Pride Lands Online

THE
LION KING

"In Memory of."
An original copyrighted fan-fiction
by Michael J. Evans




Tell me what you think; email me @V13tepes@hotmail.com

Or for AOL: V13tepes @aol.com

LION KING is copyrighted by Disney c 1994

All characters are property of Walt Disney Pictures

Some story elements inspired by A Matter of Pride by Christine Morgan @ vecna@eskimo.com

Author's note: this story was inspired by ugly rumors I heard from the rumor mill at http://www.lionking.org/ that Simba, my TLK hero, is going to die in the TLK sequel, Simba's Pride. I felt it my obligation to give Simba the full, rich life and personality that he may well not have time to develop in the second movie.

__________Whether or not he lives in the movie, I'm sure he'll live on in the minds of the fans. If you like this story, check out my new story about Treize coming up named "The Vagabond, and my sequel to this story, "Crossover."

__________For fun, check out the creative expansion I did at the end. If this were a movie, there are certain people I'd cast as voice-actors, and I'd have a certain soundtrack. Check it out! ;)

PROLOUGE
I must let you know
Why I've not let go
Hold on, just wait
Listen closely, my mate
Living with this pain
I've nothing to gain
I must find someone to tell
Or I'll lose you as well

I'm holding on, I'm fighting
But I must release what I've been hiding
I must do as you told me, and keep on trying

Life's not fair!
Now death's in the air
I cannot lose you now, my love


Too much has been lost
I no longer can trust
It's hard to have faith
When the truth comes too late
Trusting is hard
When fear raises your guard
I've held back a long time
Waiting's been my crime

I'm holding on, I'm fighting
But I must release what I've been hiding
I must do as you told me, and keep on trying

Life's not fair!
Now death pervades the air
I cannot lose you now, my love
"Through Faith and Love" c by Michael J. Evans

__________The story of the Lion King Simba's exile and glorious return was heralded throughout the scores of animals that traversed the Pridelands. It was no longer a time of mourning, but that of celebration. Not only has Simba returned home and ousted his evil uncle, Scar, but also his Queen, Nala, and he were to be coronated and married.
__________Simba's return coincided with the return of rain to the devastated Pridelands. It wasn't very long before the grasses grew back and the herds had returned. One morning at Pride Rock, the animals stood transfixed, listening to the heir's tale of sadness, hate, friendship, bravery, and courage. His words, spoken with the beautiful diction of a poet, brought tears to even the toughest and meanest animals. He talked of the horrifying stampede, exile by Scar and the hyenas, comradeship with the meerkat, Timon, and the warthog, Pumbaa, his surprise reunion with Nala, and his revelation at a pond just days ago.
__________At the end of the story, he choked back his own tears, then added, "I remembered."
__________In the coronation ceremony following his speech, Simba and Nala were married and given their titles of royalty. Afterwards, Timon approached Simba, and asked, "Simba, why didn't you tell us a long time ago? We might've been able to help more."
__________"You told me to put the past behind me."
__________"Oh, duh! Well, Congrats, old pal." Timon left to search for Pumbaa.
__________Nala came up to Simba's side. "Oh, Simba," she said, still crying, "that was a wonderfully told story back there. You have a wonderful way with words. Until today, I had no idea it was that bad for you."
__________He nuzzled her head with his, purring, "but with you and the others there, I still had something to live for."
__________"I love you so much," she sobbed. "I hope nothing like that ever happens to you again."
__________"I love you too, Nala."
__________From the rear of Pride Rock, Timon called out, "So what are we? Chopped liver?"
__________"I heard that, you jerk!" Simba replied, laughing.
__________"Yeah, I'll betcha did," Timon retorted.
__________"Simba!" Sarabi shouted.
__________"Coming, mother. Nala, let's go say hi to the 'rents."
__________"Okay," she replied, clearing her throat.
__________The two young lions walked down from the outcropping they were standing on to the shady spot their mothers and Timon and Pumbaa were resting in. Sarabi smiled and stood up to greet her son.
__________"You can't begin to fathom how proud I am of you two. Simba, you didn't turn your back on us. And Nala, you were brave enough to find help."
__________Nala reminisced. She knew she left for more than to just help the pride. After her incident with Scar, it was life or death.
__________Sarabi continued. "I know you two will have a long reign over the kingdom. I'm proud to abdicate to you two."
__________"Mother," Simba replied. "You're still as important to us with or without a title. You're not only the hunting party leader, but you are the calm center in a sea of chaos. I'm proud to be your son."
__________"Yes, and your father would be so proud of you."
__________"As would Nala's father and brother of her," Sarafina sighed.
__________"Yes," Simba responded, "Treize and M'heetu would be proud." Simba barely remembered M'heetu, Nala's only brother. He had the same beautiful blue-green in his eyes as his sister. The haunting image was almost too much to bear, for the devoted M'heetu was one of Simba's childhood friends. M'heetu loved his volitive sister so much that he would defend her to the bitter end.
__________Nala spoke, "I still can't believe you're alive. I wish I knew whom to be thankful to."
__________"The hyenas," Simba answered. "They were the ones so gutless that they wouldn't chase me into the desert."
__________"Well, my thanks to them would be to tear out their throats and drag them out through their a-"
__________"Nala!" Sarafina interjected. "You have a mouth, don't you?"
__________"On very rare occasions," she replied apologetically. "I got that from Scar, you know."
__________Timon cleared his throat hesitantly.
__________"Hey, guys," Simba spoke. "What's up?"
__________"Uh," Timon responded. "When do we eat?"
__________"You know, I have no idea. You, Nala?"
__________"No."
__________"Mother?"
__________Sarabi shook her head.
__________"Well," Simba replied. "I guess no one knows."
__________"D'oh! I had a funny feeling you were gonna say that."
__________Pumbaa chided, "Relax, Timon! This is an important day for this cute little couple. I don't care when we eat. At least not yet."
__________Simba got up and scanned the horizon. "Zazu!" he called. Seconds later, the hornbill soared overhead, pulled a graceful loop, and settled down on a fallen, gnarled tree trunk.
__________"Yes, sire?" the majordomo inquired.
__________"When do we get some food around here?"
__________"When the lionesses go catch something," he remarked sarcastically.
__________Timon kicked a pebble on the ground nearby. "Aw, GEEZ! I'm starving!"
__________"I thought you were an expert bug hunter," Sarafina muttered under her breath.
__________"Experts must become accustomed to new surroundings, Madame!" he explained.
__________"All right!" Sarabi groaned. "I'll get a hunt going right now."
__________Timon jumped up and threw his arms out like Homer Simpson. "Woohoo!"

