You needn’t have read “Sarafina’s Parenting Test” in order to understand this, but it is a sequel. All characters and places, etc. belong to Disney, but this plot in particular is mine. Simba thinks he gets grounded more than Nala because his mom is stricter than Sarafina, Nala thinks it’s just because she is better behaved than Simba. Sarabi comes up with an idea to settle the dispute, once and for all…

 

            “Sarafina!” echoed Sarabi’s call across the Pridelands. “Sarafina, where are you?”

            “Over here,” replied the lioness, hiding behind a tree. She only spoke it, though. She knew her friend wouldn’t have heard.

            “Saffy, I need to talk to you,” called Sarabi again.

            Sarafina sighed and this time lifted her head up. “I’m over here,” she replied again, loud enough this time for Sarabi to hear her.

            The queen set off in her direction and found her lying down behind the tree.

            Sarabi frowned. “You look upset.”

            Sarafina sighed. “I’m just lost.”

            “You shouldn’t be. You did a great thing today. Your daughter did wrong, and you gave her a just punishment.”

            “Was it just?” asked Sarafina, lifting her head up more this time.

            Sarabi smiled. She knew what was wrong with her friend now. “Yes, Saffy, it was. I know you love your daughter more than words can describe. I love my son in the same way, but I still punish him. If you don’t, they’re never going to learn. They’ll grow up and…well…quite frankly, they’ll just become spoilt little brats.”

            Sarafina didn’t put up an argument, although she wanted to. However, history had shown that Sarabi had this miraculous way of almost always winning every argument she had with her. “So why’d you call me?” asked Sarafina.

            Sarabi smiled again. “Because our children are having the exact same discussion.”

 

 

            “I can’t believe your mother just let you off like that,” said Simba, as the two bickering cubs sat bickering with each other inside Pride Rock.

            “You’d think that,” replied Nala, “but really my mom was hard on me. That time I spent with Zazu was not fun, and also…” she began, but then stopped. If she told Simba that the first pounce on Zazu hadn’t seemed as good when it had just been her and her mother as opposed to the times when it had just been her and Simba, Simba would sense that he had emerged victorious, and then, he would never let Nala forget it.

            “And also, what, Nala?” asked Simba.

            “Never mind,” Nala responded. “My mom punished me in her own unique way. It was foolish of me to agree to your bet. It was too specific. I would have to have been grounded.”

            “That’s the worst punishment.”

            “Ha! No it’s not.”

            “When you’ve been grounded as much as I have…”

            “…it’s an indication that you get in trouble too much.”

            “Is not! Nala, we’ve been over this. My mom is simply just stricter than yours.”

            “No she isn’t.”

            “Yes she is!”

            “Isn’t!”

            “Is!”

            “Isn’t!”

            “What’s going on in here?” asked Sarabi, as she led Sarafina inside Pride Rock.

            “Mom, Simba’s going to try and get me into trouble again,” said Nala.

            Sarafina opened her mouth to respond, but Sarabi covered it up.

            “What do you mean, Nala?” Sarabi asked.

            Nala began to feel a little uneasy. Sarabi had this miraculous way of winning almost every argument she had with her. Still, she tried: “Last time, Simba made me bet that my mom wouldn’t ground me because she wasn’t as strict as you, and now he’s saying the same thing again.”

            “But he’s not making you bet it?”

            “Not yet.”

            “So for now that’s a ‘no?’”

            Nala looked down at the ground. “I guess so.”

            Sarabi let her paw fall away from Sarafina’s mouth. All four of them remained silent. Sarafina, Nala, and Simba all knew that, as queen, Sarabi was going to be the next one to talk. She was going to try her best to find a compromise that would work for all of them. This sort of stuff had happened before, and the funny thing was that although her compromises always worked…no one ever liked them. Save perhaps, for Sarabi herself.

            Suddenly, Sarabi let out an evil grin. The two cubs caught onto it, and looked away.

            “Um…mind me asking, Sarabi…have you came up with an idea to, you know, sort this all out?” asked Sarafina. By the way Sarabi was grinning though, she already knew the answer.

            “Yes I have,” replied Sarabi. “Yes I have,” she said again, as she walked up and stood next to Sarafina. The two lionesses were both facing their cubs, which were quite simply just cowered down on the ground, both curious and both a little bit frightened of what would happen next. “So Simba,” began Sarabi, “Sarafina’s less of a strict Mom than I am, right?”

            “I—I think so,” stammered Simba as a reply.

            “Good for you,” replied Sarabi. “That’ll make tomorrow great for you.”

            The other three lions frowned.

            Sarabi sighed. “Nala,” she addressed.

            “Yes Ma’am?”

            Sarabi shook her head, although she couldn’t help but grin a little. “Tomorrow for you…is going to be hell.”

            Understandably, Nala didn’t really like the sounds of that. Nala’s ears fell. Simba would have laughed, but he himself had no idea what was going on.

            Sarabi began to head back outside.

            “Wait…Mom…” called Simba.

            Sarabi stopped slowly, as if she’d been expecting such a call. “Yes, Simba?” she asked.

            “What’s happening tomorrow?” he asked.

            “Oh, silly me,” replied Sarabi, “I forgot to clarify.” She turned back around. “I thought it would have been obvious by now though. Simba, tomorrow, Sarafina is going to be your mom, and I’m going to be Nala’s.”

            “What?” asked the other three in unison.

            Sarabi shrugged. “What?” she replied. “It’ll be good for all of us. Nala, if you’re right, and your mom is just as strict as me but you behave better, then you’ll have nothing to worry about. Simba, if you’re right, and I’m stricter than Sarafina, then Nala will get punished and you won’t. Sarafina…girl, you just need to get away from your daughter. You’re becoming a Nalaholic or something…and that just doesn’t sound right.”

            Sarabi turned around and walked outside, humming a melody to herself. The three behind her just stood and watched as she walked off, each of them trying to think of how to make the next day as painless as possible.

 

 

            The sun had long been set. Sarabi yawned as she now entered Pride Rock in the dark. Careful not to trip over any of her fellow Pridelanders, she made the way to the spot where she and Mufasa slept during the night. Mufasa wasn’t there yet, so Sarabi simply settled down into her spot. She closed her eyes, but only to open them again just a couple of seconds later, as she realized that something was slightly different than usual.

            “Sarafina,” she addressed. The other lioness already had her eyes open. She’d been waiting for Sarabi to come in, and as a matter of fact, was only about a yard or two away from her.

            “Sarabi…do you really think this is a good idea?” Sarafina asked.

            Sarabi smiled and shrugged. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It’s only for one day Sarafina,” she added before chuckling.

            “I know…I’m just worried…”

            “Well I can see that. Don’t you usually sleep at the front of the cave?”

            “Well…yeah…but…”

            “Go back to your usual spot, Saffy. And don’t worry, I’ll only want my son back tomorrow night, in squeaky clean condition I might add.”

            Sarafina smirked. She got up and took a step back. “Then my daughter better not be a mess, either.”

            “It’s a deal.”

            Now quite content with the arrangements, Sarafina made her way back to the front of the cave. As much as she hated to admit it, she thought Simba was probably right. Nala was just as much of a troublemaker as the future king was. Sarafina, however, had an advantage. She knew that Simba was going to be a handful. Sarabi, however, in Sarafina’s opinion, might have underestimated Nala’s capabilities. If Sarafina stepped up her game, she knew that she’d have a much higher chance of returning Simba cleanly than Sarabi had of returning Nala cleanly.

            Sarafina settled down in her usual spot, and then caught Sarabi’s eye one more time. Sarabi smiled. Sarafina did too. Subconsciously, they both knew that they had set up their own bet. Only next night would they know who had triumphed.

            From behind her, Sarafina heard the two cubs slowly pad their way into the cave.

            Simba elbowed Nala. Nala looked at him, annoyed and confused.

            “Go on,” said Simba quietly, “ask.”

            “Oh…yeah…right. Mom, I’m still sleeping with you tonight, right?”

            Sarafina shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s Sarabi’s decision.”

            “The answer’s ‘no,’ Sarafina.”

            “Oh…then that’s a ‘no’ I guess,” said Sarafina.

            The two cubs’ ears fell.

            Sarabi patted hard on the floor next to her. “Come here, Nala,” she called. “You’ll both be back in your normal sleeping spots next night.”

            With her tail tucked between her hind legs, Nala made her way over to where Sarabi lay, and hesitantly lied down about a foot away from her. Sarabi reached out her paw and pulled the young lioness to her side. Nala looked up at the queen, with her eyes slightly wide.

            “What on earth is there to be frightened of?” asked Sarabi, trying her best to look and sound as friendly as possible. “I’ve known you your whole life. I’ve never hurt you before, have I?”

            “No Ma’am,” replied Nala, resting her head down on the floor and closing her eyes, trying her best to fall asleep as quickly as possible. Yes, she had known Sarabi her whole life, and she was good fun to be around sometimes. But this…this just didn’t feel quite right.

            Meanwhile, back at the front of the cave, Simba had watched as his mother had pulled Nala, not himself, in close to her, and had spoken to her in her friendly tone.

            “Come on Simba,” called Sarafina, distracting the young lion’s attention away from his mother. “Lie down next to me.”

            Simba walked up to her hesitantly, but then lied down about a foot away from her.

            “You want a story?” asked Sarafina, seeing that Simba seemed a little bit out of his comfort zone.

            “I think I’ll be okay,” replied Simba.

            “You sure?” she asked again.

            “Yeah. I’m just…I’m just gonna go to sleep.”

            Sarafina shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she replied, before resting her head down between her front paws, but meanwhile keeping her eye slightly open to make sure Simba was still okay. She watched him for about a minute, but the whole time Simba’s eyes remained closed. Figuring it would be okay for now, Sarafina let her eyelid drop, and attempted to go to dreamland herself.

            Back where Sarabi and Nala lied, Sarafina had caught her daughter’s attention. When she had asked Simba ‘You want a story?’ Nala’s ear had perked up. She wanted a story! She lifted her head back up off the ground and tilted it up. Sarabi continued to look down at her. She hadn’t even tried falling asleep yet.

            “Aunt Sar—”

            “Where’s this ‘Aunt’ coming from?” asked Sarabi. “I thought I was your mother.”

            “I—I’m sorry. Mom, could you please tell me a story?”

            Sarabi’s eyes grew a little. “A story?” she asked.

            “Yes. A bedtime story?”

            “Uh, s—sure. Geez, it’s been so long though. Um…”

            “You can make one up if you want. Mo—uh…I mean…Aunt Sarafina always does.”

            “Okay, okay, yeah, I’ll…uh…make one up.”

            “Thanks,” replied Nala smiling. She lied her head down on the ground, but even with her eyes beginning to drift close, Sarabi could still tell that she was eager.

            “Well…uh…once upon a time, there was a gazelle. In fact, there was a family of gazelles. Mr. Gazelle was called Justin…and Mrs. Gazelle was called Julie. Now, these two gazelles had a problem, in that the crocodiles…” but then she stopped. She looked back down at Nala. Judging by the shut eyes, noiselessness, relaxed breathing, and quite content smile on the young lioness’s face, she had already fallen asleep. “Huh,” Sarabi said to herself, surprised. She smiled and finally lied her head down so she could sleep too. As far as she could tell, getting Nala back to Sarafina without a speck of dust on her, was going to be a cinch.

 

 

            Morning rose with a throb in Sarafina’s side. She began to open her eyes slowly, but then sped up as that small throb suddenly became a giant aching pain in her shoulder. She winced in pain a little, but her eyes had now been open long enough to see a familiar orange cub standing in front of her.

            “That’s not a pleasant wakeup call, Simba,” she said, knowing that he must have rammed into her, causing the aching sensation she was now experiencing.

            “Sorry,” replied Simba, although he was still smiling. “Come on though, it’s time to go!”

            “Go? Go where?”

            “I don’t know,” replied Simba, running back outside the cave.

            “Hey, hey, slow down, Simba,” called Sarafina, rubbing her eyes. “Wait up.”

            “Come on, Aunt Sarafina,” called Simba back into the cave.

            Sarafina sighed and got to her feet, making her way towards the cave entrance and the outside.

            “Yeah!” exclaimed Simba, running around on the rock outside now.

            Sarafina smiled and shook her head. She prepared to close her eyes to block out the light as she left the cave, but was surprised to find out that it was unnecessary. The sun was barely even up yet. In fact, judging by its current position, it had probably only risen two minutes ago.

            Sarafina frowned. “You’re up early, aren’t you?”

            “Yeah,” he replied. He laughed. “It gives us more time to play this way. Nala’s usually up early too, though.”

