A Word to Readers

Dear Readers,
I am going away for some time and I will come back sometime in the middle of JANUARY. When I do, I will notify you.

I posted again on The Light.

Hi, I will post every Saturday from now on, but there might be a few exceptions. If so, I will notify you. The new post I have posted today will be continued every week on the same post. Notice that I have put the date on the top left hand corner. I will do so every week so that you know where you have left off.

At the same time, I would like to thank all of you faithful readers for encouraging me. Your encouragement has motivated me to publish a book. In fact, Dawn is going to be my first book. The prologue I posted on this blog is a rough draft of the book's prologue. I'll keep you posted on my progress, but I cannot reveal the details --Book Progress: Chapter 14

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Glade Spun from Gold


Leaves drift lazily through the warm air.

The sun glints on the floating shapes briefly,

Painting them in gold.

Petals dapple the floor of the clearing,

A carpet of flowing white.

Rays of golden sunlight sieve through the thick foliage above.

Flowers stretch their heads toward the sky,

Their petals each a drop of sun.

A circle of trees surround the glade,

Silent guardians.

Rustles in the leaves

Signal the approach of a thrush.

The lilting song of the sparrow and the rosy clouds gathering

Tell of the sun’s setting.

Ribbons of light touch the branches orange in the dying glow.

Colors blur into a haze of

Liquid red-orange,

As if the glade had been spun from a spool of sunlight.

Descriptive Paragraph
            Lush leaves swayed above and the thin branches of the willow dragged at the ground, ribbons of velvet, a curtain of foliage. Rising into the air, the rich, loamy aroma of the damp earth dispersed in the soft wind. The tall, wild stalks of grass dipped in the cool rush of air, the green leaves rustling gently and the bright flowers bobbing in the wind, brilliant splotches of color among the green foliage. The dense trees parted to reveal a rushing stream meandering through the woods; the crystal-clear water leaped into the air, each droplet a miniature sparkling, golden sun. Tinged orange, the sky above was a picturesque painting, the puffy, white clouds wisps of cotton candy. Streaks of red shot through the sky, smears of blood, and it looked as if the sky itself were bleeding. The sun, a golden disc of flame high in the sky, had begun to set. Bit by bit, the sun was being swallowed by the earth, engulfed completely. Rays of dying sun-light lit the verdant clearing one final time, bathing it in its incandescent glow, until the whole glade looked as if it were spun from a spool of golden thread. A single rustle shattered the silence, and a leaf drifted down lazily, zigzagging through the still air. As the ribbon of sunlight hit it, the leaf shone as bright as a jewel, coated in gold. But then, light slowly began to seep from the forest, as darkness eagerly slipped in to replace it. Lurking in the gloom, shadows elongated, looming in the swiftly dimming light, sinister. And night rose from its long slumber, still lethargic, but would soon bring upon darkness to the world. A shadow began to creep languidly over the leaf, and for a single moment, light and dark fought for dominance, but the battle did not last, for darkness prevailed. Shadows licked hungrily at it, devouring the leaf completely. The sun lingered and seemed to hover above the horizon for a heartbeat, and then was swallowed. Night had fallen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wings of Death

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. They belong to Ray Bradbury. At the same time, I have submitted this piece of writing as part of Sandra's Writing Workshop Hop (http://www.awriterweavesatale.com/2012/06/15/sandras-writing-workshop-hop-2/ and Jenn's Blog Hop#53: Endings.

