| I was not ready to
be king. I knew it, my mom knew it, and those who had
killed Kwasi knew it. I spent the next few days in silent
mourning, trying to piece together what I had going for
me. Kwasi had not had (or taken) the time to teach me how
to be king. There was no reason to have a backup plan at
the time. But now, I was king; a young lion, just
entering mid adolescence and having to shoulder the
responsibilities of an entire pride. A formidable task
I climbed the slope of Waterfall Cliff slowly, making my way to the top. So many thoughts were in my head that I could not even begin to sort them all out. I had called a meeting of the members of the Kopje Valley, perhaps I could find some idea of what to do next. If we were to get through this ordeal, we would do it together. As I completed the climb and looked up expecting to see the pride waiting for me, the sight that greeted my eyes made me freeze in horror. There were only three lionesses, of the original twelve that were part of the pride. Nalia, Lukesia, and Tefnut all looked back to me forlornly, telling me with their eyes of the trouble there had been. I spoke quickly.
"Mom? What happened? Where is the pride? I thought I asked everyone to meet here this morning?" Nalia shook her head and padded over to me, putting a paw on my shoulder to get me to sit. I did reluctantly. And listened as she spoke.
"Son, there is bad news." I shuddered as I sat. Hadn't I had enough bad news already? Nalia spoke on, "There was a rally last night, of the lionesses. Many decided that they would not follow so young a king, and that they were going to leave." I lowered my head and turned away sadly. It was like a blow to my very soul. They walked out, before even giving me a chance. Lukesia came up to me and nuzzled me gently.
"We are still with you Siombe, no matter what it takes." She purred in my ear. I did not respond and kept my face away from the three lionesses.
"How many are left?" I said softly. Tefnut stepped forward.
"We are the only three lionesses left. Kinah, the advisor, has decided to stay as well." She purred. A pensive moment of silence passed, in which I tried to get an idea of what I needed to do next. Without lionesses there is no pride. And there is always strength in numbers. Hunting would be difficult, defense would be even more difficult, and if the offending lions decided to attack again to take the lands... I broke my thought at that, not even wanting to think of what could happen. Turning to the lionesses, I spoke slowly, trying to control my own personal emotion.
"Thank you all for staying with me. I am sure that with an effort, we can keep this dream alive." I paused, "Perhaps you three should hunt down something for breakfast. I'll start formulating a plan to get this place back together." The three lionesses nodded and padded down the steep trail in silence, headed for the hunt. Lukesia doubled back and came over to me while I sat there looking out over the lands.
"Siombe?" she purred softly, "Are you going to be okay?" I looked at her sadly, unable to contain the pain in my eyes.
"I am not sure I can do this. So many have gone already. Maybe, maybe I'm just not good enough for this." Lukesia nuzzled under my chin and purred to me.
"Siombe, I know you can do this. This is just a minor setback. The three of us have faith in you and what you can do. Trust yourself. I know you have it in you." she finished with a lick on my nose. I smiled weakly at her as she turned and trotted down the trail after the two older lionesses. Her words meant a lot to me, but I wish I had as much faith in myself as she did. Standing, I began my way down the slope to the promontory. What was I supposed to do now? I was so caught up in my thoughts about what I should do, that I didn't even notice a large lion coming up in the opposite direction. He called out to me, almost scaring me into oblivion.
"So are you the king here now Siombe?" he said. After my initial scare, I calmed down and then even managed a smile.
"Yes I am, it is good to see you again King Chaka." Chaka smiled and nodded back to me. He was a large lion, older by a little bit. He had a long flowing mane that looked much like his father Simba's. His eyes were large and kind, and it gave me much comfort just to look into them. He was king of Pride Rock now, and although I had not heard much from the area in a while, I thought he must have been doing a pretty good job. He lay reclined across a rock, gathering the morning sun. I padded over and greeted him with a nuzzle alongside his cheek. He nodded back,
"And it is good to see you as well Siombe. You have grown a lot. I am sorry to have come at such a bad time but I had to once I heard the news." I lowered my ears.
"So you know huh?" Chaka nodded solemnly,
"Kwasi was a great friend to me, I loved him dearly and I am not at all pleased about what happened. But that is not the reason for my coming all the way from pride rock to see you." I tilted my head,
"No. There is a more pressing matter." I looked curiously at him as he rose and walked alongside me. "In the time that Kwasi spent with me, he often expressed his regret at not being able to teach you to be a king." I lowered my ears.
"Yes, that is true..."
