The Reign of Darkness

Story by:

Black Lion

 

            Authors Note: I wrote this story as a simple yet very long fanfic. Yes, it is about the Lion King, and my own personal mixture to it. I hope you Enjoy! (All characters recognized by Disney, as well as locations, are all there property. All other characters are mine. Thanks.) xalanthas@yahoo.com

            Warning: This story contains much graphic content. All who are squeamish or just don’t like these types of stories please turn away.

Chapter 1: Undying Love

 

            Kovu smiled as he watched the sun tuck itself into the horizon, giving off its pink profound tone. He felt the wind pass through his body, cool and fresh. The scent of rain clinged his nostrils and he smiled again. Kovu loved the rain. It had been only a few days since Kovu and the rest of the Outlanders had been taken back into the Pride. Simba and Nala still retained their royal status, but Kovu felt it wouldn’t be long until they passed it over to Kiara and him. He looked up, and the stars twinkled in their glory, shining down upon him. Tears began to fill his eyes, and Pride overwhelmed his accomplishment.

Hated outsider to king…to KING…

Kovu was about to cry. What were the chances of him being accepted as a member of the greatest pride the world had ever known?

Kovu noticed that it was getting late, and he should return to his chamber. Kovu got up and walked back to his den, where he found Kiara waiting for him.

Kovu only smiled by her warm presence, his breath taken away by the mere sight of her, her golden fur, her eyes…

God, how Kovu loved her eyes, the marvelous red orbs that, with a glance, could warm him for three winter months.

Kovu walked over to her and gave her a loving head rub. She suddenly rubbed her full length under his chin. Kovu smiled, her rubbing releasing a fresh scent from her fur. At the end of the body rub, Kiara ran her tail under Kovu’s chin, and gave him a little upwards flick when she was done. She stepped and danced around him, then occasionally would wander away from him purposely, as if to accentuate herself.

Kovu quickly realized the point she was trying to get across.

Kiara stepped towards him again with a seductive face, and rubbed her head against his. She bit him lightly on the ear, and Kovu felt a shiver run down his spine. Kovu enjoyed the attention, but had to hold back.

“Kiara…” He whispered into Kiara’s ear, whose breathing began to get heavy.

“Shh…” she whispered in his ear softly, “I’m here, and that’s all that matters…”

She ran her length under his chin again, but halfway across her back Kovu turned away and walked towards the corner quickly, and sat facing the reddish-bronze wall.

Kiara’s mood changed, and she became very worried over her love.

She walked over to him and sat beside him, head low, trying to see Kovu’s face.

“Kovu, what’s wrong?” She asked, worried.

Kovu picked his head up and looked into her eyes. His marvelous green eyes, reminded her of the most beautiful of all crystals.

“Kiara, you know I love you with all my heart…” He began to explain, “And you know we’ve never mated before…”

Kiara, jumping to conclusions, “Don’t worry about that, Kovu…” and started to rub his head lovingly.

“Kiara…please stop…” he said suddenly.

Kiara, shocked, looked at him with a dropped jaw.

“Kiara…it’s not that, either…” He said as he put his head down again.

“It’s just that I’m not…ready, now…” He said honestly, hoping that Kiara would understand. He picked up his head and looked deep into her eyes, thinking that he would find anger, disappointment.

No, he didn’t.

Instead he met her understanding, loving, soothing eyes. Kiara sat, and smiled warmly at Kovu. Kovu turned from the wall to her direction, and felt a rush of happiness surge through his body. Kovu loved Kiara beyond describable words, and he felt comforted by her very presence. Kovu smiled warmly and deeply at her, and tears began to fill his eyes. He began to sob, tears flowing down his cheeks, and he let it out. Kovu cried, his tears wetting the stone floor, but not of sadness, but of happiness. The very thought of Kiara froze him, and to have her as his love was almost too perfect to be real. Eyes closed and still shedding tears, Kiara got up and sat beside him, and rubbed his shoulder with hers. Kovu picked his head up, his cheeks now soggy with tears of joy, looked into her eyes again. She smiled, and said softly,

“Kovu, I would never want to rush or hurt you in any way…”

“Nor would I…” he replied, elation still great within him.

“And I understand that you need some time to get used to me…”

Kovu looked at her shocked, stunned that he directed her in the wrong way.

“No, Kiara, it’s not that either…” He said as he got up and now head rubbed her lovingly, her fur giving fervent feelings of love to Kovu.

“It’s not you that I need to get used to…” He said, continuing the loving rub.

“It’s me…it’s me…” He whispered as he stopped rubbing and looked into her eyes. Kovu began to explain,

“Kiara, it’s me. It’s not every day that an outsider like me is bound to become king of the greatest lands of the entire world. It’s also not everyday when you lose a mother and brother in a few days. Furthermore, when you’ve been trained all your life to kill…”

Kovu paused, downing his head, and tears began to fill his eyes again.

Kiara reached out with a paw and lifted his head. His crystal green eyes shined with tears, and Kiara smiled, trying to cheer him up.

“Kovu, I understand. I will give you all the time you need,” She lowered her paw and licked him over his nose, “…My Kovu…”

She walked over to the side of the den and lied down, and beckoned Kovu to follow. Kovu smiled, and told her softly,

“I have a better idea.”

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Nighttime, before the rain.

Kovu led Kiara outside, and saw the thundering clouds in the horizon. Kovu scanned the area for a suitable location, while Kiara caught up to him. He found a nice spot, a large tree surrounded by tall grass. He walked over to it and laid down in the shade. Kiara followed, and lied down in the grass as well.

“Don’t worry about the rain,” Kovu said, “The leaves on this tree are large and broad, and so they should keep us from getting wet.”

She snuggled close, and rubbed his head again, purring softly. Kovu rubbed her head back, and they both stopped and looked lovingly at each other. They stared happily into each other’s eyes for a long moment, and Kovu was the first to put his head down to sleep. Kiara snuggled her head close to his, and there they slept, in peace, for the night.

 

 

Chapter 2: Explanations

 

            Kovu woke, the sun behind him reflected off the dew of the tall grass. It rained hard, much of the surrounding pathways of Priderock were littered with large puddles. Kovu looked up and saw Kiara, her head propped up on top of his, purring in her sleep. Kovu smiled, and did not have any intentions on waking her up. He slid out from under her, and used his neck like an off-ramp so that he wouldn’t drop her head on the ground. Kovu watched as she slept, ever so peacefully. Kovu stretched himself out, bones popping comfortably.

“Ahh, a new day.” He said to himself, and felt the wind of a new day pass through his mane ever so gently. He felt the cool earth settle itself between his paws, giving him shivers.

Kovu remembered everything that had happened to him, the death of Nuka and Zira, Simba’s thought that he had betrayed him. 

Kovu sighed heavily, the thoughts tying a knot in his stomach. But, as Simba had taught him, the strange Akuna-Matata phrase, to put your past behind yourself.

Kovu sighed again, relieved. True, he may have been the almost certain demise of Simba and the entire pride, but he also at least remembered that you can run from the past, or, learn from it.

An itch developed on Kovu's head.

He reached and began to scratch, and whipped his paw back down when searing pain shot through the back of his head.

"Oww..." he said as the pain on the back of his head slowly diminished.

Slowly, he brought his paw up again and rubbed the back of his head. He wondered where he had gotten the pain, as the back of his head was abnormally tender.

Memory served quickly for Kovu, and he remembered exactly where he had gotten it from.

"The ambush..." Kovu muttered to himself.

He remembered Simba being hopelessly outnumbered by the Outlanders, and Kovu had tried to help. He remembered batting Sioka away, but as he turned he remembered getting kicked in the face by...

Who?

Kovu tried hard to remember, feeling that he had known the lioness, but the spark of memory just didn’t ignite.

"Who was it, I should know..." he asked himself, still rubbing his head, and he finally remembered.

Vitani

Yes, it was Vitani. Kovu remembered clearly now, clearly saw her evil grin when it happened, remembered flying through the air and landing head-first on a stone in the ground.

"I think I'm going to have to have a few words with her when I get back." He told himself.

Kovu stared out into the horizon, smiling at how wonderful his life turned out to be. His smile diminished again, remembering his past.

"Put it behind yourself..." He told himself, putting the old memories away.

Kovu looked out into the horizon again, and finally turned back to Priderock.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

As he walked, he reached the tree where Kiara still slept, and tapped her lightly on the head.

She moaned, and her eyes cracked open.

"Time to wake..." Kovu said as he looked closely at Kiara, his head near hers. She smiled, and gave Kovu a lick on the nose.

"Mpmh..." Kovu muffled as the lick tickled his nose and summoned a sneeze. Kovu lifted his head and rubbed his nose, salvaging a sneeze.

Kiara stretched her spine, popping as she did a wave-like motion on her back. She rolled her shoulders and moaned slightly, and looked over to Kovu, who was smiling the entire time.

"What?" She asked, smiling back.

"Nothing..." Kovu said as he walked over to her, "Just admiring your beauty..."

"Oh, stop it." Kiara said as Kovu began to head rub her softly, his mane tickling her neck. She purred, and Kovu's muscles tensed at the sound.

They walked back to Priderock together, walking up the stone ramp and into the main den. There, they found the lionesses preparing for a new day, Simba and Nala speaking to each other on the throne.

Kovu and Kiara walked up to them, but they didn’t notice from their deep conversation.

Simba, at the corner of his eye, spotted them and stopped immediately.

Nala turned and saw them both, together again.

"Where were you two? We woke and couldn’t find you anywhere." Simba started, asking them both.

"We were asleep under a tree. Kovu decided to sleep outside for a change." Kiara said, and gave Kovu a small head rub. Kovu smiled and head rubbed back.

"Didn’t the rain bother you?" Nala asked this time.

Kovu looked up and said, "No, the tree had large leaves, so we slept quite comfortably."

Kiara still head rubbed Kovu, and Nala smiled at them both.

"So, what were you two talking about?" Kovu asked.

Simba looked over to Nala hesitantly, and she did to him. Simba sighed heavily, and began to speak.

"Kovu, we where talking about..." Simba hesitated, but began again, "...When Kiara and you will be crowned King and Queen."

Kovu and Kiara looked at them wide-eyed, jaws dropping.

"I was questioning if you two were ready..."

Kovu was the first to break through the shock, and said sheepishly, "Simba, I...Am not ready."

Simba looked at him curiously. "Kovu?"

Kovu looked up, and said, "Simba, I have had some trouble, and I don’t think we will be King and Queen yet, not in a while."

Simba paused for a moment, smiled, and said, "I understand, Kovu. I will give you plenty of time."

Kovu looked up and smiled, and Kiara broke through the trance.

"Queen?!? But it’s only been a couple of days!" Kiara exclaimed.

"Kiara, if you're not ready, then just say so." Nala said calmly.

"What a relief! I don’t think I could have handled it so soon." Kiara said in response.

The 4 simultaneously sighed in relief.

"Thank goodness." Kiara added, and turned to Kovu, "I guess I'm gonna have to go for now, the other lionesses seem to be calling me."

Kovu looked over to his right and saw a group of 5 lionesses huddled around each other. One, as he clearly knew as Umi, waved with a smile.

