Entry 154: "Mother"

We all had fun that night. But, we all eventually fell to exhaustion and slept comfortably and happily with our past fears behind us. Sarabi came to sleep by me for the first time and I laid one arm over her to keep her close. We dreamt at ease throughout the whole night. It was almost like paradise had opened up to this place. It was a heaven for all of us, unveiling itself to us in response to our victory. If it could last forever… if it could only last forever…

The next day came soon enough and Sarabi and I stood with my fellow pride sisters and my friends around us. We stood opposite from Ghana's pride. With our energies replenished through slumber, it was now time for us to head back to the Pridelands.

Ghana approached me and briefly bowed his head before me. "Again, we graciously thank you all for your assistance," he said. "And I wish you all well back at your kingdom."

I bowed down in reply and answered, "We did it together, Your Majesty."

"Busara, we'll keep in touch," Ghana said wishfully. "After all, you're one of us."

"I will, Your Majesty," Busara replied. "And… thank you."

With that, most of us gave one last call respective to our species and set out to venture out of the Destinylands. I gave an acknowledging nod to Ghana once more and followed suit, beginning our journey back to Pride Rock.


We had soon emerged from the snowy regions of land. However, as the seasons slowly changed around us, the snow became softer and wetter as we carried on. So, again, here I was marching in this vast desert. Congo the Gorilla yawned out loud as he walked. "What a night!" he exclaimed. "And what a battle! My only regret that Goldie didn't come with us."

"Yeah," Jumba murmured apprehensively. "We did just sort of march off on him. I wonder if he's still mad."

Ray crossed his arms and sighed, "If anything, I hope he took this time to think about what he did. Mufasa is a part of our family, and family should stick together. He betrayed all we made for ourselves."

I smiled warmheartedly, "Thank you, Ray. I really hope things will turn out alright with you guys."

"Yeah, same to you, Bud. Your old man must be pretty steamed."

"I'm prepared for anything he'll do to me. I don't regret ever going after Sarabi after she took my place to die."

Suddenly, Sarabi, who was walking by my side, came to a complete stop. I noticed after walking a short distance ahead of her and met the incredulous look on her face. "What's wrong, Sarabi?" I wondered.

"What did you say?" she asked.

"Huh? About you taking my place in the suicide mission?"

She shook her head in protest. "No, no, that's not right! You were going to take my place to go!" I turned completely around with a baffled grimace of my own. "What?"

Sarabi continued, "I was chosen from the beginning, but you begged your father into replacing me to spare my life. I couldn't let you die, not when you were finally starting to believe that it was worth being alive."

I argued, "No, it was me who was chosen as part of the mission from the start! You then found out about it and demanded that you take my place to save me!"

Then, we simultaneously exclaimed, "Taka was the one who said…!"

We suddenly ceased arguing once we inadvertently came upon a common source. And all the more, we grew confused. "My brother said that?" I repeated.

Sarabi replied, "Yes. And he told you that?"

"This is odd," another voice called.

We turned to find Kigali walking to us with a serious yet wondering stare. "I've been wondering why Sarabi decided to come with us," she said. "None of you were going to be chosen for our mission."

"What?!" Sarabi and I exclaimed.

"Ahadi and Uru specifically excluded the both of you. I couldn't tell you the real reason behind it, but I believe they may have noticed the two of you growing fond of each other and predicted that you two would become mates in the future."

I almost couldn't believe what I heard. But, the few blanks I drew in my head were finally becoming whole while other blanks were formed in its place. "Taka lied to us?" a thought I said out-loud. "But… why? And why Sarabi too? He likes her, too."

"Taka wanted me gone, too?" Sarabi wondered. "But… that could've been an act."

"Why would Taka set Mufasa and Sarabi up like this?" Sarafina wondered.

"Well…" Busara pondered, "…could it be that the two of them were perhaps a hindrance to a much larger mean?"

Suddenly, I pictured a distant yet an easily recollected memory…

Their laughs overlapping each other, Shenzi and her two brothers, Banzai and Ed, emerged from hiding and slowly approached me with taunting grins over their faces. Shenzi mocked, "You're nothing but a wishy-washy pussycat, what with your hormones runnin' outta control."

"Yeah, we're talkin' about you and your little would-be girlfriend," Banzai added. "I'm just sorry that it's not gonna work out."