             Piercing pain. Agony lancing through me, merciless and unforgiving. Digging deep into my flesh, serrated daggers ripping me apart. My throat tightens, the suffocating feeling in my lungs spreading, raging through my body like a deadly disease, one with no cure, while I claw at my throat futilely, in vain. Marked. For death. I cannot breathe; I cannot think. I do not wish to leave this beautiful world behind, and with it my family and friends. Misery engulfing me, I open my mouth to scream, in terror and desperation, but nothing comes out: a soundless scream. Fear fills my gaze, clouding my eyes until all I see, the only thing I see, is red. Crimson red: the color of blood. Stark horror closes in on me, cornering me, a vulture circling overhead and waiting patiently for death. As the wings of despair envelop me in their embrace, my mind begins to shut down, plunging me into a deep sleep, one that I will never wake from. The lacerating pain ebbs away, and the tight feeling in my chest ceases as I sink into unconsciousness. A moment later, a black wave reeking of death rises to claim me, but I resist, for I still have one final thing to do. Until I have finished, I will cling on to life. I must. With that decision, my mind drifts back, through time, and into a reverie…
            ... “Why?” I reiterated once more as the professor stared at me in a mixture of irritation and aggravation, “Why is snow white?”
            I had been sitting calmly by the window in painting class, astonished by the color of snow, the cold, powdery substance turning the whole world white. Snow. That word was new to my lips. A tornado of queries whirled in my mind as I reached out to touch the cool glass in awe. Why does it only come, carried by dark clouds on the rushing wind, in winter? Why, when brought into the warm atmosphere of a building, did it melt? And why was it white?
“What?! What type of question is that?” Anger sparked in his pale eyes, which were two oceans of nothingness, never questioning, never desiring to know more.
            “Yes, why? I would like to know, professor.” My innocent eyes locked with his, which seemed to annoy the professor furthermore.
“Clarisse,” he continued after a long stretch of silence, his voice dangerously calm, “I have reason to believe that you are—” he paused to think, putting emphasis on the word he spoke next, “—different. Perhaps we should arrange a little talk with your mother and father, and maybe a visit to the psychiatrist.”
“Different?” I echoed, toying the word in my mouth, “Different, but why, professor?”I added, inquisitive. Ignoring my inquiry, he strode out of the room, leaving the rest of the class to gape at me in a mixture of fear and repulsion. Repulsion. I wasn’t repulsive. I was simply different from the others, but that was all it took for me to be shunned, eluded by society.
Once again, my thoughts swing away from my first day at school to a more recent memory, one of a friend…
I had been watching him for some time now, for he was strangely different, as I was. He listened attentively to what others said, and he possessed the one thing I thought had been lost in time: compassion.  Additionally, he met others’ eyes and acknowledged them. There was something in his gaze that told me he was unlike any other firemen out there. He was unique.
So one day I approached him, the leaves swirling around my feet as the wind blew intricate patterns in the air and my white dress billowed out behind me. I halted instantly in my tracks as I realized I was only a few steps away from him and stood sizing him up, my shining dark eyes darting over him to stop, mesmerized, on the salamander on his arm. Vaguely, I heard him say hello, but I could not take my eyes off the phoenix disc and salamander, and so did not respond.
“Of course,” he spoke once more, “you’re our new neighbor, aren’t you?”
He seemed friendly enough, so I replied, “And you must be—” I dragged my gaze from the symbols, “—the fireman.” My voice dwindled to a whisper.
As we spoke, the man introduced himself as Guy Montag. We conversed about the details I had observed and the long ago firemen. When I left, I questioned him one final time, curious, “Are you happy?” He had no answer.
And now I slip into one last memory, my very last…
“This might hurt a bit, but it’ll help end your condition.” The man in the white coat spoke, stressing the word ‘condition.’ I didn’t ponder why he said ‘end,’ though it did sound a bit odd. Instead, nodding, I stared in fascination as he injected a milky liquid into my body. And that was when the pain began. Without thinking, I realized what it was too late: poison. Desperately, I started to thrash around, unable to bear the agony. Why? I repeated the question in my mind for the umpteenth time, until I was certain the word would be forever seared in my memory. Why?
As scenes from my life flash in my mind’s eye, I feel myself grow weaker and weaker. Soon, I will not be able to refuse the tempting wave of darkness, the serene wings of death. And when it comes, I will leave this world, forever, and slip into whatever lies ahead for me. Peace and calm flood my mind, and tranquility cocoons me. I am ready, I accept my fate. Out of the darkness, the oozing tide of black and nothingness towers above me, silent as an owl and giving off the rank scent of death. It plunges down, quick as an eagle, swift as lightning. This time, I know it will not miss its target. The wave crashes down at me, dark water swirling around me, tumbling and whirling, and the noise is deafening, the sonic ripple ravaging everything in its way. And in that single moment, I am carried off my feet and hurled into the oblivion and—
—silence. All is quiet. I am soaring through the blue sky, light as a feather and free as a bird. Such calm. Such peace. Clouds swirl around me, puffy white wisps of cotton, and the soft summer breeze brushes my face. Butterflies, reflecting the sunlight, flutter through the air, their wings a blur, and the sun, a golden disc of fire, shines high in the sky, casting out incandescent ribbons of light and illuminating the world. Pleasure and ecstasy flash through me. I feel the exhilaration of flying, gliding through the sky on silent wings, and as I dive down, I swoop into a fish, swimming in the crystal-clear, flowing waters. For a moment, I am the fish, enjoying the smooth flow of the river, and excitement courses through me. From nature I come, and to nature I return. The sun warming my face, I think: it is indeed paradise.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Egyptian Writing

This is an essay I did some time ago.

