The sun was hotter that day than it had ever been before. A lone animal limped across the desiccated wasteland, past withered plants and emaciated trees. He was starving, and his tongue was parched like the sand around him; his face a conspectus of death. Such was his condition, for he had been walking miles without food or water, and in the back of his mind verily he wondered if aught was to be found. He stumbled, but still he carried on until he descried something he thought impossible: a pond, muddy as it was and barely glinting in the sun, but a pond nevertheless. Hopes prodding him, he picked up his pace and traipsed thither, only to find that another animal was already there.
He growled at the maned creature, for this was an animal different from him, and his species and their species had friendship held aloof for many aeons; a blood-feud that stretched back to times primordial. The maned creature, having noticed the other, began growling as well, for he recognised that an enemy stood before him, and he was loath to let another share in the drink.
Filled with ire, they advanced towards one another, ready to shed blood on this plain; to reiterate the quondam doings of their ancestors, to kill without question here by this pond in the last of days, wherein the sun shone austere and ready to ensconce all - an act of survival, for whom would endure but a whit longer.
They leapt and they tussled, and they beared their claws. They snapped at each-other's maws and throats, and blood was drawn. Above the hubbub, little could be heard but their growls and screams. Many times they backed away only to go at it again, and oft they fell into the water, tainting it with their blood. At last, the water incarnidine and both animals exhausted, they slumped to opposite ends of the tarn and collapsed, their muzzles ripped and gnarled. The one without a mane heaved, and he looked up at the sun, gargantuan in the sky. He laughed, for then he realised that aught he had ever done was futile, and the pond would not have postponed his doom, for he was doomed to begin with; everything under the sun, every bird, rock, and creature, every pond and sea, every forest that ever stood proud, all would turn to ash - it was only a matter of time, and time was coming to its end. The maned one, whom heard the other's laughter, then spoke: 'What amuses you, cur, especially now when we are bound to death?'
And the other replied: 'I am no cur, but the distinction has always eluded your kind, I presume; and to answer you, I will say something which has elucidated itself to me just now, and I regret that it has not sooner, for we might have been spared but a little longer: that we have always been bound to death, and this pond is naught but ephemeral, especially under this sun - ere long we would have been dead, for that is now the only fate for us.'
'I cannot discern how this is worthy of laughter, though I myself presume that your kind is capable of little else.'
'I laugh not because of joy,' replied the other, 'but because of sorrow, and the folly we have committed here.'
For a while they layed silently by the water's edge, and then the maned one, having grown restive, said: 'What name is upon you?'
'I am Kivuli, for that is the title that was given by my parents; and now that you have been apprised of my name, I should subsequently ask "What is yours?".'
'I would not ordinarily impart my name to one of your kind, but since I have asked yours and you have told it, I will tell you: I am Matembezi, for like you that is the title given to me by my elders.'
'It may be,' said Kivuli, 'that we are the only ones left our kind, and so your pride should not find itself besmirched for telling me your name.'
At this Matembezi went quiet, and he trembled. He then buried his face in his paws, for he was sobbing and did not wish for the other to see. Kivuli was right, he knew; and he also knew that veritably the blood-feud was what put the end into extance - and soon the world he loved would pass out of extance, never to be seen again by mortal eyes - and his family too, and every friend he ever admired, they too were gone. But perchance, he thought, on some plane sequestered from his perceivable reality, his world thither lived on, never to be tarnished; and therein was the only comfort he could find, for he knew anon he would die. As he thought these thoughts, he did not realise that Kivuli had transposed himself nigh to him, and when he released his eyes from the darkness of his paws and saw the other sitting there, he was befuddled, and his countenance became one of uncertainty. 'This has to stop.' Kivuli said, and quickly the other rose to his haunches and made ready his claws, for he had let down his guard and was afeard that the other meant to finish the fight; but when Kivuli did not move, he calmed his disposition. 'This rivalry is tenuous, and it has given us nought over the years but bloodshed and the loss of life dear.'
Matembezi looked upon the one sitting next to him, and to him it seemed as if here was a soul truly innocuous, and yet he had perceived and fought him like a demon. Nodding, he said: 'I concur; but what is to be done now that we have mortally wounded each-other? Surely aught is of no use, for the end has come.'
'Mayhap the end has come, but it is a trivial concern of mine now; hither upon this day, even if it is the last day, I should like to put aside our differences - something which our forebears could not do.'
Then Matembezi smiled, for in that moment it made perfect sense, and he said: 'Then let us drink from this pond together, the first of friends betwixt our kind on the last of days.'
And so they sat by one another's side, talking casually as friends were wont to do, and drinking together from the pond feeling renewed and amicable as if all choler from aeons passed had been washed away; and as they drank and chatted, their world went up in flame - but they did not care.