Chapter II: War


            Ghera had been raised by the cheetahs as their own. He didn’t deserve it, and he knew it. If anything, he should have been dead. When he was just a cub, his parents had tried to overthrow the clan. They might have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for his parents lack of secrecy. Still, they had made kind of a record. They had gotten three steps closer to the leader than anyone before.

            Ghera should have died then and there, along with his family. Fortunately for him, his parents had decided to try their coup during the rule of an overly benevolent leader, and for that exact reason. The leader had bravely declared Ghera safe, an action that could have cost him his life if the clan had not seen his way.

            “Kill a cheetah,” he had declared bravely, sheltering Ghera with his own body, “and you’re a murderer. Kill a cub that has only begun to live, and you’re pure evil. What part did he have in this?” he had asked, looking defiantly from one cheetah to the next. “It isn’t his fault he was born to scum. We can change that. He may have been born to filth, but we can make sure he is raised with honor.” He had taken him in, and Ghera was eternally grateful to the clan for that. He strived to be the best leader he could possibly be. He was unselfish, always putting the clan before himself.

            I exist only to serve the clan.

            He wanted the clan to flourish, to prosper, so that his debt might be paid. He believed they deserved more than what they were given.

            They took me in and raised me. The least I can do is raise them up. He learned of their history with the lions. How they had helped establish the first dynasty out of anarchy, and were self-appointed guardians of the peace. For decades they had helped the lions rule, but with no discernable return.

            That would change.

            They deserved more, and if they weren’t given what was rightfully theirs, they would take it.

            “We have been under their oppression long enough,” he announced to the assembled crowd of cheetahs. “We have served the lions for years, and have received nothing.”

            “We have received peace,” interjected Nadhari.

            “Peace that we have brought about! We have always stood at their side, and they have ignored us utterly.”

            “It isn’t like the old days. There is no constant threat of rebellion. The lions have managed to keep the peace without our help.”

            “So they will do nothing but cast us aside? It is bad enough that scum Taka had exiled us—”

            “Scar wasn’t Simba. Or Mufasa. All the animals make mistakes, and the lions aren’t exempt from that.”

            “They lead! They must not be allowed to! Leaders cannot afford to make mistakes!”

            “So you are perfect?”

            “They will destroy the Pridelands from within, like a cancer,” continued Ghera, ignoring Nadhari’s comment. “We must rid the Pridelands of this menace! How do you destroy a cancer? You cut it out. Nothing must remain behind! If you do not destroy it all, it will only grow back.”

            “Genocide? Are you insane? No pride has ever deserved that, not even the worst of them. It is their right to be given a chance to live.”

            “At the expense of the entire Pridelands?” he thundered down at Nadhari. He turned his focus back to the others. “If we do not take action now, they will tear themselves apart from infighting, taking the peace with them. Look at the Outsider incident. Look at Scar. Nothing but disasters, threatening to tear apart the delicate balance we exist on. Brothers, we have been denied this too long. We deserve the throne; this has been obvious for years. But we will take it not for us, but for the good of the Pridelands.”




            “At this point I couldn’t stand listening to the fool any longer. I just got up and left,” Nadhari said to the king.

            “Why tell us? They will undoubtedly kill you now,” pointed out Kovu.

            “Some things are worth the risk. I thought you would have learned that.”

            “How can we possibly trust you? If what you say is true, we could be completely overrun at any moment.”

            “It takes time to form any army. He won’t attack immediately, though he will be hurried once he notices my disappearance. I would say that you have at least two days. Probably a few more.”

            “Is there any chance that he won’t convince them? That more will see like you?”

            “About the time the Outlands bloom. He’s far too good with words. He makes it plainly obvious that what they are going to do is the most foolish thing since the prince here coming to kill you. And yet they follow him. He has the pedigree of a murderer, the upbringing of a leader, and the mind of a fanatic. It just doesn’t mix.”

