“What Might Have Been…”
Note: This story is supposed to be how Simba’s life would have differed if Scar hadn’t killed Mufasa. I worked really really really hard on this (as I’m sure you know. You probably have already played with the cursor thing at the side of the screen to see how long this thing is. Or you are now that I’ve said that). There are parts here I’d call PG-13, but I have seen/read much worse. With the exception of a reference/description of Nala’s father, all characters are copyrighted to Disney and have appeared in either the first TLK or the second. So if you were expecting characters from one of the really famous fictions like the Chronicles or 6 stories, sorry. I tried to leave things as open for speculation as possible. Enjoy!
Everything was going according to plan. Scar watched the scene from a ledge above the gorge. Below, his brother, Mufasa, and his nephew, Simba, were desperately trying to survive Scar’s carefully prepared stampede. There was little chance either would be able to find their way out of the gorge alive, and if they did, Scar was ready. He just needed to watch and wait.
In the gorge below, Mufasa, the King of all the Pridelands, ran against the endless stream of water buffalo towards his son. Simba’s strength was ebbing away. The little cub wouldn’t be able to hold on to the shabby tree he was hanging from much longer. Not that that mattered, because one rogue wildebeest was charging straight at the tree and smashed it to pieces as his sharp horns hit the trunk. Little Simba went flying. Mufasa jumped to meet the cub before he hit the ground. His son set firmly in the mighty lion’s jaws, Mufasa felt himself calm ever so little, and turned to find a way to escape the gorge. Scar watched intently.
Mufasa began to run with the flow of the stampede, hoping that would lower his chances of being killed. But his paws slipped and he collided with the side of a large wildebeest. Simba fell out of his father’s protective jaws and rolled across the trodden earth. He shook off the shock to find himself staring up into thousands of rock hard hooves coming at him. The cub was petrified, certain of his own death now. What have I done? Simba thought. But he wouldn’t die. Mufasa scooped him up again and jumped at a small ledge. Mufasa let Simba out of his mouth and onto the safety of the high rock.
A wildebeest collided with Mufasa, taking him down.
“DAD!” Simba cried! Scar was getting impatient. Simba and Scar watched with anticipation. Would the mighty king of the Pridelands be destroyed in his last attempt to save his son by the brainless wildebeests, or would he somehow escape another encounter with death?
Shooting out of the madness in the gorge, one mighty, red-maned king began to climb up the steep western wall of the gorge. Damn! I’ll have to kill him myself! thought Mufasa’s brother. Scar walked towards the wall Mufasa was climbing to head him off. Meanwhile, little Simba struggled up a wall of fallen boulders to reach the safe ground above the stampede.
Only… a little… further, Mufasa thought as the steep wall became sheer; almost unclimbable. Scar waited above.
“Scar!” cried out Mufasa. He slipped. “Brother! Help me!” Scar looked down at his brother. Mufasa had always been the better one. Better at hunting, at ruling, at fighting, at everything, and here he was, struggling to climb a few more feet. How pathetic! thought Scar, sitting contently above.
But as Scar, once Taka, looked down at his brother, he remembered. He remembered how Mufasa had comforted him when he received his scar. He remembered how Mufasa had defended him when other cubs made fun and teased him. He remembered how they had played as cubs and how they star gazed. He remembered the one time Mufasa had tried to convince their father to take himself and not Mufasa out for lessons for one day…
And then Scar thought of what was now. He thought of his mischievous little nephew, whom he was quite found of in truth. He thought of how he had loved and tried, unsuccessfully, to court Queen Sarabi. He thought of the pain he would cause her if he murdered her husband and son. And, Scar thought of Zira. She had always been there. When Scar got his scar, when Sarabi broke his heart, when he and Mufasa got in a fight, whenever things got sticky. They had been close friends since cub hood. What would she think if she found out he was a murderer? What would she do? Would he ever be able to redeem himself, if in anyone’s, her eyes?
It had only been seconds since Mufasa called out to Scar. And now, Scar did not see a pathetic emblem of his hatred. He saw his own flesh and blood and a symbol of the good memories of his cub hood struggling to stay with him…
Scar flew at Mufasa, claws out, teeth bared. He dug his claws deep into Mufasa’s paws, who let out a blood-freezing roar of pain. Scar moved in, his eyes fixed on his brother’s. Scar opened his mouth to speak.
“Come my brother. It is time to live.”
Scar grabbed some of Mufasa’s mane in his mouth and pulled. Scar had saved his brother’s life.
“Dad!” Simba called. He had climbed the rock barrier, and came running across the ledge to Mufasa. Mufasa turned to his brother, panting, and smiled. Scar just looked down, his heart full of guilt. “Go to your son,” he said. Mufasa nodded.
Simba looked close to having a heart attack. He trembled furiously. Having reached Mufasa, he was now free to loose it.
“Calm down, my son.”
“But it’s all my fault! I startled the wildebeests! We could have all died!”
“But did we?” Mufasa looked calmly at Simba. The cub considered what his father said.
“But look at you!” Simba cried. Mufasa was covered in sweat, dirt, grime, wildebeest fur, and plenty of dry (or drying) blood). He looked himself over, slightly amused at his son’s fright.
“It’s all my fault! They could have killed you, Dad!” Simba hung his head and began to cry.
“Hey, hey,” Mufasa lifted his son’s head with his paw. “Dry those tears. It doesn’t matter what could happen, what should have happen, or what we want to happen. All that matters in life is living up to your name, to the Circle of Life, and doing the right thing no matter what does happen. Do you understand, Simba?”
The cub nodded shamefully.
During all of this, Scar had barely moved. He was looking at his paws, his claws now stained with his brother’s innocent blood. What had just happened? He had planned this moment thousands of times, and when he finally came to it, finally was in reach of the crown he so richly deserved, he… What had he done?… The right thing, Scar thought solemnly. He looked up. Mufasa was coming at him.
“Brother,” Mufasa said, “Had it not been for you, I’d have not saved my son, and I would be trampled beneath the hooves of those wildebeests. For that, I thank you, not as a king to his savior, but as a brother to his honorable brother. I will reward best I can for this, and give you all the gratitude my heart has.”
“Thank you,” Scar whispered. No, not Scar. Taka had saved his brother. Scar was the one who stained his own claws with Mufasa’s blood. And now, Taka thought of the hyena’s. What will they do? thought Taka apprehensively.
“Come,” Mufasa broke into Taka’s thoughts. The King allowed the young Prince to climb into his mane to sleep. “Let us go home.”
Taka had fetched and waken Zazu, who flew ahead of the lions. Mufasa and Taka traveled in silence. They were both tired, and were full of thoughts. Once Mufasa had tried to thank Scar again, but as soon as he said his name, his brother lashed out in words, demanding that he never be called by that name again in his life.
The sun was just beginning to set as the lions reached Pride Rock. Three lionesses ran out to them. Sarabi, Sarafina, and Zira.
“What happened?” the lionesses cried in unison. Sarabi went immediately to her husband, Zira to her best friend, and Sarafina to the little prince.
“Mom! Wait! UP!” screamed the little daughter of Sarafina, Nala. “What is going on? OH MY GOSH, SIMBA!” The little cub bolted to her best friend, Sarabi and Sarafina jumping out of the way so as to avoid injury.
“He’s fine, Nala,” Mufasa spoke to the second creature on his head. To his wife, he said that they would explain to the rest of the pride as soon as they had gotten some rest.
“Well, of coarse!” Zira exclaimed, more to Taka than to Mufasa. “You all look like you could use some! What on Earth happened to Prince Simba?”
“He is tired, let him rest,” Taka cooed to Zira. But the lionesses had no intention to let anyone ‘rest.’ If they were going down in hysteria, they were going to take anyone they could with them. Questions flew at the brothers. They couldn’t hear at all. The royal pair looked at each other fearfully and began to wish they were back in that stampede than here having to explain it. Finally, Nala ended their torture.
“SHUT UP!” Nala yelled at the top of her lungs. Blissful silence… No one moved. All of the adults stared bewildered at Nala. Simba stirred. “Can’t you guys see he’s sleeping?”
Mufasa chuckled. “She’s right. We’ll put him in the cave with Nala and Zazu, Taka and I will wash up some at the water hole, and then we’ll tell the pride what happened.”
“Yes…yes, okay,” Sarabi agreed. She took her son in her jaws and carried him to the cave, Nala at her heels. Mufasa and Taka trotted in the direction of the water hole. Sarafina turned to Zira.
“Don’t ask me. You know just as well as I do no one’s used that name in years.”
The sun was set. Simba and Nala were sleeping in the cave of Pride Rock with Zazu and the rest of the pride was assembled just outside. Sarabi sat next to King Mufasa and Zira next to Taka. The rest of the pride anxiously awaited the two males’ tale. All the lionesses were whispering to each other. Nothing exciting had happened since Simba’s birth, and this was sure to be interesting. Whispers and mutters were flying around, but no one had the nerve to actually address the males. Finally, Sarafina spoke above the others.
“So, what happened, exactly?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure how things started,” began Mufasa, “but there was a stampede.”
“What?” Sarabi asked. “You two were in a stampede?”
“Well, yes and no,” answered Mufasa.
“What do you mean?” questioned Zira.
“W-Well,” Taka stuttered, “you see, I brought Simba down to the gorge. I told him to wait for me. You see, I was going to get Mufasa
be-because I had an idea for a gift we could give to Simba. Of coarse, I said it was all Mufasa’s idea but-”
“What was it?” inquired Mufasa.
“Huh? Oh the gift? I can’t recall at the moment. But anyways, I left the gorge, and Simba stayed. I was passing the herd of wildebeests when-”
“Wildebeests?” Sarabi gasped.
“Yes, my dear wife. And I’m a lion,” Mufasa teased his queen. “I’ve always said I married her for her mind,” he continued, talking to the rest of the pride. Chuckles answered. Sarabi swatted him playfully. “Go on,” Mufasa said to Taka.
“Um, yes. Uh, I was passing the wildebeests when something, a cheetah or wild dog maybe, startled the herd. And at about the same time, I heard Simba roaring at something in the gorge.”
“That explains why Simba was saying it was all his fault,” commented Mufasa.
“Stop interrupting,” snarled Zira. “Go on, Taka.”
“Well, the herd started stampeding into the gorge, and when I realized they were headed for Simba, I ran to get Mufasa.”
“By the time we got back to the gorge,” Mufasa said, “Simba was barely hanging from a dead tree in the center of the action. Somehow we got him out of there, and if hadn’t been for Taka here, I’d have been a goner!” Mufasa nudged his brother playfully. Taka didn’t nudge back.
“Simba? Simba was in the stampede?”
“Yes, Sarafina. We don’t know what happened to him before we got there.”
Everyone’s heads seemed to turn in the direction of the cave where the cub was sleeping now. Sarabi’s thoughts raced. Anything could have happened to him! My son will have nightmares about this the rest of his life! And the queen was right. Simba would have nightmares surrounding the stampede the rest of his life, and in fact, was having the nightmare at that very moment.
While the pride stared at the prince, Simba was in torture. He was floating above the stampede. Simba wasn’t going to be hurt so long as he concentrated on staying above the wildebeests. But there was his father, struggling to climb a wall of rock. He was at the top, but something was wrong. Scar sat above him, watching Mufasa struggle. No, Scar was letting Mufasa slip! But wait, now he was reaching for Mufasa’s paw, trying to help. Mufasa reached back.
NO! Scar had slipped! He was falling! Everything was going so slow, but it seemed so fast! Scar fell into Mufasa, and now they were both falling! NO! They were falling into the stampede! NO! Simba looked down. He had stopped concentrating! Simba was falling, too! They were all going to die!
“AAAAAHHHHHH!” Simba awoke. He looked around. The pride was sleeping. They were all in the cave.
Nala and Sarafina were next to the South wall. Zira slept in the center of the pride lionesses. Simba was in between his father and mother at the back of the cave. Sarabi opened one eye.
“Simba? Was that you?”
“Yeah, I guess it was.”
“You have a nightmare?”
Sarabi nuzzled him comfortingly and licked his forehead. Simba nuzzled back. Sarabi went back to sleep. Simba, though, took one last look around the cave. That’s odd, he thought. Scar usually comes in after everyone else, but he’s not usually up this late… But before Simba could panic, he fell asleep.
Simba didn’t see his Uncle Taka in the cave because he wasn’t there. Oh no. He had gone to the Elephant Graveyard. As much as the lion dreaded it, he knew he had to tell the hyenas … what happened.
Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed ran up to him from the bone yard. Other hyenas, hundreds really, waited in the shadows of the accursed place.
“Scar! Wha’ happened? You was supposed to meet up with us after the stampede!” Shenzi yelled as loud as she dared. She really did look worried.
“Please don’t call me by that name,” Taka pleaded.
