Zoba's paws splashed through the shallow water as he trotted upstream. The cool water felt good on his sun-warmed fur. Soon, the sun was setting once again, and with the night, came rain clouds. The orange glow of dusk was soon covered by gray clouds and a light, peaceful sprinkle of rain.
"We'll have to stop and rest for the night. But we'll arrive tomorrow morning for sure." Zoba said. His mane was getting slowly wetter and wetter. Parts of it clung to his shoulders. The rain wasn't uncomfortable. It was a warm shower with no wind.
"I don't know. I don't recognize anything around here. Let's look around." Zoba padded along the stream which was now peppered with ripples from the raindrops.
Eventually, the river made an odd turn and at the inside corner of it was a pair of boulders framing a hill that stopped abruptly over the water. On top was a beautiful tree with twisting, spiraling roots that reached down the rocks. The tree and its roots created a ceiling that kept most of the rain out.
Zoba looked at Kela with a smile and walked into the shelter. The sand was soft and the sound of the rainfall and the gentle rolling of thunder was soothing. His eyelids grew heavier as he laid next to Kela.
Kela's words echoed in his semi-conscious head and the lick on his cheek felt half real as he slowly awoke. "Mmmmfff..." He groaned and squinted his eyes at the daylight. The lion blinked and caught Kela's beautiful green eyes as his lips curled into a smile. "One of these days, I'm going to wake up before you. Then I'll get to watch you wake up." Zoba's deep morning voice filled the air and he remembered the rain from last night. It had stopped but the river was now flowing a bit faster and had risen noticeably.
"Let's go, then. We should be there just before dusk I think."
She laughs a bit and licks him again. "Maybe tomorrow, but not today." She winks playfully at him and stands up, brushing his large paw off her body and stretching. Kela then looks worriedly at the rising water. "Is this safe, Zoba? I trust you, but water isn't always reliable."
"Hmm. You're right. We should stay clear of the water as much as we can." Zoba said, worriedly. But as he paced back and forth along the river's edge, he began to realize it was going to be difficult getting out of this spot. The large boulders that were their shelter last night now blocked their escape. The bend of the river had widened enough that there was no space between its edge and the wall of rocks and dirt that now formed a small ravine.
Zoba was immediately discouraged. They were so close and now they faced a potentially dangerous situation. Worse was the thought that it was his fault. He chose this spot to rest. They could've easily drowned if the rain was any more intense. How could he have been so careless? He sighed.
"Kela. We may have to swim a bit. I can't find a way onto the high ground from here." His tone was somber as he explained their situation to her.
"I understand." Kela nods at his words and noticing how his face showed somberness with flashes of guilt. "You know the way better than I, so I'll follow you, okay? I promise I'll stay close." She says as she looks at the water's edge. "We've faced several situations more dangerous than this. We'll get through this like we always do."
With Kela's words, Zoba regained his confidence, though his caution he kept. "Alright. Maybe we can back-track a little. There were shallower spots further back without these boulders blocking us."
Zoba placed a paw into the rushing water and waited for Kela to come closer. He could feel her brush against his tail. "Here we go." He said over his shoulder. With that, he trudged further into the water, trying to keep a paw on the rocks and dirt that formed the barrier holding the water back.
"Hopefuly not too far. Just far enough to find a spot to climb out." They followed the rushing water downstream, each step taking them into deeper water. It was becoming more and more difficult to keep from being swept away by the water. Zoba, being quite large was having some difficulty, but then it dawned on him that Kela was smaller and might be struggling. Zoba worriedly checked over his shoulder to see how she was doing.
Even though it was difficult, Kela barely manages from being swept away by the water. Her claw are out and are practically gripping the loose sand and pebbles at the bottom. She momentarily looses footing and the water pushes her almost roughly into Zoba's back.
Zoba lost what little grip he had on the river bed when Kela was pushed into him. Luckily, there was a large rock under the surface that he was able to stop himself with. An outstretched front leg kept Kela from being swept past him. With the small break, Zoba looked ahead for a possible spot to climb out. Sure enough, just a bit further down, there was a boulder jutting out into the river. From there, they'd only have to mantle over a few rocks and they'd be out of the gully.
Holding on to his leg, Kela spots the boulder and makes the connection to a possible passage for them to use. "I think the water can push us to that boulder." She says, her breathing a bit heavy from exertion.
With a leap of faith, Zoba pushed off the submerged rock and allowed the water to carry him with Kela clinging to him. His aim was good but stopping himself against the current was proving difficult. His muscles tensed as his claws tried to dig into the stone. Inch by inch, his claws dragged, If he couldn't pull himself out soon, he'd be swept away again.
"I'm sorry but bare with me." Kela says loud enough for him to hear. Still clinging to him, she ensures that her claws are out and slowly climbs up his larger body and onto the boulder. Turning, she quickly bites down on the back of his mane and attempts to pull him up with as much strength as she can't without falling back into the water.