Kovu smiled back, and a thought filled his mind.

Vitani

True, he had to look for Vitani. Kovu scanned the inside of the den, and she was nowhere to be found.

Quickly, he ran out of the den to find her, when he ran into Sioka.

"Sioka!" Kovu exclaimed, surprised.

"Hello, Kovu." She responded dully, her tone low and disappointing.

"What?" Kovu said, and he remembered what he had done to her.

As if on cue, Sioka turned her head and displayed her left eye, blackened and swollen.

Kovu grimaced, and said, "Geez, I’m sorry Sioka. I...I...I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?"

Sioka smiled seductively.

"SIOKA!" Kovu exclaimed.

"What? You said anything...” Replied Sioka.

Kovu knew Sioka all too well. Before the entire mess of Kovu and his plot to overthrow Simba from his throne, Sioka had a mad crush on Kovu. Kovu never really paid attention to her, until the time she tried to "Make Kovu hers". Kovu, of course, turned her down and scolded her, shocked at her unreal behavior. Kovu had never really liked Sioka, her seductivity too great for his affection.

"Please Sioka. I just wanted to say that I am sorry for what I did." Kovu urged her.

"I understand. You’re just trying to protect your girlfriend’s daddy." She wasn’t all too happy that Kovu and Kiara loved each other, either.

Kovu ignored her last remark and asked, "Sioka, do you know where Vitani is?"

"Yes I do. She's near the water-hole, but she should be returning any time soon." She finished with a smile.

"Thanks. See ya around!" His last words trailed off as he ran down the ramp, and down the dirt pathway towards the water-hole.

"Hopefully not..." Kovu thought to himself as he ran, scanning the horizon to find Vitani.

Once Kovu was pretty far from Priderock, he slowed to a walk, and still looked onward, searching for Vitani. He scanned, and he finally found her. She was returning from the water-hole, her head low.

Kovu picked up the pace and stopped in front of Vitani. She lifted her head, and smiled. Her sapphire eyes sparkled in glory.

"Hi, Kovu." She said silently, "How are you?"

"Pretty good, considering the kick you laid on me." Kovu said, lifting an eye-brow.

Vitani curiously looked at him, her eyes squinted. Her eyes widened suddenly, and she blushed. She folded her ears down, and hung her head low, placing a paw over her head, and turning away slightly.

"Gee, Kovu. You caught me on the end of the line. I’m sorry, I..." Vitani tried hard to explain, but she couldn’t muster enough courage.

"Oh, please Kovu, I’m so sorry, really, I mean, uh, well, you know how it is, when everything is happening so fast, I lost myself and..." She stopped when she looked up and met Kovu's smile.

She hung her head low with her ears still folded down and said, "I’m sorry."

Kovu walked over next to her and pulled her close. Kovu had grown very large, and very strong. He nearly tipped his height over Simba. He easily pulled Vitani close, and lifted her chin with his massive paw. He looked into her dazzling blue eyes and smiled. She smiled back.

"I forgive you Vitani, because I know that we are all not perfect." Kovu told her.

Vitani smiled, and gave Kovu a small head rub on the shoulder. She began her way back to Priderock, and turned back and smiled at Kovu again. Kovu smiled back, and she turned and trotted happily back to Priderock. Kovu watched as she pranced away, and turned to see the rising sun, on its long journey to the other side. Kovu smiled and decided to watch the sun rise, all the while the happy thoughts circling around in his head, over and over.

"Nothing can go wrong, not anymore..."

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

 

Vitani finally reached Priderock, and began her swift ascent up the onramp.

Thank goodness that weight was lifted off my shoulders! She thought to herself, as she was forgiven by Kovu. As she reached the top, she ran into Kiara, who was surprised by Vitani's sudden appearance.

"Oh! Vitani! Good, we were looking for you."

Vitani looked up happily at Kiara, who was glad that she had found her so fast. 

"The other lionesses and I are going for the hunt. They say that there could not be a better time than now to hunt."

Vitani smiled slyly and said, "I sure would."

 

Chapter 3: The Finding

 

 

Kiara and Vitani led the way, the three other lionesses, Kaisha, Sioka, and Mavi following closely behind. Kiara walked a few paces ahead of Vitani, trying to be the first to find the herd. They all picked up the pace to match Kiara's swift process.

As they walked, they all set their eyes on Kiara. It was usually best to keep sight of the leader; she could give signals which would indicate the precise moment to stop.

They were right.

Kiara stopped and snapped her tail straight. She wiggled her right hind paw, indicating to stop. They all stopped, and Vitani dared a peek over the tall grass. The antelope herd grazed silently, sensing no threat to their cause. Oh, how they were wrong.

Kiara turned to the group, and they all instinctively huddled around close.

"Okay, we are downwind. We have caught them perfectly. Look, and see, they are in a dried lake bed, and it will take quite some effort for them to leave it." Kiara said informatively.

Vitani looked and saw that she was right. This bed once possessed a large lake, and the beds walls were quite high, about 5 feet. The antelope had walked through a small promontory that led into the water that was once there. The lake bed was heavily surrounded by trees, lush, green, and tall. The only opening was in the promontory, and the hill in which the lionesses stood on.

"Okay, here’s the plan. Kaisha, you’re going to take the left wing, which is covered by those trees. Sioka, you’re going to stay here. Mavi, you’re going to take the right wing. I, myself, will be north of the herd. Vitani, you’re going to cover that promontory."

The lionesses all nodded when they heard their position commands. Then came the important part.

"Ok. Now, when I signal off, you will see the herd go into pandemonium. I will try my best to lead them to you, Kaisha. Then, Kaisha and I will lead them over to you, Mavi. All three of us will then lead them to you, Sioka. They should turn around, allowing us to pick off some of them. When they turn, their instinct will tell them to get to that promontory. That’s were you come in, Vitani."

Vitani turned to Kiara, listening intently.

"When they approach, your going to have to try to pick off as many as you can."

"With all due respect, why me?" Vitani asked, puzzled.

Kiara looked at her and smiled. Then she said, "You’re the most experienced of us. You should do fine."

Vitani smiled shyly at the compliment.

"We better get moving. We don’t want them to change their position. Let's go." Kiara said, and all the lionesses bolted off to their positions.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Kiara looked over the small stream covered with boulders. She watched the positions she instructed all the lionesses to take. Mavi, Sioka, and Kaisha and beckoned to her, signaling their readiness. All but Vitani.

"C'mon, c'mon..." Kiara whispered.

Kiara was behind a small stream littered with algae covered rocks. She was upwind; however, the algae's stench and the water's clarity shielded the antelope from picking her up.

Kiara stared at the promontory. Her eyes narrowed, searching for any sign of Vitani. As if on cue, Vitani's head poked through the foliage, and nodded. Kiara smiled. The time was now.

Kiara now focused on the herd. 

Kiara advanced, and focused deeper on the herd. She watched as they grazed peacefully, and waited for the right moment.

The nearest antelope grazed, but every now and then lifted its head, sensing a threatening presence. After smelling the air thoroughly, it put its head back down to graze again.

Kiara crept close, as did the antelope. Kiara stopped at the tree line, waiting. The antelope neared the tree line as it grazed, and just as it was before the tree line, the antelope froze. It slowly lifted its head up and looked into the foliage. Its fearful gaze met with Kiara's cold glare.

It froze.

Kiara leaped out of the tree line, and landed square on the antelopes back. Unthinking, the antelope toppled over with Kiara's weight. Kiara fell on her side and rolled to her feet. She turned and saw the antelope, dazed and confused, trying to decipher up from down.

Acting fast, Kiara ran over to it and seized it by the throat, clamping down hard on the creature's throat. Kiara heard the windpipe pop and the neck shatter, blood spraying on Kiara's throat and maw.

She turned from the dead animal, and saw the herd, staring wide eyed in fear at her and their dead member. Slowly, they began to walk away, as if she had not seen them.

Kiara bolted in their direction, sending panic through the herd. They all ran towards Sioka.

"OH NO!!" Kiara yelped, knowing they were going in the wrong direction.

As if on cue, Mavi busted through the foliage, and let out a marvelous roar.

The antelope, squealing, turned towards Kaisha's position.

"GOOD WORK!" Kiara yelled over to Mavi. Mavi only looked and nodded slightly.

As they ran, Kiara and Mavi began to snap at the antelopes heels, prodding them to speed up. The soft earth turned hard, suddenly. Strange, Kiara suspected, but ignored it.

Kaisha burst out of the foliage a little early, but the results were just as planned. They tried to bolt back to the left, but were covered by Mavi. The three then led them to Sioka, who waited patiently.

Sioka watched as the herd stampeded towards her, full of fear and amazement. Just as they were a few yards away, Sioka jumped through the foliage, and let out the loudest roar she ever mustered.

She roared long and loud, some of the antelope tripping over themselves as the harshness of the roar overwhelmed the antelope's sensitive ears.

As they tried to turn back towards their last resort, the promontory, Kiara, Mavi, and Kaisha ran past, swinging their claws wide and catching antelope by surprise as they turned back.

Kiara caught an antelope on the face as it turned, her claws raking across the creature's face. Blood trailed from her claws as they raked past, the eye of the antelope was ghastly removed, flying through the air. It fell, squealing and kicking because of its horrific wound, and Kiara ended it's misery as he slit the antelope's throat.

Mavi, the largest of the group, tackled an antelope that turned early. Jaws wide, she had seized the creature by the throat, and slammed it to the ground. Biting down hard, she pulled and ripped a gaping hole in the creature’s throat. The hole was so large, the creature died instantly and its head went limp. An antelope was about to run by. Acting fast, Mavi strafed and extended a single claw out to the antelope. As the poor antelope ran by, Mavi's deathly sharp claw tore through its flesh, leaving a laceration beginning at the side of its throat all the way to its hind quarter. Blood sprayed like rain, and stained nearly Mavi’s entire coat. The antelope hit the ground running. She pounced and slowly closed the antelope’s air passage, biting down hard on its throat.

Kaisha, unluckily, had to jump out of the way. The entire herd turned to her. She jumped out of their way, avoiding nearly being trampled.

She watched as the herd ran fast towards the promontory. Sioka and Mavi ran after the heard, growling and nipping at the antelope's heels. Kiara came to Kaisha's aid quickly.

"Kaisha! Are you ok?"

"Yeah, I’m fine. How many have we brought down so far?" Kaisha asked.

"Two by Mavi's and my count." Kiara responded, now looking over at the herd fast reaching the promontory.

"Let’s see what Vitani can do." Kiara said as she smiled, and she looked down to Kaisha, who too, was smiling back warmly.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Vitani saw the herd approaching her fast. She dug her hind legs into the ground, and stood up on a tree for balance. She was preparing for an old but strategic and wise maneuver.

Vitani felt the earth rumble under her paws, and she tensed herself for the stampede. Separating her legs for balance, she stood upright, claws extended, and waited for the herd to pass. She saw through the dense foliage the stampede begin to rumble up the promontory, and headed her way. She smiled, and she tensed up. As they passed, they were very close to the tree line.

She watched, and waited.

They were only a few yards away.

"3..." Vitani began to count.

4 yards.

"2..."

2 yards.

"1..."

Perfect.