“Uh, you feeling okay buddy?” Banzai looked slightly confused. “You’ve never gone by any other name.”
“Just call me Taka,” the lion begged.
“Fine. Whatever. Somethin’ happened back there. Waz goin on?” Shenzi asked.
“I … I … couldn’t,” Taka stumbled.
“Couldn’t? Couldn’t what?”
“I couldn’t do it! I didn’t kill them!” Taka yelled, loud enough for all the hyenas to hear.
Shenzi took Taka away from the others. “You didn’t kill Mufasa?” she asked patiently, like a mother asks a child. Taka shook his head.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, old friend.”
“It’s okay, I understand,” Shenzi comforted the lion. “I’ll talk to the others.”
“Will you forgive me?”
“Taka, you my friend. Mon ami. We’re amigos. That’s all friends do, forgive each other for our shortcomings. An’ really, it might be better this way.”
“Taka, you and I both know you were never trained to be a king,” Shenzi said. “Go on home. We’ll talk more later.”
Taka thanked Shenzi, and went back to Pride Rock, feeling much better than he had felt coming.
The next few months went by fast. Mufasa’s paws healed from where Taka had grabbed him, but there would always be scars. Taka was surprisingly warm now, spending as much time as possible with Mufasa, Simba, and particularly Zira. Simba and Nala were getting in trouble and ruining recent baths from their mothers, as usual. And Simba was constantly getting lessons from Mufasa.
But something was different about little Simba. He seemed more aware of others, and he seemed to always be trying to treat the pride members like he might never see them again.
And that wasn’t all. Simba and Nala were growing. As the dry season swiftly approached, the lionesses took Nala with them more an more often to watch the hunts. She needed to be a great hunter by the time she was an adult. By then, she’d be one of the few lionesses left in the pride still in their prime, able to bring down a kill large enough to sustain an entire pride. The lionesses wanted her to get as much of a jump start on hunting as she could. And the betrothal? Nala and Simba had completely forgotten about their impending doom, or what they’d think was their doom.
The dry season hit. Simba was enjoying the shade provided by the outcrop of Pride Rock with Taka.
“Taka, wake up! If I’m gonna talk to you, I’d like it if you were listening!”
“Fine,” Taka opened his eyes and hit Simba playfully. “Well?”
“Well, I was just wondering, why aren’t you married?”
“What!” Taka was definably awake now. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Simba looked up at him and just kind of stared. In his mind, it was quite simple. He’s and adult, Simba. You have to explain everything, even the simplest thing, to them. “Well, I look at it this way.”
“Look at what?”
“It. Just humor me here.”
Ah, we’re getting closer to puberty, I see, thought Taka.
“Dad really loves Mom, right?”
“And he’s really happy about it, right?”
“I just figured you’d like to as sickeningly happy as Dad and Mom are. And actually, I think you could be, but aren‘t letting yourself.”
“Come on, Uncle Taka. You’re telling me you’ve never thought of marrying Zira? I see you two and love and you know it’s real ’cause I’m a child and I know these things.”
“You like that word a lot, Uncle Taka.”
“Just say that last part again.”
“Uncle Taka, haven’t you ever considering or dreamed of being with Zira? I mean, she seems to have! Whenever she’s around you, she’s so much happier, not that she isn’t a ball of energy as is!”
Taka looked over at his nephew. He hadn’t ever thought of things that way before. But now that he thought about it, he was happiest with Zira. She was always around when he needed someone.
“Get it now, Uncle Taka?”
“Yeah, I think I do.” Just then, Taka thanked any god, if such a thing existed, for not letting him kill this wise little cub.
The dry season wasn’t very dry that year. This worried King Mufasa. His grandfather had told him once of a great drought during Ahadi’s cub hood that was preceded by two years of wet dry seasons. Standing at the top of Pride Rock, Mufasa watched as the sun rose to its zenith. Could history be repeating itself? he asked himself. And if so, what can I do to prevent something horrible from happening? If there is another drought, the entire pride could be destroyed!
Simba came out of the cave below with Nala. The two were playing and talking, as usual. Watching their joy at such a simple thing as each other’s company, the thought of drought was pushed out of Mufasa’s mind. It also made the king lonely for his mate. He turned round and headed back down to the cave where Sarabi still slept. It had been too long since he reminded her of how much he loved her. If his own son could remind Nala every day, he, the king of the Pridelands, could certainly take one day off every now and again to do so with his wife. But before he reached his destination, Mufasa ran into another love-struck lion.
Taka was waiting for Mufasa on the trail of rock that led back down to the main level of the pride’s home. “Mufasa, brother, may we talk?”
“Well,” Mufasa thought of Sarabi and his son… and his brother… “of coarse.”
“Not here?” Taka looked as though he’d seen a ghost. Or maybe, had realized something very important that needed addressing immediately. So, Mufasa and Taka headed north east from their home to their favorite tree as cubs. It was at that tree they had shared each others deepest thoughts. It was at that tree that Taka had received his scar.
“So,” Mufasa started, “what is the matter you wished to talk to me about?”
“Mufasa, you are in love still, aren’t you?” Taka said hesitantly. Needless to say the question caught Taka’s brother off guard.
“Excuse me? I - I mean, yes, I suppose. Although it is a different kind of love than it was when Sarabi and I first … courted…” Mufasa said, somewhat suspicious. “Why?”
Taka ignored the question. “How is the love different?”
“Less … lust, I suppose. It’s more about enjoying each other now. I personally prefer this love to that of our youth. Why?”
“So if I asked you, hypothetically,” Taka stammered, “ you would suggest to take advantage of being in love?”
“Well, if I understand you correctly. Why?” Mufasa was beginning to see where this conversation was going. Taka continued, nervously.
“Then if, hypothetically, I was considering marriage, you would support the decision?”
“I love this word you seem to use so much: hypothetically. It just so full of … well, something that isn’t hypothetical, in this case,” Mufasa teased.
“Just answer the question!” Taka begged desperately.
Mufasa sighed and looked into his little brother’s eyes. Mufasa recalled when Taka, or really Scar, proposed to Sarabi. Taka had been devastated when she declined. And yet, he went on living. Putting himself in Taka’s place, Mufasa had wondered how Taka had managed to keep living. Seeing him now, having a good idea of whom Taka might be thinking of, Mufasa knew that the love between him and that lioness was much truer than that Taka had once felt for Sarabi. True enough to maybe even compete with the love Mufasa and Sarabi felt for each other. Taka and the lioness Mufasa assumed were a perfect match.
“Taka,” Mufasa started, quite serious now, “marriage is more than a word, more than a relationship. It is a commitment. It is a partnership. You will run into troubles, fights, and there will be times when you and your loved one will want out. But for every rough point, there are a thousand good points if you persevere through it. If you are willing to take that challenge, and so is your loved one, I will support you both through thick and thin!”
“Mufasa…” Taka looked up at his brother. He looked close to tears. And for the first time in years, Mufasa saw the innocence of Taka’s childhood that was stolen from him when he was scarred. “Mufasa?”
“Mufasa, I’m going to propose to Zira!”
Mufasa smiled. “I know.”
Zira was catnapping in a field west of Pride Rock. The dry season was over now. Simba was over a year old now. No one else was around. For the moment. She woke up slowly, enjoying every last moment of her nap. Eventually, she got up, stretched, and yawned. She looked west of where she was. Time I was headed home, she thought sadly.
Going home meant seeing Taka. And seeing him was such agony when she knew she could never clean his mane, or lick his muzzle, or look into those bright green eyes and caress away the pain caused by that scar. No, Zira knew from the moment Taka came to her so long ago, heart broken from having Sarabi deny his proposal. How could I, how can I compete with her? She is a queen! And what I’m I in the eyes of my best friend? Just someone to go to for kicks. … Listen to me! I shouldn’t think like this! I’ll put myself in a worse mood!
Zira shook head, as if she could shake the thoughts from her head. But when she turned east to go back to Pride Rock, Taka was standing fifty feet from her. Oh, please. It’s bad enough when I have to pretend to be happy at home, but in my field?
“Hello, Taka,” Zira faked joy. “What brings you here? I was just headed back if you…” But something in Taka’s eyes made Zira stop talking. Something she hadn’t seen before. It made her nervous.
“Zira?” Taka asked. Oh, that voice. Please stop, Taka.
“Yes, my friend?”
“Zira, I’ve been terrible to you.” Taka was only ten feet from Zira now.
Zira hung her head slightly. “What makes you say that?”
“Zira, I’ve been so blind, so absorbed in my own stupid selfish thoughts, I … I haven’t been there for you like you have been there for me all these years.” Oh, please, Zira, please don’t hurt me. Not now that I’ve gotten this far!
“You are the king’s brother. You have responsibilities to him, and his son, … and his wife.” Zira took a deep breath. She’d made it so many years without breaking, why was she now being so … something!
Taka was right in front of her now. He raised her head with his paw, letting her look into his green eyes. “That, Zira, is no excuse. You deserve better treatment, no matter if I’m the king himself or some crude rogue! And now, I’m going to make up for it. Zira …”
“Taka,” Zira whispered, tears streaming down her face.
“Zira, will you marry me?”
“Where is Uncle Taka?” Simba asked Mufasa. The sun was set now, and the entire pride had gone in for the night for a long time. Simba hadn’t slept a blink yet, and had demanded his father wait with him. “And Zira, too? Neither one have come back from the western field yet.” Simba looked back at where he’d seen Taka disappear over the horizon early that evening.
Mufasa, half asleep, looked down at his son. Simba hadn’t told him why they had to stay up outside, and now, the king had to bite his tongue not to laugh. He had stayed up half the night with his son, just to find out that Simba was worried about uncle.
“Son, believe me. Your uncle, AND Zira, are just fine. Come now. You still have lessons in the morning, no matter how much sleep you get!” With that, the king went to bed. Simba watched as his father went inside. He took one last look west, and smiled.
Simba was in quite the foul mood. “I don’t want a bath! I just had one yesterday!” he groaned to his mother.
“Yes, well, you are a prince going to a wedding. You need to look respectable,” Sarabi eased the words onto her son.
“They’ve seen what I usually look like! They won’t recognize me if I’m clean!” argued Simba playfully.
“Well, then we’ll surprise them!” Sarabi teased back. Mufasa stepped into the cave where the queen and prince were. “Rafiki just arrived. Hey, wait a second,” Mufasa looked down at Simba, raising one eyebrow. “Who are you, young cub? My son is a dirty little rascal. You are too sharp looking to be my son!”
“I told you so,” Sarabi nuzzled Simba, and the three went out into the bright sunshine.
Simba and Nala lay at the entrance to the cave of Pride Rock, watching the pride celebrate. They had both learned a lot about joinings over the last few hours. Having watched Rafiki formally wed Taka and Zira, it hadn’t been hard.
“My dad says that tonight, Uncle Taka and Z- I mean Aunt Zira are supposed to sneak out while the pride sleeps. Then they disappear for a few weeks. Dad says that he and Mom did that, too,” Simba said to his friend.
“I thought you said Mufasa and Sarabi had been … betrothed once Mufasa got his mane. Wouldn’t their joining have been different?” asked Nala.
“Uh, yeah, I guess so,” Simba looked down at his paws. All of this celebration just reminded the two cubs that they would be forced to marry their best friend one day. And although it was better than being betrothed to some complete stranger or someone they despised, neither cub wanted to be wed to the other. As Nala had once said, ‘It would be so weird.’ And what would they do during those few weeks after the joining? Try to trick themselves into believing the marriage would be happy and normal? Or would they be drying each other’s tears, both wishing they were someone else they had met prior to the wedding?
No matter what their future held, the night made the cubs feel uncomfortable together. Nala looked shyly over at Simba. She had to admit, he looked good for a cub. He had the makings of his father, so said her mother. Nala had taken Sarafina’s word for it. She looked down at her paws.
Meanwhile, Simba was having issues. He was imagining themselves in another four or five years. Nala would look like her mother, but by then parts of her father would be shining through. Simba didn’t want to know what he ended up looking like. Probably awful, he thought. Simba imagined himself getting darker, like his mother, with a mane. Well, of course I’ll have a mane, Simba mocked himself. Most likely red like Dad’s… or something like Mom’s dad had…
Simba put the two images of himself and Nala of the future on the tall cliff of Pride Rock. They were both chanting with Rafiki. The entire pride was circled around them, and all the kingdom’s subjects were below. Mufasa and Sarabi were at Simba’s side, and Sarafina was at Nala’s side. Uncle Taka and Aunt Zira were close to Simba’s parents. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, beautiful sunshine was everywhere, and a soft breeze was pulling at all the males’ manes. It would be a perfect joining. Except for one thing. In the vision, Simba imagined Nala and himself crying silently, looking deep into each other’s eyes, begging for each other’s forgiveness without words. Their parents tried to smile, but couldn’t. And at the bottom of Pride Rock, Simba imagined a lone lioness and a mysterious lion, both of them sobbing. They both understood one another’s pain, because the one they loved was being forced to marry their best friend.