Egypt Written Language
Caitlyn Tjong
The Egyptian civilization flourished along the Nile River in the northeast corner of Africa around 3100 B.C.E. Grand festivals like the Opet Festival brought all of the different social groups together in dance and celebration, but in everyday life, these classes or groups were separated. The social classes began with the pharaoh on top, then government officials, priests, scribes, artisans, and last of all, peasants. The scribes’ legacy still lives on today through their writing, which recorded Egypt’s rich culture and monumental achievements, preserving Egypt’s legacy forever. The written language of the land of the pharaohs, along with scribes, hieroglyphs, and papyrus, helped Egypt’s rich culture and religion thrive today.
Scribes, pronounced “sesh” in Egyptian, were a vital part of the written language of Egypt and held revered  positions in Egyptian society. Thus, many ambitions of young boys were to be scribes for profession. Those  who trained to be scribes stayed in scribe school, a temple courtyard, for five years and began at the age of nine. A common saying to encourage these young students was that "jewelers and metalworkers choked in the heat of their furnaces; weavers had to put up with cramped conditions; while the scribe could look forward to freedom from taxes, authority, and immortality through his writings." Being a scribe then was a great honor, since they could look forward to freedom from taxes, authority, and live on through their writings. 
 Scribes used reed brushes with sharpened tips for precision writing. Pigments were made from various minerals and rocks, which gave the ink the hue needed. For example, charcoal created a deep black, red ocher created rose red, and blue and green minerals provided the scribes with shades of green and blue. The Egyptian scribes stored these tools that were so vital to writing in a handy box. They also kept a document box with their past writings for use if necessary. Scribes, who were also writers, accountants, engineers, and administrators, kept records and lists, calculated taxes, and paid wages. In addition, scribes were the ones who wrote the spells on the stone walls of a tomb to help the deceased reach the After Life. 
The Egyptians believed that whatever they wrote or painted came to life, so left missing parts in depictions of dangerous creatures, such as the snake. In preparation for a tomb, the craftsmen would carve or paint the hieroglyphs on the walls. When they had finished, the head scribe would check the work over to make sure all the writing was correct. A missing stroke could mean a completely different thing. 
Another use of writing was for communication in battle. Military leaders were first trained as scribes so they could understand urgent messages sent to them. The role of the scribe was very significant in ancient Egypt. They were revered and loved by the people, and played a major part in keeping the once-great civilization alive today. One even became pharaoh, and another High Priest of the Sun God. In the ancient times, the scribe was the breath of Egyptian society, and now, the stream of the lake of Egypt's legacy.
Hieroglyphs, the written language of Egypt, were prerequisite to Egypt’s culture. The word hieroglyph actually came from the Greek word for “sacred carving”, and represented groups of consonants. It was divided into three groups: namely logograms, signs that wrote out morphemes and each constituted a word or a meaningful part of a word that couldn't be divided into independent grammatical parts. Morphemes were minimal grammatical units of language. Phonograms, signs that represented one or more sounds, were the second. And determinatives, signs that denoted neither morphemes sound and helped meaningful groups of signs, the last. Egyptians believed that words were a gift of Thoth, a god of knowledge. For this reason, they call hieroglyphs “mdwt ntr”, god’s words. 
Hieroglyphs had over 700 different signs. It was kept complicated through the years because the scribes wanted to keep their status significant or high. If many people could master god’s words, the scribes would not be able to keep their special position. Reading and writing would be mundane. Hieroglyphs had multiple uses, carved or written on state monuments, temples, tombs, and religious papyri. It was written from left to right, right to left, and top to bottom. Later on, a faster form of this writing, hieratic, was invented. This fast-written version of hieroglyphs was used in letters, business contracts, stories, and was written only from right to left. An even later form of writing was Demotic, an even more rapid script. Scribes chose pictures of their script from the world around them. For example, the barn owl represented “m”. 
For many years, archeologists could not decipher this beautiful language, and Egypt’s literature and rich mythology were lost in the dark shadows. But then, a basalt stone was discovered, a simple slate that would forever change the world's knowledge of Egypt. The Rosetta stone had hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek writing on it. Jean Francis Champollion, a French scholar, was the first to realize the significance of the Rosetta stone. He cracked the mystery of Egyptian writing and was able to read Egyptian. The mist that shrouded Egypt’s writing was lifted and all around, archeologists could read Egypt’s rich literature and understand its meaning. Hieroglyphs helped preserve Egypt’s culture and religion, so that we better understand it today.
Papyrus, a triangular-stemmed reed that grew to be about 12 feet tall and flourished around the banks of the Nile, was also significant in Egyptian writing. The Cyprus Papyrus was made into one of the world’s first papers, Papyrus. First, the Egyptians would put strips of the plant’s inner pith in two layers, one horizontal and one vertical, on top of each other and applied pressure on it by placing stones or mallets on it. Then, it would be covered with linen. The pith strips would weld together in their own sap. Every since the discovery of Papyrus, around 3000 B.C.E., Egyptians wrote on papyrus instead of cotton, which they wrote on in the olden days. Papyrus was not only used for paper; it was also made into bats, rope, and baskets. 
The Papyrus Clump is an Egyptian symbol. It represents life and the marsh in which all life came from. In the beginning of the Old Kingdom, it was a symbol of Lower Egypt. Papyrus greatly influenced the Egyptians’ lives because papyrus was a quicker way for the Egyptians to write down their information and was how they were able to preserve their culture and religion.
Egypt’s rich culture and religion were preserved by its home's written language. Scribes were people who recorded information in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs were the writing system that was based on groups of consonants. Papyrus was the material that Egyptians wrote on and allowed them to preserve their religion and culture. Thanks to the writing system of Egypt, its legacy lives on today.         