            “She is, but she usually lets me stay asleep for a little while. I tell her that she can come out here, but that she can’t leave Pride Rock unless I’m with her.”

            “She’s lucky. Mom insists on being with me as soon as I leave the cave. Now come on, let’s find someone to play with!”

            Sarafina chuckled. “Simba, everyone’s still asleep.”

            “Then we’ll wake them up!”

            “I don’t think that’s a good—”

            Simba gasped. “I know who we can play with!” he exclaimed, before running down the steps of Pride Rock that led to the ground.

            “Whoa, whoa, Simba! Wait up!”

            Simba was already halfway down the steps by the time Sarafina had even began walking down them, but she knew today was going to require a bit of exercise on her part. She smiled and tried her best to maneuver herself as quickly as possible. Simba wasn’t going anywhere without her. She’d be okay. However, she then begun to get concerned as Simba took a left turn and began to run around the back of Pride Rock. He wasn’t going to the back den, was he? He wasn’t going to see…

            Sarafina gulped. “Um…Simba…slow down.”

            Simba did as told. “Hurry up!” he said back, beginning to get a little frustrated.

            “Who are we meeting?” she asked.

            “Uncle Scar!” Simba replied.

            Sarafina suddenly felt really cold. She shuddered. “Simba…your Uncle Scar and I…we don’t really get along too well.”

            “Well I can introduce you to him.”

            “Oh, I don’t need an introduction. He knows me, but that’s not the problem.”

            “Well he’s always been okay with my parents…I think,” added Simba, now trying to think back to any time that Scar hadn’t been nice to his parents. Anyone less oblivious than Simba would have realized that the last such time had probably been yesterday, the day before that, and any other day of the year, but Simba had a different idea. Suddenly, a light bulb switched on in his head. “That’s it!” he exclaimed. “I’ve got it! What we need to do…is I’ll just tell him that you’re my mom! He’s always been okay with her.”

            Sarafina laughed. “Simba, I don’t think it quite works that wa—”

            “Come on!” Simba exclaimed, before Sarafina could finish her sentence.

            Sarafina shook her head, but followed less hesitantly this time. For some reason, the idea that Simba had a plan now, reassured her a little.

 

 

            Unlike Sarafina, Sarabi was awoken to a pain she was used to. She smiled and looked back over at her mate, who had just given her a little love bite on the ear.

            “Good morning love.”

            “Good morning,” replied Mufasa, smiling back at her. They nuzzled each other. “Why are we sleeping with Nala, now?”

            Sarabi laughed. “It’s a long story. Basically, Sarafina and I have swapped cubs for the day.”

            “And why wasn’t I informed of this?”

            “Cos I was asleep when you got back last night, and you didn’t wake me up. But now, you are informed.”

            “Hmm,” replied Mufasa. Their entire conversation so far had been carried on in friendly tones to one another. Mufasa’s tone was still friendly as he added: “I thought you liked Sarafina.”

            Sarabi laughed again. “Is it some kind of ungodly torture that I have whipped up on her by forcing her to take care of Simba for the day?”

            “I’d say so,” replied Mufasa. “It looks like she took Nala too.”

            Sarabi frowned and looked back over her shoulder. Suddenly her eyes grew. She was shocked. How could she had not noticed that Nala had disappeared? It was highly probable that Sarafina had just taken her own cub, but what if that wasn’t or hadn’t been the case? Was she really that irresponsible? She got up onto all fours but tried to not panic. She turned back to face her mate, who despite all the confusion, didn’t seem to be too perplexed.

            “I’m just going to make sure,” explained Sarabi, before making her way out of the cave. “Nala,” she called as she stepped outside and looked to the left. “Nala,” she called again, a little louder this time as she looked to the right.

            Gods…I need to be sure. I need to find Sarafina. Where would she take the cubs?

            “Sarab—eh…I mean, Mom?”

            Sarabi looked back over towards the left and gave a huge sigh of relief as she saw Sarafina’s young cub perfectly alright.

            “Phew…sorry about that, Nala. I thought I’d lost you,” she said, walking up to her.

            “Oh no, I was just outside, here,” replied Nala. “Aunt Sarafina always lets me go outside in the morning, providing I stay on Pride Rock. That way she gets to stay asleep longer.”

            “Really?” replied Sarabi, eyebrows raised.

            Nala nodded.

            Sarabi sighed. “Well…I guess you don’t mean no harm. The problem is, is that’s not how our mini family works. When Simba leaves, either me or Mufasa is always with him.”

            Nala gasped. “Can I call Mufasa, Dad?”

            “I don’t see why not.”

            “Yay, I get to have a dad!” exclaimed Nala, before running right passed Sarabi and back inside Pride Rock.

            Sarabi was quick to follow, just so she could see the amusing spectacle.

            “Dad!” Nala exclaimed, running up to Mufasa.

            “Hmm?” commented Mufasa, as he opened his eyes and looked at Nala, slightly bewildered.

            “You’re my dad for the day!” said Nala gleefully, once again.

            “Yes, I suppose I am,” replied Mufasa, smiling. Nala hugged his mane, and Mufasa looked up at his mate. “You got her calling me ‘Dad?’”

            Sarabi just smiled and shrugged.

            “Mom,” addressed Nala, turning back around. “Can we spend all day playing with Dad?”

            Sarabi shook her head. “Sorry Nala, but this isn’t a game. This whole thing is only designed because of that bet you had with Simba. It’s about which mother is stricter, not is Sarafina stricter than me and Mufasa as a whole. Hardly any of Simba’s punishments are given by Mufasa. I’m the evil venomous forked-tongue fire-breathing one.”

            “Perfect description,” added Mufasa.

            Sarabi rolled her eyes and Nala giggled.

            “Besides,” Sarabi added, changing the subject, “today is one of Daddy’s land-inspection days, where he has to do a thorough inspection of the borders rather than just passing by them. He does it every twenty days.”

            Mufasa groaned as his response.

            “Now,” continued Sarabi, “Nala, if you want to go back outside, I’m going to have to go with you.”

            “That’s okay,” replied Nala, and she began to make her way back to the cave entrance.

            Mufasa chuckled. He was still lying down in his sleeping spot.

            “What?” asked Sarabi, as a response to his chuckle.

            “So Sarafina’s used to having a few minutes of extra sleep while Nala just stays on Pride Rock?”

            “From what I’ve heard, yes.”

            Mufasa chuckled again. “Couldn’t have been a pleasant wakeup call for her this morning then.”

 

 

            “Uncle Scar – you need to say ‘hi’ to my mom!” shouted Simba enthusiastically.

            The brown furred lion, and the only lion of which had been sleeping in the back den, reluctantly looked up…only to see Sarafina in the spot, smiling nervously, where he had expected to have seen Sarabi.

            “You just get stupider every day, don’t you?” he asked Simba.

            Simba giggled at Scar’s comments while Sarafina frowned disapprovingly. Scar got up to his feet.

            “Seriously, what happened? Did you knock your head on something?”

            Sarafina smiled. Maybe she could lighten up the mood between her and Scar with a joke. “It’s more like, he got out the right side of the wrong bed,” she said.

            Now that just confused Scar. Sarafina’s cheapish smile disappeared.

            “Me and…me and Sarabi swapped cubs for the day,” she explained simply.

            “Ah,” Scar replied. “And you,” he addressed, looking down on the smiling Simba, “think that makes Sarafina your mother?”

            “Yeah!” replied Simba. He frowned. “Doesn’t it?”

            “No,” Scar replied.

            “Yes,” Sarafina replied.

            Simba’s ears fell. “Oh,” he commented.

            “I said ‘yes,’ doesn’t that count for anything, Simba?” asked Sarafina.

            “No,” replied Simba.

            Scar grinned. “And why not?” he asked Simba.

            “Because if a lion and a lioness have two different answers to the same question, your best bet is to listen to the lion,” replied Simba as if he had recited many times before. Sarafina frowned.

            “That’s a good lad,” replied Scar.

            “Sorry Aunt Sarafina,” said Simba, turning around, “Uncle Scar says you should be okay with that though, since you’re used to being treated as an inferior species.”

            “Wha—!”

            “Hey Simba,” interrupted Scar. “When does two plus two equal five?”

            “When a lioness does the math!” replied Simba enthusiastically.

            “What has twelve legs and two and a half brains?”

            “Two lions and one lioness!”

            “That’s quite enough!” Sarafina exclaimed suddenly.

            “Aw, come on Aunt Saffy – we were just having fun.”

            “I don’t care, Simba. You shouldn’t make jokes like that. I’m sure your mother doesn’t appreciate it.”

            “My mom doesn’t know.”

            “Ah…so Sarafina’s not your mom now, is she?” asked Scar.

            Sarafina smirked. “Yes I am,” she replied. Simba began to get worried. He had a feeling he knew what she meant. “Simba…if you make one more joke about lionesses,” she said as she held up a claw for emphasis on the ‘one,’ “then I will punish you.”

            “How many lions does it take to bring down an elephant?” asked Scar.

            “Scar, don’t encourage him.”

            “But this one’s really good,” said Simba, chuckling.

            “Don’t answer it,” cautioned Sarafina.

            “But I want to.”

            “You’ll be punished.”

            “But…but…” Simba stammered, but then he got an idea. “But I need the bathroom!” he shouted, running outside where he could answer it himself and Sarafina wouldn’t hear him.

            Sarafina smiled as he ran out, but then realized something. She turned around. She and Scar were the only two in the back den.

            “So…uh…what’s the answer?” asked Sarafina, just trying to break the awkwardness of the situation.

            “None. It should be brought down before the lions get to it.”

            “Ah,” replied Sarafina. “You know Scar, you really shouldn’t be teaching him jokes like that at his age. You never know what he may grow up to believe.”

            “The truth?”

            “Now be quiet.”

            “We have a joke for that too, you know. A lioness telling a lion what to do.”

            “I don’t want to hear it,” replied Sarafina.

            “But it’s a good one.”

            “I don’t care.” Sarafina sighed. “Please don’t make this hard for me, Scar. Simba’s a great cub and I don’t want to…”

            “Great? I don’t see what’s so great about him. He’s just like any other ball of fluff around here.”

            “You’d better not mean my daughter,” snapped Sarafina aggressively.

            “Sarabi’s daughter,” Scar corrected her. “Where is the thing? I haven’t seen her in a while.” As casually as Scar spoke however, Sarafina had been able to get up onto all her feet and was now snarling at Scar with her claws erect.

            “Don’t you dare call my daughter a ‘thing’ or a ‘ball of fluff.’ She and Simba are both much greater lions than you could ever be.”

            “Well at least they’re lions. Smart cubs too. I bet they know two plus two equals four. You, on the other hand, have seem to forgotten the simplest fact that Simba shouldn’t be outside on his own.”

            Sarafina stopped snarling. Scar was right. Why was she still here? Keeping her eyes on Scar, she took a couple of steps backwards. Scar continued to just hold his evil smile. Finally, knowing she could now make her escape without Scar doing anything, Sarafina whirled around and headed outside, to look for the cub.

 

 

            “So this is where Sarafina finds the time to keep her coat in good shape,” Sarabi commented.

            “Huh?” Nala asked.

            Sarabi rolled over onto her back before she spoke again. “This is why Sarafina doesn’t have bags under her eyes or fur pulled out of her head.”

            “What do you mean, Mom?” Nala asked.

            “Are you seriously telling me,” Sarabi asked as she closed her eyes in delight, “that all you do every morning is watch the sun come up with Sarafina?”

            “Not all the time,” replied Nala.

            Sarabi sighed in delight. “I haven’t done this ever since Simba’s been born.”

            Nala chuckled. “What does the sunrise look like when you’re upside-down?” she asked.

            Sarabi opened her eyes to get a glimpse of the sun again. “I can’t explain it,” she replied. “Why don’t you try it?”

            Nala did so. She rolled over onto her back next to Sarabi and tried to tilt her head so she could see the sunrise. She frowned.

            “I think it looks better the other way up,” she said.

            “Suit yourself then,” replied Sarabi. “Watch it the normal way if you want.”

            Nala rolled back onto her front but then looked down at the ground, thinking of something else to do. “Can we go climb a tree?” she asked Sarabi excitedly.

            “No,” was Sarabi’s simple reply, as her eyes were now shut again.

            “Why not?”

            “It’s too dangerous.”

            “But Mo—eh…Aunt Sarafina always lets me do it.”

            Sarabi opened her eyes again. “She does?” she asked.

            “Yeah!” Nala replied.

            Sarabi rolled onto her front. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

            “Well…eh…you could go and find Sarafina…she’d tell you.”

