☘ Helixagonal ☘ (#179815)
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User & ID: Peyt gen3hib pie #210442
Date Taken: 10/16/20
Written by the traveler host
Mazzikim had left her home, searching for this Iberar, the one who could teach her to free the cub whispers from the cave.
She had traveled very far, and it was nearly dark when she had approached the acacia forest. Through her raven she could see the massive trees and the glow from fireflies, making the forest sparkle and glow. The forest felt like it was draped in magic, but more like it was coming from deep within, and not the forest itself. Her raven was sent ahead to search for a place to rest for the night, and any signs of other lions.
While she waited, she heard footsteps approach.
"Hello? Who's there?" The lioness questioned, sniffing the air. She heard no answer, only a large creature breathing and it tasting the air between them.
Come back she called to her raven.
"You smell like him. Him and death. They go together though, dont they?" A warm voice said the words, but Mazzikim could feel the bitter ice in it as well. She could feel the creature circle her, hear large wings ruffling against eachother, and she could feel a supernatural heat coming from it. It wasnt unbearable, but it made her feel like when she gets to sunbathe. It made her drowsy.
Mazzikim was silent. Does it mean fodder? Could this be who she was looking for?
Mazzikim let the creature circle her, and remembered what fodder had taught her. She took a deep breath, and began to try and see this creature's whisper. She heard a low chuckle, and the creature stopped its pacing.
"I could stay still, if that makes it easier," it sounded like it was smiling.
If Mazzikim could go blind again, now would've been the time. It was bright, a blinding golden whisper, and Mazzikim realizes the warmth emanating from the creature was in fact from its whisper.
A sharp caw broke Mazzikim's concentration, and she lost sight of it. Her raven had returned, and she could see through his eyes once more.
The creature was actually a large winged lioness. She was a rich hibiscus color, with black spots, golden markings, and large spots of piebald markings. Half of her face was white because of it. She had celestial dust pouring from her eyes and rising off of her back. Mazzikim recognized it as the lioness's whisper itself.
"You must be Iberar ," Mazzikim said quietly.
"Hmm," the winged lioness tilted her head, seemingly displeased. "He told you about me, did he? For what? Does he have more whispers for me to take? Of course he does, plus all the ones I couldn't bring with me last time. He could just stop killing them, you know. Bring me the cubs before they die for once. He has the right idea, I suppose, sparing the cubs from the pain of a death in the wastelands. But would it kill him to spare one? Just once? Send me a cub to care for?" Iberar huffed, shaking her head and pacing once more.
"He spared me," Mazzikim whispered quietly. Fodder didnt mention Iberar's distaste for him. Maybe convincing her to teach Mazzikim would be harder than she thought.
Iberar stopped, and turned her head back towards the lioness and her raven.
"Did he, now? What was wrong with you? Or better yet, what wasn't wrong with you? If he truly spared you," Iberar questioned, curious at what made this one worthy of life, when so many had died in that cave. The one that reeked of blood and death, with bones and bodies scattered everywhere. The one full of so many tiny whispers, their small faces void of hope and happiness, in what seemed a permanent slumber. Dull from decades of wasting away in the cave. The one that broke her, when she couldnt take them all with her. Menhit had told her that she is just one lioness after all, she cannot save every whisper. It did not make her feel any better, however. With her queenly duties she has been unable to return to the cave, failing to help the little whispers forgotten by so many.
"Nothing. I was healthy, weaned, but blind. He told me I could leave if I wanted, but I chose to stay. I wanted to learn about him. About the magic that called me to the cave," Mazzikim began to explain, and Iberar seemed to release the tension she had held in her body, relaxing more and more as Mazzikim explained the rest of her childhood to her.
It was truly dark by the time Mazzikim had explained everything to Iberar. Her travels to all of the prides, learning so much, and still craving to learn more.
"You wish to learn how to do what I do? To take the souls of the lost to the celestial realm, so that they may be reuinited with their families and memories?" Iberar couldnt hide the excitement in her voice, but there was pain in it too, "I can try to teach you more, but know this is an exhausting path. Whispers will come to you," she paused, her voice cracking, "and sometimes you wont be able to take them with you."
"I understand. It seems like it is a lot on you, and I could take the whispers from the cave to where they belong," Mazzikim took a step forward, giving the queen a pleading look "please, let me help them."
"You... Would free them from the cave? Send them home?" Iberar's voice waivered, and Mazzikim could see through the raven that small tears were falling from Iberar's face, catching bits of the dust from her whisper and leaving drops of glowing gold at her feet. After a few shakey breaths, Iberar cleared her throat. "I will teach you. Follow me."
Iberar brought Mazzikim and her companion to her pride. Large branches and roots from the trees weaved together to create nearly solid walls, secluding the pride and keeping it safe from outside dangers. Iberar led them to a large gap between two branches, and squeezed through before helping Mazzikim through as well. The raven flew over the top of the branches and gave Mazzikim a better view of the whole pride layout.