"What are you talking about?" I wondered.

"Do yourself a favor and just jump off the edge of a gorge someplace," Shenzi said, waving her paw out toward the horizon. "Save yourself a lot of heartache."

"What do you know about that Sarabi chick anyway? How do you know she won't give you the ol' backstab?"

With that, the three hyenas began to head back to join their pack. But, I took one step after them and called, "Hey, wait!" The boys kept going for a distance while Shenzi immediately stopped and faced me once more. "What makes you so sure that Sarabi would betray me?"

"Go back to your castle and you'll see," Shenzi replied. "Go and see how devious women like her really are. Be sure to cry long and loud so we can hear you… just like you always do."

The hyena trio laughed in a derisive riot as they walked on back toward the direction of the graveyard...

…Remembering that, my suspicions rose. "Those hyenas knew Sarabi was going on that mission. Also…" Next, another thought replayed through my head…

You could've been king, Taka! You told me yourself that it was what you wanted most of all! But, he showed up and ruined everything for you! Know that, as long as he lives, you will never become king!

…Zahali had said that before she leapt to her doom. And I immediately came to one possibility that I desperately wanted to believe wasn't true. "No, no, no! Taka, you couldn't have listened to her, could you?! He couldn't have allied himself with the hyenas, could he?!" Sarabi came to calm me down and reassure my thoughts. "Stay calm, Mufasa," she purred. "We don't know that for sure."

"But, considering that the hyenas are still a major threat," Busara chimed in, "it's very possible that they wanted the two of you out of the way. Remembering that duel you both had all those years ago, you two are clearly the strongest of the pride."

Kigali nodded, "I agree; it's true. You know that I always analyze the fighting strengths of each lion in the pride. Mufasa, after much observation, you are certainly much stronger than King Ahadi. And Sarabi barely surpasses you due to her previous experiences."

"Really?" I replied.

"So, my theory still stands," Busara added. "With the much stronger members of the pride gone and assumed dead, the pride is vulnerable to any assault. In short, 'Divide and Conquer.'"

Zazu fluttered down to us in a panic and cried, "Then, you're saying that something might've happened while we were gone?"

"Exactly."

"Then, we have no time to waste!" I exclaimed. "We have to pick up the pace and fast!"

"Right!" everyone replied.

With that, we hastily continued on and raced speedily through the desert. We parted from the dying but lingering cool climate and ventured back into the desert's naturally smoldering heat. We ignored the small oases spaced far from each other. Smaller life casually marching and slithering up and down the mounds of sand were forced to avoid our collective marathon toward the Pridelands. We ignored everything for the sake of getting back home in time. I took the lead and continued on faster and faster still, inadvertently demanding the others to keep up with me. My heart racing only with me, I grew more and more apprehensive with each step. Again, I was afraid what I would find at my destination. I already felt… that something had happened while I was gone.

A faint scent caught my attention. I gradually came to a halt to confirm this familiar smell. Everyone stopped and came around me in anticipation of my intent. I faintly growled, "That smells like… fire."

"Yes, it is," Busara said, taking a moment to grab the scent in the air above him.

I noticed Jumba lifting up one ear with a wondering gleam in his eyes. I remembered that elephants could hear things further away than any of us; maybe he could gather a better idea of what was happening just ahead. "What do you hear?" I asked.

Jumba replied, "I hear… screaming… laughter."

"Whatever's going on, it ain't good," Congo said anxiously. "Let's keep movin!'"

I nodded in agreement and continued running with the others following suit.

As we ran, the sounds Jumba heard began to grow audible to the rest of us. Like he said, there were screams, cries that begged for salvation. And there was laughter, triumphant but maniacal laughs that echoed throughout the surrounding area. And finally, a lion gave a great cry of anguish that reverberated through our ears. Most of us, including myself, quickly recognized that roar in an instant. "That sounded like Zari!" Rajua exclaimed atop of Jumba. Finally, once we climbed up to the peak of a sandy hill, we witnessed a raging bush of wildfire that spread as far as we could see. Leaves of flame blazed around the falling jungle as animals staggered out from within, many collapsing and losing themselves in the fire that engulfed them. Trees grew weak and fell to the ground, burning along with the ashes of small creatures. I knew that place. My friends knew this place. That was Zari's jungle burning before us.