            “Hmm,” commented Sarabi. She wanted to keep the interaction between her and Sarafina, her and Simba, Sarafina and Nala, or Simba and Nala down to a minimal today. Perhaps there was a better way to do this. “What’s the first rule about tree climbing?” she asked Nala.

            “That’s easy!” replied Nala. “Make sure the bark won’t fall off as you climb, and that your claws are sharp enough.”

            “Rule number two?”

            “Pick the branch out that you’re aiming for and climb towards it.”

            “Rule number three?”

            “Don’t look down until you’re at the branch.”

            “And how do you swing yourself over?”

            “Arrive at the side of the branch and grab hold of it with one arm. Then, swing one of your back legs over and you should be fine from there!”

            Nala finished, grinning from ear to ear. Sarabi was smiling too, but she was still uncertain.

            “Hmm,” she said. She caught sight of a small tree not too far from them. She got up. “Come on then, let’s see you practice.”

            Nala hurriedly got to her feet and sprung all the way over to the tree, quickly jumping and grabbing hold of the bark with her claws, before pulling herself up step by step and swinging herself over the lowest branch, even before Sarabi had arrived at the tree.

            Nala grinned and looked back over at Sarabi. Her face fell a little bit when she saw the expression on Sarabi’s face.

            “Nala. Experienced or not I want to be under the tree when you climb, ready to catch you, okay? Don’t go running off and up one of those things like that again.”

            “Yes Ma’am,” replied Nala, with her eyes pointing downwards.

            “Now,” continued Sarabi, with her tone a little lighter, “Nala, I must say that was pretty good. Better than Simba can do.”

            Nala giggled. “I know! When Aunt Sarafina takes care of us, she lets us climb, and Simba’s just terrible!”

            “Sarafina lets Simba climb trees?” asked Sarabi.

            “Oh,” replied Nala. Her ears fell flat. “You…you didn’t know…did you?”

            “How often does she let him do it?”

            “Fairly often. Once every three days, I’d say.”

            “Huh,” replied Sarabi. She then began walking up closer towards the tree. Nala was a little confused. She jumped down onto the ground in one leap. She really hadn’t been that high up.

            “Are you just being nice to me?” asked Nala.

            “What do you mean?” asked Sarabi back, although really she already found it amusing: she knew exactly what Nala meant.

            “Well…you just don’t seem as strict as what Simba says you are.”

            “What’s the sun doing, Nala?” asked Sarabi.

            “Um…rising?”

            “And have I not corrected you already on not calling me ‘mother,’ leaving the cave without me, and climbing a tree without my presence?”

            “Yeah.”

            Sarabi laughed again. “I’d say I’m doing my job, Nala. I don’t punish Simba every second of every day, though it would probably be better if I did. We’ve still got a whole day left ahead of us! Talking of which, what would you like to do now?”

            “Climb a bigger tree!” Nala replied enthusiastically. She’d been waiting for Sarabi to ask that.

            Sarabi rolled her eyes. “Go on then. Pick a tree.”

            “I’ve already picked one,” replied Nala. “Yesterday I picked it. It’s a bit of a walk from here though.”

            “Doesn’t bother me any,” said Sarabi. “Lead the way Nala. Let’s find this big tree.”

            Nala led off quite merrily with Sarabi behind her. So far, their day was going fairly smoothly.

 

 

            “Simba! Simba, where are you?” Sarafina called into the savannah as she escaped the back den. She frantically looked left and right, but it was something from under her that caught her attention.

            Right between her paws sat three sticks. One was longer than the others, and the other two smaller ones sat each at an angle from the main stick, all meeting at a single point. It was obvious now to Sarafina: it was an arrow.

            Sarafina smiled. So this was his little game, was it? She followed on in the direction that the arrow had signaled, which led off Pride Rock, just to see if that was the case. Sure enough, she hadn’t gone too far when she found another arrow lying in the grass. She followed that one too. She began to pick her pace up a bit, hoping that Simba hadn’t gone too far. Fat chance he hadn’t. He could run pretty fast, and he was full of energy. He was probably already long gone by now.

            Sarafina began to get worried as she crossed a piece of wide open grassland. There hadn’t been an arrow for a while now. Finally, she arrived at the waterhole. That’s it; she was lost. She’d have to go back and restart from the last arrow: and in a hurry! However, before she whirled around and headed back, she spotted something else between her legs: another arrow. And it pointed right through the waterhole.

            Sarafina grinned. “Yeah, right, Simba,” she said aloud, “and what’s to stop me from going around the waterhole, instead?”

            “Cos I’m over here,” replied a high pitched voice.

            Sarafina looked back over in the direction of the voice, and her smile disappeared. Where the water was low in the middle of the waterhole sat a small island that had appeared above the water level. On it, sat Simba. The problem was that to get to that small island, she would have to make her way through deep water.

            Sarafina regained her confidence though, and sat down. “And what’s to stop me from staying here, and waiting for you to come back? I’ve got a whole world to explore from where I stand! You just have that tiny island.”

            “Cos I heard you and Mom talking last night,” Simba replied, unwavered by Sarafina’s small speech, “and she wants me back clean.”

            Sarafina looked over the water at him closer, and then her jaw dropped.

            “How did you—?”

            “Dirty water,” replied Simba instantly, grinning from ear to ear. “Coming, Aunt Saffy?”

            Sarafina couldn’t think of a reply. He’d got her. He’d got her good. Sarafina hated water, and Simba knew it. But she needed to get Simba back to his real mom, clean. Suddenly however, she was saved by a small rumbling noise. Simba’s grin fell and he looked down. Sarafina smirked.

            “Not hungry now, are we? Was that your little tummy rumbling?”

            “Uh oh,” replied Simba.

            “I suppose I could hunt, but I wouldn’t want to ruin a perfect carcass by getting it wet. It would have to stay over on this side of the waterhole.”

            “Heh, Mom wouldn’t like it if you made me starve,” replied Simba.

            “Well you’re refusing to cooperate.”

            “You are too! You could quite easily drag a carcass over to this island.”

            “Ah, good point, but you’re forgetting one thing, Simba.”

            “What?”

            “I’m the mother.”

            “So?”

            “So…for your refusal to cooperate, my punishment for you is to remain alone on an island without food, and you won’t get food until you cooperate.”

            Simba smiled. “That’s clever,” he said.

            “Why, thank you,” replied Sarafina.

            “You know what else is clever?” asked Simba.

            “What?”

            “This,” replied Simba, and he held out his paw just as a fish jumped out from the water. He caught it in his paw and then chucked it in his throat, before chewing and swallowing it down.

            Sarafina was stunned. “How did—?” but then she was cut off as Simba began to cough and spit pieces of the fish out. Sarafina let a smug look cross her face again. “Fish don’t taste good in dirty water, do they Simba?” she asked rhetorically.

            Simba continued to cough and spit.

 

 

            “This tree!” exclaimed Nala.

            “Uh…no…” replied Sarabi.

            “Why not?” asked Nala. “You said I could climb that big one we saw five minutes ago, and that one is much more dangerous than this!”

            “I did say that,” admitted Sarabi, “however, you still can’t climb this tree. See, there’s something special about it…”

            Nala gasped. “Like magic special?” she asked.

            “No…not magic special…” Sarabi replied, chuckling, “more like…well…” Sarabi stopped as she looked back at the giant baobab tree where she knew the ancient shaman lived. “…yeah…I guess it is kind of magic special.”

            Wrong thing to say. Nala was gone. Completely ignoring and forgetting about Sarabi’s safety briefing, the cub already had her claws dug into the bark as she climbed up the trunk.

            “NALA, GET DOWN!” Sarabi bellowed.

            The cub finally came to her senses halfway up the trunk. Her excitement had now gone; she was now in dread. Before Sarabi could say anything more, she clambered her way back down to the ground and turned around and sat down facing Sarabi. She met her gaze.

            “What were you thinking?” asked Sarabi.

            “You said it was magic,” replied Nala, extremely upset.

            “I also said you couldn’t go up there!”

            “I know,” replied Nala. “I’m sorry,” she said apologetically.

            Sarabi sighed. “This is your warning, alright? You get only one warning with me, then I begin handing out punishments, okay?” Nala nodded. “You’ve been well-behaved so far, let’s try and keep it that way.”

            “Yes Ma’am,” replied Nala. “I’m just…I’m just…” she tried to add something as an explanation for her actions. Sarabi could tell she was trying to do this, so she took over for her.

            “You’re fascinated by magic? You want to see how it works?”

            “Yeah,” replied Nala.

            Sarabi thought about it for a moment. “Alright,” she finally said. “Climb the tree. I’ll follow you. But remember Nala, somebody lives here. Don’t touch anything until I say so, okay?”

            “Okay!” replied Nala, excited that she would still get to go up the tree.

            Sarabi smiled. “Go on,” she said, making a gesture for Nala to lead her up the tree. Nala didn’t hesitate.

 

 

            Sarafina dropped the dead antelope down next to the water’s edge. Her plan had worked. Simba had now gotten off the island and was eager to begin working his way through the carcass. He bent down with his mouth open to start eating, just as Sarafina roared.

            Simba looked up, confused. “What was that for?” he asked.

            “Calling your dad,” replied Sarafina, bending back down to get a bite out of the carcass herself.

            “Well I know Mom always does that, but that’s cos they’re married. Why would you want to eat with him?”

            Sarafina finished eating her piece and swallowing it down before she answered. “It’s an obligation, Simba. I have to do it. Will he come along? Probably not. But any time one of us catches something, we must call your father.”

            “Huh,” replied Simba. Now not as confused as he had been, the cub bent down to finally rip his first piece away from the carcass, just as Sarafina had done once again. Sarafina looked back up as she chewed and found herself slightly disgusted with the way in which Simba was eating his food. He was ripping pieces off far bigger than what he could chew, and thus when he chewed he had to do it with his mouth open. It was also making the young cub’s jaw a mess, but that just pretty much matched the rest of his body. Since the sun was now heating up the day, it had made the water part of the dirty water evaporate from his fur…leaving just the dirt to coat Simba. Sarafina still had no idea how she was going to convince Simba to take a bath. She knew he hated them, even from his own real mother. But he had to be cleaned.

            Sarafina swallowed her piece down. “You know, Simba. If you ripped smaller pieces off of the carcass, you’d tire your jaw out less. You have to chew really hard to get those bigger pieces down.”

            “Yeah…” replied Simba admittedly, as he continued to chew. Sarafina tried to look away. “…but bigger is better,” he added, finally swallowing his first piece down.

            “Not necessarily,” replied Sarafina. “I’m bigger than Nala – does that make me a better friend of yours than what she is?”

            “You’re not food.”

            Sarafina laughed as Simba ripped off another giant piece of antelope.

            “True…true…” Sarafina replied. She looked back over at the cub again. “You’re making your jaw a mess.”

            Simba somehow managed to laugh, even with his mouth full. “I know! Mom’s going to be so mad when you get me back to her.”

            Sarafina smiled. “I’m going to clean you,” she stated simply.

            “No you’re not,” replied Simba in the same way.

            “Yes I am…as soon as you’re done with that carcass…”

            “I’m gonna run…” interrupted Simba, “…and I’m not going to leave arrows.”

            Sarafina smirked. “I’m not going to need arrows.”

 

 

            Nala looked around the tree slightly let down. All she could see was tortoise shells and gourds; how could they perform magic?

            “What does this stuff do?” she asked Sarabi.

            “I don’t know,” replied Sarabi smiling. “Let’s see, shall we?”

            Slowly, she led off towards one of the larger tortoise shells. Nala followed, hoping that there may be some true magic up here after all.

            The two lionesses arrived and looked down into the tortoise shell to see a purple liquid. Sarabi sniffed it curiously, and then turned to Nala.

            “Know what this is?” she asked.

            Nala shook her head ‘no.’

            “I do,” replied Sarabi. “Go up and hide in one of the higher branches somewhere. I’ll try and find you.”

            “You mean hide-and-go-seek?”

            “Yup. Go on, I’ll close my eyes and count to a hundred. I bet you with this liquid, I’ll have found you before you know it.”

            Nala frowned. Sarabi was joking, right? Or maybe…

            “You do know I’m better at this than Simba, don’t you?”

            “Sarafina’s told me.”

            “You’ll never find me.”

            “With this liquid I will.”

            “How does it work?”

            “I’ll show you that when I’ve found you, now go and hide.” Sarabi closed her eyes. “One…two…three…”

            Nala finally accepted that Sarabi must have just been crazy. There was no way in which she was going to find her. However, since Sarabi seemed so confident, Nala decided to play along. She climbed up one of the branches and began to jump through the leaves, from branch to branch, spreading her scent so that Sarabi couldn’t find her that way. She then went back down a rather steep branch and almost slipped, but fortunately for her she didn’t hit many leaves, so there was no sound for Sarabi to catch onto.

