The pride rested underneath the shade of the Oasis. The lush patches of paradise were few and far in between in the dry desert which this pride called home. There were fifteen of the majestic creatures in total; the king, the alpha. His three mates, powerful lionesses who fulfilled their roles within the pride with grace and without hesitation. The beta, the warrior, who would follow his alpha across the oceans if needed. The beta’s single mate. A majestic beauty who had brushed aside the advances of the alpha long ago, clearly favoring the reserved strength of the beta that followed the alpha. The alpha and his mates manifested six powerful cubs through their love, three boys and three girls, each mate birthed a single boy and girl into existence, there was clear harmony in this order. The beta and his single mate birthed three of their own beautiful cubs, two girls and a single boy. The girls lounged with their mothers, exhausted after the previous day’s hunt that brought about the prize of two adult gazelles, as the alpha and beta gnawed at the bones of the remaining skeleton of the two prey. The three cubs of the alpha fought against the single cub of the beta, playfully beating the single cub into submission rather easily. The single cub was very used to this by now, he was the youngest of the four males, yet quickly growing to be the strongest. The alpha knew this and he was less than pleased with his own cubs progress. The beta always sated his king’s anger with submission, yet they both knew that if the alpha were to ever strike out against the betas club in envy, there would be blood. The male cubs continued to wrestle, one of the alphas saw an opening and out of anger eviscerated the young betas paw, who cried out in pain. The beta roared in anger, knowing that the alphas cub struck out in envy of his own cubs growing power. The alpha stared knowingly at the beta and called his own cubs over for discipline. The alpha was proud of his cub however, this was the way of the Universe, and it was rarely loving, rarely fair. The beta approached his cub and licked his wounds, he wrapped his jaw around the cubs neck and placed him in a nearby reservoir of water, cleansing his wounds in the substance which nourishes all life. The cub’s paw was maimed however. It would be some time before his body would be capable of fulfilling what his instincts required of him.
As dusk approached the pride acknowledged that it was time for them to move on. Demons stalked during the hours of midnight, and the oasis left them more vulnerable than the endless sands. The alpha roared knowingly, the beta following his lead. The mates gathered their ladies and followed the pride in turn. The Alpha and his cubs lead the pack. The beta and his mate followed behind. The beta’s cub was forced to wander beside the alphas mates and female cubs, which hurt his pride. They wandered throughout the darkness, hoping to stake out an open area where they may rest.
Dragon flames burnt through the ebony sky. Invoking fear in the even the proudest and bravest of beasts. Pain vibrated the airwaves all around, the pain of an injured pride. The flames burnt through the pride. The alpha and his cubs roared valiantly, seeing the demons beholding the tools of dragons breath. They charged them viciously, ripping through the demons skin like silk. The alphas mates joined in. The beta and his mate charged another section of demons on their own. The alpha tore through scores of demons, in bloodcurdling rage as he watched his boys cut down, one by one. His mates, screaming like the harpies of old themselves, tore apart the demons that surrounded them. They too, were cut to pieces by the long claws of steel that the demons carried. There were at least a dozen dead demons surrounding the alphas as he drew his final breath, staring at his female cubs being surround by another score of demons, they were endless. Vultures ready to prey upon the weak. The beta continued tearing through the score of demons he had charged. His mate lay in a pool of blood next to him. Scores of wounds from the dragon’s breath and steel claws had ensured this. The beta would not fall. He was growing tired now. He couldn’t see any longer, relying on the remaining senses he possessed to continue the struggle. His crimson life force drained from him from the deep marks in his side. He clawed the innards of another demon open and he locked his jaws around that which was nearest to him. He was all the cubs had left. Blackness enveloped the males consciousness, he charged once more towards the demons line before he faded from existence.
The demons surrounded the cubs, grabbing them by their necks just as their elders had done, and aggressively tossed them into steel dens that were supported by artificial beasts of burden. They collected their dead and began digging graves in the sand. “Fuck. That’s seventeen of our brothers. My son, he won’t make it either. And for what? Some fucking hides. Some filthy pups! What joy does this bring you my lord, it is not simply the beasts who suffer from your vile games!” The commander of the troop of demons lashed out at his lord, these hunts were always more costly than they were worth. The lord drew his blade and viciously stuck it into the commanders neck in front of the remaining troops. A quarter of their numbers were cut down. “He was wrong gentlemen, there is actually nineteen dead.” He went over to the mans son, who had been mutilated by a single strike of the alpha, exposing his large intestines to the stars. He stuck the blade in the wounded mans heart and turned towards his soldiers. “Burn their bodies,” He pointed to the commander and his sons lifeless vessels, “Bury the rest and meet me at the oasis, we leave for Babylon at dawn”he spat out the last words. With that the Demon lord walked towards his ebony steed and mounted it. He set off to the oasis without another word. Some demons set to digging graves, others began skinning the deceased lions of their skin. The demons did not utter a word to one another. They did not dare voice what their heart said. They all felt the same way. Cold, and just as lifeless as their dead brothers. One man counted the pups they had managed to capture, five in total, all female. He tried to soothe the terrified beasts to no avail. They were gorgeous. Now however, they would be molded into Beings just as dark as the men had been molded themselves. They were to become the pets and protectors of the Goddess Queen Alitha’atbar. She already had thirty of the beasts that wandered her palace, killing any intruders whom the guards at the front gates did not allow in. However her lust for power was never quenched. With great power came great enemies. The Queen lived in constant fear of an attempt on her life, even though no one had ever dared try. The graves were dug and the dead buried. The hides and bones were wrought. The commander and his sons corpses went up in flames, as the lord demon commanded. Every man present held one hand to their heart and the other to the sky. They prayed for their commander. He was the only light they had known within the imperial Babylonian army, and he too was diminished. The men set off towards the oasis. The man caring for the cubs looked back at the scene of the battle. He felt as if there was something missing.
Amid the graves, burning flesh and what remained of the pride’s mutilated carcasses, he made out the shadow of yet another of the beasts. It was small and limping, another cub, but where did it come from? Another pride? No, they all stayed within one another’s territory, rarely imposing on one of their own species land. It must have escaped amid the chaos and confusion. The man did not tell his brothers of the remaining beast, he silently gave the lost cub his blessing, and prayed that it would find freedom and peace, as the men in the troop hoped to attain some day.
The cub watched the demons march off into the distance. Nothing remained for him. The blood was spilled. Pain vibrated throughout the land. His pain. His families pain. He wished to roar to the heavens, but knew it was not right. Not now. The demons still lurked, as did other creatures of the night, he did not have the power to defend himself. The cubs blood boiled. The cub vowed to be with his sisters and the ladies of his pride, and nothing would stand in his way. One demon above all the others had done this. He saw the demon astride his dark creature, heading off towards the oasis before all the others. Blood was spilled. More blood would be spilled in turn. The vicious cycle never ends in the desert, it simply resets. The cub limped off into the desert, staying near the oasis so that he may return when the demons had left. Their path had become his path. The cub possessed time, nothing more.
To be continued…