Mynar had been travelling for days, following what few signs he could find of the men who had decimated his kingdom. Early on in his journey he’d discovered faint parallel ruts in the dusty ground leading northward from his kingdom. In some places the ruts had been almost completely washed away by the rain, but so far Mynar had always been able to pick up the trail again. It helps that the ruts were accompanied by the distinct smell of humans, a sharp, pungent sweaty scent that was easy enough to track.
There were other signs along the trail as well. One morning Mynar came across a large pile of dung, not more than a week old, that he knew had come from his pride. A few days later he found a pile of wildebeest bones, and one sniff told him that they’d been gnawed on by his friends and family. The biggest find of all, however, came more than three weeks into his journey when, after having lost the trail for nearly a day and a half and very nearly starting back for the last point when he’d been sure that he was going the right way, Mynar suddenly saw something glinting dully in the brush.
After sniffing at the air to make sure that there was no danger nearby, Mynar stalked over to the bush and gingerly nudged at the object with his paw. It rolled out onto the path, and he was suddenly able to see it for what it was: his crown.
Lions cannot weep, of course, but had they been able to, Mynar would have wept at that moment, although whether out of joy or sadness he could not have said. Kneeling in the dirt, he placed his crown on his head, and then rose to his full height. He did not believe that he deserved to be called king anymore, but the crown would serve as a reminder of the duty that he owed to his people. He knew that he must not let himself be claimed by despair and the desire to give up; although he had failed his people once and had proven that he was no true king, he was now they only hope that they had.
Mynar walked until his paws were blistered and his haunches ached with every step. He had been travelling day and night for over a month, pausing only briefly to hunt, sleeping only for an hour or two at a time during the hottest part of the day. He knew that he needed a proper rest, but he didn’t want to let the men who had taken his people get even further ahead of him. Truly, he was loathe to even take the time to eat or sleep, and he told himself that if he did not come upon the men and his pride soon, then he would only allow himself to hunt and rest every second day. When he came upon a great green lake near the edge of the Darkest Forest, though, he could not resist the cool shade of the trees or the quiet rippling of the water. There, he allowed himself to sit and take a brief respite from his journey.
It wasn’t long before Mynar fell into a deep sleep. When he awoke, the sun was slanting low across the lake, and the shadows had grown long. Mynar rose to his feet and gave his body a great shake, then, without quite knowing why, began to walk towards to water. He reached the lake’s edge and, gazing into the depths of the lake, suddenly felt himself overcome with fresh grief for everything he had lost.
His eyes downcast, his kingdom in ruins, Mynar pressed his heavy paw through the rippling surface of the cool shallows and down to its stone floor.
‘My people were once lead my a great and noble beast, and I no longer see his face in this reflection.’
Meanwhile, on the plains of Tabitha, Francine rested. There would be another time for war, she hoped; surely this couldn’t have been the last few hours of childish play that she and her brothers would have together. Surely they would run and scream and laugh in this field again before Adam married, and Owen left for Auldtown and Francine was expected to begin behaving like a proper young woman instead of a hoyden girl.