TALES FROM THE OUTLANDS
(The following is the third half of my ongoing chronicle, Tales from the Outlands. In this section, I have devoted the following chapters to telling the tale of Nuka. This is still a part of Volume One though, The Tale of Zira, so don't get confused. As a reminder to future readers, Tales from the Outlands does carry a PG rating due to primal violence, and adult themes. Furthermore, this particular section may not be for the weak of heart. To the rest of the 95% of readers who are able to continue, I welcome you to Nuka's past...)
PART THREE: COMING OF AGE (THE TALE OF NUKA)
(Three months has passed since Chapter Ten)
CHAPTER ELEVEN: PROGENY
As a pair of golden eyes gazed at the moon through the tangle of leaves and vines, a laugh broke the still of the night. Nuka broke through the dense foliage, and trudged towards the summit of a tall hill. He did not realize it, but he was standing on the same hill where Zira had conducted her silent vigil one year ago. But unlike Zira, who had waited upon the summit for the first sign of her love, Nuka waited for the day when he would be reunited with Fabana, his one and only friend. He waited desperately for that day, he dreamed of it, he prayed for it, it was all he ever thought of.
"How many days has it been?" He roared into the wind, "Bana, where are you?" He ran his paws down his face, and then up and through a long, tangle of hair that had indeed grown strangely, but was still a gleaming, black mane. He sighed as he remembered that Fabana had left when his mane was nothing more then a small tuft of hair at the sides of his face. Now as he felt its softness, and marveled at its color, he realized that he was no longer the cub he had been. He was an adult lion now, and he decided that he had to finally face the facts: Fabana would not be coming back and no matter how much he wanted to see her, he decided it would never come true, at least not in this world.
Once again, he sighed into the cool breeze, but had to laugh when he thought about all the happy times he had spent with her. Although he grew up in Fabana's lair, with all its comforts that only a hyena could love, and although he had to endure the torment of Shenzi and her brothers, he had to admit that he had enjoyed it. Rotting corpses and mammoth piles of bones may have surrounded him, but if Fabana was by his side, nothing else mattered. He would snuggle close to Fabana during those nights and feel completely secure. He may have been in a lair of death, but those happy days with Fabana were when he had felt the most alive.
Now, everything had changed. He had found his mother, but in reality he wished he hadn't. She was nothing like Fabana. Everything he tried to do, to make her happy, or make her accept him, either went unnoticed or backfired horribly. With age came reason, but he didn't know if it was just his tortured mind that was telling him these things, or maybe it really was true. But the more he changed from a cub into a lion, the more he thought his mother seemed to be everything that he wasn't. He didn't look like her, he didn't act like her, and he definitely knew he didn't think like her.
When he gazed upon his mother, he was awestruck by the beauty of the dark chestnut color of her pelt, but when he looked at the strange color of his own fur, it was nowhere near the same shade as Zira's. His pelt was a dark orange, and covered in small, black spots.
When he touched his mane, it seemed there was more on his chin, then on the top of his head, but he did admit its color was indeed breathtaking. It was a deeper black than a starless night, and during the day when the sun cast its rays down upon him; they gleamed brilliantly off of it. He was very proud of his mane, the only thing he believed he could be proud of, because when he gazed upon the rest of his body his felt insecure and self-conscious. Zira was strong, with a massive frame that was covered in dense, corded muscles. His body was lanky, bony, and feeble, and no mater how hard he tried to flex, he couldn't produce one muscle. His fur seemed to be always matted, and no matter how many times he groomed himself, it just didn't seem to want to stay in place. His mane jutted out of his face in countless, wild directions, and his whiskers would never stay straight, they were always in tangles and knots. But worst of all, no matter how many times he took a bath, no matter how many times he scratched, and no matter what part of the jungle he was in, he was constantly plagued by bugs. They kept biting him, making him itch, driving him insane, until his flanks were sore and bleeding from his constant scratching and biting, as he desperately tried to stop the infernal itching. He tried to find any way to get rid of this annoyance but no matter what new technique or plan he thought up, he couldn't get rid of them, and just had to put up with them. Of course he would never understand it, but the scent of a half hyena, half lion was intoxicating to an insect, and his scratching, which only made his scent grow stronger, would only make them want to stay. If he could only understand the language of the mosquitoes or the termites, he would no doubt hear them say,
"You know, I never realized there is no blood that tastes sweeter than a half lion, half hyena. I tell ya brothers, we aint leaving this find!"
Nevertheless, these problems, were the least of his worries. His major concern was not the utter contrast of their appearances, but was Zira's attitude towards him. With Fabana, he couldn't begin to describe the amount of trust and love she had shown him, but with Zira; all she expressed was impatience, skepticism, and anger. When Nuka failed in a certain task, or when it seemed that he wasn't trying hard enough in his lessons, she would roar so loud, that he had to jump back to avoid being hit, because if he didn't, a slap to the face would come next. Then she would scold and castigate him until he promised he would try harder. As a matter of fact, these so-called lessons were hard enough to bear. She had created an extensive program to enhance his endurance, strength, and balance, but although he tried time and time again to please her, his weak body wouldn't answer his pleas to do well so he could prove himself to her. He would either get tangled up in vines, trip every yard over roots and stones or just collapse from exhaustion. Even once he was knocked unconscious from a low hanging branch that he failed to notice was in his way! Then the punishments he would have to withstand, since in Zira's eyes his was far below average, were excruciating. He often wondered if all mothers were as hard on their cubs as Zira was, he knew Fabana was never like this... Fabana!
"Fabana, I miss you so much! Please come back to me! I need you back and I need you now! I don't know how much longer I can take these endless hours of training that Zira forces me to accomplish. She says it will all be for a greater purpose, and I need to master these skills no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears I shed. One day she constantly tells me I will need to put these skills to the test. In her strange words, the day that will be 'my moment of glory'."
Nuka sighed once again, as he took note of the moon's position. It was time, time for another night of training. His prayers had remained unanswered yet again, he reluctantly decided that he would never be reunited with his friend.