Just as the first antelope passed, Vitani extended her claws from the tree line. Catching them completely by surprise, her claws caught one square on the face, ripping open tender flesh and trailing warm blood. The first hit the ground. The second was cornered by the others, and suffered the same fate as the first. The third, unfortunately, had seen the demise of the earlier two and leveled out his horns. Vitani snapped her paws back in, just in time to avoid them being impaled by the antelopes horns.

For its effort, the antelope's horns caught on a tree trunk. It would not have caused much damage, but the stampeding antelope behind it pressed it forward, breaking its neck with a sickly wet popping sound. The antelope fell to the ground limply, and was trampled brutally. Vitani stayed back behind the tree line and watched the rest pass by, and saw the last being chased by Mavi and Sioka. She smiled and walked through the tree line, then ran after the three. Sioka and Mavi stopped when the herd got away, and the trees lessened to the nothing but grasslands. They both roared victorious, and Vitani aligned herself with them and roared as well. They roared in unison, until they finally came back to their senses.

"WOOOOHH!!" exclaimed Mavi.

"Now THAT was a GREAT hunt!" replied Sioka.

"I'll say. How’s our numbers?" asked Vitani, feeling the fervent after-hunt rush.

Mavi looked behind herself, and saw the three mangled bodies of the antelope.

"Well, there was the first that Kiara took down, the two I took down and the other Kiara did, and the three that you took down single-handedly."

Mavi said, and she turned to Vitani and gave her a warm smile.

"I’m impressed."

Vitani smiled back. The hunt had gone well indeed.

"C'mon," pronounced Mavi, "Let’s go home."

The two lionesses walked back towards the kills, while Vitani walked towards the escaping antelope. She watched dust rise as the antelope ran hard, their hooves could still be heard from how hard they ran. Vitani smiled, and could hold it in no longer. She roared loud, her throat tightening as she stressed her vocal chords. Her roar resounded off the trees, and gave her an eerie sound. At the end of her roar, she inhaled long and hard. She felt so wonderful. They would surely be celebrated back at Priderock.

Vitani turned around, and began to walk towards the kills. Mavi, being as large as she was, laid three of the kills over her back (with the help of Sioka) and carried one her mouth. The rest of the lionesses carried one each, either in their mouth or over their back. They began their long (and bloody) walk back to Priderock.

Kiara led the way, Mavi close behind her, Sioka trailing third, and Vitani walked slowly behind, still happy from the hunt.

Suddenly, a faint eerie light flashed dimly from the dense foliage through the trees. Vitani whipped her head around, letting go of the antelope in the process.

"Um, guys..." Vitani said silently.

The three turned around puzzled, wondering what had happened.

"What is it Vitani?" Kiara asked, as she walked near Vitani.

"Shh..." She whispered.

"I saw something over there." She said silently, crouching and extending her claws on all fours. She looked up at Kiara courageously and said,

"I gotta check it out."

Kiara looked at her worriedly, and looked over to the dense tree line.

"Alright," She said, never taking her eyes off the trees, "We'll stay here. Yell if you need anything."

Vitani nodded, and immediately walked to the foliage, still crouching. She sniffed the air, and the stench of death, decay, and something horrible filled the earth.

Vitani grimaced, and continued on.

She passed the tree line, and began to walk in a slalom manner through the close trees. Vitani followed the irritable stench until she could bear no longer.

Vitani gagged, covering her nose with her paw. She had stumbled over the source of the smell. The heavy foliage blocked out the sun, so she couldn’t have seen to well, if it weren’t for her keen eyesight in the dark that she was born with.

The stench was foul. She didn’t know how long she could take it. She dared a glance, and wasn’t shocked all too much, but was still surprising.

The stench rose from the corpse of a hyena, long decayed now, loose tendrils of fur and rotted flesh still hung from its bones. Vitani wondered what happened, and also why the hyena was lying in a burning hole...

A BURNING HOLE!

Vitani flinched, and jumped back. The hyena was in a perfect, lightly burning circle, the fire giving off an unnatural green glow. The Hyena's bones glittered red and Vitani stood transfixed at the creature with awe.

"What the..." Vitani began, as the hyena sprang to life!

Vitani shrieked, and the undead hyena leaped forth at her, maw open wide. As it sailed through the air, it gave a strange, grogging sound, As if the thing tried to breathe air through a slit throat.

As it neared, Vitani extended her forepaw and slammed the hyena on the side of the face with full force. A dry breaking sound of bone rang through the dense, compacted trees, and the hyena flew and slammed a tree hard.

Vitani panted, the question ringing in her head over and over again,

What in the name of the kings was that?

As if on cue, the hyena rose again! It's neck was sickly broken, it's head lolling at its side, teeth falling from the fleshless jaw. It walked slowly towards Vitani, limping. Vitani looked down and saw that the impact from the tree had broken a shoulder, rendering the limb useless.

The hyena tried to walk on the broken limb, and for its effort succeeded only in severing it. It's weight had cracked the shoulder, and leaning on it only worsened it, and it cracked apart, and fell with a solid thud on the floor.

The hyena stared at the limb with eye-less sockets, trying to adjust his broken neck. It turned back to Vitani, and began to walk again. It made the odd sound again, and suddenly the sound grew loud. Very loud. As it made the sound, it became contorted. It was no longer the grogging, drowning sound, but a screeching, howling sound. Vitani covered her ears, and now she had three problems: An undead hyena, a screeching noise, and a deathly stench. The screeching became louder, and she backed away and lay down, screaming. She thought her head was going to burst. She trembled as the sound grew ever louder, and she felt a liquid begin to leak from her ears. She removed one of her paws, wet with the liquid, and looked at it.

Blood.

The thing had desecrated her ears. She almost couldn’t hear anything. Vitani grimaced against the sound, until she could take it no longer. She got up and roared, running fast towards the lifeless creature. She swung her paw with her extended claws in a wide arc, and put killer force behind it. Her paw caught the hyena in the face, and severed the neck and head from the body, and the clamor stopped immediately. Granulated bone shot into the air, slowly falling like dust. The head flew through the air, and fell somewhere in the distance.

She looked and saw the undead creature fall over on its side. This time, it did not get back up. 

Vitani grimaced as she ran her paw past her ear, blood smearing her paw and the side of her face. She rubbed more, and cleared some of the blood coursing from her ears. She looked over to the nearest tree trunk and swung her claws at it. The wood splintered when her claws connected to the bark, sending wood chips everywhere. She left a large gash in the tree, but that didn’t matter to her. She was shocked at what she realized. Vitani couldn’t hear a thing.

Oh no, please no, no no no...

She thought to herself. Vitani had surely loved sound. She loved to hear the birds sing in the morning, the drips of morning dew falling on the rock of Priderock. But now, she heard nothing. Nothing.

Vitani had become deaf. All she could hear was a ringing inside her head, a disturbing ringing. Vitani walked back to the tree line three legged, her paw covering her ears.

As she cleared the tree line, she looked up and saw Mavi, Kiara, and Sioka looking down on her.

Kiara, noticing the blood over the sides of her head, ran down to her. Vitani still couldn’t hear a thing. Vitani only saw Kiara running up to her. She stopped in front of her, and could only see her mouth move. She could hear Kiara's voice, but so faintly it was almost insignificant.

"Kiara...” started Vitani, "I can’t hear you. I can’t hear a thing..."

Kiara's mouth stopped moving. Her jaw dropped, and she slid her paw over Vitani's left ear. Blood smeared on her paw, and Kiara returned her gaze from her bloody paw to Vitani.

"Oh my..." Kiara began, when her head whipped around and called out to Sioka, "GET RAFIKI HERE, NOW!!"

Sioka nodded, and quickly turned towards the east, running towards Rafiki's tree, a runed tree.

The ringing in Vitani's head strengthened and her vision narrowed. It began to blur and darken, and in the next few seconds, all Vitani knew was darkness.

 

Chapter 4: Unexplained Events

 

 

Vitani awoke, the ringing still in her head, though much less disturbing than before. Her vision was blurry at first, then regulated to a normal view, and she saw Rafiki looking over her. His large beard was inches from her face, his red eyes staring down at her. She felt dizzy, hot, and cold all at once. She rubbed her ears, and felt that they were stuffed with another one of Rafiki's shamanistic concoctions. She also noticed that her head was wrapped with a large leaf, which also had concoctions on it, which were shaped like symbols, as she traced the design of the symbols with her paw. Her paw was slapped by Rafiki,

"Don touch da Symbols!" He exclaimed to her, and she immediately put her paw down.

She realized her surroundings finally, and saw that she was in a large den, possibly the main den where Simba and Nala slept. She moved her head upwards, which was actually sideways, to see the den entrance.

"Yep, this is it." She said to herself. She had her attention brought back to Rafiki, who waved his staff in front of her face, giving off its distinct rattle.

"Aye. Pay close attention. I put da medicine on yo ears, so you gonna have to leave 'dem on until you heal completely, ok?" He instructed her.

She shook her head, when her eyes widened in surprise, and she asked excitedly, "I’m gonna hear again?!?"

Rafiki crouched, and laid his staff across his lap, and looked up at the ceiling ponderingly.

"To tell you da truth, I don’t know, but the medicine should instigate the damage to repair. I really am not sure." He finished.

Vitani put her head down, her elated expression now reduced to a haggard look.

"Well, dats all I can do. Oh well, I gotta go, I need to get back." He said, and with surprising agility, exited the cave with a long leap.

And there Vitani lay, all alone, or so she thought.

"Hey Vitani..." She heard a familiar voice say dimly behind her. She looked, and saw Kovu. Her heart lightened up, his very presence giving her a feeling of security, comfort.

She admired him in every way, physical and psyche. Kovu had become powerfully built, his legs tightly corded with strong muscle, broad chest, rich, deep brown coat, heavy brown mane with his distinctive downwards tuft of hair hanging low over his nose. But his best feature was his eyes. Those piercing green eyes, shining with magnificence, were his greatest attribute.

"Hey..." She said silently, through a groggy throat, but nonetheless elated to see her brother.

"Come close, Kov, I wanna talk..." She said silently again. Kovu acclaimed, and emerged from the shadows. He approached slowly, and finally lay down near her, and looked into her eyes with a smile.

"Oh, little sis, what were you doing?" Vitani heard Kovu ask, very faintly through covered and stuffed ears.

"You know me, always looking for trouble..." She replied.

Kovu cocked his head down chuckling, and looked up in his usual manner, with his eyebrows crooked. He gave her a wide smile.

"Are you feeling all right?" He asked.

“No, not really. I’m a little scared. I don’t want to not become deaf. You know how I love to hear the birds sing, the water run…”

“Yes, how could I forget?” Kovu said to her smiling. He was laying down in his usual manner, his forepaws propped one over the other, and his tail flinching up and down.

“I can still remember the times you would yell in my ears when I was asleep. Geez, I hated you for that.” Kovu said happily, and looked up at her, giving her another warm smile.

"I always did it in a playful manner…" Vitani added

"Painfully playful. I'm surprised I didn't go deaf!" Kovu exclaimed, when he realized that she was not listening, but lying flat on her belly, eyes closed shut with thought.

"Vitani…" Kovu asked, worriedly.

