The Reign of Darkness
By: Black Lion
Author’s note: This is NOT Lion King III
Chapter 8: The Dawn of Destruction
“That is what I ultimately fear, my friend.” Mufasa sighed, hardly believable that his ethereal form had lungs. He stared at his friend Rafiki with teary eyes.
“But how is dat possible, Mufasa? It is impossible for them to enter our realm-”
“Yes, I believed it too, but somehow they have found a rift in the fabric of our realms, and are now planning their invasion of the Pridelands.” Mufasa explained, and proceeded to the opposite side of the cliff. The stars shone brightly.
“Do you remember what my father once told me?” Mufasa said.
“How could I forget?” Rafiki said.
“The day the blood of the Lion King is spilled, and no heir is chosen, the land dies, and there is no reparation.”
Rafiki sighed heavily, and said,
“Let us hope that it never happens, Great one.”
“That is what is to happen…” Mufasa trailed off, and Rafiki’s eyes widened in fear.
“What do you mean? Is that their plan? To destroy da Pridelands forever?” Rafiki howled. Mufasa shook his head, replying as if it hurt him to do so.
“There are things even I do not know, friend. I have no idea what is to happen. No forecast, no foresight.”
“Well, I am not going to stand here and wait for dem to destroy our land.”
He turned on his heel to leave, when Mufasa called after him.
“There is no way to stop them. None of you can.”
Rafiki turned slowly, eyes wide in anger. Emotions mounted and tears creased his red eyes.
“Then wat? Do we sit back and watch da horrid creatures pillage and consume our land with their filthy flame?”
Rafiki never expected Mufasa to smile at that moment, but Rafiki had not expected much during his time there.
“There is but one chance. One way to save the land.”
Rafiki waited for him to finish.
“The Black Lion”
Rafiki almost dropped his staff.
“Da…da Black Lion? Are you mad Mufasa? You know well of what he was banished
“The One Spirit wills it. I am no one to tell him otherwise.” Mufasa still smiled.
Rafiki sighed long and heavy, and murmured,
“My friend, I hope you are right.”
Mufasa nodded his head, and Rafiki left.
Rafiki was in the cloudy plain, and once there, he closed his eyes, murmured something to himself, and found himself standing alone in the cool night air, back in the Pridelands, perched on a branch of his tree. He walked back to its center, and saw that the portal was gone, and not a single clue of its existence remained. Even the tortoise shell was wiped clean. Rafiki sighed, took up his ground clays, and added to the murals of his tree trunk, of the dreadful war that was to come.
* * * * * *
Kovu stared at the ceiling of the den. Kiara purred next to him softly, feeling totally protected by his side. Kovu wondered about what had happened the day before. He turned over to Kiara, and gave her a loving lick on the cheek. She smiled in her sleep, but did not wake up. He stared at her, and began to feel…disgusted. He began to get angry, and strongly contemplated moving away. He began to growl at her, and got to his feet. Kovu realized what was happening, and his anger dissipated.
“What’s happening to me?” he thought to himself. He shook his head, gave Kiara another lick, and slowly moved out of the den. The sun was rising, and Kovu stretched his back and legs. He put his strange thoughts behind him, and proceeded to the water hole.
Kovu lapped at the water, helping his parched throat. Kovu looked up past the red water, colored by the morning sky, and saw the rising sun, warm and soft. Kovu smiled, and looked around him. Few animals were up and about, even less were predatory felines.
Kovu felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned. He saw a cheetah, eyes staring directly into his, its face solid. It then smiled.
“uh, hi.” Kovu replied.
“So, you’re the great Kovu, the new King-to-be, eh?” The cheetah said sarcastically.
“Yeah, and you are?” Kovu replied. He began to loathe his visitor.
“Oh, forgive me. I seem to have forgotten. I am Imek.”
Kovu didn’t reply.
Imek began to look him over, and seemed not to be too pleased.
“You don’t look like a king. I thought kings were only to be part of royal blood.”
Kovu looked away from him, and clenched his paw tight. He began to feel angry. Very angry.
“I don’t mean to be insulting…”
“Well, you’re not doing very well.” Kovu snapped.
Imek was taken back.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I hope it goes well with you and Kiara…”
Imek patted him on the shoulder.