"Fabana, wherever you are, I hope you know how much I miss you, and how much I... Love you! Goodnight Fabana, or should I say goodnight... Mother." He looked towards the sky, and squinted as he saw a shooting star pass over his head. He suddenly recalled everything Fabana had told him about shooting stars, and what she believed they signified. Her final words suddenly rang in his ears, as if she was standing right next to him,
"If you see a shooting star after making a wish, it means your wish was heard! I will always be a part of you Nuka and I will always be there to watch over you. You have made me so proud, I am so proud of you! Whenever you feel lost, or lonely, just remember that I shall always be with you. Good-bye Nuka, I will, have, and forever shall always love you!"
Nuka's face suddenly changed into a massive grin, and despite the pain and small cuts all over his body, he suddenly felt like he could survive another night. With a laugh, just like a hyena's, he jumped and pranced in a circle, finally understanding everything that Fabana had told him. He knew he could always take comfort in the fact that Fabana's proud gaze would always be watching over him, and with this truth he felt like nothing could stand in his way. He spun on his paws, ran down the hill and crashed through the vines, all the while laughing happily.
CHAPTER TWELVE: CORRUPTION
"It has been so long, my love. A full year has passed since I saw your beautiful body murdered by those vicious monsters. But phase one is complete, my revenge has begun, and those wicked hyenas have paid with their lives for what they did to you, our cub, and me. Are you proud of me, my love? Tell me you are!
Why can't I hear your beautiful voice anymore? Why haven't you visited me in my dreams? Is it because you are angry with me for what I wonder about? Then tell me how I can keep these questions from not entering my mind? Without you by my side, how can I find answers to these thoughts? Why Scar, you must tell me why. Why did you do it? How could you even allow yourself to consider it? What on earth drove you to mate with that disgusting thing? She was a stinking, loathsome, vile, I can't even think of enough insults to explain what she was, Scar she was a hyena! Were you that desperate for love that you had to settle for that? Oh, it makes me sick thinking of what you and that... Fabana did together. You deserved so much better, but... On the other hand, it also makes me think of us, and how we professed our love to each other that beautiful night under the stars.
We both definitely felt the love together that night didn't we? Oh, yes you know we did, in more ways than one! Thanks be to some God that we found each other Scar. I don't know how, or who was the orchastrator of it, but someone guided you to me Scar, and when we became one, oh that was a night I shall never forget. Then all the subsequent times after that... the many ways, the many... techniques. Oh, it gets me so.... Excited! Oh, let me think of what we did together Scar, let me remember all the pleasure we gave each other, let me feel..."
"Uh, Mother what are you doing?" Zira's eyes suddenly sprang open as she heard Nuka's confused voice behind her, "Mother, who are you talking to?"
"Shut up Nuka!" Zira cursed silently to herself a hundred curses in one second. Her "son" had once again ruined a perfectly good opportunity to relieve some of the stress and anxiety she was feeling, after all it was the beginning of her season.
"Mother, please don't be mad at me, I'll just sit and wait here. You can get back to... whatever you were doing." Zira turned and rose to her paws, shaking herself.
"No, that's all right dear, you don't need to see something like that."
"My, my, look at how you have grown. How long has it been?"
"Uh, are you all right Mother? You're acting very strange, you know you saw me only an hour ago." Zira shook again, trying to clear her lewd thoughts.
"Oh, yes, of course, where did you go?"
"Oh, you know, around... someplace."
"You weren't looking for that hyena again, were you?"
"No, of course not! Why would I do that?"
"How many times must I tell you? She is gone and is never coming back!"
"How do you know?"
"Don't you understand? She is..." Zira looked at Nuka's face, she couldn't break his heart, "Let's just say, I know."
"But she said I'll see her again sometime in the future."
"Yes, Nuka you will, and someday," Zira let out a long, sigh "I'll see Scar."
"Scar? Oh, you mean that nasty wound on your side. We'll actually it healed nicely, but I wish I could say the same about your ear." Zira just looked at Nuka and tried to smile.
"Anyway Mother, guess what."
"If I could quote a great lion... 'I despise guessing games'."
"Uh, who said that? Oh well, who cares, anyway, I just wanted to let you know, that I'm all ready to get my tail kicked on that obstacle course of yours again."
"Isn't that nice."
"What's wrong, Mother? Is something bothering you?"
"Oh, I see you can notice things... OK, you want to help me? Then do me one favor, stop saying that word!"
"Uh, what word is that, Mother?"
"Stop that, do you hear me! Stop calling me that!"
"Stop calling you what, Mother?" Zira roared and slapped Nuka full in the face with a backhanded paw, sending him crashing to his side and clutching his bruised face with his paws.
"Why did you do keep doing that? Why are you always so mean to me? Don't you love me?"
"Why, what have I done?" Nuka was beginning to cry.
"Look at you, an adult male crying like that, dear God why did I take you in?"
"What did you say!"
"Nothing... Shut up!" Zira looked away for awhile, but when she looked back, Nuka was staring at her, like he had finally realized something. A look that made her feel very uncomfortable,
"What are you staring at?"
"Tell me something... MOTHER!" Nuka snarled as he saw Zira cringe as she heard that word again, "Why don't you look anything like me?"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Answer the damned question, bitch!"
"Don't use that language around me!"
"Why, you don't want me to talk like you?" Nuka rose to his paws and began to pace towards her, "Oh no, you would hate that, wouldn't you? You would rather me stay being your obedient slave, doing whatever your wicked mind imagines!"
"What are you trying to say?" Zira began to walk backwards, beginning to feel a slight sense of fear, she looked down and noticed that Nuka's claws were unsheathed and his paws were shaking. She looked back up and saw his eyes were narrowed to slits and his muzzle was trembling.
"You know something...Zira, for more days than I can remember, I have slaved for you, done your stupid lessons, and did things for you that I don't even want to think about. You have taught me to hunt, to kill, and to survive yes things that I will need, but never once did you so show me any approval, or gratitude. Never once did you love me! Why!"
"I promised Fabana before she died..." Nuka roared and grabbed Zira's throat.