She did not look up until after a long while, and then she opened her eyes and looked at him, her sapphire eyes glistening in the darkness. 

"What did you see?" Kovu whispered, bringing his head close, squinting his eyes and perking his ears.

Vitani looked at him tentatively, and she put her head back down in between her paws.

"I don’t want to talk about it. It was…ugly. I don’t want to remember it right now."

Kovu, cut down, hung his head in disappointment, and got up to leave. Vitani's eyes followed him as he got up.

"Have a good night, Vitani, sleep well." He said, and smiled. He turned and exited the den.

Vitani stared out at the den entrance for a long while, and barely realized that it was nighttime outside. How long had she been unconscious? Vitani stared at the stars. She put down her head after a long while, among the cool rock, and drifted off into sleep.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

 

Priderock rested in the night, the cool wind blowing, all of lions and lionesses sleeping peacefully inside the main den. But not all were at peaceful rest. Alone atop the wide trunk of his runed tree, Rafiki stood alone, painting symbols on the wide trunk if his tree, recording the past events as he had always done, as had the shamans before him.

He stood back, the apothecary bowl that had once been a large clam shell, he held in his hand with his arms akimbo.

The entire tree was filled with drawings and paintings, of past wars and battles, of new ideas and accomplishments, of new kings and enemies. He had seen numerous battles in these blessed lands, but he had never seen what he saw today.

As a shaman, it was his job to keep the land clean from infestation. But a curse was hanging low over the land. He could feel it in the wind, the very way the chimes high in the branches of his tree shook, he could sense the difference. Something was different in the Pridelands, and it was nothing good. He was sure of it.

He looked over his painting of the event that had unfortunately befallen Vitani, and he jumped down from the branch onto the large platform that was the top of his tree. Drawing a large tortoise shell which lies on the side of a branch, his filled it with special herbs and spices which he had prepared from a cupboard holding special remedies. Grabbing the large medicinal fruit which he had always used, he split it with his hands, and let the creamy, rust colored filling fall inside. He had used this method before, just that this time, it was more serious.

He mixed the ointment until all the herbs, spices, and creams were one. Then, he settled the shell down and used his finger to trace a rune through the thick cream. As he described the figure, he spoke words of shamanistic tradition, a tongue he had not spoken in a long while.

"Id akenda, ey het luze'…" he spoke. He finished tracing, and looked up at the night sky. The heavy clouds parted, revealing the star filled night.

"Starlight." He whispered, and he instantly felt growing energies in the shell grow. He left the bowl on the ground, and stood back. Waving his arms upward, as if beckoning the shell to rise. He spoke in his ancient tongue again, more fervent now.

"Sail lu tay, ya tu way, ya tu way, Si lu tai…" he said, as his arms waved upwards. 

A dim light began to radiate from inside the shell. It was a dim flesh colored light, rays pointing skyward. Suddenly but slowly, the bowl raised from the ground. It revolved slowly in the air, and the rays began to increase their radiance, from dim to lustrous. Rafiki saw this, and began to quicken and harden his chant.

“Mina dosh Pach ‘ell’e moc dormina!” He exclaimed, nearly screaming.

The bowl, heeding his command, spun at blurring speed in the air, and the rays coming from the opening of the bowl began to pierce through the bottom, yet they did not move like the rest of the bowl. They shone stationary, as they were when the bowl was not in a spinning frenzy.

Suddenly, the bowl exploded into a fireworks show of sparks, fire and beautiful colors. They hung in the air, frozen, yet burning incessantly, as if with an eternal fuel supply of nothing. They surrounded a huge transparent sphere, and inside the sphere was a smaller sphere, roomy enough to hold one of the sparks in the center. Between the inner sphere and outer shell was a creamy smoke, the same color as the ointment he had made. Smiling with the success of the complex spell, he stepped towards it until he was standing among the millions of brilliantly colored sparks and spheres.

With one hand scratching his chin and the other akimbo, he walked around the nova of sparks, looking for the right one. Each color signified a different spell or summon, and white, the most powerful, was the one he searched for. Lustrous blues, reds, greens, yellows, and millions of other colors were littered all around him, yet he still could not find that single white one. He walked around the revolving giant sphere several times, searching. He tired, and sat down on a stump which the branch he had used for his staff. He sat hunched over, hands dangling between his knees, still searching for the single white spark.

Rafiki sighed heavily, and rubbed his eyes with his long skinny fingers.

"Dis is goin' to take a very long ti..." he spoke softly to himself as a familiar glint caught his eye. Transfixed, he got up and walked towards it. Beaming with joy, he looked in glee as he had found the white spark. It was an immaculate white, unstained and shining as clearly as water.

Elated yet cautious, he slowly plucked the spark from the others and admired its clean yet lustrous beauty. He then looked at the slowly revolving glass orb, and stretched forth the white spark to place it in. As his hand neared the glass orb, the smoke inside shifted from the direction of his hand, as if the moving air caused by Rafiki's hand had stirred the smoke inside.

Rafiki, just before the white spark was near enough to touch the glass sphere's surface, hesitated. Ignoring the feeling, he slowly moved his hand holding the white spark towards the glass sphere. He suddenly shoved his hand towards it, but his hand was not stopped nor did he disrupt its balance.

His hand had gone through the sphere!

The glass around his hand was like water, and he slowly let go of the white spark. It immediately began to float around inside the sphere, never touching or nearing the smaller sphere. The smoke around it shifted away from it as if it had an unseen shield around it. After floating around inside the sphere for a while, it finally found its place in the center of the smaller sphere. The smaller sphere contorted, and as if it had a mouth, shifted and opened wide, swallowing the spark. It snapped shut, the force causing ripples on it. Once the ripples subsided, the inner sphere was perfectly round again, the spark burning seemingly happily inside.

Smiling, Rafiki replaced his hand to his side, and stood back, allowing the sphere to do its work.

Suddenly, the sparks all around the giant sphere were sucked into it and none were visible anymore. Only the white spark in the sphere surrounded by the creamy smoke and the shell of the giant sphere remained.

The sphere began to contort, ripples running along the surface. The glass shell began to flatten, until it was almost a dish. The spark inside was mixing with the smoke. The creamy air was spinning inside, still separated from the inner sphere. It spun until it was like water, creamy colored water. The inner sphere inside exploded, and the spark was swallowed by the creamy water. The shell then turned paper thin. It expanded until it was 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, until it had finished its final metamorphic stage.

Rafiki had created a portal.

It was now nearly 17 feet tall and wide. He could see through the portal the other side, the creamy colored center showing the other side in its color.

Smiling, he crossed his arms and admired his successful spell. He slowly walked towards it and, setting one foot forward, pushed it through the portal. it went through the portal, sending ripples through the portal. He did not see his foot through the other side, as if it had been cut off. He smiled as he had once again seen his spell was successful.

Taking in a large breath, he stepped into the portal, and was consumed by the portal. Behind him, the portal shut closed, and all was silent.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Rafiki looked around, and he saw that he was no longer in the Pridelands. He was probably not even on the earth. He was standing on the clouds; some hanging low before him, some high in the sky, yet the clouds which he walked covered the ground completely. He looked at himself, and saw that he was ethereal, and could see right through himself. He started forward, and began to look around. As he walked further, he saw clouds forming foliage, much like the jungle Simba had escaped to so long ago. It began to increase, and suddenly a lioness walked out of the foliage. She, too, was ethereal, and she smiled at him. Rafiki smiled back.

"Hello, Rafiki." She said in her soft, tender voice.

"Hello, Sarabi. It has been a while." Rafiki replied softly.

"Do you know where-" He began, but Sarabi interrupted him.

"He is in there, and he is waiting for you." She said, and she jerked her head at the foliage which she walked through. She smiled, and walked away. Rafiki watched her pass, and then turned to the foliage. He looked back again, and she was gone. He fixed his gaze back on the foliage, and walked through it. He was no longer in the clouds, but on a cliff, surrounded with foliage. He was no longer in the clouds, but as if he was back on earth and nothing had changed. The night's stars were shining, and Rafiki looked out at the edge.

There stood a lion. A large, red maned lion. He was looking over the scenery, but Rafiki could not see his face.

"I am here, Mufasa." Rafiki announced, breaking the silence.

Mufasa turned his head slowly, looking at Rafiki with sad, tear-filled eyes, eyes Rafiki had never seen before. He said, sadly,

"My friend, we have much to talk about."

 

 

Chapter 5: Painful Memories

 

 

The morning sun cast its golden rays over the blessed land. The sweet warmth of the rays entered the den of Priderock, and touched the soft fur of the occupants inside. A profound heat surrounded them, but all stayed asleep, purring as the sun warmed their coats and enthralled their already pleasant dreams. All but one.

Kovu emerged from his slumber, from the side of his trusty and loving companion, Kiara. Exiting the den, he stepped into the cool air outside mixed with the warmth of the sun. He stretched out his back, as if to evince his almond colored chest. Sighing heavily, he relaxed, and walked to the top of the promontory. At the very tip, he laid down and eyed the beautiful horizon.

The green grass flowed like water as the wind blew, the trees swaying softly combined with the mollifying hiss of the leaves. The sweet scent of morning dew clung to the air, and Kovu breathed it in heartily. He heard paw prints behind him, and turning slowly, was surprised to see-

"Simba!" Kovu exclaimed.

 Simba was approaching him slowly, trying to make the least noise he could. Apparently, he had been trying to sneak up on him.

"Once again!" He replied, "Kovu, you are sharp!"

Kovu only smiled.

Sighing heavily, Simba laid down next to him.

"I'm afraid the weight of age is beginning to sew its fabric into me, Kovu." he said vacantly.

Kovu looked at him inquisitively, and said, "Simba, you're not that old."

Simba acknowledged him and said, "Yeah, I know. But, still, I am not as vigilant as I used to be."

Kovu noted this, and began to look him over. Simba was still young, but seemed to have lost his youthful vigor. Simba's red mane had waned in color, and his muscle mass had decreased slightly. His eyes, although they still gleamed, were neither as bright as they used to. Simba had also lost his playfulness as well. Since the birth of Kiara, they say, Nala and he have seemed to mature more into parenthood.

Sighing heavily, Simba got on his feet and said, "Well, better go off and do the morning patrol, Zazu can't do it so well, he has been around awhile." Simba stretched, and began his descent down the ramp until Kovu stopped him.

"Why don't I do it? I can help. I'm still new around here, might as well get to know the place." he asked.

Simba smiled at him and asked, "Are you familiar with all the boundaries?"

Kovu nodded.

Simba kept smiling.

"Alright", he said, "knock yourself out."

Kovu smiled, and bounded over to Simba and held him in a tight embrace.

"Thanks, Simba." he said.

Simba, a little surprised, responded, "Uh, your welcome."

With blurring speed, Kovu sped down the stone ramp and down the dirt road that led to the first checkpoint, the Elephant Graveyard.

Simba walked to the tip of the promontory and looked for Kovu. A small, brown figure was all that could be seen, he had already gotten so far away.

Simba sucked in a large breath and thought to himself,

He will be a good king, I just know it.

An apparition of Mufasa flashed in his head, and Simba smiled. He felt warmth inside his heart, and decided to go back into the den and rest. Silently, he prayed to his father and the One Spirit.

