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The Lioness and the Shepherdess
Many books tell the tale of the lamb and the lion, and how in the last days they shall lie down together. I, however, give you a different story, and ask you to read it with an open mind, for it is unique, and there are those who would hate the characters. I give unto you a fable of sorts. This is the fable of the Shepherdess and the Lioness.
One day, the Lioness was out hunting when she came upon a flock of sheep. She had never seen this flock before, but she knew that sheep were tasty. As it was late in the day, she did not kill one, but instead marked the place where they grazed. She would come back later to get food for her family. She had already vanquished an antelope, which would give her siblings plenty to eat.
As the Shepherdess checked her flock that night, she saw signs of a lion. This worried her, for she knew that lions were bad. She had counted her sheep, and knew that none had been taken, but she would be wary. This was a woman who would protect her own with her life.
The next day, the Lioness returned to the flock of sheep, fully intent on killing one. She crept up to the edge of the field they were grazing in, and began to stalk her prey. She froze as she saw a two legged thing with a stick coming towards her. It couldn’t have seen her, but she was afraid nonetheless.
The Shepherdess walked towards the place she knew the lion had been the night before. With her crook in hand, she would be ready if she came upon trouble. She couldn’t let the beast hurt any of her sheep. They were hers, and no one else’s.
The Lioness was scared. She knew not why, only that she was. She tried to back up slowly, but froze again as the gangly thing saw her. She would have to fight it. She did not wish to, though. Today was a very confusing day, full of many seemingly causeless emotions. Why did she feel this way about the puny thing? She could easily overpower it. She had claws and sharp teeth, and all it had was a stick.
The Shepherdess saw the lion move. It would most likely be a bloody fight, but she would win. She had to. For her flock and her family and herself, she would win.
The two approached each other as they prepared to fight, both ready to kill. They began to circle each other, searching for a weak spot on the other’s body. Finally, the Lioness looked into the Shepherdess’s eyes, and the Shepherdess looked into hers.
Everything changed. The Lioness stood from her hunter’s crouch, and the gangly thing rose from its hunched position. Those eyes…They transformed the gangly two legged beast into the most beautiful creature the Lioness had ever seen. Though it seemed female, and had no fur, it had a longer mane than her father. The Lioness snorted in confusion. This thing was prey. Why was it beautiful? What was wrong with her?
Everything changed. The Shepherdess looked into the Lioness’s hazel eyes, and realized she could never harm her. She was so pretty, with her golden fur and long tail. No! This demon was going to kill her sheep! She had to kill it. She had to… But then the Lioness snorted, and the Shepherdess couldn’t help but laugh.
Sorrow etched itself into the lines of the Lioness’s face as she turned to leave. She couldn’t stay here. She couldn’t kill this woman’s sheep, not after having such an emotional reaction to the woman herself. She winced as the Shepherdess said, “Wait,” but shook her head gruffly.
“I can’t,” said the Lioness before bounding away into the forest. The Shepherdess wondered how she had understood it, but not for very long. Her thoughts soon turned to more pressing matters, such as the cut on a lamb’s foot, and the tick on one of her rams. All the while, her subconscious mulled over what had occurred between the Lioness and her. She could not tell her mother or father, of that she was certain. They would never understand, and might even kill the cat themselves.
The Lioness did not return for an entire week. She had much to think about, and much hunting to do. Her family needed to eat, and as the oldest female, finding food was her responsibility. In the end, though, she could not resist the pull of the Shepherdess. So seven days after her first encounter with the human woman, she killed a deer, hid it, and walked to where she knew the Shepherdess would be.
The Shepherdess smiled when she saw the Lioness. She had thought of her constantly since that first meeting. “Hello,” she called, rising to greet her. A shiver ran down her spine as the Lioness replied.
“Hello, woman. I am a Lioness, and you are a human, yet somehow we are able to understand each other. Let that be, I do not wish to know all the secrets of this world. What I do wish to know is if you feel for me what I feel for you. So tell me, Shepherdess, did you feel the bond between us when you first met my eyes?”
They were now standing a scant few feet apart from each other. The Shepherdess saw the challenge in the Lioness’s eyes, and knew she had to be honest. “I did indeed feel it, Lioness, and it has caused me much anxiety. How can I feel such a strong attraction for you when I barely know you? Indeed, we are of different species, and there are few of mine that feel these things for other females. I have asked my God what I am to do, yet I have received no answer. What do you think?”
The Lioness pondered for a few minutes, then closed the remaining distance between her body and the Shepherdess’s. “I think that we should form a relationship of sorts. Call it what you will, it must remain a secret, hidden from all we know. We will take life one day at a time, doing what we can to balance it evenly.”
The Shepherdess nodded in agreement, and knelt down in front of the Lioness. She reached up with her right hand and caressed the feline face. She leaned forward and kissed her new love on the mouth and smiled.
Many weeks passed. The Lioness and the Shepherdess continued their love affair, meeting in secret once every few days. Their families began to suspect that they were hiding something, but they did not pry, for these women were respected among their people.
The sheep watched their relationship progress from tentative touches to loving embraces to lustful evenings that caused them to avert their eyes. It was a strange romance, but a beautiful one, and all the woolly creatures knew that it was meant to be. A love like that should never be ignored, even if the society of the time forbids it.
One day, a year after the first meeting, the Shepherdess’s mother decided to follow her daughter and find out once and for all what was going on. She stayed at the edge of the field and watched as the girl she had raised ran out to meet her feline lover. She was shocked at the intimacy with which they greeted each other, and disgusted by what her daughter had done. She could watch no longer, and so turned to leave. She would confront her child later, away from prying eyes and ears. She knew her husband would kill the lion without regard for their daughter’s feelings, and that there was a better way to handle things.
The next day, the sheep saw their mistress come into the field with tear stained eyes. The Lioness was already there, waiting for her. The bond between them was so strong that she knew her lover was in pain, and she wanted to make it go away.
The Shepherdess fell down next to the Lioness and wept, wrapping her arms around her soul mate’s neck. She told her of the events that had transpired the previous evening, and that she had been forbidden from seeing the Lioness. They could never be together again, not if she were to obey her mother.
The Lioness, upon hearing this, quietly licked the tears from her lover’s face. She understood what had happened, and she would not embrace the Shepherdess again after today. She respected her own parents, and expected the Shepherdess to do the same. After one final kiss, she rose from her lover’s side with a loving farewell, and left the field where so much happiness had been found, never to return.
The Shepherdess moved on, with some success. With time, the pain of separation lessened, and she began to believe that her mother had been right. Her God could never have approved of such an unnatural match. Really, what had she been thinking? Loving the Lioness had been wrong, so wrong. This is what she began to believe as she swallowed the lies she was fed by her family and her church. Her God looked down on his daughter in sadness, for He always approved of love, no matter what form it took.
The Lioness, however, did not move on. She was courted by a male lion, but she could not reciprocate his feelings. He mated with her by force, but his children died inside her. She felt such pain and longing for her soul mate, and knew her emotions would not be satisfied in this life. And so a year after the separation, after trying and failing to continue with her life, she chose to end it. She walked to the edge of the field for the last time, and watched as her Shepherdess danced amongst her sheep with her new beau. She could not know that it was all an act; that the Shepherdess was showing emotions that she did not feel. Her heart finally shattered, she turned away and walked for several miles, beyond the point of exhaustion. She did not eat or drink or sleep. She did not pause to lick her wounds. She walked until she could not walk any more, and then she lay down and died, thinking of her Shepherdess all the while.