Kovu suddenly sprang at him, clamping his jaws around Imek’s neck. The cheetah was totally taken by surprise.
“Kovu! Kovu! Your…your killing me!” He rasped, and Kovu shut down harder.
Kovu could feel his fangs sinking through, and Imek frantically clawed at his shoulders.
“Why ya killin’ me, why ya killin’ me, why ya…killin’…me….” Imek gasped for breath, choked by his own fluids. His heart stopped.
Kovu shook him, making sure he was dead. He released him, pleasured at Imek’s death. His maw and throat were stained with blood. Kovu heard an evil laughter in his head, and his happiness faded away. He was horrified. Kovu wiped at his face and throat, smearing blood across his countenance. He screamed aloud, terrified.
“What have I done?!?” he exclaimed.
He spun around, scanning for anyone who might have seen what happened.
Not a single soul stirred nearby.
He looked back down to Imek’s dead body. He laid by him, and held the lifeless corpse close.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”
Tears formed in his eyes, and he knew he could stay here no longer. Terrified, he ran. He ran as fast as he could, leaving everything behind him, running to the only place he could find help. He felt his lungs burn, his legs pumping as he watched the ground speed by underneath him. Tears streamed from his eyes as he ran, but he did not stop. He would stop once he reached the place he needed to go. The laughter in his head began to fade away, but Kovu kept on running.
* * * * * *
Kiara shifted in her sleep, rolling to her back. She stretched, and her paws reached out touch her love. She couldn’t feel him, so she shifted closer. She still couldn’t feel him.
“So, that’s how it is huh?” she said slyly. She cracked open one eye, and it seemed that she was alone. Perplexed, she got to her feet and looked around the den. She was alone.
“Kovu?” she asked, perplexed.
She exited the den, and saw that no one else had yet awakened. The sun was beginning to rise, but Kovu was nowhere to be found.
Kiara searched the main den, hoping that maybe she had just missed him. She could not find him anywhere. She ran to her parent’s chambers, and woke them.
“Mom! Dad! wake up! I can’t find Kovu!” she exclaimed.
Simba opened a lazy eye toward her, and sighed, “Don’t worry Kiara. He’s a free spirit. He must be walking around.”
Kiara countered, “Daddy, I know when he goes out, but something feels wrong. Please help me, dad.”
Simba eyed her daughter. Her reasons seemed palpable.
“I’ll go with you.” Nala said comfortingly.
“So will I.” Simba concurred.
The trio left Priderock quietly, trying not to wake the other lions.
“I would think that he left to the water hole. I usually see him there from time to time.” Nala said. Kiara remained silent.
“Sounds reasonable. Lets start there.” Simba said in a delightful tone, trying to cheer her daughter up. As they walked, Nala slowed from Simba’s side, and took her place by Kiara’s, Leaving Simba in front.
“Kiara, what’s wrong? I have never seen you like this. What is troubling you.” She asked, worriedly.
“Mom, remember what you told me a few days ago, after what happened at the gorge flooding?”
“When Zira passed?”
“What about it?”
“Remember when you told me, those few moments before you were re-united with Dad, you felt strange, like something was missing from you?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I feel like that now. I feel like Kovu is in trouble, like he is…changed.” Kiara tried hard to keep her tears from spilling.
“Why? Has he…hurt you?” Nala was beginning to get worried.
“No, no…of course not. Kovu would never put me in harm’s way.” Kiara reassured her.
“I just feel like…he is apart from who he used to be.”
Nala was going to reply when Simba announced loudly, almost deliberately to end their correspondence, “Well, we’re here, at the water hole.”
Nala gave her daughter a heart-warming smile, and proceeded to help her husband browse through the brush. Kiara herself began to search around the water hole, near the rim of the crystal blue water. Kiara picked up the smell of blood. Although faint, she could trace it to where it was coming from. She held her nose up to the air, and feared the worst; she hoped it wasn’t Kovu’s blood.
She sniffed the air, slowly but surely following the scent. She heard a groan nearby, and she jumped, startled. She went to investigate, but couldn’t find the where the groan came from. She heard rustling in the grass, and immediately she saw a creature lying in the grass. The wind changed direction, and she smelled blood profusely. She ran to the creature’s side, and found a cheetah, bloodied around the maw and throat. There was a long trail of blood behind it, she saw now, from the rim of the water hole. The poor creature had dragged itself a way with what little strength it had left.
