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Shadowlands - Part 3

Timon, Pumbaa, and Zazu stood at the mouth of Hecateís cave. They had followed the hornbills here and had heard the whole scene. Timon and Pumbaa stared in intrigue, while Zazu quivered in fear.

"Gee, what a psycho! Pumbaa, have you ever seen anything like it?" Timon asked.

"Nope, Timon, sheís off the deep end all right! Zazu what do you-" Zazu was shivering in fear. His eyes were bulged out and he was mumbling.

"Oh no! Oh dear! Weíre all doomed! Iím doomed!" Timon grabbed Zazu and shook him.

"Snap out of it! Sheesh, Zazu, whatísí got you so worked up? Youíve been jumpy ever since we saw those birds? You know Ďem?" Zazu nodded.

"Thatís Zan and Zu.....m-m-my cousins!" Timon and Pumbaa stared agape in astonishment.

"Your cousins?" Pumbaa asked. Zazu nodded.

"Yes, my cousins. Zan and Zu were my uncle Zwalaís children and a plague to all hornbills everywhere." Timon shrugged.

"Sheesh, talk about your black sheep. Well, Zazu, thereís one in every family." Zazu only could manage a pitiful wail.

"Two in mine, actually."

Pumbaa peeked in at the birds. "I donít get it, Zazu," Pumbaa ventured, "why are you so afraid of them? I mean they donít look that tough." Zazu groaned as he recalled painful childhood memories.

"When we were young they would always torture me. Theyíd make fun of how I talked and what I ate and how I did... well, everything! It wasnít until they expressed how much they dislike lions that they were thrown out of the family. But before they were exiled, they suffered me one last indignity."

Timon and Pumbaa imagined a gruesomely embarrassing hazing ritual. "What happened, Zazu?" Pumbaa asked with anticipation. Zazu steeled himself and told them.

"They tought the hyenas about the birdie-boiler." Zazu began to moan sorrowfully. Timon only glanced at Pumbaa with a look that said, "Is that all?" Pumbaa only shrugged and consoled the sad bird.

"Címon, Zazu, donít split a tail feather. Youíre older now, and you have responsibilities." Between sobs, Zazu looked at Pumbaa.

"Never thought Iíd hear you say that word... responsibility." Timon smirked.

"Thatís two of us." Pumbaa only reared himself up and spoke commandingly to Zazu.

"Well, living among lions has tought me a great deal. I know that now I canít just live life for only the simple pleasures. Besides, I have a destiny!" Timon was more than a little surprised at Pumbaaís fervor. "A destiny to be the greatest warthog on the face of this planet! Iím not going to let anything stand in my way either! Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of -"

"Knock it off, Pumbaa Patton! Sheesh, what a cornball!" Pumbaa dropped his head a little.

"Iím only trying to remind Zazu of how he has a job too, Timon! He has to face his fear, and help us rescue Rafiki!" Zazu was immediately filled with a fresh desire.

"Youíre right, Pumbaa! I am going to do it! Iím going to show my cousins once and for all what Iím made of!" Zazu then felt Timonís paws pushing him towards the cave.

"Great, Zazu, then you can be the diversion!" Zazu was still filled with pride.

"Yes, of course, for king and country, Iíll gladly be the... WHAT?!?!" Timon continued pushing.

"Youíll be perfect, Zazu! All you have to do is fly around and get their attention so Pumbaa and I can free the monkey." Zazu didnít share Timonís optimism any more.

"But why me?" Zazu wailed.

"Because," Pumbaa said, "Itís your chance to fulfill your destiny!"

"And, weíve already had our turn." Timon added. Before Zazu could utter another word, he was shoved into the cave.

********

Zan and Zu were having a tug-of-war over a scrap of meat. Both birds had the piece of meat clamped in their beaks and were flapping and tugging against each other.

"Zan, you hog, I saw this one first!" Zuís words were muffled by a clamped beak.

"Yeah, but you already had most of it!" Zan retaliated.

"Tough tailfeathers! Itís mine!" The two birds fought and fought until the piece of meat snapped and each bird went flying against the opposite wall. Both birds greedily ate their last piece. When each hornbill had finished, they hopped over to Hecate.

"Yo! Hecate! Anything else to eat?"

Hecate remained focused in her meditations, "You have already eaten enough for tonight. Go to bed," the witch said in an eerie monotone. Zu rolled her eyes and flew to a small alcove in the cave wall. Zan remained by Hecateís side.

Hecate sat in the traditional lotus position in front of the oracle. The green flames casted a green glow across Hecateís body. Zan stared at the black and green oracle and whispered to Hecate, "What are you doing?"