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Egyptian Mythology and Religion

Egyptian mythology has always intrigued me, so this is a little research essay I have written about it.
     Flames leap into the air, dancing and twirling, as forests of turquoise materialize in the swirling mist.  Ferocious demons with heads of vicious lions and hair matted with blood loom out of the shadows in front of the barge, baring their teeth in snarls and flinging themselves into combat with the gods and goddesses swarming around it.  As the battle rages around the barge, brilliant, incandescent light radiates from a throne of pure fire upon which the sun god, Ra, sits calmly.  The crook and flail hang from his waist, and his loyal guardians fight around him.  Every night, it is the same, the exact same barge, the very raging battle, and the journey through the Duat.  Many wonders and feats of ancient Egypt, the echoes of its past, still exist centuries after the fall of the empire.  Egypt is still very much alive and so are her gods.  Egyptian mythology and religion, including the creation myth, Ma’at and Isfet, and the Afterlife, continue to intrigue the world.
Creation Myth
     The creation myth introduces the major gods and goddesses, explaining how the universes and all life came to be, from the tiniest ant to the dawn of the civilization of humans.  According to the creation myth, the world was just a vast void of never-ending water, Nun, in the beginning of time.  From its tumultuous, foaming waters, Atum, the first god, rose into being and created a mound of earth upon which he could stand on.  The self-created god, gazing at the endless expanse of blue, sneezed out Shu, the god of wind, and spat out Tefnut, the goddess of moist air.  When the newborn god and goddess became fully-grown, they married, producing Geb, the earth god, and Nut, the sky goddess.  Nut and Geb declared themselves husband and wife right after they grew up, but their happiness did not last.  Nut defied Ra, the sun god or Atum reincarnated, to give birth to her children.  As soon as Ra discovered what Nut had done, he ordered Shu to isolate Geb and Nut forever, so the air between the sky and earth was created.  Husband and wife had to stay away from each other, enduring the pain and Ra’s wrath for an eternity.
     Sunlight scorched the cracked, barren earth, the rays blinding.  Savage winds ravaged the land, kicking up dust in their wake, as parched riverbeds awaited the cool relief of water.  Sandstorms tore through the expanse of land, a fog that rolled in from the horizon.  It was earth as it used to be, without any creatures to inhabit it.  Ra, observing this from the heavens, called upon Khnum, the ram-headed god, to consult him about the matter.  After days of discussing, they finally came upon an idea.  Khnum collected clay and sculpted figurines from it.  Breathing life into the inept sculptures, the potter imparted a portion of his life force into the clay, and thus, humans were introduced to the world.
Ma’at and Isfet
     The very basis of the Egyptian belief system is Ma’at and Isfet. Ma’at is the goddess of truth, justice, and order, personified as a woman in a long, tight-fitting dress with ocher skin and an ostrich feather perched upon her head.  The goddess symbolizes the order of creation and balance, whereas Isfet is the opposite of all Ma’at stands for, chaos, evil, and injustice.  Everything in the world revolves around order and chaos.  If Ma’at prevails, then Isfet will fail.  As the story goes, it has been this way from the beginning of time, when Atum created order out of the primordial waters of chaos.  Ma’at must always be made out of Isfet, ensuring cosmic balance.  Pharaohs defended it; peasants strove to retain it; empires rose and fell to keep the cosmos in equilibrium.   
     The Egyptian Afterlife, including Duat and Aaru, is rich with mysteries, filled with mystical realms and arcane lands.  The Duat, a void below the mortal world, is the Egyptian Underworld, where Ra passes through on his reed barge every night to bring light to the world at dawn.  Torrid lakes of fire boil in the darkness.  Lion-headed monstrosities that bear names the living dare not speak gorge on blood, their matted fur shining crimson.  The River of Night flows eerily into the Underworld, its various cataracts churning the water to a foamy froth and the tributaries confusing those who enter.  Amid it all, the Hall of Justice stands, where a soul is judged after its journey through the Underworld.     
     After a deceased one dies, the myth tells us that its ba, everything that makes a human an individual, would leave the body and be carried away by the currents of the Duat.  Then, it would embark on a tough journey through the Underworld to arrive in the Hall of Judgment, where the last test the ba needs to take would take place.  If it failed, the soul would be obliterated, but if it passed, it could continue on to Aaru.  In the paradise, fertile land stretches to the horizon, where the sun is at its zenith, shining high in the sky, a ball of flame.  Eternal reed fields cover it, with abundant food and warm breezes.  The ba could live on in the Afterlife, welcomed by the sun’s loving embrace, the rays of luminescent light, warm caresses.
     Therefore, Egyptian religion and mythology has intensely fascinated the whole world. I am sure you will agree that its mystical creation myth, ideas of Isfet and Ma’at, and distinctive form of the Afterlife are forever engraved in the sands of time.  So next time you spot the statue of an Egyptian god or goddess, do not just pass it for a moldy relic, think of it as a primordial being that could once change the course of the universe.  Even though the ancient Egyptian civilization is long gone, its legacy, the remnants of a once-great empire, still lasts today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flames of Sacrifice

