“I did it,” she said softly, then louder, “I did it!” She stuck her tongue out at the crocodiles and then walked away from the edge.
“Ha!” I yelled down at them and followed her until we reached a clearing surrounded by high grass.
“Oh man, did you see the size of those teeth?” she said ecstatically. “They were going ‘Rahrr, rahrr! Rahrr!’” she exclaimed rolling onto her back and giggling. She turned back over and continued, “He just totally ate me up right there, and I jumped on his head, and I bopped him so good!” she said, pantomiming the experience. “We make such a good team! And you . . . you were really brave,” she said with a note of awe.
“Yeah, you were pretty brave, too,” I replied. “My name’s Kovu.”
“I’m Kiara,” she said, stepping towards me. I leaned back. She leaned back a bit and giggled, then suddenly reached out and tapped me with her paw. “Tag, you’re it!” she said, jumping around me. She tapped me again, and I drew back. “Tag, you’re it, you’re it.” She giggled again, but this time it faded out. “Hello? You run, I tag, get it. What’s the matter? Don’t you know how to play?” I had no idea what she was doing. We had nothing like this in the Outlands. I had barely even heard that last word she used before. I decided it was a Pridelander thing, and just stared at her.
“Oh,” she said, finally realizing I didn’t know how to “play.” She began jumping around me, playfully growling. Now this, scrapping, this was something I understood. I crouched down and growled back, preparing to leap, when suddenly a huge paw stepped in front of me and an even bigger roar echoed from above. I looked up and saw a huge lion glaring down at me. Another roar came from beside me, and I looked up to see Mother standing there.
“Zira,” the lion growled, with no trace of compassion in his voice at all.
“Simba.” Mother responded, and crouched down, as if to pounce. There were several roars, and she looked behind him to see three lionesses standing behind him along with a warthog with a meercat riding it. She straightened up. “Nala?”
“Zira,” replied one of the lionesses.
“Timon, Pumbaa,” continued the meercat, first indicating himself, then the warthog. “Great! Now that we all know each other . . . GET OUTTA OUR PRIDELANDS!”
“Your Pridelands?” Mother growled, following up with a roar.
“Ah-ah-ahh! Ohh . . . .” The meercat scurried down into the warthog’s tuft of hair on the top of his head.
“These lands belong to Scar,” Mother continued, turning back to Simba.
“I banished you from the Pridelands! Now you and your young cub—get out,” he replied.
“Oh? Haven’t you met my son, Kovu?” Mother asked, walking around between me and Simba, and continuing until she was behind me. “He was hand-chosen by Scar to follow in his paw prints and become king.”
Simba leered down at me and growled. All the things that I had ever heard about him had come rushing back. About how he killed Scar just to rule, how he had no compassion, no kindness, and would kill an Outsider as soon as look at him. My teeth chattered.
“Pfft! That’s not a king! That’s a fuzzy maraca!” said the meercat, hearing my teeth.
“Kovu,” continued Mother, as if she hadn’t heard the meercat, “was the last born, before you exiled us to the Outlands, where we have little food, less water,” she said in a long-suffering voice.
“You know the penalty for returning to the Pridelands,” snarled Simba.
“But the child does not!” retorted Mother. “However, if you need your pound of flesh . . . here,” she said, scooting me towards the last place I wanted to be, right in front of Simba. He glanced down at me. That second he stared down at me was enough for my fear to become absolute. He was going to do something horrible to me. I didn’t know what it was, but it was coming. He stared back up at Mother with a look of disgust on his face.
“Take him and get out. We’re finished here,” he said, turning away and picking up Kiara by the scruff of her neck.
“Oh, no Simba,” Mother replied. “We have barely begun.” She chuckled, and turned toward me, picking me up by my middle, as if I was a little carcass. Simba and his lionesses turned and began to leave.
“Bye,” said Kiara softly.
“Bye,” I responded, and watched her be carried deeper into the Pridelands, as I crossed the river that separated them from the Outlands.
As we entered the Outlands, I noticed them much more than I usually did. Nuka had been right. They were pretty much just dirt and dust as far as the eye could see. There were very few signs of life and no sign of water at all. Well, if Simba had exiled us, the tyrant had picked a very good place to send us.