"You ignorant, ungracious fool! How dare you lay a paw on me!" Zira grabbed Nuka's paw with her own and swung at his face with her other paw, meanwhile extending her own claws on the paw she had placed around his. Both paws connected simultaneously to their targets, and her left claws sunk deep into Nuka's paw, causing him to cry out right before he was smacked in the face with a backhanded strike from Zira's right paw. Nuka let go of his hold, but Zira kicked him hard in his most sensitive spot, causing him to slump to the ground. Zira grinned as she stalked towards the male, as he lay there in a coughing heap.
"That's more like it!" Nuka looked up and squinted into a confused look, "That is the kind of emotion, I want to see from you. Maybe you haven't failed your lessons; maybe you can still complete your mission after all. For your reward, since you have done such a good job tonight, I have a little surprise for you. I'll meet you by the river. Get going!" Zira grinned as she watched Nuka slowly rise to his paws; he avoided her gaze and nodded.
"Hurry up Nuka! I don't have all night!" She watched him painfully limp towards the river, as she laughed out loud. Nuka stopped as he heard her laugh, but then proceeded to his destination.
"Look at him Scar! Look at him! Oh, aren't you so proud of him? He is finally beginning to act like one of us! Oh, Fabana... I'm soooo sorry that he won't turn out the way you hoped he would. I must admit it was a valiant effort, but still a futile attempt. You may have tried, but you failed, and I have won! Now, Nuka is finally going to become what I have always wanted! Keep watching Scar, the night has only just begun!"
* * * * *
"What are we doing here, Zira?"
"Please, call me Mother," Nuka didn't look up, "Oh, tonight is a very special night, my son. Tonight is your final lesson."
"Yea, I can hardly wait." Nuka hoped his sarcasm was understood.
"Nuka, it's time for me to ask you a... personal question." He looked up, suddenly interested.
"Have you ever dreamed of being with a female?"
"Yes, of course I have. I am a male, aren't I?"
"Yes, yes, that you are, but I mean how would you like to meet a female?"
"Uh, I guess... I mean... Uh sure, I wouldn't mind."
"Not just any female though, I am talking about the most beautiful female I have ever seen, and certainly the most beautiful female in all the Pride Lands."
"You mean a lioness, right?"
"No, I mean a hyena." Zira stopped for a moment, then burst out laughing.
"What is so funny?"
"What... Oh nothing, I mean, yes of course a lioness. Zira resumed chuckling to herself.
"First, tell me what you would do with one, if you met one?"
"I... Uh, you know... things that males and females do together. I don't know, why are we having this conversation anyway?"
"Because when you meet this female, you must promise me that you will NOT mate with her."
"Do what with her?"
"You will NOT..." Zira motioned for Nuka to come close to her. Nuka complied and then Zira whispered something into his ear that made Nuka's eyes spread wide, "...Instead, when you find her, you will kill her!"
"What! That thing that you told me NOT to do with her was bad enough, but kill her? What is the point, why are you telling me these things!"
"The point, my dear Nuka, is revenge."
"Revenge for what?"
"For this!" Zira pointed to her ear that was missing the huge chunk in the center, "And for this!" Zira tapped her chest, the place where her heart was.
"Your ear and your chest?"
"No you idiot! Not my ear and my chest! My mind and my heart! The accursed Pridelanders destroyed both!"
"Oh no, not those guys again. The guys you keep telling me day after day are our enemies, and you want to...What was that disgusting thing you told me you wanted to do?" Zira smiled.
"Bathe in their blood?"
"Ewwww Yuk! Mom, I'm sorry, but you really need some serious help!"
"Exactly and you are the one who is going to help me."
"You'll figure it out, but first I have to teach you how to kill."
"I already learned that, you taught me how to bring down the great beasts of prey a long time ago."
"No, I mean how to kill!"
"I don't understand."
"See that pile of leaves, over there?" Nuka glanced to where Zira was pointing, and nodded.
"Move them out of the way." Nuka looked back, but only saw Zira wearing her famous grin. Nuka slowly, cautiously approached the pile of leaves. The closer he became, he could hear rustlings and movement underneath, and once or twice a muffled cry. As he began to move some of the leaves out the way, he jumped back suddenly. He ran back and swatted the rest of the leaves out of the way to confirm what he thought he saw. It was a baby antelope, her legs tied together, and looking at him with big, sad eyes. Nuka looked back at Zira and snarled,
"What is this, Mother?"
"Your final lesson, Nuka. You must kill her."
"Do it, Nuka! Kill her!"
"No, I won't! It's wrong!"
"Kill her, Nuka!"
"Stop this, she is innocent, she has done nothing wrong," The baby began to cry, and call for its mother, "Look at her, why in the name of God, are you doing this to her? Why are you doing this to me?"
"This is your destiny," Zira began to pace towards him, with long, deliberately slow strides. "Become what I have always wanted you to become."
"Look at her, Nuka!" Zira positioned herself, behind the crying antelope. "Put her out of her misery!"
"Stop this mother! There is something really wrong here. I may be your son, and I may have done everything you asked me to do in the past, but this is... Insane! You can't make me do this."
"Can't you feel the lust of death in your veins, Nuka? Can't you feel the pleasure surrounding us? Ooooh, this is getting me soooo excited!"
"YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER!" Nuka spun his head around and stared right into the eyes of Zira, "YOU ARE EVIL!"
"PRECISELY!" Zira flashed her claws, and grabbed the antelope's head with her paws. She rose her head and smiled, her eyes locked right into Nuka's, and then with a quick twist she broke the poor creature's neck. Nuka's eyes widened as far as they could when he heard the disgusting sound and then his jaw feel when he saw Zira indifferently drop the dead creature to the ground.
"Nuka," Zira grinned once more, "Are you hungry? I know I am, guess what we'll be having." Nuka backed up and shook his head "no" over and over again, as he clutched the side of his head with his paws.
He closed his eyes, trying to blot out what he had just saw his so-called mother just did. All he thought she was suddenly snapped in two just like that poor creature's neck. He could not comprehend the hatred he now felt, all he could see himself doing was innumerable things to Zira, and in each one's focus was how he would kill her. He was shaking uncontrollably, he felt like he was about to get sick, and he felt cold tears stream out of his eyes. In anger, in hatred, in a violent scream as his innocence was suddenly lost, perhaps as a plea of sorrow to the antelope's soul, he suddenly threw back his head and roared one, loud, resounding word towards the skies,
"NOOOOOO!" Suddenly deep in his mind, her heard a low, melodious voice that broke through his scream.