Hecateís monotone became slightly annoyed, "I am communing with the oracle, idiot. It grants me a clairvoyance of the spirits. I can see the shadows of the past in the oracle." Zan became confused.

"How do you see with your eyes closed?" Hecate let out an arrogant chuckle.

"It is beyond the mere understanding of birds." Zu, who was already trying to doze off, called sleepily to Zan.

"Zan, be quiet and come to bed."

Zan sneered at his sister. "Shut up, mook, I wanna learn something!"

"Thatíd be a first..." Zu mumbled as she drifted off to sleep. Zan ignored the comment and continued badgering Hecate.

"So, what kinda stuff do you see?" Hecate woke from her trance with an angry snort and grabbed Zan by the neck.

"Urk!" Zan squeaked as he was lifted to meet Hecateís wicked gaze.

"I see nothing when I am being hounded by numskulls such as you!" Hecate growled in anger, and threw Zan down. Zan landed in a cloud of dust. "Iím going to retire! Keep an eye on the old one!" Hecate turned and hobbled off into the darkest point in the cave where she laid down to rest. Zan was only starting to recover from Hecateís body slam.

"Stupid monkey..... she thinks she the stinkiní queen of the Savanna." Zan sulked. At first, he considered going directly to bed, but then the oracle caught his attention. It was so dark and mysterious. Zan looked back at Zu, Rafiki, then the alcove that Hecate had retired to. Quietly, he hopped over to the oracle. If Hecate could do it, why couldnít he?

Zan tried to sit in Hecateís lotus position, but his little legs cramped, so he just commanded in his best monotone.

"Powers of darkness...give me a sign!" At first, the oracle remained as it was, but then there was a voice.

"Zaaaaaan......." Zanís eyes popped open and his jaw dropped. The eerie voice continued to speak.

"Zaaaaan. I am the spirit of evil. I will grant you your hearts desire if you will do exactly as I say." Zan was excited!

"All right! Anything?" Zan was beside himself with anticipation. "All right, I want to be ten times bigger!" The voice began to take form. On the orb was the black shadow of a bird. Itís wings were outstretched in the emerald flame. It reminded Zan irresistibly of a dark phoenix. The birdís eyes reflected an ominous green light. The bird spoke.

"Before I grant your wish, you must.....put you head between your legs and hop around!" Zan became speculative.

"What!? Of all the ridiculous...."

"Do you want to be bigger or not?" the bird asked angrily. Zan sighed.

"The things Iíll do...humph.." Zan stuck his big head between his gnarly little legs. His beak touched his tailfeathers. "There! Are you happy now?" The bird seemed to chuckle a little.

"Um...he ..he.. no. I mean No! You have to hop around till sunrise." Zanís eyes bulged out of his head.

"Sunrise? Iíll never make it Ďtill sunrise!"

The bird shrugged. "Tough."

Zan rolled his eyes. "Oh well, here goes nothing." Zan began hopping about the cave. Every so often, his head would bump the ground and he would curse vulgarly. All the while he was hopping, he never saw Timon and Pumbaa skulk over to Rafiki.

********

At best, Nala was skeptical about the newcomer. While she couldnít place it, she felt some anxiety about the mother and her cub. Nala finished eating her meal and went over to Schala. Schala was busy licking Kube clean. Kube was surprisingly quiet.

"You have a very well-mannered young cub there, Schala." Schala didnít even look up at Nala.

"I keep him well disciplined, your majesty." Nala started. That was the first time anybody had referred to her as "Your majesty". But, she supposed, that was her official title now.

"Please, call me Nala."

"Very well, Nala. Now, if you donít mind, I have business to attend to." Schalaís response was cold and curt. So much for the amiable approach, Nala thought. Schala went on licking her cub. The cub just remained silent with a down-trodden look on his face.

"You know," Nala said lightly, "when I was his age, I used to whine about getting a bath." Schala only kept on licking.

"Then your mother, obviously, didnít discipline you well enough. If you had been properly raised, you would have sat still and remained quiet like my little Kube." Nala was offended.

"Iíd rather you not insult my motherís child rearing abilities."

Schala glared at Nala. "Then donít advise me on mine." Schala picked Kube up in her teeth, and began to tote him away. With his little paws dangling, Nala saw a small, white scar on Kubeís paw. Determined to make a good impression, Nala spoke with sympathy to Kube.

"Poor little guy, how did you get that scar?"

"My mom had this..." Kube was silenced with a quick shake from his mother.

"Silence!" Schala ordered through clenched teeth. Schala looked back at Nala.

"It really isnít any of your business, but he got it while playing on some rocks."