 

Father, protect the young one,

as you protected me.

Bring peace to this land, your land,

so that no evil

can ever corrupt it.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Kovu ran and saw the blades of grass pass by at a blurring speed. His spine fluctuated in perfect cadence with his running bounds. The wind passing through his mane made him feel exhilarated. He felt free. He became exhausted, and he slowed down his pace to a slow walk. As he walked he admired his surroundings. He looked at the tall trees passing by which stood tall over head. He admired the green plains grass as it flowed like water when the wind passed through it. As he walked on a little further. He came upon an interruption in the road caused by the bend of a river bank. He stepped towards it, and looked into it. He watched the crystal water flow by, its mollifying sound easing him. He saw fish of all colors pass by, unafraid of his leonine presence. Kovu smiled and saw his fluctuating reflection in the water. A fish leaped out and landed with grace back into the water. It sprinkled the cool, sweet water on his face, and Kovu smiled even more.

Dismissing himself, he began his patrol. He spied over the horizon, into the green grass, and sometimes sniffed at the air for some unknown presence. A few times he would even stop and hold his breath, allowing his ears to scan everything around him. Thankfully, the only intrusion was the wind hissing over the grass of the plains and the leaves of the trees.

Kovu felt enlightened. He looked back along the dirt road. The sweet, golden rays of the sun were laying their touch on Priderock. Kovu felt a sudden rush of ecstasy burst inside of him. He felt as if he was on top of the world. He felt like laughing and crying at the same time. Kovu let out a gleeful roar and burst along the dirt road even faster than he was before. Nothing could stop him now.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Vitani woke from her slumber, and opened her eyes slowly. The golden rays entered through the den's entrance, casting their heavenly touch on her fur. Her blue eyes glittered magnificently in the daylight, and she picked herself up. She felt a disturbance on her head, and with a single paw swipe, the bandage fell from her head, the ointment and all, and fell to the ground.

"Whoops..." She said, and was about to pick up the bandage until she realized that she could hear again. Not only could she hear again, but she could hear even clearer, sharper, and further than before. She heard the lovely chirping of the birds outside, the rustling of the leaves on the trees and the plains grass as the wind passed over them. She could even slightly hear the calming, slapping and wet sound of the river's torrents.

She smiled, and she proceeded outside, leaving the bandage there. Once outside, she felt her ears and head, and the pain had ceased, as if it were never there. She looked up the pathway and found Simba at the very tip of the promontory, smiling.

He seemed very transfixed on something, so she though it best not to disturb him.

She walked down the huge stone ramp and into the dirt road. She walked down the main path, which usually led to the water-hole.

Vitani usually spent most of her day alone. She was quite talkative, but usually the only ones she spoke with were Zira, Nuka, or Kovu. Two wound up dead and the other was usually away doing something else. Aside from Kiara and sometimes Simba and Nala, she never talked to anyone.

She walked along the main path until she heard a rustling in the trees. She turned her head just in time to see a leopard fall out of the heavily leaved tree and hit the floor with a resounding bonk. She smiled, realizing immediately who it was.

"Hello, Amyrza." She said softly, and the leopardess picked itself up from the ground and rubbed her head, where she had landed.

"Hey, Vitani..." Amyrza said hastily as she tried to assuage the pain.

"Still trying to learn?" asked Vitani.

"Yah. It's tough, I'll tell you that right now." Amyrza responded with a sort of chuckle.

Shortly after the entire problem between the two prides had ended, Vitani had taken a walk to see this new land. While she walked on a road, she found Amyrza. Amyrza claimed to have been separated from her mother when she was very young. Although still young, Amyrza has proved herself strong by being able to survive on her own, with a little help from Vitani.

"What were you trying to do, anyway?"  Vitani asked, a little more serious now.

"I was trying to get a secure footing on a small branch," Stated Amyrza, "turned out to be a twig."

Vitani smiled, and said, "How 'bout goin' to the water-hole with me?"

Amyrza smiled, and nodded. Even though the two were separate species, they were close friends.

They came to the water-hole, and Vitani quite eagerly took the first laps at the glassy surface.

Amyrza followed after slowly, and began to drink next to Vitani.

Once Vitani had her fill, she moved away from the water. Amyrza's tongue still slapped at the water relentlessly.

A grin spread across Vitani's face. From behind, she approached Amyrza slowly, crouched low. Then, balancing out on her legs, she brought her fore-paws so that they were level with Amyrza's rump. With a strong, swift push, Vitani pushed Amyrza end over end, and Amyrza landed on her back in the cool water.

"GAAA!!!!" Yelped Amyrza and she struggled to her paws and jumped out of the water. She then huddled into a ball of fur and began to shake with cold as the morning air blew.

Vitani was laughing the entire time. Amyrza was thin, the only reason she looked bigger than she actually was is because of her puffy fur. She looked hilarious when she was wet.

She was cuddled up, her tail brought around so it rested in front of her, her jade eyes wide and her white teeth exposed. Her rib cage could be seen through the wet fur, rising and falling with the quick gasps for air.

Amyrza looked Vitani's direction. She was sitting next to Amyrza with her usual wide, toothy grin.

Amyrza shot her a cold glance, and began to shake herself dry.

The two then walked off towards the boundaries of the Pridelands, the sun reaching its culmination in the center of the cloudless sky, signifying early afternoon. Once they reached the border, Amyrza fixed her gaze towards the Outlands.

"What was life like over there?" she asked.

Vitani looked over the border and took in a deep breath.

"It was not glamorous, I'll start with that. Every day you wake up hungry, you exit your den and have millions of gnats circle around your face, trying to get into your nose, so you spend quite some time trying to swat them away. Your throat is parched, theirs no food or water around for miles..." Vitani sighed, and hung her head with her eyes closed.

"Then there was my mother..." she said sadly.

"You had a mother?" Amyrza asked surprised, and Vitani gave her a questioning look, raising her brow.

Amyrza gave a strange expression on her face, and slapped her forehead with her paw.

"Duh..." she said to herself, then quieted herself to listen, and sat.

Vitani looked back down towards the floor, and sat down as well.

"She was...fervent. She was strict on us, always teaching us what was right or wrong, never letting us fall out of place. She taught us obedience, pride, honor. It was hard on us..."

"Where is she?" asked Amyrza anxiously.

Vitani looked at her with a sad face, and said somewhat deplorably,

"She drowned."

Amyrza gasped, and shamefully bit her lower lip and folded down her ears.

"I'm sorry." she said remorsefully.

Vitani smiled at her, but it quickly faded.

"That wasn't the hard part to witness. What was...?" Vitani paused.

Amyrza gazed at her wide eyed, awaiting her answer.

"What?"

Vitani never looked up at her, the voice inside haunting her soul.

If you won't fight, then you will die as well.

Tears flowed down her cheeks, and Vitani started again.

"What was hard to witness was what she told me. She had, at times, shown some indifference towards us, towards me, but I..."

Vitani stopped. She began to choke on sobs, and her jaw shivered. Amyrza looked at her worriedly, and she, although the smaller being, came close and wrapped her fore-paw around Vitani and soothed her, rubbing her back. Vitani buried her head into Amyrza's chest.

"It's okay, V. shh..." Amyrza shushed, and Vitani's crying began to soften. 

Vitani suddenly clutched Amyrza's shoulder with her huge paw, and squeezed hard. Amyrza grimaced at the pain, but tried hard to keep it from showing.

Vitani began, still choking under sobs, "I...I...loved her s-so...I really did l-love her...But I never thought that....that...she would...say that...."

Amyrza thought to herself. An idea filled her head.

"Vitani," she started.

"yeah..." she replied softly.

"You said your mother was fervent in what she did, right?"

"yeah..."

"Maybe she didn't mean it..." Amyrza said softly.

Vitani looked up at her with her beautiful azure eyes curiously. Vitani's grip softened, and so did Amyrza's tensed muscles.

"Maybe she was just lost; maybe she just did not know what she was saying. Surely she had to care about you. How could she not? If she indeed had not loved you, why didn't she abandon you as a newborn cub? Why didn't she send you off on your own, as a nomad? Think for a while."

Vitani thought to herself. The more she thought about it, the more Amyrza was right. Vitani, after all, was Zira's 2nd in command. She was, after all, her only daughter. She would sometimes even ask Vitani for advice on very complex and secretive things.

But the most comforting thought, was all the small, seemingly unimportant things. Such were like when Zira would allow Vitani the first bite of a fresh kill, before anyone else.

Or when Vitani was allowed to sleep with Zira, a huge rarity (except for Kovu).

Vitani looked back up at Amyrza, and smiled wide with grateful eyes. She took Amyrza in a tight embrace, pulling the leopardess close. She squeezed hard, and Amyrza found it difficult to breathe.

"Thanks, Amyr. Thanks..." Vitani whispered in her ear.

"Your...welcome..." Mumbled Amyrza with the little breath she had.

Vitani finally let go, and Amyrza gasped for air. She coughed for air while she sat.

"I know!!! What do ya say if I introduce you to the Pride?!?" Vitani suggested loudly, her mood swinging like a pendulum.

The question caught Amyrza like a vice grip. She stopped her relentless gasps and looked up at Vitani with a tentative face.

"Well, I dunno..." Amyrza said silently.

"Aww, c'mon, they're nice, really nice. Don't worry about a thing. Your with me, remember?" Vitani pleaded.

Amyrza still looked shy. She thought about, staring at the floor, and finally responded quietly,

"Umm....okay...."

"GREAT!" exclaimed Vitani.

"Jus' follow me!" she said, and began to trot down the road towards Priderock.

Amyrza folded her ears down sheepishly, and thought if she had done a deplorable thing.

Aww, c'mon, Amyrza! It's Vitani!! What pranks has she ever pulled on you?

Amyrza thought that one over.

Okay, okay, ones that turned out really bad?

Amyrza shook off her thoughts and hurriedly skittered after Vitani, headed towards the glorious Priderock.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Kovu walked along the border of the Pridelands, surveying the beautiful scenery of his new home. His legs ached from his long run, but that failed to keep the smile off his face. He looked as far as his eyes could see the green, rolling plains, acacia trees, lakes, rivers, and meandering dirt roads. He turned his head and saw what lay behind him.

The Outlands.

Kovu always wondered how such a barren, desolate wasteland could exist next to a place blooming with so much life.

Kovu continued onwards until he reached the gorge, the great furrow in the ground setting the boundary between the Pridelands and the burning desert.

Kovu remembered his mother, who unceasingly following Scar's wish, gave her life trying to conquer her old enemy.

Kovu stopped, and transfixed his gaze on the rift. He slowly approached the gorge, now empty of water, hoping to find something of his past mother.

Kovu slinked down the gorge, dust-filled and untouched, not a single print ruining the plain of sand.

Kovu looked up, the two enormous walls of jagged rock casting an eerie surrounding, as if the rock walls themselves has caused the pain and suffering the Pride had suffered for so long.

Visions and past memories of his mother flashed and danced inside his head, and Kovu chose a shaded area in a corner of a rock wall to settle down and think.

Kovu felt tears crease around his eyes, and the tears began to slowly course down his cheeks and make dark spots in the sand of where they dropped.

