In light of Mother's Day that so recently passed by, this is a story made to express the appreciation felt for the wonderful mothers of the world, who make sacrifice after sacrifice for their kids, and there may be no better way to represent the ferocity and fearlessness of a mother than through a lioness.

The Lioness

The air trembled with heat. Above, the sky shone clear and blue, the sun broiling mercilessly in the great expanse. An airless breeze stirred up a tall funnel of stinging sand. The earth was cracked and broken, shriveling under the glaring sunlight.

The Lioness endured the heat, knowing she must. The sun bore down upon her broad, golden shoulders, and the burning sand bit at her paws, but she continued through the lifeless, unforgiving place. In her mind's eye, she was thinking of her young cubs, nestled safely in the shadows of a spindly grove of trees. Her heart ached at the thought of leaving them behind, but she had no Pride to help her hunt and protect them, so the task fell to her alone. Starvation was not an option. She would never let her cubs feel hunger drag at their bellies and bones, nor would let them suffer such unrelenting heat.

Onward she went through the barren plains, squinting against the blinding sun, scenting the dry, tasteless air with her nose and tongue. Hunger rumbled deep in her gut, but she wouldn't allow it to consume her. She had to keep a clear head. Her throat was burning, her mouth dry. The implacable golden rays had swallowed up much of the water. The drought was here, and where there was drought, there was no prey. She would find no luck out in so desolate a place. However much she knew this, she searched the savannah until sunset turned the white grass red. Heavyhearted, she admitted defeat and made way for home. Anger and fear followed her every step; outrage for her failure, fear for her cubs.

Dazed from the baking afternoon, the Lioness was relieved to spy her tree grove in the darkening horizon. A fresh flood of energy touched her weary bones at the thought of reuniting with her precious young ones. How they must have missed her! How little they understood all this! She almost broke into a canter, her heart yearning for them. And that's when she smelled it: the pungent, aggressive stench of another lion. The fur rose along her spine and shoulders. Fear froze her blood. The scent was male, and it was fairly fresh. He was alone and close by. The wind whistled past her, carrying with it the terrified cries of her cubs.

Forgetting her hunger and exhaustion, she surged forward, pounding toward the grove with fire pumping through her veins. There he was, towering over the three little ones. The Lioness could see the harsh bones jutting against the male's pale fur. He was gaunt and mean and hungry. Just as he was preparing to lunge, the Lioness slammed onto his back, throwing him aside. A splitting roar tumbled from her throat, brimming with rage. Her claws sank into his thin hide, ripping deep. The male hissed in pain, bewildered but angry. He bucked her off and whirled around, his glowing amber eyes dark with bloodlust. The Lioness bared her fangs and snarled sharply, shifting so that she stood before her cubs. Her yellow eyes dared him to challenge them again.

The male barreled toward her, all lean muscle and buffeting golden mane. The Lioness rose to meet him, lashing with her huge, flat paws and scoring her claws through his cheek. His weight knocked her backward, and she was suddenly lying on her back, with her belly exposed. The male instinctively lunged for it, but the Lioness struck his chest with her hind legs and heaved him away. She rolled to her paws and led the attack this time. She rammed into his flank with a butt of her shoulders and aimed a painful bite to his throat. She nearly gagged on the thick mane, but her teeth reached flesh and she bit down with all the might in her jaw. His agonized roar set her whole frame vibrating. He ripped out of her grasp and stumbled away, ruffled and bleeding.

The Lioness charged again, and he recoiled from her, his eyes shining with fear. He clumsily scrambled away and fled from the grove, his mane waving and tail lashing. She waited until his scent had faded before she turned to her cubs.

They blinked at her, wide-eyed with astonishment. Then they raced to her, purring happily and bounding on their little paws. She knew they would be hungry, so she wearily settled into their nest and lay on her flank for them to suckle. But the cubs ignored her milk and found a place to curl up beside their mother's head. The biggest of them began to lap gently at her cheek, clearing away the dust and grit. Gradually, the other two joined in, licking her ears and nose and forehead with steady, soothing tongues. The Lioness breathed in their beautiful scents and purred deeply as she finally allowed herself to sleep.