           I'm all sure you will agree that you are getting tired of Ivy and her story. Even I am, too. This is just a little myth I wrote, so we could have a little reprieve from those doves. Next post, I will be continuing The Light again, on the same post as usual.
           Long, long time ago, the lions wore pelts of dull, yellow fur and none knew of their courage and bravery that they are often symbolized for today. But the tigers wore glorious coats of pure orange, without a trace of their stripes. The lions were the banished creatures of the Pride, cursed to live as outcasts, for a crime long forgotten, until one day... 
           A young lion licked the fur of his friend, a lioness, clean. The lioness let out a weary sigh, eyes clouded, "You know, Blaze, every single day the tigers take away more of us for their sacrifices to Vuur, the god of fire. If it goes on, none of us will be left.”
           “But there is not anything we can do, Zia,” the lion’s voice hardened with anger. 
           “Yes, I know, I know, yet I feel as though we must do something!” Zia retorted.
           “Yet what? Kneel down in front of them and beg?” the golden-furred lion’s voice was bitter. “Last time they took my sister.” His voice dwindled to a whisper. The lioness ran her tail through his unkempt fur in an attempt to comfort him, but Blaze shook it off. “And they’re coming again tonight. It will be the full moon, and we will lose more of our friends and family. Or it could be us.” he exchanged a side glance with Zia. “We cannot hide forever.” Zia simply nodded sorrowfully, raising her head to gaze at the slowly-appearing stars.
Night fell quickly, the moon slipping into the sky and the stars twinkling brightly, luminous and beautiful. But it would be a day of blood and sacrifice. 
And soon it was to be the time for the Picking, when the tigers would come and choose two lions, one male and one female for the Sacrifice at the Sacred Volcanoes of Vuur.  
“It is time,” Zia prodded Blaze’s flank with an outstretched paw, silhouette traced in silver. Her close friend gave her a curt nod, his amber eyes dark with anxiety. The pale golden lioness nudged Blaze and he slowly got to his scrawny paws. Together they padded into the ragged circle of emaciated lions, each with terrified eyes fixed on the entrance. They stood side by side a little to the left, Zia’s heart thundering against her golden brown chest. Her luminous eyes were focused on the entrance of their home, an opening between two jagged rocks. The lioness’s breathing quickened as she heard paw steps and the crunch of dried grass under paw. Her heartbeat boomed in Zia’s ears, her every breath coarse and her rigid body betraying her unease. A moment later, a broad, orange head popped out of the entrance, eyes two narrow slits. It was followed by muscular shoulders and hefty paws with claws unsheathed. Eyes gleamed in the darkness; claws flashed white against the yellow. Another head followed the first, then another, and another. Sleek pelts glistened, the visitors well-fed unlike the lions, with every single rib showing. 
The tigers were there.
Zia stepped closer to Blaze, gulping and pressing her pelt against his as the inspectors padded into the clearing and glanced at the lions. It’s going to be all right, Blaze whispered. Zia just shook her head slightly, troubled. The lead tiger, the one with a scarred muzzle, passed by the first lioness, her mother, who was tipping her head up boldly and holding his gaze although her paws were trembling. Zia’s heart skipped a beat as the tigers halted in their tracks, eyes darting over her. Please, not her. Not my mother, the lioness pleaded. Please. She spotted her father stiffen, but luckily, the tiger’s eyes passed over her mother with indifference and carried on. “You!” the tiger snarled at a lioness bearing cubs. “Take her.” he motioned with his tail at the his companions. “NO!” a lion leaped out of the circle, screeching, "Please! She’s bearing my cubs!” A flicker of something dangerous danced in the tiger’s green eyes, and without warning, he lunged, savagely pulling the lion by his scruff, tearing at his chest fur and throwing him to his cohorts. “Enough! We will leave now.” He whipped his massive head around and prowled to the edge of the clearing. “These will have to do.”
“And if you ever, ever oppose us, the consequence would be death. You hear me, just like this,” The tiger wrenched a tiger cub peering from behind his mother’s back and with one blow, sent him sprawling. Then, he viciously tore out its throat, teeth glistening with blood. The little scrap of fur didn't even have a chance. The cub let out an eerie wail of pain, his body jerking in spasms, and his mother let out a shriek, rushing toward him. 
But it was already too late.
The poor cub took in a final breath, flanks heaving, and his ocher eyes glazed over, death washing over. Zia watched in horror as his body turned limp and his mother mourned beside him, letting out distraught screeches of loss. The ragged ring of lions stood quietly in silence, petrified in terror. The tigers glared around the clearing one last time and turned toward the opening to leave.
Despite what everything had happened, Zia couldn’t help but be relieved. At least none of her friends or family had perished or been chosen. What are you thinking?! She chided herself, they are all your kind. She shook her head silently. What have we become? What have the tigers turned us into? Guiltily, the lioness glanced away from the departing figures. Cold and uncaring creatures, those heartless with gaping, blackened, starving mouths where love and empathy once resided. We are as much monsters as they...