I held my breath and took a deep gulp, terrified of what I was seeing. "Our home…" Jumba gasped, trailing away from his sentence.

"How awful," Sarafina said, trembling.

Congo quickly recovered from his shock, and anger easily replaced his feelings. "Who did this?" he growled, looking around for whoever was responsible. Quickly taking initiative, I looked down to find many animals who managed to escape with their lives. "Jumba and Congo, you two and I are going in. Zazu, hurry and bring Rafiki here. The rest of you, see to those people's injuries."

"Right!" everyone agreed.

Immediately, we all split up in our assigned parties. Congo and I had Jumba to charge ahead, easily breaking through the fiery tree trunks and allowing the two of us a safe path to take. We were searching for survivors… for Zari.

His mighty tusks as his blades, Jumba rushed bravely through the blazing obstacles before him without faltering. I brought him knowing he could do this, but still I worried about him. "Jumba, how are you holding up?" I called.

"I'm alright, Mufasa!" Jumba exclaimed. "I won't let this stop me!"

"Zari! Zari!" Congo called. "Are you there?! Answer me!"

This was the first time I heard Congo refer to Zari by his real name; I could imagine that he must be dreadfully afraid what might have happened to his oldest friend. Soon, we came into an opening in the forest. It was the same watering hole where I first met everyone. There was nothing but one singed pelt of fur lying by the side of the river. "Zari!" I exclaimed. I quickly came to his side, his head hanging down the chasm where the river used to flow. I pulled him away by his neck and sharply nudged him in hopes of waking him. "Zari! Zari! Wake up! Zari!"

"Zari!" Congo and Jumba both called out to him.

Momentarily, Zari was heard groaning, and his body became tense before he grew at ease again. "He's weak but still alive," I said in relief. "Jumba, carry him and let's get out of here. I don't think there's any one left here."

"Okay!"

Jumba bowed his head to scoop Zari's body with his tusks, and we immediately went back the way we came as the flames began to intensify.

Back outside the forest, Sarabi and the others cared for the ones that came out alive with Busara running about to check on them and suggest a remedy. He quickly noticed us emerging from the wildfire and ran to check on the exhausted Zari. "He's barely alive. Not only has in been burnt, there are plenty of bite marks around him."

"Hyenas," I deduced.

"Apparently so. But, how could they have broken through their prison in the Elephant Graveyard?"

The golden lion was heard groaning once again, and he managed to reopen his ruby-colored eyes. "Zari!" Congo and Jumba exclaimed. Weakly, the lion looked around to regain his bearings and found his two friends by him. "Congo… Jumba… you both came back," he purred softly.

"Are you alright?" I asked anxiously.

Zari turned to me and gave me the same relieved look he gave to the others. "I'll live… Mufasa. What of… my family?"

"They're just fine," I nodded. "Busara and the others are caring for them right now."

"Thank goodness. Family… should stick together… and support each other. That's why I fought off those hyenas… to save everyone and the futures they each pursue. I think… I would've abandoned them all… just like my old pride did… if it weren't for you all."

"As long as you get it, it's alright," Congo replied, gently petting over Zari's mane. "You get some well-deserved sleep."

Zari smiled and purred with the gorilla's comforting touch, lulling him back to sleep. "I'll treat him now," Busara said. "Jumba, bring him here."

"Understood," Jumba agreed.

Shortly after, Zazu swiftly returned to us. However, Rafiki was nowhere in sight. "Rafiki isn't there, Mufasa!" he reported.

"He isn't?" I repeated. "Tch, he must be at Pride Rock."

"Speaking of which, we have to get back there quickly," said Kigali.

"You're right. Let Busara and Sarafina stay behind to care for the wounded while you round up Sarabi and the rest of the lionesses. We're leaving at once."

"Right!"

After she ran off to gather the lionesses, I continued giving orders. "Zazu, I'm sorry to keep pushing you like this. But, I need you to go on ahead to monitor what's happening at Pride Rock."

"Right away, Mufasa!"

Zazu quickly soared off just as Kigali returned with Sarabi and the rest of our fellow lions. "Alright, let's move!" I roared. The lionesses quickly acknowledged my cry and set off to make our return back to Pride Rock. I was about to join them until someone called for me. "Mufasa, wait!" I stopped to find both Minshasa and Congo coming after me. "Mufasa, can't I come with you guys to help?" Minshasa pleaded.