“It hurts…it…hurts…” The cheetah whispered, trying hard to rasp out his words.
“Shhh…” Kiara whispered. She soothed him with her paw.
“Why…why di…did he…do that?...”, he struggled, and Kiara responded,
“Who? Who did this?”
The cheetah picked his head up from the ground, and with wide eyes, said in surprisingly renewed strength,
“Who? Who did this to you? Who tried to kill you?”
“K…Kovu…” The cheetah rasped.
Kiara’s heart skipped a beat. She realized she wasn’t breathing for a while.
“Why? How…would he do this….”
The cheetah coughed. His voice became clearer, but still bludgeoned.
“I…don’t know. He was so…angry…”
“Kiara!” called Simba.
She turned to see Nala and he coming to her side. They looked upon the cheetah, and gasped. Simba asked,
“Who are you? Who has done this?”
The cheetah was about to respond when he saw Kiara, tears gathering at her eyes.
“I am Imek…Hyenas…”
“No matter how hard I try, I can’t rid my land of those curs. C’mon, let me help you. Rafiki has what you need.”
“Thank you, king. Thank you…”
The big lion and his mate turned, Imek slumped over his shoulders. He eyed Kiara, and winked. Kiara stood there, motionless. Imek laid his head on Simba’s back. In truth, Kiara was glad for the lie. She only wondered now where Kovu was, where he resided…
“Kiara!...” a whisper came from behind the low shrub.
Kiara turned, and saw nothing. She could have sworn she recognized…
“Kiara! Over here!” She browsed the land around her, and saw two green eyes staring out at her from a bush. She gasped, and took a tentative step back.
“Its ok. Its me…”
A familiar nose poked out of the bush, and soon Kovu emerged. Kiara’s tail curled around her hind leg.
“Kovu…what…what did you do?” She shrunk in fear.
Kovu tried to explain, lifting a paw to let her know it was safe, but feebly comforting.
“Kiara…You know me. You know I wouldn’t do that! I…my killing days are over! I…”
“You what?” Kiara became angry.
“Kiara, I didn’t do that…I…you know. I am not me right know.” Kovu tried hard to calm her.
Kiara’s expression softened. “He told me Kovu. He told me you did it, and lied to me parents that it was the hyenas…”
Kovu shook his head.
“Kiara, I know it sounds crazy, but…there’s something…inside me. Something…dark. It feels like a parasite, and I totally lose it sometimes. I did here. That’s why a ran. I saw what I did, and…I was afraid, I didn’t know what to do…”
Kiara came close to him, and held a paw to his cheek. His eyes were faded yellow. They still shone green, but were not as bright as they used to.
“Kovu…” She whispered. She caressed him, rubbing her head under his head.
“He told me to, he told me to…” Kovu whispered.
Kiara looked at him eye to eye. “Who?”
“Scar…” Kovu whispered.
For a second, Kiara thought she saw a sparkle in his eye.
* * * * * *
Xal hated the crimson stain the most. It got all over his maw and claws, and made him feel dirty. He was red with it, staining his immaculate hide. Sighing, he proceeded to the river, watching the crimson stain wash away, leaving whip-like tendrils in the water.
He finished bathing, he went back to Vitani and Amyrza, sleeping heavily, despite the feast Xal had prepared them. He thought the heavy smell of fruit and elk flesh would wake them. Xal looked around, and saw he was alone with them. He laid on his belly, propping his head with his arm. He could not help admiring Vitani.
She’s so hot, he thought to himself.
She shifted uneasily in her sleep, and Xal longed to go by her side and comb her long bangs. He loved the cadence of her curves, rising and falling softly like hills. He licked his chops when he thought of…
“You stare at her like you’ve never seen a girl before.” Xal heard a voice behind him. He winced, and knew he was caught by the owner of that familiar voice. All too familiar.
“I would think you didn’t like me anymore.”
Xal looked over his shoulder, and saw a lioness, black like him, with a beautiful feline form. Her eyes were green, and she had three long bangs coming down an interesting tuft of hair from the center of her skull, two down her temples, and one in between her eyes. She laid down next to him, and rested her cheek against his, to see what he was looking at.