            Simba and Kovu looked at each other. This was by far the worst news they had ever gotten. There was no way to put this off. Any lion brave enough to actually try to negotiate would be sent back needing to be sewn together for his funeral. All they could do was wait, and hopefully repel the assault when it came.

            “Is it possible that they will spare—”

            “No one. Every lion is now an enemy of the clan. There is no bridge. There will be no negotiations. There will be nothing but war. Every lion will be killed, from the oldest female to the youngest cub.”

            Simba hung his head. He felt he had already been through more than enough bloodshed to last two lifetimes. “Thank you, Nadhari. If you feel you can’t return, then stay with us.”

            “Thank you, Simba. I’ll accept your offer, and when the time comes, fight with you.”

            “Go on in, and help yourself to the meat.” Nadhari walked into the den, and sat down by Nala and Kiara.

            “Simba, let us handle this,” Kovu said, placing himself in front of Simba.


            “The Outsiders. Look, we know more about this kind of thing than any of you do, we were raised for it. You know nothing about being in this kind of situation. You could get us all killed.” Simba turned and looked out over the Pridelands. “Simba, this isn’t going to be some small battle. This is going to be a war, the first real war we’ve had in who knows how long. Lions are going to die, whether we do something or not. The only thing we can do is make it the smallest possible number.”

            Simba sighed. Kovu was right. He was an idiot when it came to this. “Alright, do what you think you need to. I’ll tell the lionesses.” He walked inside and sat down by Nala. Kovu watched him, then looked at Fujo and Taraju, playing tug of war with a leg bone. How could this happen to us? When we had just begun to live life as we were supposed to?

            “Vitani!” he called into the den. Out she came, looking genuinely concerned for Kovu. I’m letting it show in my face, he realized. He tried to compose himself and failed.

            “What is it Kovu?”

            “I want you to set up sentries at every possible point of attack on Pride Rock.”


            “Vitani, we’re being attacked. The cheetahs are coming, and the only thing on their minds is to kill us all.”

            “What?!” She turned and looked back in the cave at Nadhari.

            “He told us. They’re coming to wipe out the ‘plague that is the lions.’”

            “Kovu, what are we going to do?”

            “Defend this place at all costs. The Outsiders owe it to Simba.”

            “You want to let all of the Outsiders die for this?”

            “It won’t come to that. Besides, you know perfectly well that the Pridelanders have no idea what to do. We do.”

            Vitani looked down. He was right, of course. They did owe Simba, and this was probably on the scale of what they needed to do to even begin to pay him back. “I’ll set up the sentries, and tell you who I’ve put where once I’ve got it done.” She turned back into the cave.

            Simba was talking to Nala and Kiara, both who looked visibly shocked. Nadhari was eating quietly. Kovu walked out to the edge of Pride Rock. It seemed that the Outsiders had just begun to belong, to be accepted by the Pridelanders. Life had just begun to develop a pattern. Now this was thrown at them. One thing right after another. He looked out over the Pridelands. Maybe, after this, there would truly be peace.




            Kovu never did go back into the den. Instead he stayed out on the edge of Pride Rock, watching. He stood completely still, a statue jutting out from the edge of the precipice. A couple of hours later he heard movement behind him. He waited for it to stop, and turned around. Sitting there in two rows were the Outsiders, all of them at attention.

            “I assume that you’ve all been told what’s going on. Well, we are not going to bow down to these kittens at just one blow. I expect each and every one of you to give your life to this fight and go down swiping, or else there’s going to be no life for you to live. They will kill us all. Match their dedication.

            “You all know what the plan is. Standard sentry postings, followed by defense of Pride Rock. First sign of the enemy, fall back and alert us. If at all possible, incapacitate only. I very much doubt that they’ll give you that chance, so kill if need be.” Kovu looked at them. All of the people he had grown up with, spent his life with. Get it all out of the way.

