All's Fair In Lion And War by Krystal Shannan


1





SAUL





It’d been a year since Saul had found himself in this new world of snow and ice and frozen beauty. It wasn’t that he liked it so much more than Reylea, it was that all his memories of earth were new.

It was nice to have something else to focus on instead of everywhere he looked being a constant reminder of the life he’d lost.

The family he’d lost.

He watched reindeer ahead of him from his hidden place inside a thick bluff of trees and scrub. He was crouched in the snow, belly almost touching. There were five deer and they ambled along as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Didn’t know a Reylean lion was waiting for them at the bottom of the hill.

They moved a little closer.

A little more out into the open clearing lit only by moonlight and the colors of the northern lights swirling like neon finger paint in the sky.

They were headed toward his clump of camouflage.

Kann wasn’t with him this evening. The other lion had opted to hunt alone tonight. Penny had delivered her four young back in October and hunting was the only break the young father got. The peace and quiet was good for him.

A tree branch snapped, drawing his attention from his roaming thoughts.

His lion licked its chops and faithfully watched the reindeer walk closer. They were almost within the range he could sprint, but not quite. He needed to grab at least two deer tonight. One for his belly and one to butcher for the tribe to split. It would be a long night at this rate, but he’d sleep most of the day. Maintenance was caught up on most of the cabins and it was the middle of winter. There wasn’t much to do right now other than hunt and chop firewood.

Pregnant women had required a lot of food, but nursing women with babies were a whole new level of hunger.

Naomi had her three little ones back at the end of last summer. Now Penny and Kann had a cabin full of three-month old babies.

The tribe had been blessed with seven children so far. And everyone took their turn rotating through for rocking and watching and holding them, himself included. He loved his evenings as a babysitter.

He’d spent his night last night rocking and singing the songs his mother had taught him so many years ago to Penny’s young. His rotation in Naomi’s house was tomorrow night. Then he’d have a few days off before he was on duty again. It helped so that everyone got mostly good nights of sleep, including the mothers.

A shot rang out through the night, out of place, and ruining Saul’s peaceful night.

Saul twitched, but didn’t move a muscle even though his heart thundered wildly in his chest. Hunters were never on the mountain at night. And never on their private land.

The Tribe had purchased a huge tract from Douglas Curtis, the man in town with a multitude of rental cabins. In exchange they worked and cared for his business and were now building their own homes at the base of Denali near the river.

He shifted immediately from his animal form to his human one and waited, still completely hidden in his bluff of trees. Whoever dared to hunt on their land would pay dearly. Col, the Tribe’s vraka and resident dragon shifter would lose his mind.

Saul was anything but impatient though. He was the oldest male in the Tribe here, nearing his fortieth birthday. It wasn’t a big deal for his kind. Most Reyleans lived well past one hundred, unlike humans. Still, he was teased about being the old man.

He was older. He had experienced more. He had lost more.

Kann was the only one that knew. And he was grateful the young cub had kept his mouth shut. Everyone expected Saul to find his mate too, but he didn’t.

Fate had already blessed him. And Fate had already taken away that blessing. He and several others from his tribe had all lost their families in the same raid many years ago.

Snow crunched not far from his position.

Saul’s attention was drawn to a small group of people wrapped in heavy winter coats. Four were carrying rifles and one was being dragged along against their will. He couldn’t see any of their faces, but the one being half-dragged was much smaller than the four armed men.

Female.

He watched as they collected the reindeer and continued on their way across the mountain. The wind carried the scent of lion to him and his eyebrows raised in surprise. There were no others from Saul’s tribe, besides Kann, that’d made it through the portal from the N’ra Lowlands.

These lions had to have come through a different portal. From a different valley on Reylea.

And they traveled all the way to Mystery?