Simba woke from his day dreaming. Uncle Taka and Aunt Zira stood above him, gently smiling at him.
“Uh, sorry. Day dreaming.”
“You do that a lot, little one,” Zira told him.
“Yeah, I know. You two enjoying the night?”
They both sighed, leaning into each other. Yes, thought Simba. “I wish you both the best.”
“Who are you and where is my nephew?” Taka teased. Simba smiled. The three just stood there a while, until Zira went to celebrate with another lioness in the pride and her female three-year-old.
Taka took Simba to and empty spot on the rock. “What’s on your mind?”
“Is it the betrothal?”
Simba hung his head. Yes.
“Listen here,” Taka looked at his nephew, “You care about Nala, don’t you?”
“You would be willing to do a lot of things for her?”
“She’s my best friend! Of course!”
“Then what are you worried about? That’s all that matters? And who knows. You may be happier this way.”
“But how come I don’t get a choice in the matter?”
“Because you are a prince.”
“You’re a prince!” insisted Simba.
“I’m not a prince like you are.”
“What does that matter?” Simba grumbled.
“Listen, Simba. I learned this lesson the hard way. When you are young, but older than you are now, your heart will play tricks on you! You will think you’ve met the one, when you find what you’re really looking for right under your nose! You understand?”
Taka sighed and smiled. “You will one day. Now you go to bed. You have lessons with you’re father in the morning.”
Simba stumbled off of Pride Rock a several months later. Why do I let Nala keep up so late at night? he thought lazily. The prince looked up at the rising sun and smiled sleepily. He loved getting up early, before the rest of the pride. It gave him time to pretend he wasn’t a prince. With his growing, Simba seemed to be realizing being King wouldn’t be as carefree and fun as he had imagined such a long time ago.
Presently, Simba clambered down Pride Rock and headed to the water hole. By the time he reached it, he’d be wide awake, the sun would be nearing the end of its rising, but everyone would still be sleeping. And THAT means, thought Simba excitedly, I can go swimming again!
Since Taka and Zira had been joined, Simba spent more time teaching himself to swim. He was quite good at it, but couldn’t imagine what attracted him to the water.
There it was, the water hole. Simba did a swan dive right in. He stopped his breathing before hitting the water, having learned the importance of holding one’s breath underwater. He paddled back to the surface of the pool, laughing as he broke the surface. Simba enjoyed the cool water for hours.
“Huh?” Simba looked up from his floating. Nala, Sarabi, Mufasa, and Sarafina were all staring at him at the water’s edge. Oh, crap! Simba thought. Let the fireworks begin.
“What are you doing?” yelled Nala.
“My baby’s going to drown!” shrieked Sarabi.
“Mom-” Simba muttered.
“Get over here, now!” Mufasa screamed, somewhat frightened.
And Sarafina was so petrified of the water, she looked like she was about to faint. All four were being careful not to touch the water, for lions have an instinctive fear of drowning…or making contact with water in any matter other than drinking it.
Simba paddled confidently to shore. The others stepped back from his dripping figure as he shook the water from his frame. “Good morning!” Simba said.
“What the-?” Nala approached Simba. She examined his eyes, holding them open with her paws. She knocked her paw against Simba’s skull and listened to the sound it made. Finally, she took Simba face in her paws, forcing him to look right at her. “What on Earth were you doing?”
“Swimming,” Simba shrugged, tolerating his best friend’s abuse.
“Simba, you could have died!” Sarabi scolded, having regained composure.
“No, I couldn’t have. I’ve been swimming forever,” Simba turned to look at his reflection in the water. He didn’t want to look like he’d been swimming to the rest of the pride. Simba took his paw and tried to tame the thick fur on top of his head, all the while ignoring a lecture from one of the four cats behind him.
Simba was about to turn back to the others when he noticed something different about his reflection. He leaned in close to examine it.
“…and completely… uh, Simba?” Mufasa noticed his son looking down into the water. He stepped up next to him. “Simba?”
Simba wasn’t listening. There was something different about his appearance. What was it? He looked at the top of his head and realized what it was. All atop his skull mingling with the gold were short, red hairs. Simba’s eyes grew wide. “My mane!” he screamed!
“What?” Nala shook her head.
“Look!” Simba turned around and pointed at the top of his head. The four did not even have to move in closer to notice the reddish glow.
The pride was ecstatic. Their prince’s mane was coming in! Another major celebration was to take place! Mufasa had sent for Rafiki immediately and explained to Simba what would happen. “You see, my son, when you are smiled upon from above, He gives you a mane. In order to acknowledge this, should the lion be a prince like yourself, the animals of the kingdom are called forth and a ceremony takes place involving the prince and the kingdom’s shaman. You have met our shaman once, right after you were born.”
“What do I do?” Simba asked, but really didn’t care. He just wanted the rest of his mane to come!
“Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?” Nala said. Simba looked at her out of the corner of his eye and smiled. She was so down to Earth!
“Yes, we will,” Zira said in her sharp, seductive voice.
Taka stood besides his mate, staring down at Simba. But he wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t quite sure why he wasn’t excited for his nephew. Quite suddenly, a burning hatred filled his body, threatening to attack anyone, no matter who they were! His eyes clouded and he began to snarl in pain! A dizzying mist seemed to fill his head! And just as suddenly, the feeling subsided. Oh, no…
Simba looked out of the cave of Pride Rock. All the kingdom’s subjects were assembled waiting for the ceremony to take place. He came back inside an sat by Nala. His eyes were out on sticks, his front, left paw was twitching, and he kept looking back at the opening out from the cave.
Nala looked at her friend. “Calm down,” she cooed gently. Nala knew Simba would do fine. Simba, Rafiki, and the rest of Simba’s direct family had been practicing the ceremony for the past seventeen days! Even Nala had a small part. Everyone seemed calm except Simba.
Nala placed her right front paw on Simba’s twitching one and whispered in his ear, “I’m nervous, too.”
“You are?” Simba asked.
“Mm-hm,” Nala comforted. It seemed to work. Simba sighed and stopped twitching. “Thanks, Nala. You’re a good friend.”
“I know,” she joked. Mufasa stepped in front of the friends.
“It’s time, son,” he said.
“Okay,” Simba’s voice went up an octave. He walked to the entrance to the cave, next to the monkey known as Rafiki. Nala watched a moment and then took her place for the procession.
The pride members who weren’t involved were already outside. Rafiki, Simba, Mufasa, Sarabi, Nala, and Sarafina paced out for the ceremony. Rafiki and Simba sent halfway up the promontory. Sarafina and Nala stopped behind them. She stepped on Simba gently. Simba turned his head slightly to smile at her. Mufasa and Sarabi were roaring to their subjects. They nuzzled and turned to sit where Rafiki and Simba were. Rafiki followed as Simba stepped up to the very top of the promontory.
Okay, Nala, get psyched, Nala thought before walking between the King and Queen to stand near Rafiki. She knew the part the group hadn’t been allowed to practice was coming.
Simba was looking out. He was nervous again. He wanted Nala to be there, stepping on his paw. He wanted to further away from the edge of a cliff. And he especially wanted the kingdom’s animals beneath him, judging him.
Rafiki broke a large, round, odd nut. He stuck his thumbs inside the two halves, removing some red stuffs. Stepping around Simba as need be, the shaman applied the red nut-juice, first to where Simba’s small mane was, second down the back of his neck and between his shoulder blades, and lastly a straight line down the center of Simba’s chest. The baboon then grabbed two handfuls of the sand on Pride Rock. Rafiki sprinkled the sand over the prince where his mane would one day fill in, except where his mane had already started.
Butterflies filled Nala’s insides. Rafiki stepped back. Simba sat down and looked over his shoulder, trying to move as little as possible. My part… thought Nala as she walked up. She stepped behind him first, then walked around his side and slightly ahead of him. Nala sat down, trying her best to face the subjects below while performing her next task. Simba lowered his head, closed his eyes, and waited. Nala hesitated momentarily, then moved right in. The young lioness licked the red nut-jelly off of the top of Simba’s head where sand hadn’t been placed.
Once she finished, the kingdom below let out a joyful chorus. Simba raised his head and looked at Nala. She winked at him, bowed her head, and turned to join her mother. Before she reached her destination, Mufasa had joined his son and the pair was roaring. Nala sighed with relief. Sarafina looked down at her daughter the way a mother does.
“Good job, my dear.”
Taka watched the ceremony end. He leaned into his mate and sighed, “Mmm.” Zira purred in his ear. They had announced her pregnancy ten days ago. Things would hopefully calm down until the cub’s birth.
“Do you want a prince or princess?” Zira whispered.
“How about a prince first,” Taka answered. He leaned down to lick Zira’s face when the burning hatred came upon him again, but this time left almost immediately. Taka shook his head a little. He licked his mate, but looked out in confusion and worry. What was happening to him?
Simba, Mufasa, and Taka were all alone. After the ceremony, the trio head out for time away from the lionesses. Simba was the only one awake that night. He lay on his back stargazing. He thought of the Great Kings of the Past. I wonder if Queens get to go up there, too? Simba muttered to himself, thoughts turning to Nala for the millionth time that night. When she had…well, cleaned his head off during the ceremony…what had happened back there? Simba was utterly confused. The moment her tongue had touched his fur, his heartbeat sped up and his brain had do flips. Weird.
Taka and Mufasa were sleeping in a small valley beneath the hill Simba was on. Mufasa looked very calm while Taka looked deeply disturbed by some dream. Maybe he’s worried about Zira and the cub, Simba thought.
Just then, Simba noticed a smell. A really awful smell. “Ugh! Nasty!” he exclaimed as quietly as possible. “What the heck is that?”
Simba set off to find the scent’s source. It wasn’t long until he picked up another scent, not nearly as awful. This scent reminded Simba off dust. The lion decided to go into stalking mode. The last thing he wanted was to end up walking straight into a pair of hostile elephants or something. He followed the scent for a mile or so until he came to hill overlooking a large clearing. The prince peered over the top of the grasses and spotted the two creatures responsible for the scents. A warthog and meerkat.
“Timon, I’m telling ya’, we are lost,” said the warthog.
“Are not! We just dunno where we are exactly!” Timon shoot back as he paced the clearing. Simba muffled a chuckle.
“If you had just asked that horned guy for directions!” the warthog continued.
“Never trust an antelope, Pumba!” Timon yelled before flinching. “They have deranged minds…” he said, looking very suspicious of a tree in the distance.
“They’re deranged?” Pumba retorted. Simba barely contained his laughter.
“Why did we leave the jungle again, Timon?” asked Pumba. “Because,” Timon dragged out, “We ran out of Hakuna Matata! We gotta find the monkey so we can get a refund! Or, at least, a refill!”
“Hakuna Ma-what-a?” Simba said between snickers, a little too loudly. He whirled to see the pair, who whirled to look at him.
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” Timon and Pumba screamed.
“No, wait!” Simba bolted down the hill. Meanwhile the meerkat climbed on top of Pumba, grabbed both ears and started shouting, “RUN! IT’S A LION! WE’RE DEAD! KAPUT! WE DINNER!” Pumba began to run away, but Simba ran in front of to face them. “STOP! I promise I won’t hurt you!” Pumba, of course, stopped, looking up at the handsome young lion. Timon wasn’t as obeying.
“Uh, Pumba? We’re in immediate danger here! LET’S MOVE!” Timon looked down at Pumba, then up at Simba, and back down at Pumba. “Geez, I always gotta do everything!” the meerkat threw his hands in the air, walked down off Pumba’s rear, and started pushing his mode of transportation, the warthog. “Come on! Let’s go! Move it!”
Simba shook his head. “I’m Simba,” he said.
“I’m Pumba, and this here’s Timon,” said the trusting warthog.
“Pumba!” Timon exclaimed, “Ya don’t tell strangers your name!”
“I’m Prince of the Pridelands,” Simba contradicted. Pumba gasped.
“Last time I checked,” Simba regretting having introduced his royal blood to the pair. “Uh, what was that…that thing you guys mentioned? Hakuna Matata?”
“Oohh,” Timon looked up at Pumba. The meerkat’s Hakuna Matata tank just got refilled. “Hakuna Matata,” he said to Simba, climbing back on top of Pumba and walking onto his nose, “Is a beautiful little way of being. It means ‘no worries.’
“You see, kid, if bad things happen and you can’t help it, you don’t need to be worried about it. It’s our way of life!”
“So long as there’s a place for your rump to rest, food in your belly, and no one eatin’ ya’, your doing swell!” Pumba joined in.
“Really?” Simba asked.
“Oh yeah,” Timon relaxed, “And we’re living proof. I wasn’t always the cool cat you see before you.”