"Let me come with you guys!" Congo demanded. "I want to make those damned hyenas pay for what they did here!"

I didn't have much time to sit down and talk this over, but I knew I couldn't bring them along. I had to distract them with another thing to do. "I'm sorry, I need to both to stay put here and wait for me to come back. Busara will need some extra hands in transporting the wounded to Rafiki's place."

"But, Mufasa…!" Minshasa tried to say.

"Don't argue with me. You'll be helping a lot if you do this for me… and Zari as well. I'm sure he'll want his closest friends by his side when he wakes up."

They both looked back to see Jumba, Ray, Maggie, and Rajua helping in carrying their injured friends proportionate to their respective sizes. Many struggled to walk the way there, but not everyone could go on without staggering in pain if they didn't have a partner to walk with. Minshasa was quick to see the importance of this assignment. "You're right. I'll help make sure they get there safely." Minshasa quickly ran back, but Congo hesitated. "I'm sorry, Congo," I whispered. "But, please… stay here. If you insist on following us… then you'll have to get through me." Congo hissed violently and approached me until he stared directly down at me. I stood my ground and resisted faltering, staring back up at his furious, vengeful eyes. While I felt it was too dangerous for someone as young as Minshasa to come with us, I didn't want Congo to come because he was too angry. He had good reason to be upset, and I shared his feelings. But, I could feel nothing other than an intense desire for revenge, and I couldn't afford to have a "time bomb" running about in this venture. He was an immediate danger to a stealth mission… and a danger to himself. To protect his life, I would fight Congo without a second thought.

Congo stood down after his nerve was lost. "Thank you," I purred. "I promise you full compensation after this is over."

Congo murmured, "Right now… I hate you so much… for being so strong."

I smiled, "In a way, you only have yourself to blame."

The gorilla briefly chuckled in reply. With that, I quickly spun around and followed the lionesses back to Pride Rock.

Leaving the burning forest behind us, the lionesses and I ran with the sound of the wind across the disturbed earth. Tranquility was threatened as I noticed little to no life walking the land around us. With each falling step, I could feel the land trembling, not like an earthquake but like a living being shaking with fright. High in the sky, dark clouds loomed over us. It was as if heaven was trying hard to hold back its tears. Something was going to happen, I thought. Even if we get there to stop whatever's going on, something was going to happen and even my greatest effort won't make a difference. I shook my head to protest against these thoughts. I kept saying to myself that it wasn't going to happen. It won't, I swore it!

Pride Rock soon came within our sights, the kingdom and its surrounding land blanketed in the darkness of shadows. As quickly as I expected him to be, Zazu soared down to us to report the situation. "The lions and hyenas are in conflict," he said. "There have been casualties on both sides, but the hyenas have recently gained the upper hand after that monstrous Ru-gal showed up."

"Ru-gal is there?!" Kigali gasped. "What of our majesties?!"

"Ru-gal has the king beaten and threatens to kill him if the rest of the pride doesn't stand down."

"How many are there?" I asked.

"Well, the pride managed to pick off quite a number of hyenas. I say there are about 16 more of them left. The pride has them outnumbered but disadvantaged due to the hostage situation."

"Then, if we can catch them by surprise, we can easily turn the tide. Sarabi, Kigali, you two and the others split up and flank the hyenas from the left and the right. I'll come through the center as a distraction."

Kigali protested, "That means facing Ru-gal up front! That's crazy; she'll kill you!"

"No, she won't. I'm sure of it. Besides… I've been working hard with Congo and the others just for this moment. She won't beat me."

"I trust you, Mufasa," Sarabi nodded. "Kigali, we have our assignment. I'll flank right with my group while the rest of you flank left."

"Very well," Kigali nodded. "Let's go!"

Sarabi, Sahara, and two other lionesses split from us to head to the right of Pride Rock while Kigali and the remaining three went to the left. I was left continuing straight ahead with Zazu soaring by me. "Zazu, stay high in the sky and alert me once they make it into position."

"Understood. And for heaven sakes, please be careful."

Finally, Zazu flew back upwards while I gradually slowed down once I came to a decent distance away from Pride Rock.