But then, suddenly, as if the gods had heard her unworthy thoughts, a tiger whipped around and growled, "This one is dead.” He used his long tail to point at the lifeless body of the lion whose mate had been chosen. He lay with his paws splayed out and a smear of blood above his eyes. The leader narrowed his eyes and ran his gaze over the remaining lions
to rest on Blaze.
The tiger's brilliant green gaze, dark as emeralds, bored into her friend, cold and calculating. Zia froze, eyes wide as moons, as he issued the order: "Take that one.” The lioness's mouth gaped, a tiny gasp issuing from her jaws. How can it be? Blaze cannot be chosen; he cannot! She would not allow the little gods and goddesses to punish her so; she would not allow them to steal from her her world. And so she prayed to them, pleading and promising them her paws, her pelt, her breath, her heart: take him, take her, take anyone but Blaze. Yet they did not heed her. They did not listen. There was all but another star in the early dawn skies for another wish left unheard — another scar in a land of little wounds.
She could do nothing.
She was nothing. 
I am nothing.
Yet Zia could not stand by and watch helplessly as her best friend was taken to be slaughtered. She pushed forward as they reached for her friend,” No! Take me instead!” The first tiger just flicked his tail, ignoring the pleading lioness. “Please!” Zia desperately searched his gaze for any signs of sympathy. She was only met with cold reproach, icy as the nights of winter. She glanced back at her friend, but he stood in shock, jaws gaping and eyes staring. “Blaze!” Zia darted forward. "No, Blaze, do something! Please!” He twisted around to look at her for the last time, eyes pools of sorrow and anguish. 
"I-I" Blaze rasped, utterly bewildered. Then he seemed to notice the concern and terror in her eyes and attempted to assuage her.
“Zia...” he began. "I may be gone, but life goes on. You taught me that when they took my sister.” He attempted a smile, but failed miserably. "It's okay," he whispered quietly.
A low growl came from behind, threatening. The tigers were becoming impatient, scraping the ground with their forepaws. And then the leader issued an order to one of his followers. A tiger, bristling with hostility, shouldered his way through the crowd and roughly shoved Blaze. Zia whipped around, but her friend shook his yellow head gently. “One more moment, please,” he begged the tiger. 
“No, we are leaving now! You come with me or I’ll kill you and your precious little friend.” 
“I’m coming,” Blaze snarled, and turned one last time. 
Zia muttered, "No...” They gazed into each other’s eyes for a heartbeat and his amber eyes told more than a million words, a mixture of agony and sadness. And then her friend was wrenched away. “No!” the lioness screeched and flung herself in the way. “No,” she murmured hoarsely. But before she could get into much more trouble, her mother pulled her aside, holding her down as they departed. Blaze shot a glance at her one last time and disappeared. “No!” Zia yowled at the twinkling sky, raising her head up and yelling her anger and sadness at the cold sky.
The next day, Zia woke up. And she smiled. The lioness just had a very amusing dream about her friend being chosen at the Picking and Blaze would want to know about it. She flipped over and stared, heart skipping a beat. The patch of stone where her friend always slept was empty, with no signs of a lion settling there at all. 
And then the horrible realization dawned to her: Blaze was gone, forever. He was to be sacrificed to the fire god. She would never feel the warmth of his fur or splash in the mud with him. He was taken. Never to be seen again. Zia despaired, putting her slender head on her mud-stained paws. She had tried to save him, grasping the tiger's hind leg with her forepaws. But it had been useless. She was useless.The lioness hung her head and sorrow swept through her, her paws leaden with guilt that she had not been able to help her friend.
But then she remembered something her father had once said to her: Persevere, always persevere, and never give up. Failure is not scary. Have faith in yourself and take the matter in your own paws. Zia looked up. That was it. She would go save Blaze herself! Pleading and begging would not help. She must take the problem to her own paws and have faith in herself. Instantly, her back straightened and she was once more alert and determined. 
Zia left immediately. She journeyed to the Sacred Volcanoes, passing tall grasses and sparse trees. Blaze would be sacrificed at noon, when the sun was at its zenith and the power of Vuur greatest. She must save him before then. Zia went without food or water, traveling for hours at a brisk pace, until she spotted the volcanoes, outlined in a dark gray, just ahead. She was almost there, but the sky had risen already and was inching up the sky. Just two hours left until the sacrifice.  She dashed up the volcano to the top, where all the tigers were for the sacred ritual. They were chanting a hymn, screeching and stomping their hind legs. In the middle of the tigers, surrounded and completely unharmed, were Blaze, the other lioness, and the other creatures of the Pride for sacrifice.