            “…sixty…sixty-one…sixty-two…”

            Nala now carefully began making her way back through the branches which she had already spread her scent on, looking for a decent hiding place. A couple of bushes appeared between places where the branches split, but those places would be too obvious. A lot of leaves were in abundance though, so if she just found a small sufficient area on leaves in which she could hide behind, then that would seemingly be her best bet. She’d be well hidden, and yet it wouldn’t be a spot in which Sarabi would expect to find her. She finally caught sight of such a place, and then hid herself behind it.

            “…ninety-nine…a hundred. Ready or not, here I come,” said Sarabi. She grabbed a handful of the liquid and then threw it out around in a circle from where she stood. Then, she grabbed half a coconut shell and filled it with the liquid, and went on her way.

            From her hiding place, Nala lied her head down on her paws to rest with a small smile on her face. It was a win-win situation from her standpoint. If Sarabi found her soon, magic worked! If she didn’t, then Nala would have further proof that she was the best hide-and-go-seeker ev…

            “Found you,” said Sarabi, as she lifted the branch of leaves that Nala was hiding behind away.

            Nala jumped. She hadn’t expected her to have found her that quickly.

            “Told you, didn’t I?” said Sarabi, reading Nala’s expression.

            Nala shook herself out of her astonishment. “How’d you do that?”

            “With this liquid, silly,” replied Sarabi, holding the coconut piece with still a bit of the purple liquid in at the bottom of it.

            “How?”

            Sarabi grabbed a handful of the liquid and threw it back across the branch. Nala watched as the purple stuff landed on the wood and settled into the bark, almost instantaneously illuminating bright yellow footprints.

            “I just followed your footprints,” replied Sarabi.

            Nala was now a little angry. “That’s not magic, that’s…that’s sciency stuff!”

            “True,” replied Sarabi, as casual as ever, “but say you’re a hungry lion who just ran into the Pridelands and stole some of our food. Then you run away with the food without leaving a trace of a scent or a footprint, yet still Mufasa will come and hunt you down within a minute. Don’t you think it would seem like magic to the thief?”

            Now Nala was a little upset. “So there’s no such thing as magic? It’s all sciency stuff?”

            “Not necessarily,” replied Sarabi. “This isn’t the best potion in this tree. Tell you what, let’s go back down and find another one. How does that sound?”

            Nala, however, wasn’t listening to Sarabi anymore. Her attention had been distracted by the sudden appearance of a giant yellow footprint on the bark behind Sarabi. The queen noticed that the cub’s attention had been distracted, and so she looked over her shoulder. She could now see the footprint too.

            Nala got up to her feet and walked underneath Sarabi. The queen looked down, only to find that Nala looked incredibly scared.

            “It’s nothing to be afraid of, Nala. That footprint belongs to a monkey. He’s a friend of ours. He makes the potions.”

            “Mandrill! Not – monkey!” exclaimed the mandrill, as he swung down from the branch above the two lionesses and into their view. Nala jumped and screamed. Sarabi sat down and pulled the cub to her side.

            “It’s okay, Nala,” the queen said as she laughed. “It’s just Rafiki.”

            “Ah, Nala, you have not met me before, have you?”

            “No sir,” replied Nala, still slightly frightened.

            “Allow me to introduce myself.” Rafiki swung himself back up onto the branch above, and the next thing the two lionesses knew, his two hands and two feet reappeared in front of them, each holding a gourd. “So, you are fascinated by magic, ‘ey?” came a voice from above the two lionesses. “Well Nala, I know I could tell you all about myself, but I’m sure you have a lot better interests in mind, such as your favorite color…” Rafiki stopped speaking and then let go of one of the gourds, allowing it to smash on the branch that Sarabi and Nala stood on, releasing a cloud of blue dust as it did so, “…is blue…your favorite smell…” he paused again as he let a second gourd drop and smash on the branch. A white cloud was emitted out of the fruit.

            “Go on…smell it…” Sarabi encouraged Nala, giving her a small shove from behind. Nala smelt it and smiled. It was her favorite smell…the smell of…

            “…is lavender…and your favorite number…” he paused again and let go of a third gourd, allowing that one to smash onto the branch and emit…nothing. Rafiki’s head finally reappeared from the branch above, and he reached out one of his fingers and counted the amount of pieces his gourd had broken into. “…one…two…three…six…nine…twelve…fifteen! Am I right?” he asked the cub.

            Nala nodded, now a little less frightened. She looked back over at Rafiki’s final foot where the fourth gourd was still. “What’s the fourth one for?” she asked.

            Rafiki answered by letting go of the fourth gourd and allowing that to smash open on the branch. Out of it appeared half a coconut shell with a trace of purple liquid in it. Sarabi looked down at her paw, where the coconut shell had last been. Somehow or another, it wasn’t there anymore! Even though she could have sworn that she had never let go of it.

            She turned back to Nala and smiled. “Pretty impressive…isn’t it?”

            “It is,” replied Nala honestly, “but I just think that…well…”

            “You think I can do better?” asked Rafiki, now getting down onto the same branch as the two lionesses. “Course I can! Come follow old Rafiki, he’s a got a real special treat for you, Nala!”

            Rafiki began to swing back down the base of his old tree. Sarabi shoved Nala forward, and the cub began to lead the queen back down with the mandrill.

 

 

            Sarafina looked back at the carcass as Simba continued to chew once more on an excessively large piece of antelope meat. There was only enough meat left on the antelope for one more serving, so Sarafina waited for Simba to finish, so that she could offer him the last piece. She knew that if she had it, Simba would be able to make a head start and begin running away to avoid his bath.

            After almost a minute of chewing, Simba swallowed his piece of antelope down.

            “Do you want the last piece, Simba?” Sarafina asked, trying to hide a grin.

            She needn’t had bothered though. Simba knew her strategy. “Nope,” he replied happily.

            “Why ever not?” asked Sarafina.

            “I’m full.”

            “Course you aren’t,” replied Sarafina, “now eat your food!”

            “Make me.”

            Now Sarafina got ready to get to her feet. ‘Make me’ was just another way of saying, ‘I’m not going to eat that. I’m going to run. Try and catch me,’ which when translated to Sarafina meant, ‘time to chase Simba and get him to have a bath.’ Simba saw Sarafina’s motion to get to her feet, and the chase was on.

            The cub began to sprint away in laughter. “You’ll never catch me!” he shouted over his shoulder at Sarafina.

            Oh yes I will.

            Simba didn’t know it, but Sarafina was a much faster runner than Sarabi, who usually hunted best from short distances and when ambushing. Sarafina could run for miles, fast, and she knew the Pridelands better than Simba did. However, for the purpose of entertainment, she decided to hold back for a little while, so that Simba really did think he had the advantage, and then once he began to tire out, Sarafina would sprint and then give the cub his bath.

            However, Sarafina’s plans were forced to reshape themselves when she realized that Simba had a slight tactical strategy in mind. The cub was beginning to run down a steep hill behind the gorge, which Sarafina knew led to…

            “The thorn bushes,” she said to herself. She gulped, and then began to pick up her pace. She needed to catch Simba, now. “Simba!” she exclaimed. “There’s thorn bushes down there!”

            “I know!” shouted Simba back joyfully as they passed over the crest of the hill, “I’m small enough to crawl under them!”

            That only led Sarafina to run faster. She couldn’t let Simba escape from her here. They both began to run down the hill, and now with the lioness right on the cub’s tail, she lifted up one of her paws and took a swipe at him to grab him. Slightly to her surprise, she got him! But now there was another problem, Sarafina was running on three paws down a very steep hill…with a set of thorn bushes at the bottom. She passed Simba from her arm into her mouth and held onto the cub by the scruff of his neck, while now using her four legs free to dig into the ground in an attempt to slow them both up before they crashed into the thorn bushes.

            It wasn’t working. Simba screamed. Sarafina closed her eyes…

 

 

            “Welcome to Gourd Alley!” exclaimed Rafiki, as he gestured to a big branch that led up into the higher parts of his tree, with many gourds dangling from a branch above.

            “Yay,” mumbled Nala sarcastically, “more gourds.” She lightened up her mood though as she asked Rafiki: “Do these ones perform magic?”

            “Dere are two thousand three hundred and seventy-seven ways in which dese gourds can be combined to perform a certain kind of magic which no other combination can perform,” replied Rafiki.

            Nala gave a confused look.

            “He means ‘yes,’ Nala,” came Sarabi’s reply.

            “Oh,” replied Nala. “Well, how does it work?” she asked.

            Rafiki picked up the biggest empty tortoise shell he could find in his tree. “Run along Gourd Alley,” he explained, “and as your body knocks the gourds, at random some will destabilize and full. I will try to catch dem in dis tortoise shell, and we’ll see what we get. Hopefully it will be a magical potion!”

            Sarabi shoved Nala along. “Go on,” she encouraged her, “run!”

            Nala began running up the big branch, and each time she went by a gourd her body would hit them. Sometimes they’d fall, sometimes they wouldn’t. Down below, sometimes Rafiki was able to catch the falling gourds, but every now and then he wasn’t. Sarabi realized as the second gourd fell and missed Rafiki’s tortoise shell that some potential problems could arise. One gourd fell and she had to take a step back to prevent herself from being hit by the heavy fruit on the head. Then, she heard a SPLOSH! from behind her and she jumped back forwards, only to have a gourd hit her on the back and run its juices down her sides.

            Rafiki cackled. “Sorry Sarabi, I will try to catch dem more!”

            Sarabi groaned. She seemed slightly disgruntled about what had happened, but before she could complain, another gourd crashed onto the ground right in front of her face. Knowing that that meant that Nala was right above her, the lioness began running to escape the falling gourds. As fast as she ran, however, Nala seemingly was running the same speed. And every time Sarabi tried a twist or a turn or began to run backwards, Nala was doing the same from above her. Seemingly, Sarabi was going to have to keep on running to avoid being hit as gourds continued to fall ahead, behind, and to the left and right of her. Of course, some of them were being caught by Rafiki, and if it wasn’t for him Sarabi knew that she would have been covered in the slimy liquidy stuff that was in those fruits by now. She couldn’t thank Rafiki right now though. She was too busy running. She looked over her shoulder. A gourd fell from about a foot behind her. She ran faster. Another fell from about half a foot behind her. She ran faster. The next gourd fell, and it was now only a matter of inches. She ran faster…and then ran into a thick tree trunk. Sarabi collapsed onto the floor as she grabbed hold of her shoulder to ease the pain that was now circulating through that area.

            I should’ve watched where I was going.

            Crreeaakk…

            What was that?

            Sarabi looked up from where she had just heard the sound…and her jaw dropped. When she had run into the trunk, the impact had now jogged several gourds that were located right above her. She knew she couldn’t run, so instead she just closed her eyes and took the impact as all those gourds fell and splattered on and around her.

            Rafiki cackled again as he walked up to her. “Not your day, my queen, is it?”

            “I’ve had better,” admitted Sarabi, before running her tongue around her muzzle and washing the fruit away. She looked at the tortoise shell Rafiki was carrying. Fumes were rising up from it where the potions were reacting with each other. “Is that safe?” she asked.

            “Certainly, my dear Sarabi. Dere is only one possible combination in the entire tree that would result in any kind of catastrophic explosio—” but Rafiki was suddenly cut off as another gourd fell right into his tortoise shell…and the mixture combusted. A huge plume of smoke engulfed the mandrill and the lioness, leaving them with soot making the fur on both their faces turn black and pointy.

            Nala jumped down from Gourd Alley innocently and looked over at the other two. “How’d I do?” she asked.

            Surprised that their appearances weren’t enough of an answer to Nala, Sarabi shook her head violently and let the soot fly off, leaving her with just a darkened head as she walked up to the cub.

            “Nala…” she addressed calmly, “…I think it’s time we leave this tree.”

            “But I was having fun!” exclaimed Nala happily.

            “Yes, I’m sure you were,” replied Sarabi. She lifted up her paw and began to push Nala towards the edge of the tree. “Come on Nala, let’s go.”

            “Where are we going?” asked Nala.

            Sarabi stopped pushing her. “I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”

            “Can we go see Simba?” she asked.

            “If that will get you off this tree, then it’s fine by me.”

            “Yay!” exclaimed Nala, as she jumped back down onto the ground below.

            Sarabi turned around. “Thank you Rafiki,” she said.

            “No problem,” replied the mandrill, still with much of his fur black and pointy, “come back anytime.”