I slowly crawled to the base of a thick grassy mound. I quietly crawled up just short of the top and peered over the other side. Sure enough, my mother, Uru, and the rest of the pride were kept under the hyenas' control as the enormous Ru-gal kept my wounded father pinned onto the ground. All the while, my brother, Taka, stood in between them, appearing particularly stressed and frightened. "What promise, Boy?" the demonic hybrid laughed out-loud. "I have never intended to spare their pathetic lives. Every last one of them will become part of our grand feast." Uru snarled at Taka with a furious yet perplexed stare. "Taka… how could you do that to your brother?"

"I don't know, I don't know!" Taka cried, shaking his head violently.

"Hurts to see everything you've worked for falling apart, doesn't it?" Ru-gal taunted slyly. "In the end, your dream to become king will only be just that, a silly pipe dream. It was so much fun stringing you along, so much that I even felt sorry for you. It's just too bad that you had to try to attack me earlier. I was nice enough to let you see your 'future queen' one last time before I devoured you both. But now, I've decided that you'll be another slab of meat for us right here and now. Though I suppose it doesn't matter to you how you die now, huh? You don't have anything else to live for anymore, do ya, traitor?"

Ru-gal laughed in insane triumph to the dark skies above along with her fellow hyenas while Taka stared down at the ground, broken along with the world around him. His tears quickly flowed along with his own urine spreading underneath himself. Mixed with his heartbreak, his deep regret, and his fear of his promised demise, my brother was utterly destroyed. Ru-gal simply laughed at his pitiful state, genuinely and thoroughly enjoying his pain as if it was an addictive drug to her. All of a sudden, Zazu gave one call from the sky, distracting Ru-gal from her laughter. The signal was received just in time. I was just about to explode and blow my cover too early.

Cease your barking… Monster.

I calmly marched up to the top of the mound and stood tall for all to see. I began my approach toward the war-zone while everyone except my unconscious father locked their sights onto me. The pride stood speechless at my presence, as well as the hyenas. Ru-gal's eyes were wide with disbelief, visibly shaking her head in denial that she saw me before her. My brother quickly stood back up, shivering in shameful fright before me. Finally, Mother was just as stunned if not more than everyone else, so emotionally overwhelmed to see me that she was instantly brought to tears. All the while, the plan was going smoothly.

I came as close as I could to distract everyone from noticing Sarabi and Kigali's groups from drawing closer to the hyenas from behind. Trying to recover from her obvious shock, Ru-gal regained composure and smiled derisively at me. "Why, if it isn't my dear Mufasa! I'm happy to see you still alive."

"I'm sure you are," I replied sharply.

"I assume you heard everything we've said. I'm so sorry you were given a pathetic brother such as him."

I briefly focused my stare toward Taka, still quivering in anticipation of how I must think about him now. He had lied to me. After I told him that I wouldn't do anything to hurt him, he set me up to die… even Sarabi, the woman he spent so much time with to win her affection. Of course I was hurt he did this. I slightly bared my fangs at him, displaying how upset and angry I was at him. But, I couldn't dwell on this point. Whether I truly hated him or not at this point wasn't relevant at this particular moment. I turned back toward Ru-gal and hissed, "And I'm sorry that the rest of your hyena friends won't be making it here, like you planned."

"What's that?"

"The 'Hyena Plague' is defeated; I made sure of that."

The hyenas were stunned and remained unable to respond with their usual taunts and threats. Ru-gal howled to them, "Don't you cower, fools! He's bluffing! Why, he is but just one lion, the only survivor of this king's futile endeavor to weaken our incoming army." She stomped one paw over the unconscious king as she said that, slightly agitating me. "Admit it, boy. You're all alone, helpless."

"You're wrong… on both counts. I'm not alone…"

I gave out one short roar just after I finished that bit of my sentence. Immediately in response, Sarabi and Kigali called out, their respective groups assault the hyenas while they were distracted! As I had hoped, the shackles over the rest of the lionesses were broken, and they joined in to help. Ru-gal took her attention from me in brief panic over what just happened. "What?! Where did they come from?!" This was my chance. "…And I'm certainly not helpless!" I roared. I charged quickly at Ru-gal, latching my fangs into her furry neck! Then, I stepped back and, with a great burst of energy, pulled Ru-gal with me, throwing her high in the air and over my head!

Ru-gal landed hard on the ground, catching everyone by surprise. As soon as she stood back up, Ru-gal turned back to me with her jaw hanging wide in shock. "How…? How can you be so strong?"