            “Some of you, many of you are going to die. This is not just a fight. This is war. There will be no chance to surrender, no chance to retreat. If they know that one lion is left alive after this massacre, they will hunt him down to the ends of the earth and kill him. You’re going to lose a lot of friends, a lot of loved ones. Just make sure you make them regret every lion they kill.”

            Kovu turned back around, looking over the Pridelands again. He heard the sounds of the Outsiders disbanding, some going to their assigned posts, the rest walking back into the den. Vitani walked up next to him.

            “Sentries in every direction, two thousand feet away, a thousand feet apart.” She sighed. “This is going to be awful, isn’t it?”

            Kovu didn’t answer. She walked back into the den. Kovu stayed out there, standing still for hours. He watched the guard be changed twice, both times seeing them stare at him. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the sentries; he did, with the pride’s life. He just knew there was no point in being too careful. He looked up at the night sky, taking in the stars. He closed his eyes and sighed, dropping his head down to his chest. He noticed the sentries leaving again for the third time that night. Suddenly another scene of lions leaving flashed through his mind, and then suddenly he was back in the den. One thought rushed through his mind. Stay here until I return, Kovu. Do not move. Do not move.

            Suddenly a lion appeared on the edge of the cave. Kovu had never seen him before. He saw Zira come up behind the lion, followed by several other lionesses.

            “Scar is dead?” she asked him incredulously.

            “I didn’t want to kill him,” the lion replied. He turned to face Zira. The moonlight reflected off his face. Kovu was looking at Simba, years younger.

            “You killed him? Who do you think you are, to decide who lives and dies?” Zira had never been this angry.

            “I think I am the king.”

            “You’re nothing but a usurper!

            “Do you honestly believe I wanted to kill him? I gave him the chance for his life. I was more than fair considering the circumstances.” Simba turned around and started walking back into the cave.

            “Of course you wanted to kill him! You’re no better than that brute brother of—”

            “Don’t you dare talk about my father that way,” Simba said quietly.

            “You don’t like the truth?” Zira retorted. “You know Scar tried to save him, even though he had no reason to. Your father—” she spat out the word disgustedly “—gave him nothing. Scar was nothing more than an itch on your daddy’s royal—”

            “I told you to shut up!” roared Simba, turning to face her. Zira gasped. “Scar was nothing more than a murderer,” he continued in that horrible, quiet voice. “He earned the name Taka. He killed my own father, and the monster comforted me about it. He stood right over my father’s dead body and lied to me. You heard him say it.”

            “You would have killed him if he hadn’t said it!”

            “I gave him a chance!” snarled Simba, his voice rising again. “That was more than he ever gave anyone. He would have let you all DIE!” His voice was a roar.


            “‘You don’t like the truth?’ Look out there.” He gestured outside of the cave. “Look, and you’ll find nothing but devastation and ruin. That’s all he ever brought here. It’s all he could understand.”

            “Scar was a great king! There was nothing he could not accomplish! These lands belong to him, not to some imposter!”

            “If you truly believe that, leave.”


            “You heard me, Zira,” Simba said in that quiet voice again. “Scar is gone. If you’ll only follow him, then get out.” He turned to the other lionesses standing. “That goes for all of you. Scar is dead, and so is his rule. If you still support his ways, leave. Now.

            The lionesses looked at each other, shocked. Zira was the first to gain her voice.

            “So if we don’t like it, get out? Is that it?”

            “Yes, Zira. You are no longer wanted here. Leave now.”

            Zira turned around, furious. Kovu saw her disappear over the edge of Pride Rock. Slowly, one by one, the other lionesses followed. It finally occurred to Kovu what was going on. Scar was dead.

            Dad . . .

            Kovu didn’t know what to do. Waves of grief flooded over him. He did the only thing he could think to do. He ran. He ran past Simba, ran down the steps of Pride Rock, ran until he could run no more. He dropped to the ground next to a tree, sobbing, slowly crying myself to sleep. Slowly Kovu faded away. He was back at Pride Rock.

