Pride Lands Online

A Shining New Era.

A short Pridelands story by Chris Boyce.
20th February 1997.

To Elsa, the lioness of two worlds and the original spirit of the Pride Lands.

Note: Immue is in no sense a portrait of Elsa. Any resemblance between Immue and any person or animal known to the author is entirely coincidental.


_______Imagine, if you will, receiving an e-mail one day from a total stranger. The note is from someone several thousand miles away, who highly praises your wonderful text... and then utters some horrifying words:

_______"I had an idea for a couple of changes...."

_______Yes, I sent that note to Chris Boyce, upon my reading the first draft of his work "The Pridelands." I found it an interesting work, and suggested a few wording changes here and there that I thought might help a few difficulties he had hinted at. Dutifully, Chris proceeded to consider these... and ended up using several of them in his finished work. I was pleased that he considered enough of my suggestions to use them, and impressed by his willingness to solicit them in the first place; this told me that he was intent on making his work the best it could be.
_______Since then I've watched the world of Chris' "Pridelands" grow in complexity and richness, and have been left craving for more. And in this story, as all the others, he again finds something wonderful with which to surprise us all.
_______So take a few moments to read this, his most recent addition to his world. You'll find the time you invest here well spent.
_______I sure did.

_______David Morris, Wilmington, North Carolina
_______February 18, 1997

A Shining New Era.