My thoughts reflected back to the events of the afternoon. The Pridelanders had turned out to be just as cruel and arrogant as I had been told they were. And Simba, he had been downright frightening. There was no mercy in those eyes for me, none at all. But Kiara, she was different. She hadn’t been proud. She had decided I was alright, had accepted me.
My thoughts slid back to the Outlands as we approached our version of Pride Rock. Our den was a large termite hill, seemingly built for us. There was plenty of room inside, and the termites almost never bothered anyone, except Nuka. He could never seem to get rid of them.
The other lionesses were doing all of their usual activities. Some were sniffing around futilely for food, while others were engaged in tug-of-war competitions using bones. Still others washed themselves or just lied around. Bones littered most of the perimeter of the Outlands, carcasses left over from what few animals we actually had managed to find and kill. I glanced up and noticed Nuka talking to Vitani, and Nuka suddenly turning and rushing to greet us. I put my head back down again from the sharp jolt of pain I received from looking up.
“Mother! Hi!” said Nuka, running toward us, nervously laughing a little. “Mother, I caught some field mice for your dinner. I left them by the, um, by the . . . okay,” he said, watching Mother carry me past, not even taking notice of him. Mother carried me over to Vitani and dropped me.
“Hey, Kovu,” said Vitani. “Wanna fight?” She began to growl. I crouched and bared my teeth, ready to attack, when I heard Mother suddenly turn on Nuka.
“You were supposed to be watching him!”
“It’s not his fault,” I protested, turning around to face Mother. “I went off on my own.”
“What were you doing?” she asked, suddenly advancing on me.
“Nothing,” I said, backing away from her.
“Who made us Outsiders?”
“Who killed Scar?” I tripped over my legs and fell on my back, continuing to edge away from her.
“What have I told you about THEM?” she growled, practically on top of me.
“I’m sorry, Mother!” I said. She backed off a little, and I got some of my courage back. “Well, I—She didn’t seem so bad. Oh, I—I—I—I thought we could be—“
“Friends?!” she snarled at me disgustedly. I cowered, losing whatever courage I had managed to regain. “You thought you’d get to the daughter, and Simba would welcome you with open arms? What an idea!” Suddenly her face brightened. “What an idea!” She towered over me again, dragging me closer by my tail. “You brilliant child. I’m so proud of you.” She began to stroke me, digging into my flesh with her claws. I tried to escape, but there was no escape from Mother. “You have the same conniving mind that made Scar so . . . powerful.”
“Oh, yuck!” Nuka retched behind her. She turned on him, roaring. He laughed nervously, fear showing plainly in his face. Growling, Mother turned back to me and picked me up again, this time much tighter and more painfully, and headed for the den. I tried to make some more room by squirming, but she only tightened her grip, increasing the pain. She was too lost in her own thoughts to notice anything. I gave up.
“Uhhhh,” I heard Nuka mutter disgustedly as we left. “‘Chosen one.’”
Mother carried me into a chamber inside the den, and dropped me in a tree stump that served as a makeshift bed. I saw other lionesses begin to gather around.
“I now see the path to our glorious return to power!” she proclaimed, raising her paw in a very impressive manner.
“But I don’t want—” I began to protest.
“Hush!” she snapped, looking down at me, and then more quietly as she came around to the side of the bed, “Hush, my little one. You must be exhausted. Sleep my little Kovu,” she continued in a singsong voice, as if she was singing me a lullaby, and nuzzling me and tucking in my tail, “let your dreams take wing. One day when you’re big and strong, you will be a king.” She began to walk away.
“Good night.” I said, watching her go, feeling slightly better that she wasn’t leaving me angry and thinking about Scar, as she usually did.
“Good night my little prince. Tomorrow your training intensifies.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I did know that Mother was happy, almost happier than I had ever seen her. When Mother was happy, she was passionate. I knew I’d need my rest for tomorrow’s training. I took her advice, curled up, and went to sleep, thinking on the day’s events.
My training definitely did “intensify.” I had had the same training as all the other cubs, which primarily consisted of hunting, which every cub in the Outlands was forced to help with, no matter if you weren’t a female, and learning where to find food, a difficult task in the Outlands. The game was amazingly scarce, being nowhere to be seen unless you were a seasoned Outsider like myself and the other cubs and knew what to look for. Even then, the choice wasn’t much. For dinner, you could have dead rat, dead rat, or if you really wanted to be exotic, you could even have dead rat.