 

 

            Sarafina opened her eyes and looked down her chest. Spikes were all tangled up in her fur and some even poked into her skin a little. She twisted her body and saw that all the way down both her sides looked very similar to her chest. She was in pain, but she knew it could have been much worse. She knew she was lucky, but what about Simba?

            “Simba,” she called, turning back around. He was lying there on the floor right in front of her. He looked frightened and concerned, but he hadn’t gotten as tangled up in thorns as what Sarafina had. In fact, there were hardly any spikes tangled in his fur at all. Sarafina let out a sign of relief. “Simba, you’re okay.”

            “I am?” asked Simba, looking over himself just as Sarafina had done. “I am!” he exclaimed, getting up to his feet. “Heh, and you thought you could get me to take a bath…”

            Sarafina became slightly worried. “Simba…please don’t…” but she couldn’t stop him. Simba began to run away…but he only made it about two steps before he realized that he was in more pain than he had realized. He collapsed to the floor and screamed.

            “Simba, are you okay?” Sarafina asked, worried. She was able to answer that herself quickly, however. In each of his four paws she could see four tiny thorns, making his feet hurt when he tried to walk on them. “It’s okay, Simba,” Sarafina added, getting to her feet. It hurt when she walked too, but she knew that she would be able to cope better with it than Simba could at his age. “You just have some thorns in your feet. I’ll get them out.”

            “Thanks,” replied Simba. Sarafina could tell by his voice though that he was still in pain.

            “This may hurt a little, close your eyes,” she advised, as she placed one of her paws hard down on his leg. Simba did as told, and then Sarafina got another one of her front paws and pulled the small thorn out. “That’s one,” she said as she heard Simba sniff and whimper. She then did the same on his second front leg. “That’s two.” Then the first of his back paws. “That’s three.” And then his last paw. “And that’s all of them.” Simba sniffed and whimpered for the final time.

            “That’s it?” he asked.

            “That’s it,” replied Sarafina calmly.

            Simba sniffed. “Thanks.” Suddenly, he felt something warm, rough, and slightly wet slide over his back. Sarafina was giving him a bath. He began to get to his feet to run away again, but Sarafina already had one of her legs draped over his back and pushing him down, to prevent him for doing so.

            Sarafina finished one of her licks and smiled. “I pulled those thorns out of you, Simba. I ought to get some reward for that.”

            Simba groaned, knowing that there was no longer any chance of escape.

            “What happened to you two?” came a voice from behind them.

            Simba lifted his head up and looked over to see his mom standing next to his best friend.

            “Hi Mom! Hi Nala!”

            “I’m not your mom, Simba,” stated Sarabi. “You should call Sarafina ‘Mom’ for the day.”

            Sarafina finished another one of her licks on the cub and then turned to face the two visitors too.

            “I finally got your cub to take a bath, Sarabi,” she told her, pleased with her accomplishment.

            “That doesn’t surprise me. Simba usually hates baths from lionesses, not porcupines.”

            Nala giggled.

            Sarafina rolled her eyes. “I may have…fallen into the brambles.” She then looked back at Sarabi and continued: “Look who can talk though, Mrs. Hyena.”

            “Hyena?”

            “Yeah. Your face is all black and the rest of your coat in covered in splotches. How’d you manage that?”

            Sarabi shoved Nala forwards towards Sarafina and Simba.

            “Maybe she can give you an answer,” said Sarabi.

            Sarafina looked down at her wide-grinning daughter, but then looked back at Sarabi.

            “So my daughter really is hard to handle after all.”

            “Mom?” asked Nala.

            “I wouldn’t say that, Sarafina. Overall it’s been a lovely day.”

            “It has,” confirmed Nala.

            “Mom! Why do you agree with Nala? You’re saying she’s better behaved than me?” asked Simba.

            “Yup!” replied Nala for Sarabi.

            “Don’t worry Simba, I don’t think that. Sarabi is a stricter of a parent than I am,” said Sarafina.

            “And look where that philosophy got you,” replied Sarabi, walking behind her and pulling out a handful of thorns from her rump.

            Sarafina winced in pain. “Ow…Sarabi…please…not so hard…”

            “Face it Saffy, you can’t handle Simba. You’re not used to dealing with his level of misbehavior.”

            “Here! Here!” shouted Nala.

            “Says Mrs. Hyena!” shouted Sarafina back at Sarabi. “Nala misbehaves too, I just don’t punish them as much as you do.”

            “She’s less strict,” Simba rephrased.

            Nala ran up to Sarabi and stood between her legs.

            “Come on, Mom,” she said to Sarabi, something that surprised Sarafina a little bit, “I’ve thought of something else we can do. And we can prove these guys wrong. I’m going to be well-behaved for the rest of the day, and when you get me back to Aunt Sarafina I’ll be spotlessly clean!”

            Sarafina suddenly remembered that part of the bet, and looked back down at Simba to remind herself of how well his bath had been going. She’d done well on his back. Now she just needed him to roll over.

            “Simba, roll over please,” she said.

            “What?”

            “Roll over.”

            “Why?”

            “I need to wash your belly.”

            “Uh…no.”

            Sarabi smirked.

            “Come on, Simba. We’ve got to get you cleaned if we’re going to prove those two wrong.”

            “No we don’t. If I’m a mess then that proves that you’re just not strict enough to stop me from getting dirty.”

            Sarafina got cross and now placed her two front paws on Simba’s sides, and she tried to turn the cub over herself. Simba squirmed and was able to break free. He began to run away back in the direction in which he and Sarafina had come. Sarafina began to chase after him…but only got two steps before she realized that there was a problem.

            “Uh…Sarabi…” she addressed, turning to face her. She lifted her paw up and let the queen see the thorn in her paw, “could I hire your expertise again, please?”

 

 

            “I had a feeling I’d find you back here,” said Sarafina.

            Simba stood up from where he’d just been rolling in the mud on the island in the waterhole. “Like my new coat?” he asked, grinning.

            Sarafina smiled too and lied down, trying to take it all rather calmly. “I don’t, but it’s not an eyesore. I can just lie down here and look at it for the rest of the day.”

            “Aw, you’re no fun, Aunt Saffy. Come on, it’ll be time for lunch soon! You know I’ll come back over there, then. Why don’t you try the water now? You might like it.”

            Sarafina closed her eyes and lied her head down on her paws before replying. “I’ve tried the water before, Simba. More than once. I’ve never liked it and most likely never will do. And don’t worry about lunch. I’m not getting it for you.”

            “Ha!” Simba shouted as he threw his head back for exaggeration. Sarafina had expected a reaction like that. “You seriously think my mom would let you starve me?”

            “I asked her if I had to get you lunch and she said ‘no.’ So that’s that.”

            Simba’s ears fell, but he tried to retain his confidence. “How do I know to believe you?”

            Sarafina tried to prevent her grin from spreading off the sides of her face, so she opened her eyes again and found two small rocks lying to her side. She picked one up in each of her front paws and held them up for Simba to see. From across the water, Simba frowned. He could tell what they were, but he wasn’t quite sure what Sarafina had them for. Unless…

            “Cos how else would I know that you didn’t like this?” she asked, beginning to rub the two rocks together really hard. It didn’t make much of a noise. It was kind of a quiet scraping cross repeated banging noise, and Sarafina was not at all bothered by it. For some or no reason though, Sarabi was right: Simba hated it. The future king had placed his head down on the floor and had his two front paws plugging up both his ears, and he now also had his eyes tightly closed.

            Sarafina stopped scraping them.

            “You don’t like that, do you Simba?” she asked, trying to add some authority into her voice.

            “No Ma’am,” replied Simba, unplugging his ears.

            “Well if you want me to stop, you’re going to have to listen to me, okay?” asked Sarafina rhetorically, getting up to her feet. “If you want your lunch you’re going to have to come back over here, and let me give you a bath. Also, no more lioness jokes – okay? I told your mom about them and she’s going to have a word with Scar about it. For now, if you stop saying them she won’t punish you, okay?”

            Simba let a small laugh escape him. “She can’t do anything. You’re my mom for the day.”

            “Oh, I know that. But if you want your dinner, you’re going to have to obey that new rule too.”

            “No more lioness jokes, got it,” replied Simba. Sarafina was slightly suspicious as to why he compromised so easily, but before she could think about it, another issue arose. From behind the island Simba was standing on, Sarafina could see two yellow eyes popping out from under the water.

            Sarafina felt her heart miss a beat. It was a crocodile. “Simba, get over here,” she whispered.

            “No,” Simba replied proudly. “And keep on asking, it’s not going to happen.”

            “Simba, get over here,” Sarafina repeated, in the same frightened tone. She didn’t want Simba to look behind him. She knew that would make him panic. Normally with Nala, if Sarafina spoke in this tone of voice, that was a sign for Nala that it was in her best judgment to obey her mother, and Nala would never have to know what the threat had been. However, for Simba it was slightly different.

            “Simba, get over here, now!” Sarafina shouted in a voice that sounded angry, although really she was only shouting like that for the cub’s own safety.

            Simba sighed and jumped back in the water as the crocodile begun walking over the island. It hadn’t snapped at him yet. Simba paddled his way over to Sarafina with the crocodile in pursuit of him. Simba was still unaware of its presence, something that didn’t bother Sarafina one bit, providing he paddled…

            “Faster!” shouted Sarafina.

            “Alright! I’m coming, I’m coming,” replied Simba, as he finally reached land once again and clambered out right next to Sarafina. Sarafina immediately shoved him out the way and got ready to strike the crocodile as he made his way onto land. Simba stood and shook the water out of his coat, and thus was unable to watch as Sarafina struck the crocodile under its head which flipped the creature onto its back, and then repeatedly slashed at its belly with her front paws, alternating between her left and right feet each time, until finally the crocodile was dead.

            Just as the action came to a halt, Simba turned back around and saw the dead creature lying on its back on the land.

            “Whoa!” Simba exclaimed happily. “Thanks Sarafina,” he said, as he walked up to the dead crocodile and began to eat it.

            Sarafina shook her head. “Wait…” she said to herself, “…you were just…and now you’re…and I said…and you’re…”

            “See, you got me lunch after all!” exclaimed Simba, while at the same time helping Sarafina understand her ‘mistake.’

            Sarafina rolled her eyes and then approached the cub from behind. Simba snarled as he felt something warm and rough once again run across his back.

            “I say this worked out quite well, Simba,” commented Sarafina, before sticking her tongue back out again and continuing with the cub’s bath. Simba rolled his eyes, and then continued to eat.

 

 

            “I mean, of course Simba would think that you’re stricter, Mom, because you have to punish him more because he gets into trouble more.”

            “Mm hmm,” was Sarabi’s reply, as she listened to Nala explaining her logical thinking for the fourth consecutive time.

            “I mean, by getting into trouble more, you have to punish Simba more, and he just doesn’t understand that he’s doing anything wrong, so he thinks the reason he’s being punished more is because you’re stricter.”

            That was the fifth consecutive.

            The two lionesses’ peaceful trek across the lands though was soon broken as Mufasa came running up to them, panting.

            “Nala, wait here,” Sarabi gave as an easy command. She then took a couple of paces forward and stood facing her mate. “What’s the trouble?” she asked.

            “Get yourself and Nala out of here, Sarabi. Zazu said he saw something here.”

            Sarabi checked over her shoulder to make sure that Nala wasn’t listening in. She wasn’t. Instead, she was now preoccupying herself with a butterfly.

            “What is it?” Sarabi asked quietly.

            “Hyena,” Mufasa replied in the same quiet tone, “Zazu said he saw one.”

            “Well Nala and I have been the only ones here…and…” but then Sarabi stopped. She realized what must have happened. She turned her face to the side. “Mufasa, dear. Could you please lick this soot off my face?”

            Mufasa was thoroughly confused as to why Sarabi’s tone had just changed, but perhaps if she wasn’t concerned any more, then maybe that would mean that there was really nothing at all to be worried about. “Why?” he asked.

            “Zazu thought I was the hyena.”

            “But you don’t look like a hyena,” although then Mufasa chuckled as he imagined if Sarabi’s prospect had been true.

            “I’m sure I do from hundreds of feet above. What with all these splotches on my coat and soot on my face.”

            Suddenly, Zazu came flying down from above and landed nervously next to Mufasa.

            “Eh…on second thought, your majesty, um…I’d say this hyena does look a lot like your wife.”

            Mufasa laughed and Sarabi shook her head. Zazu gave a nervous chuckle and stood a step back from the couple.

            “What’s going on?” Nala asked. It would have been hard not to have heard Mufasa’s bellowing laugh, and she didn’t want to miss out on a joke. However, before anyone could answer her, Zazu let out a shriek and hit behind Mufasa’s legs.