Zia crept up slowly, one paw at a time. The guards did not notice her, focused on the ritual. After all, they were the tigers, rulers of the Pride. No one, no matter what species, could ambush them. The supercilious brats! Zia spat. she began to map out a plan in her mind. But there are too many of them. Too many to fight. What should I do? She thought in dismay. Zia glanced around the volcano ledge she was crouched on. A few boulders and jagged rocks littered the place and smoke rose from the volcano in a swirling pattern. Tigers were all positioned a little below the boulders, eyes in narrow slits as they kept watch. Bubbling lava boiled down below in  temperature that would melt bone. Torrid flames danced around, sparks flying. A plan slowly began to form. A simple one, but which Zia hoped would work. She regretted dearly that she had not told anyone where she had gone. She could have persuaded someone to come with her, but then again, there might not have been enough time. The lioness shook her head to clear it and continued devising her plan, creeping toward the nearest boulder with her belly fur brushing the cool volcanic rock. Examining it, she nodded. The plan would work, but she would need to get Blaze and the others out fast. And she would have to go back down the volcano a little, to gather some things she would need. Turning, she slithered down and dashed back toward the green forest growing on the side. There would be vines there, and that was all she needed. She flashed a glimpse of the sky and realized that she had only around forty-five minutes left. Zia would have to hurry.
She raced down the volcano-side until she found vines of ivy, and peeled them off, fashioning them into a sort of rope. When she thought that it was long enough, Zia darted back up the volcano and put it around the rocks, making a huge circle with the boulders inside of it. Luckily, the ivy tendrils were long enough to make the rope. Finally she brought the two tips together where she had started. The rope was a little too small, but hopefully it would work. The lioness put both ends in her jaws and pulled backward, wrenching the rope. For a moment, all was silent and Zia thought that her plan had failed, but then there was a deafening rumble and the boulders began to roll down, crushing some of the guards who were caught unawares and creating a distraction. As the tigers turned to look at the rocks and dodge them, Zia bounded into their midst and nudged Blaze to his paws. He looked at her and drank in her scent, twining their tails together. “You came for me,” Blaze breathed. “Of course,” Zia replied. The contact lasted for just a heartbeat and they split up, racing toward their home. The birds and giraffes and all the other animals were also on the run. But then a fresh wave of tigers appeared, rushing at the escaping sacrifices. Some animals turned to fight, but most just fled. Zia raced forward and was suddenly face to face with  a tiger. She dodged as it swept  a massive paw at her and slashed her claws down the orange pelt. Claws reached for her neck and she had to rear up, matching the tiger’s blow for blow. Whipping around, she bit into its hind leg and the tiger screeched, dashing off. Zia turned around, flashing out a paw at a tiger and leaping on another to dig her claws in. The tiger bucked and rolled over in a desperate attempt to shake her off, but the lioness clung on tight. And then serrated fangs dug into her shoulder and snatched her off. A tiger with eyes glittering with hostility pinned her down with a long, curved claw. It snarled and raised its paws for the death blow and the lioness braced herself for the pain that would ensue. But it never came. She looked up to see Blaze baring his teeth at it and scoring his claws down the tiger’s back.
But they were losing. There simply were too many tigers. Battered and exhausted, Zia lashed out her hind legs at a hefty tiger, catching him in the head and he swung around, muzzle stained with blood. All of a sudden, she heard a battle cry and a line of lions, led by her father, streamed into the battle field. The lioness almost smiled and jerked her spine to the right as her opponent’s paws crashed down. She bit hard into his throat as he bent down and the tiger ripped himself away, backing off. 
Reaching her mother’s side, Zia asked, "How...” 
“I guessed where you went and persuaded the others to come. And we came just in time, I see.” her mother gasped between blows. 
The lioness glanced around the clearing. A brave bird who was pecking at a tiger’s eyes was swept away with one paw. It hurtled through the air and landed with a dull thud. It did not move. Her father and a group  of lions were being beaten back by a fresh wave of tigers and Blaze and a giraffe were ever closer to the volcano edge with every step. They were still losing.
Just then, when Zia wasn’t paying attention, a tiger slammed into her, pinning the lioness to a rock. She struggled vainly to free herself, but to no avail. Quickly all the others were either surrounded or pinned down by the tigers. There simply were too many and they were outnumbered greatly. 