“Yeah, I love you too, Illiana.” Xal said blatantly.
She chuckled. “Oh, you’re not that lucky.” Illiana yawned.
“I see you’re becoming interested in that girl.” She stated almost proudly.
“Yep.” Xal said in an irritated manner.
Illiana turned to Xal, and gave him a big lick on his cheek. He blushed almost immediately.
“You’re so boyish. Look, your red like a watermelon.” She said, pushing his face away with her paw.
“Hey, shut up.” Xal said playfully.
He got up and proceeded to the two sleeping cats, and while keeping his distance, called to them.
“Vitaniii….”he crooned, and she slowly opened one eye. She frowned, and patted Amyrza, curled up like a little ball of fur.
“I’m brave enough…” she murmured.
“Amyrza, get up.” Vitani said bitterly.
Amyrza stirred, opened her eyes halfway, smacking her lips, and turned her blank gaze to Xalanthas. She smiled. He waved. Vitani stretched lazily. Xal stared at her for every second, savoring the moment. Vitani noticed and shot an angry glare at him. He turned away and pretended he wasn’t paying attention. She proceeded to the feast lying before them, and asked.
“Oh, it’s a little something I…gathered for you before we head back.”
Vitani turned to him and smiled. That alone warmed him inside. He smiled widely and chuckled.
Vitani nor Amyrza ever noticed Illiana laying there, until she spoke.
“Consider yourself lucky, he never feeds me anything.”
Vitani and Amyrza looked up, and saw her. Vitani’s eyes narrowed.
“Who are you?”
Xal nearly choked. “I’m sorry. I totally forgot. This is Illiana. Illiana, this is Vitani,” he waved a paw to the lioness, and pointing to the leopard, “and this is Amyrza. They are my friends.”
Vitani’s ears perked up with curiosity. She eyed both Illiana and Xalanthas, and had to ask.
“Are you… are you brother and sister?”
Illiana and Xalanthas turned to each other, then back to Vitani. Both broke out in hysterical laughter. After they regained control of themselves, they spoke.
“No, no, we have no connection.” Illiana said, chuckling under her breath.
“Yeah, Illi and I are just friends. Strange that we both are the same color, but we aren’t brother and sister. At least I hope not…”
With that, Xal and Illi began chuckling again.
“How’d you meet each other then? Mere coincidence?” Amyrza asked.
“I was part of a very large pride which roamed the blue plain,” began Xal, “and because of my fur color, I didn’t have that many friends. Then, Illi’s parents and her came into our pride one day, were accepted, and since then Illi and I have been best friends.”
The group remained oddly quiet until Vitani and Amyrza finished their meals, and began their long trip back to Priderock.
* * * * * *
“Please, Kiara, you have to believe me.” Kovu tried to explain. “You know I never would have killed anyone.”
Kiara’s eyes teared. “Kovu…”
“Kiara, do you love me?” Kovu asked.
Kiara’s pupils shrank. “What?”
“Do you love me?”
“Of course I do…”
“Then I need you to do something for me. You can’t tell anyone where I am. I…I can’t be near anyone, I’m afraid that I will hurt someone. I need Rafiki. I need to know what is wrong with me. Please Kiara, you have to help me.”
Tears coursed down her cheeks, but she nodded. Kovu picked her chin up, and looked in her eyes.
“Kiara, I promised you. Can you trust me?”
Kiara nodded again. She licked him on the mouth. He smiled.
Kovu’s ears perked up as he heard something behind her.
“Good bye, Kiara. All will be well, soon.”
She watched as her lover bounded away, deep into the ravines of the Elephant Graveyard.
* * * * * *
Rafiki’s fingers ran along the trunk of the large tree, drawing a myriad of lines all shapes and colors. A passerby could have admired the work and called it a masterpiece. But the very essence of it burned Rafiki’s fingertips. It burned him from the inside in a way unorthodox of everyday emotion. He sat down as he finished the few last additions to his painting. With a sigh, he slumped and eyed the chronology he had just created, an omen. The tree itself seemed immolated in fire, destruction, and chaos. The figures in the mural, large monstrosities of demonic hatred, razed all in their sight. In the center, the only light permeating the seemingly insurmountable darkness, was a black lion, rays of light flowing over the demons, destroying them. The very sight of the lion conveyed an emotion of hope to the old shaman, that the glamorous and free land of the Pridelands would be spared from the demon’s corruption.