_______"Oh no, no, no. This can't be - it's too easy." Immue thought not really believing herself as she closed patiently and silently through the shoulder high grasses. It had been a short dry season, the rains had come early and the mud that often made the gullies and hollows of the western valley impassable coated her paws making them heavy and for each slow step to be uncomfortable. She had ventured here, among the crags and mud covered floor of the valley, in pursuit of her favourite prey - warthog. She loved the rich, salty, warm taste. She wasn't so keen on the tusks and the trotters as they could gash even her tough skin and deliver a bone breaking kick; larger prey, particularly zebra, could kill even a fully grown lioness with just a single blow.
_______"If you go in from behind," Akase had once said, "go in high and hold on tight." It was sound advice, though Immue did not always heed these words. Akase's next words however, were ones which Immue were to remember for a long time: "If you go in at all, go in to kill."
_______"Hmmm," she said inaudibly to herself as she parted the grass with her nose, "time to go in." She stopped and watched her unconcerned prey for a moment. The mandrill sat, his lilac rump showing close to the ground, his knees up close to his age-greyed chest as he picked tiny berries one by one with alternate hands from a low bush, stuffing them in his mouth and chewing noisily. After a few moments he looked carefully about the bush for any that he might have missed but found none. Before he could rise he found himself flung to one side into the mud by a massive force bearing down on his back that grew unstoppably until the sky darkened in pain which mercifully did not last long. "I do like you Rafiki", Immue said darkly, "I like all mandrills. But I don't think I could eat a whole one." She laughed gently to herself as she bent her head down with open jaws to lightly grip the short neck of her victim. She drew her jaws together slowly and deliberately, feeling the strong bones of the ape's neck crack between her teeth. A few unending moments later the elderly mandrill fell still, released from his pain at last. "I'm sorry my dear, it was simply too easy; yes, yes, yes." she said, dropping the limp meat. Immue licked her teeth greedily, "I think I can make an exception for you Rafiki - maybe I can eat a whole one after all." The body of her kill slumped over and its eyes stared unseeingly back at Immue. "Oh no!" she exclaimed in dismay, "Perhaps it really was too easy...."
_______"So young Scar," he said as he walked haltingly beside the dark, flame orange cub, "where's your mother this morning? Eh?"
_______"Oh, I don't know." Scar said vaguely. "Tell me - you give Mufasa all this?"
_______"What? Your brother all What? You tell Rafiki now."
_______"All this," repeated Scar scornfully in agitation. "...Where you been? What you doing? Who you with? All that. You're not MY mother."
_______"So, why you here eh? Why come and see a mandrill like me?"
_______"I..." Scar considered, searching for an answer to hide behind. "I want to learn something."
_______"Eh? Learn - learn what? Magic eh? Want me to turn you into a frog? Is that it?"
_______"Yuucck!" Scar turned away from Rafiki suddenly. "No way! Anything but that!"
_______"Ok, what about a mandrill? Like me?"
_______"Yeah, great! Wow, then I could swing through the trees!" Scar stood up and swayed from side to side, holding his tail high.
_______"Well now, not so fast, we're talking like me - a mandrill, not a vervet."
_______"Oh, yeah, Ok." There was a long pause in which neither spoke. Scar sat down, patiently at first, then he became increasingly restless. Rafiki sat quite still and calm looking beyond Scar to the west as if he were looking intently for something. Scar looked intently in turn at Rafiki as the waiting continued and became unbearable.
_______"Hey - monkey! Am I a mandrill yet?" Rafiki looked over all of the cub for a few seconds,
_______"Sure, now there are two of us on the Pridelands. What ever will your father say now that he has a mandrill for a son?"
_______"Well - I don't feel like a mandrill. I mean I don't feel all blue or nuffin..."
_______"Nuffin - Pabbbh? No? You're a young mandrill yet. You won't turn blue for years. Just wait - your time will come. Listen to Rafiki, he knows. The ladies will love you."
_______"No! Not yet - all that smoochy-smoochy, huggy-huggy stuff - no way am I going to have a lioness, I mean, whatever you mandrills call them." Scar shook his head in an exaggerated and forced way so as to add weight to his words.
_______"There'll be lots of little Scars one day, you'll see. Strong lads and beautiful lasses, fur as golden as the sunset."
_______"Hmmm, but I thought mandrills are grey..." Scar said probingly, wondering if he really was a mandrill after all, "and there's no way I'm having cubs." He sat up pushing his chest forwards and holding his head high. "I'll not have any time for that when I'm king."
_______"But my friend, you can't be king now."
_______"What?" shouted Scar in considerable distress. "Mum says I'm gonna." He rose and turned on Rafiki with bared teeth. "She says I'm gonna be the bestest king ever."
_______"Going to be the best." Corrected Rafiki firmly, "And mandrills can't be king. Only lions can be king. We haven't got the teeth - can't roar. See?"
_______"Oh!" Scar stopped and stood still. "You're right. Maybe I wanna be a lion again."
_______"May be. But you can be a lion any time. I'll not turn you into a mandrill again. You see? Enjoy it while you've got the chance? Eh, my lad?"
_______"Yeah, I guess so. But hey? Who am I anyway?" In reply Rafiki laughed loudly as he jumped back and forth waving his stick in front of the cub.
_______"You mean you don't know? Why you ARE confused!"
_______"No, no! Oh..." Scar sat back firmly, he was beginning to tire of the mandrill's cryptic talk. "I mean Scar's not a name for a mandrill, Hmmm?"
_______"Oh no, right again. It isn't. So, who do you want to be?" Rafiki drew close to the Scar and bent low to look into his eyes from just head's width away. Scar, drawing back instinctively, thought for a few moments before swatting ineffectively at Rafiki with a forepaw. "Eh? You have to be quicker than that if you want to catch a mandrill like us," said Rafiki as he dodged the cub's ill-aimed blow before rushing off. Scar jumped up and followed, surprised by the mandrill's speed and agility. As he ran he felt the stones slip on the soft ground beneath his pads and pushed his claws out a little to grip, they clicked and clattered on the stones as he ran after the leaping and bounding ape. The pair chased each other towards a clump of acacias, their dappled shade proving to be a welcome relief from the burning sun and moist heat of mid morning. The fully grown mandrill proved too fast for the young cub to catch and in a short time Scar gave up chasing and lay down panting on the floor of the thicket close to a thorny bush as all around him the rustles, whistles and shimmers of the breeze through the trees filled his softly furred ears and deep green eyes. Here the lion cub felt ill at ease and restless from the strangeness of his surroundings which seemed somehow higher than he was used to, the trees rose up around him and filled him with a sense of enclosure that frightened the cub so used to the expanse of the open savannah. The mandrill however was quite at ease in the half-shade of the thinly branched, parasol canopy of the acacias. Here it was Scar who was the weaker animal: the hunter was now the hunted.
_______ Rafiki stopped and looked back to see the small cub lying, cowering beneath the tree tops. He did not need to think long before he bounded back to sit beside the hunched and tense, dark furred cub. He spoke to Scar quietly and intimately, as a father to an uncertain son. "You can be Makedde, my brother."
_______"You... have a brother?" said the cub's head that was pressed firmly down to his forepaws, his tightly closed eyes loosening a little.
_______"Yes, of course! A brother and a cousin. He's coming to see me."
_______"Your brother?" asked the cub as he dared to open one eye just a little. Rafiki laughed gently as he lay his stick down on his open side.
_______"No, he's already here - You are here aren't you?" Rafiki did not wait for an answer from the cub who raised his head a little from his paws as he felt the warmth of the mandrill against his side. "My cousin, Faraki. He should be here soon you know. He's never seen the Pridelands. No, he'll get a surprise when he gets here. I know, yes, that's it."
_______"That's what?" asked the cub, his curiosity getting the better of his fear.
_______"He'll be stuffing himself somewhere. You know, don't know where he puts it. Me? I can't eat anything in my baobab with out wondering if I'll get stuck for days. You know, it will get him into trouble, sure it will. Ehh-heey." Rafiki put his arm around Scar as he chuckled, holding the warm cub and lifting him gently to his paws. For a few moments Scar luxuriated in the comfort of Rafiki's warmth then he pushed him away, remembering his mother's warning: "Never let anyone touch you my little one, you never know what they want from you, it could be something terrible.". Scar was uncertain as to what Rafiki might want, yet he could see no harm in this closeness. Indeed there was no harm: Rafiki held Scar out of genuine concern and unconditional friendship. The young Scar had no understanding of his mother's fear of adult's 'terrible' intentions. Before he was able to give much thought to his confused feelings he was distracted by a glimpse of something brightly coloured; a transient flash of blue and orange high above him. He turned his head skywards towards the flash. For a few moments his eyes were flooded with the unaccustomed brightness of the savannah sky, even though it was partially shaded by the canopy of acacia tops. As he squinted upwards the blueness resolved itself into the unmistakable form of a hornbill flying steadily, scanning the ground below. For a moment the bird flew on without spotting the unlikely pair of cub and mandrill through the tree tops. Rafiki drew a hand up to his forehead to shade his eyes from the glare as he too, in response to the minute sounds of the bird's flapping, turned his gaze to the sky.
_______Zazu opened his eyes wide and added an extra forward turning flap to his steady wing beat, causing him to slow in flight. Moments later he swooped down to the pair and alighted, absurdly small, on the ground in front of Rafiki. Turning to Scar, he said with a deliberate nod of his beak:
_______"So, there you are. Your father's been looking all over for you my boy."
_______"Tell the king he's with me. You do that. Go on, off you go!" Rafiki rushed forwards, grabbing his stick from where it lay on the ground and waving it wildly at Zazu. In a flurry of feathers and a couple of loud squawks, Zazu shot upwards to fly off indignantly towards the dark shadow of Priderock. "Go and report that. Ha, haah!" The mandrill jumped up and down laughing and waving his stick at the receding bird. "Hah! Gets him every time it does! Haah!".
_______Ahadi was not very keen on wandering all over the Pridelands looking for wayward cubs. He knew it was his duty and he performed it with diligence and due care, however he could not have been said to enjoy it. His mate, Akase, had been asked by Immue, at very short notice it must be said, to look after her son Scar while she went off hunting. No other lionesses had gone with Immue as the heat and humidity were oppressive. The young cub seemed unaffected by the heat of the day and had played with Akase's own cub, a male just a little older than Scar, for a while until a dispute blew up which escalated with the unsuspecting and substantial Mufasa taking the full force of a vicious claws unsheathed swipe from Scar. Akase never found out who or what had initiated the incident, no doubt some petty jealousy she assumed, however she thought it best if they were separated for a while. For a time peace seemed to have been restored and Akase allowed herself the luxury of a doze with her son draped over her forelegs. She felt the body of Scar settle at her back; when she awoke Immue's son was nowhere to be found. He had obviously wandered off somewhere by himself as there were no tracks or any other signs to show that any animals: friend, foe or prey had approached during their sleep. Scar's tracks, faint and faltering, lead off westwards for a short distance then disappeared into thick grasses in which the smells of fresh growth masked all scent of the cub. Akase knew he had to be found and quickly; the hyenas that frequented these parts had already shown themselves capable of taking a cub. Indeed Mufasa, then not even three months old, had been rescued from an opportunist hyena attack only by Ahadi taking drastic measures. He had had to cut down the bold hyena female as she tried to drag off the helpless cub. It was no time for reason and argument - the hyena had only released Mufasa; Ahadi and Akase's first cub; with her last breath. Mufasa was to remember that incident for the rest of his life, the hyenas were to prove to have similarly long memories.
