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~3 MONTHS LATER~

The hyenas and lions had maintained peace in the Pride Lands since the promise, but Chuki, the mother of Jasiri was reaching an old age, and the time for Jasiri to succeed her as matriarch of the Heshima Clan had soon arrived.

“Jasiri, your majesty, your presence is requested inside your mother’s den,” spoke Askari, Chuki’s honorary guard.

Jasiri nodded. “Very well. Thank you Askari,” she replied. She entered the den to find her mother Chuki perched atop her usual location, a rock mound carved into the side of the cave by her ancestors when they had once lived in the Pride Lands years ago.

“Jasiri, I am nearing the end of my time as ruler of the Heshima Clan,” spoke Chuki. “No longer am I able to perform the duties of leading and protecting this clan. I am getting old, and I feel like now is the best time for you to succeed me in leadership of this clan.”

“I understand, mother,” Jasiri replied. “I am ready to lead the clan.”

“I know you will be an honorable leader to your fellow clan members,” Chuki said. “If you are ready to begin the matriarchal ceremony I shall order the guards to begin preparations and we will have it in the location as dictated by tradition. It will take place near the Kuwinda Gorge in the Outlands.”

“Very well, I shall be ready tonight,” said Jasiri. She bowed to her mother. “I only hope to lead the clan into as great of an era as you have done.”

“Had it not been for you, I wouldn’t be where I was today,” said Chuki. “You’ve been leading this clan much longer than you realized.”

Her mother’s words touched Jasiri’s heart. “Thank you,” she replied with gratitude.

“I have one more question for you Jasiri,” asked Chuki. “Who will you choose as a mate when you lead the clan? The matriarch’s mate must be one who stands by her side in the toughest of times, and protects her with his life. I trust that you will make a choice not only by these characteristics, but also by your heart. This is a choice for you alone to make, Jasiri.”

Jasiri paused, letting her paws draw circles in the ground in nervousness. “Well, I-“ she stuttered.

“There’s no need to hide your passion for Janja,” Chuki said. “It is evident by the looks in both of your eyes that you are mad for each other.” The old hyena smiled.

“But Janja is-he was-how could the clan accept a union between Janja and I?” asked Jasiri.

“If you love each other, there is no reason to be afraid of what anyone else might think. There is no more warring between the clans. Let the past be the past, Jasiri,” said Chuki. “I trust that the clan will respect your choice.”  

On cue, Askari shouted inside the den to Chuki and Jasiri. “Janja is requesting entry, your highness. Do you grant him permission?”

“Yes,” Chuki said.

Moments later, Janja entered the lair, smiling slyly. “Chukiana, it’s a pleasure to once again be in your presence,” he said. He noticed Jasiri and smiled but quickly turned his gaze back to the matriarch. “With your permission, may I speak to you alone?” he inquired.

“Yes, Janja,” said Chuki. Jasiri seemed confused. Why did Janja wish to speak with her mother alone?

Jasiri walked slowly out of the den. All was quiet until the young female was no longer within hearing distance.

“You may begin, Janja,” Chuki said.

“Chukiana, I love Jasiri,” said Janja. “I’ve known it ever since I met her that one night in the Outlands and confessed all my feelings to her. I-” Janja paused, pawing nervously on the ground. “Even though there is peace among the hyenas, I don’t want to be the one responsible for sparking any trouble between my clan and yours. If a union between Jasiri and I causes any hardship, I am willing to remain separated from her.”

Chuki paused to gather her thoughts. She raised herself up and looked down at the young male who she realized had matured in both body and mind.

“Janja, we all have our pasts,” she said. “Even I. But as I told Jasiri, you must follow your heart, not others. You can never be happy if you live your life always trying to please others.” Janja looked up at the matriarch, who, even in her old age, was clearly the dominant hyena. He couldn’t help but lower himself in respect of the aged female.

Chuki paced atop the ledge overlooking Janja. “Janja, if you truly love Jasiri and you want to be with this clan, I want you to know what is at stake. This clan isn’t a band of rogue males who do what they want whenever they want. Giving up your freedom to be with the future matriarch of the Heshima Clan is  a sacrifice. You must be aware that this clan fights to maintain its honor, respect, duty and loyalty. Janja, if you are willing to accept these then there will be no hardships on either side.”

She locked eyes with Janja, and her gaze intimidated him.

“Jasiri’s matriarchal ceremony will be at sundown near Kuwinda Gorge according to tradition,” Chuki continued. “Only members of the Heshima Clan are welcome, but if your allegiance lies to the future leader of this clan and both you and Jasiri have decided to accept one another for better or worse, then your unity will be acknowledged and you will become one of us.” Chuki hopped down from the ledge and met Janja eye-to-eye.

“It is only morning. You have the rest of the day to discuss this with both Jasiri and your clan and make your final decision.”

Janja nodded. “Very well,” he said, bowing once again to Chuki. “I will converse with both Jasiri and my clan and my decision will be made by sundown. Thank you for your advice.” 

Janja turned away from the matriarch and headed out of the den. Chuki watched as he strided out of the den and into the brightness of a new day. She smiled slightly, and gave a short hearty laugh.

“Young love,” she said aloud. “I remember those days. Haha! Oh well, only time will tell."

Chuki turned to face the wall, where her ancestors' claw marks and bloodstained paw prints graced nearly every inch of the rock.

“May history not repeat itself for my descendants,” she breathed, her eyes closed. “Hebu Jasiri na Janja kufanya maamuzi sahihi. Let them make the right decision."

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