The hyenas were tumbling around in the grass, practicing wrestling and hunting attacks with each other. Shenzi and Banzai watched the group. Banzai spoke.
"I donít get it, Shenzi. I mean, why are we helping LIONS again? You know what I think about them!" Shenzi only smiled.
"Banzai, you dork, havenít you figured it out yet?" Banzaiís scratching signified that he didnít. "Listen, who is our biggest competition for food around here?" Banzai knew that one.
"Right, genius," Shenzi said condescendingly, "now, who are the biggest prides around here?" Banzai thought for a while before speaking
"Uhhh. Simbaís pride and Schalaís gals?" Shenzi smiled.
"Correctamundo. So, if the lions are beatiní the liviní daylights outta one another, whoís free to do as we please?" Banzai thought for a while before Shenzi became impatient. Shenzi smacked Banzai on the head. "Stupid, thatíd be us!" Banzaiís eyes widened in realization.
"Oh yeah!" Banzai laughed quietly. "Thatís genius Shenzi! Howíd you come up with that?" Shenzi only smiled.
"A little bird told me." Shenzi looked over in one of the trees and saw a small hornbill nodding in agreement.
"So, now youíre the king. Is it what youíd expected it to be?" Simba sighed.
"Not really. I had expected to just start bossing creatures around and acting ..you know ..regal." Nala smiled and spoke softy.
"You were pretty regal last night." Simbaís eyes opened in surprise.
"Shhh! You wanna tell the whole world?" Nala laughed.
"I love you so much. Iíd tell every creature I could find." Simba only nuzzled Nalaís neck.
"Rafiki and Zazu should be here soon. I wonder what Rafiki knows?" Simba asked.
"I donít know. But wasnít it weird when that cobra just....turned to smoke when it died?"
Simba shrugged. "I wouldnít know. I havenít seen a lot of things die, and Nala....Iíve never actually killed anything! Can you believe it?"
"But what about all those bugs you ate?" Nala asked.
"Well...thatís different. They just crawl around and wait to be eaten, not like wildebeest or impala." Nala nodded.
"I see, and that makes you nervous?"
"Yeah, I feel so dumb. I never learned how to do a lot of the stuff you know how to do, and now itís too late," Simba moaned. From behind the pair of lions, Simba heard Rafiki approach.
"It is never too late to seek knowledge. Iím liviní proof, huh?" Rafiki laughed and hugged Simba and Nala. "It is good to see you again, but I fear we have unpleasant business to discuss." Zazu nodded.
"Yes, sire. It would seem that Rafiki has discovered who sent the ..um ..serpent."
Rafiki grasped Simba. "Sit down while I tell you a story." Simba and Nala sat down while Zazu perched on a rock. Rafiki sat in a lotus position.
"Years ago there was this little female baboon. She was ambitious and craved to do everything that the males did, despite the fact that her mother would constantly reprimand her for her un lady-like behavior. When the coming of age came, she had decided that it was her destiny to become a shaman. You could tell by the fire in her eyes that she possessed powerful ambition. Unfortunately, when she announced her plans to the clan, they laughed at her. The shaman of the clan refused to bless her, and she left the clan to wander the outer territories."
"Thatís terrible," Nala said. Rafiki nodded in agreement.
"Yes, Nala, truly tragic, but no so terrible as what was to come," Rafiki continued. "While alone in her exile, the female had not given up the hope of becoming a shaman. She would mimic the actions of the clerics she had shadowed all her youth, but to no avail. She was still powerless. But, one day, everything changed for her."
"She was exploring a cave for food when she heard a mournful noise. It had sounded like millions of voices crying out in torment. Following the sound, she soon discovered the source. An oracle of the underworld."
"The oracle was a black ball with green flames flowing from it. The oracle asked the baboon what was her inner crisis, for the orb could sense depression and despair. The baboon told her story to the oracle, an the oracle cut a deal with the baboon. The deal was that the oracle would grant her the mystic abilities she desired if she promised to serve chaos and darkness for the rest of her days." Rafiki sighed. "Unfortunately, she accepted the offer." Nala, who was listening intently, socked her head to the right.