I

Sarabi and Sarafina decide that now would be as good a time as any to start hunting. They knew it would be a great deal more difficult without the tall grasses they were used to, so they decided to keep the hunting party small. The herds hadn't been hunted for a while, though, and the lions would probably have the element of surprise on their side.
__________The lionesses climbed to the top of Pride Rock and scanned the horizon for likely candidates. Sarafina noticed a sizeable herd of zebra by the water hole.
__________"Those zebra look mighty promising," Sarafina noted.
__________"Yes, but I don't see any young, old or sick animals in that herd. It's the same with the antelope. Looks like we'll have to try at the wildebeest."
__________They agreed and set off toward the large herd of gnus. It wasn't long before they were within stalking distance, and took refuge behind a small thicket of dry, yellow grass, waiting. Seconds later, Sarafina whispered, "On the count of three?"
__________"On the count of three," Sarabi whispered back.
__________They spotted a very old wildebeest about thirty yards from their hiding place. Sarabi counted, "One..two,"
__________A cry came out of the nearby bushes. The lionesses froze in their position. A quartet of tall, spear toting bipeds appeared, encircling the herd.
__________"Humans," Sarabi muttered.
__________"This is bad," Sarafina added.
__________The humans slowly circled the agitated herd, slowly surrounding the old wildebeest, who bleated, obviously not enjoying the attention. The tallest man drew back his arm, then hurled his weapon with blazing speed at the old creature. It sailed twenty yards before it sunk into the old creature's neck. The elderly creature groaned, sank to his knees, then collapsed, having the understanding that his number was up. The men whooped, obviously delighted with themselves.
__________"What are they doing here?" Sarafina hissed.
__________"Exactly. Human haven't been in the Pridelands for generations."
__________"They must be getting stupider. Evolution, my foot!"
__________The humans were already gone, having left the gnu carcass behind. Sarafina angrily shot up. "This makes no sense! Why would they go to all that trouble just to leave him there? That's just a waste!"
__________"They haven't accepted the Circle of Life yet. Someday, they'll have to. Meantime, this is a golden opportunity. Let's go get it."
__________Sarafina spotted Zazu flying overhead. He chuckled, "Looks like you've got yourselves a meal fit for a king! I will call the others."
__________In unison, the lionesses shouted back, "Thanks!" as he flew back toward Pride Rock.
__________A short time later, the members of the pride had arrived at the kill. Not to anyone's surprise, Simba was the first to comment. "Argh!" he roared. "I don't even want to see another wildebeest right now."
__________Sarabi raised her paw over her face, groaning, "Sorry, Simba. I forgot."
__________"That's okay," he replied. "I'll go find some bugs or something." He loped off toward the waterhole in search of other food.
__________Nala sighed. "Poor Simba. He may have accepted his past, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt."
__________"Yeah, boy!" Timon hollered. "Time for some grub." He grabbed at the armies of ants already infesting the new kill.
__________Sometime later, at the waterhole, Simba pondered his reflection in the blue water when he noticed another reflection materialize next to his. "Hi, Pumbaa," he muttered.
__________"What's the matter, Simba?" Pumbaa asked.
__________"I must be going insane. I tried to shirk my worries and responsibilities. That didn't work. I tried to do the right thing by coming home and facing my destiny. That's not helping with the pain I feel for my father's death."
__________"Simba," Pumbaa replied understandingly. "These things take time. No one expects you to have all of your problems solved right away. It'll take patience. You have many souls that love you, and we'll always stand behind you."
__________"Pumbaa, you're absolutely right." He put a paw around Pumbaa's shoulder. "Thanks, buddy."
__________A ripple appeared in the small lake in front of them. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled in the distance. "Hmm," Simba thought out loud. "The winds are changing again." He sighed, then took cover under the branch of an acacia. "Reminds me of old times." He slowly closed his eyes. In a vision, he saw Nala's father. Treize was a nomadic lion who frequently visited the Pridelands. He would come and try to solicit mating from the lionesses, sometimes appearing on a daily basis. One day, Taka, better known to most as Scar, approached the rouge lion and ordered him to leave the Pridelands. Treize refused, and was found dead the next day, having been attacked by a trio of hyenas.
__________Weeks, months passed. Sarafina, the youngest lioness in the pride, had yet to make her first unassisted kill at the time. It was to everyone's surprise when she suddenly had a litter of cubs. Why it surprised everyone was that lions aren't considered adult until they make an unassisted kill. Therefore, she wasn't an adult, and none of the pride males would have mated with her. Sarafina finally admitted that she had mated many a time with the rouge Treize. King Mufasa was delighted. He now had the perfect betrothed for his own infant son, Simba. He immediately arranged the marriage of his son to Sarafina's newborn daughter, who would be named Nala.
__________Since Treize was obviously unavailable for parenting, Mufasa decided he'd watch Nala as closely as he would his own offspring. Simba and Nala were often called "brother and sister" because they got along so well during their childhood.
__________M'heetu was another story. He was Nala's real brother, by blood. He was quite courageous, even if a bit shy and reserved. Nala and he were inseperable, and Simba remembered the three of them engaging in many different games when they were together. It was a sad day when hyenas killed M'heetu in front of his sister's eyes.
__________Simba froze when he felt a stick prodding at his head. He looked up, seeing an old baboon overhead. "Oh, hi, Rafiki," he said.
__________Rafiki nimbly leapt down from his spot and landed at Simba's side. "Why are you so down?" he inquired.
__________"There are some parts of my past I have yet to accept. I think I need some time alone to think.
__________"Well, if you want old Rafiki's help, just roar for me." With that, he stealthily crept away.
__________Simba groaned and walked west, towards the jungle that was his home for many years. He found a shortcut near the Shadowlands that saved him hours of walking through parched, barren wastelands. Soon after, he arrived at a familiar little pool of mirror-like water where before he'd changed his life. He looked deep into the water and asked, "Where are you, father?" Minutes silently passed, leaving him disappointed. Exhausted, he slumped into a lying position, closed his eyes, and awoke into a dream.
__________Thunder. No, it seemed more like running hooves. Thousands of them. Simba turned and saw himself as the lion cub he once was. The little lion was resting on a rock in the shade of a lone tree, waiting for someone. The canyon walls reverberated with the sudden squalor of the frightened wildebeests. The terrified youngster froze momentarily, then darted off in the opposite direction of the stampeding herd. He had only one chance: he sought shelter on the branch of a rotted baobab not too far from him. He clambered up the weakened limb and held on for dear life. Wildebeests now surrounded him, colliding with the aged baobab on several occasions.
__________The older Simba recalled these events with a sense of pure horror. He almost couldn't watch as a dying wildebeest snapped the cub's meager refuge in two, sending little Simba flying. He felt himself falling too. He snapped awake with a start. He stood; peering around in the darkness, alert and somewhat agitated.
__________A voice, young and sweet called out, "Simba."
__________"Argh!" he roared in surprise, nearly stumbling into the pool he stood by. Trembling, he turned to face.
__________"Nala. It's you."
__________"I was worried about you, Simba. Besides, I want to tell you something," the lioness replied. "Something that I never thought I'd ever be able to tell you, until you opened up to us with your story."
__________"Go on, I'm here for you."
__________Nala sighed, then started, "The night Scar told us you were dead, he not only let the hyenas take over, he was about to invoke the takeover law."
__________"What? That's awful!
__________"Yes, he was an instant from killing me."
__________"That is tradition, but a barbaric one my ancestors never abide by. That doesn't excuse his actions. But wait, you're still alive!"
__________"He knew that Sarabi would never submit to being his Queen, she was far too wise for that. I was just a child."
__________"Hey, I see where this is leading." He paused. "No! That lousy, rotten scoundrel! I'll rip his throat out!"
__________"Simba, I think the hyenas already took care of that. Let me finish. He selected me to be his Queen. I dreaded adulthood since then. I tried my hardest not to become one, but adulthood was meant to be a special time, not something to avoid. Besides, I'd never survive if I was cast out of the pride without decent skills!" She looked down at her forelegs. "Eventually, I made my first kill unassisted, and then-"
__________"It was your passage into adulthood."
__________"I not only was a poor hunter because of that, but Scar forced me to share his den with him. One day, he had a sleepwalking attack and thought that I was the Sarabi of his adolescence."
__________"No."
__________"He tried to rape me, but I fought it, and I knocked him unconscious. If I was to have a chance of saving the pride, I had to leave immediately. Rafiki told me the way. I came looking for help, and if I had returned without it, I would've been killed by Scar."
__________ "I almost sent you home to your death! I can't believe myself. I was so načve. I'm such an idiot."
__________"I don't blame you. You couldn't know. I didn't tell you. I wouldn't."
__________"Nala, I'm sorry."
__________She rubbed her head under his chin. "Don't worry; I forgive you. I'm sorry that I was so coarse to you."
__________"You weren't. You were thinking in the best interests of the pride and our kingdom. You didn't know my horrible secret, and I couldn't bear to dump that on you."
__________
__________"You didn't kill your father."
__________"Right. That too."
__________"I'll always be there for you. I love you, Simba." She gave him a lion kiss.
__________"And I love you, Nala." He returned the gesture.
__________"Let's go back. Everyone misses you."
__________"Okay."
__________They left, Simba brooding with thoughts of Scar the coward.

II

Simba lazily opened one eye, yawned, and licked his lips. Taking a long glance around his cave, he noticed the napping lionesses, silent and sleeping deeply. Zazu was perched on a rock overhang above Simba. Pumbaa and Timon lay in a heap not too far from where Simba was. Nala, beside him, draped a forepaw draped lovingly over his strong shoulders, resting it on the ends of his mane.
__________He knew it must be early, for the entire hunting party was asleep, the sun barely over the horizon. He tried to go back to sleep. He could not. Something about his vision the night before had him worried. He shivered, not for cold, because Nala's warmth was with him. No, he shivered and cringed at the painful memories he was still unsure of.
__________He quietly slipped out from under Nala's paw, gave her a gentle kiss, then silently shuffled out of the cave. It was several hours later, much brighter when Nala awoke. She took a quick glance at her surroundings, then thought aloud, "Hmm. He must be on patrol."
__________She got up and stretched, flexing her young, limber muscles. She padded outside, catching a glimpse of a lion at the summit of Pride Rock. "There you are," she thought. She ascended the stairway of rock leading to the summit quickly. When she stepped up, she noticed a strange glow around the lion. Something was not right.
__________The lion opened his mouth. "Nala."
__________"Who are you?" she responded.
__________"I'm surprised you can't remember your old brother."
__________"M'heetu! It's you!"
__________"Well, not really. I never got to tell you how much I loved you before I." he trailed off.
__________"M'heetu, I miss you so much. You were a good friend. You saved my life." She frowned, confused. "Why are you here now?"
__________"That's what you have to figure out. Goodbye for now."
__________"Wait!"
__________She jerked awake, nerves tingling with excitement. "What the-?" she mumbled. Nala knew something was wrong. It was rare of her to have unusual visions in her dreams. Something wasn't making sense. She shivered. Sarafina entered the empty cavern and saw her daughter. "Morning," she said, smiling at the sight of her daughter. "How was your sleep last night?'
__________"Mother, I had an unusual dream. M'heetu appeared as an adult at Pride Rock. What he said confused me."
__________"You probably still miss your brother. He cared a great deal for you. I'm sure you're just acting out against his death because Simba's story reminds you of yours."
__________"Yes, hyenas were the cause of both incidents, and Scar may have been behind my brother's death."
__________"Why don't you go talk with Simba? I'm sure he can help you."
__________"You're right, mom. See you later."
__________"Bye."
__________Nala trudged out of the nearly empty cave, glancing around, eyes searching for her love. When she looked up, she noted that Simba was at the peak of Pride Rock, which was very unusual. She climbed the steep slope of the kopje to the peak. Simba turned his head to face her as she reached his perch. "Hi, Nala. Did I wake you?"
__________"No," she responded to Simba. "I have something I think you can help me with. You know that vision you had of your father at the pool?"
__________"Yes," he replied. "Why?"
__________"I had a dream last night about M'heetu. I said, 'M'heetu, it's you!' and he said, 'Well, not really.' What do you think that means?"
__________"Hmm. Boy, you've got me. My best guess is that there's still a part of you that either believes or knows subconsciously that he's still alive somewhere."
__________"But I know I saw the hyenas really beat him up. It would be pure chance if he managed to survive that."
__________"Man, you'd better talk this over with Rafiki. That guy's a genius. He's helping me even as we speak. Speaking of the devil, I have to go see him right now."
__________"Bye," Nala called out to him as he descended toward Rafiki's tree.
__________It only took a few minutes of walking and moments of avoiding thorns for Simba to scale Rafiki's tree. Rafiki was busying himself with a colorful chalk painting on one of the branches.
__________Simba whispered, "Rafiki, that's beautiful. What is it?"
__________"When you were a tiny little thing," he began, "I painted this portrait of you. When I discovered you were alive and all grown up, I added the mane. Now," he said, pointing to the lioness, "I'm painting your betrothed, Nala. Yes, these images bring back memories. I can remember when you and Nala were just children, best of friends, despising the idea of marriage. Now, you can hardly keep your paws off of each other."
__________"Rafiki!" Simba shouted indignantly.
__________Rafiki stood and grabbed his walking stick. "But it's true. Don't be ashamed. You two have feelings both mutual and natural. It's a beautiful thing."
__________"Yes, I remember a time where I wished Nala was with me again during my exile. I guess I'm lucky that wish came true."
__________"You came here for more than discussion of art talent. You want something else."
__________"Actually, yes. I've had these horrible dreams. Both were about my father's death. The first was really more of a vision, at the pool were I before saw my father. In the others, I remember things that never happened. I dreamt of being killed in the stampede, or by the scavengers in the desert; I dreamt of being exiled in front of the whole pride, where everyone was too ashamed to look at me." A single tear materialized and began to roll down Simba's muzzle, dripping onto the floor of Rafiki's loft. Simba brushed the side of his face with his paw. He sniffled and continued. "I dreamt of being captured by humans. They tortured me and sacrificed me to their god. I envisioned Nala being captured, giving birth to our children in captivity."
__________"I don't think your memories of the past are to blame here. I believe that the stories of the past are at fault. You are filled with the notion that humans are murderers."
__________"They are murderers."
__________"Yes, and you should be careful. Even so, there are a few humans that are pure of heart, that have accepted their places in life. However, I don't think this tribe that recently appeared is such. The humans Sarabi and Sarafina encountered are conquerors. Beware of them, but don't let it eat away at your soul. I know you to be a wise and kind- hearted king; you'll do the right thing." He patted Simba on the shoulder.
__________Simba hugged him back. "Thanks, Rafiki. You're a real pal."
__________"Remember, I'll always be there when you need me." Rafiki looked back at his painting for a moment, then returned his gaze to where Simba had stood. He was gone. "Oh well," Rafiki sighed."
__________As Simba headed out to the savanna, he fought to regain his composure. He stopped his rounds at the gorge. He peered over the rim of the gaping valley, fighting back memories that he'd repressed for too long. He glanced around the rocky ledges, expecting the usual unexpected. At least there were no wildebeest in the canyon today.
__________"Sire," a voice called out form above.
__________"Yes, Zazu?" Simba shouted back.
__________"I'm here for my daily report, Sire." The hornbill dove sharply, making a sudden change of pitch in order to land gracefully.
__________Simba rested on his haunches. "Go ahead."
__________"Well, those cheetahs are up to that drag racing thing again. It's those adolescent hormones, I tell you."
__________"Zazu, they're just kids being kids. Lay off of them for a while."
__________"They're trouble."
__________"Trouble can be productive."
__________"It can be counter-productive, too. I-" Zazu paused abruptly when he became nervous under the agitated glare of his king. "Well, don't say I didn't warn you."
__________Simba let out a long sigh. "Is that all?"
__________"Well, yes."
__________Something caught Simba's attention. In the canyon, he heard a slight commotion. A howling laughter reverberated off of the gorge's walls. "The hyenas," Simba said with disdain. "They're back."
__________Zazu gasped. "Where?"
__________"The gorge. I'm going down."
__________"But don't you remember last time?"
__________"I remember it all too well. Get the rest of the pride down here immediately."
__________"B-but sire! Last time I went to do that, I was beaten silly!"
__________"Immediately!" Simba roared.
__________ "Yes, sire!" Zazu climbed into the clouding sky, soaring off towards Pride Rock. Simba quickly dived into the gorge, nimbly weaving over and around the precariously placed boulders. When he reached the base of the canyon, the sight he saw made froze his heart cold. There was a trio of very familiar hyenas encircled by several humans; armed with spears and adorned with brightly decorated tribal clothing.
__________"Shenzi, Banzai and Ed," Simba muttered under his breath. "What now?"
__________Banzai growled at the leader, who faltered. He then proceeded to throw his spear at Banzai, who ducked out of the way. The missile embedded itself in the torso of another human. The victim of a silly mistake fell dead to the ground. Another shouted in rage and produced a rusted dagger. He swiped at Shenzi, catching on her left ear, tearing the delicate tissue. She yipped in pain. Banzai leapt on the attacker and bit down on the jugular, chalking up another human casualty.
__________There were two men left with the hyenas, but Simba noticed another young man creeping up behind the enraged hyenas. Simba charged out from his hiding place, ran down the human, and clambered upon his back, pinning him to the ground. One of the others lifted a spear to throw at Simba, but the lion countered with a deafening roar. The two free humans fled. Simba let the third loose, who left as fast as his feet would take him, screaming in his native tongue.
__________Simba watched the humans become smaller as they went off into the distance, then fixed his gaze upon the hyenas. "You," he hissed.
__________"We don't want any trouble," Shenzi, the female replied nervously. "We're going right now. Come on." With that, the hyenas left.
__________"You don't have to thank me all at once!" Simba shouted after them.