As soon as she began climbing him, Zoba knew what her plan was. She was stronger than she looked, but Zoba already knew that. With her tugging on his mane, their combined strength was enough to lift him out of the water that dragged his massive form downstream.
As soon as he had his paws firmly planted on the rock, Zoba let out a sigh of relief and slumped against the next precipice leading to the high ground. He stared at Kela momentarily.
"I love you." He panted. It was all that came to his mind.
"I love you, too." Kela smiles at him happily, despite being exhausted from the earlier exertion. She vaguely realizes that this was the first time they directly said that they love each other to one another.
"After we catch our breath, we should keep moving, yeah? I want to see your paradise." She leans down and gently nuzzles the top of his head.
It wasn't until Jela repeated the phrase back to him that this was the first time either of them had said 'I love you.'
"After we catch our breath, we should keep moving, yeah? I want to see your paradise."
Zoba nuzzled her back. "I already found it." He said as he stood back up and smiled, gazing into Kelas green eyes.
With a swift leap, Zoba was up on the grassy precipice that overlooked the now rushing water. As Kela joined him, they walked together, shoulder to shoulder, sharing the occasional glance at one another.
Kela can't help the warm feeling that spread through her when he somewhat called her his paradise. With an almost energetic bounce in her step, she walks next to Zoba as close as she can without accidentally getting them both tripped up. Kela looks up at Zoba after a few moments. "How will we know when we're there? Are there any landmarks or something?"
As they followed the river, the land came to an incline. There were places where the water was calm and places where the water rushed downward, through a rocky zig-zag. It lead them to small ponds where the river collected before continuing on in one direction or another. Finally, the slope jutted upward. A steep cliff framed a waterfall. This was the first location Zoba remembered from when he was a cub. Smooth rocks made a wide river bed where the falling water splashed down. The water was only a few inches deep and it flowed gently in one direction where it became the river they had been following.
Zoba stepped out into the wide, glistening flow. At the right angle, it looked like he was walking on the surface of the water toward the water fall. With a smile, he beckoned Kela to follow him. With her by his side, he held his breath and shut his eyes as he lunged through the waterfall. On the other side was a natural cave similar to the one Kela showed him, but this one was narrower and reached further and further back and at an incline. A trickle of a stream ran down the center, joining the torrential waterfall behind them. Beams of light rolled down through cracks above, illuminating the tunnel just enough. As they padded further into it, small trickles of water from the river above ran down the walls to join the stream in the center. Small and large steps upward brought them finally to the end of the tunnel. An opening in the ground above, shaded by the branches of trees and bushes next to the river. Behind them, they could see the top of the cliff and waterfall they had just found minutes before.
"Uriah fell into that hole when we were cubs. That's how we found the cave." Zoba reminisced. Then he focused again on the journey ahead. "We're not there yet... Almost. But not yet." Kela followed Zoba's gaze toward a gray mountain. The source of the river. Large, rocks jutted out along the incline, giving it an almost menacing look. At the top, two impossibly steep peaks pointed at the sky.
Their path up the mountain twisted and turned until it ended at the base between the two seemingly solid pieces of stone. It almost appeared to be a sandy courtyard at the mouth of yet another cave, this with somehow more elegant features. The stones were smooth and curvy instead of jagged and rough. As they entered, they could hear the sound of birds, an odd sound to be heard inside a cave. But as they padded through, grasses and vines began to turn the cave green. The two greatest sources of light lay behind them, and ahead of them, but there was a faint glow from above. Zoba gestured upward with his eyes. There was no ceiling to the cave anymore. Tree roots and vines created a lattice above, just tall enough for a giraffe to reach. There, the source of the chirping came in the form of red, blue, and green birds.
Zoba nuzzled Kela's neck. "We're almost there. Come on!" He said, darting further in. The opening above them closed off once more and the cave widened into a broad, oval opening. The water they were following upward now flowed gently down before them and disappeared under a curtain of vines and leaves. The bright sun on the other side made it impossible to see through, but it made a spectacular glow that silhouetted Zoba gloriously as he looked back at her. Beams of light seemed to streak off his mane, dancing on the walls behind them.
"Welcome to Happy Valley."
Zobas voice echoed and reverberated ethereally and he stepped through the vines.
What lay before them was simply the most beautiful, lush landscape imaginable. The rocks below their feet dissipated into short, thick green grass that corralled the water back into individual streams. The grassy hills rolled gently down into a valley of green grass and all kinds of trees. The mountains they had just passed through continued to either side and eventually began to wrap around the valley off in the distance before melding into the ground. A single, wide river burst forth in the distance off to their right and a series of winding curves, forks, and waterfalls lead it to a lake that mirrored the cyan sky above. The barely cloudy expanse turned orange at the horizon the sun drifted ever slowly toward.
