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Authors: Kracken

A Lion's Heart

BOOK: A Lion's Heart
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.

A Lion’s Heart

Copyright © 2014 by Della Boynton

Cover illustration by Della Boynton © 2014

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof, in any form.

Published by Bon Publishing Company

in association with Produx House, Corp.

P. O. Box 3847

Ft. Myers, Fl.33918


Kindle and Nook books by Kracken:

Taking in Strays



Ajay Kavanagh Detective series: Tapping Darkness, Fortune's Lightning, Foxtale’s Folly

Dark King Rising Series: Dark King Rising, Shattered Fates, Searching Souls, Burning Sacrifices


Printed works: The Angel Within, available through Bon Publishing. Taking in Strays available on







A Lion’s Heart





Chapter One

Silver eyes peered intently through the tall, brown grass of the savannah. The midday heat was becoming intense; almost too intense. In a very short time, hunting would be out of the question and every living thing, from the hunter to the hunted, would seek the sparse shade. Tamarind could not afford to lose his opportunity. His belly was empty. It had been too many days since he had feasted on a fresh kill with his pride.

Tamarind pushed down the heart ache. He also couldn't afford to be distracted. He didn't understand why Katze, the white haired leader of the pride, had suddenly driven him away. It was true that Tamarind was an orphan, taken in by a nursing female when he had been discovered wandering alone, but none of the others had treated him any differently than his foster pride mates. To suddenly have Katze look him over, smell him as if he had rolled in elephant dung, and then abruptly attack him, had been the shock of Tamarind's life. Tamarind had begged for an explanation, begged to stay, but all of his pleas had been ignored. Katze had sent Tamarind wandering the plains again, in the same dire straits as when he had been a motherless cub.

Tamarind sat on his haunches and scratched at a flea. His human torso flowed smoothly into the powerful legs of his lion lower body. The reddish brown fur started thin along his spine and then grew thicker lower down to the tufted brown tip of his long tail. His feet were paws with large, very sharp, claws. His hands were tipped in deadly claws as well and the palms were padded. A slightly curved spine and elbows that had angles more pronounced than a full human's, allowed Tamarind to run on all fours. The reddish brown hair on his head was well short of an adult’s full mane, but its shaggy appearance was a promise that it would soon mature like the rest of him. That promise wouldn’t be fulfilled if he starved to death first.

Tamarind had learned to hunt by watching the females. Actually doing it himself was proving far more difficult than he had imagined. His body was powerful, but he was still young and inexperienced. It took an entire pride of females to bring down prey large enough to fill a werelion's belly. Trying it alone was extremely dangerous.

Tamarind’s rounded lion ears turned to catch every sound. Sharp, tearing teeth worried at his lip. His upper body was bare. Nothing obscured his two tattoos. One was a flowing circular pattern around a honey colored nipple. The other was on his shoulder. In depicted the head of a lion in the center of a sun design; the symbol of his adopted clan. His thick lower fur covered his modesty. Clothing was not only unnecessary, but also impractical. It was foolish to wear things that jingled, flashed in the sun, or hampered his movements. The last thing that Tamarind needed at that moment was to be foolish. He needed luck, skill, and every advantage. He needed to move like a shadow in the tall grass of the savannah if he hoped to catch and kill his prey.

There! His ears swiveled to catch the sound. Something was struggling; something that could possibly turn into a much needed meal. Keeping low, Tamarind shot through the grass. His body stayed low to the ground as his eyes tried to pierce the grass up ahead. If he didn't hurry, another hunter might claim the prey.

Tamarind froze, nose twitching along with his tail. He could see a flopping, fat, plains hen up ahead and it was giving every sign of having a broken wing, but it was too easy, too unusual. Tamarind tried to catch any scent on the air, but it drifted lazily and in the wrong direction. Nothing on the savannah was free for the taking. His foster mother had reinforced that bit of wisdom, again and again, when her foster son had shown a penchant for sleeping, playing, and not caring much about where his food had come from. It was the first time that Tamarind considered that her advice might have had more than one meaning.