__________Later that night, all Sarafina could think about was Treize. She missed him. Everything Simba told the pride members about that attack reminded her of Nanaki's death. Sarabi noticed Sarafina's distress, and approached her.
__________"Sarafina," Sarabi began, "I know what this is about. It has to be Treize." She waited for an answer. "Well, am I right?"
__________"Yes. I miss him. There was something about him that really appealed to me. He was hard-edged, mysterious, and seemed indifferent; yet he had a gentle warmness, a sense of compassion for those he really cared for."
__________"How long did you know him?"
__________"More than a year," she confessed.
__________"Wow. I didn't even notice him around until seven months before."
__________"Actually, he started showing up because of me. I met him when I was alone one day, and we secretly met for many weeks. He finally decided to follow me home and see what else was going on in the Pridelands."
__________"Well, I guess we all experience tragic loss at one point of our lives. I miss Mufasa. I was nearly spirit-broken when I thought Simba was alive. I was definitely heart-broken."
__________"Scar has really done a number on this pride. Now I hear of some of the others having horrible visions."
__________"Like Simba's?"
__________"Yeah. It's so sad. Poor guy finally gets over the physical obstacles in his life, but still has to deal with his mental hurdles. My daughter's having the same problem with her brother."
__________"She's such a sweetheart. It's really not fair how fast our children had to grow." She yawned. "Well, sorry to leave you at a time like this, but I'm drained. I'll see you later." Sarabi then quietly shuffled away.
__________Sarafina sighed deeply. She lay down, gazing up at the sequins of the stars against the deep violet backdrop of the night sky. Exhausted, she closed her eyes and dozed off.
__________It was the equivalent of eternity to dreams. There was darkness, as is the usual in a deep slumber. But then, a bright, glaring light washed over Sarafina's consciousness. After adjusting to the intense luminosity of the memory, she recognized where she was. She was in a thorny patch at the edge of a wasteland. She wondered why she was here. Off in the distance, a skulking, black-maned lion shuffled off in her direction. She gazed at the lion, noting the tattoos, earrings, and the anklet he wore. It was unusual, but she remembered his story for them.
__________One day, a nomadic, adolescent lion was captured by three young men from a nearby tribe. The young adventure-seekers caged him, then adorned him with jewelry. He had a bronze anklet, stenciled with strange patterns; three hoop earrings in his right ear, two hoops in the left; and was branded with cryptic symbols on his sides. He opened his mouth, speaking with a gruff yet somehow gentle voice.
__________"Hello," he spoke. "You from around here?"
__________"Well, yes," she answered nervously. "Where are you from?"
__________"Nowhere. Everywhere. I have no pride. Well, I mean I have pride in myself, just no family. I was born to a nomadic lioness that was killed by humans when I was two. I've always been kind of a loner. How about you?"
__________"Well, I come from an average pride. Nothing much to tell, really."
__________"Really? Hmm. What are you doing out here all alone?"
__________"I just wanted to explore, to find some adventure."
__________"Well, looks like you found me."
__________"You're an interesting one. Damn shame you have to live out here, all alone."
__________"You know, I'm beginning to like you already. Didn't catch your name."
__________"Didn't catch yours."
__________"Okay; it's Treize."
__________"What a cool name! What does it mean?" "It means '13.'" "Mine's Sarafina."
__________"Nice to know you, Sarafina. Well, gotta go. Later?"
__________"Sure," she grinned. "Same place?"
__________"All right."
__________The young and impressionable Sarafina had a new friend. The mystery surrounding him was so enormous; it took three months for her to even learn of his birthplace, which was nearly two hundred kilometers away. Sarafina was awed at the great distance he had to travel to get here. She quickly began having romantic feelings for him, and they eventually decided to mate.
__________After almost a year of such encounters, things took a turn for the worse. Even though he never mentioned it, Scar suspected that Sarafina was involved with the rouge.
__________ Scar was increasingly curt with her after each subsequent appearance by Treize.
__________ One day, about two weeks before Treize was killed, Scar approached Sarafina.
__________ He muttered something under his breath, then beckoned her to speak with him.
__________ "Sarafina," he began, "I know what you're up to."
__________"W-what are you talking about?" she stammered nervously.
__________"You know what I mean. That rouge lion; you've been secretly meeting, or shall I say, mating with him."
__________"What? How can you even accuse me of such a thing?"
__________"You're young, easy to imprint; you're the perfect victim for that kind of lion."
__________She was seething with rage now. "You pompous, rotten son of a b-"
__________"-Oh, now watch the volume," he interjected. "The others just might hear our little conversation. You don't want that, do you?"
__________With that, she angrily cuffed him with her forepaw, connecting enough to send him her intentions. He blinked, then snarled, "You'll pay for that, you b-"
__________"Scar!" Sarabi called from a distance. "Leave the poor girl alone!"
__________Startled, he glanced over his shoulder to look at Sarabi. "Oh, I didn't know you were nearby. I was just having a talk with one of my fellow pride members."
__________Sarafina growled deep in her throat. Scar stood and continued, "Well, I'll just be on my way." He left in a swaggering stride.
__________Sarabi trotted over to Sarafina. "Anything you want to tell me?"
__________"No. Nothing happened."
__________"You sure?"
__________Sarafina blew out her breath.
__________"Yes."
__________"All right, whatever you say. I know something's up."
__________"It's nothing." Sarafina lay down and turned her face away from her friend. "I want to be alone."
__________Sarabi sighed and walked away, casting one last look at Sarafina as she left.
__________The bright, glaring light flashed. It was weeks later; Sarafina was shocked to find Treize lying in a pool of blood in the middle of an open field. He beckoned her to come closer. With a raspy voice, he said, "It was hyenas.I think Scar was behind it."
__________Sarafina cried, "Treize, don't leave me!"
__________"You know.I'll always love you."
__________"I will always love you, too." Tears poured form her eyes.
__________"There was something I wanted to tell you," he rasped.
__________"What?" she sobbed in reply.
__________"You are my only family. My brother, sisters, and parents were all killed at about the same time I got these tattoos. I'm not as old as you think. I'm barely full-grown.I'm a loner, and I don't end up telling anyone the whole truth before it's too late. The wound in my heart is deep. You helped mend it. Thank you." He paused, almost slipping into shock. "I want you to know that you were the first I've made my mate."
__________"I am?"
__________"Yes, and you mean very much to me. You're special; I want you to let our children know that they're special, because they came from you and I.Tell them about their father."
__________"Yes, I will."
__________"I.I want you to find out why I was attacked. Don't avenge me; just don't let it happen to anyone else." he trailed off and shut his eyes, surrendering to the inevitable.
__________Sarafina let out an anguished cry, heard for quite a distance. Then, the bright flash came again. She awoke, noting several wide-eyed lionesses standing around her.