It was a large area, enclosed by the walls of brances. There were a few dens formed by more walls, and a large watering hole in the center of the pridelands. Suprisingly, other animals seemed welcome here, with no worries of becoming lunch. Cheetah cubs wrestled with lion cubs, an elephant calf rolled in the mud near the watering hole with a primal lioness, and dik diks seemed to be playing tag with the dubs who weren't weaned yet.
"I know it's not how most prides work, but any animal in our dens are off limits. If you are hungry, speak to a huntress, and she will give you a carcass. We only take what is necessary to feed ourselves, and the rest are free to visit and stay for a while," Iberar explained. Once Mazzikim had time to take it all in, Iberar brought her to a Den. "Everyone, this is Mazzikim. She's here to learn some things, and then she'll be on her way."
"A traveler? Oo!! Tell me something you've seen!"
"Have you seen anything cool?"
"Hey, I wanna hear it first!"
"No, I saw her come in first!"
A loud roar silenced the bickering cubs that were wrestling at Mazzikim's feet. An older ferus approached them and gave the cubs a look that made them scatter.
"Apologies, you know how they get around travelers," the ferus laughed to Iberar, "it is nice to meet you, Mazzikim," she bowed her head before returning to her space in the den, rounding up the unruly cubs and forcing them to take baths.
"We used to get travelers often, but I have been too busy to be a good host lately. For you, I made an exception," Iberar winked, hoping the raven saw it so Mazzikim did as well. "We can begin in the morning, for now get some rest." Iberar bowed her head and left the den.
Mazzikim settled in for the night, after being brought a few small carcasses by a huntress-in-training. She drifted off quickly with a full stomach.
Mazzikim awoke the next morning, and felt the sunlight warming her skin. She waited in the den for a while, wondering if Iberar would come get her. By mid-day, she was hungry and decided to leave the den, hoping to find a huntress to give her a meal.
Eventually she came upon an old, heavily scarred lioness. She approached her cautiously, "Excuse me, are you a huntress? I'm visiting, and Iberar told me to come find one if I need a meal, since the creatures wandering the dens are off limits."
The lioness have a hoarse chuckle, "honey, my huntin days are nearly over. But I know where the food's kept, c'mere." The lioness led Mazzikim to a smaller den and disappeared inside. Once she returned, she had an antelope carcass for her to enjoy. "My name is Kenzie. I was queen to the previous king, Deeks. Iberar told me to let you sleep in, as she had some business to attend to. She'll be back before dusk."
Mazzikim enjoyed her meal, listening to the old lioness ramble on about the pride, who gets on her nerves, who needs more training, and just general old lady complaints.
"If you dont mind me asking, do you know how Iberar got the way she is? I mean, she certainly is different," Mazzikim interrupted, eager to know what magic turned the leader into what she is. Kenzie sighed, and looked saddened by the memories the question had brought up.
"Iberar was brought to us as a cub. Deeks was still young king then, but he was so tired. My love was a gentle and kind ruler, but I think it was all too much for him. He had taken in Iberar and within a few months told me he wanted her to inherit the pride when he died. She was strong and powerful even just after weaning, and he quickly taught her how to be merciful and appreciate all life, no matter how small." Small tears lined her eyes as she cleared her throat, "Iberar was rebellious however, always wanting to learn more. She was too young to shadow the hunting parties so she went out on her own one night. Deeks had noticed she was missing and went searching for her. All he found was her small body, crumpled and mauled farther from our home than she should have been. We all grieved for her, our little heir, taken from us too soon. But not Deeks. He remembered Menhit, from the celestial kingdom. He had helped her greatly and she owed him big time in my opinion."
The lioness sighed, "long story short, Menhit gave Iberar back to us, but took Deeks in return. We had a few years together, but not nearly as much time as we would've. Menhit blessed Iberar with magic to be able to walk the celestial realm and our mortal world. Deeks spent a lot, too much if you ask me, of his remaining days teaching Iberar to be as kind as possible while still protecting those who deserve it. One day he came home from training and said she had grabbed a whisper right out of a cub as it starved to death with its mother. August was a hard time, you know. Not many creatures had food. Deeks said Iberar had carried the cub's whisper all the way back to the celestial realm, returned, and then walked the mother there as well. He announced Iberar as the new Queen and retired that night." Kenzie sighed, not seeming to want to talk more.
Mazzikim was suprised. Iberar had died and was returned by Menhit herself? It makes sense now why she is so protective of cubs and their whispers, and why she is not totally pleased with Fodder and his cave. She remembered how Poiwei had said whisper magic was a life for a life, and knows that it was not Menhit being cruel, but Deeks making a sacrifice to bring his adoptive daughter home. She was unsure if Kenzie would find any comfort in this knowledge however, and decided it best to not mention it.