_______Scar had no fear of hyenas, indeed he had hardly any fear of anything. His mother kept on telling him that he had nothing to be afraid of while she was around to protect him and protect him she did. However her method of protecting Scar from the hyenas was unorthodox for lions to say the least - She had followed a mother with three pups, a female and two males, back to her lair one day and cornered her. Immue had not killed them, she had no need, indeed she wanted them to stay very much alive, for the time being at least. Immue did a simple deal with them - they would leave her son alone and Immue would leave them alone. Immue told the hyenas that her offer extended to all of the pack. They were free to harass any of the other lions, but touch her little Scar and they would all die at Immue's paws, regardless of the fact that Hyenas were at best unpalatable and at worst totally inedible. It was soon noted by Ahadi and his new personal assistant Zazu, that the hyenas seemed to act most courteously to Scar, sometimes verging on uneasy friendliness. Zazu found this to be 'Most odd Sire.'. Immue was careful not to reveal to anyone what she had done, but it certainly protected the small and weak Scar until he was old and big enough to fight back effectively for himself; and in time he began to respond in kind to the hyena's occasional 'Hello Scar.'...
_______Ahadi sat and looked around. All around his great paws were definite signs that a lion cub and ape, presumably the mysterious but friendly Rafiki, had recently been at this spot. Rafiki was something of an oddity, he had wandered over to Ahadi one morning, totally unafraid of the great lion and tapped him gently on the head with some kind of stick:
_______"Eh? Anybody at home?"
_______"What are you?" asked Ahadi somewhat distractedly, wondering what this ape might taste like.
_______"Lunch?" the grey-blue ape said as he gazed peered fascinated into Ahadi's flowing mane. For a moment Ahadi was at a loss, then he burst out laughing as the ape started to pick into his mane for ticks and other more juicy insects.
_______"No," Ahadi managed to get out between great mouthfuls of laughter, "no, no, what kind of animal are you? Hey, don't tickle!"
_______"What? Like this you mean?" said the ape jovially as he reached behind the king's ears. "Yes, like that.... I'm Rafiki, the mandrill."
_______"Get off!" However Ahadi was not entirely serious and he rolled over on to his left side as he laughed while waving all four of his paws in the air, barely missing the mandrill who kept on scratching the great lion's ear.
_______"No, no way. Much too much fun.... Who are you?"
_______"That's Ahadi, king of the Pridelands," said a smooth and gentle voice from behind Rafiki, "and you're messing up his mane. I spent ages sorting it out this morning". Ahadi jumped up, dumping Rafiki in the dust beneath his paws. He shook himself, filling the air with a cloud of choking dust. "Hey, watch it, what are you doing covering me in that stuff." The lioness rushed forwards and tussled Ahadi, the pair ending up rolling together in the dust once more as Rafiki looked on.
_______"King eh? Well, now you don't look much like a king to me." he said as he moved his head to one side then the other trying to work out which bit of lion was which, pulling back suddenly as a tail swished past within an inch of his nose.
_______"Keep out of this, Rifaka. Hey Akase, that hurt!" Shouted Ahadi as he once more found himself rolled over and under his playful mate. Rafiki decided that enough was enough and that the moment had come to separate these two overgrown cubs with a combined weight of over 1000lbs. He jumped around to the head end of the squirming pile and shouted:
_______"STOP!" as he held up one of his hands to a lion's face. He felt the moist warm breath of the male on his palm as he looked into his eyes. Ahadi closed both eyes and shied away,
_______"Hey, don't do that!" Ahadi said.
_______"Yeah, stop that, you never look into the eyes of the king." said Akase as she let her hind quarters slide from her mates back to the ground.
_______"The king eh? Well now, do you live in the cave on the rock? No. Have you been presented? No. Do you behave in a dignified way befitting the king? No. So what gives you the right to be called king Eh?" Rafiki ran back hurriedly to collect his stick as Ahadi lay looking puzzled, "And the name's Rafiki." No answer came so Rafiki jumped back and holding the middle of the staff tightly in his right hand swung it at the unsuspecting lion's head. It made contact firmly, causing Akase to jump at Rafiki, her claws fully extended.
_______"Oowww! Hey, cut it out you two." Ahadi shouted as Akase bowled Rafiki over onto the dust and raised her left forepaw to strike.
_______"My pleasure dear." She said as she brought it down on Rafiki's neck. It struck something hard that shot up painfully into her right foreleg just below the knee as she felt herself overbalance and fall onto her left side.
_______"Oh dear, can't see too well close up I see." said Rafiki as he picked himself up from the dust where Akase had pinned him. "It's best not to hit my stick. You see - it can hit back." He rubbed his side where the wooden staff had pivoted as Akase struck it, the bruise was already painful. Akase lay licking her leg where a few drops of blood had begun to well up. Ahadi stood up flinching from the half-inch deep cuts from Akase's claws. For a moment he blinked uncertainly then dropped back down again as the top of his head began to throb. "I told you to stop. Now then let's have a look at that." Rafiki said as he bent down to inspect Akase's leg.
_______"I don't understand. Why don't you run away?" Asked Akase as Rafiki gently pushed her nose away from the wound.
_______"Because you are hurt, and you are with cub," was all the reply she got.
_______"What?" blurted Ahadi with cub-like eyes. "How?"
_______"You don't know?" responded Rafiki as he inspected the lioness, gently holding her leg, "Oh dear, there is much more to teach you than I thought."
_______In time Ahadi and the lionesses he had brought with him from the far off marsh lands came to trust Rafiki and to accept him as a sort of occasional cub. They followed his advice and soon moved into the cave on the towering rock overlooking the plain. It caught the morning sun and the hard surface warmed rapidly in the early light. The cave was never cold, despite it's solid rock walls, indeed it could become stiflingly warm, even unbearably hot. However, by late morning the ledges and promontory of the rock became pleasantly shady allowing the lions to migrate outside where they could doze safely in the open and, if they so desired, they could watch the astonishing variety of herd animals grazing steadily and peacefully across the plains below.
_______Not long after the pride had moved in Ahadi was dozing idly in the cave one morning at dawn when Akase rushed in and prodded him with her cool nose.
_______"Wake up, come on, wake up!" Ahadi, half roused from a rather odd dream about warthogs and meerkats, peered up, hoping that whatever had woken him would go away. Akase prodded him again. "Up you get, come on. You've got to see this!"
_______"Wha... see what? Come on, do you know it's still dark."
_______"No it's not, now get up - up, up, up."
_______"Oh Akase! Not that at this time of the day. Let a poor lion rest!" She stepped lightly round to his open side and forced a forepaw under his flank.
_______"Hey, that hurts!" Ahadi felt a bony lump under his ribs, "What's so great about today? Why can't I sleep?"
_______"Are you the king?" Akase said knowing full well what the answer would be.
_______"Sure, now let the king sleep."
_______"I know you're the king, but they don't know yet." Said his mate insistently.
_______"Who?" Ahadi open his eyes fully and looked into the gloom of the cave. They were, unusually for dawn, alone. "Look, there's no one here."
_______"There is: them - outside." Akase said forcefully, "Come on, you had better see this." She padded away towards the bright entrance. Ahadi forced himself up, muttering something about listening to his mother more, and walked stiffly after her, yawning loudly. There seemed to be something different about the rock that morning, the air was filled with a tangible expectancy. Akase, her sides full of their cub, stepped to one side as Ahadi crossed the threshold of the cave and out into the full force of the dawn sun. Before him stood a bright blue bird which stretched out it's wings and, in a gesture Ahadi had never seen before, bowed deeply before him. Ahadi started and drew back, uncertain as to who or what this might be. Rafiki stepped up to him, his stick held high, and put his free arm over the great lion's shoulders, burying it deep in his mane.
_______"Don't worry, that's only Zazu. You can get to know him later." Said Rafiki as the hornbill held himself low before the lion as if waiting for something.
_______"Er, thank you, er... Zazu is it?"
_______"At your service Sire." Replied Zazu rising to look at his king. "Any thing that you want, I will give to you. I am the king's most loyal servant."
_______"Pappbh! It is time." Rafiki said leading Ahadi, blinking in the sun, away from Zazu, who glowered at the mandrill in return, and across the still cool rock and up to the end of the promontory. "I can't lift you, you had better stand up straight and roar loudly instead." He confided as he whispered into the king's ear. Ahadi took one look beyond the rock edge and on to the plain. He felt unsteady and rocked slightly side to side. "It's ok, I have got you."
_______Assembled as far as Ahadi's half open eyes could see were more animals of more species than he had ever seen and still more that he had never seen. His instinct told him to turn and run back to the cave, hoping he would wake there to find that the day was just like any other. Rafiki's steadying arm around him told him that this was all too real.
_______"Help me Rafiki, what am I supposed to do?" His voice was unsteady and wavering, his eyes turned from the crowds below to look at Rafiki pleadingly.
_______"Just remember who you are. You are the King of the Pridelands are you not?"
_______"Do I have to be?" Ahadi replied doubtfully.
_______"Too late, all you have to do is roar and they'll all go away, but make it good. They are expecting a king not a cub."
_______"Just one roar? And then they'll go away, is that it?"
_______"Yes... it is time." Rafiki drew his arm back from Ahadi and stepped back to leave him alone at the tip of the rock. Ahadi tried to forget the animals of every type waiting below him. For a moment he thought he could not go through with it. He closed his eyes and felt the warm rays of the sun on his forehead. He threw his head up and opened his eyes to the full force of the dawn, the bright light blotting out everything as he drew in the cold air of the morning and roared out over the plain. As he finished he heard the faint echo of his roar die away, to be followed by the loudest sound he had ever heard: the entire population of the Pridelands erupted into voice together to proclaim him as their one true king. As the sound wrapped around Ahadi he felt his fear drop away and he let himself roar again, just for the sheer pleasure of it all. He was now the King of the Pridelands and he made a mental note to forgive Akase for waking him so early: she had been right, this was worth seeing....
_______The rock where the pride now lived and where Ahadi had been presented later became known as Priderock, partly as the pride lived there and partly as it was Ahadi's first pride and joy. Later this pride and joy was to be replaced as his first cub with his mate Akase was born there. However this cub, a male, was not the first to be born on the Pridelands. That honour had fallen to a female, named Sarabi, a couple of months before. She had a couple of sisters but Sarabi was always special as she was the first. Her birth had been surrounded by speculation and rumour. She certainly did not look much like Ahadi, who vigorously insisted that he was her father. Her dark fur was quite unlike Ahadi's golden coat and her mother's pale sand. Then there were her dark brown, almost black, ear rim marks and the smooth flow of her nose that gave her a dignified look even as a young cub. Sarabi carried her name like a badge, she was something of a mirage: her origins were forever shrouded in mystery and intrigue, even from herself. It was not until the birth of Mufasa that the rumours finally died down as now the lionesses had something new to talk about. A week later Immue bore a male cub, the fifth to be born on the Pridelands, in great secrecy. He was small and for a time seemed very likely to die. Immue kept him hidden from all, especially his father Ahadi, for well over six weeks. She was seen lurking around the pride and from time to time was seen hunting. She never ventured close to Priderock and no one ever found out where she kept her cub hidden, no one even knew if it was a son or a daughter until Immue lead him up to the rock at dawn. Ahadi greeted her respectfully as the mother of his cub. The two month old Mufasa rocked unsteadily up to his father's side to stare at his new half-brother.
_______"This is Scar." Immue said without being asked. "If anyone harms him they'll have me to answer to, do you hear?" There were murmurs and whispers all around her, one caught her ear: "However did he get that?". Immue did not dignify the comment with a reply, instead she simply picked up the wide-eyed Scar between her teeth and carried him up to the flat of the rock and lay down, placing him by her side. The cub stared out as the lionesses crowded round to inspect him. They quickly saw that the scar, seemingly a gash over the lids of his left eye that stood out boldly against the almost black hair that surrounded his eyes, was actually a hairless band of smooth flesh quite unlike the rough mark left by a true injury. It turned out that Immue had given him the name in the heat of the birth, as parents often do with new-borns: names such as Fluffy, Rolly, Giggles or Squirm; intending to give him something more fitting later. She had simply never got round to finding another name for her little Scar.