The Great Protector, thought the mandrill, and grinned. He proceeded to another part of the tree – higher than the mural, to account for room – and began to depict his prophecy once more.
It seemed burned in his memory. It stretched across his mind, haunting him and his every thought. Before long, Rafiki had finished his illustration. He had the impulse to erase the blasphemous thing from the trunk of his tree, but he did not want to be held responsible for an error in the timeline.
It was a nemesis of all that lived, and even in the rough depiction on the trunk, the burning anger in its eyes seemed as furious as ever.
Rafiki had remembered the prophecy told to him. Come the Great Protector, so does the Great Destroyer.
Rafiki leaned hard on his staff, and wept softly.
* * * * * *
“I can’t believe it…” Vanthrok said softly, his paw held over the black pool of water with his eyes closed. A wide, yellow, toothy smile spread across his face.
“I have found him…” Vanthrok said with glee. Scar eyed him strangely. Vanthrok’s eyes opened, and although, they stared right at Scar, they seemed to pierce through him, as if he was not there.
“Who, who have you found, great one?” Scar asked, more respectful of his lord.
“Fakuru, the Unclean One, the Sin Dweller, the Great Destroyer…” Vanthrok whispered, and unlike the demon’s self, shivered in pleasure. He looked down at Scar and grinned so malevolently that Scar thought he would gobble him up out of pure joy.
“He is the key, the culmination of our Dark Lord, the future father of our glorious future!”
Vanthrok removed his paw from the magical pool of seeing and began to walk in the opposite direction. Although he gave no sign, Scar knew he ordered him to follow.
“An impressive ploy,” Vanthrok said to himself. Scar was going to question, but it seemed Vanthrok already knew that.
“It seems our friend has already taken the situation to hand, already seems to have taken our Dark Lord’s…message.”
“Tell me of this unclean one,” Scar dared to ask, “Tell me how he is, how he came to be.”
Vanthrok cast a glance at him, and smiled.
“This lion, Fakuru, is quite the embodiment of evil on earth. His beginning, though, was not a turbulent one. He was born of a good father and mother, and they deeply cared for him. But, one day, our Dark Lord saw in him a power, a power that could undo the very fabric of existence. So, he smited them both, and gave them a most painful death.”
“Broken by his loss, Fakuru was forced to wander the rest of his life, a loner. Embittered by his losses, he would have surely given up on life if not for his surrogate mother, Amya, who took him in and cared for him. He grew strong and proud, and the fires of his losses nearly burned out. Until the Dark Lord intervened again. He spoke to Fakuru during the night, in his sleep. He promised him power, vengeance on the cruel world that took his parents from him. See, the Dark Lord knew him, knew his child, and used and manipulated him in a way never thought possible. He was perfect.”
“And what of his mother?” asked Scar, engrossed in the depth of the story.
“His mother was a strong spirit. She sensed his energies and tried to stop him. So, in turn, he beat her, raped her, and killed her.” Vanthrok said matter-of-factly.
Even Scar was taken back by the savagery.
“Even now as we speak, he moves towards the Pridelands with all haste, an engine of chaos.”
Scar, silenced from his thoughts, did not feel the need to ask anymore questions.
Chapter 9: Unexpected Arrival
“Akar help me…” whispered Kovu, curled in a corner of an elephant’s hollowed out skull. Kovu prayed fervently, hoping the pain would leave him forever. Kovu shuddered, adding to his already unbearable pain. His entire body ached, as if the blood in his body burned within him. The stench of the graveyard was dreadful, Kovu barely able to manage breathing without fainting.
He did this for love. He did it out of love for his new family, love for Kiara. He wanted to stay as far away from her as possible, not to harm them in any way, for he did not know when he would lose control again.
Sand from overhead fell to the ground, through cracks in the cranium of the beast. Light footsteps were audible, and a shadow flickered by. He smelt two beings, one very familiar.