III


__________The week slowly dragged on, fraught with tension. Simba surveyed the land from the summit of Pride Rock, nervous. He had an intense feeling of dread, as if he knew of horrible calamity coming in the near future. He was almost positive a meeting with humans was inevitable. Hearing about the recent incidence of nightmares and visions was enough to top it all off. The agitated king was on the edge of his sanity.
__________He canvassed the rolling fields, scanning for telltale signs of human encroachment. Humans were easy to spot. They made lots of noise, wore bright colors, and caused more than the usual commotion among the herds. They left carcasses uneaten, often just killing for sport. A chill went through his spine. He wasn't alone.
__________"Hey there, Simba!" Timon hollered. Simba cried out and whirled around. "Gee, am I that frightening? Cool."
__________Simba rolled his eyes. "No, Timon. I'm on edge for other reasons. I can't help but feel as if something's very wrong. I just don't know what."
__________"Hey, old buddy, we're here right behind you. You aren't alone."
__________"I know that. I just don't know if greater numbers will help against the human race. I just don't know."
__________Both sat there, quietly scanning the horizon. It was some time later when they heard a commotion among the other lions. Nala looked up to Simba and called, "Simba, it's the humans!"
__________He jumped to his feet. "I'm on my way!"
__________It took only a matter of seconds for Simba to race down the kopje to ground level. Timon followed behind him, wheezing with exhaustion. Simba joined the circle of lions waiting around the base of Pride Rock. After all was quiet, Sarabi moved to the center of the circle, regarding Simba.
__________She cleared her throat. "Simba, humans have been spotted near the jungle. They are armed and should be considered a threat to us."
__________"Yes, they should. As king, I must decide whether to stay out of it for the time, or to force them to leave. I have made my decision. I'm putting it up to a vote." He noticed several loud exhalations following his statement. "Who's on the offensive? Step forward." Nala and one other lioness were the only lions to move forward. "Okay, on the defensive; step back." The other lionesses moved back. "This is a surprise."
__________One lioness cried, "Some of us have had bad experiences involving humans!"
__________Another shouted, "We don't think it's safe."
__________He gazed around at his pride. "I may be a monarch, but that doesn't mean I have to be oppressive. The vote stands." He sighed.
__________Sarafina stood. "I have a counter-proposal." There was a hush. "I say that whoever wants to go, go on ahead."
__________Nala spoke, "I'm with mother." R'ana, the other lioness that voted on the attack acknowledged.
__________ Simba nodded. "Well then, let's go."
__________Simba, Nala, and R'ana left immediately in the direction of Timon and Pumbaa's old home. Along the way, every snapped twig, every kicked stone sent chills through the spines of the lions. Simba stopped suddenly, tilting his head in the direction of a faint padding sound. Bare feet, he thought. He signaled the others to lie low, and they gladly complied. Moments later, A group of five men and women marched single file through the clearing, all brandishing spears and knives. Simba held his breath, hoping he wasn't spotted. Only second later, that hope was doomed.
__________One of the humans stepped on R'ana's tail. She instinctively yowled in reply. The humans shouted excitedly. Simba jumped to his feet and charged at the man attacking R'ana. He slashed at him with his stronger paw and sent him reeling. Simba scanned about for Nala, but she was nowhere in sight. Another human, a woman, jumped on his back, grabbing for her hunting knife. R'ana saw this, and feigned at the woman, knocking her off balance and causing her to fall. Simba thanked R'ana.
__________It seemed that the five humans were more than a match for three lions. Simba and R'ana were backed up against a tangled briar patch. There was no escape. As the leader drew back his arm to drive his spear into Simba's heart, Nala sprung from her position in the trees above, knocking the human flat. Simba and R'ana bolted, followed closely by Nala.
__________The humans gave chase, intent on getting something from the fleeing lions. More humans appeared. There was six, seven, eight. Spears whizzed by on either side of them. Simba motioned for an alternate plan. R'ana leapt up into a tree, Nala took the right fork, and Simba dived through a thicket of tall grass. The humans stopped dead in their tracks, pondering the problem of which path to take.
__________Simba crouched in the thicket with bated breath, praying that the humans would give up and leave. Many moments passed before one of them, appearing to be the leader, grunted and motioned the others to follow him away. Simba let out the breath he'd been holding for nearly a minute. He glanced around, searching for the others. When he decided they were gone, he furtively crept out of the grass towards his home.
__________When Simba reached the savanna, he decided to stop by the water hole. He was tired and parched from the chase. There was still no sign of the others. He was puzzled, but shrugged it off, believing that they were probably just lying low at Pride Rock.
__________He was now at the water's edge. It was very quiet, nearly deserted, save for some assorted birds drinking and bathing on the opposite bank. He crouched and drank the cool water for several moments, stopping when he heard roars coming from Pride Rock. "It can't be," he thought.
__________He rushed back to Pride Rock as quickly as he could manage. He arrived in the middle of chaos. There were more humans surrounding his home than he could count quickly. One rushed at him, spear poised for attack. Simba snarled and charged at his attacker. When they were within feet of each other, the man slashed at Simba. Simba leaned away from the blow, causing the man to miss. Simba countered with a hard slash from his right paw, connecting on his jaw, and instantly killing him. Simba rushed off to help the others.
__________At the rear of Pride Rock, Sarabi was single-handedly fighting off three men. Simba ran to her side. "Mother," he called, "sorry I'm late." He ducked an attack from one of the men.
__________"Hey, I knew you'd come," she replied.
__________Five more humans appeared. One slashed at Simba with his spear. He sidestepped enough to avoid a fatal blow, but the tip grazed him on the side off his face, leaving a considerably large gash. He growled angrily, then pounced on his enemy, knocking him flat to the ground. This move left Sarabi to defend herself from seven people. One jabbed at her with a dagger, obviously coated with some sort of poison. She ducked the move, but was grazed by the tip of the dagger before she could roll out of the way. She sunk to the ground, shook her head, then collapsed, closing her eyes.
__________Simba was losing hope. He knew he couldn't keep this up for long. He only wished another pride were around. He was ready to give up and die on one of their spears, until he heard the chuckling of hyenas. Their whole clan, numbering at least eighty, was there. He smiled thinly, then rushed at the gang of humans. A throng of hyenas swooped down on the unwary humans, taking most of them down in the first move. The animal world fighting to keep its place among the human world.
__________It was all over in moments. At least twenty humans were dead, and the ones that fled were injured seriously. Several hyenas and a few of the lions were wounded, and except for Sarabi, there were no casualties. The animals turned their attention from the escaping people to the still form of Sarabi. She was absolutely motionless. Simba looked away, his expression that of what one has when one has lost too much.
__________"She's dead," he thought aloud. "First, my father; then, my mother; what next?" He hobbled, favoring his injured paw, over to his mother's side. He moved into a defensive posture, then said, "I will defend her until I am sure she's dead." Regarding the hyenas, he continued, "I owe you a favor. You came to our side in a time of need."
__________Shenzi materialized out of the dense crowd of animals, replying, "No. You saved us last week. You fought off the man who crept up on us, trying to kill us behind our backs. As far as I'm concerned, being that I speak for my kind, we're even. We've both been tricked by Scar. I say we forget the whole thing and leave one another alone until we can accept each other. I don't think either one of our species is enough to fend off the human race."
__________"Well put," Nala said, joining Simba's side. "Thank you."
__________"You're welcome," Shenzi replied.
__________With that, Shenzi called to the rest of her clan, signaling for them to leave. The entire army of hyenas was gone within moments. This left Simba alone to deal with his mother. Simba lay down next to his mother, resting his head on his paws. Nala put her head to his.
__________"Simba," she spoke, "I'm so sorry."
__________Simba brushed away a tear. "Where does it end? I'm afraid I'm going to lose everyone. I am losing everyone. I'm so lost in my own problems that I'm forgetting about everyone else, that is until it's too late."
__________"Simba," Nala replied, "You haven't forgotten anyone. You were the one that decided to go after the humans instead of waiting for them."
__________"And look what we've lost! We've lost one of our own, my mother, and it's all my fault."
__________"You can't go on always blaming yourself. You're doing exactly what you were just talking about."
__________He closed his eyes and faced away, now too overwhelmed to speak. Nala lowered her head. Now, she was as stricken with grief as was her king. The other lionesses gathered near, forming a protective semi-circle around the three lions.
__________Simba passed the night with restless bouts of nightmares. Visions were becoming stronger every time he had one. Simba lay, dejectedly, assailed by terrible thoughts and dreams. He again relived the deadly stampede that changed his life. Every time he had this vision, it got progressively worse. This time, his father was nowhere nearby, leaving him to fend for himself against the raging horde of wildebeests. Moments into his dream, seeming like an eternity to him, he tripped, and fell in the midst of the flood of animals. He threw a glance sideways, only to see a huge bull charging in his direction..
__________His eyes shot open in the darkness. He saw that the lionesses were still guarding Sarabi. More melancholy than ever, he decided to take a walk.

