Chapter III: Eulogy
Kovu slowly came to the next morning. He opened his eyes, and saw Kiara looking around the den. He began to get up, but the pain made him immediately think better of it. He lied back down with a groan. He saw Kiara turn and look at him.
“He’s awake!” He saw several other lionesses come over to him, along with Nadhari. He slowly sat up. The leg that Ghera had slashed wouldn’t even begin to support him. Gods, how did I manage to get this badly hurt?
“What’s going on?” He looked around the den. Lions covered the floor. Some were unconscious, some too injured to move. The rest were dead. There were a few cheetahs, too, all dead. “How’s Fujo?”
Kiara and Vitani exchanged glances. “He’ll live,” Vitani said. “He got pretty . . . chewed up last night.”
Kovu shook his head, trying to get rid of the headache that was slowly coming on. Instead it only increased the pain. “What happened in here last night?”
Nadhari spoke up. “They got through. When they got up here I guess they had already realized that they weren’t strong enough to kill all the lions. They settled for taking the cubs. They rushed in here and started attacking every lion they thought they could take. I tried to help but got knocked out. When I came too, I noticed Taraju and Fujo were missing. Then you came in.”
“A lot of help you were.” It hurt just to talk, let alone sit up. The pain was beginning to get to Kovu.
“You just let them brush you aside.”
“May I remind you, your highness, that if it wasn’t for me you would probably have your head in about ten different pieces . . . instead of having it stuck up your ass.”
“We would have made it through.”
“‘Made it through?’” Nadhari scoffed. “‘Made it through?’ The great warrior Kovu may have been able to make it through, but what about them? Even with my warning over half of your pride is dead.”
Kovu looked at Vitani.
“It’s true. They got us pretty good down there . . . and then they got all of the elders in the den. Sarabi, Sarafina, Imani . . . They’re all gone.”
Kovu sighed and hung his head. “Where’s Taraju?”
Vitani looked away. “We think he’s dead. Fujo was already in pretty bad shape, and we haven’t been able to find Taraju. We think they were planning on killing them when they got away. They would probably have killed Fujo too . . . if it hadn’t had happened . . .”
Kovu sighed. They knew.
“His funeral is going to have to wait until we’ve recovered,” continued Vitani. “We still need to clean up all the bodies.”
“The funeral will happen tomorrow,” Kovu replied. “He deserves better than this. If we have too, we’ll have it in the den.”
“Kovu,” Kiara protested, “not even all the lions have even come around yet.”
“We are not going to let him just lie on that godforsaken ledge until we feel that we can give him a decent burial. We are going to do it now. He gave his life for all us, for our sons, no less. We are not going to wait around. Is that cl—”
“Crystal,” replied Vitani.
“Good.” He tried to take a step towards the outside of the den and made the mistake of using the leg Ghera had slashed. He fell to the ground. Kiara and Vitani were immediately beside him. “I’m fine. Just let me—”
“Rafiki said to stay put.”
“I’m fine. I was walking last night, I can be walking today.”
“As I pointed out to you last night, you shouldn’t even be alive. Kovu, you haven’t seen yourself. You have so much blood on you it’s not funny. I know some of it isn’t yours, but that much . . . I have no idea how you’re even talking. Just stay down, and we’ll get you something to eat.”
“I am fine, dammit. Just let me be.” He slowly got up and limped out to the edge of Pride Rock. He heard a lioness start behind him, and heard her stopped. He reached the edge and looked down. Gods, what happened?
Lions and cheetahs were spread over the entire perimeter. Some were still bleeding. Others had clearly broken necks, their heads at such impossible angles that there was no way to be alive. Chests had been ripped open, stomachs torn out, bones broken, skin punctured from teeth. Every lion and cheetah down there was unmistakably dead.
War is hell. Enjoy every minute of it. Kovu quietly and bitterly laughed.
How am I supposed to enjoy this? How the hell am I supposed to get any pleasure out of this? The emotions that he had been holding at bay began to come crashing down on him. Taraju is dead because of me. If I had managed to hurry more, he could still be here. I couldn’t even save Simba. He wept bitterly. The pain, both the physical and emotional pain, was overwhelming. He looked over the valley again. They were the lucky ones. They didn’t have to see this destruction, this pain, this madness.
He sat on the edge all day, quietly occupied with his own thoughts. He heard someone come up behind him once and drop some meat. He hadn’t even bothered to turn around. Lions worked below, taking away the bodies, trying to make the place normal. He had watched Nadhari walking away, making his way through the bodies. He could walk away from all this. He didn’t have to worry about trying to keep a kingdom whole, when he himself was torn apart.
“He’s been out there all day.”
“As you’ve pointed out the last twenty—or was it thirty?—times.”
“He needs to eat.”