"Because you were a fool to think I would remain the same like you," I growled in reply.

The beast quickly stood back up but hesitated to come at me, taking one step backward as I took a step forward. I heard sounds of groaning underneath me, drawing my attention to my father who was just waking up. I was the first thing he saw when he opened his dazed eyes. He faintly blushed and smiled warmly as he purred, "Father…" I appeared as Grandfather Mohatu to him… just as everyone envisioned I was the day of my birth. I shook my head and softly replied, "No. It's me." Father frowned to clear his swayed vision, and his eyes grew wide once he recognized me. "Mufasa… you came back."

I nodded, "I came home."

I walked in front of Father to shield him from the stationary Ru-gal who still was bewildered by my strength. "I'll put an end to your ambition here… with your death."

"You mean to kill me?" Ru-gal replied solemnly. "Were we not kindred spirits?"

I didn't answer. My resolve hardened, I marched toward Ru-gal, unsheathing my claws with each step my four paws took. The hybrid was witlessly frightened, falling back to stay away from me. "Wait. Wait, Mufasa!" she begged. "Don't look at me like that! Not with those red eyes you have!"

"Prepare yourself, Ru-gal," I said, fully baring my fangs.

Ru-gal continued, "Surely… surely, you're still in pain like me! I can make it all better if you reconsider! Like your brother!"

I stopped in my tracks, the mention of my brother catching my attention. "He betrayed you, didn't he?" Ru-gal wildly smiled, nodding her head erratically. "You must hate him for that, right? Well then, allow me to… allow me to soothe your hate like the nice beast I am."

"What?!"

In an instant, Ru-gal sprinted past me and went on a mad dash after Taka! "I'll kill him for you, Mufasa!" she wailed. "I'll kill all that have ever made you suffer as much as I had! Because we're kindred spirits!" I spun around to run after her, crying out for Ru-gal to stop. But, she was deaf to my roars, swiftly coming after the frozen Taka with his massive jaws taking the lead. She was too far ahead. I wouldn't be able to catch up to stop her in time. Was this it? Was this the moment I feared would happen?

To both my surprise and Taka's, it was Mother who leapt at Ru-gal just as she was nearly inches away from the targeted lion! She latched her jaws around her thick, hairy neck, causing Ru-gal to wail out in pain and stagger backwards. But, the monstrous figure quickly regained balance and snatched Mother by her own neck, easily pulling her off and driving her into the ground! Pinned underneath her cage of fangs, she was unable to get away! "Mother!" I cried. Ru-gal hissed violently as she focused her eyes downward to her catch. "Why did you save him?" she growled. "Isn't he a traitor? Isn't Mufasa your only real son?"

Mother coughed and managed to say, "You're mistaken. I bore… two cubs. Mufasa… and Taka. They're both my sons… and I love them both very much."

This was the first time I ever heard Mother express genuine love for Taka. For the first time, I saw her as not just my mother… but Taka's mother as well. She continued, "People can change just as I have for Taka… and just as Mufasa has. But, you… you continue to stay the same: an insane beast looking for nothing but revenge and someone who simply feels the same as you do without one difference in opinion. So, I'll tell you this, and this much is absolute." With that, Mother shot her hot, ferocious eyes at Ru-gal, her iron resolve and bravery unwavering. "As you are now, you will never have a kindred spirit!"

And immediately, I heard the sound of bones bursting apart, my tears immediately flowing. I felt as if the heavens had betrayed me. How could they allow this to happen, I thought? Why did it come to this? No. I knew something like this would happen. I thought back to when I was running here. I had an ominous feeling that grew the closer I drew to this place. I couldn't shake this thought… that something would happen that I would not have any control over. So, I knew. I knew something like this would happen. But… but…! But, why her? Why her?! I was still a young cub in this massive world! There was so much I didn't know… things I wanted her to tell me! The heavens began to weep with me. I eventually felt their embrace all over my body. I had apologized to God and accepted His comfort. Then, a bolt of lightning sparked behind me. Together, we shared the feeling of rage. Ru-gal. I saw her figure clearly again, but the chasm between appeared to have grown larger than before. In this one action, I had never felt so distant from this evil creature. I never believed it would be possible for me to hate someone this much. But, He encouraged my anger with another bolt of lightning coupled with a roar of thunder. I stood there, focusing all my fury onto this accursed murderer who held my lifeless mother in her jaws and taking her spilt blood down her throat. I became an avenger who swore to slay the monstrous beast who killed my mother!

