes they weren’t all that forthcoming, but I didn’t think that was going to be the case this time. I smiled.
“Okay then, so what brings you out here?”
“Well, I was just out hunting tonight. Which, by the way, since when do defenseless people wander around the woods at night? Seriously, who does that?”
“I’m not defenseless!” I protested.
She gave me a look. It wasn’t exactly judgmental, but the only way I could think to describe it was the modern vernacular “Oh honey…”. I looked away sheepishly, and then continued.
“So you were hunting, but why are you here? You’re from the Pride Lands, haven’t they been locked down by Scar for months now?”
“Yeah, I am but I got out. See, it all started when my friend Nala escaped…gods, it was two years ago, wasn’t it? She was betrothed to Scar, or rather forced into a betrothal which was absolutely no good so I helped her escape. I was locked up for a couple months in a cave with iron cuffs, I still have the scars even.” She held out her wrists, and sure enough there were faint white blotches where something must have rubbed it raw. I was impressed by her fortitude, and by the way she talked about it with such openness and a general air of dismissal. “Anyways, I was a good prisoner so they let me out with supervision since I’m one of the best healers and a priestess, so they knew they couldn’t keep me forever so they just made sure to take away all my inventive things. But they didn’t realize that the old silver mine they’d locked me in had deposits of this ore that I used to help Nala escape. If you mix it with saltwater it breaks it down and when it dries you get this green tinted metal that’s soft and burns ridiculously easily and brightly. They thought I was using plant oils or something so they just took away all my supplies and only gave them to me when I was healing. Right after the Blight ended, and nothing seemed to be changing I decided that I couldn’t sit around and do nothing anymore, so I set the house I was staying in on fire and ran for it. Not my greatest achievement, I’ll admit, but I’m pretty sure at least half of Scar’s entourage thinks I’m dead.”
I had tried to interrupt her several times, but with no success. Once she was on a subject, she just kept going and while I was glad she was so forthcoming, I also wanted to dig into the details a little bit. Trying to recall everything she’d just said, I decided to start at the top.
“You’re a healer and a priestess?” I asked. “What made you decide to take that route?”
“It was what my mother had done so it felt natural,” She said with a shrug. “And because of Nala. Plus, I was getting bored of just hunting and fighting. I mean, there’s always more to learn but there isn’t much to be discovered or experimented with. I like making things, not destroying them.” She paused. “Okay that’s a lie, I love destroying things but only in new and exciting ways where nobody gets hurt. Or at least, badly hurt.”
“Nala convinced you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say she convinced me but I sort of idolized her when I was little. She’s three years older than me, and I loved hanging out with her and Simba. They always seemed to get up to all sorts of mischief so I tagged along when I could, but I wasn’t quite on their level of comradery. But when Simba and Mufasa died, I convinced my mother to let me start my training early so that I could start with her.”
“Ah, I see. So you started your training at ten years old?”
“Yep, I caught on quickly though. I’ve always been a fast learner.”
“You mentioned your mother was a healer. What was she like? And what about your father?”
“My mother was an amazing healer,” She smiled brightly at the thought. “Or is, she’s still very much alive. My father died when I was little, in a conflict with hyenas using his lion skin. But I had plenty of people to look up to, I found I seldomly missed him. Plus, my mother taught me everything, how to hunt, make healing potions and pastes, what plants I could eat, all that good stuff. And she has a great sense of humor.”
“I’m sorry about your father. Hold on a minute, I just realized…shouldn’t you have a lion skin?”
“Oh, I do! It was my first skin, you know, the one you get on your Wagaye. My lioness was a small one, and very fast. It took me a while to catch her but I outsmarted her in the end. I love that skin, but I always felt drawn to the leopards, particularly the black ones. I just didn’t fully realize it till I came across one when I was fifteen. A wily, and very strong one. In fact, I’m amazed I didn’t die hunting her, but I got her in the end, and now that’s the skin I have bonded with the most. It was the form I escaped in too, when I left to go seek out help.”
“Do you have any other skins?”
“Just one. It’s a Starling. I like having something small and inconspicuous. Also, who doesn’t want to fly?”
“Me. Anyways, so you left to seek out aid five months ago or so?”
“Four. I uh, didn’t really think it through. I have a poor sense of direction but I’m good with a map, and I didn’t bring any. Or know where to find one. So, I wandered around for about a month and a half, visiting villages and kind of exploring, but mostly I was lost. And nobody seemed to have appropriate knowledge of our ways, or combat so I never stayed anywhere long. Then, I finally got a map from a tradesman at a market in I think…Dokrayth. Or what’s left of it anyways.”
“So what have you been doing now?”
“Same mission, but it’s been slow. Partially because there aren’t a lot of resources to be had right now, and also because I kept getting distracted by people in need. There was so much suffering…I couldn’t stand by and watch, so I helped where I could. About a week ago I made my way to the Five Corners.”
“Have you heard from Nala, or anyone?”
At this, she sighed, and a little bit of that youthful energy seemed to seep away for a moment. She shook her head. “No. But I’m not giving up hope. I heard stories that the High Queen fights alongside a group of women, and that there are Skinwalkers among that group. I can’t imagine it would be anyone other than Nala, but I just don’t know.”
She glanced away a moment, and it was during this little pause I took the time to take her appearance in. She had such presence, and was so overwhelming with her speech and excited hand movements she used while talking that I hadn’t really taken her in. She was young, and taller than I’d expected, though not much taller than an average woman. Her hair was tightly braided and tied up on top of her head, and while she was on the slender side, the spear she had on her back was appropriate given the breadth of her arms, and the undeniable presence of muscle. He had no doubt that she was a fast runner, and a good hunter, though there was a hint of something delicate about her.
“Well, that’s all I’ve got right now.” She said. “You want to know anything else?”
“That was quick.”
Chuckling, I smiled – despite the rather traumatic introduction, I’d rather enjoyed listening to what this young woman had to say. She fired a smile right back, one that reached warm brown eyes and was just about as genuine as they came. Genuine. That was a great way to describe her.
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