            Gods, I hate it when those happen. Ever since he had come back to Pride Rock, the flashbacks had started. He sighed and hung his head again. They were always so real.

            He looked back up at to see the dawn barely beginning to break. Always wanted to see a sunrise. He heard pawsteps behind him, coming toward him. Oh, gods, they’ve gotten past us. He waited, hearing the steps come closer. They stopped, and he whipped around, swiping at his foe.

            Simba was sitting there, his raised leg blocking Kovu’s with a loud thwack.

            “Jumpy, aren’t we?”

            “A little. Don’t do that again.” Kovu turned back to look over the edge. Simba came up and sat beside him.

            “And you’ve been out here all night.”

            “All night.” He sighed, and turned to look at Simba. “You have no idea what this is doing to me.”

            “The cheetahs? Or the lack of sleep?” Kovu ignored the jibe and continued.

            “Simba, I’m enjoying this.” Simba turned to look at him, an eyebrow raised in surprise. “And I shouldn’t be. It’s bringing out the killer in me again. I don’t want that. I mean sure, the sparring has done something for that, but it’s just not the same.”

            “The same as what?”

            “Everyone had to hunt in the Outlands. No one was above it. Not me, not even Zira. Killing became a passion for me. I loved it. But here . . . here we only need the lionesses to hunt. We’re not needed. I gradually began to suppress those instincts, but now it’s all flooding back. It’s . . . difficult.”

            “Kovu, I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re going through. You’ve been raised completely differently from me. But I was raised with one similarity as you: I had feelings. Learn to control those feelings. Use them. Rage is all good and well, but having it focused—that’s a challenge, and it works all the better for it. You can enjoy the killing, just—” Kovu suddenly snorted. “What?”

            “Nothing. Just something Zira said. ‘War is hell. Enjoy every minute of it.’”

            “Yeah, that does sound like something she’d say.” They sat in silence, staring at the Pridelands. The relieved sentries began to trickle back in, heading for the den for sleep.

            “Simba, what am I going to do?”


            “And if that’s not good enough?”

            “It will be good enough. And if it isn’t, then I have seriously misjudged you.” He turned and smiled at Kovu. “Now, go join them.”


            “You’ve been out here since we were told yesterday. You are going into that den and getting some rest.”


            “Having the Outsiders guard makes you feel safer. Well, having the lions guarding me actually being awake enough to do their job makes me feel safer. I’ll take over, go on.”

            “Thanks.” Kovu walked back into the den, lying down by Kiara. Simba watched him go, then turned back around, watching the sun climb its way into the heavens.




            The day passed without event. Sentries came and went, all with the same report. No contact. Even a sighting would have made Kovu feel better.

            “Simba, I bring terrible news!” He heard Rafiki’s voice outside the den around midday, and then saw him stand in front of the mouth of the den, facing the edge of Pride Rock, where Simba still sat. He had only stirred from it once, to get food. “The cheetahs are—”

            “We know, Rafiki.”

            “You know? What do you mean you know? I just heard it myself.” Well, Kovu thought, the monkey isn’t omniscient after all.

            “I told them.” He heard Nadhari’s voice cut into the conversation. “I would certainly hope I heard it before you.” He saw Nadhari approach Rafiki.

            “And you trust him?”

            “With our lives, Rafiki. Nadhari’s report was all we had to go on. We’ve been posting sentries since yesterday.”

            Rafiki began muttering. Kovu was almost sure he heard the phrase “job security.”

            “Is that the only reason you came?” asked Simba.

            “Isn’t it enough? But no, it is not the only reason. I came to help you. There is no way I could have even gotten here once the attack started. So I come now to help you.”

            “Help us?” Nadhari was skeptical. “How is a wizened old baboon with a stick going to help us against an army of cheetahs?” He turned to Simba. “That is one of the—” Rafiki whacked him up the side of the head with his stick. “OW!”