But the next day my training veered off in a different direction. So far we had begun only with finding food and what to do once we had it. But suddenly, I was finding my training rushing past the other cubs. It was as if there was a set time that I had to be ready by. While the others were still learning the basics of hunting and were only catching mice, I was rushed to the more advanced levels. I was taught stealth, something I was a natural at. I blended in seamlessly with the landscape. I learned to move with the wind, so as to not disturb the grass. I learned to make noise, lots of it, in every direction around my prey, and then, suddenly, silence, as I moved in for the pounce.
I wasn’t the only one whose training changed. All of the other lions, not just the cubs, began to be trained to work together to bring down animals. They were taught to work as a team, to take down multiple animals at once, or just one at a time. I was taught the basics of this, just as they were taught the basics of my training. But it wasn’t all training, not at first. When Mother watched me, I was a fighting machine on four legs. But when she wasn’t I could relax, and I did my best to try to integrate with the other cubs, being the nicest guy around. It didn’t really work. They didn’t consciously shun me, but they never did make me feel as if I was truly one of them. Looking back, I suppose they just realized how far out of their league I was, when I hadn’t even begun to realize my potential.
But there was one thing I didn’t really understand about my training. It didn’t seem right at first. I told it to Mother one time, when she was teaching me the delicate art of sneaking.
“But Mother, is that really—fair?”
“Fair?” she turned and looked at me. “Fair? I certainly hope not. ‘Fair’ is only a myth you need not concern yourself with. Is it fair that Simba killed Scar? Is it fair that you, the true king, are forced to live in this filth while Simba parades with his girls on his little rock? Is it fair that you do not have the throne while he does?
“You must never forget Kovu: You will be a killer. Fair is the last thing you need. Assassins do not worry about ‘fair.’ They lie, they cheat, they steal, they backstab, they outnumber the other fool every chance they get. You must never be fair to your victim. Take pride in your work.”
After that I worked extra hard to attempt to put myself in the proper mindset. Slowly it twisted itself into the correct proportions, the better proportions. Morals were a silly thing that only held me back. They were the last thing I needed to destroy Pride Rock.
But the startling thing was the change this all wrought in Mother. She suddenly seemed to possess purpose. Before, she just went by day to day, living life for the sake of life. But now . . . now she had meaning. Sometimes, when she was caught up I the intensity of the training and wouldn’t ever let me rest, it seemed like she wasn’t even a lioness anymore. She turned into “it.” And “it” scared me. She commanded all of our training, making sure that we did each task perfectly. At the slightest sign of imperfection she became horribly angry at the others, but not at me. She took immense pride in me. She looked over my lessons personally, while delegating the others’ lessons to the older, experienced lions as she taught me everything I needed to know. I didn’t know how she managed it. She rarely slept, she was constantly short on food, and yet she was constantly more determined than any of the rest of us. How can passion do this to a lion? I wondered. Suddenly, one day, I found out. As soon as the sun had risen, I felt Mother nudging me with her paw.
“Wake up, little one. It’s time for your training to really begin.”
Today, Mother told me, I would learn to “kill.” We went into the Pridelands, something I wanted to do again, despite what happened on my first venture there. I wanted to see more of that beautiful land. I wouldn’t be able to do that too often, though, Mother cautioned me. Only when we had to. In a regular pride I wouldn’t have even been hunting. But we didn’t have a choice in the Outlands. Here everybody fought and everybody hunted. That was just the way it was.
Mother led us to a herd of wildebeest. One thing that was immediately apparent to me was the difference between the ones in the Pridelands and the ones in the Outlands. In the Outlands, the wildebeest were so skinny that you could usually see most of the bones through the skin. They looked as if they would drop to the ground, dead, at any moment. Sometimes they actually did. But the wildebeest in the Pridelands, they were different. Every single one, from the newly born to the elderly and frail had beautiful pelts and plenty of fat and muscle on their frame. My mouth watered just looking at them.
“Now go, Kovu. Bring back one.”
“Kill it, of course.”
“Oh, silly me, I keep forgetting you don’t know how yet. Stay here, and watch.”