“No,” Simba said sarcastically.
“Nope. Back with the other meerkats, I was the lowest guy on the totem pole. I wanted to live where we didn’t dig tunnels to hide from hyenas, and for that, I was outcasted.”
“That’s too bad,” said Simba.
“Bad? It was the best thing to ever happen to me! Because of dat, I met a weird old monkey that taught me hakuna matata!”
“And what about you?” Simba asked Pumba.
“Well, um, I have issues…”
“With gas,” finished Timon.
“Timon!” Pumba whined.
“That’s okay. We all have issues with something or another. Like me. The pride thinks I’m suicidal because I like to swim.”
“You, you like to swim?” asked Timon happily.
“Yeah,” Simba shrugged.
“Pumba,” Timon said, “I think we just found our key to hakuna matata.”
“I think your right!” agreed the warthog. “Ya wanna be friends?” he asked the prince.
“Sure,” Simba said, “You can live near Pride Rock if you want!”
And because Simba was prince and could do these things, he ordered that no predator ever harm the smelly warthog or the smart mouth meerkat.
Simba’s mane grew quickly. It was blazing red like his father’s. But unlike his father’s, Simba’s mane was floppy, not thick like Mufasa’s mane. He took great pride in it.
But Mufasa was troubled. His son continued to not come to lessons and instead lay around with Timon and Pumba. Mufasa had no hard feelings toward the two. He felt that they might help Simba be more in touch with his subjects one day. But they were a distraction, and were making Simba lazy. Everyone was noticing. Even the Great Kings. They seemed to be punishing Simba and the pride by not bringing as much rain this season.
Simba was at the water hole, just floating around with Timon and Pumba. Nala watched from a bluff nearby. Simba seemed to have completely forgotten about her in his weird ‘Hakuna Matata’-ness. She’d get up earlier, stay up later, even stalk the prince, just so she could feel like they were spending some time together. It was weird. Nala didn’t think she would act this way in a situation like this. Just goes to show how attached to him you really are, she thought sadly. You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. Nala forced herself up and went out to hunt something.
Nala just walked for an hour or so until she came near to a little herd of gazelle. Among the herd was a small, dark colored gazelle with a deformed hind leg. Instinct took over. The young lioness crouched down to the ground, testing the Earth with each step before moving forward. Nala had never tried to take down a gazelle, although she could have at any time. The older lionesses didn’t want her hunting yet, but she needed to get her mind off of Simba. Within a short while, the little dark gazelle was dead and being dragged along in her jaws.
When Nala passed by the water hole with her kill, Simba sprang out of the water. He rushed up to meet her. “Nala! Did you get that all on your own?”
Nala was startled. She nodded humbly.
“Uh…well, um, congratulations, I guess,” Simba said, then went back to the water hole. Nala sighed sadly, dropping the carcass and leaving it. She would have been perfectly happy to share it…
Nala woke Simba up before the sun rose the next morning. She wanted alone time with him, and that was what she was going to get. They walked down Pride Rock and began to follow the path of the nearby river. Neither spoke like they used to. Nala grew more impatient and depressed with every step.
At noon time, the adolescents were nearing the ravine. A small dam of logs stopped the flow of water, although there wasn’t really enough water there to challenge the dead wood. Drought was here, and the animals knew it. Animals including the large bird that, startled by the lions’ prescence, flew out of a nearby grove of trees. The creature flew into Simba’s head, not just startling him, but sending him off the his feet falling into the ravine!
“Simba!” Nala called out before launching herself down after Simba. Simba twisted around, freaking out as he fell. Nala, realizing she had made it a worse situation, also began to panic. She hit an outcrop of rock as she fell and was knocked out before she hit the dry ravine’s floor. Simba was already unconscious near where Nala landed.
From above, the pair looked dead. Simba’s head was beneath a tiny trickle of water leaking from the nearby log-dam. Nala’s eyes, though she was still out cold, were open and glazed over. Perhaps, they were dead…
Simba almost immediately came back to himself. He massaged his head with his paw while he tried to sit up. “Ow,” he muttered. “Whoa,” Simba’s vision went in and out of focus. After a moment, he realized Nala was still unconscious before him.
“Nala!” Simba rushed to his friend’s side. She groaned and closed her eyes. She was back. “Nala? Are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?” Nala shot at him. Simba cringed. He had never seen her hostile towards him.
“I’m in a ravine, I might have a concussion, I am definatly having issues standing up right now, no one knows where I am, and I no longer have any friends. Yeah, I’m ‘okay’”
Simba was taken aback. “Nala, what do you mean you…no friends… what about m-…”
Nala realized what she had said and looked at her paws. She muttered quietly, “No one has anything against Timon or Pumba,” she turned to face Simba, speaking louder now. Angrier now. “But we’re sick of you dumping the ones who have loved you your entire life to hang out with them!”
“But, Nala, they’re my friends…”
“And what am I, Simba?”
Nala leaned in to deliver the fatal blows. “Start acting like it!” she said, as though he were still a cub. “It’s not just me, either! Your mother has taken to moping around Zira’s old field, the pride is totally weirded out and are about ready mutiny in their panic, your own father has been coming to ME, trying to figure out a way to reverse your…whatever while still dealing with this drought!” Simba looked into Nala’s eyes, confusion and fear written on his face. And she wasn’t done.
“Simba, do you realize Mufasa is so worried about your new Hakuna Matata thing that he is afraid to one day give you his kingdom?”
That got him. Simba hadn’t realized. He had been completely blind to it. And to find out that his blindness had hurt his father so much that Mufasa would worry about something like that… Nala turned towards the ravine wall they had fallen off of. She looked over her shoulder at Simba.
“You are going to be the next king, Simba. Think about that.” With that, Nala scaled the wall, leaving Simba all alone. He looked out into space. Nothing went through his mind, or maybe everything. He didn’t know how to react. Simba just sat by a puddle on the ground. He stared at his reflection for hours. The sun rose right over him, passed him, began to set. Still Simba sat there, staring. Who am I? What am I? …
Simba snapped his head up. The biggest tree he’d ever seen, at least 60 feet long, was above him, falling. It took him a moment to realize… A HUGE TREE WAS ABOVE SIMBA AIMED RIGHT AT HIS HEAD!
“AAAAHHHHH!” Simba turned at ran down the ravine away from the now crashing tree. He looked back. It formed a perfect ramp to the safety. Simba looked at the ledge above. Nala stood there, looking mighty proud of herself. “Nala, how did you-”
“Don’t ask questions, just climb!” Simba obeyed. Maybe Nala had realized she had overreacted towards him! But when he reached the top, Nala was already gone.
Everyone in the pride was already asleep by the time Simba got home. Even Timon and Pumba were asleep beneath the promontory. Even Nala. The young prince skulked over to his parents and went to sleep. But he was not to have a peaceful sleep.
He was floating above the stampede. Simba wasn’t going to be hurt so long as he concentrated on staying above the wildebeests. But there was his father, struggling to climb a wall of rock. He was at the top, but something was wrong. Taka sat above him, watching Mufasa struggle. No, Taka was letting Mufasa slip! And another Simba was there with him! What? NALA! She was next to Mufasa, kicking and reaching out!
NO! They were falling! Everything was going so slow, but it seemed so fast! Taka let Mufasa and Nala fall! NO! SIMBA was letting them fall! Taka was never there! They were falling into the stampede! NO! The first Simba watched the fall to their deaths. And he turned around and walked away! NO!
“AAAAAHHHHHH!” Simba awoke. He looked around. The pride was sleeping. They were all in the cave.
Several of the Pride members woke up. “Sorry,” Simba grumbled and pretended to go back to sleep. As soon as the whole pride was asleep, Simba left the cave. He looked up at the top of Pride Rock. He walked the narrow path Mufasa had taken him up once. Looking out at the kingdom beneath him, a sudden, mighty wind pulling Simba’s mane, the prince felt thoroughly moved. Something his mother once said came to him. “Should you find yourself lost in the expanseness of this world, follow the wind. The wind will tell you where to go.” So what is the wind telling me now? Simba thought. He didn’t know how or when it happened, but within minutes, Simba was asleep.
Mufasa woke up early the next day. He began to walk up to the top of Pride Rock, but was startled to find Simba already there, watching the sun rise. “Hey, Dad.”
“Could you tell everyone to leave me alone for while. I need to just be…alone…”
Mufasa took the hint and headed back down to the cave. Timon and Pumba were up unusually early, following the King around as soon as they found him. “Where’s Simba?” Timon was panicking. Mufasa looked menacingly down at the meerkat. “My son is realizing he needs to find himself before you push him so far in the wrong direction that he can’t take his place in The Circle of Life.” Timon and Pumba looked up at Mufasa blankly.
“I give up!” bellowed Mufasa before storming off into the cave, grumbling the whole way.
“What’d he just say, Timon?” the warthog asked.
“Eah, something about not getting paid enough. Come on, let’s go back to sleep.”
Simba stayed on top of Pride Rock for several days, coming down only for water and occasional kill, and only at night. At first, everyone (excluding Timon, and Pumba) thought it was good that the prince was trying to get some perspective. Nala was especially happy knowing that she was the reason he was up there. But, since Simba made himself as invisible as possible, Mufasa was the last one optimistic about it as time went on. Days became a week. Two weeks. 16 days!
On the 17th day, Mufasa walked up to Simba’s point. “Simba?”
“Dad, could you please le-”
“Son, the lionesses are going hunting. Large game hunting.” Simba didn’t get it. “Son, you have to eat something soon! Look at you! You’re practically skin and bones!”
“I’m fine, Dad. I’ll come down.”
“Okay, son,” Mufasa hesitated to leave, but went to see off the lionesses. Game was getting more scarce and they needed support. Simba watched the lionesses head out from above. He noticed Nala all alone, walking to a large water hole far to the West. Simba went back to sleeping.
Nala, on the other hand, was out to prove herself. She wanted to fell a real kill all on her own. Not some weak gazelle like she had been doing. She wanted a zebra. Nala was going to get way more than she asked for.
The pride lionesses were closing in on the herd of antelope. Sarabi and Sarafina would lead the charge and Zira commanding a second group of lionesses blocking off the herd’s escape route. They moved in. In a flash of teeth, claws, and hooves, two fat antelope were down. The lionesses moved back to let Mufasa and Sarabi eat. Mufasa had been watching from a ways off. They had just about had their fill when a cry rose from the south. Nala’s cry!
“Nala!” Sarafina ran off. Sarabi, Mufasa, and a few other lionesses ran after her. Nala had to have been a mile away. The grown ups were horrified at what they saw. Nala was struggling to stay above water in the middle of a deep but calm river. “Nala!” Sarafina screamed again. The mother was going to dive in after Nala if it wasn’t for one teensy weensy little problem…hippos. Everywhere. And they were not happy about Nala being there. A particularly large male continued to glare at the cub. It seemed to be deciding what to do about the encroacher.
Simba, far off on top of Pride Rock, heard Nala’s cry as well. Zazu flew up besides him. “What do you think…?” Simba asked.
“I do not know, young master.”
Simba looked out at the large river attached to the second water hole. There! Simba gasped. Nala!
Simba flew off his resting place down the backbone of Pride Rock! The lion skidded down the steep, rocky precipice! And he was gone. He did not even hear Zazu’s orders to stop. It was at least a three mile run, but Simba was going at super speed. He was like a cheetah! Not even the wind was keeping pace with him.
Meanwhile, Sarafina and the others watched helplessly as Nala thrashed in the water. Everyone was screaming. Sarafina, desperate for her daughter, began to walk into the water. Of all the pride members, she was the most frightened of water.
“Sarafina, what are you doing?” Sarabi flinched as the water drenched her friend’s coat.
“I’m saving my daughter.” Sarafina said sadly, knowing both she and her daughter would die if she went out there. But no fate was worse than doing nothing to save her only child.
And then came Simba to the rescue! Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the prince ran up to the river bank and jumped off a ledge without pausing once. Once beneath the water, he became a crocodile. Simba saw Nala’s thrashing figure in the distance of the water world. And closer than that, was a huge hippo charging at her. Challenger #1! Simba skimmed through the water at the beast. He launched out of the water and on top of the hippo’s face, digging all his claws in! The hippo whirled his head around, trying again and again to get Simba off of his face! Finally he stopped, and they made eye contact. Touch her and you die! Simba glared insanely at the creature and jumped into the air, coming down right next to the exhausted lioness. “Hold on, Nala!” Simba grabbed hold of Nala’s neck skin and began to pull her to shore.
“AAARRRGGHHH!” Something had attacked Simba’s left hind leg and was bringing him down! Simba breathed in water! BAD! Whatever it was, Simba didn’t care! He knew what breathing water meant, and it was not good! He started clawing the thing furiously, taking in more and more water! He had to get to Nala!