I started to run at Ru-gal once again in a mad rage, but Ru-gal flung Mother's body into me to stop me. She howled to her fellow hyenas. "Everyone, retreat!" Immediately, the hyenas went and fled for their lives with Ru-gal following suit. She shortly stopped and glared at the two of us, biting down the back of her jaw. "How could I ever begin to change?" she roared. "Change is easy if you're not a monster!" Finally, Ru-gal continued on to make her escape.

Enraged, I tried to go after them, but I quickly stopped to look down at Mother's body, her fleeting blood mixing with the puddles of rain. Forgetting my anger, I slowly approached her. Her jaw was wide open and her eyes bulged and nearly rolled to the back of her head. Looking at her grotesque expression made me feel ill, and that feeling made me ache even more inside my chest. Father was there sitting by her side, barely containing his own emotions from running rampant. As the rest of the pride gathered around us, Father reached out to carefully close her eyes and her mouth to make her appear a bit more peaceful and dignified. "Uru," he sobbed, tears starting to gush from his eyes. He had forgotten his role as a king. He was a lion who had lost his mate in the most horrible way. He howled a guttural scream only he could do, lost in a spasm of incomprehensible cries. We all witnessed the same nightmare. The lionesses gathered in anguish and comforted each other in their collective sorrow. Just when I felt so distant and alone, Sarabi quickly came to my side, nestling into my wet mane and quietly sniffling to herself. I finally allowed my head to fall forward and sobbed with her. Zazu was by my front leg, placing his wing over my paw to let me know he was there. I was blessed to have them both here. I had hoped that my brother had at least one to comfort him.

But, Taka was alone. He sat there by himself as he looked over our mother's corpse. He desperately reached out to her. With conflict between his guilt and his natural love for her, he hesitantly tried to approach her. But, he quickly stopped the moment he heard the collective sound of snarls and hisses. Nearly all the lionesses had turned their gaze toward him, all looking downcast and spiteful. The same women who adored his charm now bared their fangs at him, sending Taka staggering backwards in fright. They entrapped him as they gathered around my brother. They hovered over them like ominous apparitions in a nightmare. He was surrounded… and alone. I immediately forgot my own disappointment in my brother once I saw a situation I knew too well. Taka had fallen from grace and became the lion I used to be.

The lionesses quietly growled at Taka, backing him against the wall behind him. "Look… at what you done!" one lioness hissed. "Your own mother… gone because of you!"

"N, no! I, I, I never meant for this to happen!" Taka stammered frantically. "Ru-gal promised she would spare you all if I did!"

Another lioness quickly shot back, "Nothing good would ever come from siding with the hyenas! How stupid are you to believe they would actually agree to your terms?!"

"We all really liked you, Taka," Ashleigh sniffled. "You had all you ever needed to begin with, but it wasn't enough, was it?"

"Hmph! Apparently, being the king is all that really mattered to you," Lina scoffed, tears still in her eyes. "To think you would manipulate Sarabi and your brother like that…"

I peered down toward Sarabi and found her turning away from Taka's pleading glance. My brother was nearly destroyed by her shunning him, but he focused his sight on Father who was still mourning our mother's passing. "Father?" he called out. "Father, I never wanted this to happen. Please tell me you believe me." We all focused our attention to the king. At last, he raised his head in response to Taka's plea. His eyes were still glazed over by his constant tears, but he fixed his sight onto Taka who eagerly waited for his answer. Father spent so long imposing Taka's destiny to become the next king after him since I was thought dead. He fought so hard for it that he had made that law to never recall my ever existed all those years ago. He fought for his right to continue living after he failed to climb up the stone hill with me. He saw himself in him. To Father, Taka was an embodiment of himself, a lion portrayed as weak and expected to have only underwhelming achievements in his lifetime… unlike me who was seen as the "second Mohatu." In a way, I felt that Father loved Taka far more than he loved me. But, it eventually appeared that even that love was fragile. Father had shut his eyes and turned his head away from his second son, saying "I don't know what to believe now." My brother was uttered crushed. The world he had made for himself was in complete shambles around him. He collapsed to the ground and held his paws over his head, entering a wild spasm of incessant shrieks. Lina, deciding that she heard enough, copped his one across his face to make him silent and pinned him down by his neck. Finally, declarations of his judgment overlapped each other as the lionesses quarreled amongst themselves. There were shouts to kill him right then and there, shouts of drowning him, offers of tossing him off a gorge of spikes, and ideas of offering him to Ru-gal as a meal. Father was still devastated over Mother's death that he didn't bother to try to regain order over the pride. This was insane, I thought. They were all out of control! I couldn't stand it. Something had to be done!