"I see." Nala said. "Goodbye then." Schala turned and left quietly. Nala sighed. She knew that Schala had just lied to her. From the way she acted, it sounded like the scar was the result of one of Schalaís harsh disciplines. Perhaps Simba would know what to do. As Nala turned to go, she saw Schala walking right past Zira.

********

"Gotta hand it to Zazu," Timon thought, "heís one heck of an actor." Timon and Pumbaa creeped through Hecateís cave. Zazu had hidden in the orbís reflection and was busy exacting a small amount of childhood revenge on Zan.

Zan was hopping around the cave like an idiot. The nasty hornbill was so caught up in hopping that he never saw Timon or Pumbaa. Looking up, Timon saw Rafiki. The monkey was tied to a rock with vines. Rafiki was sleeping...or was he meditating? Timon could never tell. Pumbaa whispered in his ear.

"Whatís the plan Timon?"

"Simple, Iíll climb up the rock and set the monkey free. You lay low in case I need backup." Pumbaa nodded and trotted behind a small stalagmite. Timon hurried behind the rock and climbed it. When he reached the top, he could see the entire cave, and the back of Rafikiís head. Silently walking up to Rafikiís ear, Timon whispered.

"Keep cool, old guy, and Iíll have up out in a jif." Rafikiís head nodded. He must have been cogent the entire time. Timon rushed over to the knot that held Rafikiís right hand bound. Timon bit down on the vine.

"Uggh... awful." Timon whispered, but he continued to gnaw on the vine. Zan continued to hop around like a moron.

"Of all the stupid things. Why on earth do I have to do this?" Zan continued hopping until he noticed something about the image through his legs. A small blue tailfeather poking out from behind the oracle. Zan immediately pulled his head up. The blood rush to his head disoriented him for only a moment.

"Hey, oracle, whatís that?" Zan pointed to the feather.

"Umm err...," the bird fumbled. "Pay no attention to the bird behind the crystal!" It commanded. Zan flew up and sat next to the oracle. Peeking behind it he saw Zazu dancing around like a fool.

"Zazu?!? Is that you?" Zan said angrily. Zazu turned in shock. The majordomo squeezed himself away from Zan.

"Oh, uh, hello Zan. Long time no see." Zazu waved at Zan pitifully. Zan cried out.

"Hey, Zu! You have got to see this!" Zu drowsily opened her eyes and glided over to the oracle. "Itís our old goody-two shoes cousin, Zazu." Zu was taken aback when she first saw the cowering form of her cousin.

Zazu waved weakly with his wing. "Oh, Zu, you too huh? Well, itís just a regular family reunion isnít it?" Zu glowered at Zazu.

"Yeah, tattletale, you were the one who got us kicked outta the family for telliní on me and Zan." Zu cornered Zazu to the ground. "Whatís a little guy like you doiní here? Hecate donít like visitors." Zazu began to stutter.

"Oh.. er me? Oh, well, itís the strangest thing. I was on my way to... er take... inventory, and I ...uh.. happened.. to run into this place completely by accident!"

"Save it!" Zan snapped. "Youíre a stinkiní spy! Youíre probably gonna tell...olí whatís his name...Simpa or somethiní about this place, arenít you?" Zazu knelt before Zan and Zu.

"Oh, PLEASE! Donít hurt me. I didnít mean it!" Zan just laughed.

"Boy, youíre gonna get it now! Hah-ah! I wonder what Hecateís gonna do with him when she wakes up?" Zu began to tease Zazu.

"Maybe sheíll tie your legs in a bow and stick your beak where the sun donít shine!" Zu doubled over laughing. Zan piped in.

"Or maybe sheíll tie him to a termite mesa and let them eat him alive!" Zan fell back giggling too. Zazu was nearly catatonic with fear.

"Iím doomed......" he squeaked pitifully. Zu stopped laughing and sat up.

"Hee hee, Zazu you are......" Zu grimaced and looked around. "What the heck stinks in here?" Zan smelled it too.

"Man! What died in here? Wait.... a lot of stuff died in here, but it never smelled bad before!" Zu began to sniff.

"It smells like a..." Zu looked coldly at Zazu, "warthog. Thereís a warthog in here!" Zazu stood up. "Oh no, no warthogs. I just.. um... ate some bad berries for.. breakfast."

Zan laughed like a nut. "Hee hee! Zazu farted!!!" Suddenly Zan was smacked away by a staff. He screamed as he landed against a far wall. Zu looked up and saw a freed Rafiki smiling sardonically.

"Now, now....letís watch the language!" Rafiki spun his staff around and cracked Zu across the head with it as well. Zazu perked up.