“Kovu? Kovu, are you in here…” said the familiar voice, and Kiara’s head poked around the corner. She gave a feeble smile, and proceeded into his lair. The stench was awful, but she did not care.
“Kiara,” Kovu said, lifting his head, “You should not have come here alone.”
“I didn’t,” she replied, and Rafiki entered behind her. He looked different from the last time Kovu saw him, for he had intricate facial and body paint on him, a myriad of swirls and thorn-like shapes.
The mandrill looked at Kovu with an evident pain in his eyes, but also a fervent desire to help the future king.
“If dis is as serious as Kiara has said, we will need all da help we can get.” The monkey, stated, and approached Kovu. He had a strange wobble in his walk, and was cautious of the lion. The mandrill, keeping a steady eye on Kovu, lowered the parchments and potions he held in his hands. He unrolled the thin sheets of paper, and took the tops off of the bottles. Taking the turtle shell off his back, he began to mix herbs and potions together, and began to whisper incantations as he mixed.
When Rafiki was finished, he approached Kovu with renewed temerity. Without saying a word, Rafiki motioned Kovu forward, and he obeyed. He led him to the center of the cavernous skull, and motioned him to stop.
“Try to keep calm…” Rafiki ordered more than asked. Kovu was going to ask why when he felt a strange aura emanating from him. The shaman began to move him hands as if in some sort of dance, and the motions from his hands were strangely mesmerizing. The shaman then acted as if he grabbed an invisible ball in mid air, then Kovu felt something hot grab at his legs. Giving a gasp, he looked down and saw his legs were shackled to the ground by serpents. The serpents, ethereal yet visible, glowed red, and bound him tightly to the ground by wrapping themselves around his ankles and wrists. Kovu gave Rafiki an almost desperate look.
“Try to keep calm…” the monkey said again, but this time smiling.
Rafiki stepped away, grabbed the shell with his concoction.
“This is going to hurt.” Rafiki said almost sympathetically.
Moving aside his tuft of fur, Rafiki drew a shape on Kovu’s forehead, slowly and carefully. The potion was cool and did not seem to hurt. Dipping his thumb one last time, he finished the symbol of a tree, rays of light coming from its branches. The symbol of Akar, the One God.
“Fillimu’t” Rafiki said.
Blasts of pain erupted in Kovu’s body. He tensed up, trying to hold in the screams and something else that seemed abnormal to him. His body shook, the very blood in his veins burning him from the inside out. All the while, Rafiki chanted words that seemed unreal, undecipherable. Kiara so longed to be by her mate’s side, to comfort him and soothe him, to tell him that everything would be okay. Suddenly Kovu changed. His fur took a red hue, and his eyes erupted in fire. His scar glowed, and his voice changed, as well, taking a deeper, darker sound.
“May your god die in the bleeding bowel of a pig filled with puss and grime!!” came the blasphemous words from Kovu, yet not Kovu.
“Masa da Fra Not!” Screamed the monkey, and landed a lighting fast punch on Kovu’s noise. There was a loud crack and a thudding noise. Suddenly Kovu was normal once more, eyes green as grass, fur brown and smooth. The serpents no longer bound him, but bound to the wall something far more terrible.
Behind the gasping Kovu was something Kiara nor Rafiki wished they never laid eyes on. A form of Kovu, only dead. His magnificent color was stolen from his body, leaving a balding, gray, thin coat of fur. His eyes were white, and maggots squirmed through his body.
“Eat the maggots of carrion and drink piss, whore of incest!!” The demon screamed at Rafiki. The mandrill unsheathed a knife and through it at the demon, and it embedded itself in the demon’s forehead. The abomination’s mouth hung open, and maggots spilled from it. The body degenerated, and burst into ashes.
Kovu gasped for air on the floor, looking around as if he had done something wrong. Kiara looked to Rafiki, and he nodded slowly. Kiara went to his side, and asked,
“Kovu, are you okay?”
Kovu looked up, his eyes clear.
“Yes. I…I…hope so…”
Kiara smiled, happy that he was back to his normal self.
“It hurt so much. I’ve never felt pain like that…” Kovu turned to Rafiki. “What happened to me?”
“You were possessed. Potent it was, but I was surprised dat I was able to abolish it rather easily.”