            “That is how I help you.”

            Kovu laughed and turned over. But other than that, there were no laughs that day, just the mounting tension. Rafiki had confirmed Nadhari’s story, only making them all the more cautious. It was the waiting he couldn’t stand, the constant waiting. Better to take the fight to them than to sit here and wait. He knew that wasn’t true. If they attacked, they left Pride Rock, the most defensible place in the Pridelands, wide open for occupation. Besides, they didn’t even know where the cheetahs were anymore. They could have already been spread out over the entire Pridelands, just waiting for a signal. There was nothing the lions could do but sit tight and wait for the blow to fall.




            Vitani left for guard duty just as the night had begun to fall, accompanied by Kafara. It had been three days since Nadhari had come with his warning. Three days of unending vigil and sentry duty. It was enough to begin to be sick of it. She walked carefully towards the water hole, making sure she took in everything. When she got close, she began to walk heavily, breaking twigs and rustling grass, making her position well known. No point in sneaking up on Majadi and risking getting killed.

            She arrived at the water hole and looked around. There was no sign of Majadi anywhere.  Vitani’s senses went wild, trying to find something of her. There, she could smell it. Blood. She turned her head around and saw one paw sticking out of the high grass surrounding the water hole. She walked carefully over to it, and prodded it with her paw. She heard a moan. She took the leg in her teeth and dragged the body out into the clearing. She heard Kafara gasp. She dropped it and looked up, gasped, too.

            It was Majadi, her body broken and beaten. Cruel slashes outlined her sides, and from the way her legs were angled, more than one bone was broken. She was alive. Barely. Vitani lowered her head beside her.

            “Majadi, what happened?”

            Majadi groaned. “Came out of nowhere. Three or four of them. Unh . . .” her voice began to trail off. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. Talking must have really hurt. “They attacked before I had even seen them all. Happened so fast . . .”

            “Shh.” Vitani stopped, listening. She could have sworn she had heard a noise. Something rustling in the grass.

            “They’re gone. Said they were going to leave me here to die . . .”

            Vitani decided she was right. “I’m going to take you back. Try not to scream.” She slowly edged herself under Majadi, finally getting all the way under. She bounced her, trying to get Majadi into a better position. Majadi yelped in pain. It’ll have to do, Vitani decided. She began to walk towards the Pridelands.

            A twig snapped. Vitani stopped, listening intently. There was someone here. She heard the grass rustle behind her. If I take them, I’m not going to come out any better than Majadi did. She began to run towards Pride Rock, hearing Kafara behind her. She hoped they made it before the cheetahs caught them. They were much faster than they were, and they didn’t have to worry about a passenger. She heard pawsteps thundering behind her. Come on, faster!

            “Vita—AHHH!” Vitani heard a sharp crack. She turned her head, looking back. Kafara lay limp, her neck in a cheetah’s mouth, clearly broken. Gashes outlined her sides where the cheetah had leapt on her. Vitani ran all the harder.

            She saw Pride Rock growing steadily larger, and heard a huge roar, followed by another. It was the signal. Fall back to Pride Rock. The attack had started. Right after the sun had set. She heard the pawsteps getting steadily closer, gaining on her. She wasn’t going to make it. She saw the Outsiders that weren’t on duty pouring out of Pride Rock. They were too late. There was too much space between Vitani and them, and not enough between her and the cheetahs.

            A figure leapt out of the darkness in front of her, leaping past her. She heard a cheetah yowl in pain. She continued running for Pride Rock, hoping that she would be done in time to come back and aid her rescuer. She leapt up the steps, and rushed into the den. The Pridelanders were all inside, taking care of the wounded. She laid Majadi down beside two other lions, their bodies even worse than hers. “Come on, we need help!” she yelled, running out of the cave.