"So youíre saying that this baboon sent that snake? But why?" Nala asked.
Rafiki stroked the fur on his chin. "I think I know why. Like myself, shamans feel most validated in their work if they serve under kings and queens. Perhaps this female baboon feels the same?" Rafiki queried.
Simba nodded, "So, this shaman could be working for an usurper of sorts." Rafiki pointed and smiled.
"Exactly, my boy! You see! Knowledge is not as far from you as you think!" Rafiki stood up, "Now, I must go. I know where I can find this shaman."
Simba stood up, "Iíll follow you! She and I have a score to settle!"
"No!" Rafiki shouted, "This is not business for lions! Only I can settle this!" Simba grew angry.
"The minute she sent that snake to kill my mother it became my business!" Rafiki still shook his head.
"My apologies, sire, but you must remain here and search out this potential usurper. It is your kingdom now, and you must defend it." That said, Rafiki left.
"Sarafina, flank the herd as I approach. Inform Zira that she should follow up from behind as backup." Zira heard Morakaís comment and retaliated in a loud stage whisper.
"What! Backup! I havenít served as backup since I was an adolescent! This is such an outrage, Moraka. I will not stand for it!" Sarafina whispered harshly at Zira.
"Zira, be silent! We all have a job to do here. Large or small, we must do our best to preserve the pride."
Zira mumbled something under her breath and quieted. The three lionesses each eyed up their prize. An aging Zebra barely keeping pace with the rest of the herd. With Morakaís signal, the trio were off in a flash.
Moraka bore down upon the Zebra and landed her paws in a crushing blow to the Zebraís side. The rest of the herd, alerted to the lionesses prescience, stampeded away in a flash of black and white. Unfortunately for the old Zebra, he was long dead when Zira and Sarafina arrived. Sarafina was delighted.
"Oh, Moraka, what a wonderful kill it was! Why you were truly magnificent." Zira looked at Moraka with a small amount of contempt.
"Oh, yes, Moraka. Truly splendid. Iím surprised you needed our help at all." Moraka was about to chide Zira for her rudeness when she heard a faint cry in the distance.
The cry was that of a lioness in pain. Moraka hushed the other two and went over to investigate. The cries emanated from behind a small tree. Upon closer inspection, Moraka saw that the lioness wasnít alone. Zira and Sarafina gasped at the sight. For sitting up against the lioness was a small cub. Moraka stepped closer to investigate the mother.
She was a pale yellow color. Her fur was matted with dirt and her cub looked pathetic and starved. Upon the lionessesí arrival the mother spoke, "Please...help me and my baby...." Her eyes fluttered and shut again. Moraka stepped back and whispered to the other two.
"My friends," Moraka asked, "what do we do?" Zira harumphed.
"The only thing we can do. She is an outsider and her son is a male. We must destroy them both." Moraka was about to agree with her when Sarafina burst in.
"What! Zira, my comrade, have you no conscience? This is a starving mother, and to kill her would be...be-"
"Prudent," Zira said cutting her off, "If she lives she will only act as more competition for us and her son would only live to grow up and be of a greater burden towards our children." Sarafina was shocked.
"Zira! How can you be so utterly heartless? What we should do is take the mother and her cub back to the pride and let the king decide."
Zira grew impatient. "But what about disease? This waif could be dripping with who-knows how many diseases. Besides, your going to let a decision of this importance be left up to Simba to decide? Pah! He is but a boy in a womanís world, and a pathetic king to boot!" Now it was Morakaís turn to be aghast.
"Now Zira, I understand your feelings about the pride, but I will not stand here and listen to mutiny! We will return the mother and cub back with us to pride rock. There the king will decide." Zira was about to argue some more but thought better of it, instead she remained respectfully silent.
Moraka soon found that with a little meat and coaxing, the mother could be persuaded to walk. When asked what her name was, she responded.
