The Francine Odysseys – Chapter 5 pt I

MYNAR

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.

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The Francine Odysseys – Chapter 3

MYNAR

As Mynar drove the herd of antelope towards the grassy ridge that marked the boundary of his kingdom, he imagine the expressions of happiness and relief that would light up the faces of his cubs and mate when they him and his prey come charging towards them. That thought spurred him on, and he welcomed the extra surge of power in his legs. He had been harrying and driving this herd for days now, ever since he’d found them far to the north, near the edge of the Darkest Forest, and he could feel his endurance waning. While he knew that the antelope were likely nearing the end of their stamina as well, he didn’t want to risk losing his prey when he was so close to home.

With one final burst of speed, he chased the antelope over the ridge and into his kingdom, but at that very moment, what should have been his moment of triumph, Mynar stopped short and sank to the ground, his legs giving way beneath him. He didn’t notice that the antelope were quickly escaping, fleeing across the dry, caked mud of the river banks, splashing through what little water remained to freedom on the far shore. He didn’t notice that clouds were gathering above him, signalling the first real rain in weeks and weeks. He didn’t even notice the hunger pains in his belly that had been plaguing him for what seemed like forever. His entire attention was captured by the land that lay in front of him.

Mynar’s kingdom, once the lush, bountiful home to a noble pride of lions, spread out in ruin and desolation before him.

There was nothing, and no one, left.

How long Mynar lay there in the grass he could not say. Looking out across his ravaged kingdom, he felt nothing. Or rather, he felt a cold shadow creeping across his heart, a fear and sadness so overwhelming that he could only begin to try to understand it.

His land was lost. His people were lost.

As the last light began to leave the sky, Mynar struggled shakily to his feet and began to survey the destruction, to look for survivors. The land had been burned; all that remained of his kingdom was charred earth and blackened tree stumps. Even the giant baobab, whose spreading branches had once offered shelter, and whose leaves had shaded the lions during council meetings, social activities, and afternoon naps, was gone.

A few bones were scattered across the earth, although it was difficult to tell if they belonged to his brethren or other beasts. As a soft, warm rain began to fall, Mynar made his way to the river’s edge, where he came across a sight that caused him to bow his head in grief – there, on the hard, dried mud of the bank lay the body of Rauman, his rival and sometime foe, with a spear sticking out of its side.

Pacing around Rauman, and leaning in to sniff at the spear’s shaft, Mynar growled one word:

“Man.”

Man had been here. Man had done this.

With all the tenderness of a mother caressing her newborn cub, Mynar placed a paw on Rauman’s flank, gripped the spear’s shaft in his teeth and slowly pulled it out. He flung the offending weapon into the river and watched as it disappeared downstream. Only then did he feel ready to begin preparing Rauman’s last rites.

Grabbing Rauman by the scruff of the neck, Mynar dragged him towards the river. There he let the water rush over the dead lion, washing the blood stains off his pelt. Once that was done, Mynar pulled him out of the river and towards the boundary ridge that he had so hopefully, so happily crossed only a few hours before. Laying Rauman’s body in the charred stubble that remained of grass that had once abundantly covered his land, Mynar, heedless of the rain that still fell, began to dig into the side of the ridge. He dug all night, as the sky began to clear above them and the moon and stars swung overhead in their journey across the sky. Just as the as the eastern sky was beginning to grow pink, Mynar sat back on his haunches and surveyed the grave he had just made. It would serve, he thought to himself; the hole wasn’t as deep as it should have been, but it was the best that he could do under the circumstances.

Mynar grabbed Rauman one last time and gently laid his body in the grave. Following the traditions of their people, Mynar pressed his nose against Rauman’s and then rubbed his cheek along Rauman’s flank. He then turned away from Rauman and lay prone, his front legs reaching east towards the sun.

“May the Lion That Crosses The Sky greet you every morning with the sun on his back, and may his dark sister greet you every night with the moon in her teeth. May the rains fall gently upon our grave, and may the grass grown green above you. May your journey to the Dream Lands be safe and swift, and may we meet again in the great hereafter. Rauman, my brother, I give your body to the Grassland Kingdom, so that you may nourish in the same way that it has loved and nourished you.”

The burial ritual complete, Mynar began to throw all the loose earth he had dug up during the night onto Rauman’s body. By the time the sun had reached its zenith, the burial mound was complete. Only then did Mynar allow himself to rest on his haunches, tip his head back and let out a roar of hopeless desperation to the sky above.

Mynar knew that he should rest; his body was exhausted after days and days spent herding the antelope, and his strength was nearly at an end. But he could not stay here; he could not rest in his desolate kingdom. So, with a stiffness and heaviness that he had never felt before, Mynar rose to his feet and began walking north. He didn’t know where he was going, or how he would get there; he only knew that he had to leave this place.

On the morrow, he decided, he would form a plan to find and save his people.

The Francine Oddyseys – Chapter 1

MYNAR

The fifth summer of Mynar’s reign had been a long, hot, brutal season. The grasslands that made up the lions’ kingdom had once been lush and verdant, but now they laid withered and brown. The river had dried up to a trickle, and its banks, whose cool mud the youngest cubs had once loved to roll in, were hot and dry after months of baking in the cruel sun. Worst of all, there was no food.