"So I know you must be feeling a bit overwhelmed about now, with all this new responsibility on your shoulders." I nodded slowly and sighed, looking off the the side,
"I don't know if I can handle it Chaka, being king is so foreign to me. I don't even know where to begin." Chaka smiled at me,
"That is why I am here. I have already spoken to your mom, Nalia. She informed me of what was happening. Don't let those that left get you down. They cannot stop you from advancing." I looked to him quickly,
"But Chaka, a king without lionesses does not have a pride. How can I keep the dream of a pride alive without lionesses?" Chaka smacked me on the shoulder lightly and then looked at me seriously.
"Listen Siombe, and listen carefully. Lionesses just help things run smoother. They do not dictate how good a pride will be. YOU are the one that will make this pride what it will be. YOU are the one who will make this pride great among all. And only YOU can keep this pride together in its time of trial."
"No buts Siombe!" Chaka interjected quickly, "A pride is only as good as it's king, and that is you. If I can help it, I will make you as good a king as you can be." he said as he poked my chest with a paw gently. I looked down at my chest, where he touched and then up at his eyes. At that moment, I could feel the truth in what he said. He himself, had become an adolescent king, when his father Simba disappeared. Somehow he had made it through the difficult transition and had become a functioning king. Even so, I would be have an advantage that he did not, someone to teach me what to expect, and show me what needed to be done. I raised my head and looked at him again,
"What do I have to do?" I asked slowly. Chaka smiled and grinned at me,
"Here is what must be done..." And we sat there for most of the morning, and into the night, planning the future of the Kopje Valley, and what would become my life.
The next morning, I met with the remaining pride members again. They were all fresh and ready to go after a successful hunt last night and plenty of food. That was one advantage that I had learned, the fewer the pride members, the less hunting had to be done. That turned out to be useful, and gave us more time to plan. The idea of what needed to be done was simple and as I presented them to the pride members they came to smile at the ideas.
First and foremost, the lands had to be secured. To do that, we set up posts, where we watched the entrances to the land and consolidated the areas we wanted to claim as our own. The end result left us with one entrance and exit to the valley, a thin and very easily defended pass. Secondly, we had to concern ourselves with the acquisition of more members, and that could only mean one thing: advertise. There were always new lionesses around, and many of those that left the pride had no where else to go. Several came back but others remained bitter to the end. But there was one problem that kept haunting me; my youthful image. No one believed that such a young lion had enough heart, or even toughness to be a king. A lot of mean things were said, but with the core of lionesses and Chaka's help, I was better able to handle them. However, then the opportunity came to show my true colors and in that moment I out shined them all.
It was a warm day. Dry breezes played with my growing mane and caused the grasses to bow gently as I walked amongst them. A roar had summoned me over to a grove of trees where Lukesia and I often spent time together. It was Lukesia as usual, this time pacing worriedly. I came up quickly, sensing something wrong.
"Lukesia? What happened?" She looked at me and then sighed happily,
"Siombe! I'm so glad you're here. We must hurry! I just got word from Safila that Jammet has gone into the Elephant Graveyard and is lost!" I blinked with surprise. The Elephant graveyard was not as active as it used to be, but it was still where many hyenas stayed. Without saying a word more, we both tore towards the graveyard.
On our was I thought of Jammet. He was a spunky leopard cub with big brown eyes that begged for attention. He had a tail, much like normal leopards but it always twitched when he was planning some mischief. The little cub was a good friend to many around the pridelands, and often spent time with Lukesia and me. He had a love for play that was rivaled only by my own. However, he was often depressed. His parents had left him long ago and he was alone for a long time. His cubhood was a lot like mine, only that he never found his real father or mother for that matter. But his best cub friend was Safila, another cub that we cared for. Jammet had obviously told her where he was going and had taken off. We wasted no time getting the graveyard, knowing that every minute was a moment on Jammet's life. Lukesia and I dove right in and began to looks around for where he was. We called his name in vain,
"Jammet! Jammet where are you?!" we called. Lukesia looked at me worriedly,
"What if the hyenas have already gotten him Siombe?" I felt my mane begin to tingle angrily at the thought.
"Then they will have to answer to me." I growled. We made our was through, all the while me being terribly frightened at heart. In my heart, I never truly forgave the hyenas for what they did to my father and to me. Just being in their domain made me experience the flashbacks, the calls and the sounds of the attack. Suddenly, a real sound came out, a cry of pain. It was Jammet, and it was coming from right over the ridge in front of us! Racing to the edge, we looked down and breathed a sigh of relief and one of tension as well.