            She leapt down the steps, running to where she had been attacked, followed by four lionesses. She saw Kovu battling with four cheetahs. He was putting on quite a show, making sure that for every time they touched him, they all got at least one souvenir. Vitani rushed them, tackling one to the ground. She swiped hard at his face, and then at his neck. He was still. She got off him and looked up. Kovu was standing over another, and two lionesses each had attacked the other two. Vitani looked out over the savannah and saw one of the last things she wanted to. Cheetahs swarmed towards them, a seemingly endless line.

            “And here they come,” muttered Kovu. He stood his ground, waiting for them. The lions had formed a line, ready to meet them. It wasn’t just Outsiders now; Pridelanders had joined in, too.

            The cheetahs met the line, the whole organization breaking up into a dozen separate fights. The cheetahs outnumbered all of the lions three to one, but the lions were desperate. They fought back viciously, sinking every weapon they had into the cheetahs. Vitani dodged the swipe of one, rammed her shoulder into another, looked up to see a cheetah pouncing on her, and leapt back. She slashed her claw across his face, blinding him. She reared up on her hind legs to strike another blow, and felt a full set of claws rake her back. She roared out in pain and fell to the ground. She turned over and saw a cheetah on top of her, swinging his paw back. She swiped at his face, knocking him off his feet. She leapt on him, breaking his neck. She turned back to the one she had blinded and knocked him to the ground, unconscious. She saw Rafiki at the edge of her vision, swinging his stick around him brutally and landing painful blows with each strike.

            A cheetah leapt hard onto her back, sinking his teeth into her. She turned her head and bit hard into his neck, and swung her head out to the front again, flinging him off. She swiped at him when he hit the ground, opening inch-wide wounds in his chest, then his stomach. She turned to see Kovu whacking another cheetah to the ground. He was already surrounded by at least ten on the ground, either dead or unconscious. Another cheetah leapt up at him, and he knocked it down with his paw, no claws extended.

            He’s holding back, she realized. Which is a bit scary seeing as how even then he’s got more kills than anyone here. But why is he holding—

            He turned to face her. “’Tani! Drop!” She crouched down immediately, more out of reflex than anything. He jumped over her, hitting a cheetah in the act of jumping her from behind. She heard the cheetah’s bones breaking as Kovu and he hit the ground. She looked around again. It may have been just cheetahs on the ground here, but everywhere else lions lied down with them. Kovu began to rush a group of cheetahs taking down three lionesses. He rammed into them, knocking two off their feet, following up with clubs to the head. The three lionesses had managed to subdue two more of the cheetahs by the time he turned around. They added a third while he slashed another across the face, knocking him to the ground.

            “Sire!” Zazu’s voice came from the sky. “They’ve broken the line! They’re in the den!”

            “’Tani, take over!” He ran for the den. A cheetah jumped on him, but he shook him off, kept running. He ran up the slope and into the den. He looked around and saw lions lying on the floor, along with a few cheetahs. One of the cheetahs stirred. It was Nadhari. He looked up and saw Kovu.

            “They took the cubs and ran out the back.” He nodded toward the priest’s hole Kiara had made when she had left to look for him years ago. Nadhari groaned.

            “Are you going to be—”

            “Yeah, go, go, go.” Kovu ran out the back of Pride Rock. He looked around, saw drops of blood on the ground. He heard a roar and raced off. This path would lead to the arena where he and Simba had been sparring. He turned the corner, and everything seemed to shift to slow motion.

            Simba and Ghera were fighting it out, both of them obviously hurt. Who knew how long they had been going at it down there. Blood trickled down their faces and bodies. He watched Ghera club Simba viciously across the face, sending him spinning to the ground. He watched, sickened, as Simba hit the ground with a heavy thud. Simba didn’t move.