Simba broke free. He swam up, up to oxygen! He took in more water. Air! Need air! Fifteen feet to the surface. Nine… three… Simba breathed deep his precious oxygen and finally, FINALLY got a permanent hold on Nala! Calmly, he brought her to shore, where they sat for a very long time while Nala coughed out all the water in her lungs. The grown ups began to run to them, none faster than Sarafina, who’d been up to her chest in water.
“You okay now?” Simba asked Nala as she finished her coughing fit.
“Simba? Simba I…um…well…” But Simba didn’t hear. Everything misted over, and blacked out.
Nala looked inside the cave of Pride Rock, but couldn’t see what she wanted to. Mufasa, Sarabi, Zazu, Zira, and Rafiki formed a solid wall, blocking her view to Simba. He had been terribly injured. The lionesses had tried to block her view of her friend in such terrible condition, but she had seen it before they even got to them on the riverbank. Simba’s paw pads were all raw from sliding down the rocky backside of Pride Rock, or so Zazu said. Rafiki had said Simba had breathed in lots of water, but you could tell that by how much he coughed in his sleep. Simba sustained a number of broken bones from his meeting with the hippo, mostly in his legs, paws, and one rib. But the worst was his left hind leg. Somehow, a massive chunk of Simba’s leg was gone, revealing the white of his bone. Most of the pride that saw the wound believed it was a crocodile, but Rafiki had doubts.
Nala was near tears as she limped to her mother’s side. She had been the reason Simba did this. She was the reason he might not live. It was all her fault. How stupid can you get? Nala beat on herself. How can you practically walk into an elephant without noticing? The elephant had charged, and she, blinded by fear, ran anywhere she could in order to get away. Because of her foolishness, Simba was like this. Most of the lionesses were on the main promontory of their home. Sarafina and Nala lay facing each other on one of the rocks that made the staircase to the cave.
“Mom, I did this to Simba,” Nala cried.
“Nala, that was an accident. You did what any lioness or lion, for that matter, would’ve done. You followed your instincts,” Sarafina cooed. Nala still blamed herself.
Mufasa appeared behind the pair. “Sarafina, Nala. Would you mind if I passed?” The mother and daughter moved out of the king’s way so he could descend. “Rafiki needs some kind of plant,” he explained, and trotted off into the night. Nala watched Mufasa and then looked up at the moon, wondering.
“Mother?” she asked.
“Who was my father?” Sarafina began coughing horribly. Nala had taken her completely off guard, not that Sarafina didn’t expect this day to come, but that wasn’t the point, how would she, why was Nala-
“Mom? You still in there?”
“Why do you want to know about your father?” Sarafina regained her cool. The lionesses who overheard looked at each other. They all knew about Nala’s father.
“Simba and Mufasa, Taka and Zira’s soon to be…it just makes me wonder.”
Sarafina sighed. She could almost see his face in the stars… “What do you want to know?”
“What was he like?” Girl talk.
“Well, he was a real sweetheart. Warm, caring, a bit of a romantic… He was always there for me if I was in need… Your father-” Sarafina noticed some pride members eavesdropping. Pride members being Timon and Pumba. Well, more like just Timon. “Let’s walk and talk, dear.” she said. The pair went off for a river-side walk, just as Mufasa returned with a herb.
“As I was saying, your father was a gentleman. Very polite, but somewhat clumsy around lionesses,” Sarafina and Nala lay in the green savannah grasses watching the moon rise. “He was shy around females, which just attracted them to him. I got lucky. But he was not very shy around other lions. He was very used to being the center of attention back home, and then coming here and finding a king who barely tolerated him, well, it took some getting used to for him.”
“What happened?” Nala asked simply.
Sarafina sighed. “Your father was born far away from here, to a different pride, where he was the second-born prince, like Taka. It is not uncommon in other prides for the every born there to leave the pride once they reach a certain age. We don’t practice these sorts of thing because our pride controls uncounted amounts of land and are directly descended from the first lion and lioness.
“When he came here, I was the first one he met. I was out hunting alone when we stumbled on each other. He was quite smitten, to be honest.” Sarafina let out all she knew about the lion as if it were a guilty secret she no longer had to keep. “But his majesty did not approve of outsiders. No one born to this pride has ever left our borders at the beginning of the sand dunes. All our other borders are impassible. But anyways, Mufasa did not like your father. He did not seem to understand how to respect Mufasa; how we treat the royals differently than he had been treated as a cub. Before Ahadi’s death, he suggested to Mufasa that he betrothed Taka to a lioness in the pride since he wasn’t married yet.”
“That lioness being you?” guessed Nala. Sarafina did not even answer.
“Neither I nor your father, or even Taka, could stand the thought of that. So, your father and I were secretly married by Rafiki. Sarabi was the only witness. She found out she was pregnant four days later.
“When Mufasa found out I was pregnant by your father, when he was leaning towards the idea of betrothing his brother, he went into a rage. Your father was banished to whence he came, never to return. I was heartbroken,” Sarafina struggled to keep from crying now. She still wanted her mate back.
“Mufasa didn’t know we had been married. If he did, he wouldn’t have been allowed to banish him. I didn’t dare tell him. To get married when you are already betrothed is…well, it isn’t good,” Sarafina couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. She let them stream down her face, a silent wish to the gods, if one existed. “I wish I had now…”
Nala was patient. She repositioned herself next to her mother, comforting her and licking away the tears. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “Don’t be afraid to cry.”
“You have met your father once,” Sarafina struggled with the words.
“What?” Nala was so shocked, she nearly fell over while she was laying down!
“Right after you were born, I knew he was hiding in the Pridelands. I took you to him. I wanted to go with him, but I couldn’t leave… You were betrothed, Sarabi would need another mother to console in. You were too young to travel anyways.”
Nala nodded. “What did he look like?” she asked cautiously.
“Well, I barely remember his face,” Sarafina lied. She knew Nala knew she had lied. “ He had a sandy colored mane. He was a little darker than us, his pelt was a light tan, I suppose. His nose resemble Taka’s, if I recall correctly…” Oh, his face, thought Sarafina. She remembered every detail… She tried to paint the picture for Nala. She ended his elaborate description with, “He had the most gorgeous dark green eyes.”
“That’s hardly what I’d call ‘hardly remember,’ Mom,” Nala teased. She hesitated with the last question on her mind. Did she dare ask?
“What was his name?”
Sarafina got lucky. She did not want to answer that question. And she didn’t have to. At the exact moment Nala asked it, Simba cry broke the silence of the night. Nala took off back to Pride Rock, leaving her mother to remember those few precious days she spent married with him…
Nala got to the cave just as the others were leaving the Prince. Zazu and Zira were out first, followed by Simba’s parents. Sarabi looked worst. Rafiki came out last and turned to Nala. “He says he like do speeek witch’u,” he said simply, and went underneath the promontory. That means he wants to say close to Simba, thought Nala worriedly. She walked inside the cave.
Just her and Simba. Alone. She had wanted alone time with him. She was going to get a lot while he healed.
“Nala?” Simba’s voice was raspy from screaming.
“Simba!” Nala sprang over next to Simba and lay down next to his almost-completely-immobilized body. She put her face into his mane and let out her guilty tears.
“I’M SO SORRY SIMBA!” Nala cried, although, because her voice was muffled by his mane and her own sobs, she sounded more like, ‘EEM OO OARRI IMBA!’
“I’m fine, Nala,” Simba said. Wrong answer!
“FINE? YOU CALL THIS FINE? LOOK AT YOU! LOOK AT WHERE I’VE GOTTEN YOU! YOU COULD DIE!” Nala yelled, away from his mane this time, but then began weeping in it again.
“Thanks for that thought, Nala. Geez, I’ve never seen you like this!”
Nala said something. It was very hard to tell what. At least for anyone other than Simba.
“I am not! I’m going to be fine! You’ll see!”
More sounds from Nala.
“What are you talking about?”
“WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT?” Nala came off of Simba’s mane again and, once again, screamed.
“Geez, make up your mind,” Simba said. That got her. Nala stopped and looked at him, blinked a few times, and then broke down laughing. Simba smiled. “That’s all that matters, Nala. So long as I see your smile, I’m happy.”
“Really?” Nala asked between giggles.
“Really really.” That was the first time Nala felt her heart flutter.
You might have wondered where Taka was during this whole ordeal. Well, let’s go back in time a little less than twenty four hours. Won’t that be fun? About the time that Simba saw the lionesses heading out for the hunt sounds right. Because at that very moment, Taka was at the western water hole that connected to the deep river the hippos lived in. That’s right. So why didn’t he get mentioned during Nala’s rescue, you ask? …
Taka took a deep breath before submerging his head under the river head. He brought it out again a moment later and shook the water off. What was wrong with him? As time went on, the burning hatred flashes seemed to becoming more frequent and more intense. Thank goodness none of them lasted over a second.
Taka looked up. The giant male hippo watched him warily. It knew Taka was of royal blood and if he charged the lion, he would be in trouble. But not even that could keep Taka safe from the beast’s instinct. He edged away from the water. Today was not the day to start an inter-species war…
Taka froze. The burning hatred was back, worse than ever. Taka’s eyes went out on sticks and his claws tried to sturdy the rest of his body on the earth. He could barely breath! Taka struggled to stay conscious. He felt sick. His heart thundered in his ears! … … … It passed…
Taka breathed deeply. This is not good, he thought. He collapsed on the ground to regain the strength that was just stolen from him.
Hours passed and Taka recovered.
Taka snapped his head up. His heartbeat was in his ears again. The brother-prince snapped his head around for the lion who said that. The name seemed so familiar to him, yet so…
Taka breathed deeply, quickly. The hippos didn’t seem to have heard it. You’re letting it get to you, he thought. You’re hearing things.
Very suddenly, Nala came catapulting through the thicket on the other side of the water hole! She jumped in, screaming when she realized she was going under water! There was an elephant not so far away. Taka crouched down in the grasses and approached the water hole. He didn’t know what he was doing, but it didn’t matter. His body took over his mind.
As a cub, Taka had loved the water, just like Simba did now. He had been an excellent swimmer, and it came back to him now. He eased into the water. Like a crocodile, he kept his nose just above water, keeping out of sight of the thrashing Nala. Within seconds, Sarafina, Sarabi, Mufasa, and a few pride lionesses were at the river shore closest to where Nala had drifted. He approached the cub slowly, staying as invisible as possible.
Somewhere in Taka’s sub-conscious, he had thought he would try to save Nala, but here he was, watching her slowly drown. Sarafina began to walk into the water. The hippo he had seen earlier knew these two were not of royal blood. But still it hesitated.
Simba! How did he get here so fast? An unknown anger was welling up in the prince’s uncle. As he watched Simba attack the charging hippo, as he watched Sarafina reach her belly in water, as Nala’s strength began to dwindle, something took over. At first Taka fought back, but Scar was too strong for him. The lion dived down under water.
Scar knew how to hold his breath for at least four minutes, even if it was painful. He lurked at the bottom of the river. Above, he saw Simba re-enter the water next to water. The anger exploded! He zoomed up and attack his nephew’s left hind leg, dragging him down into the darkness of the bottom of the water world. He tasted water mixed with fresh blood.
But Simba retaliated! Although the cub couldn’t see him, that didn’t mean he couldn’t fight him. Scar felt sharp claws dig through the flesh beneath his mane! He let go of Simba’s leg, and Scar once again became Taka. The lion watched Simba save Nala from below. What did I just do?
The sun was set. Taka looked around nervously. He hadn’t been here in years. He needed to find her, talk to her. The Elephant Graveyard.
Two hyenas came out to “greet” Taka. He put on his most intimidating look as they neared. “I need to see Shenzi,” he snarled. One hyena looked both ways before leaning in to say, “How are you gonna benefit de hyenas with your visit?”
“By not telling the King where to find some hyenas that I happen to know sneak into the Pridelands every fourth day for meat!”
“Understood,” said the second hyena. “Follow us.” Taka did. They stopped in front of the main elephant skull. One said to the other, “I’m goin’ ta sleep, man.”
“Yeah, a’ight, I’ll take care of this,” said the second hyena. Then to Taka, he said, “Wait here. I’ll send Shenzi down to see ya.” And he left.
Why do I feel like I’m in a doctor’s office? Taka waited. And waited. And continued to wait. Finally, Shenzi showed up. Taka grabbed her by a flap of skin in front of her neck.
“What the crap!” Shenzi said, startled. “I need your help!” Taka said to her. “Well, I can see that!” she spat back. “For going insane no doubt! Geez!”
Taka let go. “Sorry. I’m stressed right now.”
“I could tell dat, too!” Shenzi said. She looked at him suspiciously.
“What?” asked Taka.
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” Taka screamed. Shenzi didn’t so much as flinch.
“Taka, you’ve come down ‘ere how many times since the day of the stampede? Twice? And that was to say you didn’t kill Mufasa and that you were getting’ hitched? Excuse me if I don’t understand why you’re here!”