IV

Within an hour's time, Simba was back at the pool. He peered into the shimmering depths, pondering the recent tragedy. He wept quietly, thinking of his fondest memories of his mother. He remembered his mother as far back as when he was a very young cub. She was always wise, independent, and knew how to put wrongs right. What his father lacked, she made up for.
__________Where Mufasa was a wonderful storyteller and orator, Sarabi was a great negotiator. Where he was a fighter against injustice, she was an understanding listener. She kept emotions level during debates and arguments. Mufasa and Sarabi were a great team when it came to negotiating. Even though Mufasa was dead, his talent of story telling was passed on through Simba. Sarabi was rubbing off in much the same way to Nala.
__________Arguments were far and few between during King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi's reign. The most arguments were started by Scar; most notable was the argument concerning succession. He believed that he should succeed Mufasa as king, not Simba. Mufasa, even though he didn't know how far it went, he knew that Scar would make a poor choice for king. As suspicious as he was, he never thought that his brother would be the usurper to the throne.
__________Sarabi never liked Scar too much. She didn't trust him one bit. Ever since he tried to take advantage of her in their adolescence, she'd been wary of him. For some reason, she wasn't totally surprised when Scar admitted he killed Mufasa and just blamed it on Simba to rid the land of heirs to the throne.
__________Simba always loved his mother very much. As protective as she was of him, he was glad she cared so much. During his exile, he missed her very much. He longed for her wise advice and kind words. He refused to let her down by telling her it was his fault Mufasa was dead. He was quite relieved to find out it wasn't his fault.
__________In the midst of his reverie, Simba realized someone was calling, "Simba? Where are you? Simba?"
__________He cleared his throat. "Nala, is that you?"
__________"Simba? Yes, it is."
__________Nala loped out of the chaotic, overgrown maze of trees near the pool. "I had a feeling that I'd find you here."
__________With a weak voice, he returned, "I just can't believe how much I already miss my mother. I miss her voice, her quiet optimism, and her wise words. All of those destroyed by a simple poison, a man's attitude toward nature. I wonder why my life's like it is sometimes."
__________"Simba, your life is worth a lot! Don't be afraid to live, to love because of these tragedies. You'll grow stronger through these hardships. You're becoming an adult. It's hard now; you sort of had to grow up fast because of Scar. This will make you a better person, though."
__________"It's just so hard, though."
__________"Simba, I'm sorry. I love you. I know you loved your mother." She nuzzled him with her head. "Let's go back."
__________Simba exhaled with a drawn out sigh. "Okay." He stood, preparing to leave, when something suddenly caught his ear. He froze suddenly, swiveling his ear in the direction of the noise. "Did you hear that?"
__________"Yes. What do you think it was?"
__________"I'm not waiting around to find out. Let's book."
__________The two lions bolted into the undergrowth of the jungle. They took a winding route, hoping to avoid confrontation with the anonymous noisemaker. Nala tripped over the root of a gargantuan tree. Simba halted his escape, then charged in her direction. "Are you okay?"
__________Nala groaned. "I'll live." She answered. I know I'll eat my words, she thought.
__________Simba hurried to help her up. "Let's get out of here. They're right behind us."
__________Two bow-carrying men leapt out of the brush. "Damn," Simba growled under his breath. "Come on!"
__________Nala shot off in a randomly selected direction, followed closely by Simba and the men. In the cool night air, it was difficult for the humans to see the lions, but not impossible. The humans joined up with five other men, preparing another move against the lions.
__________Nala skidded to a stop, claws raking the soil, as would a track runner's cleats. Simba, startled, halted at the last second, causing a collision between the two of them. Nala grunted with the impact.
__________Simba asked, "What's wrong? Why'd you stop?"
__________She replied, "I'm lost. Sorry."
__________"That's all right. Follow me."
__________They were about to take off, when an arrow split the ground next to Simba's paw. He backpedaled, then turned in the opposite direction. "Forget the right way, let's just run!"
__________Nala swiveled around, but never made a step in the right direction. An anonymous poison dart sunk into her neck, its drugs taking effect swiftly. She gasped from the sudden pain, and quickly began to lose consciousness. Simba roared with rage. He attacked the nearest human, knocking him flat to the ground. It was only a moment before a dart was fired at him. It embedded itself into his forepaw. He snarled, but was already quite weak from the poison.
__________A few of the gang members were gathering around Nala. He rushed towards her in hopes of rescuing her, but she opened her eyes and spoke. "Simba," she said. "I have no chance. Get away while you can."
__________He stopped, and hesitated, pondering whether to help or run. The spears the humans were brandishing at him were all he needed to convince him to escape. He spun around and dashed away. Directly in his escape route, a spear was pointed in his direction. He slid to a stop, then headed up into the limb of a nearby tree. Scaling the tree took more out of him than usual, and he was weakening by the second from the drugged needle.
__________Now, out of human reach, he bit down on the dart in his paw and drew it out, bringing droplets of blood with it. He winced from the searing pain, unsure of whether it was from the needle or the poison. He scanned the ground for Nala, but she was nowhere to be found. The humans were leaving. He gazed at them, noticing that they were carrying Nala away with them. He was prepared to give chase, but waves of pain overtook him. He succumbed and lost consciousness.
__________A mist pervaded Simba's mind: dark and thick, like it would be on a cold, damp morning. Or in the middle of a dust cloud caused by the stampede of many animals in a dry gorge. Simba then realized he was again reliving the horrible chaos that killed his father and left him in anguish for years. Again, the vision had a dramatic difference from the actual event. This time, he was an adult in the place of his father, and instead of himself being the target of the attack, the cub Nala was in the midst of the fray. He gasped; noting her precariously placed refuge of the dead tree limb. He leapt into the gorge instantly, heading for the strangely out of place Nala.
__________Seconds before he reached her, the branch was broken, and she was in the middle of a horrifying stampede. He called her name to see if she was okay, and she answered with a terrified mewl, hardly audible above the noise of flying hooves. He yelled for her to come his way, but he never heard her response. When he reached her last known position, he was shocked to find her wounded by a fallen wildebeest that lay beside her. The herd re-directed itself around this obstacle, leaving Simba, Nala, and the dead wildebeest untouched.
__________Simba called to Nala. There was no answer. He called again. The herd suddenly disappeared. Simba looked up. He saw his father, glowing with an aura of pure energy. Simba spoke, "Father."
__________"Son," Mufasa responded, "Look what you've brought upon yourself. Nala's dead."
__________"I brought upon myself? What do you mean?"
__________Scar walked out of the shadows. "You're always responsible for everything. Remember?"
__________"I don't understand." Simba muttered.
__________Mufasa continued, "Every time someone you love dies, you blame it on yourself. You spend your time looking for ways to point the guilt at you."
__________Scar walked up beside his brother. "In essence, you killed Nala."
__________Simba's eyes widened. "What?"
__________"If you were to accept what has happened," Mufasa explained, "Nala might be fine now if you weren't always second-guessing yourself."
__________Scar interjected, "If you wait too long, you'll never enjoy life."
__________Simba was nearly at a loss for words. "How can I change?"
__________Mufasa told him, "You must find the answer in yourself."
__________Simba awoke, wrought with pain, tears filling his eyes. The poison was still flowing in his veins. He managed, after several fleeting moments of intense suffering, to stand. "What have I done?" he thought. The blow of losing two loved ones in as many days crushed him.
__________Simba limped homeward, wondering why he was stricken with such luck. He just didn't understand why all the bad luck was his. Losing his mother was painful enough, but the loss of his true love, Nala, was the last straw. He was losing his will to live, for he could find little redeeming value to his life. He struggled to regain his composure.
__________Passing through the wastelands to be alone, Simba heard an unfamiliar roar. He rushed to find out who this intruder was. Within seconds, he was able to discern the shape of a strong-looking lioness in the near distance. He called out to her, "Hey, you there! Who the hell are you?"
__________She snarled, obviously not wanting his company. He moved closer, within ten meters. She growled deeply, baring her gleaming fangs at him. Simba snarled, "I don't take to threats too well." This infuriated the lioness. She sprang at him, claws exposed and ready to tear flesh if need be. He stepped aside, allowing her attack to pass him by. He turned to face her.
__________Still growling, she spoke, "What do you want?"
__________"Answers."
__________"Fine. I'm Sade, queen of a pride not far from here. I'm searching for a lion heir named M'heetu."
__________"M'heetu?"
__________"Do you know him?" she asked, surprised.
__________"Knew him. He was my mate's brother, but he died a cub."
__________"Hmm. Maybe we know two different lions. You're not out here for a leisurely stroll yourself. What's your story?"
__________"I'm not sure where I'm headed. Home, I guess."
__________"Are you a king?"
__________"Yes. The name's Simba."
__________"Hey, M'heetu told me about you. You were a prince the last time he checked."
__________"What do you mean? The M'heetu I know is dead."
__________"Well, then have I got a story for you. Our pride has been without a male leader for years now. The last king died of old age, and left no male heirs. I was chosen to take the role of sole leader and defender until we found a male heir.
__________One day, I was in your territory, when I noticed a trio of hyenas attacking two lion cubs. One stayed hidden, but the other was injured pretty badly. I scared off the hyenas, and told the other lion cub to leave. I then carried the injured cub back to our territory and protected him until he was well. His name was M'heetu, and he became our male heir."
__________"Jeez. I thought the little guy was dead. I wonder."
__________"Wonder what?"
__________"Nothing. Come back to the Pridelands with me, if you wish."
__________"I'd be delighted."

V


__________Returning to Pride Rock was difficult for Simba, much as it was when he had to confront Scar. He dreaded being the giver of bad news to Sarafina. She'd lost a lot, and now, Nala. He was glad to have a new ally in Sade.
__________The lionesses warmly greeted him, all going through the traditional head-rub greeting. Then, they noticed that he was even more distraught than when he left. Rana approached him and asked him, "Simba, what's wrong? Who's the visitor?"
__________"Sarafina," he said over R'ana's shoulder, "I have bad news. I'm sorry." He closed his eyes. "It's Nala."
__________R'ana's eyes widened. Sarafina looked down and shook her head, on the verge of tears. "It couldn't have been your fault."
__________"I shouldn't have been out there. I was just asking for trouble. She came to find me, and that's when we were attacked. She and I were both poisoned, but I was the only one who managed to escape. I believe it was luck alone that let me survive that poison."
__________"How can you be sure she's dead?"
__________"Knowing humans, they finished the job."
__________"What do we do?"
__________"I don't know. Give me some time to consider what's happened." Simba wanted to leave, for he was tearing up as well. "The lioness is Queen Sade, she's looking for M'heetu, her mate." There were whispers of, "Mheetu? He's dead!" His voice was beginning to break up. "We're lending her a hand. Welcome her into the pride for now."
__________With that, Simba left to be alone on the summit. The stars, he noted, were different tonight. Even though there are vast amounts of stars, it seemed as though there was a new one tonight. One that was especially brilliant. Simba's poetic mind took hold of this new idea. He began:


It was a time long, long ago
When I was told a special tale.
It was a story of remembrance,
Of bravery, wisdom, and courage.
He later became an example of this story.

He told me to look at the stars
All of the great kings of the past
Look down on us from those stars
But tonight, looking at your newly formed star
I realize there are more than kings up there.

All of the great minds and souls on this Earth of ours
Have a special place in our history
Everyone who's made a difference in the life of another
Is a sparkling jewel in the sky
You, Nala, are a precious gem to me.

You have made a difference in the life of others
You've warmed cold hearts, opened closed minds
You've made a change in the vast heavens
When my father told me to remember, he meant to remember you, too
Every time I gaze upon your star, I will remember.

If your time has come to pass
Your body shall give life to the savanna grass
But your mind is a new light in the sky.
You're not just a star; you're my sunlight
You gave warmth to many, leaving me longing to give back to you.

__________Sade, who was listening to the entire poem, and was quite moved, spoke after a long silence. "Simba, that was beautiful. You really must have loved her."
__________"More than anything in the world. Now I've lost her."
__________"What happened?"
__________"Last night, she and I were attacked by humans. We were both hit with poisoned darts. I managed to survive, but I couldn't find her when I awoke."
__________"How do you know she's dead?"
__________"Truthfully, I don't. It's just an instinct."
__________"I guess after losing as much as you have, it would be instinct."
__________Simba was about to respond; though he was interrupted by an anguished cry. He and Sade rushed towards the others to find out what had happened. To everyone's surprise, Sarabi was alive, but writhing in agony. Simba ran to be beside her. "Mother?"
__________She groaned, but managed an answer. "Son."
__________"Are you all right?"
__________In moments, the wave of agonizing pain passed, and she opened her eyes. After a long silence, she asked, "What happened?"
__________"Mother!" Simba cried, overjoyed with this unexpected event. "You're alive!"
__________"You thought I was dead?"
__________"You've been out for days. You were poisoned by the human invaders."
__________
__________"It's all so foggy, like a dream. I can't remember the what happened in the last week."
__________"All that matters is that you're okay."
__________"Wait, where's Nala?"
__________"She's missing. I thought she was dead, but that poison they're using evidently is non-lethal. I'll admit it's quite painful."
__________"Don't you think the humans killed her, though?"
__________"Now that I think about it, humans aren't very predictable. I don't know what to believe." He sighed and shook his head. "I don't know if the Pridelands are even safe anymore."
__________"Do you think we should leave, move to another territory?"
__________"If necessary, I will. But I still believe Nala might be alive. I want to at least know her true fate before we leave."
__________R'ana agreed, "I'm with Simba. When we find out what happened to Nala, we leave. Is everyone with us?"
__________There was a unanimous affirmative from the rest of the pride. Simba was glad to see everyone was fighting for the same cause. He was still confused about Nala. He left to seek advice from Rafiki.