Kovu looked over his shoulder. Any evidence of the malevolent being was now gone. Kovu looked back at Kiara. She seemed brighter than before, happier.
“Let’s go home.” She whispered in his ear.
* * * * * *
The return trip was long and hard. Xal had to stop many times to compensate for the swift progress. Both Amyrza and Vitani were healthy, but not accustomed to the rigors of the desert. Much to Xal’s benefit, Illiana managed to find waterholes, were the group could rest. As they neared the Pridelands every day, Xal usually kept an eye out towards the sky, as if expecting something to fall out of it. Vitani urged to ask, but swept it aside as being irrelevant.
When in fact it wasn’t.
“How much further?” Amyrza asked.
“Not long. We cannot be far now.” Xal said quietly. Amyrza panted behind the other three. Vitani quickly adjusted to the harsh heat and blinding sunshine, but Amyrza could not find a way to get used to it.
Illiana yelped in glee when something in the sky caught her attention. Xalanthas looked up at the same moment, and a large smile spread across his face. Both lions broke out in front of Vitani and Amyrza, running a fast pace while looking up at the sky, smiles shining on their faces. Vitani looked up, and saw something large, larger than any bird she had ever seen take to flight.
She could not distinguish it, for it flew in the sun, casting a painful glare so that only it’s wings were visible. It began to land, picking up dust with its large wings. It finally alighted, and Vitani saw that it was actually no bird at all. It was a white lion. A white winged lion.
Vitani was amazed. Never had she seen anyone like this.
“Zakoma!” Exclaimed Illiana, and rushed over to greet the stranger. The white lion saw her and smiled. She seemed eager to meet him, and jumped at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. She gave him a lick on the cheek, and he chuckled. She let him go, and Xal approached. The two exchanged smiles, and embraced each other tightly.
“It has been too long, friend. Too long.” Xal said empathically.
The white lion chuckled. “It has only been a few days.”
Amyrza looked the lion over. The lion wasn’t white as they had first predicted, but a very light tan. His mane flowed golden, shining in the light. His eyes were a violet hue, immaculate. His wings folded on his back, feathers large and delicate. They were the wings that appeared white, again unstained.
“These are my friends, Zakoma, Amyrza and Vitani.” Xal introduced amiably.
“Good day to you both.” He said in a deep and tender voice. Vitani waved, and Amyrza smiled sheepishly. Vitani could have sworn hearing her give a little ‘meow’.
After a friendly conversation, the group began again. Kamoz, serving as a useful scout, told that the Pridelands did not lie very far off. Suddenly, Amyrza began to feel ill.
“Perhaps I should take her from her?” Kamoz suggested, nervously twitching his wings.
“I think that would be real good.” Xal said, and Kamoz took Amyrza in his large paws like a child and flew off, leaving the other three to trek the short distance themselves.
Flight was exhilarating. Amyrza felt unstoppable soaring through the wind, the air folding around her nose, giving plentiful oxygen and an adrenaline rush unlike any other she had experienced. Zakoma banked suddenly, and Amyrza had to clutch onto his forepaws to keep from falling.
“Hang on! I found something!” He said reassuringly.
Their descent was fast. At the point of landing, Amyrza shut her eyes for the ground was rushing up so fast to meet her. They alighted, however, very softly, Zakoma’s wings cradling them to the ground. A very experienced flier, thought Amyrza.
They landed in an outcropping of rock, where various spires broke from the surface of the ground. Despite the sun, the place was shaded in various places, surrounded by shadow.
Zakoma’s head turned swiftly to a heavily shadowed area, his eye catching something illusive.
“Wait here.” He ordered more than asked.
He pulled his wings tightly to his back, and crouched low. He turned a corner and was gone.
Amyrza sat there, looking nervously around as if one hundred eyes were staring back through the shadows. A loud hiss sounded through the area, and it caught Amyrza’s full attention. She scampered off to a shaded section of rock, to keep from being left out in the open. She heard talking behind her, and she looked from the corner of the rock to see Zakoma and an old lioness. The old lioness snarled at him; she was old and would be unable to defend herself from a strong lion such as Zak, but she showed her defiance nonetheless.
“Who are you? Why do you trek into my territory with such arrogance?” the old lioness glared.
“Please,” Zak started, in his usual calm, “I mean no intrusion.”