"Thank you for your time, and the meal," Mazzikim bowed her head, and returned to the den to wait for Iberar's return. She only had to wait a few more hours, however, before the Queen popped her head in.
"Oh, good, you're still here. I'm sorry about the wait, I like to join the hunting parties every now and then. Keeps me from only having doom and gloom around me" Iberar gave a small smile. Speaking of doom and gloom, that is why Mazzikim is here. "To begin doing what I do, you need to work on seeing whispers. You have a good focus when you concentrate, but in order to take them to the celestial realm you're gonna need to be able to fight off things that want the whispers while still seeing them. This," the Queen lifted one of her wings as if she was now showing someone, "little gal has agreed to wait until you are ready to go home." Mazzikim took a deep breath and focused until she saw the little whisper standing next to Iberar. She seemed to notice Mazzikim could see her, and smiled before approaching her and giving a gentle head rub that sent shivers down Mazzikim's spine.
"You need to be able to see them with no effort. To walk through prides and see the whispers there as if they were just another lion in the pride. Then we will work on it in combat," Iberar smiled, excited to spar with this lioness in the future.
A few days had passed, and Mazzikim had already excelled much faster than Iberar expected. "You've learned much from Poiwe. I'm sad I didn't get to meet her," Iberar had mentioned once during training, impressed by her knowledge of whispers already. Iberar had the little whisper hide around the pride all day, and it would come out and pounce at Mazzikim and her raven once in a while, to test if she could see her without trying yet. Occasionally Mazzikim would jump and playfully swipe at the cub, until it was every time. Mazzikim would walk past the whisper and flick her tail towards her, letting her know she's been spotted.
"Aw no fair! It was funner when you couldn't see me. I felt sneaky," the small whisper protested, getting low to the ground as if she was sneaking up on something. Iberar chuckled heartily at the small cub's frustration.
"This just means you're closer to going home little one," Mazzikim said proudly. She could do this.
"Oh? Am I?" The cub tilted her head with a mischievous smile, and Mazzikim fell to the ground with a loud thud. Iberar was smiling, pinning her to the ground.
"Phase 2. Where is she?" Iberar panted.
"I-i dont know. You cant just tackle me, I'm blind" Mazzikim huffed, standing up and grooming the dust off her side.
"Oh, dont give me that. You do very well for yourself even with tha-" Iberar was cut off as she was flung on her back with a playful growl from Mazzikim.
"What? I thought we were on phase two!" Mazzikim laughed "Come on!"
The two wrestled for the rest of the day, and eventually the end of the week. Mazzikim had to focus on keeping Iberar off of her while also calling out where the cub's whisper was. It was difficult at first, but Mazzikim quickly could do it no problem. Phase 3 of the training was now with Iberar trying to catch the whisper and Mazzikim playing a game of keep-away.
The two lionesses had become close friends during the time Mazzikim had been here, and they started to wrestle again while the cub's whisper darting under their paws,
"Come on, Mazzi! Dont step on my tail!"
"Then don't," Mazzikim shoved Iberar out of the way, and grabbed the whisper in her mouth, tossing her to the side, "get in the way!"
Iberar stopped, barely able to catch her breath.
"Honestly, if you can see her even while fending me off? You're ready for the journey. Get some rest, we'll head out in the morning." Iberar gasped, before leaving for the night
That night, Mazzikim was awoken by the dim glow of the cub whisper crawling into the den.
"Mazzi?" She whispered, shoving her small face in the face of the raven.
"Mm?" Mazzikim rolled over, facing the small blue cub.
"What if I don't want to leave?" The whisper sounded nervous.
"What? What are you talking about?" Mazzikim sat up, worried, "you can't stay here." Why wouldnt the cub want to go? And why wait until now to say something? She was so close to finishing her training, she needed to take her to the celestial realm.
"Well..I-I want to stay with you longer. I want to travel with you. Please? Please please please?" The whisper begged, stomping her small feet, though they made no sound.
"What does Ibe say?" Mazzikim asked. She sighed and broke the heavy silence, "Does she even know?"
"No," the cub turned her head away, "I was hoping you'd ask her."
Mazzikim sighed deeply. She wouldn't mind the cub tagging along, but she was worried how Iberar would feel.
"I'll ask her in the morning. Now may I sleep?" Mazzikim huffed and rolled over, masking her worry.
"Yes!! Thank you thank you thank yo-" Mazzikim cut the cub off before she had to hear a million more.
"Sleep. Please." Mazzikim groaned, and slowly the blue glow left the den.
"Mazzi. Are you up?" Iberar whispered, gently pawing at the lioness's shoulder.
"Did I oversleep? Are we leaving?" Mazzikim asked with a stretch, giving herself a quick groom after. There were small specks of morning light peeking into the den.