"RUN AWAY NUKA, RUN AWAY, AND NEVER RETURN!" Nuka spun on his paws and ran full speed from the awful scene, crashed through the vines and was gone. Zira's wicked laugh echoed around her, as she knew where the path Nuka chose would take him.
"Phase two begins! Yes! Yes! Yes Nuka, straight towards Pride Rock and towards your destiny!"
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SOLITARY ANGUISH
Vines were torn in two, branches were broken, and flowers were trampled by Nuka who ran in full fear, trying to escape all he had witnessed. His flanks were scraped and cut by innumerable thorns, while he stubbed his paws on myriad rocks, and tripped over countless roots, all of which seemed to prevent his escape. Nuka didn't know where he was running to, how he would get there, or when he would find it. All he knew was the who and the why. He had to escape the evil that was threatening to consume his very being, and he had to get as far away as possible from Zira.
He shook his head violently, trying to clear the tears from his eyes, and trying to banish the one image that refused to leave his mind, but all he could think of was that poor antelope, and the sickening sound of what his mother did, still rung in his ears. He began to slow his speed, exhaustion was beginning to take its toll on him, and no matter how much his mind screamed at him to keep going, his body could take no more. He slumped to his stomach, panting and crying, the memory of the antelope still replaying over and over again in his mind. After much time passed, and after innumerable tears were shed, he finally began to regain some of his composure. As he looked towards the sky, he saw the moon had already reached its apex, and was starting to fall towards the horizon. He saw the mouth of the jungle, straight ahead, suddenly realizing that since he ran so far, he had no idea where he was. Nothing looked familiar; he had no idea how far he was from home. He wiped his eyes, with the back of his paw, and slowly rose to his paws. He started to walk in a daze towards somewhere; he didn't care where, why would he? The only thing he cared about was that he felt more miserable than he ever had. Wherever he looked, it appeared to him that everything around him was perfect and every animal seemed completely happy. However, all he felt was a deep depression that coursed through his veins, and made him hang his head. Every creature he saw seemed to be with another. Every male had a female and via versa, but where was that special someone for him? Where was that companion who he so desperately needed? Not just a mate, well that too, after all, it was the season, but just to be a friend. He needed her now, more than he ever did. He believed his searching was utterly pointless though, he knew he would never find her, why would any lioness fall in love with a funny looking lion like him? Absolute depression seized his soul, and everything he saw was cast in a deep shade of gray. As the moon cast its light around him, he slowly rose his head towards the sky, and his voice broke the peaceful stillness...
"There is nothing that I see,
Nothing that I feel,
Nothing that would end this grief,
There is nothing that is real.
All I've received is hate,
But all I want is love.
I want the fires of passion
To burn deep within my blood.
But I'm an Outsider,
No one cares for me,
Not even my own mother,
No, she is evil as can be.
I am not like her,
Her pawprints I shall never touch,
Life for me is beauty and wonder,
I just want it all too much.
I never knew what love is,
I was never shown,
I want to feel what others feel,
I want it to course through my bones.
All I want is my place,
In this circle where we live,
But to me it is a vicious cycle,
Eternal loneliness is all it gives!
Solitary anguish, solitary anguish,
There is nothing left for me,
Solitary anguish, yes solitary anguish,
That is all I ever see.
Why is my mother the queen of hate?
Why does she want me to join her in this state?
What is the truth, what are the lies?
Do I really want these questions answered?
Do I really want to see what is behind the disguise?
What is love, what is real?
Why is it that hate is all I feel?
I must know, I must decide
What is truth and what is the lie.
But what then will be left for me,
When everything I wonder, I will see?
What will become of this lion?
Will I become the hate that I've been denying?
But I must have these questions answered,
I have to find a way,
Someone must know the truth,
About me, my past, anything I say.
I know there must be a place,
Where love waits for me,
There must be some lioness
Who has waited for a lion, just like me.
But all I've found was suffering
All I felt was hate.
I've been poisoned with depression
I can't even begin to explain my state.
Solitary Anguish, this solitary anguish
I must end its wicked decay
Solitary Anguish, solitary anguish
Can I ever find my way?
When that antelope was broken
My innocence was shattered
I lost all that I once knew,
I lost all that once mattered.
I lost all that was true.
I lost my love; I lost my life
I found hate; I discovered strife
I lost my goodness; I lost my way
I cannot become this! I cannot... But I may.
Without love, I will become her
Without help, I'll no longer be
I will relish in my evil,
I will kill all that I'll see
I cannot find the way,
There is no one there for me.
I don't want this hatred,
Somebody set me free!
Solitary anguish, this solitary anguish,
It is all that I can feel,
Solitary anguish, oh solitary anguish,
There is nothing that is real.
Solitary anguish, I can't stand this solitary anguish
There is no one there for me,
Solitary anguish, this solitary anguish
Why is it that is all that will ever be?
Solitary anguish, my solitary anguish
If that is all that will ever be.
Solitary anguish, solitary anguish
Then there is nothing left for me!"
* * * * *
The moon's rays shimmered down upon Zira's claws as she studied their sharpness, and inspected their length. Satisfied that they had passed her examination, she flexed her paws once, twice, then a third time, watching her claws extend then retract. Bringing her claws close to her eyes she looked up and viewed the moon between them.
"Scar, Nuka fulfills his destiny tonight!" In a sudden movement of both grace and power she slashed through a dead tree trunk with her claws, and smiled as it split into countless splinters.
* * * * *
Nuka didn't know how long he had traveled, all he knew was that all four of his legs felt as though they were going to collapse, and his paws ached with painful calluses. He had left the jungle far behind, and now found himself in a verdant savanna, his lanky form completely concealed by the tall grass. The moist earth did wonders for his aching paws, and he enjoyed a long stretch, to relax his weary muscles. He closed his eyes and was about to lie down; deciding this spot was as good as any for a long rest, but all of a sudden a peculiar scent touched his nostrils. He breathed in deeply through his nose, trying to distinguish its source but it was unlike any scent he had ever came in contact with before. His ears suddenly twitched as he heard movement towards his left. He began to tremble as he tried to figure out a place to hide, but then he saw a tail swish far to left of him, and then disappear into the tall grass.
