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Olapo and the Great Lion
Caught in a struggle between kings of men, Olapo races to save his entire village and comes face to face with another kind of king.
Way out in the far reaches of the savanna where the grass grows 10 feet tall, large animals, wild things, and spectacular creatures stalk the land. There are herds of elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, and wildebeests, as well as roving packs of hyenas, baboons, and monkeys that hang out in the trees. In the waterways, streams and lakes of this land, crocodiles, snakes, and giant hippopotamuses lay half submerged, watching all the time.
Of all these animals, the most fearsome is the lion. The lion lords over the savanna, a king above all others.
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The only true rival to the lion is the man. And around this particular savanna many men lived in small towns and villages.
A long time ago, there was one such village, a very small one called Zeeko. The people of Zeeko were gentle farming people who used the land to grow fruits and vegetables from the earth.
They lived at peace with the animals and never had problems with the lion. Their leader was a man by the name of Olapo, which meant lion’s mane. He was so called because he was a warrior when he was young, and everyone in the village respected his courage. He also had a big head of hair, just like a lion.
Olapo was a kind and wise man who had seen many things in his younger years. But now he had a family and a job as the village chief.
Olapo had two children and a wife and spent most of his days tending to crops in the field. One day he was out working with the other men when he heard screams and shouts from the village.
Olapo ran back to the village and was horrified to see fires in the roofs of the huts and soldiers running in the streets making all sorts of commotion. Without thinking, he ran straight to his hut to grab his wife and children.
“Come with me, come with me, quick,” he shouted when he found them. They sprinted as fast as they could into the nearby forest.
Once in the forest, there was a huge tree that was known to the people of Zeeko as a holy place. The tree was so big you could sit down in its branches. Olapo and his family climbed the tree and found a resting place where they would be safe from danger.
But after a few minutes Olapo realized his people needed his help. He was the leader of his village. He must go back to protect them.
He told his wife and children to stay in the sacred tree and wait for him. “If I'm not back in one day, then leave and seek help from another village. But please, wait for one day. I promise I shall return.” Then Olapo turned and left.
When he got back to the village, he saw that it was in ruins. Many of the huts were burned and the few people who were left were crying as they attempted to clean up the mess.
Olapo asked who did this and where did they go? The villagers all pointed toward the West along the king’s road. This was the direction of Tentrudo, the royal city.
Olapo’s heart sank. He now understood the Kingdom of Tentrudo sent its soldiers to raid his village, steal their crops, and kidnap their men.
He ran as fast as he could on the trail of the soldiers toward Tentrudo.
In a few hours, he caught up to where he could see them marching in the distance. They were close to entering the high palace gates of Tentrudo, in a long, single file line of men from Zeeko.
Sensing he would need to be stealthy, Olapo crept up to the gate and snuck past a checkpoint when the palace guards weren't looking.
Keeping his distance, Olapo continued to watch as a large man led the group of kidnapped villagers into the center of Tentrudo. The man was painted head to toe with scary tattoos, and he wore a necklace with the fangs of wild beasts. He was pointing and shouting instructions and leading the throng of confused people toward the center of Tentrudo’s palace.
When they arrived in front of the tallest tower in the palace, the large man approached the guards and requested an audience with King Pampa. After some time, the group was let inside, where the king awaited with his advisers in a large courtyard. Olapo managed to sneak inside the doors, so he could see everything.
The large man bowed before the king and spoke. “Sire, it is I, Diakatu, your finest warrior. And I come to offer you a gift. I present to you, your majesty, this entire village, all of their crops and all of their hardest workers who can help you with your most important mission.”
The king smiled a wide, cruel smile and shouted to his guards, “Take them to the dungeon. I will deal with them later.”
Then he turned to Diakatu and said, “I, King Pampa, accept your gift. Tonight, we will have a great banquet in your honor, to show the kingdom’s thanks for your bravery.”
At that, Diakatu and King Pampa left and the men from Zeeko were taken to the dungeons.
Olapo watched it all and wondered what to do. He roamed the palace grounds, thinking about what he had witnessed. What a horrible king this man is, he thought. This king is no friend to our people.
Then Olapo realized something. Everywhere he went, he overheard the people of Tentrudo talking about the Great Lion that had been attacking nearby villages. The whole kingdom was on high alert and the king was marshaling resources to hunt down the lion.
Olapo understood it now. The king wanted the men from his village to help hunt the lion. Olapo knew what he had to do. He would sneak into the dungeon and free everyone as soon as he could.
But on his way to the dungeon, some soldiers found Olapo and brought him straight to Diakatu. “So you are the leader of these people who escaped me. But now your luck has run out. We have a good use for you and your men.”
Diakatu laughed a horrible laugh. “Tonight we hunt lions and believe me, if you do not do as I say, we will throw all of you in the crocodile pit.”
Olapo was taken to the dungeon where he reunited with the other villagers. He told all of them what he knew. They would be gathered for a lion hunt.