"My name is Schala, and I am in your deepest gratitude."
Immediately his senses were bombarded with a cacophony of evil energy. Sniffing the air, Rafiki could smell the stagnant aroma of death lingering here. Determined not to have his mission thwarted, he called out.
"Hecate! Show yourself now!" A soft chuckling echoed throughout the cave. Rafiki steeled himself and called again. "Come forth, witch! We have matters to discuss." From a small alcove in the wall, Hecate emerged.
She was as horrific as Rafiki had ever remembered her. Her face was a staunchy purple, and her flesh hung from her bones. Her teeth were green and rotted and her eyes burned with an otherworldly fervor that, in a word, disturbed Rafiki. In her hand, Hecate held a small wand fashioned from the mummified forelimb of a lion. Small baubles dangled from the end of the staff and would make tinkling noises whenever Hecate would wave her wand.
"Oh, great Rafiki! I see you have chosen to humble my squalid dwelling with your...awesome presence. What business have you come to discuss?" Rafiki raised his own staff in challenge.
"You know why, Hecate. I know it was you who sent out that snake to kill the queen. You cannot lie to me." Hecate only giggled.
"Well, gee, guess I canít keep a secret from you. Well, what tipped you off, Rafiki? The joie de vivre that usually accompanies my work?"
Rafiki scowled. "Joie de morteí is closer to the truth. Why did you do it, Hecate? What have you to prove?" Hecate grew less giggly and more stern.
"I have nothing to prove to either you or anybody!" Waving her wand around, Hecate shouted, "I proved myself long ago, Rafiki, to you and the rest of the clan!"
Rafiki advanced, "Then why kill the queen? What wrong have the lions of pride rock done you?" Hecate started to chuckle again.
"Well, Rafiki, you ask an excellent question. Such a profound query deserves a complete answer, so Iíll do what I can." Hecate began to sweep about the room making melodramatic gestures with her hands. "The truth is that cute little crowd you hang around with has done me no harm, but they have harmed another for whom I can empathize. You see, like me, she too is tired of the way males rule the world. Your entire machismo image is quite exhausting and, frankly, she wants to rectify the situation." Rafiki grew cold.
"Hecate, that is a lie! You were never shunned from the elder because you were a woman, but it was because of your ruthless ambition that the elders feared blessing you." Hecate only scowled.
"Too little too late, Rafiki. I have already told my comrade how to destroy the lions of pride rock, and sheís probably already started."
Rafiki only stood taller. "Then, I must leave to warn my king. While I live, I shall not allow anyone to harm him or his pride."
Hecate gave Rafiki a severe look. "Then Iíll just have to rectify that situation!" In a flash, Hecate leapt onto Rafiki. Crashing to the floor, the wind rushed out of Rafikiís lungs. Gasping, Rafiki couldnít prevent Hecate from putting a hand to his throat. Before he could protest, Hecate put a finger over his mouth.
"Calm down, Rafiki! I have no intention of killing you yet!"
Rafiki, though choked, asked, "What do you intend to do?"
Hecate shrieked with a wicked cackle that echoed throughout the cave like a banshee. "Why, the worst punishment I can offer! I intend to let you live, and watch as your precious king dies!"
"All appears to be clear, but I think we should check the eastern border one more time." Timon and Pumbaa were exhausted.
"Awwww.....Címon, Zazu, canít we call it a night?" Timon whined.
"Yeah," Pumbaa chimed in, "My feet are killing me and Iím hungry!"
Zazu clucked his tongue. "Pumbaa, you just ate a rather generous portion of grubs! How can you possibly be thinking about food?"
"Well, I just think, and it happens! Thatís all." Pumbaa said innocently. Timon fell on his back.
"The hogís right, Zazu, Iím hungry and I think that if I walk another step Iím gonna pass out dead!"
"I couldnít imagine a more fortunate situation..." Zazu mumbled crankily. Timon just stayed in his restful position.