“He’s back!” Taka whispered to Shenzi. She furrowed her brow.
“Who? Who’s back?” she asked.
Taka looked around. “Scar!”
Rafiki treated Simba accordingly everyday. None of Simba’s injuries were quick to heal. If Rafiki wasn’t in the cave, he was gathering healing herbs or making strange apparatuses beneath Pride Rock. He splinted Simba’s broken legs, bandaged his paws, and did both to the left hind leg. Simba didn’t complain of any pain. But anyone could tell he was in pain. The only places you could touch without him screaming were his face, neck, and tail. No one (again, except Timon) bothered him about it. Simba hated being left in the cave like some newborn. At least he had company.
Timon and Pumba came to cheer the prince up everyday. Their jokes were lame and their stories were obviously exaggerated, but Simba still appreciated it. But the company he especially was happy to see was Nala. Thankfully Pumba understood they wanted privacy and would take Timon away.
It had been two weeks since the incident. Nala had told Simba about her father, and they comforted each other. Simba noticed Nala acting slightly different towards him, as though she were nervous about something. He didn’t care. He wanted her to tell him he wasn’t missing anything.
After a few more days, Simba’s paw-pads healed. Some of his broken limbs were beginning to show improvements. Simba had even managed to walk a few steps! But whenever he tried to work with his left hind leg, he’d fall, hurting his ego more than his body. It was healing, but was still awful looking. Rafiki changed the bandage twice a day. And Uncle Taka, it seemed, was spending less and less time at home. But then something happened that took everyone’s mind off of Simba’s condition.
Zira had a son born. ‘Nuka’ she named him. The lionesses cleared a path for Simba took look down from his resting place at his new cousin. He smiled at the proud parents. So Simba got more company, Nuka and Zira. It wasn’t long until Taka’s wife announced being pregnant again. Rafiki told her that the next would be born around the same time Simba got back to normal. A while.
Simba was fascinated by how often Nala would watch over Nuka for Zira. Nala seemed attracted to little cubs. One day, Nala and Simba lay parallel to each other, watching Nuka (now about the age of Simba when the stampede happened), Nala was acting particularly odd.
“Simba,” she said watching Nuka chase a bug through the cave, “We’ve never talked about the…er…” Simba’s eyes widened. They both knew what. The betrothal. They had both always thought of it like a monster in the shadows, waiting to tear apart their friendship. Nuka caught the bug. He took it in his jaws and began to prance around the cave with it.
“Wha-what’s there to talk about?”
“Well, um… I dunno. I guess I just wanted to know if you needed to talk about it,” Nala said. Liar, thought Simba.
“Okay,” Nala seemed relieved, but disappointed in herself. Zira came in the cave. “Alright, Nala,” she said, “I am here to relieve you of your duties. You can go, if you want.”
“I’ll just stay here, thanks.” Zira took the hint and left the cave with her son, who was hollering about having caught the biggest bug in the world.
“Mind if I sleep?” Nala asked Simba.
“Uh, no.” Nala smiled and rolled over on her side to sleep. Her head came down next to Simba’s right front paw. He startled. Something in his chest seemed to flutter and flip. He looked out of the cave mouth to see if anyone was watching. He looked down at Nala’s head again. And slowly, he lowered his head down next to hers to sleep. They both smiled.
Everyone was outside the cave, lined up. Everyone but Simba, Nala and Rafiki. Today, Simba’s bandages were coming off. Even with the drought, the pride wanted to celebrate. Zira was due any day.
Simba stepped out into the sun for the first time in months. The lionesses smiled. Mufasa looked as though he was trying to hide how proud of his son he was. Taka was busy trying to keep Nuka from making too much noise. Nala smiled at Simba and he at her. Timon was giving Simba a bunch of victory hand gestures while Pumba tried to contain him.
“Come on! Show us you can walk, already!” said one of the lionesses. Simba walked with confidence out to the edge of the promontory and back up to his parents. He also walked with a slight limp in his left hind leg. Some nervous looks were passed between the lionesses. Mufasa looked at Rafiki before his son reached him. The monkey nodded. Just as the king had thought. He’ll have that limp most likely all his life. Just like Taka’s scar. No one showed their disappointment. Simba was too proud of himself, he’d come too far. The only one who didn’t seem to notice was Nala, Timon and Pumba. One of the younger lionesses leaned over to Nala and whispered, “Can’t you see his limp? Why are you so calm?” Nala was shocked by the question. She looked around at the other lionesses. None of them heard the question, but they all knew what it was. Even Simba looked out the corner of his eye at Nala. In fact, they all were expecting her answer. Timon and Pumba had the excuse of being, well, not quite all there. What was Nala’s?
“How can you see a limp?” she answered, to everyone. Sarabi and Sarafina smiled. They both had the same thought. Spoken like a queen who loves her king. “All I see is a young lion who, instead of dying like the rest of us would, was strong enough to fight all odds and survive. All I see I my friend!” The lionesses smiled guiltily. Nala looked to the royal family. Sarabi nodded at her. Simba looked about ready to cry, he was so happy. Even Mufasa looked like she had moved him.
Zira named her daughter Vitani. Nuka resembled his father, and little Tani resembled her mother. The entire pride was very entertained by the long hairs that came over the cub’s eyes. Whenever Zira was with her newborn daughter, her sharp edges seemed to disappear.
Nuka was different. He and his father tried to be close, but Nuka’s odd features and clumsy attitude acted like repellant. Only Simba and Nala seemed able to tolerate him.
Vitani grew quickly, and she was something else. Vitani was smart, strong for her size, and already showed promise as a hunter. Not to mention she was less out of it than her brother was. Everyone loved her. Nuka knew all he had was Simba, Nala, and the meerkat and warthog.
Taka went back to disappearing all day. Simba became his cousins’ makeshift father-figure. He even took them stargazing once, telling them about the Great Kings and about the first lions. Nala and the other young lionesses soon became their makeshift mothers. Zira kept disappearing during the day, but never to where Taka went. Zazu guessed they had had a fight recently. Nala didn’t agree. None of the females did. They all sensed they were leaving the shade of home for different reasons. But all that was for sure was that what they were doing had to be important. Mufasa was doing a great job doing what needed to be done for the drought, but that didn’t change the fact that there was a drought.
One night, Simba was walking alone with Nuka. Suddenly, he felt his paw slip on the ground. He looked down. It was his father’s paw print. The same one from the night of the hyenas! Simba froze. His paw nearly fit the print. Simba walked on.
“Simba?” Nuka asked.
“Where do Vitani and I go?”
“When we die, do you go up there, too?” Nuka asked pointing at the sky. Simba looked up. Then down at the cub. And back up.
“Nuka,” Simba looked back down again, “I don’t actually know. But would you like to know what I believe?” Nuka nodded. Looking up at his older cousin, Nuka thought for a moment he was looking at Mufasa, not because they looked alike, but because of that look in his eye that comforted.
“I believe anyone who is truly sorry for all the things they’ve done wrong is great. Some are greater than others, but they all go there,” Simba smiled at Nuka, and they headed back home.
Simba and Nuka weren’t more than a quarter mile from Pride Rock when Vitani came running up to them. “Simba!” She screamed. Simba never thought he would be so afraid after hearing his own name. The young males trotted up to little Tani. She was exhausted.
“What’s wrong, Tani?” Simba lowered himself to her level.
“It’s Dad! I think he’s killed Mufasa!” Simba’s stomach lurched and the hairs on his neck began to tingle.
“I’m not sure, I was with Nala. Then we heard it!”
“Heard what?” Simba tried to be patient. The mane growing from his chest touched the ground. He was the only one that was big enough to be seen from Pride Rock at this distance.
“I don’t know,” Vitani had fear in her blue eyes, “But then a bunch of hyenas showed up from nowhere and started coming down on us! Dad was ordering them around! He hit Mom!”
“Basterd!” said Nuka.
“Watch your tongue!” Simba spat. “Keep going Tani.”
“I got away and watched it all! I think the hyenas killed some of the lionesses!” Stomach lurch.
“What about my mother? Nala? Timon and Pumba? Sarafina!”
Vitani trembled. “It was all a blur!” she cried. She never cried.
Simba looked at Pride Rock. Something was different, that was sure. The wind changed directions. Simba smelled death. He stood up, anger mounting.
“Stay here.” Simba began to walk to his home. What have you done, Taka?
Simba didn’t find anyone, not even someone who was dead, at Pride Rock. What he did find was proof that Tani’s story was true. There was blood all over. Hyenas had definatly been there, the place stank. Fur tufts meant that there had been a number of fights. Simba tried to make sense of it all.
He was hesitant to look under the promontory. Simba knew his uncle and the hyenas couldn’t have gotten far. If they were hiding, it would be down there. He decided to go to the top of Pride Rock to stall. Unfortunately, he found himself looking more evidence of fights, maybe even a fall off of the ledge. And then, he wished he had checked under the promontory instead. The wind had changed again, and Simba could smell his uncle at the top. He couldn’t go back. Simba took a deep breath and climbed the last few steps.
There he was. Taka stood there looking to the east. “Hello, Simba. I see you took your time.”
“What have you done, Uncle Taka?”
Simba’s uncle turned to face him. “Taka?” he chuckled. “Taka is dead.”
Simba didn’t show a single sign of fear. His anger was coursing through his blood. Nothing this lion said could change that!
“I am Scar! King of the Pridelands!”
“To bad you’re insane!” Simba spat. Scar chuckled again. “She fought bravely.” That did it.
“What?” Simba was afraid now, for whoever she was.
“You mean ‘Who.’” Simba bit his lip. “I had to fight her myself, none of the hyena’s could handle her strength!
“Not that that mattered. No one can match my strength, not even you!”
“My father can!”
“Then why was he the first to fall?” Scar teased. Simba’s breathing quickened. He was letting Scar under his skin.
“Jump off a cliff!”
“I have to say, I never thought Nala would have it in her.” Simba’s eyes shot open. He had thought he was talking about his mother. Scar laughed at Simba. And Simba lost it.
“AAAARRRRRRR!” Simba leapt at his uncle! Scar laughed and moved out of the way! Simba repositioned and jumped again, only to miss again. He landed hard on his left side. “AAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!”
“That leg of yours hurt, Simba?” yelled Scar. Simba grabbed is hind leg in his paws, biting back tears! Scar rose on two feet above Simba, who watched helplessly! He couldn’t move! Scar’s front paws came crashing down, and darkness swallowed the Prince of the Pridelands . . .
Simba did not know how long he had been asleep. Hours. Days. Weeks. He slowly opened his bruised eyes and raised his head off of the ground he was lying on. He looked around, barely strong enough to perform the simple task. He recognized nothing. That was all that mattered. He had failed. Simba let his head hit the ground. He cried and put a paw over his face. Eventually, he fell back to sleep.
Again, Simba woke up, unaware of how long he’d been out. This time, he managed to stand up. He looked around. Behind him was the edge of a dense jungle. In front of him, a large plot of un-vegetated land and not far in the distance was endless grasslands. To his right, more dead land like that in front and beneath him. To his left, however, was a cliff.
The moment he saw the cliff edge, Simba got shivers up his spine. His fur stood up on ends. His pupils shrank. His mouth was suddenly very dry. His insides were twisting around in knots. Something was just out of his sight, and he did not want to see it. But he had to.
Every step towards the edge of the cliff brought more dread. Simba’s breathing intensed. His heart was banging in his ears. His mane quivered. He reached the edge and looked down into the shallow gorge. Simba gasped in horror.
Two of the lionesses in his pride lay at the bottom, dead. Their eyes were still open. Not even the scavenging birds were brave enough to touch their broken bodies. Simba struggled to breath. He knew these two. They were sisters. He had never been close to them, but they were still kind and loyal! They didn’t deserve to die so early in life! They were only about three years older than he! Tears streamed down Simba’s face. Why would they jump?…
Why would they jump! Simba thought about it. The gorge wasn’t that deep. Maybe twenty feet. Just deep enough to kill if you jumped at the right angle, but not even a suicidal goes head first! That’s when Simba saw them. The attack wounds. Simba climbed down to the sisters.
Simba looked at their faces. There was no way they came down here willingly. Their faces, frozen to they’re final position, showed fear, betrayal, guilt… Simba reached with his paw and closed their eyes. He reached down to hug their lifeless bodies, a final goodbye, when he smelled it. Hyenas. Simba knew immediately what happened.
Scar stood at the top of Pride Rock, standing over Simba’s unconscious body. He called for some hyenas to take him down to the ground. And Scar observed them struggle to carry the larger cat. He had them lay Simba in front of the pride, who were trapped by hyenas under Pride Rock. They had all seen him go up onto the promontory. The darkness had hidden them from Simba’s eyes before. And now he was half dead.