"That tail... it had to be lion's!" Curious thoughts pounded in his brain, and ignoring his better judgment, he slowly began to stalk the scent, which lead him directly north. For many minutes he followed the scent like his mother had taught him, his paws not making the slightest sounds, and his flanks only causing the grass to sway as if they were only driven by a lazy breeze. He began to notice the grass was beginning to thin, and just as this thought crossed his mind, the grass completely opened up into a clearing. He cautiously stepped out and scanned ever direction. His gaze fell upon a water hole, directly ahead of him, and upon a few tall cranes that were roosting, their beaks tucked under their wings in slumber. Nuka licked his fangs, he would be able to eat and drink at the same time.
"Aiheu provides." He splayed his claws, figuring he could creep up and take out at least one without waking the rest, but just as he was about to choose which bird would be his dinner, the scent hit him full in the face once again. He slowly retreated back into the grass and waited for what seemed like an eternity, but then the wait was well worth it.
His eyes spread wide when he saw a paw emerge from the grass far to his left, but then his breath was stolen when a beautiful face followed. He now knew what the definition of the scent was, and with an awestruck stare, he gazed upon his first lioness. She closed her eyes, then opened them, her marvelous aquamarine orbs scanning the grass. He prayed she wouldn't see him, and he crouched so low that his chin touched the earth. She looked away from the spot where Nuka was hiding, as the rest of her emerged from the grass, and Nuka's jaw hit the ground.
"She is absolutely magnificent! Oh, what I've been missing!"
The lioness' lithe and seductive body gleamed in the rays of the moonlight, and when she began to saunter towards the water hole, the supple grace of her movements were like all he had imagined in his dreams. She suddenly stopped and stretched her gorgeous form, then shook in an elegant display, her long tail swishing around her, only adding to the show. Nuka noticed with a hint of disdain, that as well proportioned as her body was, it seemed her belly had been stuffed with too much food, and it sagged as if something was inside of it. However, he didn't have much time to wonder about that thought, because she was now directly in front of him, and was grooming herself with her soft tongue. Nuka's eyes feasted upon the perfect color of her pelt, it was identical and as brilliant as the rays of the sun. His teeth began to chatter, and his body twitched in a combination of excitement and fear. One side of his brain was terrified that she might discover him, but the other side was praying she would.
The lionine goddess finished her grooming, and slowly looked to her left and to her right, making sure all was still safe. Comfortable that all was clear, she suddenly turned completely around, her abdomen now facing the direction her head had been only seconds ago. She bent towards the water to enjoy a deep drink, but if she only knew the view Nuka had directly behind her. Nuka's eyes were wider then they had ever been, and he shifted his weight back and forth, but no matter how much he tried he couldn't move that hard stick that had somehow wound up in an extremely uncomfortable position between his legs. (His eyes were too focused on the sight before him to look down and realize the truth.) The lioness began to bend over even further to lap up more of the water, and in the process her tail fell to the side, exposing something that almost caused Nuka to faint.
"I can't believe Aiheu would provide like this! Oh, dear God, if she only knew what a show she was giving me! I can't take this temptation anymore, I have to end this!"
Suddenly the lioness rose her head, water dripping off her muzzle like a waterfall, and breathed in the air in a long sniff. She swung her head behind her, and spun on her paws, growling viciously, causing the cranes to awaken and fly away, screeching something in their own language that wasn't too cordial. She stalked towards the grass, and then suddenly pounced onto the place where the scent was emanating from, but found nothing, only pressed down grass, and the strong scent that proved some lion was there, watching her the whole time! The lioness looked down at her belly, and made a silent prayer of thanks to Aiheu that He had kept her unborn cub safe. She looked back up and her eyes widened in shock as she saw the grass move, far away in front of her, and then she could make out from the scent that it must have been some, unknown male. She watched in dismay as the movement of the grass told her that he was fleeing back to wherever he had came from, far to the south, and to a place that was far beyond the border of The Pride Lands.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: WHEN LOVE AND HATE COLLIDE
The rosy hue of dawn began to illuminate the dark horizon, and then the entire sky changed from a deep black to a faint purple. The rising of the sun soon followed, and its first rays fell upon the muscled flanks of Zira. Then the rays fell upon her amber eyes, but eyes that remained in a deep focus, never leaving the horizon. She had returned to her favorite spot once more, but this silent vigil, (unlike her last,) would soon yield untold amounts of favorable results. Since she expected that at any moment, she would see the form of Nuka appear in the north, she had remained motionless, eyes fixed on the horizon, and stared throughout the entire morning. The hours passed like they were minutes, time meant nothing to her; after all time was something she had plenty of.
When the sun was about to reach its zenith, at last she saw him. She sprang to her paws, as she thought she saw Nuka's lanky form, but when she ran towards the crest of the hill, she saw nothing. Her hopes were about to be shattered, but then there he was, looking back towards The Pride Lands. It was Nuka! At last he had returned! She roared with joy, and jumped in a circle like a newborn cub, then ran full speed down the hill towards her "son", and towards the news that she expected to hear. Nuka looked up and almost fell over from his surprise when he saw Zira running towards him, and when she crashed into him with a playful pounce, he did. He looked up in wonder, but had to quickly shut his eyes as Zira's long tongue scraped across his face in a warm, loving caress.
"Oh, my sweet Nuka, at last you have returned, I have been worried sick."
"Zira, wha, will you... Stop it! Get off of me!"
"Zira? No, call me Mother... Remember?"
"All right whatever, Mother... Can you please stop licking me, and let me up?"
"Oh, sorry, I am just so happy to see you. You have made me so proud."
"What are you talking about?" Zira backed off of him and allowed him to stand, "Why are you so happy to see me, and what do you mean you are so proud?"
"What do you mean, what do I mean? My dear "son," I love you!"
"Love... LOVE?! Do you expect me to feel any of that for you, after what you did to me? You're the one who forced me leave!"
"Let's forget about that. All that is important is you have returned, and you have fulfilled your destiny."