_______Scar's conception, as was suspected of Sarabi's, was shrouded in speculation. He was a son of Ahadi, at least Ahadi said so, then again he said that about Sarabi. Only the two mothers knew for sure, that much was known by all the lions on Priderock, what was less well known was that they each knew the truth about the others cubs. Immue had only been with the pride for a little over three months, for most of which she had been with cub by Ahadi, before that she had scratched out an existence as a lone and lonely lioness who had failed to join any of the many prides she had encountered. Her hold in the Pridelands pride was tenuous at best and many of the lionesses could not understand why Ahadi and Akase had accepted her, let alone honoured her with his cub. Ahadi made a big fuss of treating Scar as his son and tried to treat him just as he did Mufasa. The pair were brought up as full brothers as far as Immue would allow. However she kept Scar very close to her and would not allow any interference with what she felt was her right and duty in raising her son. No one quite understood what was going on, Immue would never talk about it and would tell anyone who asked to "go and stick your nose into someone else's business, my dear.". She had spent years alone and now treated any inquiry, no matter how friendly, as an intrusion. Those years of isolation had started when she had been released back into the wild after four blissful years as little more than an overgrown house cat. She never remembered her natural mother, she had regarded her owner as her mother, and even now it was her that she dreamed of in the moments that she allowed herself to sleep. The years had ended when she happened across a lioness alone with a dark brown, somewhat elderly lion with a full but well worn mane that was streaked black over his shoulders. His ears were fully black and blended into his mane. There was no doubt about what they were doing and no doubt that neither would be have tolerated Immue's presence had they known she was there. Immue did not recognise either the lion nor the lioness. She supposed that he was one of the long deposed pride heads that roamed around the savannah taking whatever opportunity came their way. Opportunity had come his way in the beautiful form of a well built but sleek lioness who, when not otherwise engaged, would prowl with a rare grace. Immue watched for some hours, the pair not roaming more than a hundred metres from the spot where she had first seen them.
_______Later, a little after sunset, she left the couple unseen by their eyes which were only for each other, and began to wander alone once more. She felt an emptiness and hunger that even the fattest of warthogs would not satisfy. She knew that there was little chance of it being sated, she knew she had little chance of joining a pride and bringing up cubs of her own, she felt herself to be destined to wander over the ridges and valleys of the uplands and never to feel the heat of a lion's breath on her back or the comfort of a cub nuzzling for her milk. She tried to sleep but the image of the lioness as the fatherly lion had taken her kept coming back to hold her close to wakefulness. She lay in the open, in grass barely tall enough to hide her. She paid no heed to her safety. As she dozed fitfully she failed to notice that she too was being watched for a time. Had she known she would not have slept at all; had she known she would have taken her chance then and there; had she known that her life was about to change she would have seen the lion who crept close, so close that he could have reached out and licked her, so close that he could smell the scents that told of her hunger. She rose out of her dream and open her eyes a little.
_______"Er, excuse me, but have you seen Narala?"
_______She lifted her head and struggled one eye open and focused it on the voice. It was too close to see clearly but she felt the warmth and moisture of it's breath that had clearly recently eaten.
_______"Wh..." she tried to open both eyes and focused again in vain. "What? Who's Narala?"
_______"Ah......" said the voice which carried warmth and strength and felt friendly and engaging. "You're not who I thought you were." The voice changed, growing slightly tense as it's owner backed away hurriedly. "I'm sorry to have bothered you. Must run," he called urgently as he turned away, "gotta find Narala."
_______"No, don't go, maybe I've..." but it was already too late. The lion had already put a couple of lengths between him and Immue. She saw the couple in her mind, but now she saw that the lioness was herself, and the lion kept on calling her name, over and over as he nipped her scruff with his worn and browned teeth:
_______"Narala, oh Narala. it's you Narala, it's you, you."
_______"No, No, NO! NO!!" Immue roared, the running lion stopped instantly and turned to face Immue holding his head barely above the level of his shoulders, his ears held back and his eyes forward as he tried to fight the voice of his mother that rang through his head. "NO!" Immue roared again to the vision. "it's not Narala, it's Immue, You have to know it's me!"
_______"You do know her...."
_______"You have to it's me! It's me - Immue."
_______"I know you are Immue, but where's Narala? I must find Narala." His voice lost power as spoke, it tailed off to leave him as no more than a cub. "I must find Narala. The pride expects me...." he could not finish and lay down and frantically swished his tail, while his ears remained held flat on his head. He closed his eyes and shook his head desperately as if to rid himself of a host of painful flies. Immue saw his pain but did not run to his side to comfort him but stood for a moment and watched this pathetic cub of a lion. He would never be a king she thought, he would never even be worth talking to. He would never be the father of her cubs.
_______"The pride? Your pride? You - you have a pride?" asked Immue, her curiosity driving her to reconsider. The lion, almost fifteen metres away, said nothing but carried on ignoring her, he was almost crying. No, he was crying. "Did you say you had a pride?" She insisted, regardless of his vulnerable state. He sniffed and raised his eyes to the Immue without lifting his head.
_______"I had a pride. Once."
_______"Oh, I thought you said the pride expects you to... to what, my dear?" She said 'my dear' but it had little meaning, this cub had little enough endearing features, and he certainly was not Immue's in any accepted sense, except in her power and that she realised soon enough. "Oh, my dear, you mean that... Narala was meant to be yours?" He picked up his head suddenly, his ears rising with it.
_______"So you do know her. Why didn't you say? Why?"
_______"So how exactly was she 'yours'? Hmmm?" Immue was warming to the intrigue.
_______"I..." he tried to look away but his mother's voice forbade him, "I, she, we, well..."
_______"Come now, let Immue hear it? yes, yes?"
_______"She and I were - 'together'."
_______"'Together'?" Immue thought for a moment then the truth fell upon her - this was not just a cub, this was a big cub and big enough to be with a lioness. "Oh you mean you were mating with her. Oh yes, yes, yes!"
_______"We still are when I find her."
_______"Oh, my dear, I don't know if I should be the one to tell you this." Immue fell silent, knowing the lion would not be able to resist her invitation. For a while he seemed surprisingly likely to prove her wrong.
_______"Tell me what?" He got up and walked very slowly towards Immue who sat back, seemingly content to let him make all the running. "Well, what is it?"
_______"My dear, my dear, you should find out for yourself. I mean this is not a thing you want to hear from a stranger. No, no, indeed no." Immue shook her head forcefully, her tail remained straight behind her, except the tip which bent off a little to one side. The young lion, looking a lot older now he had regained most of his composure, drew closer. Immue felt a strange force flowing in her that set her tail tip twitching erratically, she was not sure whether she wanted this feeling or not, though it grew strongly as he approached. She resisted it's call and remained sitting, however much she liked these feelings she liked the power she had over him much more. He came within a metre of her and sniffed at her.
_______"Who are you? What are you doing here. How do you know Narala and what do you know about her?"
_______"Well, you seem to know I'm Immue and I'm not doing anything. It's your Narala who's doing it, hmmm?" She raised her head as she finished to emphasise that she knew more, much more, than she was telling. "And anyway my dear, shouldn't you be telling me something about you. Yes, yes, yes that would be best - yes?"
_______The lion paused, and realising he was not going to get anything more out of Immue he decided to tell her everything. That was to prove to be the costliest mistake of his life but now all that mattered was to find the lost Narala. But it turned out she wasn't so much lost as bored.
_______"My name is Ahadi - and yes I was mating Narala but she wandered off."
_______"Oh my dear, that can't be right surely? Lionesses don't just 'wander off' with a lion such as you to attend to them."
_______"Well, Ok, so I wasn't as attentive as I might have been. She's very nice and all that but..." Ahadi felt embarrassed but now that he had his own pride he felt he had to rise above that sort of feeling. He rose straight into Immue's waiting trap. "...but I love Akase you see, I have to mate all the lionesses but I only love Akase, she's the only one I really care about."
_______"Oh, how awful, I'm so, so, so sorry. Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?" She continued in silent thought. "Oh he is such a dear cub."
_______"You can tell me what you know, I'll do anything to get her back."
_______"Oh, really? Anything. Well now, let me see. Hmmm - Oh yes, I did see her but she wasn't alone."
_______"Really? Oh no, one of the other lionesses have found her. I'm done for, you know how they'll talk, I'll never be able to hold my tail high again. Akase will have me for breakfast."
_______"Oh my dear, no, no, no it's not like that at all."
_______"It's not? Good for a moment I thought I was in trouble - deep." Ahadi lifted his head up and for a second looked as though he could head a pride.
_______"No, no, no, she's with a lion."
_______Ahadi could not believe what he was hearing, not only had Narala walked off on him but she had gone with another lion.
_______"At least she's not mating him." He thought doubtfully. The situation could hardly be worse, but he was wrong.
_______"Oh yes, yes, she's really with this lion, if you see what I mean."
_______"You mean she walks out from under me and straight under another lion?"
_______"Well, my dear, you must have been VERY inattentive. What did you do?"
_______"I..." Ahadi drew his head away and mumbled something into the night. _______"Oh my dear, I couldn't quite hear that - now, say it again, a little louder just for me. Yes, yes?"
_______"I... fell asleep."
_______"What? On her?" Immue laughed gently. Inside she prepared herself for the pounce on her prey.
_______"No - NO! We weren't actually... no, I just dozed off and she must have..."
_______"...Wandered off. Yes you said, no need to repeat yourself. So what's so bad about that. You felt tired yes, yes?"
_______"Yes, yes. But I took all these lionesses away from the marsh lands, they all look to me as their lion. Akase calls me her king for standing up to her father. I can't go back and say 'I fell asleep on Narala', I'll never be able to really be her king, the pride would never think I'm a real lion. Lions don't fall asleep with lionesses. Do they?"
_______Though she was certainly not going to admit it Immue did not really know, certainly the old lion had looked anything but asleep.
_______"Well now, you don't have to tell them my dear."
_______"I don't? But surely they'll find out from Narala."
_______"Oh my dear, I don't think so."
_______"Why not?" Ahadi narrowed his eyes probingly.
_______"Yes, yes, yes. You see I know that you'll tell all the lionesses that you are the father of Narala's cubs." Immue smiled knowingly at Ahadi.
_______"Why should they believe me?"
_______"Because I will tell them it is true. Yes, yes, indeed I will tell them."
_______"But you're not a member of my pride. They'll not listen to you."
_______"My dear, didn't you say you'd do anything? Hmmm?"
_______"Yes, well I..." Ahadi began to suspect something big was coming.
_______"Well, you did and what I want, well what I want is to be a full member of your pride."
_______"Ahhh... a member of my pride, just like Narala?"
_______"Oh yes, just like Narala, only..." Immue teased him mercilessly, "...only I won't let you fall asleep. No, no, no..."
_______"If I do this, what will you tell all the others? About Narala?"
_______Immue thought for a moment then raised a forepaw and, extending one claw, touched her chin gently.
_______"Hmmm, let me see....... Oh yes, that's simply too easy - I'll just say she's a trouble maker" then she added, accompanied by a vaguely waved forepaw, "...or something."
_______"Hmmm," he mused doubtfully, "Well, that wouldn't be far from the truth. I mean she always wants to be my queen, she'd take my Akase's place any time if she felt she could - Ok, I'll promise."
_______"Well my dear, it seems your problem is solved, is it not? Yes? Now all we have to do is find your Narala and makes sure she doesn't cause any more trouble. Yes my dear?" Then, once Ahadi had turned his back, Immue went on with a slight chuckle under her breath, "Simply too easy my dear, yes, yes, yes."