Kovu wished he could see her again. How he wished he could have seen her future demise and how he wished he could have been brave enough to confront her and force her to change her wicked ways before her death.

Kovu remembered most greatly how he had loved her. She very rarely showed deep love towards him, or towards Vitani and Nuka.

Ah, Nuka.

Just like his mother, Nuka was twisted, following his mother's orders unto death itself.

He had proved his devotion with just that. Death.

Kovu still remembered his chase after Simba on the logs blocking the river, Nuka barreling after Simba madly, yelping with excitement. He remembered his poor brother slipping and being smashed by the heavy logs. He remembered his last words escaping his crushed lungs, aimed only towards his beloved mother,

At least...I...got your attention...didn't I? Didn't......

Kovu covered his eyes with his broad paws, laying his chin on the ground. He began to sob hard, dust puffing up from his hard sobs.

Kovu cried harder, the visions of his beloved kin disappearing before him, knowing that he could have saved them from they're demise.

Kovu began to sob uncontrollably, rolling in the dirt, waning the color of his pelt and mane. Kovu got on his feet and roared.

He roared long and hard, the loudest roar he could muster. So loud was it, that the loose stones on the rock wall fell to the ground, and the roar rebounded off the walls, carrying the clamor for miles.

Kovu lost his breath, panting hard and crying at the same time. Kovu wondered why he was so foolish as to not prevent them for their horrible deaths, wondering why he didn't object to their evil, twisted ways.

Kovu was haunted by the word. Why? Why?

Kovu felt the time to leave, memories still running around his head.

He slowly stepped to the steep steps carved into the stone wall, emerged from the crevice, and looked back down for a single time.

He heard the dying, rasping gasps of Nuka's punctured lungs, and the crashing water and mad attempts of Zira struggling to keep her head above the watery surface.

Kovu wiped tears from his eyes with his paws, sighed heavily, and continued his patrol.

The day was nearing the end of morning and beginning of midday, and Kovu had almost finished his patrol. He finally took the last road home, and began his approach to Priderock.

Suddenly, something seemed to pull him back to the gorge.

Kovu ignored it, and proceeded.

The feeling became stronger, and harder to ignore.

Kovu felt as if his scar was a beacon, beginning to ache, beckoning him to go back to the gorge.

Kovu stubbornly tried to ignore it, but it did not cease.

Suddenly, searing pain shot through his body, burning his muscles and trapping his lungs.

Kovu fell to the floor, holding his face. Throughout his entire body, it seemed as if most of the pain was concentrated to his scar.

Kovu tried to scream, but could not. Nor could he breathe.

He rolled around on the ground in agony, as if his body had been lit on fire, which failed to die out.

He heard voices, whispering something he could not understand. They whispered quickly and simultaneously, so Kovu was unable to understand them.

Kovu did not know how much longer he could take the torture. The pain had not ceased and was increasing, and he was on the verge of falling unconscious from the lack of air.

Suddenly, it all stopped.

Kovu was lying on his back, breathing normally. His body felt no notion of pain, nor any remnant of pain, and he had full breath, as if it all had never happened.

Kovu stared up at the blue sky, wondering what had just happened. He rolled to his feet, and shook off the dust.

"What was that?" he asked himself, bewildered.

He looked up at the sky, expecting the answer to fall right out of the sky. Speechless, he ambled back towards Priderock.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Simba stared up at the sky. The sun was in the middle of its long journey across the sky.

"Kovu should be back by now." he said to himself.

He lowered his gaze to the horizon.

The Pridelands gleamed. The grass was green, the rivers running crystal clear, trees growing tall and healthy. Sometimes he wondered to himself how such a perfect and beautiful place could have been....

"C'MON!!! You should be faster than that!!" someone exclaimed.

Simba was interrupted over his panorama, and looked down the rock path to see who it was. He saw Vitani hopping happily at the top of the stone ramp, and behind her was a small leopard, head hanging low, tongue dangling, tail dragging, trying hard to get to the top of the ramp.

Simba inquisitively stepped down from the promontory to see what was going on.

"Geez, I thought you were faster than that!" exclaimed Vitani.

The leopard dragged on, and sat down hard next to her.

"We ran....all the....way from the......waterhole....." she panted.

"Aww, c'mon, it's only about 20 miles away...." reasoned Vitani.

Simba stepped towards them, and Vitani finally noticed him.

"Hey, Simba!" she yelled, "This is Amyrza!"

Amyrza's head shot up, her tongue sucking back into her mouth, eyes wide. When she saw Simba, her jaw dropped.

"Are...are....you Simba?" she asked quietly.

Simba cocked his head and said, "Yah..."

"Wow...." Amyrza said, amazed, "I have wanted to meet you all my life...".

"Really?" Simba said, a little surprised.

"Of course! You're the sole reason I came here!" she exclaimed.

"Came? Whadd'ya mean?" Simba asked, confused.

Amyrza swallowed, and began,

"See, I never really knew my mother and never even met my father. My mother left....somewhere when I was real young, and she told me she was comin' back.

She never did. So, at my age, I had to strive on my own."

Amyrza smiled at a thought, and continued,

"You know how I survived?" she asked him.

"How?" Simba begged, eyes riveted on her.

She chuckled, and said, "Hyenas."

"WHAT?!?" exclaimed Simba, "How did you..."

She smiled shallowly and began to trace circles on the floor.

"I will never know. They found me as a small cub, and for some reason I will never know, they took me in, fed me, and cared for me..." she said solemnly.

"But how could...they..." Simba stumbled over words. He found it difficult to believe that such savage marauders could take a leopard cub in.

Amyrza shrugged. "I don't know either. They just always told me that I was...special in some way. I don't know..." She shook it off, and changed the subject.

Amyrza turned and looked away from Priderock. She sighed heavily and said in a woozy tone, "Ohh, look at this place. It is so beautiful...."

Both Simba and Vitani exchanged confused glances with each other, and both turned their gazes to the spotted daydreamer.

Suddenly, the trio heard a clamor from inside the den. Suddenly Timon and Pumbaa ran out from the den, screaming and shouting. From their point of view, they both looked hilarious as Pumbaa the Warthog ran on his thin legs with his mouth and eyes wide, and Timon the Meerkat riding on the back of his neck, arms flailing.

"SIMBA!!!" They both exclaimed, over and over.

"Hey, hey, guys, what's wrong? What's goin' on with you two?" Simba asked, chuckling.

"Vitani's gone! I haven't seen here since this morning!!" Timon exclaimed, panting hard.

"Uhmm..." Simba said, and looked back at Vitani. She shrugged.

Timon finally noticed.

"Oh, THANKS! We were only worried out of our skulls!!" Timon said, and the pair both walked down the ramp, heads high. Pumbaa let out a snort as they passed. 

"Well..." Vitani started, "I just wanted to introduce you to Amyrza. She still hasn't seen all of the Pridelands, amazingly..." Amyrza smiled shyly.

Simba smiled widely, and a thought came to his head.

"Have either of you ever seen the Jeweled Springs?" he asked.

Both Vitani and Amyrza's heads shot up at him, riveted.

"It's beautiful. It's like nothing else on this planet. It is quite far though..."

"Hmm, maybe Kovu would like to see 'em as well." Vitani suggested.

"Speaking of which, he hasn't come back. I wonder where he is...." Simba replied.

"Don't worry about me, I'm fine." they heard. They turned to see who it was.

Kovu walked up the stone-ramp, completely disregarding the newest guest, Amyrza.

"How was it, Kovu? Enjoy yourself?" Simba asked.

"Just fine." Kovu replied, and looked Simba in the eyes.

Kovu's eyes were red with tears, and even though he smiled, Simba could see through them that something bad had happened.

"Are...you okay, Kovu?" Simba asked worriedly.

"Never been better." he replied. Almost immediately, tears rolled down his cheeks. Kovu turned his face away from him and wiped them off.

"Arghh, this dirt..." Kovu said, and quickly walked into the den.

The three stared at him as he walked into the den. Simba turned to Amyrza and Vitani and was met with equally blank stares.

Vitani shrugged, and said, "I guess not. Well, we'll be off now. See ya."

"Uhh, Vitani..." Simba called after her.

"Yes?"

"Do you know where they are?"

Vitani smiled shyly, and walked back to him.

"First, from here, head east. From there, you will encounter a desert. You will have to cross this, but don't worry; there are quite a number of Oases there. You should do fine. Keep following the Oases east until you come up against a thick wall of jungle foliage. 

Keep heading east until you come up against a peculiar looking stone embedded in the ground. You shouldn't miss it. It's tip protrudes from the jungle top. Anyways, when you reach it, head north, and there you are." Simba explained. He smiled after his speech, as he usually did.

"Cool" Vitani said. "Thanks."

Vitani walked down the ramp when Simba called after her again.

"Are you prepared to leave right away?" he asked.

She shrugged, and said, "I used to be an Outlander. I should be!"

She turned to Amyrza, he waited for her. "Ready?"

"Well, I guess..." she said, and Vitani saw she wasn't very comfortable with the thought of crossing a desert.

"Don't worry, Amyrza. I'll take care of you. I know my way around these things." Vitani tried to comfort her.

Amyrza smiled, a bit assuaged.

"Thanks!" Yelled Vitani to Simba. Simba waved and wished good luck.

"Let's do it!" Vitani exclaimed, and both Vitani and Amyrza ran east, headed for the border of the Pridelands.

 

 

Chapter 6: The Protector Found

 

Vitani and Amyrza traveled along the trail that Simba once did. Although it was not the way he had entered the jungle, it was the way he had exited it. Vitani and Amyrza had no trouble crossing the desert from the Oasis's they had been told they were to encounter by Simba. So far, they had already stopped and pass through three Oases, and only one remained. That was where they were encountered.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

Amyrza trudged behind Vitani, the heavy sand clinging to her fur and burning at her paws. She looked up and saw the burning sun, shining with radiance.

"Geez, Vitani. I told you we should have waited till dark fall. Now we're stuck in this heat..." Amyrza huffed. Vitani still trudged, and replied,

"Well...it's too late now. We should encounter the last Oasis in a while."

Vitani tried to increase her speed, but if she did, she knew she would use her energy for nothing. Every now and then a cool breeze would pass, welcomed by the weary travelers in their sweltering journey.

"Hey," Amyrza spied something on the horizon. "What's that?"

Vitani looked ahead and saw a small patch of blue surrounded by brown, with the almost welcoming green of palm trees and bushes.

"The Last Oasis..." Vitani replied.

"Finally. Fresh water, Food, shade...."

Vitani and Amyrza continued until they reached the much anticipated Oasis. Vitani began to look for a nice spot in the shade.

"Ahh..." she sighed, "This is all I need to be happy now."

Amyrza looked at her, puzzled, and asked, "Aren't you thirsty?"

Vitani, lying on her back, smiled widely and said, "Yeah, but I'm too lazy and comfortable right now. You can go. Look around."

Amyrza smiled, and left to go look.

After she was gone, Vitani looked up at the palm tree she was under and said,

"Another reason I ain't goin'..."

She gave the trunk a hard hit, and a coconut fell from the tip of the tree. She caught it firmly in her paws.