"Your destiny," Zira squinted her eyes, suddenly growing concerned, "You did see a lioness, didn't you?"
"Maybe... Why do you care?"
"Nuka, tell me what happened!"
"Why Zira? If I do does that mean you'll give me a nice baby antelope?"
"All right I admit that was a bit extreme, but look what it did for you. It made you into the son I have always wished to have. Now about your name, let's change it, OK? I have this perfect one that I've been thinking about and I..."
"What the hell are you saying? You're making no sense!"
"Very well, we'll get back to that later, but first you can tell me everything that happened."
"If I tell you, do you promise me that you will act... Normal for a change?"
"I swear to you that I won't be doing anything like what I did with that antelope ever again. After all I don't have to anymore, do I?"
"Uh, I guess I'll accept that. Do you want the short version or the long?"
"I don't care, just tell me! I'm drooling like a hyena here!"
"Well, I wandered for many miles, all through the night, until I ended up in a vast savanna, where I couldn't tell which way was which. So obviously I was tired, and I decided to take a nap. But just then I smelled this strange, but awesome scent, and for some reason, I decided to follow it."
"Yes, yes, go on."
"So I followed this scent... By the way, you know I've never noticed how much this pelt of mine can blend in with tall grass, you should see how great I..."
"Get on with it!"
"Uh, OK. Well like I was saying I followed this scent until I found this waterhole."
"Oh yes, the waterhole! Scar did you hear that?"
"Nothing, just keep going."
"Well anyway, I saw these cranes and I was pretty hungry, so I thought I might grab myself a bird or two, but just then, I saw this thing of such beauty, that I couldn't take my eyes off of it."
"What was it? Tell me!"
"I'm getting to that! Jeez you're impatient. Anyway I see this paw, and then this face, and I've got to tell ya, wow what a face. And then this body of hers, oh, you should have seen her, what a lioness! (Zira narrowed her eyes,) You'll never believe this show she gave me! She was stretching and walking around like a goddess, and then she oh let me tell you mom, I saw everything, and I'm talking everything! (Zira bared her fangs and twisted her muzzle into a snarl, but Nuka didn't notice, he was too caught up in telling his story.) I was behind her right, in the grass, and of course, since I can hide so well, she didn't see me. Then she walked over to the waterhole, oh jeez you should have seen the way she walked, and then she reached the water's edge, and then she bent over, and then I saw her..." Nuka couldn't finish the last word, he was drowned out by Zira's enraged roar,
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!"
"I, uh was telling you about this lioness that I think I'm in love with." Zira suddenly pounced on him, and pinned him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him in the process. Nuka looked up with eyes of confusion, but then he felt fears racing through his veins, when he realized his shoulders were pinned to the ground. Zira was screaming a flurry of curses that Nuka couldn't believe was coming from a lioness' muzzle, let alone coming from his mother. Some of them he hadn't even heard before.
"Why are you calling me these things? What have I done!"
"You have ruined everything!"
"What do you mean?"
"You were supposed to kill her!"
"Kill her? I love her!"
"You love her!? You are not my son!"
"What? Don't start this again... please!"
"You are nothing! You are nothing but a pile of flesh, nothing but food for maggots! You have betrayed me, betrayed yourself, betrayed Scar!"
"Why are you always saying that? Who is Scar!"
"You want to know everything, you want the truth? Then listen well, and learn why you deserve to die by my claws! And if you don't listen, then believe me, you stupid son of a hyena, I will kill you!" Nuka was shaking, and was covered in drool, due to Zira's enraged frenzy; he had no choice but to comply.
* * * * *
"All right I'll listen! I'll listen to every single word you say... Can you please let me up now?"
"Shut up! You will not only hear but also feel every syllable I say," Zira slashed a small cut onto Nuka's shoulder, which caused him to cry out, "And this way I'll make sure you pay attention!" Nuka closed his eyes, trying to block out the spittle that was flying in his face from Zira's wicked laugh.
"Why is this happening?" He thought, "Why is it everything I do backfires, why can't I do anything right? Mighty Aiheu, please get me through this, I wish I had listened to my better judgment and never returned. I just wanted to say good-bye to Zira one last time. I never expected to end up like this."
"Open your damned eyes!" Nuka did as he was told. "You tell me you love this lioness? You're a fool! Don't you realize who that was? What did she look like?"
"She, uh... She had this awesome gold pelt, uh long legs, this beautiful tail, this real nice ass..."
"What color were her eyes?!"
"Uh, I think they were aquamarine."
"You fool! You stupid little.... That was his mate!"
"What, whose mate?"
"Who the hell is Simba!"
"He was the lion that killed your father!"
"What!" Nuka didn't want to believe it. Not the lioness of his dreams, she couldn't be that lion's mate, "Then that is why she was..."
"Why she was what!"
"She seemed to have this ball in her stomach, I thought she was just being fed really well, and OWWWW!" Nuka screamed again as he was slapped across the face from a backhanded paw from Zira!"
"You bastard! You're telling me she is pregnant too?"
"Uh... Yes.... Please I'm sorry.... I."
"You could have stuck a thorn so deep into Simba's! You could have killed his mate and their unborn cub in one strike, but now all my plans are indeed ruined! Oh why Nuka, why did you do this to me?"
"I can't kill a beautiful lioness like her, it is wrong!"
"Wrong, I'll tell you what is wrong, her mate killed the most beautiful lion whoever lived. He killed my husband!"
"Simba killed my father and your love? For no reason they killed him?"
"Yes, he killed your father, he killed my mate, and he killed my love!"
"No! Please tell me this isn't true," Nuka could begin to feel tears begin to well up in his eyes, "Why did Simba kill my father!?"
"Why, because he is evil! They are all evil, and they all deserve to die!"
"No, you can't mean the lioness too? She seemed so beautiful, how can a lioness that gorgeous be... Evil?"
"It doesn't matter what she looks like, beauty can hide a black heart, and an even blacker soul. They killed your father out of vengeance, just so they could take over the pride. My poor mate didn't even have a chance to fight back, and then he was murdered by the hyenas who he thought were his allies!" Nuka closed his eyes once again, as Zira's tears were falling on his face, mixing with his own.
"I am so sorry... Mother... I... I... Didn't know!"