_______The pride had a shock a day or so later as Ahadi walked in, his tail held high, followed by a strangely subdued Narala and a subdued stranger. Immue never talked about her arrival in the pride. Narala never told about the days when she was with Ahadi. No one asked her as they knew such times were private. Soon Akase took possession of her great love and a week or so later Immue's time came and Ahadi, as he had promised and as busy and tired as he was, responded to her demands and made her a very full member of his pride.
_______In time, after the pride had arrived on what quickly became known as the Pridelands, Narala's cubs were born, all female. Ahadi made it known that despite their appearance; ranging in colour from dark sand to almost hazel brown with delicate spots of only slightly darker brown; one even had dark marks on the rim of her ears, she inherited her mother's powerful yet sleek build and grew day by day to move with all her grace and elegance; they were Ahadi's cubs and were to be treated just like any other cubs. This was not difficult as all the cubs in the pride were to be Ahadi's....
_______Ahadi looked around for any signs of Scar. He could see a few tracks, distinct and clear, leading away; the depth increasing and the stride length extending as the ape and cub had run off. That would be the best way to go: to follow and hopefully catch up with Scar and Rafiki. Ahadi knew that Rafiki would take care of Scar, so his fears of earlier now subsided. The only problem was who was looking after Rafiki? It seemed, thanks in no small part to his ceremonial stick which he carried at most times, that Rafiki could look after himself well enough but would the pair be safe from those hyenas? Then again, Scar seemed to act as a deterrent to even the worst of the pack. One, the young and particularly troublesome female, Shenzi, had even been seen talking to the cub on vaguely friendly terms. Ahadi had tried to get to the bottom of whatever had been going on but had merely ended up with a set of scratches on his hind legs that made sitting less comfortable than it had been previously. The hyenas still hunted the Pridelands of course, and from time to time the ever present tension flared into outright violence. One night a few weeks before a particularly bitter argument erupted over a hartebeest carcass Ahadi was guarding. He had stood his ground until overwhelming pressure of numbers had forced him to release the meat. It didn't end there however and Ahadi found himself surrounded with the hyenas closing in relentlessly. Akase and Falasha had arrived just in time with flying claw and ripping teeth to break the line of hyena. A couple of hyena had been killed in the ensuing bloody brawl, one of whom had been Shenzi's mother.
_______Ahadi broke into a run, his pads landing alongside the prints of his son. It was not long before he entered the thicket, slowing to a steady and cautious walk through the trees that could hide almost any animal. This was leopard country and he was taking no chances. He looked to both sides as his paws fell rhythmically on the thicket floor. Ahead he thought he heard a sound, a voice... a mandrill's voice, followed unmistakably by Scar's:
_______"You don't like Zazu much do you?"
_______"Zazu? Well, he's all right. He is rather nosy eh? You know."
_______"All right Rafiki," thought Ahadi as he approached unseen from downwind, "that's enough of that."
_______"But he thought I was still Scar, a lion cub."
_______"What? No? You are a mandrill. Listen, you do trust Rafiki?"
_______"Yeah, well, Dad does so I guess I should too but sometimes it's hard."
_______"Yes, it can be hard to trust others."
_______Ahadi padded quietly into the pair's field of view.
_______"See, now do you trust him?" Said Rafiki quietly into the cub's ear. Scar did not answer, he just shrank down fearfully as he realised that Zazu must have found his father as sent him here to collect him and take him back to Priderock.
_______"Well now Rafiki. Who's your fine mandrill friend? I've not seen him on the Pridelands before?"
_______Scar lifted his head up in surprise.
_______"He is my brother, Makedde. He is visiting me."
_______"Your brother? Well now, Makedde, it's a pleasure to meet you."
_______Rafiki whispered into Scar's ear.
_______"Better say hello to the king, Makedde. He's a very nice lion when you get to know him."
_______"Your majesty, I..." but Scar could not finish, after a few moments Ahadi broke the tension.
_______"Don't worry Makedde, we can talk more later. I'd best be getting back now. Tell you what, why don't you two come with me, then you can tell me all about yourself and how Rafiki managed to keep so quiet about you for all this time."
_______Scar looked at Rafiki for a lead, he gave it by holding his staff out in the direction of Priderock and nodding gently. Scar lead off and Ahadi stepped forward to his side smiling. Rafiki fell in behind the father and son. On the way back they chatted about the weather and mandrill's favourite foods and the difficulties of getting really fresh bananas. Rafiki never did see his cousin again....
_______On the flat, sun-warmed boulders below Priderock all was quiet as it usually was in the heat of the late afternoon. Akase lay relaxed as she waited for Ahadi's return, hopefully with the wandering Scar. She hoped he could be found before Immue arrived. Falasha lay nearby grooming herself lazily, paying particular attention to her left fore paw, which was still a little sore after receiving a cut just above the pads whilst out hunting. She slurped noisily as she moistened the wound and ran her grating tongue along the hardened skin. The little Mufasa played nearby, pouncing at insects, grasshoppers mainly, in the grass a short way off. He seemed totally engrossed in catching them only to release them soon after, waiting a few moments before pouncing again. Akase knew that he would be out of harm's way for a while longer. All was as it always was and the pride, or those who were not out on the plains, were at peace.
_______It was just getting round to the time when Akase grew restless and hungry as the heat of the day began to wear off when Immue slunk in silently. She came straight up to Akase and said in a tense tone:
_______"All right, where is he?"
_______"Who, Immue?" asked Akase trying to stall Immue in case Ahadi had just arrived at the rocks behind Immue.
_______"You know very well who, don't give me that 'innocent' stuff. Where's my son?" All traces of her normal veneer of politeness were gone, this was Immue in the raw.
_______"Your son? Oh you mean Scar. Well now, he's around. Er, Mufasa?"
_______The cub drew up from his pounce-ready crouch and answered his mother.
_______"Yeah Mum, what's up?"
_______"Mufasa dear, do you know where Scar is?"
_______"Yes, you little furball, where's my son?"
_______"Now then, that's enough." Akase snapped at Immue, clenching her teeth and giving a low, rumbling growl that was intended to signify: "Back off!"
_______"Well, now if it isn't the 'Queen'? I'm just as much Ahadi's mate as you are! And my son's going to be the next king!"
_______Akase pushed her forequarters up from the rock, tensing her shoulders and holding her snarl, she growled again; louder so that Falasha heard clearly.
_______"He'll never be king while I live. And where have you been today?"
_______"I don't have to tell you anything. Ha, call yourself a Queen?" Immue refused to back down in the face of Akase's warning and stood her ground proudly with her tail high.
_______"You do if you've been hunting and made a kill." Akase growled and eased her hindquarters from the rock to stand full square in front of Immue. Her bulk was much greater than that of the relatively slightly built upland lioness Immue, if blows were to be exchanged then Akase would be sure to prevail.
_______"I've not killed today. I may have been hunting, but that's not a crime is it? Or does the Queen have other ideas?" Still Immue kept up her defiance. Akase knew the time was getting close to when she would be forced to act or admit humiliating defeat to Immue. Akase was not know for being aggressive and this clear and public challenge to her position put her in a difficult and dangerous position. She looked intently into Immue's eyes for a few seconds before speaking again, all the while keeping up a continuous rasping growling.
_______"If you haven't killed then why is there blood on your cheek?" Her growl rose as she finished and she lunged at Immue in a final attempt to assert her authority as the senior lioness. Immue was surprised by the sudden rush of Akase and despite outward signs was not going to wait around to exchange blows. She turned in the face of Akase's lightning burst of power and ran as fast as she could, her tail flailing wildly as she bounded away.
_______Akase slowed and stopped after only a few paces, her sides heaving. She roared after the escaping Immue. She felt relieved that Immue had been so selfish with her kill, thus giving her a way out of the stand-off. She felt even more relieved when, a few minutes later, Ahadi returned with Scar and Rafiki.
_______"Oh Ahadi, thank the stars you've found him." She turned to the cub. "And where have you been? Don't you know it's dangerous out there? There's all sorts of animals that would like to take a young cub like you?"
_______"Hmmm, you have no idea." Replied Scar sarcastically.
_______"What? Now then I'll have none of that. If you were my cub I'd make sure you felt the back of my paw for that. So, where have you been?" Akase demanded, half expecting some retort or other, she was not disappointed.
_______"Well, I'm not your cub. You're not my mother. She says what I can and can't do, not you!" Scar turned away from Akase. He made the mistake, however, of turning towards Ahadi.
_______"But I am your father. Now, that's no way to talk to a lioness who cares about you. You had better say you're sorry or you'll not share a kill for two whole days." Scar stayed facing Ahadi but looked out to one side, across the plain. "Do you hear me?" Ahadi raised his left fore paw, not to strike Scar, but merely to warn him that he could do so if he felt the need. Scar mumbled under his breath as he turned back to Akase:
_______"Temper, temper." For a moment he refused to meet her gaze, then he raised his head and with all the conviction he could muster he said "I'm sorry Akase."
_______Akase saw Scar's expression carried a hint of remorse about it and smiled gently in reply.
_______"That's ok, but I do need to know where you went. I have to be able to tell your mother all about it you know. She cares about you very much."
_______Scar felt a little guilty at this. He hadn't realised his mother could be hurt by one of his little adventures.
_______"Well I..." Scar started, but Rafiki stepped in and spared him from any further awkwardness.
_______"He was with me all afternoon. We talked. He was a good little mandrill."
_______"Hmmm?" Scar felt a little embarrassed and foolish to have believed that Rafiki had really turned him into a mandrill, but he was certainly not going to admit that to Akase and Ahadi, and definitely not Mufasa who was standing a few lengths away.
_______"Hmmm indeed Scar. I hear you were a very good mandrill, do you want a banana?" Jested Ahadi gently. Scar turned away and dropped his head close to the ground in shame. "Oh, come on young'un." But Scar did not 'come on', instead he sank to the ground in front of Akase.
_______"Ahadi, what did you say that for?" Glared Akase in a whisper over scar, then raising her voice as she bent down to lick the top of Scar's head. "Up you get, I think I'd better take you home to your mother." Scar looked up and smiled uncertainly at Akase who looked reassuringly down at him. She offered him a paw, placing it gently by his side to hold as he got unsteadily to his paws. She lead him away, pausing only to throw a comment on the breeze to Ahadi: "You just can't trust lions can you?"
_______"...I see you brought him back then. You had him hidden did you?" Immue was impatient and did not wait for Akase's reply. "Well, give him here and be on your way, come on - I haven't got all day my dear." Immue stood on the ledge on the northern face of Priderock outside the cool cavern she called home. The cavern was not enclosed, at the far end, no more than ten metres from the north entrance, the floor sloped up to a narrow rock platform reachable from either side only by a powerful leap. "Come here my little one." Scar did not wait for Akase to respond to his mother and leapt to her and threaded his way among her forepaws, standing, albeit a little crouched, with the top of his head rubbing her dark and warm underfur. Akase realised that her carefully prepared speech was not going to help the situation and so it was consigned to her memory, never to be heard. She turned, unsmiling and resigned, and walked back the way she had come, back to her own cub, Mufasa, who would be expecting his evening feed.
_______Scar fed voraciously that evening. Immue lay back and enjoyed the company and intimacy of her only son as the light finally faded to leave the cavern dark and foreboding. She drew the tired cub to her with a forepaw and in time he dozed quietly on her forelegs, pressing his back up to her breast which moved gently with each breath. Scar felt secure and at peace, Immue licked his head and shoulders, not so much because he was dirty, but because she longed for the smell and taste of his young fur. Scar said little as he wavered in and out of sleep. In ten or more minutes the only words he said clearly were:
_______"I love you mother." In reply she gazed longingly at her cub and, softly and gently at first began to sing. Not a lullaby but words of love for her cub who was all she he ever had in the world:

I wanna call the stars down from the sky.
I wanna live a day that never dies.
I wanna change the world only for you,
Oh the impossible I wont do.

I wanna hold you close under the rain.
I wanna kiss your smile and feel the pain.
I know what's beautiful looking at you,
in a world of lies you are the truth.

And baby, every time you touch me I become a hero.
I'll make you safe no matter where you are
and bring you everything you ask for,
nothing is above me.
I'm shining like a candle in the dark
when you tell me that you love me.

I wanna make you see just what I was.
Show you the loneliness and what it does.
You walked into my life to stop my tears.
Everything's easy now I have you here.

And baby, every time you touch me I become a hero.
I'll make you safe no matter where you are
and bring you everything you ask for,
nothing is above me.
I'm shining like a candle in the dark
when you tell me that you love me.

In a world with out you,
I will always hunger.
All I need is your love to make me stronger....

And baby, every time you touch me I become a hero.
I'll make you safe no matter where you are
and bring you everything you ask for,
nothing is above me.
I'm shining like a candle in the dark
when you tell me that you love me.

_______By the time she had finished Scar was sleeping soundly and Immue, her evening's work done, allowed herself to doze with him. She, despite what she had said to Akase earlier that evening, had eaten well and had no need to hunt that night....
_______The pride settled down over the next few weeks; Immue kept her distance from the rest of the lionesses and for the most part kept the growing Scar with her. There was no repeat of the incident with Akase. Ahadi tried as best he might to spend time with both of his sons, Scar included, but Immue never let him see Scar for as long as he felt he needed to be a real father. They slowly grew more and more apart between each meeting and Mufasa and Scar rarely played or even saw much of one another. In time it got to be that when they did meet it was not as brothers nor even as friends but as distant relations who had a common blood bond but little else in common, they were like cousins who had only ever seen each other at family occasions where there was little chance to get to know each other. Yet Mufasa was always told that Scar was his only and true brother.
_______"But Dad, when can he come and play?" He often used to ask, Ahadi had no easy response, other than a vague; and to Mufasa, perplexing:
_______"One day. He'll come one day when he's ready."
_______To Scar Ahadi seemed to be more like an uncle than a father, he and his mother lived alone in the draughty cavern. All the time she told him that he would grow up to be her special lion: he would be a king, indeed he would be king of the pride when his father died. Scar liked his father but had never grown to love him. Ahadi was a distant figure of respect to Scar, a lion to keep a safe distance from rather than to snuggle up to, Scar could barely even remember his scent. Yet still Ahadi, the king of Priderock, was his father and Scar knew that one day he would follow in his father's great paw prints.
_______"One day," Ahadi told Scar on one of the rare occasions they had been allowed to be alone together, "You may be the king of a pride you know." Later, when Scar told his mother about the visit, she smiled broadly when she heard those words but said nothing further on the subject, hustling Scar, protesting loudly that he wasn't tired, off to curl up to sleep in the depths of the cavern.
_______It was just ten days later and Immue was restless, wondering whether to hunt that coming night or to leave it until the next day. She kept on getting up and lying down, trying to find something to do to relax her. Scar lay idly to one side teasing one of the mice that lived in the darker cracks in the cavern walls. His mother lay a little way off trying to wash herself fastidiously. Zazu alighted on the rock platform and, after a hurried check on his primaries, hopped cautiously into the mouth of the cavern. Immue saw him at once and looked towards him, noticing Scar's inattention.
_______"Scar dear, come on, we have company." Then she spotted the tail poking out from under his left forepaw. "Well dear, If you going to eat it then get on with it and don't play with it. There's a good cub."
_______Zazu gulped nervously.
_______"Yes, well Madam, I have come with something from the King."
_______Scar's ears pricked up and he jumped to his paws in anticipation; the mouse scurried away to a safe crack.
_______"Hey Zazu, is it lunch?" Said Scar hopefully.
_______"No, young master, it isn't. It's important."
_______"Nothing's as important as lunch? Yes mother?"
_______"Scar, now let's hear what Zazu has to say. Yes, yes... yes."
_______"Ahem, yes..." said Zazu retreating slightly, he was afraid that he might find himself unintentionally staying for lunch. "...The king has a very important..." he flapped and flew back to the ledge, talking mid-flight, "...announcement to make at sunset. It concerns the master here." With that he flew off altogether, leaving Immue and Scar to ponder on exactly what this announcement might be. Immue did not ponder long. She knew that this was the time when her son, Scar, would be proclaimed the future king over that overgrown plushie Mufasa. It was clear that Scar would make a much better king than any cub of Akase's, after all Scar had much more of the ruthless determination and refined cunning that would sustain him as ruler of the Pridelands for a very long time indeed.
_______Sunset drew close, hot and humid, and Immue; with Scar walking proudly close by her side, threaded her way through the waiting pride passing by the young, taut and lithe figure of Sarabi as she stood, alert and graceful, waiting for Ahadi to emerge from the cave. It was not common for all the pride to be together in such close proximity and the tension was beginning to create friction between some of the lionesses: a swatted paw here, a tail swished there, yet the seven month old Sarabi rose above it all and stood calm and self-assured in the red glow of the late sun. She was as serene a lioness as her father had once been a great king. Even in her cub coat, all spots and down-soft fur, it was evident that she was to grow into a unique and very special lioness, though as yet she had shown little inclination to hunt and precious little skill on the few occasions she had tried. But like her coat, there was to be plenty of time for all that to change. Scar however, hardly gave her a second glance and passed by silently as Sarabi's eyes followed him from an unmoving head.
_______Immue wove her silent way to the foot of pride rock thinking that, if nothing else, Ahadi had a good eye for theatre.
_______"Why all this? Hmmm?" She thought as she sat and then lay heavily on a relatively flat topped boulder, "My son deserves the best but this is, well, a little over the top. Yes, yes." She lay and waited, barely turning her ears to the tense growls and snarls of a skirmish in the making some way behind her. The growls suddenly stopped as a shadow passed over the setting sun and flew down to the flat of Priderock. Zazu's voice was heard, but none could quite catch the distant words or see their speaker. The voice stopped to be followed by an almost audible:
_______"What do you mean they can't hear me?". The lionesses keen hearing picked up the scuffling of folding wings and the skitter of avine feet on the hard rock. Zazu's beak appeared over the parapet. "Is this better?" He asked behind him before turning once more to face the pride below. "Ahem... I have to announce King Ahadi wishes to speak to you on a matter of great importance to you all: The future of the Pride. Pray silence for the King." He bowed slowly, turned and walked off slowly, his voice being heard one last time: "There, and I hope that was good enough for you, sire!" Even Sarabi and Narala couldn't help but giggle just a little.
_______Ahadi stood a little in front of the cave entrance, his shadow blackening the rock face behind him. He had been taking lessons from Rafiki and now felt confident enough to face his pride as a true king might. He had carefully prepared a speech, nothing fancy or long, just a few sentences of carefully chosen words; carefully chosen that is, by Rafiki. In the intensity of the rehearsals Ahadi had not taken the time to examine exactly what those words meant. There was no time for any last minute examination now. Zazu turned from the peak of the rock and hopped back as gracefully as he could, he paused for a moment in front of the king, asking with raised eyes:
_______"There, and I hope that was good enough for you, sire!"
_______Ahadi looked sternly at him for a moment before the sternness turned to a sudden emptiness in the pit of his stomach accompanied by the rapidly rising pounding of his heart. He felt he needed to rush off Priderock for a moment but forced himself to remember that he had already been three times that afternoon. He forced his ribcage forward and breathed in deeply, counting to three as slowly as he dared before letting the breath go again. Rafiki had said that it would help but Ahadi was beginning to think that Rafiki was occasionally economical with the truth. Rafiki's voice echoed through his mind:
_______"It is time."
_______"Yeah, but is it my time?" Ahadi asked the ephemeral mandrill in his thoughts. "Come on Ahadi, this is it. Time to tell it like it is!" He stepped forward, his foreleg felt soft and rubbery and he wobbled slightly. He looked down at it, it looked just the same as it had always been. He swung his tail round smartly. It's tip caught his side sharply, making both tail and flank sting. "Oww! That's another of Rafiki's tips I'll try to forget." He considered giving up until he turned his head back to see Akase with Mufasa standing in front of her looking proudly back to his father. Time seemed to stand still as he turned to the parapet of the promontory of Priderock and stepped forwards. When he reached it and looked over there was no sound of greeting, no tumultuous cacophony of rejoicing animals; nothing but the sunset, the grass and himself, he felt almost as if he were alone and he could pretend to himself that he was standing in front of his pride announcing his son's succession. He felt he could say anything as there was no one there to listen:
_______"Ah, my friends - my pride. I have called you here this evening to tell you that one day; when I am no longer able to lead you all; I will give the honour, privilege and duties of King of the Pridelands to my son." Ahadi paused to let this sink into his audience. He thought he heard a lioness purr somewhere close by and his foreleg buckled again. Then he remembered he was on his own. "He will however not be alone. He will have someone to be with him and support him, to hunt for him and I hope to love him. He will have..." again Ahadi paused for effect, this time he heard nothing but the silence of the breeze over the grass below, "...a lioness of rare beauty. Indeed if I were five years younger I might... Ahem, well enough of me. She, who will one day be the queen of Priderock, is Sarabi." A murmur of low voices flowed and rippled through the lionesses below. Ahadi could make no sense of the hushed tones and whispers yet he knew with unwavering certainty that he had said something very seriously wrong. The murmur grew and formed into a short phrase: "But she's his daughter too!". Rafiki had said that the news would be warmly received, Ahadi felt as if the plain was on fire below him, the tongues of the rising flames licking at his fur. Suddenly Sarabi was at his side, there on Priderock, staring at him in disbelief:
_______"Tell me it's not true?"
_______Ahadi looked at her, and saw at once that she was indeed so much more than a cub. She left him as quickly as she had come. He was looking once more at Akase and his very own Mufasa.
_______"It isn't true. I have lied to you. I have lied to you all." The tumult died. "I have kept something from you, even from my Akase. Sarabi is..." no one said a word. Even Rafiki, sitting on a rock ledge some way off to the south, sat perfectly still with fixed eyes and ears on Ahadi. "...not my daughter. She, and her sisters, are daughters of a once great king of a pride far from here. I did not conceive her, he did." Akase smiled at her mate in a heady mixture of relief and pride. She had often wondered, secretly when everybody else was asleep, just why Sarabi looked like she did. She also saw the pain on Ahadi's face that said more to Akase than his words could ever do; they said that he could not take Narala because she was Akase's older sister. Sarabi stared at her father high above her on Priderock with wide staring eyes she could not take in the simple fact that she was not the lioness she thought she was, that she was not the daughter of the king, but that she was just the daughter of a mere lion. She turned and for a moment seemed to Narala to be very likely to cry, but with Narala's steadying shoulder to lean into she managed to hold herself up with just a dampening of her eye that only she, and perhaps her mother, could have known about. Sarabi felt nothing for Mufasa, he was all very well to play with, chase and pounce on, but he was, well, he was a lion not a lioness, they were as different as zebra and crocodile.
_______"Mom," she said quietly, "do I have to be Mufasa's queen?"
_______"No, dear, not if you don't want to. It's all right. You forget that now, there's too much to think about all in one day." But, try as she might Sarabi could not forget about Mufasa and what she might have to do for him. She looked at Narala and thought about what this other lion had done to her and she could not understand any of it. She vowed never to grow up, never to be a lioness and certainly never to hunt as that way Mufasa would never want her as his queen.
_______Closer to the foot of the rock Immue lay seemingly unmoved by Ahadi's performance. She watched intently as Ahadi went on, his tone less formal and his manner less that of a king and more of a father.
_______"It's true, Sarabi is not mine and so she can be the mate of my son, Mufasa, who I intend shall be the next King of Priderock. He will be presented to all the animals in a few days when all the arrangements have been made." He paused again, the assembled pride, the whole strength of the Pridelands lion lay, sat and stood before him and all looked to him as their king and, in time they, or their cubs would look to Mufasa as King. The sun finally set on Ahadi as he stood there on the rock, it was as important a moment as any since the pride's arrival. It sealed an unsettled time, after the long hard and dangerous journey from the marsh lands the pride could not be totally sure they were on the Pridelands to stay. Now they knew that this was to be their home for as long as there were cubs to grow into lions. The Pridelands were now home.
_______After Ahadi had bid them all good hunting and retreated back to his family the pride dispersed. The last to go was the silent Immue, still lying outwardly calmly. Scar nuzzled her and called her to get up but for some time she did not and ignored all her son's attempts to rouse her, she just lay looking at the rock where Ahadi had just crushed her hopes and dreams. Eventually she got up sharply and with little more than a:
_______"Come on Scar dear, we have to get home. Yes, yes.", she was gone into the night, leaving only four sets of three inch long deep parallel scratch marks in the earth, some stained by a few drops of crimson.
_______Ahadi felt that, all things considered, the announcement of Mufasa's betrothal and succession had gone smoothly. With regard to the betrothal it was really a matter of there being little choice. Sarabi, or indeed one of her sisters, was the only possible choice as all the rest of the cubs of Mufasa's age had been sired by Ahadi. It had of course required the truth of Sarabi's parentage to be brought out into the open but there was really no alternative. So far at least Immue had remained silent regarding the details, however Ahadi had considered that probability and had told Akase all about it. Indeed it mattered little now his pride leadership was assured. In the early days, when a challenge had been more likely, though no challenger had even set paw upon the Pridelands, such a revelation would have severely undermined his position as King, now it was no more just a piece of colour in his youthful past. It was the matter of succession that troubled Ahadi now, Rafiki had warned him that trouble might lie ahead but could not be precise on how this trouble might manifest itself. Yet Mufasa's presentation lay just a couple of days ahead and nothing could be allowed to spoil this special moment for his son.
_______"So Rafiki, why is this so difficult to organise? For me it was all just there at dawn. What's there to do?"
_______"You think this is easy? Do you? Well I'll tell you this. You think I did nothing for your presentation eh? It took days and days, and all done while you slept. I had to call in quite a few favours for that you know. I have less friends now than I used to. I hope it was worth it! You, you don't know the half of what I do for you. You think this place runs itself? Eh?"
_______"Well, no, I know it doesn't and I know you do a lot and..." Ahadi tried frantically to guess what Rafiki might do but couldn't think of anything before the pause became obvious.
_______"See, you have no idea do you?"
_______"I do, I do! It's just that I can't remember it all right now."
_______"Eh? Come on, you can't hide from Rafiki. You know I know everything that goes on here."
_______"Really, I thought Zazu knows everything that goes on?"
_______"What? That little... He doesn't know anything. I'm the one. Me! He is just a pompous little feathered gossip. Eh? What does he know that I don't? Well, come on, tell Rafiki!"
_______Ahadi thought for a moment then said hopefully: "He says the average age of the seventeen male elephants on the Pridelands is twenty seven years."
_______"What? What use is that? And what is the average of the females eh?"
_______"He didn't say." Said Ahadi with a shake of his head, sending a few insects flying from his mane. One landed on Rafiki's arm. He nimbly picked it between finger and thumb and, with a peer and a smile, ate it.
_______"Mmmm. Not so bad. And why did he not tell you? Answer me that?"
_______"I guess he didn't know."
_______"Guess, what are you? King or cub? No, I tell you he didn't tell you because you never ask a female elephant her age, and if you do they always say twenty seven."
_______"You mean they've forgotten how old they are?"
_______Rafiki lifted his stick slowly as if preparing to use it.
_______"No, NO! See how little you know, female elephants don't grow old... they just smell that way!"
_______"Rafiki! Why you..." Ahadi got up quickly but the mandrill was already away and running between the boulders and towards the distant tree-topped ridge that lay between Priderock and his home, the baobab tree. Ahadi ran after him for a few metres before realising that pursuit was pointless so he sat down and regained his breath and waited for Rafiki to return as Ahadi was sure he would. "Kings," he mused to himself, "should not chase after their subjects, their subjects should chase after them. It's a good thing no lionesses chase after me, I don't think I could cope with that. Mufasa on the other paw..." he thought on, "...he may grow up to be worth chasing."