__________Far across the Pridelands, there rested a new human settlement. The tribe was quite large, consisting of around forty-five people. They celebrated their newfound luck in the lush, prey-laden land. They fasted that week, preparing for a ceremonial sacrifice at the culmination of the celebration. The two subjects of this event lay in a strongly built cage, consisting of tree limbs and vine; protected by acacia thorns.
__________One of the prisoners was Nala; the other was an unfamiliar lion who was staring at the congregation in the fire circle. From time to time, the lion would look over to see if Nala was getting any better. He knew she was unconscious, but she was making sound of terror, as if she were reliving some horrible nightmare. He wondered what she was thinking about.
__________Nala was remembering a terrible tragedy in her childhood. She was roaming the Pridelands with her beloved brother, M'heetu, playing a hide-and-seek type of game. When it was Nala's turn, she found a great spot in a gargantuan tree. She took a low- lying branch as her spot, then waited.
__________Minutes later, her brother was hot on her trail. He wound up under her hiding place, looking left to right slowly, and listened for telltale signs of his sister. Nala ducked, hoping to stay out of sight. Suddenly, a hyena snarled, leaping at M'heetu. He screamed, attempting to flee up into the tree. It was too late, for the hyena had already sprung on Nala, putting a lethal hold on the little cub with its massive jaws. M'heetu cried out, but the pain was so great, he was soon unconscious.
__________Nala froze, wide-eyed with terror, yet filled with grief at the same time. Much to her surprise, a lioness pounced on the hyena as he was about to deliver the fatal blow to the still cub. Growling, she angrily swiped at him with her paw. The hyena yelped, having been raked with her sharp claws. He decided this snack was not worth the battle, so he fled.
__________The lioness, heard Nala, and shifted her gaze to the lioness cub. "Leave while you still can," she said. Nala gasped, took one last look at her brother, then ran towards home. The bright sunlight glared in her eyes, fading back into consciousness.
__________She suddenly awoke, crying out in pain, both from the dream and the poison's harsh effects. She ground her teeth to concentrate on something other than the pain, until it passed as quickly as it came. The other lion was gaping at her, evidently startled by her swift awakening.
__________Nala asked, "Where am I?"
__________The strange lion answered, "The last place you want to be."
__________Nala was confused. "Huh?"
__________He indignantly replied, "Those bastards out there are going to sacrifice us to their gods."
__________"When?"
__________"Two days, I believe."
__________"How do you know?"
__________"I've kept track. There were also two hyenas and two cheetahs a week ago. Every three days, they kill both of the animals in a given species. We're the last."
__________Nala sighed. "Death, death, death. Is that all humans can bring? I've lost my father, my brother, my mate's mother, and maybe even my mate." She was filling with rage.
__________"Hey, you know, these may be our last days alive. You wanna knock boots?"
__________"What?!"
__________"You know, knock boots? Do the horizontal mambo, et cetera."
__________"Whoa, hold on! I know what you mean! I just don't even want to think about that. First, I'm married; moreover, I don't even know your name."
__________"I guess I could indulge you in that mystery. It's M'heetu."
__________"Wait, Nala's brother, Treize's son M'heetu?"
__________"Hey, how did you-? Wait, it can't be. Nala, is that you?" She nodded. "Hey, it's great to see you.. Wait a second! I wanted to.to.you know."
__________Nala burst out laughing. It took her more than a minute for her to stop laughing. M'heetu shook his head and spoke, "I'm so sorry, Nala. I didn't know it was you. But it's great to see you!"
__________"The feeling's mutual. I have one question: how?"
__________"Oh, I never really died."
__________"Evidently!"
__________He frowned. "Ahem, may I continue?"
__________"Sorry."
__________He continued, "when I was attacked, I was knocked out, but Sade rescued me before the hyena finished me."
__________"Sade?"
__________"Sade is the queen of a pride not far from yours. The king had died a long time ago, and there were no males left, so she went looking for a new heir. She found me. I was her only hope."
__________"Wow, I wish I'd known that. How long have you been here?"
__________"A week. I bet everyone's looking for me."
__________"Same here. Did you hear about Simba?"
__________"Why, what happened?"
__________"It's a sad story. Scar wanted to take over the pride as king, so he plotted to kill Simba and Mufasa. He led Simba to the gorge and had the hyenas cause a stampede into the gorge. Mufasa saved Simba, but Scar killed him. Scar then exiled him to the jungle, where he lived with a meerkat and a warthog until Rafiki and I convinced him to return. Simba came home and defeated Scar. I was so sure all of our trouble was over, but now."
__________"Hey, don't worry, sis. Simba's a strong guy. He didn't die. If he can pull off a miracle once, why not a second time?"
__________"I just don't know."
__________"Have faith."
__________"I will. I'll always believe in him, as he has always believed in me."
__________"I'm sorry. I probably depressed you more than I helped."
__________"No, that's okay. I needed to talk about it, anyway."
__________"Is Simba a good king?"
__________"Oh, he's a wonderful king. He knows what it takes to run a kingdom."
__________"I knew he'd be good at it. I could just tell. If only I could talk to him for a few hours."
__________"I don't know why, but I have this feeling you'll get your chance."
__________"You sure?"
__________"Mm-hmm."
__________

VI

It had not been Simba's week for sleep. Every time he closed his eyes to rest, he would have terrible nightmares. He would see Nala dead in many of him, and it invariably ended up being his fault.
__________This time was no exception. He was standing over Nala's broken body when a spear-chucking human charged at him, weapon poised to strike. He gasped, but the blinding flash of white light came and he woke up, adrenaline rushing.
__________"Damn," he thought aloud.
__________ "Damn it all." He looked down in disgust. "I'm so sick and tired of this. It's time I do something." He left the dark cave for the twilight of the outdoors.
Most of the others were asleep, tired from the day's hunt. The day before, he and the others unanimously voted to leave the Pridelands and search for safer land. Simba knew that if he wanted to find Nala, he'd have this one chance, for they were set to leave in two days.
Simba set off in the direction he believed held the humans' settlement. He was sure he'd make it out alone until Timon approached him from behind. Timon called out to him, "Hey, what gives? Where are ya goin'?"
__________"Nowhere." Simba replied flatly.
__________"Now, don't lie to me. I can tell when you tell the truth."
__________"Don't follow me."
__________"Why?"
__________"Because."
__________"I'm waiting for a reason."
__________"You won't get one."
__________"I'm going to follow until you tell me."
__________"Fine. Be that way." Simba pressed on, not caring who followed him. He figured Timon's hunting skills may actually help. It was at that time that he realized it would be best if he brought

Sade with him. She deserved to find out M'heetu's fate as much as he deserved to know of Nala's.
He found her half-asleep about a quarter-mile from the others. She seemed on edge, so he approached cautiously. He called her name softly. She groaned, opening her eyes. She opened her eyes. "Simba. It's you."
__________"I'm going to find Nala. Do you want to come?"
__________"Of course. I'm not done searching for M'heetu yet. I want to find the humans that did the job on him as much as you do for Nala." She yawned, stretching her fatigued muscles and preparing to move fast. "I'm ready. Let's."
__________They quickly reached the boundaries of the jungle. Simba turned to Timon. "Look," Simba said, "we may never return from this search. The humans may do a number on us far worse than we've ever seen. Are you positive you don't want to turn back?"
__________Timon scowled. "Hey, I don't go around advising you not to take the dangerous way."
__________"Actually," Simba remarked, "you do."
__________"Oh, yeah! I remember."
__________Sade sighed. "Let's get this over with."
__________Simba walked ahead. "Okay. We're going in."
__________Immediately, they found hints of human encroachment. Littered bones, spearheads, and other miscellaneous people things were scattered about. It didn't take a great mind to know that they were nearby. Simba bade them to go forth.
__________Within minutes, they saw the fire circle through the trees. They had found the settlement. Simba was worried and relieved at the same time. He was glad to have found the humans' location, but was worried for Nala and M'heetu. Then, something caught Simba's eye. Straight off to the left of the thatched huts was a gnarled cage of thorns and tree limbs. He grinned. "I think we found what we came for."
__________His smile quickly faded when he saw two men trying to bind a snarling lion with rope. "Is that him?" he asked?" Sade nodded. "Okay, let's get 'em. On the count of three. One." Sade poised to strike. "Two." Simba himself got into a ready stance. "Three." The pair of lions tore off toward the two humans, growling. The surprised men yelled, but were quickly cut off as the skilled hunters quickly slew them with their razor sharp fangs and claws.
__________Simba was slightly injured by one human's dagger, but Sade came out of the scuffle unscathed. M'heetu yanked the rope binds off with his razor-sharp fangs, then said, "Thanks. I was about to buy the farm there. Those bastards are cold-blooded killers."
__________Nala pushed M'heetu aside and ran up to Simba, colliding with him excitedly. "You're alive!"
__________Simba scowled. "Hey, that's my line!"
__________Nala laughed. "I'm so glad to see you guys. Did you know M'heetu is right here, still alive?"
__________Motioning to Sade, Simba responded, "Yeah, Queen Sade filled me in the other day. It's good to know you're alive, M'heetu."
__________"The feeling's mutual." M'heetu responded. "How did you find us?"
__________Simba wryly replied, "Deduction, my dear friend."
__________Sade walked to M'heetu. "I missed you," she told him.
__________"I'll bet. Same here. How long has it been?"
__________"Upwards of a month."
__________"Really? Jeez."
__________Timon interrupted, "I hate to break up the reunion, but I think we should cut the chatter and run like Hell."
__________Simba groaned. "Okay, we'll book. Let's go."
__________The lions and meerkat turned around, only to face a mob of angry people. Timon screamed and fled the scene. Simba growled, soon joined by the others. Simba turned to them. "Run, get out of here."
__________"Go to Hell," Sade hissed. "I'm fighting to the bitter end."
__________Simba figured that it wasn't worth arguing over. "Come on, then; let's get 'em!"
__________The lions charged at the angry mob, taking them by total surprise. The battle was short and sweet. A hulking man of about six feet, nine inches, and two hundred and fifty pounds, clubbed Simba with his mace. The blow sent him to the ground, unconscious. Nala and M'heetu were next.
__________Sade wasn't about to be captured by the humans she hated so much, so she called to Timon, "Get the Hell out of here, now!" They fled with about ten people in hot pursuit. Timon was easily able to hide, for he was both small, and he knew his home well. Sade had to rely on her speed and maneuverability. It only took a couple of a hundred yards before the humans gave up chase, shouting curses and epithets in their odd language.
__________Standing at the edge of the forest, Sade looked back in the direction of the settlement. She sighed, "Simba, I'm sorry." She cast down her eyes in the dimming light. A raindrop splashed on her ear. She shook it off instinctively. "I can't go back to Pride Rock. I'd be considered a traitor, a coward. I can't stay here, for the humans will follow me. I guess the only place to go is the Shadowlands."
__________She gazed off into the distance, scanning the cemetery for signs of life. She knew it was her only chance to survive. Sade shuffled off towards the Elephant Graveyard, not sure what to expect.
__________When she arrived, it was dark, and the rain had begun to fall. She sought refuge under the large skull of an ancient bull elephant. Resting her tired paws, she lay down on the cold earth. As she closed her eyes, she heard hysterical laughter. "Oh no," she moaned. "Hyenas."
__________There were quite a few of them. At her best guess, there were eighteen of them. She knew she had no chance. She hoped to escape by slipping out of the skull in the back. When she made it out, she saw even more hyenas coming from the other direction. She groaned, "Why me?" She wasn't alone, though.
__________A menacing roar echoed from above her. A powerful lion sprung down from on top of the skull onto the hyena mob. He attacked them viciously. She knew this was her best chance to escape with her life.
__________She dashed off toward Pride Rock, but something made her look back on the lion. The dark-maned cat bravely fought off his attackers. One hyena jumped on his back. He didn't waste a moment tearing it to shreds with his powerful jaws. The others collectively flinched and drew back. He readied himself for the next round of combat. Another ballsy hyena sauntered up to him. The lion dashed off at him, but the hyena was ready, swiping at the lion's face with bared claws, leaving crimson streaks on the left side of his face.
__________The lion roared in anger, nursing the bloody wound. Sade could take no more. She was already a coward once. She joined his side quickly, asking him, "Are you okay?" The lion didn't respond. Puzzled, she glanced at the hyenas, wondering what was next.
__________Like two gangs meeting at a street corner, the two lions and the throng of hyenas squared off, neither making a move. Sade snarled and took the initiative. She pounced on the largest hyena.
__________The hyena was quite surprised. He didn't even have time to blink before she killed him, breaking his neck with her powerful paw. The other lion saw this and prepared to join in, but the hyenas were quite shaken. They left without any further commotion. Sade was now even more puzzled.
__________"Why'd they leave?" she thought aloud. "And who are you?"
__________The other lion glowered at her, then slunk off into the shadows.
__________"Wait," Sade called out. The lion ignored her. She was too exhausted to follow, and knew this was her only chance to escape the hyena clan. She left as quickly as she came. Some time later, she was explaining to the remaining members of her pride to what had happened. Her pride was considerably smaller. There used to be around twenty lionesses and two males, but the humans had cut their numbers down to eight lionesses and no male lions. She hoped M'heetu was all right. Sade's most trusted friend, Jesi, asked her to describe the lion she saw. Sade thought about what she saw for a minute, then replied, "He was a gaunt, slender lion. He had a dark mane, almost black." She paused. "He had some odd-looking tattoos on his body, definitely the work of humans. I saw a couple of earrings in his ear, but I don't know exactly how many."
__________Jesi was puzzled by this description. "That can't be Treize. He's dead."
__________Sade responded, "We've thought many to be dead that weren't. Who knows what's going on anymore? I only know one thing. I'm going to rescue Simba, Nala, and M'heetu with or without help."
__________Jesi shook her head. "Don't. I don't want you to end up like the others."
__________"I'm not a coward. Don't treat me like one."
__________"I warned you."
__________"Fine. I'll go alone. Let this be a lesson to the rest of you. I thought the pride was supposed to put trust above all else."
__________Sade stormed away in a fury.
__________Jesi sighed. "I hope she knows what she's doing."