"You didn't know... No one knows! No one creature knows, what a magnificent lion your father was. I was the only creature to ever show him any love, and he was the first to show any to me. You were the offspring of our love, and look at how you betrayed us!"
"What was his name?"
"Scar? The one who you are always talking about! The one who you think watches over you, and everything you see."
"I don't think he does, I know he does!"
"Simba and that beautiful lioness killed Scar, my father?"
"Yes, but now you have betrayed him and ruined all my plans for revenge. You were supposed to rip that bitch's heart out, so Simba could feel what it is like to lose a loved one, but no instead you fall in love with her! The mate of your father's killer! Don't you understand what you have done? Don't you understand the pain you have caused me, the agony you have caused Scar? I can't deal with the pain as it is, and you want to give me more! Zira suddenly backed off of Nuka and walked away from him, slumping to her stomach and burying her face in her paws, crying loudly.
"Look at what you have done to me... Your own mother!"
"I'm... sorry," Nuka rose to his paws, and wiped his own tears with a backhanded paw. He walked towards his mother's weeping form and tried to console her, "Mother, please let me help you."
"Get out of my sight!"
"No, don't say a damned thing, get out of here!"
"I'll be down by the river, if you need me."
"Good, go drown yourself for what you have done!"
"Mother... Please let me..."
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Nuka hung his head as he walked away, he looked back and felt like his heart was being ripped apart by invisible claws when he saw Zira crying even louder and pounding the earth with her paws. She was screaming one sentence over and over again, that pounded in his ears,
"Scar I am so sorry, please forgive me!" Nuka wiped his eyes with the back of his paw once again and looked towards the sky. His whole world was being torn apart, and he couldn't do anything about it. Everything he had tried only made things worse and he falls in love with the mate of his father's murderer.
"What the hell is wrong with me? I don't deserve to live!" He turned from the awful scene, and ran as fast as he could away from Zira's weeping, but no matter how far he ran, it remained pounding in his ears. The only thoughts that screamed through his mind were multiple ways to kill the lion that had murdered his father. He suddenly stopped and screamed to the skies,
"SIMBAAAAA! YOU'RE DEAD!"
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: TURNING POINT
"Mother? Mother? Mother?! Where are you?" Nuka had searched everywhere, but found nothing. He could find no trace of Zira, only silence and shadows answered his calls. The whole remainder of the afternoon was filled with near panic searching, ever since he had returned to check on how his mother was doing. When he had returned to spot where he had last seen here, she was gone. Only pressed down grass, and a few claws marks, embedded in the earth, had told him she was once there. He called her name desperately, but all was futile, he didn't even know where to start looking. How could one lion find another in a jungle that stretched for miles? Now with the coming darkness, as it would soon be night, he began to think he would never find her. Had she left him in disgust, due to his foolish mistake, or had she abandoned him due to his constant failures, deciding that is was pointless to even try and love him?
Her state of mind was the question that worried Nuka the most. He had never seen her so crushed with depression, and filled with such grief by her loss. What could she be thinking, why didn't she tell him she was leaving? Nuka began to fathom how his future would turn out if he were indeed abandoned by Zira. Without Fabana, and since no other creature even paid the slightest attention to him, he could not even imagine how he would survive.
Where could she be? Nuka was pondering all the possibilities, when suddenly he felt a terrible feeling. His mind screamed to him, the only logical answer. Nuka shook his head, speaking his thoughts aloud.
"No, you wouldn't do that, would you? You can't, Zira, not all by yourself. It would be suicide!" Nuka spun on his paws and crashed through the vines, following the path towards the place where he prayed he wouldn't find his mother. However, deep down, he knew he would.
* * * * *
"Scar, I'll see you soon." A slight rustling made Zira turn towards the north, and then the grass began to sway a few yards in front of her. Zira's eyes kept their constant stare, never blinking, never moving, a far away look was all they had.
"I have no choice left, this is the only way. I can trust no one, but myself. If the only way I can make sure that Simba will die, is to kill him with my own claws, then so be it. I will die in the process, I cannot deny that, but I pray I take at least a few of the lionesses with me. Good-bye Nuka, I am sorry for what I did to you, but it is better this way. Maybe without me in your life, you can learn to forgive me. Scar, let it be quick, that is all I ask." Any second now the lion would know she was there, this was her last chance. With a roar that shook the grasses, and ripped the silence asunder, Zira pounced upon her prey.
* * * * *
Panting, his tongue hanging loosely out of his mouth like a hyena, Nuka finally reached the border of The Pride Lands. He quickly looked up, but saw nothing, only the shrill roar, that he knew came from Zira, suddenly crashed into his ears. He picked up the scent of his mother, another lion, and then he began to smell the scent of blood. Following it quickly, he ran at full speed, through the dense grass, trying to blot out the images he was seeing in his mind, simultaneously praying that it wouldn't be true.
Blood suddenly streaked across his face, as he skidded to a stop into grass covered in it. In the process, he tripped over the still form of a lion that was concealed by the blood stained grass. He spun his head toward the carcass, but then swung his head back, the awful scene causing him to nauseate. He felt his stomach churn and pulsate, then steadied his legs as he vomited back up the meat he had eaten. He felt utterly terrible, and began to cough, tears streaming down his face, blinding him. He knew it had to be her, but didn't want to look back and confirm it. He knew if he did, he would no doubt lose whatever was left in his stomach. Nevertheless he knew he must, and shaking he swung his head back towards the hideous scene, but suddenly his eyes narrowed as his muzzle twisted into a confused look.
It was indeed the carcass of a lion, but it wasn't Zira! He didn't know whether to feel joy or not as he inspected the form. It wasn't even a lion but a lioness, and she lay in a pool of her own blood, which had spilled from a nasty slash across hear throat. Nuka squinted as he saw the strange color of her pelt. It was a light brown, almost gray, and it seemed this was a much older lioness, then the one he had seen at the waterhole. He tiptoed towards her, and gazed upon her eyes. They were gold and filled with the wisdom of age, but strangest enough was her muzzle. It was twisted into a happy smile, and it looked as if her final wish had been answered. Nuka shook his head. Why would she have a smile on her face?