I watched her crouch down, looking at the herd. She stayed completely still. Then, suddenly, something indefinable changed. She rose into the air, jumping at the herd. Seeing her, the herd began to run, but not before Mother was on top of them. I watched her run along side them, and suddenly leap onto the back of one, knocking it over. I heard its cry of pain as her claws dug cruel, inch-deep wounds into its body, tearing into it as it fell. It rolled onto its back. Mother, her mouth in a fierce grin, her eyes wide with passion, drew back a blood soaked paw back, and whipped it across the wildebeest’s neck. There was one final scream of pain from the wildebeest. Then it was still. By this time the last of the herd was disappearing over a hill. She turned to me.
“Come, Kovu. Look at this.” I came over, and looked down at the dead wildebeest. Blood trickled from his wounds on his neck and his sides.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked, admiring her work. “It is a wonderful feeling Kovu. When you have it in your grasp. Ohhh . . .” she said, shuddering with ecstasy, and then suddenly straightening up. “Now come, it’s your turn.” We went over the hill the herd had gone over, both of us staying low in the tall grass, though it hardly mattered for me. At my size, even if I had been standing straight up, they wouldn’t have seen me. I wasn’t the little cub I had been when I first came here, but I wasn’t a whole lot bigger.
“Just pick off one of the little ones,” Mother told me.
I crept stealthily forward, making sure I didn’t make a sound. I had seen my wildebeest from the hill here we had stood, and kept moving in its direction until I saw it in the grass. I crouched down and prepared to sprint. It was just standing there grazing. It had no idea I was there. I leapt up and began to sprint towards it, claws out. I heard the sound of wildebeest herd noticing me and moving again. My wildebeest perked up its head and looked towards the others, hesitating a fatal second to follow. I closed the gap between us, fire coursing through my body. I leapt upon it, sinking my claws into its neck and back. It let out a pitiful cry and tried to run, managing to take a few steps, dragging me with it, before it collapsed. I imitated mother and slashed a clawed paw through it chest. Mother was right; there was a certain feeling to it.
But something was wrong. Somehow, the wildebeest was still alive. Mother came over to admire my kill.
“Excellent job, Kovu.”
“But Mother, it’s still alive.”
“Then finish it.”
“But Mother, shouldn’t we let it go?”
“No, Kovu, NO! You must never allow weakness to enter your thoughts! Never! There must be no room for compassion or pity! Now, kill it!”
I looked back down at the wildebeest. It was still able to move, but no more than just squirming. Its eyes were wide with fear, pleading.
“Do it, Kovu!”
I drew my paw back, slashing it properly through the neck this time. The wildebeest let out a small, instantaneous cry, and was still.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Kovu?”
I felt something. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it felt . . . happy . . . good. I looked up at Mother, and then back down at my kill. I felt a sense of—of pleasure. Yes, it did feel good.
“Are we going to do it again, Mother?”
“No, not today. Maybe tomorrow. Think of this as a treat. Now come, let’s take it back home.” I took my kill by the neck, and began to drag it home. As I picked it up, I saw Pride Rock in the distance. I remembered Simba. I remembered how he had butchered Scar, how he had banished all of us to the Outlands out of hate. I realized, suddenly, what I had to do to him. I hefted my carcass again, and began to drag it home, following Mother. My life, too, had purpose.
Years passed. I grew in strength and skill under Mother’s watchful eye. Mother trained us to become killers, all of us. The others worked seamlessly as a squad, while I was deadly in single combat. I refined my skills at killing, first to a science, then to an art. I wasn’t a lion; I was a sound in the grass here, then a stick snapping over there, and a rock suddenly moving over there, but mainly a presence, an unmistakable presence of inevitable death. I learned to disregard all pain, and I learned the pleasure of instilling fear. It was a wonderful feeling of control, of power. I lusted for it. I became muscular, powerful . . . deadly. I grew a thick black mane, almost as dark as my thoughts. I learned to hate. I forgot compassion. I grew in pride, and in my hatred of Simba. I learned to love to kill. I forgot kindness.
It was wonderful.
I loved the fear I saw in the eyes of the pride as I walked through. Cruelty became second nature to me. I would never hurt one of them unless they provoked me, but they didn’t know that. Let them fear me. Fear will keep them in line.
I may have never hurt them, but let the gods help any Pridelander who stood in my way.