“He needs to think. Look, Kiara, how would you feel if you were in his place? You’ve just become king, all because the lion who took you in is dead. What kind of joy is there in that? He’s consumed by grief, and there’s no one that can get him out of it except himself.”
“I feel so helpless.”
“He’ll pull through. He’s strong enough for that.”
“I don’t know if I am. Here we are, treating the wounded and watching them die as if it’s just an ordinary day. How do you manage?”
“I don’t. I just can’t let it show. If I do that, I’m finished.”
Vitani brought in Simba’s body the next day. She laid it down in the center of the den. All of the lions sat and stared at it, the realization still not having completely sunk in. Nala burst into renewed tears. She had been taking it horribly. She hadn’t eaten, she hadn’t slept, she had done almost nothing but weep. She hadn’t been the only one. Every lion had lost someone; no one was left unaffected. While some had been taking it better than Nala, most of them had been taking it just as badly, if not worse. But seeing Simba on the floor there, his lifeless body lying there, it was too much for all of them. Every lion began to cry, some loudly, some softly. Kovu felt the tears stream down his face. It was almost too much to even look at Simba. Who knew how long they had sat there, just staring, thinking. Some of the lionesses began to look up at Kovu. He stepped forward, the tears slowing.
“Simba . . .” he began. A lump formed in his throat, cutting off speech. He swallowed it down, the tears coming back. “Simba was a great king. He was like a father to me. To all of us. There was not a single lion that couldn’t feel that way. He didn’t have to work for your affection, you just wanted to give it to him, unasked, wholeheartedly.” The tears came even harder. “He ruled as a king should; fairly, justly, giving without taking back. He accepted those he had exiled, he was a big enough lion to be able to admit his one mistake. He took us in, those of us that tried to kill him, and he loved us no differently. His only flaw was that he cared too much . . . that he wanted to help others so much, that he would have died for them . . . that he did die for them . . .” He looked down, unable to look at Simba anymore. Tears blurred his vision, blocking out the floor. “He led an entire kingdom from the brink of destruction to where we are today, to this place we can all call home . . .” He couldn’t continue, he just couldn’t say anything else. The sorrow overwhelmed his mind. To think I would have killed this lion . . .
“We will miss him.” It was all that he could think to say. He looked up. Every lion had his head bowed, weeping silently. Kiara had her leg around Nala, who was shaking with the force of her sobs.
Take care of them for me . . .
How can I? With you died a part of me . . . How can I even hope to follow after you? After what you’ve done?
“What am I going to do?”
“And if that’s not good enough?”
“It will be good enough.”
They stayed in the den, mourning their loss until sunset. Kovu took Simba’s body and went down into the Pridelands, followed by the rest of the pride. Everywhere there were animals, watching him, weeping. He went into the heart of the Pridelands, and laid Simba down. He turned to leave. The horrible realization sank in. If I leave him, I’m admitting that he’s dead. Admitting that we’ve lost him. I can’t do that.
He felt Kiara place her paw on his. He looked away from Simba into her face.
“We’re here for you. All of us.” He turned and looked at the pride. They all looked expectantly at him. “What is a king with no kingdom to support him?” He looked back down at Kiara. It would hurt, he knew it, but it had to be done. He turned back to the pride and roared. They roared back. He slowly started back for Pride Rock, leaving Simba behind. He could only do his best to heal the wounds left behind, do his best to lead the pride.
Fujo stirred. He opened his eyes to see a pair of green ones staring him in the face. “Taraju?” The green eyes shed a tear, turning reddish-brown.
“He’s gone, Fujo,” Tumai’s voice said. He opened his eyes a little wider to see Tumai staring at him. She drew her head back. “We were so worried about you. You were out for so long; we thought we’d lost you.”
“What are you talking about?” Then it all came back. “Oh, no . . . oh, no . . . he’s gone?”
Another tear fell down Tumai’s face. “He’s gone. Simba, too.” She turned away from Fujo.
Fujo started to get up. “Simba—unh!” He felt a sharp pain in his stomach as he tried to move. Tumai turned around. He saw Timon and Pumbaa carrying a carcass to another lion in the den, disgusts apparently forgotten.
“Don’t move. You were hurt pretty bad, too. I guess it runs in the family.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Your dad got hurt even worse than you did. We don’t even know how he’s walking. Rafiki said for you to just stay still until you recovered. I’m supposed to get you what you need.”
“How about a second opinion?” Fujo started to get up again, and collapsed with a yelp. “Or maybe I’ll just lie here. Where is everyone?”
“At the funeral. I said I’d stay and help take care of the sick. So far you’re the only one who I’ve been in charge of. How about some food?”
“I’ll be back.” Tumai walked out of the den. Fujo watched her leave, then laid his head back down gently.
Taraju . . .