"We would be. But it seems I have lost the little one," Iberar said nervously. "Have you seen her?"
Mazzikim remembered the night before, and how the cub had pleaded with her.
"Actually...she may be hiding. She wished to stay with me, and join me on my travels," Mazzikim said gently, worried how she'd respond.
"What? No. She HAS to go home. I will not let her be sucked up by that cave. I refuse," Iberar was panicked, darting out of the den to look for the small whisper.
"Ibe, wait!" Mazzikim chased after her, trying to calm the winged lioness down. "Iberar, please," she ran in front of Iberar, stopping her from going further, "I will keep her safe. She will not get stuck in the cave. I promise you. Teach me how to get to the celestial realm and I will take all of the cub whispers there. Including her." Mazzikim nodded in the direction of a bush, and Iberar could see the faint blue glow through the leaves.
Iberar sighed and tilted her head back, closing her eyes in thought. "Do you promise?" She asked, voice cracking, "I can't let her get stuck in the cave, Mazzi. She has to go home." Iberar sniffled, and looked at Mazzikim, needing to hear it one more time.
"I promise," Mazzikim repeated.
With a deep sigh, Iberar nodded and cleared her throat. "All right. First time in a while I take a trip without a whisper, but let's go," Iberar headed out to the edge of the pride's territory and turned to wait for Mazzikim to follow.
It was a long journey. There were demons and creatures along the way, but Iberar explained they were passive unless they're accompanied by a whisper. It's not incredibly dangerous, but Iberar explained its much like fending off a pack of hyenas who want to take your meal. Once you fend off enough of them, the rest fall in line.
She explained the dangers of the celestial kingdom itself, too. About how the kingdom had crumbled not too long ago, and some whispers had fallen through it. Menhit has since repaired a lot of the damage, but it's important to still watch for so that Mazzikim doesnt lose any of her companions when she takes this journey later.
Eventually they reached their destination. It was beautiful and Mazzikim could see many whispers walking around.
"IBE!" A loud and deep voice called, and Mazzikim saw a lion rushing up to greet them. He gave Iberar a gentle headbutt with a throaty chuckle. "Who's your friend? You don't bring the living with you."
Iberar smiled as she introduced the two, "Deeks, this is Mazzikim! I'm showing her how to get here so she can help with bringing more lions home, where they belong."
"Hmm, well it was nice to meet you!" Deeks bowed his head and trodded off.
"Oh, uh hello and goodbye, I guess?" Mazzikim mumbled with a nervous laugh.
"Dont take it personally, he gives me small greetings and then runs off each time. I think he's just checking for Kenzie each time I come up." Iberar shrugged. "When you bring whispers up here you can just leave them here. Someone who knows them will come get them, or if you have a whisper that was truly forgotten, Deeks will come take them and set them aside for me to give to lionesses for rebirth. I do it every now and then, to give them a second chance at life."
Mazzikim was curious about this process, but supposed it was much like the reverse of their trek. Taking a whisper to the pride instead of from the pride. Iberar showed Mazzikim around a little, and bowed her head once a familiar face approached. Poiwei had greeted the pair, and asked to speak to Mazzikim alone.
Mazzikim filled Poiwei in on what she had learned, and what Iberar has taught her. Poiwei was proud of her pupil, and told her she looked forward to seeing her again regularly. They said their goodbyes, and Iberar and Mazzikim started the journey home.
The small whisper was waiting for them when they arrived. "Was it pretty? Did you get there? Are you done with training?" The little one seemed full of questions.
"Yes, yes, and yes, for now" Mazzikim grinned.
"You could've known all of that if you would have come," Iberar said plainly. "There's nothing more I can teach you, Mazzi." She said with a sigh, turning to Mazzikim.
"Thank you, Iberar. I promise to do everything I can to take the whispers where they belong." Mazzi paused and looked down at the whisper sitting at their feet. "I will take care of her, too. You have my word."
"Well, let's at least get you fed before you head out again," Iberar sighed, heading to the food stores. After a large meal and a quick bath, Mazzikim had decided to head home. She said her goodbyes, and waited for the whisper to finish hers.
"You be good for her? Alright? Stay out of his cave, my love," Iberar rested her forehead against the small whisper's head, and they stayed like that for a few moments.
"I promise, mom," the cub rubbed her forehead against Iberars, in a sad goodbye.
Mazzikim was shocked. No wonder Iberar was so adamant on this cub's safety.
"Can I go now?" The cub asked, seeming to snap out of the gloom.
Iberar laughed, wiping tears out of her eyes. "Yes, you may leave now. I expect to see you with your grandpaw soon! You hear me?" She called after the cub, already bouncing to Mazzikim's side.
"She'll be safe with me!" Mazzikim called to the queen, both sharing one final goodbye before she slipped through the branches and headed for her next destination, little whisper padding along by her side.