But that didn’t mean I had never felt fear. I felt it every fight, from when I had just been a cub in training to even now. The horror that I might lose it all with one small mistake . . . it was a rush. But I lost that fear, gradually. I grew confident in my abilities. I knew that I was the best, and I drew my strength from that.
I grew up alone. I had no friends. How could I? Friends were equals. I had no equal. I was every inch the king Scar had intended me to be. If I did have friends, they would be my companions and allies, hate and bloodlust, which slowly grew within me each day. I earnestly hated Simba. He had taken away the closest thing that I would ever have had to a father. I had only really known Scar for a few days, and he had loved me like a son. And Simba had simply killed him, not caring that Scar was a hero to us. To me. He had been my father, as much a part of me as the killer instinct that Zira poured into me every day. I repeated to myself, every day the Simba would pay for what he did.
I had realized that killing was a wonderful joy. It was so different from hunting. Hunting was a good feeling, but killing . . . it was amazing. I never would have known it if a few other Outsiders hadn’t been so careless in their training. We never trained to win. We trained to kill the other. How are you supposed to learn to be a killer without actually killing? That was Mother’s reasoning. It was fine by me. I enjoyed watching those lionesses and cubs slowly have the life drain out of them by my paw against their throat, or by having me bleed them dry.
It wasn’t all just fun and games, though. I didn’t like it at first, even the fun. It was more of—an acquired taste. Here, it was very simple: acquire it or die. I didn’t ever really learn this, it just dawned on me one day. Up to this point I had just wanted to please Mother. I suppose that’s where I grew to like the violence. If you grow up being told that something is good, odds are you’ll probably end up enjoying it, too. Life was changed for me and the others completely the day I came back from the Pridelands the first time. Training, constant training. I was worn out, we were all worn out. But especially me. Mother never let me take a break with the others. I hated it, but I finally realized what she was doing years later. She was pushing me as hard as I could go, and beyond that. But that didn’t mean it was painless.
I was thrown to the ground by one of the bigger cubs. He had been beating me badly the entire day. I was tired, he was rested. It wasn’t fair. But Mother never cared about fair.
“Get up,” she snarled at me after she had dismissed the other cub. “You cannot afford weakness.”
“But mother, I—”
“Do not give me excuses!” she growled.
“But none of the other cubs do this!”
“Most cannot do this. But you are not most cubs. You are better, and you will do better. Now get up!” She hit me, knocking me across the ground. I painfully got to my feet. It was better to obey her. I had learned that long ago. And just to be nice, she rounded off the evening with a night-long vigil. I slowly and silently cursed my training as we went through this. Every time I began to nod off I was awakened by her claws in my side. Every time she did this she reminded me of how this feeling of pain was like gnawing failure, failure eating away at me, failure to live up to Scar’s expectations. I was tired, I was hungry, but she would not let me rest. And it hurt. But I applied myself all the more for it. The next day I killed that cub.
Later Mother gave me the honors of doing the vigil myself. It began as a sort of initiation, a test for the younger cubs that I would lead them through. By this time I had learned what a waste compassion was. They felt none from me as I sat silently next to them the entire night, looking over the Outlands. They tried to make conversation. I sat and listened to their questions and comments without answer. Slowly they would fall silent. All except one. I came home early that night, minus the cub.
I could feel the cubs’ fear as they sat next to me. Mother would only tell them that they were to go with me, and to not speak of what happened there to anyone. They came back truly afraid of me, with gashes in their back where I reminded them that they would not sleep. When Mother saw them come back like this she would smile.
Mother worked off the rough edges of the plan she had realized years before. She made it elegant in its simplicity. We would create a wildfire during Kiara’s first hunt. I would rescue her, and earn Simba’s trust. I would wait until Simba was off guard, and then . . . and then we would take back Pride Rock.
Zira made one last final inspection of me. I was certain I was ready. I proceeded to the raised mound in the middle of the den, and sat down. Today, I felt more powerful than I ever had. I wanted to kill, to destroy, to murder. My muscles flexed of their own accord, wanting to carry out my desire for blood. Shortly after, Mother—no, Zira, she had insisted on that; she did not want the Pridelanders thinking I had any ties to the Outlanders after I had joined them—came in to look at me, smiling when she saw me.