"Nuka?" Nuka froze as her heard the female voice.
"Moth... Mother... Zira?"
"Yes, turn around, Nuka." Nuka slowly turned, but his jaw hit the ground when he saw Zira did not have a scratch on her. Only tears had matted the fur on her face.
"Zira!? What happened?"
"I... I don't know. All I know is I made a terrible mistake."
"What do you mean?"
"I didn't mean to take this lioness' life. It was a terrible mistake." Zira hung her head low, her tail twitching nervously.
"What are you saying?" Zira slumped to her belly and dropped her head onto the cold ground.
"Scar, why did she say that!" Nuka ran towards her and placed his paws on hers.
"Mother, tell me what happened."
"I thought that, this was the only way. I was going to plunge headlong towards Pride Rock, until I found Simba, and then without a second thought, slash his throat. So his lionesses would kill me quick, without pain, and then I would be with my love forever. But as I was walking towards Pride Rock, I heard the grass move in front of me, and then the scent I smelled, was similar to Simba's. I thought it was him! So I said my final words, even said good-bye to you, and then pounced upon this poor lioness, and slashed her throat thinking it was Simba. I turned around, to make sure the kill was complete, but when I did, my jaw dropped when I saw this lioness was smiling at me, and trying to stop the gushing blood with her paws! Oh, it was awful, it was spraying all over the grass... And....And... She knew my name, Nuka, she knew my real name, she knew my real name!"
"Calm down Mother, it is OK, I'm here. Tell me what she said."
"She looked at me, smiled then said, 'Ushandra, what took you so long? Now at last I can finally be with Scar. Thank you Ushandra, at last Sarabi can have her peace!' Then she closed her eyes and collapsed as the last essence of her life escaped from that terrible wound! She wanted me to kill her Nuka, she had waited for me to kill her, she even thanked me when I did!"
"Zira, don't worry she doesn't know your name. Your name isn't Ushandra."
"You don't know, no one knows! Zira pulled her paws away, and rose to her paws. She turned from her "son" and began to walk away, her tail turned to him.
"Before I became what I am now, I was once an innocent, beautiful lioness. A lioness whose goodness died with Scar, and a lioness whom I shall never be again. You're wrong Nuka. My real name is Ushandra. She knew Nuka, she knew.
"How could she?"
"I was there, I saw everything."
"I was there, Nuka," Zira spun her head back towards him, "I saw your father murdered by Simba! I saw everything! I remember her now, yes now I know who this poor lioness was. I thought Scar hated her, but now I know I was wrong. It seemed I didn't know everything about Scar after all. He had too many secrets and we did not spend enough time together for all his secrets to be revealed." Zira began to laugh softly to herself, "Hell, look at you! I still find it hard to swallow that one!"
"What? What was that?"
"Nothing, Nuka. Listen to me, I can't hide this, we will be known to the Pridelanders now, our scents are all over this place. When they see us, they will know who killed Sarabi. We have no choice, we must leave the jungle."
"No, we can't! Where are we going to go?"
"To a place, that Fabana told me about, The Outlands."
"No, not there! It is a formless wasteland!"
"Perhaps, but it will match my soul, won't it?"
"It's not going to match mine!"
"Where will you go, Nuka. You know, as well as I do, that Simba will hunt you down. You will never be safe."
"I didn't kill her, you did!"
"It doesn't matter, your scent is all around us, just like mine is. Do you think Simba will listen to reason? Not that brute! He will kill you, just like her did your father, without a second thought."
"Not if I kill him first!" Zira looked up, and for the first time, Nuka saw a real smile.
"You have no idea, how much it soothes my heart to hear you say that, but the killing blow must be struck by me, but if you are ever in a position to do so," Zira grinned once more, "I won't hold you back."
"What did Fabana tell you?"
"I'll tell you on the way, but be prepared, it is a long journey."
"Mother," Nuka looked back down at the still form of Sarabi, "Who was she anyway?"
"I don't know, Nuka, but it so strange that her scent was so akin to... Oh dear God, it couldn't be!"
"Oh, yeeeeeessss!" Nuka, jumped back, startled as Zira's laugh broke the stillness. "Oh, Nuka, do you know who this was?"
"Oh, beautiful chance of fate, oh, marvelous irony, this has to be Simba's mother!"
"Simba's mother?" A wicked laugh, almost hyena like, pierced the wind, causing Zira to winch in agony, "Simba's mother! He, He, He, Ha, Ha, Ha! Oh, perfect, mother, I think our friend Simba will feel a slight bit of agony now, don't you think? Finally that stupid, son of a hyena, (Zira held back a laugh at that curse,) might feel pain similar to what you felt when he took Scar!"
"Interesting choice of words there Nuka, but yes, couldn't have said it better myself. Still I am sorry that I killed this innocent lioness, she didn't deserve to die by my claws. Perhaps one day I'll learn the truth about her, and what she meant by that strange statement."
"You may be better off not knowing, mother."
"Perhaps.... Well come on, Nuka, we have to get out of here, before we're discovered. That laugh of yours could wake the dead." Zira winced again as she heard Nuka's laugh pierce the night once more.
"I don't see, Sarabi here waking up, do you?"
"I've trained you well, Nuka."
"All I want is your attention Mother, that is all I ever wanted. Come one, let's get out of this accursed place." Zira watched Nuka disappear through the grass with a smile. She looked back down at Sarabi, and breathed out a long sigh, still feeling some pity for what she had done.
"Who are you Sarabi? How did you know my love. Someday I'll find the answer to this question, but I want you to know I am terribly sorry... Please forgive me." She slowly rose her head and looked towards Pride Rock. Her face changed from one of pity back to her famous wicked grin in a mere second.
"Simba, Simba, Simba, oh I have a feeling tomorrow isn't going to be a very good day for you. You deserve so much of my wrath, but this is just the beginning. Oh, you are going to feel a lot more, for what you've done to me, and for what your pride did to Scar. Until we meet again!" Zira spun on her paws and ran towards her destiny and her legacy. She headed towards the realm that will forever be shrouded in loving veneration by those who called it there sanctuary, and vigilant fear by the Pridelanders. She headed towards the one place that would create her future, The Outlands.