            “You must have scared Zazu when you pounced on him yesterday, Nala,” Sarabi commented.

            “I think I should leave,” said Mufasa.

            “Why?” asked Sarabi.

            “Well, seemingly Nala has this ability to turn you into a hyena and Zazu into a scaredy cat. I, myself, like being a healthy, male, king lion.”

            “Which reminds me,” said Sarabi, “apparently your brother is teaching our son lioness jokes.”

            Mufasa frowned. “What do you mean?”

            “Lioness jokes. You know…like…one day on a hunt, a lioness injures a baby antelope. It begins wailing and crying, and from a far off distance a lion hears it. He sees that the lioness is about to kill it. The antelope’s wailing penetrates his ears and he feels bad that its final seconds are about to be spent in anguish. Why, however, should he let it be killed? And then the answer’s because the antelope’s wailing is better to listen to than a lioness moan and groan that she missed out on her meal.”

            “That is true,” replied Mufasa.

            “Yes, but Scar still shouldn’t be teaching our son those jokes.”

            “Excuse me,” suddenly came a voice from below. The king and queen looked down to see Nala. “I thought I was your child, today. Not Simba.”

            Sarabi smiled. “You’re right, Nala.” She looked back up at her mate. “Something to mention to Scar tomorrow then. For now, do you think you have time for a quick game?”

            Nala gasped and she looked up at Mufasa with pleading eyes.

            Mufasa smiled as he looked down at the cub. “Why not?” he replied.

            “Yay!” Nala exclaimed, before she began prancing around in excitement.

            “Won’t be long, will you sir?” asked Zazu.

            “Not at all, Zazu,” replied Mufasa. “We’re just going to play a quick game of darts.”

            “Darts. Oh, okay then, very good,” replied Zazu, as he got ready to fly off. He stuck his extremely pointy beak forwards into the air, ready for takeoff…and then realized the obvious. He covered his beak with his wings. “DARTS!!! Oh no, sir…you can’t be serious…”

 

 

            Sarafina was concerned. Once she and Simba had finished their meal, Simba had asked for a short nap under a tree in the shade. Sarafina had agreed…and was the first one under the tree. A time to rest, some relief from the sun, a clean and well-fed cub, and also some time to pull some thorns out from her coat; it had all seemed too good to be true…and it was. Simba had been groaning loudly ever since they had settled down, and he didn’t look that well. The simple explanation for that was that he wasn’t that well. But every time that Sarafina had asked, Simba had either ignored her or blown it off as being nothing more than a mere headache. However, now Sarafina could start to see his face turning green.

            Sarafina got up. “Come on, Simba. We need to go to your mother. You’re not well.”

            Now as sick as ever, Simba was willing to comply. He got back up onto his feet and slowly began to linger across the lands as Sarafina tried to walk at a brisk pace in front of him. She checked over her shoulder and saw how slow Simba was moving. She sighed, and then took a long walk back over to the cub.

            “Tell me if this feels worse,” she said, before picking Simba up by the scruff of the neck.

            She picked him up too quickly though, and something turned in Simba’s stomach. Sarafina wasn’t able to pull her front legs back in time, and now she had some green stuff over them to go along with the spikes.

            Simba finally picked his head back up and took several deep breaths of air before replying: “Actually, I feel a bit better now.”

            Sarafina rolled her eyes, but then continued on her trek towards Sarabi.

 

 

            Mufasa and Sarabi’s jaws dropped as for the fourth consecutive time, Nala threw Zazu right into the center of the bull’s-eye that was marked out on a tree.

            “I swear, sire,” began Zazu, as he pushed back on the tree letting his beak emerge back into the open air, “I am keeping my wings tucked right in. I can only assume that Nala is just exceptionally good at this game of torture.”

            “What’s the score now?” asked Sarabi.

            “Nala 200, Mufasa 150, Sarabi 24,” replied Rafiki from beside Sarabi.

            “Is everyone here to witness my humiliation?” asked Zazu, having only just realized that Rafiki was watching them play too.

            “I was just thinking the same thing,” said Sarabi, reflecting on the scores.

            Mufasa picked up Zazu by his neck and carried him back behind the line that they had drew in the dirt so that the players would know where to stand.

            “Stay still, Zazu,” commanded Mufasa, as he set himself up for his next throw. He closed one of his eyes so that he could get a better vision, and then he aimed, and then he fired. Zazu tucked his wings in and closed his eyes, tilting his head up however so that his beak would go straight into the tree.

            Mufasa’s shot was good. Zazu’s beak penetrated itself into the hole that had already been formed in the bull’s-eye mark from Nala’s previous four shots, but now the hole was dug so deep that a crack finally made its way all the way through the tree, and it fell over.

            The tree slammed down onto the ground, and then Nala looked up at Mufasa, grinning.

            “So I guess if we can’t play anymore, that means I won?”

            “Nope,” replied Mufasa, “scores are wiped. Slate is clean. No winner.”

            Sarabi laughed. “I think he means ‘yes,’ Nala.”

            “Yay!” Nala exclaimed.

            “What are you cheering about?” asked a familiar voice from behind the cub.

            Nala turned around. “Mom? Why are you back here?”

            Everyone else was thinking the same thing, and so Sarafina dropped Simba down in front of Sarabi.

            “He’s unwell,” Sarafina explained. She needn’t have bothered though. The young cub’s face was rather green and once he was down on the floor, he couldn’t help but lying down and groaning with his paws pressed down on his head.

            “Did you give him crocodile?” Sarabi asked.

            “You never told me not to,” replied Sarafina, trying to prevent the blame from being placed on her.

            Sarabi shook her head and put an arm around her son. “Simba, you know you’re not supposed to eat crocodile.”

            “Yeah…but I hadn’t eaten it in so long, I forgot why I couldn’t…” came Simba’s reply.

            Sarabi chuckled. “You’ll be okay.”

            “Mom, how come we haven’t eaten yet?” Nala asked.

            “Please stop calling Sarabi ‘Mom’ when I’m around, Nala,” said Sarafina.

            “No, Sarafina, let her,” came Sarabi’s reply. “I am her mom for the day. One day. Twelve hours of sunlight! Is that really too long?”

            “But she’s my child. Just like Simba is yours. How would you have liked it if I hadn’t brought him to you, today? If I had just tried to make him better myself?”

            Sarabi smiled. “I never asked otherwise.” She began to walk off.

            “You can’t be serious?” asked Sarafina.

            “Simba’s not allowed to eat crocodiles or snakes. They make him sick. Water and worms make him better, and you’ve got Rafiki here to help you too. I’ve got your daughter to take care of,” replied Sarabi. “Come on Nala, let’s go get some lunch. Mufasa, enjoy your patrol!”

            “Will do,” replied Mufasa, also leaving the scene.

            Zazu also took off into the air, quite happily, seeing as he didn’t have to play darts anymore.

            Only Sarafina, Simba, and Rafiki were now left by the fallen tree.

            “I can’t believe she’d just…” began Sarafina, but then she stopped before she said anything that could upset Simba.

            “Play darts without me?” added Simba.

            Sarafina looked down at him. “Darts?”

            “Yeah. We throw Zazu into the tree.”

            “Really? Wow, you cubs come up with the wackiest games.”

            “You must have been a cub once.”

            “That is true, but we just played ‘tag’ and ‘bulldog’ and games like that. How are you feeling now?”

            “I just want some water,” came Simba’s reply.

            Suddenly a wave of transparent liquid came and rained over Simba’s body.

            “I meant in my mouth,” added Simba angrily.

            Rafiki cackled. “Well you should have specified,” he replied, holding a coconut shell that seconds ago had been filled to the rim with water. He picked another, filled, one up, and held it next to the cub’s mouth.

            “There you go, Simba,” said Sarafina, “the monkey’s—”

            “Mandrill! Not monkey.”

            “Sorry…the mandrill’s got some water out for you.”

            Simba opened his eyes a bit and saw the cup in front of his nose. He began lapping up the water, and it wasn’t too long before it was all gone. He finished it and burped.

            “Excuse you,” said a rather disgusted Sarafina.

            “Man, this monkey’s got something for everything, hasn’t he?” asked Simba, with his eyes now open enough to see Rafiki, of whom he recognized from a couple of previous occasions in his life when he had been unwell.

            “I guess he has,” came Sarafina’s reply. Just as she said that, a fly began buzzing around her head. The lioness, who had for years had to put up with these insects, instinctively took a bite at it, in an attempt to kill it.

            Sarafina’s motion caught Rafiki’s attention, and from the grass he pulled out a stick that he had with a thick piece of flat bark from a tree on the end of it.

            “Would you be in need of a flyswatter, Madam?” asked the mandrill.

            “Please,” came Sarafina’s reply, as she prepared to take another bite at the creature.

            Before she could though, Rafiki swung his arm forward and killed the insect as it got crushed between the bark and Sarafina’s cheek. As an unintended result of course, Sarafina’s cheek now turned slightly red from the impact.

            “Thanks Rafiki,” said Sarafina, with a small hint of sarcasm.

            “You’re welcome, Sarafina,” replied Rafiki, before cackling and grabbing hold of his stick with the gourds on it in his unused hand. Then, he swung around and headed off into the distance.

            Simba looked up at Sarafina and chuckled.

            “What?” Sarafina asked.

            Simba ran his eyes down from Sarafina’s red cheek to her thorn-tangled coat to her paws which were now covered with green and white stuff from when he had been unwell. He then retracted his glance and stared off into the distance. “Never mind,” he said.

            Sarafina just frowned, but decided to ignore the issue.

 

 

            It had just gone noon in the Pridelands, and as a result the shadows from the trees and the other objects that stood within the savannah plains began to grow. The availability of shade was not at all taken for granted by the lions. Sarabi and Nala were proof of that. Once Sarabi had caught the thirsty impala, both she and Nala had agreed that in the shade, under the tree, was the best place to eat it, and so that’s where Sarabi had dragged it.

            Sarabi gave her mandatory roar, just so that Mufasa knew. Nala wasn’t bothered by Sarabi’s call at all, since it was something her mom did too. Nala took a small bite out of the carcass and lifted her head back up as she chewed, to help it go down her throat when she was ready. As she looked up, she noticed that Sarabi wasn’t looking as happy as she usually was. When they both made eye contact however, Sarabi forced a smile.

            “Mom, are you okay?” asked Nala.

            “Of course I am, Nala,” came Sarabi’s reply, but Nala still wasn’t convinced. “What do you want to do next?” asked Sarabi before Nala could question any further.

            “Hmm…” came Nala’s reply, as she tried to think of something fun to do.

            “What do you usually do this time of day?” asked Sarabi, trying to help Nala decide.

            “Well it’s kinda hot in the middle of the day, so Aunt Sarafina usually likes to sleep in the shade, and then that means I have to play with Simba.”

            “It is hot,” Sarabi admitted, but then she caught sight of the waterhole. “Are you a good swimmer?” she asked.

            “Mom doesn’t let me swim,” replied Nala solemnly.

            “Why not?”

            “She says she doesn’t like it, and that I probably wouldn’t either. She also says that even if I would like it, I can’t go in the water on my own, and she just refuses to go in so I have to stay out.”

            Sarabi smiled. “I know what we’re doing next, then.”

 

 

            “Simba, I can understand how drinking water and having a second lunch may help your health. I can even understand that maybe walking isn’t a great idea, and that’s why I agreed to carry you on my back. However, is this giant leaf thing really necessary?” asked a rather irritated Sarafina, as her arms were now beginning to tire out from waving the giant leaf next to Simba, something Simba had earlier justified by saying that he needed to cool off to get better.

            “Lionesses don’t ask questions, Aunt Sarafina, they just carry out demands.”

            Sarafina threw the leaf down on the ground. “That’s it! No dinner for you.”

            “Puh! I don’t need dinner. I just had seconds for lunch.”

            “Mm hmm. Try telling me that just before nightfall.”

            “I will.” Just then, Simba jumped up from the spot where he had been lying in and began to walk away.

            “Where are we going now?” asked Sarafina, beginning to follow him.

            “I want to see Uncle Scar.”

            Sarafina ran her way around the cub and stood in front of him, blocking his path. “Oh no you’re not, mister.”

            “Why not? My punishment for telling that lioness joke was no dinner. Big whoop. You can’t just throw another punishment at me for nothing though.”

            “For nothing! Oh, I have reasons for punishing you Simba. You’ve disobeyed me, disrespected me, and put me through more pain than I have ever experienced, and I was really trying to be nice to you, Simba. I fed you, I took you to your mom when you were ill, I even cooled you off with a giant leaf! And this is how you repay me?”