“You are ready,” she said, and chuckled silently, no doubt imagining what I would do, and began to circle me. “Nice! Very . . . nice.” She laughed audibly this time. “You have the same blackness in your soul that Scar had.” I breathed deeply, letting my hatred flow through me. She was wrong. I had more darkness than Scar ever had.
“What is your destiny?”
“I will avenge Scar,” I replied, “and take his place in the Pridelands.”
“Yes! What have I taught you?”
“Simba is the enemy.”
“And what must you do?!”
I thought back to the day I made that first kill. I thought back to the day he found me in the Pridelands, willing to kill me just for what I had inherited. I thought back to the day I learned that he had killed Scar, the closest thing I had had to a father. I thought back to the day that he exiled us, made us Outsiders, lower than vermin. I answered with every bit of hatred I could muster:
“I must kill him!”
All the Outlanders roared. It was wonderful, and would be even more so after we had brought Pride Rock to its knees.
I woke up early on the day. I walked out of the mound that I loathingly called home, and sat on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the edge of the Outlands, eventually stretching to the Pridelands. They were just a small strip of green on a vast canvas of orange ground and dark blue sky. I thought back to what I could remember of Scar before he left us. He had cared for me, a just-born cub, born from the lowest lioness in the pride and an unknown father. I couldn’t remember either of them. My father hadn’t stayed, and my mother died in labor. Scar took me in, and raised me as his own, right alongside of Vitani and Nuka. He had named me future king. He had only been with me for a few days, but those days were now solidly imprinted in my mind.
Out of all the memories, one came back to me clearly. I hadn’t even remembered it ever happening before. I had never remembered it ever. I had just woken up from a dream—or was it a nightmare?—and was wide awake. I rolled over, trying to go to sleep again. I gave up after a short period of time, and carefully stepped over the lionesses on my way out of the cave, trying not to rouse them.
I stepped out of the cave to see Scar sitting on the edge of Pride Rock, gazing over the Pridelands. He heard me and turned around.
“Well Kovu, what are you doing out of bed at this hour? You wouldn’t want Zira to be angry at you, would you?”
“Sorry Dad, I, uh, had a bad dream,” I told him sheepishly.
“Oh, don’t worry Kovu,” he said, pulling me close to him. “Dreams aren’t anything to be afraid of.”
“Of course not. Why, they're the very foundation of what we live on. They’re what give us purpose. If it weren’t for dreams, how would we ever have goals?”
“But do there have to be bad ones, too?”
“How would you know what a good one was if you never had a bad one, hmm? You see, bad things must happen in order to know what is good. Sometimes they need to happen to create good. For example, if my brother didn’t die that awful death trying to save his son, well, then I wouldn’t be king, would I? And if I wasn’t king, where would that place you? I wouldn’t have been able to take you in, no more than I could have saved Mufasa. I wouldn’t have ever had my dream for you.”
“What dream, Dad?”
“Why, for you to follow me of course, and become king.”
“Why of course, why do you think I cherish you so? Kovu, you’re my dream, my wonderful vision. Someday you will take my place and rule the Pridelands.”
“Of course. Would I ever lie to you? Now, you really should be getting back to bed. We wouldn’t want Zira finding you up this late, now would we? Now just trot back off to bed.”
“Goodnight, my dream.”
Suddenly I was aware of Vitani next to me.
“Kovu? You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Whatcha thinking about?”
“Dad? Why him?”
“I don’t know. I just sit here, and it comes rushing back. Not just about Dad, just memories.”
“Any particular ones?”
“Not really.” I didn’t really feel like sharing what I had just seen, not with anyone. We sat in silence for a while. I felt the cool breeze roll in from the Pridelands, carrying more memories back to me.
“Whatcha doing out so early?”
“I know the feeling. Just a few more days and we’ll be back there.” She gazed out towards the Pridelands. “No more of this living in filth. We’ll be real lions again.” I looked over to her. She actually seemed happy as memories washed over her, too. She could probably remember the Pridelands much better than I could. She had been born in time to decently grow up there, or at least part of the way. I looked back over to the Pridelands and inhaled deeply. Finally, being able to live in a decent place instead of a termite hill. It would be wonderful.
My wonderful vision.
My thoughts wandered back to the memory. Today, I would finally fulfill Scar’s dream. That would be glorious.