_______"What are you thinking now? Don't hold with all that thinking, not for kings anyway." Ahadi was startled out of thought by Rafiki's breath and voice on his cheek. "I tell you that Immue's got to be watched."
_______"What? Immue? No, she won't tell about Narala and me, not now anyways."
_______"Oh yes? And what is all this about Narala and you eh? Come on Tell Rafiki."
_______Ahadi lifted a forepaw and pushed his head over theatrically with it.
_______"Dohhh! Stupid kitty...!" He knew that Rafiki would not let him go until he had spilled the whole colourful truth. A few moments later any passers by would have been puzzled by the strange and inexplicable sight of a great lion sitting sternly while a seemingly deranged gibbering ape fell about the lion's forepaws in laughter.
_______The hours passed and Ahadi forgot Rafiki's warning, for the while at least. Any doubts as to Immue's changed nature were dispelled when she brought Scar over to the cave to play with a delighted Mufasa. She was all lightness and would do simply anything to help Akase. Indeed after a pleasant hour or so she offered to look after Mufasa while Akase took a nap, or went hunting or just wandered round to her old haunts and whiled away a few hours with her old friends, or even her sister, Narala. At first Akase was suspicious but there seemed to be no real reason for Immue to be suspected of anything and so, after many "You simply must have a break my dear, yes, yes, yes."'s, Akase gave in and left Mufasa and Scar playing together as Immue looked on, smiling.
_______Akase walked off quickly at first, glad to be able to spend a little time just for herself. She normally spent all her time with Mufasa or hunting or on some pride matter or other. There was little time for her to stop being Akase, mate to the King of Priderock and mother of the next King, and to be just Akase, the lioness. There were times when, tired and frayed, she would wander back to the cave long after Ahadi had gone to sleep only to wake before he did the next day. Now she was free, free to roam the plains, free to do anything she wanted. Now that she was free she found it difficult to know what she wanted to do. She wandered aimlessly for a while as she tried to remember what it was like to be able to do things on impulse and the moment, but somehow she just could not remember. She kept looking back to the rock, for a time she thought she couldn't see Immue, Scar and most importantly, Mufasa. She sat back and watched and waited... still she could not see her son. She was just beginning to wonder where they might be and whether she had already strayed too far from home when she spotted the trio. But they were not on the flat of the promontory, they were high up on the rock ledge that led to the top of the rock. Scar was leading Mufasa with Immue behind.
_______"What are they up to? Why are they going up there?" Akase suddenly felt a cold shiver of fear run down her back. "They could fall off up there!" She felt the shiver grow to a rush of panic which forced her up and back at a full run as the thought of her Mufasa falling to his death from the top of Priderock flashed through her. He could almost see his small body drop the first 20 metres of the eastern face of forbidding rock. He tumbled and screamed helplessly as Immue sat at the top and laughed. His body hit a protrusion and Akase could hear his back break with an agonising crack before his lifeless body thudded to the rock protrusion below. "NO! Mufasa! NO!" She forced herself violently up the rocks to where the body of her son had fallen but he was not there. She heard him cry out as he began to fall again. She looked up to where he had hit the stone edge high above her but she could not see it. All she saw was Mufasa's head poking over the edge of the top. She could barely hear a few faint words.
_______"Mufasa my dear, come away from there. We don't want you to fall now, do we? Hmmm? Yes, yes, yes, that's better. Let's all be going down now. Come on my dears, it's best we all went down now. I know this has been simply too much fun but all good things must come to an end."
_______Akase heard a few moans of protest from Mufasa and Scar:
_______"Aww, Immue, but Dad says I'm gonna rule it all."
_______"Oh goody..."
_______Akase forced herself to wait at the bottom, close to the entrance to the cave where the rock ledge that led up to the top of the Priderock began. She knew that if she followed them up it would only cause trouble as the ledge was too narrow in all expect a couple of places for a fully grown lioness to turn round. She heard the distant laughing, happy voices growing stronger, echoing off the rock faces, only to fade again. She wanted only to feel her Mufasa's fur on hers, to feel his heart beat close to hers but she could do little but wait as nearer and nearer came the shtick-tick of cubs claws on hard rock as he grew closer. Immue made no sound as she followed the cubs down the ledge.
_______"Hi Mom! It was great, I showed them everything."
_______"Come here at once Mufasa, you're not to go up there alone again! Do you hear?" Said Akase sharply, Mufasa was taken aback.
_______"But I wasn't alone, Scar and his mom were there too!" He protested as he ran to his mother and thrust his head against her forelegs. She bent her head down against his and drew in his scent.
_______"Yes, well, that doesn't change anything, you could have been killed."
_______"Aw come on mom, do ya think I would fall off?"
_______"No Mufasa, I didn't think you would fall."
_______"You don't think, my dear, that I would push him do you?" Asked Immue smoothly. Akase knew that that is exactly what she had thought but also felt that it had been an irrational idea, born out of what Akase knew was her tendency to overprotect Mufasa. If he was to grow up into an independent and self-confident lion she knew she had to let go a little and let him experience life for himself. Mufasa had to learn about life as it was, not as Akase would like to present it to him.
_______"No Immue, I just got worried - you know, as mothers do. I'm just glad you all got back ok. That's all." She nuzzled her son, just to make sure he was really back after all.
_______"Yes, yes, yes. I see. It's simply too easy for an accident to happen is it not. Don't worry, Mufasa is safe with me, I'll make sure he is treated just as he deserves. Yes, yes, yes. Now, if you're back we had better go. You know - things to do, Wildebeest to chase and all that."
_______"Oh, that's all right Immue, you go off if you like. Scar, you can come and play again soon if you like. How about tomorrow?"
_______"Yeah? Yeah, I'd like that. Mufasa? We could play 'King of the rock'."
_______"Oh, I'm sorry my dear, we can't make it tomorrow I'm afraid, but how about the day after? Hmmmm?"
_______"Yeah Scar - bags I'm first." Mufasa held his head as high as he could manage and tried to look down on Scar. "You can be the commoners."
_______"Hmmm....." said Scar, "as long as I can be king next."
_______"Enough of that you two. Now Scar dear, we'll come and see Mufasa again in a couple of days. Yes, yes, yes."
_______Later that night in the cavern Scar reflected on the afternoon as Immue lay, as usual, washing herself.
_______"Mother? Is Mufasa really going to be king?"
_______"Mufasa, my brother. You know he's great to play with. He does really awesome things with his tail."
_______"Oh, Mufasa. Oh, I wouldn't get too friendly with him, Scar dear. After all he won't ever be king. Yes, yes, yes."
_______"He won't be king? But Dad said..."
_______"He was severely mistaken. You will be king. You are the only choice."
_______"But what about Mufasa?" Scar insisted, not yet grasping what his mother really meant.
_______"What about him? He'll not live to be presented as the next king."
_______"Why? Is he sick?"
_______"NO! No, no. We're going to kill him."
_______"But what's he done?"
_______"My dear Scar, he didn't do anything." Said Immue mildly. Then her voice hardened and she became a little menacing, "His mistake was being born."
_______Mufasa lay impatiently swishing his tail. Akase had tried to get him to lie with her but he had refused as he was waiting for Scar to arrive. Ahadi wandered out of the cave, in the afternoon heat it was getting unbearably hot and the sun had long since passed leaving the flat of the promontory in deep shadow. He flopped down on the heated rock by Akase and leaned over and licked her cheek.
_______"Now don't start that." She protested, only half seriously, "Immue is bringing Scar over to see Mufasa."
_______"Oh good." Said Ahadi brightly, "She can take Mufasa out for a while. Then we can be alone together."
_______"Ahadi! Whatever is the king thinking? And what would we do together?"
_______"Anything you want. Anything at all." Ahadi smiled and then licked her again.
_______"Really Ahadi! Anyone would think I was in season or something."
_______"Akase, you're always 'or something' to me."
_______Akase drew her head back suddenly and looked at her mate through half closed eyes. She lifted a fore paw and batted it gently towards Ahadi who lunged his head forwards and caught it between his teeth gently and licked it before releasing it to Akase who stared hard at him. It had not hurt at all...
_______"Hey Mufasa, I'm here!" It was Scar's voice, shortly followed by a bouncy cub with a springing tail with the bulk of a lioness walking behind.
_______"Well, here we are. Yes, yes, yes. Oh you two do look good together. I know how pleased you must be to have a lion like that all to yourself my dear."
_______"Immue, now don't get any ideas."
_______"Ideas? Me Akase? No, no, no, it's King Ahadi there who's getting the ideas. Isn't that right my dear?"
_______"Well, Immue I'd like a chance to get more ideas, you know." said Ahadi hopefully.
_______"Scar? D'ya wanna go down the water hole? It's just so hot!"
_______"Hey you two, I'll take you if your Mum and Dad think it's Ok."
_______"Aww, come on Immue! Hey Scar, come on let's go!" Before anyone could say anything Mufasa ran off down the rocks closely followed by Scar. The pair bounded away full of youthful energy.
_______"Is it all right if they go? I'll bring them back safe and sound. I promise."
_______"I guess we don't have much choice, do we Ahadi." But Ahadi was not really listening as he started to rub his mane up against Akase's shoulders. Akase smiled in a way that said "I guess he doesn't mind." and Immue smiled and turned to leave, pausing only to call back as she dropped down from the expanse of the rock,
_______"I'll bring Mufasa back well before sunset. Yes, yes, yes."
_______"Has she gone?" Ahadi said close into Akase's ear as he licked it's rim.
_______"Yes dear, she's gone and she taken Mufasa with her. We're all alone."
_______"Are you tired?" Ahadi asked.
_______"No?" replied Akase puzzledly.
_______"Good, let's go in the cave then."
_______"Ahadi! What are you suggesting?" But Ahadi had already got up and was close to the cave mouth, he looked back and smiled mischievously at Akase who smiled in return. She knew exactly what he was suggesting and she didn't need to be asked again.
_______The afternoon cooled slowly but the cave on Priderock cooled even more slowly. Ahadi decided that his son's idea about cooling off in the water hole sounded very attractive. Akase, who lay contentedly on the cave floor was not too sure, but when she saw her mate bouncing around as if he were their son she decided to stay at his side and join him in an afternoon splash in the muddy water.
_______"What are we? We're just a pair of cubs."
_______"Cubs? Akase, we're not cubs any more. But just for now I'll pretend I am, just for you. Come on, let's go and show Mufasa what playing's really about." Ahadi looked towards Akase as she got up awkwardly as if to make out that she was a great-grandmother rather than a new mother. She shook her legs saying:
_______"Look what you did to me."
_______"Come on Akase, let's go!"
_______"Oh Ahadi, wait for me!" But he was gone, Akase ran off after him and caught him just below Priderock. Together they sprang and ran, looking at each other and laughing together. It was just a few short, breathless and beautiful minutes before they arrived at the water hole.
_______Scar stood nervously at the edge of the water, looking intently at his mother who was wading in the shallows. Mufasa was nowhere to be seen. Ahadi slowed and stopped as he looked around. Akase sprang up to his side, she had not yet realised Mufasa was missing.
_______"Hey serious, what's up?" She asked as she noticed Ahadi's concerned gaze. He did not answer, instead he shouted to Immue.
_______"Immue, where's Mufasa? I can't see him here?"
_______Immue turned her head sharply as if she had been interrupted.
_______"Oh, hello Ahadi. He was here just a moment ago, wasn't he Scar?"
_______Scar did not answer, he drew back in fear but said nothing.
_______"Where is my son Immue?" Ahadi asked again with more strength.
_______"He must have just wandered off for a bit. I'm sure he'll be back soon enough. Yes, yes, yes,"
_______Ahadi and Akase looked at each other and at Immue. They saw that a few tiny bubbles popped up around Immue's immersed forepaws. They wondered why Immue stood so awkwardly and did not move to greet them. It was as if she were standing on something in the water. The terrible truth hit Ahadi as if Immue had struck him a powerful blow. Now nothing on the Pridelands could hold his rage and strength, he roared shatteringly, sending every bird to the sky and every animal dashing for cover. He shot forwards towards Immue who jumped back and turned, just too late to avoid Ahadi's first blow that he had ever delivered in true anger. His fully unsheathed claws raked down her shoulder, opening it over a length of more than ten inches. She was knocked sideways and onto her back by the force of the blow, she landed on the water's edge and splashed out furiously at Ahadi who pounded through the water towards her. Spray flew up over them, covering the little cub Scar who cowered at the edge for a few moments before running over to Akase. But before he could reach the safety of his aunt, she lunged out across the water after Immue who had succeeded in filling Ahadi's eyes with enough mud to enable her to scramble from him as he thrashed out wildly in his rage and fury at anything that moved, even Akase who was caught on the left flank by a set of rear claws.
_______In all the confusion Immue managed to slip away from the water hole. Ahadi jumped out, water running off every part of his coat, and chased her as far as the borders of the Pridelands, over every rock, ridge, log, track, gully and valley but try as he might he never caught up with her. When she finally leapt the six foot deep narrow gully that marked the Pridelands north-eastern border Ahadi realised that he had lost her and resigned himself to never seeing her nor his son again. After a few moments to catch his breath he sadly followed the trial of Immue's fresh blood back to the water hole, which he finally reached close to sunset. The water had long since settled and Akase had gone, so had Scar. There was no sign of Mufasa's drowned body. For the first time Ahadi lay down by the water's edge and cried. He had lost his dearest son, and on the eve of his presentation. No one: no lion nor any other animal went close to the water hole that night until moonset. It was King Ahadi's private place and all the Pridelands mourned with him.
_______All except Akase, who once Immue and Ahadi had run off, had had the presence of mind to feel around in the mud where Immue had been standing. She felt a soft, still warm furry body and reached down into the water and lifted it out by what she though must be the scruff. For a few moments it lay lifeless in her gentle mouth. Then the body gasped and spluttered as Mufasa gulped in life giving air. Akase immediately forgot about Immue and Ahadi and carried the barely living cub back to Priderock. Scar followed a length or two behind, keeping just out of sight, he feared he might never see his mother again.
_______When Ahadi returned to Priderock a little before dawn the first few of the herds, who had grazed their way across the Pridelands over several days, were beginning to gather for the new king's presentation. Ahadi avoided all of them, he could not bring himself to tell anyone that his son Mufasa was dead, he hoped that they would all simply disappear and leave him alone as a lion and not a king. He kept to the shadows as he climbed up to the cave entrance. For a moment he felt that he could not enter and that all he deserved to do was to slip away and die unseen. His world, and with it the future of the Pridelands, had died there in the shallows of the water hole and Ahadi wished that he could die with it. There was only one reason for him to return, and she was probably inside the cave. He sniffed the still air that filtered from the cave mouth. On it he scented Akase: strong and, even now, inviting, and Mufasa and even Scar. Clearly their scent had lingered to haunt him.
_______"...and what of Scar. If he's still alive I suppose he will be..." but he could not think of that now. He remembered Scar's terrified look by the water's edge and thought that he could not have known what his mother was going to do. Indeed how could she have used Ahadi's own son against Mufasa? "Scar didn't know what she was going to do. How could he? He was just as frightened to see what she was doing." Mufasa's scent became stronger. For a second Ahadi thought that he must be alive after all. He had not seen the body. "No, what if he had just run off? What if he's lying asleep in the cave? No, what have I done? Help me!" He thought desperately. He rushed into the cave and there, lying fast asleep where he always slept was Mufasa, at his side, with his head over Mufasa's back lay Scar as fast asleep as his brother. It was a picture of contentment and peace but it hid a tale so dreadful that no one ever spoke of it again. Akase woke, if indeed she had been sleeping, as Ahadi rushed in.
_______"Where in the marsh lands have you been?"
_______"But... But Mufasa's alive, so Immue didn't drown him! He's alive!"
_______Ahadi wanted to wake and play and have his son climb all over him, but Akase stopped him.
_______"Leave him to sleep. He's had the worst day of his life. Immue nearly succeeded, Mufasa almost died. I fished him out and I..." she stopped and closed her eyes, holding, no, fighting back a flood or tears. "He was dead in my mouth. I held my own dead cub... and he fought back death and lives. He is a very special cub. He is our cub Ahadi; he is ours and he's alive."
_______Ahadi could say nothing and do even less. He no longer wanted to die, he wanted to live, he wanted to roar, he wanted to feel close to Akase, he wanted to live a whole life in just a few minutes but he could not. He lay down at Akase's side and, feeling her very softly purring, fell asleep with his head on her stretched out fore paws. It had been a very long night.
_______He was not allowed to sleep long. He was woken by Rafiki an hour later wanting to know if Mufasa was well enough to cope with the presentation ceremony. Panic broke out in the cave as Akase woke Mufasa, waking Scar who panicked thinking he was back in his cavern and shouted out for Immue. It was left to Ahadi to tell him that his mother would never return to the Pridelands....


