As the great pride waited for her return, Mother Cheetah was forced to look wide and far for the target of her diplomatic mission. As youngest of Barnible's wives, she possessed the mission of least consequence, but never the less pursued her targets, the King Josev and Queen Meredev of the kingdom of mice, with great passion. It was a difficult journey, but Mother Cheetah would not return to her husband in failure of even the meager task of locating the minuscule monarchs. Finally, after a time longer than she could recall, she flopped down onto her spotted side in her own personal despair and exhaustion.
She dreamed then of thousands of tiny voices in the night, not fearing hunter nor scavenger, crawling all around her. They seemed to be holding a council of some type, but it was most unusual from the lionsbride's point of view. Each voice was a tiny point of light in the otherwise dark, starless world she found herself in. The dream went on as if for days until finally within her she found the strength to wake up.
Raising her head from the dirt, stiff-necked, her nostrils twitched as she smelled the traces of prey all around her. Her stomach growled with a fierceness of that rivaling her husband's temper. She had a mind to eat. Then she saw him. A small patch of black fur, nothing more than that, bowing deeply inches away from her face with its pointy-toothed mouth.
"Madame," spoke the mouse, "it appears you are dying." Such brashness out of one so small and easily within reach of her lithe jaw shocked the Mother Cheetah. "What is it that put you on this path of hunger and hopelessness?"
"I seek the lesser lord and lady of your kind, but your kingdom is too vast, spanning to the very ends of the Earth."
The mouse thought on this. "Why then, if the mouse kingdom has thwarted your mission so easily, that you call the king and queen 'lesser' in comparison to your own kingdom? The lands of the pride are strictly defined, are they not?"
Mother Cheetah was confused, but much to the mouse's pleasure, she appeared intrigued by this thought. She had never considered this relative strength of the mice before. In all earnestness, she hardly considered the mice kingdom at all. Its citizens were everywhere, yet finding one specific mouse amongst many was practically impossible. In this moment, the anonymity of their ubiquity astonished her. Then a thought occurred to her. "Perhaps I should just eat you to give me strength to continue my pursuit."
The black mouse did not step back but simply tilted his head, licked his paws, and began cleaning his face absent-mindedly. "You could devour me in one quick gulp, but I am such a meager meal for one so large and mighty. And where would you be then? Without friend, without guide? Before where you knew none, you now know one."
"Then tell me, friend, where I can find your king and your queen. My mission concerns all those living and the great beast of all-that-isn't. My lord has let loose his many wives upon the Earth to succeed in this endeavor."
The mouse again showed patience and thoughtfulness that confounded Mother Cheetah's expectations of his kind. At length, he spoke. "Your husband's plot sounds too bold by half. Answer truthfully, were my many brothers and sisters here before you, arrayed out helpless and within range of the mighty snap of your jaw, which would you pursue - your husband's diplomacy or your stomach's ache of hunger?"
She considered this for a moment with the black mouse sitting patiently inches from her eyes. "My husband's mission - and mine by extension - is greater than the fact of my mere survival. Where I can only offer to provide counsel to my lord and young for the pride, the great beast rules over and crushes all the creatures of Earth."
The mouse replied, "You make a wise argument and are a testament to your kind. We have always honored the cunning of the pride, but I fear your speech is just that - cunning beyond measure to ensure your own survival. Roll over, Mother Cheetah, and prove your worth as an ally to the living."
The ways of mice seem common but excel in trickery, and she was suspicious of the black mouse's request and assumed it was some precursor to a greater riddle. However, Mother Cheetah was running out of options, and so with great pain in her side and an emptiness in her gut, she forced herself to roll onto her other side. She gasped as they appeared in her sight. Countless thousands of the small fur patches from grey to white to brown to black were arrayed all around her. She could account for at least three dozen that were well within the reach of her bite. Her mouth watered, her jaw unconsciously began clicking to prepare for neck-snapping, and she could not help but let out a low bark of hunger looking upon the mass of prey.
The black mouse jumped onto her exposed, raw side. It tickled her, but after the exertion of rolling over, she did not swat him away. "Decide now, Mother Cheetah, what yours and all the world's fate will be. Will you die for your cause?"
Her head, which had been raised from the ground since setting eyes upon the horde of mice paused in the air before finally slumping down to the dry, hard ground with a crack that was deafening to the mice. Spots slowly appeared before her eyes, and she feared soon enough that she would meet the great beast that rules over all-that-isn't. The sea of fur before her seemed to wave and rise up in action. She cared little for what they, those who would convict her of innocence to her death, were doing. Perhaps they would swarm over her and devour her flesh as she lay dying. They could draw great power from consuming one such as her.
But no, a large, flat basin came into her delirious sight as it floated over the sea of mice. It moved smoothly without spill and was soon placed before her. The rich smell of freshly-drawn milk filled her nostrils and the spots in her eyes began to fade. She gathered her strength and laid her face onto the bowl, sticking her tongue into the sweet white liquid. The taste made her blink back tears as her body began cracking and creaking back into movement. Hours later she was sitting on her haunches, greedily lapping up the last drops of the life-giving liquid.
All the time, the mice sat and watched her as life grew again within. The black-furred mouse stood front and center and shortly after she sat up, a brilliantly red-furred mouse joined him. When she had finished her feast, the color in her fur returned, and her sides were hard - thick with the milk that filled and rejuvenated her. She couldn't be sure, but she believed the black-fur to be smiling at her and that the sea of mice was squeaking with countless voices, excited for some reason beyond her understanding.
"You have proven your worth as an emissary and a diplomat, Mother Cheetah," the red-furred mouse finally spoke. "It appears that you are worth your word, and now we will speak to you as equals, from one queen to another." Mother Cheetah sat patiently, surprised and yet quite pleased with herself and these clever little rulers. It occurred to her that the pride may yet find an ally full of wit in these lands of the living.
To be concluded... I hope.
To be concluded... I hope.