The old lioness eyed him suspiciously. Zakoma held out a helping hand, but she swiped out at it and growled. Amyrza noticed that one of her canines was missing. She growled louder at him, but suddenly ceased and clutched her chest from pain. She cursed, but the pain increased, and she was forced to lay still.
She looked up at Zakoma, and from the look in her eyes she pleaded for mercy, unable to even protest against the lion. He held out his paw, and touched her on the forehead. A small glow of gold shined for a second, and then vanished. The lioness’s pain ceased and she looked up at Zakoma with a new curiosity.
“You remind me of someone I once knew.” She said with a love in her voice, though her breathing was deep and labored.
“Rest now,” Zakoma said, easing her head to the ground, “Your time has come to its peaceful end.”
Amyrza saw the slow rising and falling of the lioness’s side, until it slowed and finally ceased. She seemed to have noticed tears dropping from Zakoma’s eyes, as well. He ran his paw over her head, soothing the old lioness that felt no more.
Chapter 10: The Beginning of the End
Xalanthas, Illiana, and Vitani finally reached the Pridelands. The ground which once burned their paws turned to a soothing, pleasant clay, and cool to the touch. All were taken in awe by the beauty and majesty of the Pridelands, even Vitani, who had recently taken residence here. The three stayed close together but found themselves separating as they admired the flawless beauty of the Pridelands.
Xalanthas followed the main road, worn down by years of use. Xal walked by a tall tree, which had seen many years and seasons of change. He could tell by the many branches and height of the tree. Sadly, though, he didn’t think it would expect the season to come.
Suddenly, Xal’s vision became a blur of blue and green as something hard and heavy took him from the side. He wheeled, but quickly regained his footing and saw the cause of the intrusion.
A lion, much like him, had tackled him from the side when he was not aware. And that did not happen too often.
This lion had green eyes, brown fur, and an interesting tuft of fur at the crown of his head. He had a good, muscular frame, and was swift and silent in his actions. Unexpectedly, another lion, a lioness, appeared, at the first one’s side. She growled angrily at Xalanthas, ready to fight. The previous lion, however, seemed surprised.
“Kiara! I told you to find help!” the brown lion exclaimed.
“I’m all the help you need…”
“Kovu?” Vitani asked, astounded.
The brown lion looked up. “Vitani?”
Xalanthas was confused. This ‘Kovu’ character was trying to rip him to shreds meanwhile the very companion Xal was traveling with was familiar to him.
It all came back to him in a snap.
“You are…Kovu?” Xalanthas asked, uncertain.
Kovu’s countenance eased. “I am. Who, may I ask, are you?”
“King to be”
Now Kovu was the one confused.
“I am Xalanthas. I have been sent here to save this land.”
Kovu seemed to have taken this almost as an insult. “What? What are you talking about?”
“Haven’t you noticed? The plague that is slowly consuming your land?”
Kovu replied with a stern stare. Xalanthas saw through him like a pane of glass.
“You know of what I speak. You yourself have fallen victim to it, too. Very recently, I might add.”
“How…how did you know? You’ve never even seen me before!”
The black lion smiled. “I know a great many things.”
* * * * * *
Vanthrok eyed the portal with a longing Scar had never realized. Never would he have thought that Vanthrok was even capable of such an emotion. But Scar knew why, for just as surprised as Vanthrok was, this portal was the manifestation of their transport to the mortal realm, the Pridelands, their final destination.
Scar looked behind, and saw a massive army of undead behind him, ethereal and rotting corpse standing side by side of each other. Their white eyes remained locked on the portal, waiting for the purple halo to open and lead them to glory.
“Pay witness to this, little one,” Vanthrok said to Scar, “For this shall be the greatest undertaking of all time.”
Scar looked up to his master and smiled. Surprisingly, he smiled back.
A loud crackle of lightning sounded, and the portal before them widened. It widened until the center of the black hole tore like fabric, and before them, like a window, was the Pridelands.
With a roar loud enough to shake the stars, Vanthrok led Scar and the rest of the army into the Pridelands, burning and razing all in their sight.
The end had come, and no one could stop them now.
Sorry I took so long to write this, but you know how school is. Stay tuned for the last and final chapter of the Reign of Darkness.