_______Scar sat smiling on a rock below the promontory of Priderock as his lionesses dispersed in dismay whilst all around cane the baying hordes of Hyena. The moon shone down unwarmingly and Scar looked up to it and remembered. He was at long last the King of Priderock. He had finally triumphed over Mufasa and Ahadi and what had so long been denied him was now all his. Power, pure power to do anything he wanted, just so long as the hyenas agreed of course. More and more poured over the rocks behind him, voice after voice lifted up to the moon until one voice in particular caught Scar's ear.
_______"Yeah, we were prepared all right. Prepared for all this!"
_______Scar turned and pushed forwards with a flourish.
_______"Ah, my friends. I'm so glad you could come to my little party tonight."
_______"What? You call this a party? Scar, come on? Where's the food?"
_______Ed laughed beside his brother.
_______"Food? Oh well, if you really must eat at a time like this I'll see what Sarabi's got 'lion' around." Scar looked up away from Banzai, "That really is an awfully bad pun you know." He brought his head down menacingly. "You'll have to do better than that next time!"
_______"Whoa, now, that was Shenzi's, wasn't it Ed?"
_______Ed sniggered, nodding his head, sending droplets of saliva flying towards Scar.
_______"Oh, how revolting. Now you two, there's a little 'something' I want you to do. Oh it's so simple, you'll do it in no time. No time at all."
_______"Oh yeah, like what?"
_______"Oh, nothing, it's just that I would so much like to see someone special again."
_______"Hey, what? Like Mufasa? Ha-ha-haaa..." Ed joined Banzai in laughing in the way in which only hyenas can.
_______"No, fools." Said Scar roughly as he clouted Banzai with the back of his forepaw. "You're going to find my mother and bring her back to the Pridelands."
_______"Your mother? Immue? 'Oh little Scarie, do eat your greens, yes, yes, yes!'"
_______"You'll not need a description then. So you'll be starting off right away."
_______"Immue, now there's a real lioness, eh Scar? One of us, just like you."
_______"I said you'll be starting off..." he loomed down in front of Banzai, "right now..."
_______"Yeah, you know you look kinda like her close up?"
_______"Get out! And take your 'friend' here with you!" Scar roared. Banzai pulled back sharply, yelped in terror and ran off with Ed at his heels....
_______Some long tedious days later, and after a search of most of the lands surrounding the Pridelands, excepting the desert beyond the river which everyone knew was uncrossable, Banzai and Ed led a cautious and fearsome lioness back to the place which, for a few short months, she had almost called home. As she walked past the water hole she stopped for a moment and wondered what might have happened had that fateful afternoon not been quite so hot. She walked the few hundred metres to Priderock slowly, taking in the sights she had remembered for the long years alone, but she was used to being alone, it was living in a pride that was unknown to her. Though she was returning to her son, the King of Priderock, she was returning to uncertainty. She was to find the next few years with her son very difficult indeed....

Text Version of A Shining New Era.
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