            “SIMBA!” The scream tore through Kovu’s throat. Ghera stopped in the act of raising a claw to cut across Simba’s neck. He looked up at Kovu, fear in his eyes. Kovu leapt down to the arena. Ghera ran at him. He reared up on his hind legs and came down, slashing at one of Kovu’s legs, putting a deep gash in it. Kovu didn’t feel it. He looked down wound. It was already weeping. He looked back up at Ghera. Terror showed plainly in his face. Kovu let it all out, all the tension he had been feeling, all the anger. He backpawed Ghera angrily, sending him flying. He jumped for him before Ghera had even hit the ground. They rolled, Ghera ending up on top, digging his claws into Kovu. He raised a blood-caked claw back to strike Kovu. Kovu whacked his head against Ghera’s. Ghera staggered. Kovu slashed Ghera’s face, forcing him off. He got up, and advanced on Ghera, knocked him to the ground. There was no mercy this time. Kovu sank all of his claws in his forelegs into Ghera’s stomach, digging them in as deep as he could. Ghera yowled in pain. Kovu tore one paw out, sending blood flying. He sank it back in and tore out the other paw.

            For Simba! For all the lions you’ve killed today! For all the lives you’ve destroyed, but mostly for Simba, you BASTARD!

            He rained down blow after blow on Ghera’s stomach, willing him to stay alive just a bit longer to feel the pain. Even after Ghera stopped moving he continued, sinking blow after blow into him, slowly putting Ghera’s insides outside.

            “Kovu . . .” Hearing his name snapped him out of it. He stopped, his paw drawn back for another blow. “Kovu . . .” He turned to the noise, saw it came from Simba. He ran over to him. He was a mess. Blood matted his face where wounds had bled. Claw marks seemingly covered his back and right side.

            “Simba . . .”

            “Kovu . . . it’s all yours now . . .”

            “Simba, no, I can’t—”

            “You can . . . please . . .”

            “Simba . . . I’m not ready . . .”

            “Take care of them for me . . .” Simba’s eyes closed for the last time. Kovu stared in astonishment and sat down beside him. He could hear the battle going on on the other side of Pride Rock, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. He stared down at Simba, the moonlight illuminating his face clearly. A tear ran down Kovu’s face, falling on Simba’s, then another, and another. He didn’t know how long he sat there. The noise from the other side slowly subsided.

            “Dad . . . Unh . . .” A sound of pain snapped him out of his reverie. He looked over and saw Fujo lying on his side, his fur completely matted in blood, staring at Kovu. He walked over to him. Tears were streaming down Fujo’s face. “Dad . . .” He gasped sharply. “It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts . . .” The sentence trailed off into a sob.

            “Fujo, I’m going to take you back up to the den. When I move you, it’s going to hurt even worse than it does now—”

            “NO! Don’t do it . . . don’t hurt me . . . it hurts . . .”

            “Son, I have to move you. We can make the pain go away, but only in the den.” He picked up Fujo by the scruff of his neck. Fujo screamed, the scream slowly fading into jagged sobs. Kovu took him back up the path to the den, trying not to jostle him too much. He knew that moving Fujo may be the thing that would kill him, but if he stayed down there he was dead anyway.

            All of the remaining lionesses were inside the den. They all looked up at his arrival. A few gasped. He gently laid Fujo down beside Kiara. He went over to Vitani, feeling the adrenaline finally beginning to drain away. She stared at him in disbelief. “Report.”

            “We won. The cheetahs are all either dead of running for their lives right now.” She paused, looking him over. “Are you okay? I haven’t ever seen someone that badly injured walking.”

            She was right, he realized. The feeling began to come back to him, the pain seeping in. All of the slashes in his sides and back began to burn. The slash Ghera had given him in his leg began to hurt something fierce. Darkness began to eat at the corners of his vision. Vitani began to fade.

            “I don’t think you should even be alive. You must feel like hell.”

            “That has got to be the stupidest comment I have heard.” Vitani’s body suddenly turned sideways, and the darkness closed in.