A/N: New project! At this time, I have up to chapter 5 written and revised. I'll be writing this as I go, but I have an idea of what the endimg will be (I think... I seem to say that then change my mind). As with JBtS and PoF, expect a chapter update probably about once a month. :) My Word document says I started this in early 2014, but nothing really happened until the middle of this year. I did consider adding Tanga and Asuma, but have since change direction and will be focusing on one new character along with Kiara and Kovu. ;) So, please enjoy...

- King's Heir -

Shembre


"Kiara!"

When Simba charged up to his daughter, Kiara, and the rogue she was alone with, there was no mistaking the mistrust in the enraged, red-maned king's eyes. Her father's bellowing roar cut through the smoke-filled air as he glowered at the younger, dark-maned stranger. Kovu took a step back, but held his ground.

Kiara gaped in horror. After her mother, Nala, rushed to her side and nuzzled her damp cheek, her horror turned into indignation. On the other side of the river, the dry grasslands burned, glowing red in the fading light of the evening. Kiara's throat felt scorched and her eyes burned from the smoke. A small flock of frightened birds howled whilst they passed overhead. Whole herds of zebra and gazelle had fled the deadly flames that had nearly claimed Kiara's life. Kovu saved me! He, like the fire, had come out of nowhere, had scooped her up, and had taken her across the river to the safety of the Pride Lands.

Simba bared his teeth. "Kiara, I almost lost you. No more hunts for you—not ever!"

"No!" Kiara glared at her father. "Daddy, I was doing just fine—even before Kovu—"

"Kovu!" Simba's eyes widened at the name of their enemy's son. He roared again, and this time Kovu lowered his head and roared back.

Kiara lowered her ears as her furious father and the green-eyed young lion, who she'd met long ago as a cub, snarled at each other like they were about to fight over the last scrap of meat in the world. Kiara was relieved when Rafiki suddenly appeared and diffused her father's anger, confirming that he had seen Kovu save the princess from the wildfire. Relieved, she silently thanked the Great Kings.

Good thing little seems to escape our shaman.

Simba raised his eyebrow in disbelief at Kovu."You? You saved her?" He narrowed his eyes. "Why?"

"I'm afraid to say that I was hunting nearby. I saw her. She'd collapsed, and I acted," Kovu explained calmly. "Now all I humbly ask is to join your pride—"

"No!" Simba charged at Kovu. They stood nose to nose. "You were banished with Zira and the other Outsiders."

Kovu held his ground, his teeth gritted. "I was only a cub. No more than an infant," he said coolly. "I have left the Outsiders. I'm a rogue." He heaved a sigh, puffed his chest. "Judge me now, for who I am…" Narrowing his green eyes, he lowered his head and pinned his ears back into his dark mane. He spat, "Or am I to be blamed for a crime I didn't commit?"

Kiara tensed. She opened her mouth to argue for Kovu's cause. Why shouldn't he be given a chance? Was he just like the other Outsiders, who were selfish and conniving? He'd rescued her. Did he remember how she'd saved him, too, from a river crocodile? She wasn't sure what her father was thinking, seeing... But Kovu wasn't the murderer who'd thrown her grandfather from a cliff. Had Kovu ordered hyenas to chase and kill Simba, forced him into exile, or engaged him in a fight to the death? No. Kovu was not her Great Uncle Scar.

She watched in surprise as the situation finally turned in Kovu's favor—Queen Nala reminded Simba that he owed Kovu for saving their daughter's life, and Zazu, his majordomo, grudgingly reminded him of his own laws— all debts must be honored.

"Though you might want to make an exception," the blue hornbill added with a scowl.

Kiara watched her father with pleading eyes, though he never looked over at her. Please, Daddy, just give someone a chance, just this once…

A slow, almost unimpressed smile came over her father's face. "I'll respect my father's laws. For now I'll reserve judgment." He turned away, leading everyone home to Pride Rock. "We'll see who you really are." The sun was nearly gone from the sky that was a dark, ashy red.

There you go, Daddy. Not everything in this world is so terrible.

Kovu gave Kiara a half-lidded smile—a roguish grin for sure.

She grinned back.


A/N: Real chapters officially kick off on Halloween! They kinda needed a little buffer...