            “Yup!” replied Simba, smugly. Sarafina was at a loss for words. She hadn’t expected him to have reacted like that. She had expected him to cringe, apologize, or at least feel sorry for her. “And what have you learnt today?” asked Simba.

            “Excuse me?” replied Sarafina, rather offended that Simba seemed to be taking a role of someone superior to her.

            “I misbehaved and you didn’t punish me, and now look where you’ve ended up. Don’t you see, Sarafina? We were right!”

            “It’s not about that anymore, Simba!”

            “It’s what it’s always been about.”

            “No it’s not! You need to learn some respect! And you know what, thanks for making me realize my mistake. Come on, let’s go back to Pride Rock.”

            Simba frowned. “Why?”

            “Because you’re grounded!”

 

 

            “So…Mom…what exactly are we doing?” asked Nala as she and Sarabi began another lap walking through the shallow water around the perimeter of the waterhole.

            “You’re getting used to what the water feels like, Nala. How it pushes you back when you try to move. How the ground reshapes itself when you step on it.”

            “I think I’m already used to it,” replied Nala.

            “Really? You want to go into the deeper water, then?”

            Nala stopped walking and looked at the center of the waterhole. Sarabi did too. “Do you think I’m ready?” asked Nala.

            “Actually, Nala. You were already ready. By your age it’s just basic instinct. I could throw you right in the middle of the waterhole if I wanted to, and you’d know what to do.”

            “Then why didn’t you do that?”

            “Because it would scare you. You want to go into the deeper water?”

            “If you think I can,” replied Nala, beginning to walk inwards. “What do I do?”

            “You swim by kicking your paws and legs. Just start slowly at first. I’m right behind you. I’ll catch you if you begin to sink.”

            Nala stopped walking. “Sink?” she asked, slightly afraid.

            “Don’t worry, Nala. If you sink it’s only because you won’t be kicking hard enough. I’d rather start you off too slow than too fast though. Now go on, just control how hard you kick, and don’t worry about timing. That’s what your instinct is for.”

            Nala hesitantly began walking again, and then with every step she got slightly more nervous and walked slightly ever slower as the water made it up to her neck.

            “Today would be nice,” Sarabi said. She really hadn’t wanted to say that, but once a fallen leaf raced on by them both through the stagnant current, she couldn’t have helped herself.

            “I’m afraid,” replied Nala.

            “Trust me, Nala, there’s nothing to be afraid of. If something goes wrong, which it shouldn’t, I’m here to help you.”

            “Okay…” replied Nala. She put another paw forward and was surprised to find that the ground seemed to fall away quite steeply here. Her foot finally touched the dirt, but it slipped and she fell forward. As a reaction, she remembered Sarabi’s words and kicked both of her back legs.

            “That’s right, do that again,” encouraged Sarabi from behind her.

            Nala heard her, and began to kick all four of her paws. She was doing it faster than what Sarabi would have liked though, but Nala wasn’t concerned about that. She just wanted to stay afloat. She didn’t really like this ‘swimming’ thing, and she was beginning to panic because she still hadn’t fully recovered from the slip. She wanted to shout back at Sarabi to make it stop, but she was using all the energy that she could right now on attempting to keep herself afloat. Fortunately for her, Sarabi read her mind and reached out and pulled her back to the shallow water, pulling her close to her chest so that Nala could worry about spitting out any water that she accidentally swallowed without having to hold her ground.

            Nala took a deep breath and then looked up at Sarabi. “I didn’t like that,” she said.

            “It’s only because you slipped,” replied Sarabi in a friendly tone.

            “Yeah, well, I didn’t like slipping.”

            Sarabi chuckled and set the cub back down in the shallow water. “You got a mouthful of water, didn’t you?”

            “I was trying to call you for help,” replied Nala.

            “Okay. Say Nala, doesn’t this water help you cool down?”

            “It sure does. My head’s still hot though.”

            “Well there are two solutions for that. One, I could throw some water over you, or two…” but then Sarabi was suddenly cut off, as a wave of water crashed into the side of her face.

            Nala giggled.

            Sarabi smiled back. “Very funny. Or two…” but then she was cut off again, as Nala threw another wave of water at her. “Nala, I don’t need help getting this soot off my face,” said Sarabi.

            Nala giggled again. “Sorry Mom.”

            “Or two, I could teach you how to go underwater.”

            “Well that’s easy,” replied Nala, and to confirm it she moved her head downwards and placed it underwater.

            Sarabi rolled her eyes, but before her pupils could get through a full cycle, Nala had came back up, and was spitting out water and trying to rub her nose and eyes.

            “I think you might need some h…” but Sarabi was cut off again as Nala finally opened her eyes. An ugly dark weed had floated on top of Nala’s arm while she’d been underwater, and now it had just appeared in her vision right next to her eyes as she’d been rubbing them with her arm. Not knowing what the weed was, Nala screamed and took a jump back…into the deep part of the waterhole.

            “Oh no.” Sarabi ran across the shallow end and pulled Nala out from the depths. The cub clung onto the side of her with her claws erect, and then began to slide down Sarabi’s body. Sarabi winced in pain. She grabbed a hold of Nala again. “Nala…please…no claws.”

            Thankfully for Sarabi, Nala heard her, and she retracted her claws, allowing Sarabi to place the cub back down in the shallow end.

            “What was that thing?” asked Nala, still startled by what had just occurred.

            Sarabi couldn’t answer her though. She was in too much pain. The water had loosened up the fluids from the gourds that had fell on her earlier, and now thanks to Nala’s claws, the fluids were beginning to seep into her skin and cause unpleasant reactions.

            “Mom?” asked Nala, as she watched the queen make her way back out onto dry land. “Mom, are you okay?” asked Nala, a little worried now.

            Sarabi didn’t answer. She couldn’t. She got out onto the land and collapsed on the floor.

            “Mom, did I scratch you?” asked Nala, following her out.

            Sarabi rolled onto the side where Nala had got her, and began rubbing her body hard against the ground, just in case that would help. “Nala…” Sarabi began, “…I’m okay…but…oh Gods, this hurts!”

            “Mom, are you sure you’re okay?” asked Nala, beginning to get a little teary now.

            “Yes…Nala…I’ll be fine…” replied Sarabi. She stopped squirming and she took a deep breath. “I hope…” but then a jolt of pain came through and she took another deep breath, “I hope it should just go away soon.”

            “Can I help you?” asked Nala, her voice rising higher with each question.

            “Don’t go running off…” but then she was interrupted again with another jolt of pain and another deep breath, “…don’t go running off anywhere, but if you can see anyone…call them over, please.” Another jolt passed through and Sarabi took another deep breath.

            Nala couldn’t stand seeing her like this anymore. “Mom…I know where Rafiki lives…I’ll go and find him…”

            “No, Nala, don’…” another deep breath, “…t…too late…she’s gone.”

 

 

            Sarafina carried a bored Simba by the nape of his neck. Simba had seen all this before: what Pride Rock and the Pridelands looked like from three feet off the ground as he was carried up the steps and into the main den. Sarafina placed him down on the floor.

            “Now, you’re going to stay in here until your real mom gets home, alright?”

            “Whatever,” replied Simba, as he lied down and tried to take a nap. He looked over his shoulder as Sarafina walked out. “Hey, where are you going?” he asked curiously.

            “I’m not grounded. I’m just going to go and sun myself out here. And if you come out, I’ll see you.”

            “Have fun,” replied Simba, as he lied his head back down again, alone in the cave. “Would it help if I said I was sorry?” he asked.

            Sarafina stopped in her tracks and turned around. “It depends,” she replied. She sat down. “What are you sorry for?”

            “Telling those lioness jokes.”

            “And…?”

            “Being rude to you.”

            “And…?”

            “Eh…I don’t know. Making you wave that giant leaf?”

            “Hmm…”

            Simba forced a pleading smile. Sarafina was seriously considering giving him one more chance.

            “You’re back early, aren’t you?” came a voice from outside.

            Sarafina turned around.

            “Hi Uncle Scar!” called Simba.

            “I thought you’d still be out, playing.”

            “He’s grounded,” explained Sarafina.

            “Ah…what for?”

            “Some minor stuff, really. I’m wondering whether to let him back out.”

            “That’s interesting…” commented Scar. He walked into Pride Rock and up to Simba. “See, rumor has it, that young Simba here thinks that you’re not a strict mother, Sarafina.”

            “That’s correct,” replied Sarafina.

            Simba frowned. What was Scar getting at?

            “But if he’s grounded, doesn’t that mean that you are strict, after all? Wouldn’t you prefer if your real daughter won that bet, Sarafina?”

            “Uncle Scar! What are you doing?” asked Simba in a whisper. Sarafina heard him.

            “You have a point there,” agreed Sarafina. “If I keep Simba grounded, I can have time to wash, which would help me win my bet with Sarabi. But what’s in it for you, Scar?”

            Simba was thinking the same thing.

            “Oh, Sarafina. It sure does get lonely around here, sometimes. I’d like to have some company.”

            “Simba, you’re not grounded anymore,” replied Sarafina without thinking. She placed a paw over her mouth. She let it drop as she chuckled nervously. “I suppose that came out a bit too quickly, didn’t it?” she commented, as Scar glared at her. “I mean, eh…just kidding Simba, stay in there.” Too late though; the damage was done. Scar let out a ‘hmph’ and turned around, heading back to the back den in Pride Rock.

            “Way to go,” commented Simba sarcastically. “You hurt Uncle Scar’s feelings.”

            “How come you’re concerned about his feelings, but yet not about mine?” asked Sarafina seriously.

            “Sarafina,” suddenly came another voice from behind her. Sarafina recognized this one.

            “Oh, hi Mufasa,” she replied, turning around. “How long have you been here?”

            “Just got here,” replied Mufasa, which was obvious to Sarafina now, seeing as Mufasa didn’t seem upset or offended at how Sarafina had reacted to Scar’s proposal.

            “So…uh…taking a break, I see?” Sarafina asked.

            “The kingdom seems all in order,” replied Mufasa. “I do have some areas left to touch up on, though. Are you here with Simba?”

            “Yeah,” replied Sarafina, “I grounded him.” She lied her ears back, hoping that Mufasa didn’t find her actions out of line.

            “Really? Why?”

            “He was just being so rude. He been saying derogatory comments about lionesses all day, and he’s treating me like a tool!”

            “I’m assuming some exaggeration is being used here.”

            “Not as much as you’d expect, unfortunately.”

            “Let me have a word with him,” replied Mufasa. He walked on by Sarafina and into the cave.

            Sarafina sighed.

            Simba was being so rude…I had to ground him! But now look at me, wondering whether I’m the one in trouble and thinking I’m being selfish for just wanting to be cleaned and having nothing to do with this anymore. How can Sarabi make a game like this? She just blew Simba’s health off for no reason!

            Be quiet, Sarafina, you know she had a reason.

            Yeah, to keep me away from my daughter. And for what? This stupid game! It’s ridiculous! Has this whole world gone crazy?

            Just then Rafiki came running on by her cackling and carrying about four different tortoise shells which knocked into each other and spilt all their contents out as he ran on and continued to sing.

            “Yup,” replied Sarafina.

 

 

            “Dere, dat feel any better?” asked Rafiki, as he trickled another liquid down onto Sarabi’s side.

            “Much. Thank you, Rafiki,” replied Sarabi.

            “My pleasure,” replied the mandrill. Now with all his work done, he tied the empty tortoise and coconut shells that he carried back onto his stick, and then wandered off.

            Sarabi sighed. “Nala, I told you not to run off.”

            “I know,” replied the cub, “I thought you needed help though.”

            “Yes, I did. But if something had happened to you, there would’ve been no one around to have called help for you.”

            Nala looked down at the ground. She knew Sarabi was right. Of course she was. History had shown that Sarabi had this miraculous way of winning every argument they’d ever had.

            Sarabi looked over at Nala and saw her looking down at the ground. She smiled. Nala had learned her lesson.

            “You understand?” Sarabi asked.

            Nala nodded.

            “That’s good. Now let’s forget that happened. Thanks for getting Rafiki for me, Nala.”

            “You’re welcome, Mom.”

            Sarabi closed her eyes and Nala lifted her head back up. Now that they’d put that behind them, surely there was something else they could do? Nala looked around from the tree she had climbed earlier to the waterhole where she had swum to the shade where she and Sarabi had eaten. Nothing seemed to suit her fancy right now, but maybe Sarabi could think of something?

            “Mom, what can we do now?”

            “I need a break, Nala. Sorry. I need to let Rafiki’s medicine do its thing.”

            “So what can I do?”