VII

Nala knew something was wrong. Simba and M'heetu had been gone for an entire night. She wondered what became of them. She didn't want to picture the horrible possibilities. She remembered how M'heetu had described his incarceration, and he didn't paint a very pretty picture.
__________ He'd been severely brutalized by a particularly mean human. This human was old and worn. He cared not for the tribe's welfare, only his own. He had no love for their god. He rarely participated in the rituals. The only ritual he enjoyed was that of the torture and killing of the sacrificial animals. He enjoyed doing so with a passion. Nala noticed that this man was the one who ordered Simba and M'heetu to be tortured just hours ago. Nala winced.
__________ Speaking of the devil, the mean one and three others were leading the weakened lions with strong rope back to their thorny prison. Simba and Mheetu were feebly attempting to snarl at their captors, but the mean one snickered and dragged on them even harder.
__________ With the aid of his assistants, he shoved them into the cage and removed their bindings almost simultaneously. They collapsed. Nala rushed over to them.
__________"M'heetu, Simba, are you all right?" she asked
__________Simba groaned and strained to open his eyes. "Nala, I don't know how much longer we have left, but I." He struggled against the pain. "I love you."
__________Nala questioned, "What happened?"
__________M'heetu fought to keep conscious and replied, "They injected us with a powerful toxin. I don't know what it is, but it's killing us."
__________Nala, "I can't believe this. This is too much. Why couldn't they just leave us alone? They could have given up, but they're just too goddamn stubborn!" A tear trickled down her muzzle. "I just want it to all stop sometimes."
__________"Nala," Simba rasped, "please don't give up hope. Worst case scenario, you'll survive long enough for a rescue."
__________"Simba, there won't be a rescue," she sobbed. "They're preparing to flee the Pridelands as we speak. We don't have a chance."
__________M'heetu willed himself to speak. "Nala, I gave up all hope once, too. Actually, twice. One: I thought I was going to die when that hyena attacked me. Later, I was afraid I'd never see you two again. I had faith, and it pulled me through. Have faith, Nala. We aren't done yet. Our life missions are not finished."
__________Simba weakly nodded. "If it's the last thing we do, we'll get out of here and die with our honor intact. I will not die in captivity."
__________"Nor I," M'heetu accorded.
__________"Can you put your faith in us this last time?"
__________"Don't say last!" she cried. Nala thought as hard as she could back to when she told Simba to have faith in others and his own abilities. She swallowed the lump in her throat, blinked the tears out of her eyes, and responded, "I will have faith."
__________M'heetu and Simba smiled weakly. Nala only hoped they could hold out until some help arrived.
__________Nearby, Sade, R'ana, Sarafina, and Sarabi searched for whatever help may be around. R'ana heard a faint sound off to their left. "Come over here," she whispered.
__________The other lionesses flanked her as she peered through the undergrowth.
__________"What is it?" Sarabi inquired.
__________A deep voice growled back at them, "Leave me the bloody Hell alone!"
__________Rana backpedaled. Sade came closer, telling the others, "I recognize that voice."
__________She pushed aside the limbs of the large bush to reveal a dark-maned lion with a scar recently made by a hyena.
__________"Moreover, I recognize that wound. Who are you?" She was answered with silence, only a sharp glare from the lone male.
__________"If you don't tell me, I'll tear you a new one." The lion looked at the opposition, noting their intent stares. They were waiting for an answer.
__________He returned their glares, replying, "If you must know, I am Lebo, son of
__________Tanaka and Rydia, and heir to those noble names."
__________Sarafina's eyes widened. "Do you have a brother?"
__________"Had a brother. That lousy bastard Taka arranged to have him killed."
__________"His name was Treize, right?"
__________His ears perked up. "Yes, how did you know?"
__________She cast her eyes down, hoping to hide her pain. "He was my mate."
__________"You knew him? I thought he died totally alone."
__________"He thought his whole family was killed. How did you escape?"
__________"The poison they injected me with didn't kill me. They left me for the carrion birds on the savanna, but I wasn't dead. I woke up, not knowing where I was."
__________"How'd you find out he was still alive after you escaped?"
__________"A little bird told me. Okay, I want your story. What are you ladies doing out here, in no-one's land?"
__________"Looking for my son and daughter."
__________Sarabi interjected, "As well as my son."
__________Lebo smiled warmly. "Well," he said. "If it's Treize's kids, or one of their mates that you're all after, I'll lend a hand."
__________Sarafina asked, "Lebo, can you tell me about your brother?"
__________Lebo sighed. "I don't even know where to begin. It's a long story, Madame."
__________Sarafina replied, "Well, we're gonna be out here for a while. Probably at least until sunrise."
__________Lebo grinned. "Okay. Let's start at the beginning."
__________ The party of lions journeyed westward, deeper into the forest. The lionesses listened intently as Lebo began his story of Sarafina's mate.
__________

VIII


__________Nala lay quietly in the corner of the cage, near her leonine companions. She was crying silently to herself. Once in a while, Simba or M'heetu would stiffen up and snarl, their insides being attacked by the strong poison. Nala was surprised how long they've survived. Simba was fighting quite hard, considering that recently he'd lost his will to live. It had been quite some time since either of the sick lions moved, and Nala now feared them dead.
__________ She was swallowing a lump in her throat when a young girl appeared at the makeshift doorway of the cage. The girl opened the door and slipped in quietly. Nala was about to growl when the girl put a finger to her lips. Nala kept silent, waiting to see what the girl was going to do.
__________ The girl crept up to the motionless Simba, who was the weakest from the poison, gently resting his head on her lap. She then opened his mouth and poured a vial of pinkish liquid into it. Nala was horrified. "Can't they leave him alone?" she thought.
__________ The girl massaged his throat so he would swallow it. A minute later, she decided that she was satisfied with her work, and repeated the procedure on M'heetu. Nala stared in disbelief, totally confused. As quickly as the girl appeared, she was gone.
__________ Nala went to Simba and nuzzled him. "I only wish we had one more chance." She closed her eyes and lay down next to him. "I'm sorry I couldn't help you resolve your inner conflicts while you were still alive." She opened her eyes, tears misting her vision, when she heard a voice.
__________"Anyone in there?" a guttural voice asked out of the darkness.
__________Nala sniffled. "Pumbaa, is that you?"
__________"Yes. Well, me and Timon."
__________The meerkat and warthog materialized out of the blackness, only kept at arm's length by the bars of the cage.
__________Timon whispered, "Nala, we're gonna try and bust you guys out."
__________"How'd Pumbaa get mixed up in all of this?" Nala asked.
__________"He followed me."
__________Pumbaa interjected, "I don't like my buddy going into dangerous situations by himself."
__________"What a pal," Timon added.
__________Nala tried unsuccessfully to clear the lump from her throat. "I'm afraid it won't be much of a rescue. Simba. and my brother are dead."
__________Timon gasped. "What?!"
__________Nala was too moved to speak. Timon just gaped. Pumbaa put an arm around Timon's shoulder. "I can't believe he's really gone," Timon spoke quietly. "I thought he'd outlive us all because he's such a tough little guy."
__________"Little?" Pumbaa asked.
__________"Whatever." Timon tried to wipe away his tears. "He was such a good buddy."
__________Pumbaa thought for a moment. "Nala, did you say 'brother'?"
__________"Yes."
__________"I didn't even know you had one."
__________"I thought he was dead since he was a child. Now that I find him, he's really dead. What am I going to do?"
__________Timon grunted. "Hey, help is on the way. Maybe there's something Rafiki can do."
__________Nala reminded him, "He can't bring back the dead." Timon just sighed in reply.
__________Human voices were heard approaching. Timon whispered, "We've gotta book, but help is on the way. Just hold on." Nala nodded in response. With that, the meerkat and warthog scurried off into the foliage.
__________The humans stopped at the cage. They scanned their work, obviously enjoying their success. Their gods would be happy now. One by one, they passed by and touched the lions, believing they received their strength. Then, they filed out back towards the fire circle.
__________Nala just moaned to herself, filled to her limit with grief. She put a paw over her face and slipped off into sleep. Much to her dismay, her sleep was not dreamless. She found herself in the deserted wasteland between the Pridelands and the jungle. With her was M'heetu and Simba, mere shadows of themselves. Vultures flew overhead. She knew she had to defend them.
__________She waited there for hours. The hot sun was on her back. Hyenas were now approaching. She didn't know what to do. Help obviously was not coming, but she didn't want to leave their bodies yet. One way or another, she either had to die with them or leave. She knew she'd rather die with those she loved than to escape. After quite a while, she thought, "Boy, it's been a long week."
__________A sharp cough woke her. She looked around at her surroundings. What she saw surprised her. Simba was coughing, writhing in pain. She rushed over to him, supporting his weight with her body. "Simba," she said, "I'm here for you."
__________He collapsed in reply, but his coughing fit stopped. He drew a breath, then managed to say, "Nala."
__________Nala's eyes filled with tears. "Simba, you aren't dead!" She embraced him with her paw. "I can't believe it. You're alive."
__________Simba closed his eyes, trying to regain full alertness to the world. "I thought I was dreaming, but I think I had a near-death experience. All I can remember is seeing my father. He told me something like 'It is not your time yet.' I remember trying to apologize, but he insisted his death was not my fault."
__________"Simba," Nala replied, "It wasn't your fault."
__________"I know. After talking with him, I have my confidence back. But I feel like hell."
__________Nala giggled. "Simba, stop trying to make me feel better. I'm happy enough that you're alive."
__________"Hey, how's M'heetu?"
__________"He's still out. I don't know."
__________"He's a strong one. If I'll live, he will."
__________"Treize was a strong one. He didn't live."
__________"Treize didn't have as many caring people watching out for him." Simba lion- kissed her. "He'll be fine."
__________"There's something I want to tell you."
__________"Then go on ahead."
__________"I think a girl that came in here earlier is responsible for your survival."
__________"How?"
__________"She gave you some sort of liquid. I think it was some sort of medicine."
__________"I think we owe her one, then."
__________"By the way, Timon and Pumbaa stopped by to say hello."
__________"They did?"
__________Nala sighed. "Not really. Actually, they came to tell me help is on the way."
__________"Damn it! I told them to get out of here before they lost anyone else."
__________M'heetu groaned, "Could you guys stop talking so loud? I have the mother of all headaches!"
__________"What did I tell you?" Simba asked smugly.
__________Nala smiled. "It's good to know you're alive, brother."
__________M'heetu struggled to sit up. "Does anyone know how we're supposed to ditch this roach motel?"
__________The other lions shook their heads.
__________M'heetu sighed. "This has been a helluva week."