"Why get up when I got something to drink right here, he-he-he..."

She punctured the coconut with her claws and held the puncture to her mouth. The sweet, cool milk flowed easily from the holes and into her mouth. She sighed after a long drink, set the coconut beside her, and purred off to sleep.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

Amyrza padded along, the sweet breeze of the Oasis passing along through her fur like water, soothing her burned skin. The sand, although in the desert sun, was somehow cool, and felt assuaging to walk on. Amyrza zigzagged throughout the Oasis, simply amazed at how something so peaceful and undisturbed could grow in such a place like a desert.

She finally stumbled across a lake of crystal clear water, fed by a small creek, perfect and immaculate. Amyrza lapped at the water, which proved to taste as good as it looked. Crisp, clean, and refreshing. She suddenly picked up a scent from upwind. It wasn't the smell of fruit or foliage, but the smell of something else, like another creature. She looked up and saw something she had never seen before.

It was another creature indeed, but unlike one she had never seen before. It was quite a distance away, lapping at the water as she had been. From its body structure, she could tell it was feline, but apart from that she couldn't tell what it was. A shocking feature was its color, a solid, jet black. Its fur shone in the sunlight, met by an underbelly of gray.

It suddenly looked up; it's iridescent amber eyes landing directly on hers.

Amyrza gasped, and the creature, with amazing agility and speed, spun around and disappeared into the foliage.

Amyrza, not wasting any time to stand in amazement, made best haste back to Vitani. She prayed to the One Spirit that Vitani hadn't moved from her spot.

She ran and ran and did not stop, when suddenly she had the sensation that she was not going anywhere. She stopped, and suddenly realized she had lost herself. She breathed heavily with fear, and began to look around, hoping to see a least a single sign of the black creature. She felt that something dangerous was close by, but she could not see where it was.

Ye-he-he.

Amyrza froze. She knew that laughter all too well.

Hyenas were present.

Amyrza cautiously stepped towards the dense foliage and crouched down under a low bush. Her eyes darted wildly, trying to sense even the smallest movement possible. She felt hot breath on the back of her neck, and she slowly turned her head and eyes to see who or what it was. With her parochial vision, she saw an eerily pale creature, jaws open, staring back at her.

Amyrza yelped, and leaped forth from the bush. As soon as she landed, she turned around quickly, knowing the beast might counter-attack.

She was wrong.

The creature slowly walked out from the bush, and Amyrza immediately knew that it was nothing normal. What she saw before her was an undead hyena, yet not full decomposed. Sinew and muscle, waned in color, still was attached to the things bones, and loose skin and fur hung from its body. Its eyes were white, and only outlines of the iris could be seen. It opened its jaws wide, and revealed its ugly mouth. Its tongue was black, swarming with larvae. Its teeth held a tar like filth in between them. Amyrza could clearly see through the throat that had been rotted away.

It began to walk towards her again, and Amyrza backed up. The creature picked up speed, and so did Amyrza. Suddenly, Amyrza bumped up against a tree. The creature stopped as soon as she did. It opened its jaw again, but this time almost impossibly wide. It let out a fierce cry that was deafening. Amyrza knew that this was the end.

"GOTCHA!!" She heard a voice from behind her exclaim, and suddenly the black creature she had seen earlier leapt from the foliage, landing on the hyena. The black creature moved terrifyingly fast, and did a strange maneuver on the hyena. As it landed on the hyena, it put its paws on the hyena's rump. Then, using it's momentum, pulled itself under the hyena, so that it was lying directly under it on its back. It then pulled in its legs, and shot them into the hyena's belly, sending it flying backwards.

The hyena tumbled end over end as it sailed through the air, and landed on its back. It tumbled over and over on the dirt, sending plumes of clouds into the air.

The creature got up and shook itself off of dirt. Amyrza finally got a good look at it.

The Black Creature was feline, as she had estimated. It was generally thin, but well muscled. Its grayish - black coat was not as glossy as it was before, so the creature must have been wet when she saw it. She moved upwards along its body and saw the feline had a mane, darker than its body color. A black lion? Sure, she had heard about and even seen white lions, but never black. Its mane was generally short, and reached his shoulders and stopped there. Its texture was strange, instead of smooth; it was inclined a little higher, quite like a porcupine. His under belly was a light gray, just like the endings of his paws and inner ear. Another peculiar feature was the golden bands on each of his legs, near his paws, which held strange inscriptions. She could have sworn that one of the symbols was the one of the One Spirit.

The black lion turned her way, and stared at her with those glowing amber eyes. They were as if he had golden orbs as eyes. His muzzle was gray, as well.

He surprisingly smiled at her warmly, and approached the hyena.

The undead hyena slowly got up, and crouched low. It hissed at the black lion, and the black lion fearlessly circled around it. The hyena began to do the same, and soon both were crouched down, heads low, circling each other. They exchanged growls, and the black lion suddenly attacked the hyena. The hyena snapped at him, but the lion easily parried the attack, and smashed the hyena on the head. It violently snapped down, and the lion began to viciously swipe at the hyena's head with blurring speed. The lion then pinned the hyena's head to the ground, and raised his free paw.

His free paw burst with white flame. It did not seem to burn him, and he remained quite calm. He then brought his paw down fast and smashed the hyena's skull into pieces.

The flame in the lion's paw subsided after the assault, and he stepped away from the decapitated hyena. The hyena quickly evaporated like steam, until there was nothing left of it.

The black lion turned around and saw Amyrza. She spun and hid behind the tree, only peering out at him. She soon realized that he was smiling at her. He approached her slowly and stopped at a comfortable distance. He held out his paw and said,

"C'mon. I 'aint gonna hurt you." His voice was as typical for a young lion.

She was going to step from behind the tree, when she snapped her paw back beneath herself, as if it had been slapped.

The black lion dropped his paw, and said sarcastically,

"Aww, c'mon. If I had really wanted to hurt you, I would have done it already."

Amyrza pondered to herself, and thought it reasonable. She tentatively stepped from behind the tree, and sat a few feet before him. She held her head up to him, and smiled shyly. He widened his smile.

"What's your name?" he asked politely.

"Amyrza..." she said quietly.

"Amyrza, huh? That's a nice name. I am Xalanthas, but I usually go by Xal. It's a whole lot easier to pronounce." He explained.

They stared at each for a while, and Xal finally broke the silence.

"Are you out here all alone? It's a little dangerous, ya' know."

"No, I'm out here with my best friend, Vitani." Amyrza said normally. She thought for a moment in the back of her mind that she was giving up too much information. He was very polite, but he was still a stranger.

Xal pondered to himself, and asked,

"Isn't...isn't it a little dangerous for two girls like you to be out here all alone?"

"Well, a lot of guys say that. Then they see the way she fights." Amyrza said proudly.

Again there was another long moment, and this time it was Amyrza's turn.

"Where you headed? I doubt that you live here." she asked.

"I am headed towards the Pridelands. I have...business there." he said suspiciously.

"You wouldn't happen to be from around there, would you?"

Amyrza froze. She didn't know whether to lie to him or to tell him the truth.

"Well, you don't seem very talkative right now. Who would? It's not everyday you're attacked by a shrieker..." Xal said. Amyrza picked up from where he left off.

"A shrieker?" she asked.

"Ermm, yah. That's the nickname I gave those things." Xal said with a smile.

Xal's face lit up. "I would really like to meet your friend. Where is she?"

Amyrza again was troubled by the question to tell the truth or lie. She thought it over, and it seemed that he really was a good guy. First of all, no bandit would fight off a creature for an innocent bystander, much less a creature such as the hyena. Secondly, the strange power of white flame was something no bandit could come across.

"Well," she began, "I would, but...trouble is that I lost my way. I have no idea where I'm going."

"Ahh, that's easy to fix. C'mon, I got an idea." Xal said, and began walking back to the direction of the road she ran on. She quickly followed.

They came up to a familiar part of the road, the water-hole which Amyrza drank from.

"Do you remember now?" Xal asked.

Amyrza looked around, observing the surroundings. Yes, it did help. She began to remember her old path.

"That way." she said simply.

She and Xal arrived in the exact spots Amyrza had arrived at before. They finally reached the border, were the white sand of the Oasis turned to the burned brown of the desert.

"Over here." Amyrza said, and pointed at the palm tree. Under it laid Vitani, purring peacefully.

"Ohh..." Xal said suddenly.

"What?"

"She's a...lioness."

"Uh huh. And?"

"I thought she was a leopard."

Amyrza looked at him strangely.

"Well, perhaps you should go wake her up." Xal said. She heard a slight intonation in his voice.

Amyrza proceeded towards Vitani, and Xal lost his interest to coconuts high in a tree. He licked his chops and tried to devise a way to reach them.

Amyrza came up next to Vitani and sat, curling her tail around her. She shook her softly, and Vitani drowsily looked at her.

"What is it?" She asked, half asleep. Amyrza nodded in Xal's direction.

She turned over and saw the black lion clumsily climbing the tree.

"Who's he?" Vitani asked, shocked. She was fully awake now.

"That's Xalanthas. He likes to be called Xal. He saved me just a while ago." Amyrza explained.

"Hmm..." Vitani hummed, and rolled to her feet. She approached the lion, and Amyrza followed closely behind.

Amyrza and Vitani watched as the lion was near the top of the tree, already swinging at the loose coconuts.

"Ahem." Vitani said aloud.

Xal looked down and smiled upon them both. "Hey! You must Vitani!"

"And you must be Xal!" Vitani replied sarcastically.

Xal hastily jumped down from the tree.

"I have heard...." Xal began, but suddenly stopped when he looked at Vitani. There was a long pause, and Xal stared at Vitani in an unusual manner.

"Helloooo?" Vitani asked, and Xal regained his senses.

"I'm sorry. I lost myself. I became distracted..."

"With what?" Vitani asked.

Xal looked around nervously, as if his environment held the answers.

"N-nothing..." he said boyishly.

Vitani raised her eyebrows. "Distracted with nothing?"

Xal only smiled shyly.

Vitani looked him over again and noticed the golden bands around his legs and forepaws.

"What are those?" she asked curiously

Xal raised one up and smiled. "These are spirit bangles. They help me with my tasks and they also give me certain physical enhancements."

"What tasks?" Vitani asked

"Secret ones."

Vitani nodded.

"So", she started again, "What are you doing here?"

Xal's eyes lit up. "I am looking for the Pridelands. I have a very important message for whoever is king there."

Vitani turned towards Amyrza for help. Amyrza grinned, and Vitani looked back at him.

"We...are from the Pridelands..." Vitani said tentatively.

Xal riveted his attention on her.

"Why have you left?" there was an unfriendly glare in his eyes.

"We left to see the Jeweled Springs."

A twist of fear fell over Xal's face.

"What?" Vitani asked, aroused from his expression.

He lowered his ears and eyebrows in a worried manner, raising a clawed digit to say something, but sighed and let his head drop.

"I can't keep this a secret anymore. If you live in the Pridelands, this problem involves more than just me. You both are involved as well."

"What?" Vitani asked, desperate. He was giving her more questions than answers.

Xal began to explain,

"There is..."Xal stopped, and continued, "a Demonic invasion of the Pridelands that is about to go underway."