Tamarind's stomach growled and he hunched in a tight, nervous shape, muscles working and claws digging in and out of the ground in agitation. When the wind suddenly changed direction, bringing the smell of blood, hunger was too strong. Tamarind shot out of cover, took the space between him and the bird in two long strides, and grabbed the bird tightly as he sank his fangs into it.

Hot blood and juicy meat tasted like heaven. Tamarind ripped into the bird gleefully.

The ground suddenly erupted all around Tamarind, dirt and brown grass flying. Tamarind's hair trigger reflexes made him drop the bird and spring away, but something was snapping tight to one of his ankles and bringing him to a painful halt as figures sprang from the tall grass toward him. Tamarind spun and tried to free his ankle. He found a wire noose closed tightly there. In his panic he didn’t realize that another wire noose was landing over his head until it was pulled tight and it was constricting his throat.

“Don’t move, or I will snap your neck,” a voice warned.

The noose around Tamarind’s throat cut into flesh as it was pulled even tighter. His fingers tried to pull it free, but to no avail. The noose on his ankle pulled tight in the opposite direction, throwing him off balance.

Tamarind struggled again and felt both nooses cut deeper into his skin.

“Stupid beast! Do you want to die?” the voice swore in annoyance.

Tamarind looked about wildly for his tormentors and saw several werecheetahs leave their hiding places in the tall grass. Very tall and slim, they had spots on fur and skin and their hair was short and spiked on their heads. They walked upright and wore clothing and jewelry; their flowing robes had bold, colorful designs; and their necklaces were bright gold.

“Get the cage,” a werecheetah ordered.

The cage was made of bamboo and lying flat. The werecheetahs pulled it upright and attached its parts together with slim iron rods and chains with practiced proficiency. They ran the wire attached to Tamarind’s neck through one end and then simply dragged him into the small enclosure. Tamarind fought back in a final panic and the wire drew blood, but there was nothing that he could do to stop the inevitable short of strangling himself. The door of the cage closed and it was secured with heavy locks.

Tamarind crouched, panting in shock, ears laid back and eyes wide and dilated in fear. He had never been confined in his life.

“He’s a mute and ignorant beast,” a werecheetah complained in disgust. “We weren’t hunting for werelions. Why are we taking him?”

“Money is money,” another werecheetah replied.

The end of the noose had been let go and it loosened on Tamarind’s neck. He pulled it off and charged the bars, but his large clawed hands couldn't fit through the tight weave of the bamboo and his strength wasn’t great enough to break through them. The werecheetahs laughed at his efforts.

“He's dirty,” a werecheetah noticed with a frown, “and I think I see fleas.”

“He's young and strong, though,” another pointed out. He was wearing more gold than the others and seemed to be the leader. “A few meals, a bath, some manners beaten into him, and someone will gladly take him off our hands for a good price.”

“Not as much as a true lion, though,” the first grumbled.

The leader of the werecheetahs smiled, showing all of his needle sharp teeth. “Perhaps, but we might get the cost of the trip back to the city at the very least. That makes him worth the trouble. Go fetch the caravan.”



A clawed hand took hold of Shakra's tail. He snarled and snapped at the presumption, but his old friend, Li’Won Shang, glared back just as fiercely and warned, “Your warden will have my liver on a platter, if I let you go.”

“You are presuming that you, and my warden, have the right to give me orders,” Shakra retorted. He reminded him, “I am the prince of this land; you are only my body guard.”

Shang's nostrils flared in a show of anger at the slight, but he let go of his prince's tail and took a step back. “If that's all I am to you, then what are your orders, my Prince?”

Shakra was almost the were-lizard’s height. Werelizards were not known for their size, but Li’Won Shang had his chin tilted arrogantly and that seemed to add inches. Green scales covered most of his lower body. The rest was covered in green, shimmering skin that caught the afternoon sunlight in an eye aching sparkles. Dark eyes looked down a long nose and black spines that ran from the top of his head and down his neck twitched and fanned open as an indication of his deep anger with his charge. He wore long knives at his waist, but he hardly needed them with his dagger like claws and his prominent fangs. There were other breeds of werelizards, but Shang was an outcast from a clan he never talked about. Why he had chosen to settle in that backwater city of hide and wood, to protect its heir, no one knew, but he had long ago proven his worth and loyalty. He was owed a great deal for that loyalty, but Shakra wasn’t feeling grateful or respectful at the moment.