"Iím free! Youíre free!" Timon walked up to the two.

"Yes, yes, Zazu. Free at last, free at last....weíre free at last. Now that weíre all emancipated, can we please leave!" Rafiki nodded and the four stole away into the approaching dawn.

*******

Zira was not pleased. It was bad enough that she had to live with Simba as king, but this newcomer and that rat of a cub were in the way as well. Daylight had begun to creep into the sky. With dawn approaching, Zira snuck into Scarís old cave.

The morning was shrouded in mist. Scarís old cave was damp and cold. Zira looked around the cave with a hardness in her heart. "Dearest Scar," she thought, "why did that brute have to take you from me? If you were here now, I wouldnít have to be doing this." Skulking into one of the crevasses in the cave, she called out in a soft whisper.

"Kovu, darling, are you there?" There was a little cry, and Zira turned to the sound. There, in the dark, were two bright emerald eyes looking up at her. Zira smiled a twisted grin and laid down next to Kovu. "Drink well, chosen one, grow stronger and stronger for me." The little cub had begun to suckle, his tiny brown form writhing. Kovu was still very young, and could only be fed through nursing. Zira had, fortunately, been able to hide the fact that she was bearing milk from the rest of the pride. Kovuís fur was a beautiful dark brown... and so was Kubeís.

Zira couldnít be certain, but it seemed as if this young cub, Kube, looked a tad too much like Kovu for her liking. Had Scar been unfaithful to her? Probably. But, Zira remembered, she had been as well for a time. When Kovu was done suckling, Zira stood. Kovu would grow strong. Zira knew it. Because he was the only one in his litter, Kovu had been able to consume Ziraís milk without competition. Kovu would be a great lion... unlike some of her other children. Nuka and Vitani were disappointments to say the least, but useful tools when the time would be right. Despite their inadequacies, Zira had always told her family that Kovu was a "stranger I found somewhere." If they would ever find out that Kovu was her son, then they would become quite unbearable. In her heart, she did miss her eldest children, but they had run away from pride rock the moment Simba returned. Zira was just ready to leave the cave when she ran right into Moraka.

"Zira..." Moraka said, stunned.

"Keep your nose in your own business, Moraka." Moraka seemed to grow nervous.

"Zira, you are my friend, but what I have seen today defies my sense of judgment. Is that cub..." Zira nodded.

"Yes, Moraka, he has his fatherís charming eyes." Moraka began to grow panicky.

"Then leave at once! If Simba finds out that your cub is the son of Scar then.."

"I know full well the consequences, dear, as for Simba finding out, he wonít unless a snitch like you tells." Moraka shook her head.

"You force me to choose between my king and my friend... I can only choose my friend. Honor demands it." Zira smiled.

"Good. Now, keep an eye on Kovu. I have to make an errand to the outlands... some relatives to visit." Moraka became sick with fear.

"No... donít tell me any more. Do not multiply my treason." Zira only laughed and left. Moraka turned and sobbed. Green eyes in the crevasse only blinked back at her.

******

Hecate woke with a start. A blinding flash of a vision had jarred her from her sleep. Something was not right. Exiting her crevasse, she saw Zan and Zu unconscious on the floor. Rafiki was nowhere to be seen. Eyes flaring with rage, she shrieked a primal scream that woke Zan and Zu from their stupors. Before Zan and Zu could say anything, Hecate picked them both up by the throats and stared at them right in the eyes.

"Answer me two questions," Hecate said menacingly, "Where is Rafiki, and why should I let you two live?" Zu began to moan.

"Your highness, a warthog and a meerkat came and...."

"ENOUGH!" Hecate screamed. Zan and Zu were fully awake now. "I already know the rest, and who they were. Answer the second question." Hecate began to choke the birds.

"Uhh," Zan faltered, "comic relief?" Hecate sneered.

"Listen... the mandrill is weak. It will take him a while to get back to the Pridelands. Before he gets there to warn Simba, I want you two to tell the hyenas and Schalaís pride to attack when the sun is at itís apex today!" Zan faltered.

"To.. today? But they think it wonít be for three more days." Hecate snorted.

"Exactly. If they attack now, they may still have the element of surprise. Now go!" Hecate threw the two birds into the air. The hornbill twins took flight and headed off on their respective errands. Hecate climbed to the top of the rock cluster that surrounded the cave.

"Rafiki! Do you hear me?" she screamed, "Iíll chase you to the ends of the earth! I will not rest until you are dead or my slave!"

*******

Rafiki had indeed heard her. Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa cringed.