Chills went down Vitani's and Amyrza's backs. They opened their eyes wide, and could not deny his prophecy. They had seen too much evidence from it already.

He continued, "I am afraid you will not be able to see the Jeweled Springs."

"Why?"

"Because they are under demon control already." 

"How? Why would they?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. That is why I am here."

Vitani decided to ask the question she should have asked already.

"Who are you?"

Xal put a stern face and stood straight.

"I am Xalanthas. Paladin of the One Spirit, Savior of the weak and hopeless. I have been sent here by the One Spirit to investigate why they are here, and to stop them once and for all."

Vitani found this hard to swallow.

"The One Spirit....?" Amyrza asked herself, and remembered another question, "Are those the symbols of the One Spirit on your bangles?"

Xal smiled at her, and said, "Very good. Few know of those symbols."

"Alright. We'll take you back. We'll leave first light tomorrow." Vitani spoke with a stern tone in her voice. Xal nodded.

The sun was nearing the end of its journey, the sky turning a warm orange.

"We better get some rest. It's gonna be a long journey tomorrow." Vitani told them both, and Amyrza proceeded to a tree, patting at the sand to form it into a comfortable bed. She laid down and immediately closed her eyes. Xal was about to proceed to another tree when Vitani confronted him. She was roughly shorter than him, but still could look at him at eye level. She stared at him coldly, until she finally whispered in his ear.

"Right now I don't know what to believe. I will not allow you to harm us in anyway possible, and if you try it, I will kill you. You understand?"

Xal eyed her oddly, but nodded nonetheless. He was still a stranger. He proceeded to a tree adjacent to Amyrza's without a word and laid down, closing his eyes in deep sleep.

Vitani stared at him coldly. She found it hard to accept that he was a holy protector, so she had decided to play it safe. If he was who he said he was, she could rest easy. But he hadn't proven himself to her, so she remained ready for him, if he was really trying to trick them.

She proceeded to Amyrza's side, and laid down next to her. While Amyrza slept peacefully, Vitani's eyes remained riveted and wide open on Xal, like a hawk observing its prey from far away. Hours passed, and Vitani's eyes became awfully heavy, sleep beckoning her to enter it's realm. Before she knew it, Vitani fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Xal opened his eyes slowly, and saw that they were both asleep. He grinned, knowing that his chance had come. He breathed in a lungful of air.

"Hmm….the prey sleeps. Excellent." Xal said to himself.

He got up from his slumber and stretched. He grinned down on the pair slyly, and extended his sharp, black claws.

 

 

Chapter 7: Hollow Heroes

 

He tumbled and rolled down the searing hot chamber, his fur burning away each time he touched the surface.

Scar growled in pain as he barreled down to the chamber he was summoned to. The opening came up, and Scar was launched from the molten chamber into a world of fire, charred flesh, and suffering.

Hell.

Scar hit the floor hard, and slowly picked himself up from the ground. The patches of fur that were burned away grew back slowly, starting at the roots and finally fixing themselves into place with the rest of his fur.

Scar hated his surroundings. The sky was as red as blood. Rivers of fire surrounded the land, spewing hot ash and smoke and fire. The floor on which he stood on was hot, the clay burned black. Few trees still stood, or what remained of them. They're branches and trunks were burned black, their branches wickedly twisted.

Scar turned away from his surroundings and called out, "I am here."

A black lightning bolt shot from the sky suddenly, and struck the ground. Dust and clumps of dirt flew through the air. A crater was left in the ground, and suddenly black insects crawled out by the millions. They began to climb on top of each other, soon forming a mound much taller than Scar. The insects began to shift form, and soon before Scar stood a Demon Lord.

The Demon Lord was a large creature that resembled a lion, only with different features. It stood at least 10 feet tall. It's paws were wickedly clawed, and its fur was blood red. It's eyes were black, and horns stuck out from its head. It's mane was jet black, and several spikes protruded from it. Small, triangle shaped plates ran down it's spine. As if it were a type of macabre armor, the creature's rib bones protruded through the fur. The Leonine Demon looked down on Scar and grinned evilly.

"There you are." It said.

"As always, Van." Scar replied with temerity.

The Demon Lord's eyes flared. Literally. Rings of fire burned in his irises, the trails of fire rising from them. The Demon Lord advanced on Scar and clutched his neck. Scar grunted and Demon Lord lifted him off the ground, bringing him to eyes level.

"I have told you thousands of times never to call me that, fool. I am Vanthrok, and you will do well to respect me. Is that clear?"

Scar squirmed in Vanthrok's grip, and the Demon Lord let him fall to the ground.

"Idiot." Vanthrok said, and Scar tried to catch his breath.

As soon as his temper cleared away, Vanthrok began to explain to Scar his intentions.

"Do you know what you are here for?" he asked Scar. He only rubbed his neck where the Demon grabbed at him.

"You are here to play an essential part in a plan for our Overlord."

Scar looked up at him, and said,

"Very touching. You still haven't told me what I have to do."

"Stop being such a smart ass. You're in Hell, and you are under my command." Vanthrok reminded him. He began to explain.

"You know well of why we are trying to take over the Pridelands. It's life energies are extremely powerful, and if we were able to take control of those powers..." Vanthrok said, and his paw burst into an orange flame as he held it before him, "...we could control the entire mortal realm."

"Yes, but where do I take part? What is my purpose for the summoning?" Scar asked like an impatient child.

Vanthrok grimaced at him, and said, "Unfortunately, The One Spirit has summoned his greatest warrior, Xalanthas, to protect the land. Although just one, he can hold off thousands off us on his own. He is one of great power."

"What must be done against him?" Scar asked, enthralled.

At this Vanthrok smiled. "Although a holy warrior, he is still a mortal lion. He can still..."

"...sin." Scar finished.

"Exactly," Vanthrok said, "And this is exactly what we must do. Even for a single moment, if he turns away from the One Spirit, his powers will forfeit, and he will once again be a normal, powerless lion."

"But he cannot fall to our temptation! How will we do this?" Scar asked.

Vanthrok smiled evilly, and said, "That my friend, you will see soon enough."

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Kovu lay still in his den, the only notion that signified he was still alive were his breaths, deep and long. Kovu's mind was filled with his family members, now long passed. So interred in his thoughts was he that he never noticed Kiara walk in.

"Hi." she said softly.

Kovu looked up and smiled shallowly, and slowly put his head back down on the ground.

Kiara sighed, and asked, "Kovu, what's wrong?"

Kovu sighed in response, "I visited the gorge today."

"Kovu," Kiara started, "I thought we talked about this..."

She went to him, and lay beside him. She rubbed her head under his chin. She purred lovingly, but Kovu remained troubled.

Kiara looked deep into his eyes, and said, "Kovu, you must stop living in the past. I know what happened to your family, but it wasn't your fault..."

"How could it not have been?" Kovu interrupted.

"Sorry," He apologized, "It's just that...it's so hard for me. I was so used to them, it's like a big chunk is missing."

He grinned, and said,

"At least I still got Vitani."

His grin disappeared, and continued,

"I should have gone with her..."

"Kovu..." Kiara said,

"You have to stop blaming yourself for this. It's not your fault that they passed on. Yes, perhaps you could have saved them, but they chose that path. They led themselves to that end, you didn't."

Kovu looked into her eyes, and she into his, and they gazed at each other for a long moment, when Kovu finally smiled warmly at her.

He leaned in and kissed her on the lips, and she licked him back.

"Thanks..." he said.

She smiled in return.

They rubbed heads together, and went outside. As they stepped outside, the stars were out, the moon full, shining its cold glare on them.

Kovu sat and looked up at the stars.

Kiara came and sat next to him, and tucked her muzzle into his mane. He never took his eyes off the stars.

"Do you believe they are there?" Kovu asked softly.

Kiara removed her muzzle from his mane and looked at him uneasily. He was acting quite strangely.

Kiara felt an unusual aura about him. The way he looked at her, his energies, were all different.

"Of course I do, Kovu..." She said uneasily, and Kovu interrupted her rudely,

"Why? Have you ever seen them?"

Kiara was taken back.

"Kovu, why are you acting like this?"

Kovu winced suddenly, as if a putrid smell had drifted across his nose. He held his eyes closed tightly, and reopened them. Kiara sensed the old energies once more. Kovu looked at her as if he had never seen her before.

"What was that?" Kiara asked.

"What was what?" Kovu answered, confused.

Kiara eyed him suspiciously.

"You've been acting strange lately. Have you been spending too much time with Rafiki?"

Kovu looked down at the ground.

"There's something I didn't tell you, Kiara."

"What? What is it?" she asked, growing anxious.

Kovu swallowed, and began,

"When I left the gorge, something strange happened. Something....entered me. I don't know what it was. It hit me like a lightning bolt, and it left me just as fast."

Kiara eyed him uneasily, and tucked her head into his mane.

"Oh, Kovu..." she said, she began to get worried.

Kovu rubbed Kiara's back, and rubbed his chin over the back of her neck. They both purred softly, and later on proceeded on to the den. Kovu allowed Kiara in first, when he heard a whisper behind him. He looked back, and saw something staring at him from a near tree.

He looked closer, and saw two luminous orbs. They stared wide, until they frowned suddenly.

Kovu's head felt like it was going to rip down the middle. He grabbed at his head, feeling the pressure inside build.

Kiara heard clamor from behind, and saw Kovu grabbing at his head, hissing.

"Kovu?"

She went to him, and saw that he was on his back now, clutching his head in his paws. His eyes were shut tightly, his mouth open wide with an empty scream.

"KOVU!!" Kiara screamed, and held his paws in hers. His eyes flared open, and she saw that they were no longer green, but red like wildfire. They burned inside his eye sockets, flame encircling his iris. Kovu let out a scream, and it all ceased. Simba, Nala, and the others ran to see what was happening, but arrived too late.

"Kovu?" Kiara asked.

Kovu took in very heavy breaths. His eyes were green once more. He slowly removed his paws from his head, and looked at them. They were stained with blood. His claws had punctured his scalp. Although not serious, they still bled.

"Kovu, what happened?" Pumbaa asked, Timon and he just barely arriving.

Kovu breathed heavily, and looked at them. He remained speechless. 

"Are you going to be okay, Kovu?" Nala asked worriedly.

Kovu nodded, and said, "Yah, yeah I should be okay."

Kiara looked at her parents uneasily, and Simba shooed them off silently. Now, it was once again only Kovu and Kiara.

"Kovu?" Kiara asked.

"It happened again. It happened again. I heard whispers..." Kovu looked up at her, wide eyed. "Kiara, you don't think..."

"No, Kovu, no..." Kiara said reassuringly. She held him close.

"We'll see Rafiki first thing tomorrow, okay?"

"Kiara..." Kovu started, "I'm afraid...."

Kiara held him close to him again, and Kovu looked over her shoulder. Kovu could see that they orbs were gone. He breathed a little easier. They both proceeded to the den, and Kovu was the first to lie down. Kiara lay close to him, as to protect him from whatever forces were at work. Soon, both fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter 8: The Dawn of Destruction

 

HA! Gotcha! Sorry, but you got to the end…….of part one!!!! Stay tuned for part 2 (I PROMISE not to take too long this time)