"Fine! Be that way! Really, Zazu, you gotta learn to be a tad more laid back! You know, get your feathers ruffled." Zazu seemed shocked at the very idea.
"Iíd never dream of it! My feathers get ruffled enough what with being the kingís majordomo." Now it was Pumbaaís turn to rib Zazu a little.
"You know, Zazu, Timonís right. You gotta learn to live a little!" Pumbaa laid back lazily in the grass.
Zazu became even more annoyed. "Oh, Pumbaa, donít you slack off on me too! Honestly, I canít see what use Simba has for the two of you. Perhaps you might make for emergency rations one day I suppose." Timon just laughed it off.
"Pah! There you go again. Your more sour than a dung-beetle that just ate!" Zazu made a rather repulsed face at the idea. "You gotta stop sometimes and learn to just daydream and stargaze!" Zazu became indignant.
"Well, that may be fine for a set of tramps like yourselves, but we hornbills have a saying. He who stares into the sky for too long loses perspective!" Zazu didnít notice that Timon had snuck up from behind him and mouthed every word Zazu had said.
"Yeah, yeah," Timon complained, "Iíve heard it all before. My parents, for example, always harped on me about what I was gonna do for the rest of my life. ĎBe a sentinel like your older brother Ramoní theyíd say. Pha! I march to the beat of my own marimba. So, I left home and went off to the jungle and havenít regretted it since then."
Pumbaa continued to stare into the vast beyond. "Yeah, Zazu, life ainít all about duty and stuff. Sometimes you just gotta go where the wind takes you." Two birds caught Pumbaaís eye. They were difficult to spot silhouetted against the clouds and sky, but Pumbaa could make out the forms of two hornbills flying north.
"See, like those two hornbills!" Zazu was still watching the grass.
"Hornbills? Ha! There arenít any other hornbills around this region for miles...well, except for me." Timon had now noticed the birds too.
"Well then, It seems you got yourself some company!" Zazu looked up at the sky and a was petrified of the sight! Eyes bulging, Zazu only could stare in fear. Timon and Pumbaa had both gotten up and went over to see what was the matter. Timon waved a paw in front of Zazuís face but the bird remained petrified. Timon tried to shake Zazu back to sense.
"Hey, Zazu! Wake up! Yo! Címon, bird brain, whatís got your tail feathers in a tangle?" Zazu finally blinked and looked up at the birds again which were already proceeding towards the horizon.
"Oh no......It canít be them! It simply can not be-"
"Who?" Pumbaa interrupted. Zazu only hurried into flight.
"Iíll tell you on the way, but, trust me, itís terrible!"
Timon whined some more, "If it means more walking, it canít be good."
"Where could they be?" he fretted. Sarafina had taken Moraka and Zira off to search for food. All three lionesses were beyond competency and could be trusted to return with a carcass before eating. So where were they? Simba hustled to the tip of the long rock that he was held over as a cub to look for his family.
In the misty evening, it was hard to see much even from his vantage point. Minutes passed like hours and Simba began to fear for the lives of his party when he heard a familiar roar of a lioness.
The roar was that of an aged lioness, so it would probably be Sarafinaís group returning. Though he had been hoping to see Nala first, he was almost as happy to see the four lionesses striding up to the base of the rocks with their kill.
FOUR? Simba thought. How can there be four of them? Granted he had spent a lot of time in the jungle, but he still remembered how to add...he hoped. The lionesses came into view through the mist and Simba found that he wasnít mistaken at all. Not only was there another lioness, but a cub to boot! Simba hurried over to meet the lionesses. Remembering how solid his father was in situations such as these, he tried to act nonchalant and unsurprised about the newcomers.
"It seems we have visitors," Simba said in his most regal tone. The pale, dirty, yellow lioness could only whisper back hoarsely.
"More than visitors I hope." Puzzled, Simba turned to Sarafina. The aged lioness spoke to Simba.