"Man that is one cranky monkey. Whatíd someone do, steal her bananas?" Timon posed. Rafiki hobbled along. His ordeal in the cave had drained him of his energy, and he found even walking hard.

"She is evil incarnate. There is nothing I can do to save her." Rafiki sounded depressed. His voice was low and small tears began to well up in his eyes.

Zazu looked on Rafiki with sympathy. "Címon, Rafiki, whatís got you so upset? She isnít worth it. Sheís an outsider, and not a pleasant one I might add." Rafiki moaned.

"No. We are one... all of us. I donít expect you to understand, but Hecate and I.. share a bond." Zazu snorted.

"Yes, I know youíre both monkeys, but there is a point where..."

"It is far deeper, my friend," Rafiki interrupted, "Hecate is... my sister." Timon and Pumbaa were shocked.

"Your sister?" Zazu wailed. "I can not believe it!"

"Ahhh , Zazu, you are not the only one with black sheep in the family. My sister is, unfortunately, one of the greatest failures of my life. But we can not stop to pontificate now, we must hurry back to Pride Rock. This Schala is a dangerous lioness, and we cannot afford to underestimate her." Timon and Pumbaa remained silent and respectful. The four tired animals trudged onwards to their king.

********

Morning had broken. Jezebel, Ebona, and Tsidii were lounging under the acacias.

"Look," Jezebel said, "itís not treason to think your enemy is hot stuff. I was just saying that I think Simbaís cute. He has such wonderfully leonine good looks." Ebona snorted.

"Be quiet, fool. Heís not even your type, let alone your species." Jezebel only grinned a cocky smile.

"Canít a girl dream, Ebona? It is a pity that heís the enemy and all." Ebona only rolled her eyes.

"I just want the battle to begin," said Tsidii, "I am anxious to fight against those oligarchic tyrants on Pride Rock."

"Why so antsy, Tsidii?" Jezebel said , "Anyone would think that you had a personal stake in this matter." Tsidii became visibly angrier.

"My only cubs were killed by lions. Three little children... I hadnít even named them yet. Then, this lioness came along. She was cold and severe. There was a bright stripe across her forehead and her eyes gleamed red like fire. Her voice was like that of the devil, and her tawny hide only seemed to hang from her bones. In defense of my cubs, I attacked her, but she was impossibly strong for her size. She gashed the back of one of my legs open, and she left saying that I was not worth her time." Tsidii began to sob. "I couldnít hunt for a week. My cubs cried out in the night for food. Gods, it was horrible. I doubt any of you can comprehend the pain and despair that comes with seeing your children suffering and being unable to help them at all. They died within three days." Tsidii had trailed off. Tears had welled up in her eyes. Surprisingly, Ebona spoke kindly to her.

"Fear not, my comrade. Soon you will have your vengeance. When you can taste that lionessís blood in your mouth, then you will feel better." Ebona was interrupted by the sound of a bird flapping frantically. The three cats turned to see a very exhausted Zu land next to them.

"Must hurry... Attack has been rescheduled for today. Strike when the sun is highest." Zuís heavy breathing drowned out the rest of what she was trying to say. Ebona stiffened and returned to her tactical mind.

"Tsidii, rally the others and tell them the news. Today your children will be avenged." Tsidii nodded and bolted off. Ebona turned to ask Zu what else they could do, but the little bird was already asleep from her flight.

*******

The hyenas advanced. Shenzi and Banzai were at the lead.

"So, Shenzi," Banzai asked, "this bird told you to attack the Pridelands today?" Shenzi smiled.

"Yep Ďer, Banzai, he said that if we attack now, we can catch Simba and his pals off guard. And when the battle starts, we just run away when it gets dirty!" Banzai looked at Shenzi quizzically.

"Why we runniní, Shenzi? Thereís.... I dunno... twenty-seventeen of us or somethiní. A whole lot more than they got!" Shenzi rolled her eyes.

"Stupid, If we fight, we MIGHT win. But if we run and let the lions tear each other to ribbons, then we WILL win!" Banzai still looked confused.

"But what about..?" Banzai was interrupted by Shenzi.

"But nothiní! Keep your big butt to yourself! Just follow along and do what I tell Ďya! Now, start makin noise!" Shenzi screeched at the top of her lungs. While she was in the gorge, the walls of the canyon echoed her cry until it sounded like a scream from the dead. Banzai looked around skittishly.

"But, what if the lions hear us?"

"Thatís the point!" Shenzi stepped on Banzaiís foot. Banzai cried in pain. Soon, the entire pack of hyenas were screeching in the gorge. The sky began to cloud. The hyenas had arrived.

Shadowlands Part 4
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