IX


__________Well into the next day, the whole pride, including Sade, Timon, Pumbaa, and Lebo lingered near the village, running over their rescue plan. Everyone was in shock after they heard Simba and M'heetu had perished the night before. It was, however, not the time to grieve. To them, there was still one life hanging in the balance. If Nala happened to be bearing children, many lives were in the balance.
__________Sarabi stood in front of the group, still trembling slightly, partly from her poisoning, partly because of the bad news. She looked at her allies and began her speech. "We have lost a great deal in these recent times. More than just lives are at stake here. Our freedom, our homelands, traditions.If we cannot remove this human threat from our land, we must find a new home. Our largest problem is that we can't be sure if the humans haven't dominated the whole world by now."
__________She turned; looking back toward the towering kopje that had afforded them shelter and defense for generations. "Humans have stayed away from the Pride Rock area since they crawled out of their primordial ooze. Now, mysteriously, they show up, decimate our resources, kill our beloved. They must pay!"
__________The others roared in agreement. Timon and Pumbaa half-heartedly applauded. Lebo sat in seclusion away from the others, muttering to himself, "First, they kill my family, then they kill my nephew. They must surely pay. I'll make them pay. Even if it costs me my life. No one I care for dies in vain."
__________The group gathered into an attack formation and marched into enemy territory. Lebo followed at a distance, sadly contemplating the recent events. No one was in good spirits, for everyone had lost someone dear to them. It was especially difficult for Sarafina, who had in a way lost her son twice.
__________Within the settlement, the lions were recovering their depleted strength when a teen-aged boy approached the cage. M'heetu gulped, "Damn, this is gonna be trouble!"
__________"Shh!" Nala hissed. "Maybe if you two act dead-"
__________"No way," Simba growled. "I'm not playing games any more."
__________The boy was accompanied by the girl who attended to Simba and M'heetu just the night before. "Oh, man!" M'heetu groaned. "Now she's in trouble 'cause of us." Together, they opened the cage doors. "Whoa," Mheetu whispered. "What the?"
__________They motioned for the lions to get out. The three great cats quickly complied. Not much later, they were outside the perimeter of the village. M'heetu looked back, incredulous, and asked, "What the hell are they on?"
__________Nala sighed, "M'heetu, they helped us out. You should be thankful."
__________"Oh, I am. It's just mind-boggling, that's all."
__________The lions trudged onward for a while, until they saw Timon and Pumbaa. Simba called out to them, "Hey, guys!"
__________Timon gasped, unsure of his own eyes. "Is that you, Simba?"
__________"Yes, back from the dead, into the land of the living."
__________Pumbaa grunted. "You mean all the planning we did to rescue you was for nothing?"
__________"Damn it! I forgot! The rescue." Simba looked at Timon. "Where are they?"
__________"By now, in the village."
__________"Nala, M'heetu, we've got to help them."
__________They agreed, turning around and retracing their steps. Within an hour, they were at the village, witnessing a huge battle between animal and human. For some reason, even the hyenas were there. The lions stood strong, but the hyenas already had several casualties.
__________"Well, let's help 'em out!" Simba shouted. He roared and took off into the battle.
__________"Come on!" Nala yelled. She tore off, followed by M'heetu.
__________Three spear-brandishing humans, who were quite ready to kill Sarabi, cornered her. Simba vaulted himself over them, landing next to his mother. He glanced over to her. "Mother" was all that he said.
__________"Son," she replied warmly.
__________They turned to face their attackers. One rushed right at Simba, spear poised for attack. Simba bared his teeth and swatted at him with his foreleg. The human fell back; though another quickly replaced him. This one had a mace. He swung and narrowly missed shattering Simba's skull. Simba dashed at him and broke the man's neck with his powerful blow.
__________Sarabi had already left to aid the others. Simba was glad she was out of that deadlock, but his joy was short-lived, as arrows peppered the turf in front of him.
__________Lebo and Sade had taken out the most humans so far, and they were now helping out some of the hyenas. Shenzi joined their side. "Boy," she chuckled. "We haven't had this much fun since before the ban on the hyenas. Let's rip some throats out!"
__________Nala and M'heetu looked as they battled for the two humans that helped them out before. They were nowhere to be found. Shocked back into reality by a volley of flaming arrows whizzing by them, they returned to the battle.
__________Simba saw Nala and M'heetu cornered by a group of archers. "Someone help them, for god's sake!" he pleaded. An archer drew back his bowstring, loaded with a flaming arrow. It was aimed at Nala. "No!" Simba shouted. But he knew it was hopeless.
__________Was, that is. A brave hyena dashed in front of the fiery missile and took it in the shoulder. She slumped to the ground, deep in shock, but shook it off when she saw an opportunity.
__________The lone heroine limped into the cluster of thatched huts, accosted by the panicking humans. She crawled into a straw hut, saying her last prayers as the huts caught fire.
__________Simba whispered, "Thank you," to the brave hyena. He then turned and rallied the lions and hyenas to cause the humans to fall back. One by one, they flooded out, their flaming village in ruins. The lions roared with their victory, accompanied by the hyenas' eerie cackling.
__________Simba ran up to Nala, embracing her with his paw. "Nala, we did it!"
__________The rest of the pride quickly joined the purring, embracing couple. Timon jumped upon Simba's back and shouted, "Yeah! We showed them! Way to go, old pal!"
__________Pumbaa just smiled. Everybody took a short glance at everyone else. M'heetu finally broke the silence. "What say we all go home and celebrate?"
__________ Epilogue

__________Again the creatures of the Pridelands rejoiced. The human threat, if temporarily, was taken care of. Two lions, long thought to be dead, had returned. This was the cause of great joy and celebration among the animals.
__________On Pride Rock's cliff, the lions chatted casually amongst themselves. Nala was asking M'heetu, "What are you going to do now?"
__________"Hey, I'm a king now. I have a pride to help take care of."
__________"Will you all visit us when you can?"
__________Sade responded, "Of course we will. You guys are wonderful friends. We'll hunt within our boundaries, but accept visitors at any time."
__________"As will we," Simba interjected. "Thanks to you all. You helped not only save our lives, but you helped me to open up to myself. That is a gift without price."
__________The others nodded. Simba approached the edge of the cliff, preparing to tell of the recent occurrences.

__________ Later that night, Simba stood at the pond with Rafiki. "Rafiki; thanks. I couldn't have done it without you." he said.
__________"Oh, no," the wise mage replied. "You found yourself on your own. We helped, but you did the hard work. Whether or not the humans are gone for good, you have a new weapon to use against fear and lack of trust. You've grown much, my boy, and I am proud of it."
__________"My boy?"
__________"Would you rather I said 'Your Majesty'?"
__________Simba chuckled. "Whatever you want, old buddy.
__________Timon and Pumbaa crept up behind them slowly. Timon shouted, "Hey! It's been a while since you've called me buddy, buddy!"
__________Simba just shook his head.
END

(Continued in the sequel, tentatively titled "Crossover")




This section is purely for fun. Read on if you want.
If a cast member wasn't in the original movie, I listed what they've
been in

Cast of voice-over actors

Simba-Matthew Broderick

Nala-Moira Kelly

M'heetu-Michael Biehn (from Aliens and the Rock)

Sade-Madonna (Evita)

Treize-Christopher Lambert (Highlander II, Mortal Kombat)

Sarabi-Madge Sinclair

Sarafina- (adult) Zoe Leader (sub adult) Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet 1995)

Mufasa-James Earl Jones

Taka (Scar)-Jeremy Irons

Timon-Nathan Lane

Pumbaa-Ernie Sabella

Shenzi-Whoopi Goldberg

Banzai-Cheech Marin

Ed-Jim Cummings

Zazu-Rowan Atkinson

Rafiki-Robert Guillaume

R'ana-Gillian Anderson (X-files)

Lebo-Mel Gibson (Braveheart)

Jesi-Nana Visitor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)



The movie's soundtrack

"Enter Sandman" Metallica

"Through Faith and Love" Mike Evans

"In Your Eyes"

"Diggin' in the Dirt" Peter Gabriel

"More Human than Human" White Zombie

"Sweet Dreams" Marilyn Manson



Text Version
Author: Michael J. Evans
HTML by Thumper

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