A short time later, Diakatu and his men came with weapons. It was time for the lion hunt. As the men were led out of the dungeon, Olapo overheard Diakatu talking to his captains in whispers. He said the plan was to attack the king and take the crown for himself.
They weren't hunting lions. It was just a trick. The real mission was to overthrow King Pampa.
As the men were preparing to start the hunt, Diakatu came before them and spoke. “We're going to take a shortcut through the palace. Remember to do as I say or you will be thrown into the crocodile pit.”
Then they quietly walked through the palace toward the king's chambers.
But when they got just outside the chambers, they heard a ferocious roar coming from inside. Diakatu opened the door and they all saw the scene in front of them.
The king was surrounded by his guards, all of them sweating and shaking with fear. Together they stood only a few paces from the most enormous, terrifying lion any of the men had ever seen.
The king looked at Diakatu and said, “You are just in time to save me!” But at that moment, the lion pounced toward the king and his men in a savage attack.
Diakatu shouted to his men to do nothing. “Let the lion do our work,” he said. The king screamed in anger as Diakatu shut the door.
At that moment, Olapo called on the villagers to run. They used the chaos as a distraction and sprinted down a hallway, leaving Diakatu and his soldiers behind.
Olapo and his men ran as fast as they could, taking turn after turn until suddenly they found themselves lost in the palace. Without knowing, they had entered the king’s maze.
Suddenly Diakatu appeared at the end of a long hallway, surrounded by his armed soldiers. “Now that Pampa has fallen, I am your new king. And my first act is to get rid of all the outsiders who do not belong here in Tentrudo.”
But instead of setting his guards on Olapo and the villagers, he smiled. “You are alone in the king’s maze…with the Great Lion. Good luck.” Then he turned and shut the door, leaving Olapo and his men alone in the dark corridor.
Olapo heard the roar again, and he knew the lion was loose somewhere inside the maze.
Remembering his days as a young warrior when he spent many times away from home, Olapo knew the best thing to do was stay calm. He instructed the men to not be afraid.
“Listen to me,” he said. “We will stay close to this wall and follow it as fast as we can. No matter what happens, we will stick to this wall.” When they came to a dead end, they stayed on the wall and circled it, and continued.
This went on for some time. Occasionally, they would hear the roar of the lion, but it grew more distant. Finally they came to a large gate. Beyond it they could see outside. They had made it to freedom.
But as they opened the gate, standing in front of them was Diakatu and his soldiers. He laughed a vicious laugh and slapped the side of his spear.
Olapo and his men had no time to think. They turned and ran back into the maze. Only moments later, rounding a turn, they ran directly into the lion. The beast stood and stared just a few steps in front of them, drooling and growling.
Olapo and his men made another quick decision. Once again, they turned around and ran back toward the gate, this time with the lion hot on their heels.
When they got to the gate, Diakatu and his men pulled out their spears and charged. But the lion was there. It leapt over Olapo directly into the crowd of soldiers.
There was a ferocious battle.
Olapo and his men did not wait around to watch it. They ran as fast as they could toward the forest, toward their village, toward home.
They were all very tired, and the night was peaceful, so they stopped to rest for a bit. The men sat on a patch of grass beneath a bright full moon and began to catch their breath. Until they heard a familiar sound, like a small purring of a kitten.
Olapo looked up and saw a cat. But not the kind he expected.
It was a lion cub.
Then suddenly there were two more. Three lion cubs in all. Olapo knew this was not a good sign. When there are lion cubs, there's a lioness.
As though she had been reading his thoughts, a giant lioness appeared from behind a tree and gave out a roar of ferocity that shook the forest.
Olapo and his men were stunned in place, fearing the worst. Just then, Diakatu and his men came charging out from the woods.
“You have proven to be a dangerous foe, but you cannot escape the justice of King Diakatu.” The large man shouted. “Attack!”
Olapo and the villagers were caught between the lioness and the King’s soldiers. The situation did not look good.
Behind them, there was another sound, hard to make out at first. A rustling of branches. Then there was a tremendous roar even louder than the last, as the Great Lion flew from the darkness. He landed directly on Diakatu and ate him up.
King Diakatu, who would later be known as the worst king in the history of the kingdom, was no more. Without their leader, his men did not know what to do. So they dropped their weapons and scattered into the forest.
And the lion, the lioness, and their three cubs chased after them.
Olapo wasted no time. He ran toward the village of Zeeko and straight into the forest beyond, to the holy tree.
He arrived just in time, as his wife and children were preparing to leave. The whole family came together in a giant hug, tears falling from their eyes.
After everyone had returned, Olapo gathered together the entire village and told them the whole story. They decided at that moment they would rebuild the village better than ever, and build a huge statue in the center of the town. A statue of the king, the true king, the Great Lion.
If you decide to visit the village of Zeeko, you can still see the statue standing there today. But beware. To get there you have to cross the savanna. And the lion still lives there, too.
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