I released another giant roar that echoed along with the rumbling thunder around us. The pride was immediately silenced and turned their attention to me. Father was also stirred from his sorrow, fixed onto me in intrigue. I took one step forward and calmly declared, "Lina, let Taka go." Most of them were perplexed and hesitant to believe what I had said. Stubbornly, Lina protested, "Let him go? Are you serious?! He betrayed us; don't you under-?"

I raised my voice and shouted, "I SAID LET HIM GO!!"

Lina slightly jumped back, nervously releasing Taka. He rose back up to his feet, finally focused onto me with bewildered, bloodshot eyes. "Come here, Taka," I said. He was quite confused and also disbelieving that I of all people would stand up for him. But, the lionesses made a path through their semi-circle, and Taka slowly came after me. He looked up at me and tried to force himself to say something, but I avoided conversation to pass by him and stand in between him and the pride as a guard. The lionesses were quick to question my actions. "Are you trying to protect him from us?"

"I can't believe you're so soft and forgiving just because he's your brother!"

I replied, "You're all acting too rashly! Were you not paying attention to what just happened here? Queen Uru has given her life and for what reason? To save her son! You're all sick to suggest doing such things to a fellow lion, but most of all, you all are downright evil to make my mother's offers to be all in vain! I can say now that Ru-gal is not a monster or at least isn't the only one. It's pitifully ironic to be called a 'beast' myself by you all at one time."

I had made myself very clear, it looked like. The lionesses abandoned their rage and stared down at the ground with guilt and shame. I turned my attention to Father and spoke to him. "Father, I know firstpaw how manipulative Ru-gal is. Taka is burdened with so many fears and doubt ever since he learned that he was never officially acknowledged as a lion prince; it comes to no surprise to me that Taka fell for her lies. But, I know that his crime cannot be ignored. So, I suggest that you put Taka in probation; don't allow Taka to leave on his own without an escort, in the very least." Father thought carefully in light of the points I have made and eventually came to a decision. "I agree," he nodded. "I declare that Taka will be on strict probation until whatever time I feel is necessary. Are there any objections?" Reluctantly, the pride remained silent. "Good," Father purred. "I don't want to hear anything else about it." That settled, I sighed in exasperated relief. Taka quietly purred to me, "Mufasa, I'm, uh… Thank you."

I quietly replied, "You're on your own now. It's too much to ask for everyone to simply forgive this. You're going to have to work hard to win their trust back… even mine."

"Exactly," Sarabi agreed sharply.

Defeated but in agreement, Taka bent down his head and nodded in reply.


The rain finally stopped. Behind Pride Rock, we all gathered across from the kingdom walls. The pride was silent, their eyes shut and their heads bent down in prayer. Busara and Sarafina had recently rejoined us. After losing her second mother, it was surely difficult for Sarafina to cease her tears during our prayer while Busara hugged around her to give her comfort. Rafiki had finally appeared. No one knew where he had disappeared to, but we all paid it no mind. He had Mother lying peacefully along a bed of flowers. He sat before her now-clean body with his walking stick in his lap and his hands clasped together before him. Father stood by him while Taka and I sat at opposite sides of the both of them and across from each other. We wished for her safe journey. Wherever she was in the next life, we wished her a safe journey. And I will always remember her idea of change and what she said to me before I left. Never give in until there was nothing left. If I had given in earlier, things may have turned out differently… for the worst. I promised my mother that I will always be resilient. No matter whatever happens, I will keep fighting for a better outcome, an outcome that will allow to us to keep our precious lives a little longer.

The brilliance of the moon pierced through the dark clouds, basking over Mother's beautiful deep cinnamon figure. We all roared to the skies as one, acknowledging the proof of passing…

Farewell and love always, Uru the moon…