"Her name is Schala, and her cub is named Kube. They both claim to have been abandoned by a pride of nomads, and left to starve and die." Simba eyed up the weary lioness. She was quite dirty and exhausted. Sarafina continued. "They ask permission to join the pride." Simba took a deep breath. This was no easy choice. Outsiders, as a rule, were generally shunned due to the danger they posed. However, the pathetic look of the cub with his mother was simply pitiful.
"Maybe we should wait till Rafiki returns." Simba whispered to Sarafina. Sarafina whispered back.
"That could be days, sire. You should know as well as I that Rafiki comes and goes as the wind, and we cannot depend on him forever." Sarafina became more forceful in tone. "You have to make a decision now! Any sign of weakness on your part could be," Sarafina glanced over at Zira, "disastrous."
Simba knew what Sarafina meant. Zira had always held an element of contempt for Simbaís abilities. There were even rumors that Zira had been an... acquaintance of Scarís, but nobody could prove anything. Still, the aged lioness gave Simba reason to be cautious. Taking action, Simba stepped up to Schala. Looking her over, he spoke in a lofty tone.
"This is Schala. Out of the goodness of my heart and our need for more lion-power, I have decided to welcome this newcomer to the pride. Treat her as one of our own, and teach her our ways and traditions. So, the king has decreed." Simba let off an internal groan. He was afraid he was starting to sound like Zazu. The lionesses murmured in respect.
"Long live the king."
Simba spoke directly to Schala. "You seem worn and tired. Please, feast of the beast that we brought down." Schala beamed in delight.
"Thank you, milord. How can I ever repay your kindness and generosity?" Simba knew full well what she meant. Rumors of other lion kings that asked for certain... favors in return for generosity. Even Scar had been rumored to have partaken in this sordid means of thanks. Simba resolved himself to be a better king than that.
"I only ask that you serve the pride as you would your own sisters." Schala nodded and vowed.
"I will." Simba nodded in assent and turned.
"You all may begin to eat with out me." Sarafina was a tad surprised. The king not having first share was most irregular.
"Sire, you are not hungry?" Simba only looked dejectedly off into the nighttime mist.
"No, Iíll wait for Nala and the others to arrive." Simba then hurried back up to his perch on pride rock. When he was out of earshot, Schala could hear Zira mumble maliciously.
"Pathetic cub! He is nothing without his queen." Schalaís ears perked. So Zira was a tad bitter about Simba? This would be easier than she had thought. Schala was about to reprimand Kube for not whining as he was told, but he had already hurried over to the carcass to eat.
Schala had procured the heart of a wildebeest, the ear of a hippo, and the hoof of a giraffe. Using a rock, Hecate smashed the three grisly parts into a gory paste, which she poured into a bowl not unlike Rafikiís. Rafiki could only shiver in horror.
"What is that, Hecate? One of your evil soothsaying rituals?" Hecate only shrugged nonchalantly.
"This? Oh no, dear Rafiki. This is just a midnight snack. My clairvoyances are much more... civil than youíd imagine." With that, Hecate downed the pulpy paste and swallowed. "mmm-mmm! Not bad at all! Iíd offer you some, Rafiki, but Iím afraid it would offend your sensitive pallet."
Rafiki only cursed. "No more offensive than it must have been to the three animals you killed just for one meal!" Hecate laughed.
"Dear Rafiki, I only killed the wildebeest. However, right now there is a very slow giraffe and a hippo with a hearing problem out there." Hecate squealed in delight at her dark humor. Rafiki turned his head in disgust.
"The elders were right! You are a demon without a conscience." Rafiki seemed saddened by his remark. "It pains me to tell you that, you know. You are not the Hecate I remember. The old Hecate was ambitious and ruthless, but never cruel." Hecate sneered in anger.
"She is dead and is no more! I have become faster, stronger, wiser, and better than you or any or those sanctimonious elders!" Rafiki knew he couldnít argue. He only remained tied to his stalagmite, and waited. He feared not starvation, thirst, or sleeplessness. All were things of the body, which he had learned to transcend years ago. What he feared was his failure to protect his king from Hecate and the lioness that she was assisting... whoever that was.