The tiger leader strode out of the center of the tigers and snarled, "Since so many of the sacrifices evaded us, I’m sure that the fire god would not mind if we just used you and your petty, interfering lions.” He growled. And with that, he abruptly pushed his face into Zia’s. “This is all your fault so you will be the last to be thrown into the volcano mouth. You will die with the cries of the animals in your ears and die knowing that you killed them. And oh yes,” he continued with a malicious snarl, "every single lion will perish today. From now on, you will be obliterated, eradicated. Gone. Extinct.”
“You are mad!” Zia retorted, surprised that her voice was so calm. “The gods and goddesses will make sure you get your rightful punishment.” 
“Oh, I don’t think so,” the tiger’s voice was dangerously quiet, "especially when I am offering them you.”  He whisked around, his entire form bathed in red light and specks of foam flying out of his muzzle. His eyes shone with a wild light, crazed and blazing.
"Let it begin!”
All the animals were herded into a line, and Zia spotted her mother, father, and Blaze. It was all her fault. She should never have come, and now, she had endangered her entire species. Zia lowered her head in shame, letting out a sigh. A bird was first thrown into the flames, screeching in fear. Then was a lion cub, mewling for its mother, and Zia squeezed her amber eyes shut as it was launched into the torrid lava. And then she looked up again and found herself gazing into the brilliant yellow eyes of her mother. “Do not give up,” she mouthed as she stood bravely at the edge. “No!” the lioness yowled, thrashing to and fro as she tried to save her mother. But there was nothing she could do. Her mother was hurled down into the awaiting flames below. The smoke stung her eyes and the sorrow pierced her heart like a thorn. Do not give up, her mother had meowed. The lioness started struggling, flailing, and her paw caught something: a sharp stone that had broken off from one of the boulders. She gripped it in her paws, waiting for the right moment. The lead tiger was not yet in the right position... Her father was next. He turned and gave her one last nod, his eyes shining with pride. He was not upset at her;on the contrary, he was proud. The lioness, eyes trained on his face, gave him a tiny nod back. The tigers stepped up to throw him in, but he refused. With dignity, her father padded up to the edge, glanced down and... Zia could not bear on looking. She gazed at her dirty paws instead, and when she looked up, her father was gone, empty air where he once stood.  Then another lion paced forward, his face resolute. His eyes that had sparkled so many times with light-hearted laughter were calm and unblinking. 
It was Blaze.
He glanced at Zia with melancholy eyes, fur ruffled and glowing in the light. His chest was puffed up and he gazed  at her, seeming to say good bye. The two locked eyes, filled with grief and mingled with love, and Blaze shook his golden head slightly. Zia stood silently, watching, her fur flowing in the gentle breeze as he stepped forward and faced the volcano. And then the leader shifted, padding right in front of her, by the ledge. His eyes were cruel and distorted with anger and hatred. The leader snickered and waited, seeming to enjoy the ceremony. And at that moment, Zia knew what she had to do. She felt it in her heart, and she cast one final glance at Blaze, and bunched up her muscles.
Blaze was ready. He was ready to die. The red glow of the lava gave Zia a beautiful appearance, tinging her fur red-gold. Her amber eyes were worlds of sadness and were mesmerizing. A slight breeze ruffled her smooth, glistening fur, her tail flowing out behind her. At that moment, she was gorgeous, perfect. Then she turned to the mouth of the volcano. Puzzled, Blaze halted in his tracks and watched as she leaped, and in that moment between one breath and the next, as the world went silent and the gods granted a wish, realization dawned upon him. There must be something we can do, she had said. It was an echo, the sound of a hero made, a heart breaking, and a soft goodbye whispered into the night to the one you loved.
“No!” Blaze yowled, rushing forward. 
It was already too late. 
Zia stabbed the tiger leader with a razor-sharp stone. The tip dug into his chest, and she crashed into him, the momentum sending both tumbling into the volcano mouth. Blaze raced to the edge and frenziedly searched for a final glimpse of Zia. He spotted her gazing at him as she plummeted, and it was the last time Blaze saw Zia, her golden fur flowing around her. Then the whirling smoke and twirling flames engulfed her. 
“Zia!” he screeched, "You can’t leave me!” 
Throwing up his head, Blaze caterwauled to the sky. Yet there was no response, just the light of the full moon and of the icy stars above twinkling coldly. The quiet of a million tears falling, and shattering against the earth.
And in that silence, the sound of a heart breaking.

That night a tongue of flame rose from the mouth of the volcano and scorched the sky, searing stripes onto the remaining tigers. Shrieking, they fled the volcano, crying out in pain and misery, crying out for their once beautiful pelts that held the light, gone. And then the sun appeared in the midst of all the smoke and fire, the sun god, Suno. Suno had watched the sacrifice of Zia from the heavens and believed that the lions deserved a gift. He granted them their manes of sunlight and spread word of their courage and bravery. He then designated them as the rulers of the Pride. For the tigers’ crime, he banished them from Africa. Some said that they journeyed east toward nowaday India, but no one can say for certain.