Lion’s Ambition

A small pup with pale pulp-green eyes lay in the shade on his side. The sun was at its pinnacle and the humidity made his paw pads sweat. He laid his head on his paws, his expression gloomy. His litterbrother, Snake, who was scrawnier than him and never won their mock battles was being shown how to kill a scorpion by their father, Terror. The pup watched through a narrowed gaze as Snake lunged for one of the insect’s large claws and missed.

            Behind him, a male meer with a dark scar slashed across his chest approached on stealthy paws. When he was crouched right beside the pup he whispered in his ear. “Something bothering you, Lion?”

            Lion jumped to his paws and whipped around to face him, heart racing. “Don’t do that! You scared me out of my pelt!”

            The male gave a low chuckle. “Why do you think I was named Quiet?”

            Should’ve been named Creepy, Lion shuddered inwardly. He didn’t know Quiet very well. He was older than his father and stayed to the outskirts of the group. Rumors had spread through the family that he earned his scar by killing another meer in battle and ripping his heart out while he was still breathing. Lion shrugged at Quiet and returned to watching his brother.

            Quiet settled behind him, Lion could feel his rank breath on the nape of his neck. He resisted the urge to turn around and snap at him, Lion was the dominant pair’s son, which made him more dominant than Quiet. Lion watched Snake take another swipe at the scorpion and miss, just as Suri stomped over to them. His mother slammed a graceful paw on the scorpion and glared at Terror. “What are you doing?” She hissed, tone low. “Snake’s too young to be learning this!” Then she tore the tail off the black insect, spit it out, pushed the body toward Snake, and then herded Lion’s litterbrother away. Terror scowled after her and stalked off to the other side of the clearing.

            Lion’s pelt bristled. Didn’t his parents care that he wasn’t around? “Is Little Lion missing his parents?” Quiet’s voice was silky in his ear.

            Lion sneered. “Hardly.” He growled. “It’s just that they spend all their time with Snake.”

            Quiet stood and padded around him so that he could look the pup in the eyes. “I think they’re making a mistake.”

            Lion sat up on his haunches and tilted his head. “What?” He squeaked in surprise. He had never heard anyone speak against something his parents did.

            “They are giving their attention to the wrong son.” Quiet said, his gaze intense. “You’re the strong one. Snake might be smart but you’re perceptive. Or you can be…”

            Lion dipped his head. “Yes, you’re right…” He murmured. “But how? How can I prove it to them, how can I be better?”

            Quiet smirked, showing his pointed teeth. “Let me train you, Little Lion, I can help you find your roar.” He offered eagerly.

            A new feeling sparked inside him, something he’d never felt before… ambition. He smiled back, gaze glowing with determination. He dug his claws into the soil. He regarded Quiet with a newfound respect. He would get Terror and Suri’s attention one way or another, and he chose Quiet’s way. It was two days until his guardian ceremony, and he was going to be Quiet’s understudy. And then someday, the desert would hear his roar.

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