Rafiki gazed towards the mouth of the cave. The darkness of nighttime had reached itís acme long ago and was beginning to approach daybreak. Rafiki gazed into the heavens beyond. Had the spirits forsaken him? No! He knew better! Rafiki could only pray to the great circle that everything could resolve without unnecessary bloodshed. Rafikiís quiet pontificating was interrupted by the noisy entrance of two hornbills.
The two hornbills were dark blue in color. The feathers on the male were wild and unkempt, but in stark contrast, the femaleís plumage was pristine and glimmered with symmetry. Both birds landed on the cave floor behind Hecate. "Where have I seen them before?" Rafiki wondered. Hecate didnít even look at the birds. She only called out quietly.
"Zan and Zu, I presume?"
The female bowed. "Correct as usual, your majesty." The male, in a rather uncouth style, began to rummage for food.
"Yeah , yeah, whatever," he mumbled. "Hey, Hecate, whatís eats around here?" The female hornbill was most irritated.
"Zan, be quiet! Canít you show a little class once in a while?" Zan only laughed.
"Ha! Class is for losers and sycophants, Zu. I just want food." Zu rolled her eyes. Hecate remained undaunted by the display.
"Have you done that which I require?" the mandrill inquired. Zu smiled and bowed.
"Yes, mistress, we have gone to the hyenas and planted the seeds of rebellion in their heads." Zan chuckled.
"Yeah, we told the hyenas what to do about the lions." Rafiki became intrigued.
"Hyenas? What have you to do with the hyenas?" Zan flew over to Rafiki and hovered an inch from the mandrillís nose.
"Whoís the geezer?" Zan asked irreverently. Hecate only grinned a rotten toothed grin.
"A... professional rival whom I need to keep on ice for a while. As for his question, Iíve always been interested in hyena affairs." Zu looked harshly at Rafiki.
"Mistress, we donít have to answer prisonerís questions. Itís best we keep him quiet!" Hecate only held Zu back.
"True, Zu, but Rafiki is special. I like answering his pitiful questions. Itís really my only hope to illuminating that dead brain of his." Hecate threw Zan and Zu a scrap of meat which they proceeded to have a tug of war over. "Rafiki, remember what I said about how I wanted to revolutionize the veldt? To crush the male dominance over all species?" Rafiki nodded.
"Though I believe there is none, I recall a statement like that."
"Good, Rafiki, you havenít lost your memory yet. Anyway, I was always intrigued by the way the females ruled their culture. Despite their simplistic attitude and certain... depravities, I figured that they at least deserved a chance to compete with the other species so they could show the world how to really run a society. For a while, I sent Zan and Zu as my messengers. I tought them how to fight lions and how to kill effectively! Unfortunately, you old friend Scar changed most of that. I was appalled at how the hyenas had allowed a lion to coerce his way into position of leadership. So, I withdrew my services. But when Scar was killed, I saw a new chance for their redemption! Iíve actually managed them to trick a certain lioness into letting them help her. So when the time is right, theyíll let the lions destroy each other!" Rafiki was shocked.
"Hecate! You have no right to manipulate an entire species! Your meddling taints the flow of life!" Hecate only laughed wildly.
"No! Donít you see? Iím only going to start with the hyenas! Then the other species will come in time! They will either conform to my ideals or perish under my power!" Rafiki screeched in anger.
"Heacte! Your wish to reorder the Pridelands is lunacy! You have no right to play God!" Hecate rushed up to Rafiki and stared at him in the face.
"Why not? If no one else has the courage to do it, why shouldnít I?" Rafiki returned her gaze.
"Because, you are only a mandrill, and it is not your place to structure the world!" Hecate smacked Rafiki across the face with her wand. CRACK!
"Iíve had enough of your insolence! In three days the hyenas and my lionessís motley crew will attack the lions of pride rock. They will all split into three factions and the lions will be destroyed!" Hecate became even more menacing. "And you will be there to watch it all!"
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