The pride stood there, staring at their fallen prince. No one, not even Scar, knew he wasn’t dead. Nala’s bruised face showed the most sorrow and horror. Mufasa was seriously crippled from the hyena ambush. Scar looked into the eyes of his prisoners. He smiled cunningly.
“Your ‘Prince’ has, um,” Scar looked at Simba’s motionless body, “abandoned his post. And that leaves me to play with you all. You’ve met all my friends, I take it,” Scar referred to the hyenas. One female seemed particularly favored by Simba’s uncle. Two males also. “Now I need two volunteers,” Scar cooed. Four hyenas stepped up. “Choose the ones you want, boys.”
The hyenas chose the two who’d but up the smallest fight, the two sisters. “Girls, come!” The hyena guard let the twins out of the pen. Scar motioned them to come to him. They walked up nervously. “Your job is to get rid of,” Scar nudged Simba’s head, “this. These four gentlemen are going to accompany you. You see, he’s too heavy for two hyenas, and no more than two of them are able to get under him to carry him. So you two are. There’s just one catch,” Scar played friendly. The sisters didn’t want to hear it, but knew what would be said. Sarabi began to sob into Mufasa’s mane. Even he began to shed tears. Nala as well. “You two will not be joining my boys back.”
“WHAT ARE YOU?!” screamed Nala, rushing the perimeter of hyenas. They came at her, but when she didn’t even look at her attackers, they became clueless. “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO?! WHY WOULD YOU KILL HIM?!”
“Because it’s fun,” Scar smiled. Nala’s eyes grew even more in horror and fear. She was no longer brave enough to be angry. Scar turned to the twins and hyena boys. “Get going!” They did. And on their way, they picked up Nuka and Vitani. If they didn’t kill them, they took the pair with them, thinking they’d never be able to make the journey back.
But they were wrong. Simba hadn’t been dead. And he was not going to let his pride die thinking he was.
Crying. Simba looked up at the top of the cliff he’d been standing on an hour ago. He climbed back up. It was Vitani and Nuka.
“You’re alive!” Simba embraced his cousins. At that moment, he’d have embraced anyone.
“Gee, thanks. Yes, it was quite hard keeping an eye on those two while you were in a coma!” Simba opened his eyes and looked past the cubs. “Timon and Pumba,” Simba said, smiling (which was something he never expected to be doing in a situation like this).
“Who’dja expect?” Timon said calmly.
“My Uncle Scar, for one,” Simba said.
“Oh, don’t get me started on his brain case,” Pumba said. “I’m tellin’ ya’, Simba, your uncle suffers from split personalities fighting for control over his body. You should check with a doctor to make sure it’s not hereditary!”
“Gee, thanks, Pig!” Vitani said.
“He means nothing by it, Tani,” Simba said. “How long was I out?”
“We followed you three and yer ‘escorts’ for a while,” Timon complained. “Let me tell ya, they did not give us one break! Day and night! We got here about a week after…”
“A week? I should be dead! I haven’t had any water in-”
“Two weeks,” said Nuka.
“Two weeks? I definatly should be dead, then! Didn’t they think I was dead?”
“It was the twins,” Vitani whispered, staring at the cliff edge. Simba realized she’d have nightmares about this all her life. They all would, except maybe Timon and Pumba. But even they…
“What do you mean, Tani?”
“They realized you were still breathing,” Nuka said. “They forced water down you’re throat every time we stopped for water. The hyenas were so oblivious.”
Simba looked back to where he’d been asleep for about a week. He imagined the sisters laying his body down there, crying tears of guilt streaming down their delicate, beautiful faces. And then the hyenas, on orders from his own uncle! They told the twins to jump, head first. They couldn’t, so the Four attacked them and forced them off head first. He could even hear them scream… Simba looked away. They died for him and his cousins.
“They didn’t deserve this!” Simba muttered.
Timon got off of Pumba’s neck for once. He walked up two feet in front of Simba. The prince’s head hung low, not daring to look, else show his tears.
“No one deserves this, Simba,” Timon said. Simba looked up. Timon never, ever was serious. “Simba,” he continued, “they died for you. Didn’t they?” Simba nodded. “Then why are ya’ sittin’ here? Why aren’t you off chasing down their killers?”
“Well, let’s see,” Simba spat through tears. “I haven’t eaten in weeks, we’re lost,-”
“No we aren’t!” shouted Nuka, immediately regretting it. Simba looked down at him.
“We lived in a jungle before Pride Rock, but, uh, that’s it. We stayed in the jungle. We’ve never seen this spot before,” Timon said.
“Nuka, do you remember the way home?” Nuka didn’t want to say.
“Nuka, that lion isn’t your father anymore. Your father is named Taka. That one is called Scar, because he scars the hearts of the ones he trusts and lets them burn in Man’s Red Flower!” Nuka pleaded to Simba with his eyes.
“You aren’t betraying your father, Nuka.” Nuka looked out across the plains beyond.
“Beyond stone, grass, and sand
Lays a home once tended.
The ones that there lived,
Hearts they need mended.
Only One, both strong and true
Brave and Wise,
Can save the victims
From his fatal lies…”
Nuka looked back at Simba, his poem heard.
“Well said,” Pumba remarked.
Simba’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Very.”
Timon and Pumba immediately volunteered to be the ‘scouts.’ They ran up about a mile ahead of Simba, Vitani, and Nuka. Everyday when the sun set where they were standing, they’d head back to the others and they’d all rest by the closest body of water. Simba carried Tani, still too young to do any of her own real traveling. He also carried Nuka on his back a lot of the traveling time. The group did that for about four days. Then they hit a large lake. Only half a mile from there, the sand dunes. They stayed at the lake for a couple of days, trying to decide what to do. Simba and Timon tried to decide, that is.
“It’s too big!” said Simba. “The only way you’d survive is to make it across in one day!”
“Hmm. I know what’chya mean. We barely made it out ’ere. This lake was the only place we actually stopped to recover. What a couple of days. And we were lucky. I’ve seen sand storms before, kid. They aren’t predictable or pretty.”
“And we’re back at square one.” Simba and Timon listened to the other three talk about (couldn’t you have guessed it) bugs. The cubs were all giggles.
“Simba,” Timon was getting an idea, “what if we go out there at night!”
“Yeah! It was a lot cooler out ’ere that one night between those two hell-days!”
“Like how cold?”
“Cold enough to make you want to do a few laps to warm up.”
“That’s it, Timon! You’re a genius! We’ve been sitting here for a day trying to figure this out! We fill up on water, then rush through the desert at night, in ONE night! If it’s as cold as you said it was, …
“The hard part will be goin’ straight… But I think we can do it. Thanks, Timon!”
“All in a day’s work!”
Within three days, the five had crossed the sand dunes, gone over a thorn patch (which contained a slight incident concerning Timon’s and Nuka’s tails), and were at the top of the gorge where a stampede had once threatened to take away Simba’s life. And there they rested. Not one of them wanted to go to Pride Rock and see what Scar had done in the past three weeks to a month.
“Simba?” Nuka and the prince were up later than the others, stargazing.
“When ma’ Dad dies, will he go up there?”
“Nuka, I think Taka already is.”
Simba had the other four wait two miles away while he went back to Pride Rock. His mane had begun to grow out of every place it would one day fill out. He inspected every inch. Nothing. They were all gone. Now what?
He spun around from where he stood on the promontory.
“Zazu!” The majordomo had been standing next to him for a while.
“That’s Banana-Beak to you.”
“You didn’t see where they went, I take it.”
“Go east two or so miles. My cousins and friends are there waiting. Does Rafiki know about all this?”
“No. He lives alone in that tree at least eight miles to the north, you know.”
“Yeah. Accompany them hear, then fly out and get him, and don’t forget to explain anything!”
“Yes, young master. Simba?”
“You aren’t a ghost?”
“I’m very sorry. As soon as the herds found out, they almost all disappeared, just like your uncle.”
“He’s not my uncle anymore.” Zazu flew up onto Simba’s shoulder.
“He’s a madman, Zazu.”
“You will make a great king one day, Simba. Just like your father.” Zazu flew off.
Rafiki came to live on Pride Rock with the other six. None of them could figure out where the pride had gone, and the drought seemed to have hit its lowest point. Days turned to weeks, which eventually became months. None of them could think of anything to do.
Simba’s mane grew out. Although there were no subjects or parents or the betrothed, Rafiki performed the ceremony to celebrate Simba’s achievement of reaching adulthood. But Simba didn’t care. He had nothing.
Nuka was growing, too. He had reached the stage in a lion’s life between cubhood and adolescence. Little Tani was the size Nuka had been back at the jungle’s edge. More signs that Simba had to be too late. The kingdom had been destroyed by the disappearance of the King and his family.
But something was going to change that. Rafiki and Zazu were out being old, as Timon put it, when the hyenas came. The Five were all in the cave, hiding. At first, they only heard voices. Then they smelled them. Then they passed by the cave mouth. Tons of them.
“Nuka, come with me,” Simba whispered. Nuka had grown even more and was most definatly an adolescent.
“Stay here, you three,” Nuka ordered as quietly as possible. The cousins, more like brothers, walked out of the cave. The hyenas were on top of Pride Rock. The males wanted revenge. They headed up the path.
The hyenas were so oblivious, they didn’t even realize the two lions were standing right behind them at the top of Simba’s home. It was Nuka who woke them up.
“Bon jour!” They went insane! They were stuck, walled between a hundred foot drop and an eight foot claw rack. The boys attacked!
Two out of the seven jumped off. The rest chose to take on Nuka. Simba rushed in, tearing them apart! Three went at Simba while Nuka throttled the others! He had inherited his father’s ferocity, that was for sure! As had Simba. Only one hadn’t run within three minutes, and he was pinned by Simba.
“WHERE IS HE!” Simba demanded.
“I-I don’t know! I just do what I’m told, I swear!”
“Liar!” said Nuka. “Listen, I know my father, and I know you are too young to die, just like the twin lionesses who were shoved off a cliff and like Simba who was ‘killed’ right here! So if you EVER want to see the sun again, you will answer his majesty’s questions!” Simba stared at Nuka a second.
“Thank you.” Simba looked back at the hyena, who’s attention was on after Nuka’s speech.
“If you let me go, I’ll take my time getting started back.”
“Agreed!” Simba said, not hesitating to show off his razor-ship teeth. The hyena sprang up and ran. The boys followed. After months, they were going to finally find their family. Or what was left of them.
The lions lost sight of the hyena within two hours, but that didn’t matter. There had been no rain at all, and the tracks of hundreds of hyenas and about twenty lionesses were practically fresh. Twenty lionesses and two lions, that is. Simba and Nuka only stopped for small hunts and water. Two days passed. “What on earth was he doing?” Nuka asked as they walked.
“I can tell ya’ what he wasn’t,” answered Simba. “Using his head. He migrated a pride! With hyenas! He must have it in his head that he could rule over them. That he was the king and Mufasa had stolen his pride. I just wish I knew where he thought was their home.” They didn’t have to wait.
The boys came to a canyon and when they reached the edged of one of the cliff tops, they immediately ducked down. The pride was in a ‘center room’ of the canyon, and hyenas seemed to take up the rest of the space.
The boys crawled along the edge of the canyon wall to the best spying spot, perfectly blocking the view of themselves from anyone below.
“I don’t see my mother,” Nuka whispered.
Simba thought back. “I don’t remember scenting her that day.”
“You think she’s dead?”
“If she were dead, why wouldn’t Scar go through as much trouble to get rid of the body as me? No, she saw it coming right before it happened, panicked, and split. She probably knows what set this off,” Simba concluded. “Let’s figure out what we can from here, come up with some kind of plan.”
“When lionesses hunt, do they ever plan things ahead of time?”
Simba understood and realized what Nuka meant. “No. Whenever they try to plan and don’t just follow their gut, they lose the prey.”
“So let’s watch and do what our guts tell us…” The boys had good timing, because a small drama was unfolding below.
Scar had just managed to feed all the hyenas and himself while the lionesses and Mufasa were nearly starved. Scar was at the center of ‘room.’ And Simba noticed that the lioness that seemed to be confronting him was Nala, all grown up. His heart did a flip and a half.
“Scar,” she said below, loud, strong, and clear, “we need food! You can feed a hundred hyenas, but not your own pride!”
“The lionesses should be hunting. If they refuse to, that’s their fault, not mine!”
“You won’t let them! Don’t you get it? You are killing us!”
Scar narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Nala. “You miss him, don’t you?” The question caught her off guard.
“Simba, you miss him.”
“I was betrothed to him. He was the only one in the pride my own age. How could I not miss him?”