Overcome with emotion and nostalgic bliss, Zoba's eyes began to well-up with joyful tears as he smiled, feeling the sun warm his mane and face. He looked deeply into Kela's green eyes, gave her muzzle a lick, and hugged her. "Thank you for coming here with me." He whispered. He held her for another moment and then released her as he trotted down the hill, looking back at her, smiling. A playful laugh escaped his muzzle as they ran down the hills, dotted with flowers and moss-covered rocks. Zoba was in heaven with his angel, and he had never been happier in his life.
(Welcome to Happy Valley. It's the setting of a series of bedtime stories my grandpa used to tell me. It's how I always imagined heaven. I'm actually pretty excited to bring someone else into this corner of my imagination. haha)
Even though the path seemed confusing, it was also wondrous and exciting to see the sights the path offered. The more they traveled, the more she remained intrigued. By the time they reached the place, she was in absolute awe by the scenery around them.
Even though she was running with him down the hill, she still tried to look around and winds up losing her footing and rolls down the side of the hill covered with lush grass, giggling uncontrollably on the way down. When she rolls to a stop and lays on her back, she takes heavy breaths with a happy smile on her face. "This place is unbelievably gorgeous. I feel like this is a dream."
Zoba strode on, into the trees and along a series of desire lines in the grass. The sunlight shot down through the leaves in orange beams that angled toward them. Soon, the small, beaten path was joined by others until the clearing they walked along was wide enough for a pride to pass through. The end of the little forest came like a light at the end of a tunnel. Zoba and Kela stepped out onto the grassy hills that gently flowed down to the waterhole Zoba remembered so fondly. Animals of all kinds wandered around, grazing or picking fruit off of the trees.
As the two lions made their way onto the grasslands, the animals recognized their presence. They were surprised, but somehow, not alarmed. Some whispered to others and a few dashed away, supposedly to tell others. Zoba couldn't tell if they recognized him or if they were just that surprised to see a pair of new faces here, let alone, a couple of lions.
(I'M SORRY I DISAPPEARED AGAIN MY LIFE GOT HECTIC BUT NOW I'M BACK T-T)
Kela follows closely behind Zoba, still marveling at the lush green scenery and the animals that seemed to look at them more with curiosity than fear or suspicion. A place like this, she understands why he calls it a paradise. And now it's their paradise.
"Can you show me some of your favorite places here? I feel like you have some great stories about this place, too." Kela moves up to walk by his side and muzzles his shoulder as the move.
This Land: Spot on ! xD Yeah, my re-do loop was insane....then after a while realized I was making it worse , so tapped "undo" a few times
Jan 15, 2021 14:13:00 GMT
mrcrazypants: That is usually how it goes for me too xD , it's as if one gets... sketch-blinded? or perhaps mane-blinded? haha! Glad you solved it eventually tho! I'm looking forward to see it
Jan 15, 2021 15:45:44 GMT
This Land: That must be thing, well its a thing now xD Plus I'm sure only having one fully functioning eye doesn't help either with drawing x3. Here is a sneak peak at my W.I.P sta.sh/04b2chb38kq
Jan 15, 2021 16:57:47 GMT
mrcrazypants: Ohh I love the WIP so far! 😍 And with a falling pose like that I totally get why it was challenging to draw the mane xD
Jan 16, 2021 20:03:19 GMT
mrcrazypants: When you say one fully functioning eye, is the other one "just" lower in eyesight or is it completely blind? Let me know if It's too personal! Sometimes I tend to be a bit too curious haha ^^'
Jan 16, 2021 20:06:33 GMT
This Land: I'ts fine xD It's just a lot lower in eyesight. Its not blurred, been to several opticians and glasses do nothing,its like only half the image goes to my brain like choppy vision. So I have little or no depth perception. No 3D films for me
Jan 16, 2021 21:29:46 GMT
This Land: And thanks ^^, you keep me going !I've been practicing a new mane colouring technique & keep fixing the eyes, and keep changing the body as i've never drew this pose (again XP).This picture is another massive learning curve, been on and off it all day
Jan 16, 2021 21:36:19 GMT
mrcrazypants: Oh wow I've never heard of anything like that before O.O But tbh, you're not missing much with 3D movies if you ask me, I always chose regular xD
Jan 17, 2021 10:03:56 GMT
mrcrazypants: I'm glad to hear! I think it's great to have someone to play ball with in art (if that makes sense haha) That sounds cool tho, are you filming the progress on this one too? I'm curious to see if you got anymore art tricks I can steal xD
Jan 17, 2021 10:07:57 GMT
This Land: Makes sense yeah and totally agree ^_^. I'm recording this one too, About 80% done
Jan 17, 2021 13:38:38 GMT