            “I don’t know. You could chase a butterfly…climb a small tree…just don’t go too far, okay?”

            “None of that sounds fun anymore,” Nala moaned.

            Sarabi sighed. “I don’t know, then. You could stay here and chat if you wanted. I like having someone to talk to.”

            Nala frowned. “Mom…why are you not happy?” she asked.

            “I’m worn out. Sorry Nala. That swimming lesson took all my energy from me.”

            “No, I mean even before that. When we were eating you didn’t look happy. Why?”

            Sarabi smiled. “Don’t worry about that, Nala. It’s nothing important.”

            “I thought you wanted to talk, Mom.”

            “Well let’s talk about something else.”

            “I don’t want to. I want to know why you’re upset.”

            “Must you?”

            “Well, yeah. I could cheer you up if I knew why you weren’t happy.”

            “Alright,” replied Sarabi, “if you must.”

            Nala smiled; glad she was finally getting it her way. “So why?” she asked.

            “I miss Simba.”

            Nala blinked. “That’s it?”

            “I told you it was nothing.”

            “But that’s what’s making you upset?”

            “Yes, Nala. I do happen to love my own cub.”

            “So…would it cheer you up if we went and saw him?”

            “We’ve seen those two enough today, Nala. He’s sick, anyways. You wouldn’t be able to play with him.”

            “So why do you want to see him?”

            “Because he’s my son, Nala. And last time I saw him he was ill, and I don’t know if he’s going to get better soon or not.”

            “Then why didn’t you take care of him when he was ill, instead of leaving him to my mo…eh…I mean Aunt Sarafina?”

            Sarabi smiled. “See why I didn’t want to tell you why I was upset?”

            “No. Why?”

            Sarabi rolled her eyes. Of course Nala couldn’t. She was an innocent cub who didn’t care about pride, but rather, about doing the right thing. But yet it would take Sarabi down a peg or two if she was the one who ended up surrendering in her own game. If it turned out that she was the one who missed her cub the most, and not Sarafina. But then, Nala was right. What fun was this for anybody? Sarabi was miserable because she was injured and missed her cub, and soon Nala would be getting stroppy too. A cub her age needed someone to play with so that she could remain entertained, and right now she, Sarabi, was not the one up for the job. Sarabi wanted to see her son, and she herself needed a rest; while Nala, on the other hand, just needed someone to play with. Maybe it was best after all, if they just headed on, and tried to find Sarafina and Simba and called this game quits.

            “Alright Nala, you win,” said Sarabi. Slowly, she got up.

            “Where are we going?” asked Nala.

            “I’m returning you to your mother.”

            “Already? Really?” asked Nala excitedly. She got up onto all fours too.

            “Yup,” replied Sarabi.

            “Why?” asked Nala.

            Sarabi grinned. “Because you’re spotlessly clean,” she replied, “which means I win my bet with Sarafina.”

 

 

            A wounded Sarabi led the way for herself and Nala up the steps of Pride Rock. When they got to the top, Sarafina was already there to greet them.

            “Hi mom,” said Nala, walking up to Sarafina and nuzzling her leg. “Sarabi called the game off…because she’s injured.”

            Nala looked over at Sarabi and smiled. Sarabi smiled back and winked.

            “Where’s my son?” Sarabi asked her friend.

            “Inside,” replied Sarafina, “I grounded him.”

            Sarabi laughed. “Call him out,” she said.

            “Simba, you can come out now!”

            The sorry cub and his father heard Sarafina’s call, and both slowly made their ways outside.

            Sarabi’s eyes widened. “My son is still clean,” she said surprised.

            “Yup!” replied Sarafina happily. She looked down at her daughter. “And all because I grounded him. You were right after all, Nala. I am a strict lioness. You just never get punished because you’re a well-behaved cub. Simba, on the other hand…”

            “Sarafina,” addressed Sarabi suddenly, interrupting the other lioness, “I’m going to have to stop you there, before you teach your daughter that warthogs have wings. It’s all lies. I am strict. Perhaps too strict, as Simba might say. I thought I was enjoying my time with Nala today, but look at me – I’m a state! I’m in a lot of pain, and truthfully I think Nala is none less mischievous than my son.”

            “Am I going to have to be the one to put an end to all this?” Mufasa asked. No reply came, as now all the other four lions could hear an edge of seriousness in Mufasa’s voice, and they decided it was best not to argue. “Look at the mess all of you keep getting yourselves into, it’s time someone put an end to this once and for all. I personally believe that everyone here is partially right. Simba is slightly, at the least, more trouble than what Nala’s worth, but yet that makes Sarabi a stricter mother – because she has to be strict in order to keep Simba in order. It doesn’t mean Sarabi’s stricter as a lioness in general. If Simba was Sarafina’s cub and Nala was Sarabi’s, Sarafina would have to play the role of the stricter mother.”

            “That’s what I said,” sung Nala to Simba.

            “Partially,” responded Simba, using the word his father had just used, “but my mom is stricter.”

            “As a result of…” Nala began to argue back, but then she was cut off by Mufasa.

            “Nala, Simba,” the king addressed, “you’re both right. You both knew what the score was. You both knew how to handle having your aunts as your mothers for the day. You are both clean. You’re both winners.”

            “No, there’s got to be a loser,” replied Simba.

            “Agreed,” confirmed Nala. “There always is.”

            Mufasa smiled. “Oh, there is.”

            “Who?” asked the two cubs in unison.

            “These two of course,” replied Mufasa, signaling towards Sarabi and Sarafina. “Look at them. Sarabi’s got that soot on her face, some splotches and cuts on her side. Sarafina’s got those thorns in her coat, bruise on her cheek, and some green stuff on her feet. They’re both incapable, seemingly, of handling cubs that aren’t their own.”

            “And what would make them incapable?” asked Scar as he walked into Pride Rock and joined in the conversation.

            “No!” shouted Sarafina, jumping in. “That’s it Scar, I’ve had it with these lioness jokes.”

            “How did you know the answer?”

            “You know, I even think you’re the one to blame here. The reason I grounded Simba was because of his attitude and behavior, and you’re the one encouraging it.” Sarafina was visibly shaking. She was nervous; she had never stood up to Scar, or really anyone, like this before, but she believed and meant every word of what she said.

            “You’re probably right,” replied Scar, rather proudly.

            “You can’t stop me from meeting Uncle Scar though,” interjected Simba, before this conversation ran any further.

            “No, but…”

            “…it would be nice if we could,” ended Sarabi, but only loud enough so that Sarafina could hear. The two lionesses tried to hide their grins from Simba’s sight.

            “So if I was to not see Scar for a long time, and then my attitude got better but my mom still grounded me, then you’d finally accept that my mom is just unfairly stricter?” Simba asked hypothetically.

            Sarabi and Sarafina smiled: “That sounds good to me,” they replied. Both, at the time, believed they would never really find out the true answer…

 

 

            Sarabi heaved a sigh. “These were such nice lands,” she commented, as she walked with her son, Nala, and Sarafina through the ruins of the Pridelands at night.

            “Well, we got some decent rain the other night,” commented Nala, “hopefully, if we’re careful, maybe the next time it rains we can begin to get some vegetation back.”

            Simba groaned.

            “What?” asked Nala.

            Simba shook his head. “I should have never…”

            “…ran away, okay, we get it Simba. Stop beating yourself up over it, please,” pleaded Nala.

            “You were only a cub,” added Sarabi. “You had a great life…until…you know…” she continued hesitantly, not really wanting to remember much about that fateful day where her mate had been killed, “…you never would have known how to cope in…such a situation.”

            Simba chuckled. “Great life. I never would have believed that at the time. Not with how many times you grounded me.”

            Sarabi smirked. “How many times did I ground you?” she asked.

            “I grounded him once!” added Sarafina proudly.

            “That is true,” replied Sarabi.

            Simba smiled. “I remember that.”

            Nala frowned. “Wait…when?”

            “When Sarabi and I swapped you two around as our cubs for the day.”

            “I can’t rec—oh!” Nala laughed. “Yes, I remember that, now. Sarabi tried to teach me to swim that day.”

            “And I made those lioness jokes,” recalled Simba.

            “Yes you did,” said Sarafina, remembering. “Those were funny.”

            Simba became confused. “I…I thought you hated them.”

            “Oh, I hated you saying them,” explained Sarafina, “but only cos you were a cub, and I didn’t want you to begin believing them. If an adult had told them to me I would’ve been fine.”

            “What was the verdict that day?” asked Sarabi.

            “Pardon?”

            “You and Nala, you had a bet,” Sarabi explained, “Nala thought you were grounded more because you misbehaved more, you thought you were grounded more because of me.”

            Simba smiled. “I guess we were both right.”

            “No, wait a minute, Simba,” interjected Sarafina. “I think I remember it slightly more clearly than that. I think Simba said that if he had a few years away from Scar, then if you, Sarabi, didn’t ground him, then he would accept that it was just a behavioral problem he had as a cub.”

            Simba turned back around to face his mother. “Would you ground me now?” he asked Sarabi.

            Sarabi beamed and shook her head. “Never,” she replied, before reaching out one of her paws behind Simba’s neck, and pulling him close to her chest in a tight embrace. “You’ve grown up so much,” Sarabi continued quietly, “we’re all very proud of you.”

            Sarafina and Nala were the spectators, a couple of feet away from them. Sarafina pulled her arm out.

            “No thank you,” said Nala, taking a step away from her mother before she could crush her to her chest, too.

            Both the lionesses smiled, and then tried to divert their attentions to something, anything, else.

            Sarafina’s jaw dropped as she suddenly caught sight of something. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. Sarabi stopped hugging Simba, and then they both looked over to see what Sarafina had found.

            “What have you found, Mom?” asked Nala.

            “That’s the old waterhole,” commented Sarabi as she, Nala, and Simba watched as Sarafina walked into a dip, “it’s dried up now.”

            In the middle of the old waterhole, however, the dip began to turn back upwards, and there was a small hill right in the middle.

            “Do you need arrows to find me here, Simba?” asked Sarafina, walking up on top of the small hill.

            Simba smiled. He remembered also now: this was the small hill in the middle of the waterhole that he had stood on as a cub, teasing Sarafina to face her greatest fear in order to retrieve him for his bath.

            “Look at me!” Sarafina began to shout from the hill, “I’m Simba! Future King of the Pridelands! I may cause more mischief than my friend, but I deny it! And why? Because she is a lioness – incapable of everything!”

            Simba shook his head. “I wasn’t that bad,” he mumbled.

            “She’s pretty darn close,” commented Sarabi, trying really hard not to crack up into a fit of laughter.

            “What’s the matter Simba?” asked Sarafina from across the dip. “Embarrassed by yourself of the past?”

            Simba began to walk away. “Karma,” he said.

            “Yes, it is karma, isn’t it? You made my day miserable back then, and now I get to embarrass you as my payback.”

            “No, karma on you. It will happen…with you mocking me and all.”

            “No it won’t!” cooed Sarafina, as Simba led the others ever farther away into the distance. “Trust me Simba – I had the ultimate parenting test. Just two days after grounding my own daughter with Zazu, I managed to ground you, and I prevailed!”

            A rumble of thunder occurred making Sarafina’s scene ever more dramatic, but the rest weren’t there to watch as they continued to walk away. It began to rain.

            “What’s up with her?” asked Simba.

            Nala shrugged. “I guess you really were a pain in the butt that day. Just let her enjoy herself.”

            “Oh, what’s the matter Simba, why are you walking away?” asked Sarafina.

            “Karma!” shouted Simba back over his shoulder.

            “Pfbt! Yeah right, ‘karma.’ How do you suppose that will happen?”

            Simba had a reply prepared for that. “The rain. You’re standing in the middle of an old waterhole, Sarafina. Goodnight!”

            Sarafina frowned. “Old…waterhole…why…?” but then, looking down, she realized what Simba had meant. While she had been trying to put on a show, the rain that had began not too long ago was already beginning to form a giant puddle around her. Sarafina suddenly realized what could happen if she didn’t move fast…but the puddle was already too deep for her comfort. The waterhole was refilling. She watched the water level as it began to make its way her toes…but then it stopped.

            Sarafina looked up to see the clouds parting. Whatever weather system that was had now gone, and now it was dry again. However, that weather system had also taken any heat left in the atmosphere with it, and now it was getting really cold. Sarafina shivered. She looked back over at the horizon. The other three were gone, and all around her small hill was ice cold water.

            “Karma indeed,” she admitted. Off in the distance, a wild dog howled. Sarafina gulped, but managed to force a faint smile. “You know, maybe I wasn’t up for this parenting test, after all,” she said to herself, “but at least Nala won.”