Jammet was directly below us, huddled by a large skull. Two hyenas had him cornered and were tormenting him with their laughter. Looking down on Jammet, I could make out a large slash that had gone along his side. Blood was oozing out and he was favoring it, curled up in a ball trying to give himself some protection and washing the wound with his tears. At the sight of the hyenas tormenting him, I felt my vision go red and let loose a mighty roar as I leapt down alongside him. The hyenas jumped back and began to size me up. I growled challengingly,
"Leave the cub alone." The hyenas, who were known as N'goro and Thrax, snarled back at my challenge.
"This cub has trespassed. He is rightfully ours. You cannot stop us lion." I felt Lukesia alight softly behind me, and glanced back to see her taking care of Jammet. I looked back to the hyenas, keeping them at bay.
"You will not harm this cub. Leave us and we shall be out of your lands." N'goro stepped forward with an offensive gesture.
"We will not accept your terms, that cub is rightfully ours and we will have his life for this infraction." I felt myself taken by the spirit of something I did not know and spread my forelegs, moving into a defensive posture.
"Then you will have to go through me." I growled deeply, and with all the venom I could muster up. Lukesia came up beside me and snarled at them. The hyenas looked at each other and then returned the gesture. I whispered lowly to Lukesia, "Get Jammet out of here, I will hold them off." Lukesia looked at me in shock and whispered back,
"I can't leave you Siombe. It is too dangerous..."
"GO! Get Jammet to safety, I can handle these two." Lukesia conceded and with a grunt to the hyenas, she lifted Jammet and scrambled away. The hyenas seemed to be amused at her exit.
"Looks like your friend has left you lion." Thrax giggled as they began to close the distance between us, "You can't handle the both of us." I stood my ground and felt a low rumbling begin in my throat as I lowered my lids, ready for an attack. The hyenas looked startled that I was still holding firm. N'goro spoke up.
"You are staying? Who do you think you are?" Without hesitation, I growled back at the two proudly.
"I am King Siombe of the Kopje Valley, and you are making a mistake if you think that you can take me." N'goro and Thrax laughed at my boldness and then dashed in for a quick attack.
These next few moments are a blur in my memory, mostly because I was being controlled by so strong a force. Slashing and biting, I kept the hyenas at bay, inflicting them with heavy wounds. The din of laughter and roaring did not even seem to exist as I attacked and defended myself masterfully. The hyenas surged forward, only to be repelled by a powerful swat or a vicious slash. All seemed to be going well, and I was confident of victory when suddenly a hard knock to the back of my head caused me to crumple to the ground. In my groggy state, the hyenas pulled back and regrouped. A large bone had fallen from the top of the cliff I had just been on, and cracked me in the head. The pain was enough to break me out of my aggressive stand and send my vision into a blur. Seeing the hyenas fall back, I made the smart choice and elected to retreat.
I staggered through the graveyard and away from the offending animals. The pain in my head was unbearable, but it was subsiding. My vision was normal again and I could make out the exit. Plodding on, I headed for it, happy that I had helped. Suddenly, the attack began again, before I even knew it. A searing pain in my left thigh produced a roar and a spinning slash to the offending hyena. Another suddenly appeared and began to attack my other side. I went into a panic when I saw what I was up against. The hyenas had regrouped, and were stronger in numbers. I counted at least six fresh hyenas and then two that had attacked earlier. They were all around me, and there was no way out.
The fight was very one sided. I was too tired to defend myself properly and began to feel myself losing. I remember vaguely spinning and slashing, too tired to really fight and too weak to fight hard. The hyenas seemed to enjoy tormenting me, and decided to make my demise as painful as possible. Every few seconds, a roar would break out as they inflicted a new wound. Then suddenly, I collapsed. There was too much pain and I was too tired. The hyenas closed in giggling madly. I had only felt that much fear one other time and lay helpless to defend. I thought I was gone for sure when suddenly several other roars broke the already disturbed air. Lukesia had returned, and had brought Nalia and Amathambo. The two lionesses fought valiantly and aggressively, driving the hyenas away from my broken and bloody body. The panther healer rushed to my aid and quickly began to check me over. However, I could not retain consciousness and felt my eyes close. The clamor of battle was the only thing echoing in my ears and the world faded for what I thought to be the last time.
"Siombe?" a voice purred to me. I felt a groan escape my muzzle and I twisted my head. Another voice that I recognized as Amathambo's spoke to me.
"Stay still young king, you are very badly wounded." I obeyed, partially because I did not have the energy to move anymore. I forced my eyes open and blinked away the haze that blanketed my vision. I could make out Nalia's and Amathambo's forms looking down on me.