Shakra was a young werewolf that was lanky, all muscle and angles, and just growing into his neck ruff. His unusual coloring, dark chocolate fur with black on his legs, one hand, and on the tip of his tail, had generated foul rumors that his deceased mother had dallied with a hound, but only a fool who wanted death would ever make the accusation where Shakra could hear it. Though the werewolf was young, he was a fierce fighter, and Shang and his warden had trained him well. It was that fact that made his constant supervision much more hateful. He wasn't a cub. He was a young male who was feeling the heat of his new maturity and the need for independence.

“Stop sniffing for females and remember that this is a dangerous place for young princes!” Shang hissed. “If someone were to take you hostage-”

Shakra clenched a fist. It made the golden bands on his upper arm, his lower arm, and his wrist, tighten against bulging muscle. “Sniffing for females?” He ground out. “Warden Kol would like that, wouldn't he? He'd enjoy having cubs he could use as heirs instead of me!”

Shang cast a glance at the people walking about the city streets all around them. They were looking back at them both in turn, curious about what their prince was doing in such common surroundings. “Mate and make a cub, then, if that will free you.” Shang asked in a low voice. “Isn't that what you want?”

Shakra curled his lip, showing his sharp teeth. His blue eyes snapped fire. “I want peace, which is something my warden doesn't. I'm not going to leave him with a cub and free reign to try to take over our neighbors.” He growled low. “Besides... females don't interest me.”

Shang eyed him. “At your age? I would keep that quiet, if I were you. Pretend that you want to hump every female, if you want to keep your throne. Your warden can have you dismissed as heir if you are...”

Shakra snarled. “You can't even say it.”

“Can you?” Shang retorted.

“Li’Won Shang,” Shakra told his guard in a voice that had made many weres run for their lives. “I want you to return to the fortress. I am going to walk the city and see some of the things that Warden Kol wishes to keep hidden from me.”

“Hidden?” Shang snorted. “He keeps his position as long as you are alive. That is his only interest in keeping you sheltered.”

“Is that a warning, Shang?” Shakra wondered. “I reach my majority in a year. What will Warden Kol do then? Quietly pack his bags and hand over my throne?” Shakra doubted that very much. Kol had ruled in his stead since Shakra’s parents had died at the hands of bandits during a hunting excursion in the deep forest. Shakra had been a newly weaned baby at the time.

“I've trained you well enough for you to know the answer to that question already,” Shang snorted as if he were suddenly amused. “And, I suppose, if you are old enough to realize that truth, you are old enough to know your danger among your own people.”

“I do” Shakra assured him. “You didn't help raise a fool.”

“Raise you?” Shang grinned and it was alarming. “I was a young werelizard when I entered your household, too young to be your mother.”

“Not too young or too old to be a friend,” Shakra replied, beginning to regret his hot words of before.

“No, that you will always have,” Shang assured him. “Be careful, my Prince.”

Shakra nodded gravely and then walked away from his guard. It was... exhilarating. He wanted to run on all fours, race along the streets and the shops, and see everything at once, but he held himself in tight control and stayed on two feet, walking with as much dignity as his excitement would allow him.

The village, nestled between the large stone fortress and the thick forestland, was a maze of narrow streets and small courtyards. There was always a crowd and trade going on in every available free space. Navigating the noisy crowds made Shakra think of fast flowing streams filled with boulders. The flow had eddies and frustrating blockades of stalls, carts, and people.

Shakra bought a meat pastry and a mug of ale, watched a street show, and finally ended up in the most dangerous place of all, among the foreign traders in a street bazaar. It was definitely forbidden ground. This was the domain of the werecheetahs. They ran caravans between the cities, selling everything imaginable. They were well educated and very sophisticated compared to their rustic customers; their fashion set the standard for everyone else. If they began to wear arm bands, then so did everyone else. Lately, it had been colored silks and beaded leather clothes, something most weres didn’t need. Still, they had bought the things, as confining and as hampering as they were. Shakra liked the armbands himself, but he considered them beautiful and they didn't get in his way.

BOOK: A Lion's Heart
11.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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