The gazelles had fled ages ago, loping northward in search of greener pastures. The other beasts had followed, one by one, until only the rabbits were left, sheltered from the sun in their warrens. But the rabbits were gone now, too; although their labyrinthine underground tunnels had spared them from the worst of the heat, they had run out of food too. And so it came to pass that one morning Mynar awoke to total silence – no chirping of birds, or scuttling of mice, or whirring of insects. At that moment, Mynar knew that he and his people were alone on the grasslands.

Mynar was a good king, and he knew that he must feed his pride or else die trying. That morning, when he realized how utterly desolated his kingdom was, he made a decision: he would journey as far as he needed to in order to find prey to hunt, and he would drive that prey back to his kingdom. Although he knew that what he was doing was dangerous, and not something to lightly undertaken, he also knew that it was his duty. He had spent five years living a life of royal ease, and now it was time to prove what he was made of. Now it was time to prove why he was king. He knew that if he did not venture out past the boundaries of his kingdom in search of food his people, his crown would grow too heavy to wear. If Mynar did nothing, he knew that he would have to give up the title of king to a better, more worthier lion.

He called his pride to an assembly beneath the massive baobab tree, and there, pacing regally before them, he told them of his plan. Most of them looked hopeful; some of them looked doubtful, and a few seemed downright disbelieving that he could ever succeed. Rauman, his oldest rival, had a mutinous glint in his eye, and Mynar knew that if he lingered too long away from his people, Rauman would try to usurp his position. Still, the face that held his attention the longest was that of his mate, Yvora. He could tell that she was trying to keep her composure, if not for him, then for their cubs, but fear and sadness were plain on her face in spite of the calm facade she wanted so desperately to maintain.

Later, when Mynar and Yvora were alone, he nuzzled the side of her face and then gently took the scruff of her neck between his great, sharp teeth, shaking his head softly from side to side.

“I know that you must go,” she sighed. “But that doesn’t mean that it must be easy for me.”

Mynar released her and gently butted his head against her side.

“It will not be easy for me either,” he murmured. “I will miss my mate and my children. But I know that if we do not find food soon, I may no longer have a mate and children.”

Wordlessly, Yvora sank to the ground and lay her head on her paws. Mynar stretched out beside her, and together they sat in silence for some minutes.

As the parents of young ones know, it is rare for a mother and father to be afforded time alone together. This is as true for lions as it is for humans, and it wasn’t long before the hazy afternoon quiet was broken by the sound of their two young cubs bounding towards them.

“Bring me back a whole antelope, father!” cried Kaura, ever the louder, more rambunctious sister, as she leapt onto Mynar’s back.

Mynar jumped to his feet, let out a low growl, and began to playfully thrash from side to side, trying to shake Kaura off.

“Do you really think that you could eat an entire antelope? Such a little thing as you? What a greedy cub you are!” he said, laughing as Kaura dug her claws in and gamely kept her seat.

“I do! I do think that I could eat an entire antelope, father!” laughed Kaura, finally releasing her grip and letting herself tumble to the ground. “At least, I could eat a very small antelope by myself.”

“And you, Teva,” Mynar said, turning to his younger daughter. “Is there anything that I should bring back for you?”

“Only yourself, father,” she said, her small face serious. “For how would we ever live with out you?”

“You could live without me more easily than you could live without food,” said Mynar, gently cuffing the back of his daughter’s head and making her smile. “But since you won’t choose for yourself, I will choose for you. A fat rabbit will make a fine meal for my sweet Teva, so that is what I will bring her.”

“Yes, please, father!” said Teva, her smile broadening into a grin. “A nice fat young rabbit with plenty of meat on its bones.”

It wasn’t long before the sky was growing pink and evening was creeping across the land. Mynar made the rounds of his pride, bidding each of his subjects, even Rauman, a fond farewell. Finally, he gave Yvora one last nuzzle and licked both Kaura and Teva on the tops of their small, fuzzy heads.

“Goodbye, my girls,” he said gravely. “Be kind to each other and care for your mother. Remember that you are the king’s daughters, and that it is your duty to help look after the pride. Remember that I love you.”

“We will, father,” they said in unison. Teva looked as if she might cry, and even Kaura’s face was serious, all traces of laughter gone from her eyes.

“Farewell, my king,” said Yvora, bowing low to her mate.

“Farewell, my queen,” responded Mynar, sinking into his own bow.

Their formal goodbyes done, Mynar drew himself up to his full height and, reaching a paw up to his head, knocked his crown to the ground. He watched it roll in the dust before settling near Yvora’s feet.

“My crown will only be a hindrance to me out there in the wild,” he told his family. “Keep it safe for me until I return.”

“Of course,” murmured his mate, bending down and delicately taking the crown with her teeth. “No lion shall wear this crown until our king returns.”

Mynar nodded once, then turned his back on his family and walked off into the deepening night.

The Francine Odysseys – Prologue

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Project: to write the books that Suzy, the heroine of Moonrise Kingdom, brought with her when she ran away.

The books are described in the video below.

Our first book will be The Francine Odysseys, by Gertrude Price

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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.

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