"Where am I?" I rasped weakly. I heard Nalia's voice coo to me comfortingly,
"You are back home Siombe, in the Kopje Valley. You are safe."
"Jammet? Where is Jammet?" I asked in a feeble voice.
"I'm over here Siombe," I head Jammet speak up, "I just had a little cut. I'm okay." Amathambo spoke up right after the cub,
"Unfortunately, Lukesia was injured badly in the fight. She is still unconscious." I gasped and felt myself wanting to cry.
"Will she be okay?" I asked. Nalia spoke up quickly to answer my question,
"She will live son, but don't worry about that right now. You saved Jammet, you're a hero." At this, the little cub came up alongside my massive head and gave me a caring lick where there were no wounds.
"Thank you for saving me." Jammet purred into my ear. I felt myself smile despite the pain I felt on my body. I weakly pushed my head against him, letting him know that I appreciated his motion. Then , at the urging of the healer panther, I went back to sleep.
News of the brave rescue of Jammet spread quickly. Within a few days, many had heard of the young king who risked his life versus eight hyenas to save a cub. It was big news. All were bustling with excitement to meet me, or give me a nuzzle of congratulations. To stand up against such unnerving odds was a big thing for some reason, but I ate it up with an acacia leaf. It proved to all that I had the endurance and strength to be king; and more importantly, it proved to me that I had the ability in me to do it.
For a few months, I lived in solitude, being visited only by Nalia or Amathambo to give me news of the pridal status. As I healed slowly, the pride did as well, and we posted a mark of fifteen lionesses living in the pride or pledging loyalty to me. It was a dream come true. I had done it! The pride was back up to full strength again. This was a happy time, but had a bittersweet edge. As I found myself healing, and growing stronger I still could not shake the nagging feeling of guilt that I had. Lukesia had not fared well after the attack, and it had changed her for the worse. She became cold, uncaring about me and viciously suspicious of my every move. It was as if she didn't care for me anymore but just tolerated my presence. It bothered me to no end that she seemed to have lost her love for me, and being a young lion, love meant so much at this time. I felt bad that I was not able to defend her from getting so hurt in the fight.
Life went on though, and my duties as king were picking up. The hyenas became increasingly active in the pridelands, and everyone wanted me to deal with them. In retrospect, I find it odd that I didn't just decide to wipe out the whole race of them. I had more of a grudge against hyenas than the average animal. No one species had taken so much from me as they had, I should have taken my anger out on them and rid the pridelands of a much hated threat. However, I elected against it, particularly because I had grown fond of defending the circle, not damaging it.
When I finally was able to come out of my seclusion of healing, I immediately called a meeting of all the Pride members. They gathered quickly at the promontory, and I was happy to see them all. As I made my way to the commanding rock, they parted and bowed as I passed, whispering "Incosi" (leader) to me. I nodded as I passed through, followed closely by my mother, Nalia. Taking my position upon the rock, I stood proudly and looked over the group. They were silenced immediately and began to whisper amongst themselves excitedly. My first impulse was to look to Nalia to find out what was wrong. She smiled up at me.
"It is nothing son, they were just noting how much you have grown." I looked at her curiously,
"Grown?" She nodded with a tear of happiness. Glancing alongside to see my reflection in a nearby hole of water I nearly gasped in shock at the sight. I was terribly handsome, with a long flowing mane that rivaled that of the greatest lions. If not truly, I looked to be at least 550 lbs easy. My fur had a beautiful sheen to it. But the most striking thing I noticed was my face. It has matured so much, grown beyond being just a cubbish face to the face of a fully grown and mature lion. After tearing my eyes from the shockingly pleasing view, I faced the crowd once more. This time, instead of sorrow, I could see joy in their eyes, happiness, and above all pride. They were proud of their king and their lands. They were proud of what it had become. They were proud to belong to the strongest pride the pridelands had seen in a long time. And above all, I was proud to be their leader.
I stood up straight, and took my most regal pose. The moment froze in time as I stood there. My broad chest stuck out defiantly at life, my fiercely handsome face and mane shining with the sun, and my large and kingly stature had finally come into being. I smiled at all the members there and they smiled back, confirmation of their faith in me. Then, in a motion that I will never forget, I craned my neck to the sky and loosed a mighty roar. Not the roar of an adolescent, but the roar of a lion. I had made it. I had grown up. I had come from years of loneliness and pain, suffering and torment, to this point where I now stood. I was no longer an adolescent, but a lion. And not just any lion. I had become a Lion King.