“I had hoped you would be willing to replace the status of my former wife. With those devil-cubs out of the way, like Simba, I need a queen. And heirs.” Nala recoiled in disgust. Sarabi and another lioness had to restrain Sarafina from attacking Scar. Mufasa barely contained himself. Even some of the hyenas stuck out their tongues in disgust! Simba took it the worst. He nearly gave away the boys’ hiding spot! He was lucky Nuka was smart enough not to freak.
“You must be sick!” Nala spat.
“Just think, Nala. Complete control over all of the Pridelands!”
“We aren’t in the Pridelands! We’ve been living in a hole in the ground for months now! There’s nothing to rule but a bunch of hyenas who don’t even really care about their commander!”
“I always knew you were a freak like your mother! A complete and total-”
“DON’T EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!” Nala yelled, this time actually spitting on Scar! Scar leapt up and struck her, her charging mother, and the charging Sarabi! Simba couldn’t hold back anymore! He was GOING with his instincts!
All of the canyon’s inhabitants looked up to see Simba standing there after Simba roared. He jumped down, landing hard on the canyon’s bottom. Pain shot up Simba’s left hind leg. The jump should have killed him, but adrenaline is a funny thing, isn’t it?
No one recognized him. He survived a seventy foot jump, was huge, seemed to glow, and looked ready to kill- all these factors understandably led to the assumption that Simba was a god!
“Scar, you withering, lying, murdering, loathsome little parasite!” Simba screamed. “How dare you?!” Simba was just walking. None of the hyenas wanted to fight him. But it was a long walk…
“Who are you?” Scar demanded. He was so off the deep end, he was the only one not afraid. Or else he was a great actor.
Simba stopped in his tracks and chuckled. Once. “Don’t you remember. You killed me.” Simba had their attention.
Scar’s eyes showed his fear. “You…”
“You had the hyenas kill the twins. They died to save me. You see, I was never actually dead!” Simba was advancing again. He was twenty feet from Scar. Sarabi ran up in front of him. She stared into his eyes.
“Simba!” Sarabi cried and embraced her son. Mufasa rushed through the frightened hyenas and joined his wife. The rest of the lionesses (except Nala who was too close to Scar to move) ran to their prince as well. Simba advanced further. He did not want mushy stuff yet. In a second or two, the hyenas would realize Simba was mortal, and Simba needed to avenge the twins.
A female hyena stepped in front of him. “Don’t touch him!” Simba stopped. “I know you!” It was the hyena from the elephant graveyard the day before the stampede. The stampede! “Scar tried to kill me and my father that day!”
Simba walked past the hyena to continue to Scar, but he stopped again. Scar had Nala’s throat in his paw, his claws just pricking into some small blood vessels in her throat. “I’d be careful, Simba. I might go off the edge!”
“Fight me!” Simba challenged.
“Excuse me?” Scar’s grip tightened on Nala’s throat. Blood trickled from beneath his claws. Nala never showed pain willingly, and her face was fraught with pain. To save you… thought Simba.
“You are old, but now technique. I’m young, but inexperienced and still weak from not having enough to eat. You on the other hand… Fight me! Fair! Winner will have ‘possession’ of all of these others! The other dies!” Simba watched Scar calculate. He was mad, not stupid.
“Agreed. Here. Now. I’d say goodbye to your mother now!” Scar threw Nala out of the center ring of the canyon room. Simba’s heartbeat raced. He’d never fought anything but the hyenas at Pride Rock. Mufasa had told him some pointers once, but they weren’t for serious combat.
A living ring formed around Scar and Simba, hyenas around Scar’s half, the pride lionesses behind Simba. Simba flexed his left hind leg. Scar knew that was his weakness. So what was his?
Scar attacked! He leapt through the air at Simba’s throat and Simba ran out of the way! When Simba turned to see what Scar did next, he found his uncle on his back, biting into his mane! He sprang around, snarling and kicking like a Zebra with a leopard on its back! Simba jumped up and flipped over, landing his back in Scar chest!
“Oof!” Simba heard a rib break in Scar’s chest! Simba tried to get up to pin Scar, but Scar grabbed Simba around the throat, holding him down! Of course, this action held Simba on top of Scar’s chest, suffocating him as well! Scar somehow managed to flip Simba down onto the ground, pinning him down! Scar held him there and took the top of Simba’s mane in his mouth!
“AAAARRRRRAAAUU!” Scar stepped onto Simba’s left hind leg!
“That hurt?!” screamed Scar.
“RRAAAAAHHHH!” Simba swung one of his paws across Scar’s face! Scar immediately got off, holding his face the whole time! Simba got up and Scar turned back. They rose up to meet each other, clawing each other apart! One blow made Simba lose his footing and fall on his back! Scar was about to slash Simba’s face! That would kill Simba if Scar aimed right, and Simba couldn’t move! But right as Scar’s claws were about to lodge in Simba’s skull, someone jumped in front! Everything went in slow motion! The lion fell into Simba’s chest!
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Simba looked at Nuka’s face. Both of Simba and Scar stopped. Nuka looked up at Simba. Scar’s claws had gone straight into Nuka’s chest.
“Simba,” he coughed.
“Nuka? Why did you…?”
“It doesn’t matter if he murdered her or not, he killed my mother.”
“Nuka, you’re the only brother I have! You can’t leave me!”
“You were the only father I had. I couldn’t let you fall. No one deserves to fall that early in life.”
“Not this early either! You shouldn’t have done this!”
Nuka smiled, blood dripping from his mouth. Scar showed no emotion.
“Only One, both strong and true
Brave and Wise,
Can save the victims
From his fatal lies…”
“Well said, Nuka,” Simba tried to smile through tears.
“Simba. It’s okay. I tried. And I succeeded!” And Nuka’s handsome face gave out, he slumped down on the ground. Blood dribbled from his mouth. Simba closed his deceased brother’s eyes and bowed his head in sadness.
Simba was on top of Scar in a second! “HE WAS YOUR SON! WHAT DID HE MEAN YOU KILLED HIS MOTHER?!”
“Please, Simba! It’s not my idea! It’s Scar’s!
“SAVE THE CRAP!”
“I didn’t do anythi-”
“Tell me, or you WILL die! I’ve won this! One wrong move and you are dead and you aren’t moving me anytime soon! I had no intention to kill you when I came into this, but then came Nuka! What happened?!” Scar didn’t answer. And Simba saw.
“You abused her! Her and Nuka!” Scar’s face turned guilty; trying to form words but not uttering a sound and trying but not able to meet Simba’s eyes.
“Vitani isn’t your daughter! Zira found someone else who didn’t abuse her or her son! That’s what Nuka wanted me to know!” Now Scar was just angry. “She’s probably with him now! She loved Nuka, but feared his fraternal genes! You found out about the other lion and went to your old pals the hyenas, who helped you to try and murder my father and me when I was a cub! But they aren’t cooperating anymore, are they?” Scar looked around. Hyenas have few values, but one thing they can’t stand is an abusive husband or father. Scar looked at Simba pleadingly.
“You are free to go, Uncle. I won. So I hereby order every hyena here to leave the Pridelands for the rest of their breed’s existence. And the pride goes back to Pride Rock.”
“You can’t let the hyenas kill me, Simba! I’m your Uncle!”
“My uncle was Taka, not Scar. Scar is a rogue who betrayed my uncle. Run. Run away, Scar, and don’t ever return. Otherwise, I will let the hyenas have you!”
Simba stepped off of Scar. And he did run. The hyenas let him pass and gave him a five minute head start.
Simba and Mufasa were underneath the promontory of Pride Rock. The drought dispersed with the return of the land’s king. The herds were back and the pride was healthy. A month ago, Simba sent out scouts to recover the bodies of the twin sisters who had died. He wanted them buried next to Nuka’s body, which was beneath a single tree near his favorite stargazing spot.
Scar’s hyenas had done a number on Mufasa. Only one of his legs was still healthy, and the time without food in the canyon had affected his strength more than the lionesses. He was no longer strong enough to rule as king. Simba was to take his place today. He was getting married.
On the march back to Pride Rock from the canyon, the two had set off for some alone time. The moon made Nala’s eyes sparkle and Simba’s mane shimmer. Simba looked at Nala. She was unlike any lioness in the world. Strong and supportive, yet gentle and kind. Headstrong but graceful. Simba realized he had loved her all his life, betrothal or not. Nala did, too.
“Nala, we have been betrothed all our lives. I want you to pretend we never were and never will be for a moment.”
“I’m pretending. Now what?”
“Nala, you have helped me in more ways I than I can imagine. You never sold out or betrayed me. Nala, I love you. You are the one and only lioness I need more than anything in the world!” Nala turned to look into Simba’s fire red eyes, so full of passion and strength and need.
“Nala, I ask you, not as a prince, but as a lion in love, will you marry me?” Nala smiled and nuzzled Simba’s chin. Her heart melted at his words. “As a lioness in love, I accept.”
Today was the day. Mufasa and Simba had to stay below Pride Rock while the females prepared Nala in the cave. Simba watched nervously as the kingdom’s subjects began to file in next to the lion’s den.
“Simba, for the last time, you’ll be fine! You won’t forget the chant. You won’t fall off the rock. Neither of you will back out at the last moment! For goodness sake, stop worrying!”
“That wasn’t what I was going to ask, Dad,” Simba said.
“Then what were you going to ask, son?”
“Why couldn’t Nuka have someone like Nala before he died?” Mufasa looked at his son. “Simba, remember how I told you about the Great Kings of the Past?”
“Nuka was a great lion. He is up there now with the twins, you know.”
“That doesn’t answer my question, Dad.”
“I know, son.”
In the cave above, the lionesses were making a ruckus.
“Nala, congratulations, dear!”
“Don’t forget to smile!”
“Oh, let me put this flower behind your ear! You’ll look great with it!” Nala was dizzy from it all. Vitani, now an official adolescent, had had enough.
“Would you guys just give her some space?! It’s her wedding day, not yours! At least let her get some air!”
“Now, Vitani, I don’t think you understa-”
“You better shut your beak, Zazu! You are a bird! NOT a lion! If anyone doesn’t understand, it’s you, Banana-Beak!”
“Thank you, Tani!” Nala sighed. The lionesses filtered out of the cave. Sarabi and Zira, who had returned home, went down to join Simba. Sarafina stayed with her daughter.
“Mother, I’m so nervous! This can’t be ordinary!”
“Nala, when I got married, I was just as nervous as you are, and the only ones watching me were a monkey, my best friend, and my husband-to-be! You’ll do fine!” Nala smiled at her mother and hugged her.
Vitani showed up in the cave entrance. “Time to go, Nala.”
Nala walked up the ledge-trail to the top of Pride Rock. She’d never been up here before. The pride formed a path for Nala to walk through once at the top. The ‘path’ led to an open circle of space, walled by the rest of the pride. Rafiki was in the center of the circle, waiting with his stick. Nala stepped up to his right side and Sarafina sat down behind her. Timon and Pumba were behind the ring of lionesses with Zazu, crying their hearts out. Zira, her new mate, and Vitani sat at their left. They all waited.
They came! Sarabi and Mufasa walked shoulder to shoulder down the ‘path.’ They walked up to Nala. Mufasa bowed his head to her, and she did in return. Sarabi hugged the youth. They walked over and sat down behind Rafiki. Nala’s heartbeat rose! He would be there any second!
The pride saw Simba as he walked up the spiraling ledge to the top of Pride Rock. He rose each paw with dignity and honor. He stopped when he reached the top. Everyone bowed to him but Rafiki. He walked into the ring and in front of Nala. He raised her head with his paw so that they looked into each other’s eyes. Simba nuzzled her gently before seating himself on Rafiki’s opposite side. The joining began.
Rafiki chanted softly, growing in volume at places. He broke one of his odd nuts into two halves. The shaman dragged the juice from one half across Nala’s forehead and juice from the other half across Simba’s. Still chanting, he joined the two nut halves together. Nala and Simba both extended a paw and touched the large nut. Together they chanted. They were one in the same; partners who would do anything for the other. Rafiki finished with one last pact, and the nest King and Queen of the Pridelands were joined.
Simba and Nala walked up to their mate and nuzzled each other. The animals below and there with them broke out into cheers of ecstasy! The mates smiled at the others. They turned to one another and roared together. Now their joining truly was complete! The pride roared in acceptance! Simba and Nala caressed each other. A powerful wind came in, lifting Simba’s soul! He looked up into the heavens.
Listen to the wind…
Simba did listen. Nuka and the sisters were with him. The wind whipped through his mane, lifting up. He was ready to take his place in the Circle of Life with Nala.
Nala looked down at the kingdom’s subjects. She saw the hippo that had nearly killed her over a year ago. There was the herd of gazelle that she had taken her first kill from. There was the elephant that had nearly trampled her. And over there was the herd of wildebeests from the stampede Simba continued to have nightmares about until after he asked her to marry him. But there was one subject that she couldn’t take her eyes off. Simba saw him, too, and smiled. Nala knew who the lion was immediately. Her father.