Last chapter. Dunno what to say... "Kool-aid?"
The lions lost sight of the hyena within two hours, but that didn't matter. There had been no rain at all, and the tracks of hundreds of hyenas and about twenty lionesses were practically fresh. Twenty lionesses and two lions, that is. Simba and Nuka only stopped for small hunts and water. Two days passed. "What on earth was he doing?" Nuka asked as they walked.
"I can tell ya' what he wasn't," answered Simba. "Using his head. He migrated a pride! With hyenas! He must have it in his head that he could rule over them. That he was the king and Mufasa had stolen his pride. I just wish I knew where he thought was their home." They didn't have to wait.
The boys came to a canyon and when they reached the edged of one of the cliff tops, they immediately ducked down. The pride was in a 'center room' of the canyon, and hyenas seemed to take up the rest of the space.
The boys crawled along the edge of the canyon wall to the best spying spot, perfectly blocking the view of themselves from anyone below.
"I don't see my mother," Nuka whispered.
Simba thought back. "I don't remember scenting her that day."
"You think she's dead?"
"If she were dead, why wouldn't Scar go through as much trouble to get rid of the body as me? No, she saw it coming right before it happened, panicked, and split. She probably knows what set this off," Simba concluded. "Let's figure out what we can from here, come up with some kind of plan."
"When lionesses hunt, do they ever plan things ahead of time?"
Simba understood and realized what Nuka meant. "No. Whenever they try to plan and don't just follow their gut, they lose the prey."
"So let's watch and do what our guts tell us…" The boys had good timing, because a small drama was unfolding below.
Scar had just managed to feed all the hyenas and himself while the lionesses and Mufasa were nearly starved. Scar was at the center of 'room.' And Simba noticed that the lioness that seemed to be confronting him was Nala, all grown up. His heart did a flip and a half.
"Scar," she said below, loud, strong, and clear, "we need food! You can feed a hundred hyenas, but not your own pride!"
"The lionesses should be hunting. If they refuse to, that's their fault, not mine!"
"You won't let them! Don't you get it? You are killing us!"
Scar narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Nala. "You miss him, don't you?" The question caught her off guard.
"Simba, you miss him."
"I was betrothed to him. He was the only one in the pride my own age. How could I not miss him?"
"I had hoped you would be willing to replace the status of my former wife. With those devil-cubs out of the way, like Simba, I need a queen. And heirs." Nala recoiled in disgust. Sarabi and another lioness had to restrain Sarafina from attacking Scar. Mufasa barely contained himself. Even some of the hyenas stuck out their tongues in disgust! Simba took it the worst. He nearly gave away the boys' hiding spot! He was lucky Nuka was smart enough not to freak.
"You must be sick!" Nala spat.
"Just think, Nala. Complete control over all of the Pridelands!"
"We aren't in the Pridelands! We've been living in a hole in the ground for months now! There's nothing to rule but a bunch of hyenas who don't even really care about their commander!"
"I always knew you were a freak like your mother! A complete and total-"
"DON'T EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!" Nala yelled, this time actually spitting on Scar. Scar leapt up and struck her, her charging mother, and the charging Sarabi. Simba couldn't hold back anymore. He was GOING with his instincts.
All of the canyon's inhabitants looked up to see Simba standing there after Simba roared. He jumped down, landing hard on the canyon's bottom. Pain shot up Simba's left hind leg. The jump should have killed him, but adrenaline is a funny thing, isn't it?
No one recognized him. He survived a seventy foot jump, was huge, seemed to glow, and looked ready to kill- all these factors understandably led to the assumption that Simba was a god.
"Scar, you withering, lying, murdering, loathsome little parasite!" Simba screamed. "How dare you!" Simba was just walking. None of the hyenas wanted to fight him. But it was a long walk…
"Who are you?" Scar demanded. He was so off the deep end, he was the only one not afraid. Or else he was a great actor.
Simba stopped in his tracks and chuckled. Once. "Don't you remember. You killed me." Simba had their attention.
Scar's eyes showed his fear. "You…"
"You had the hyenas kill the twins. They died to save me. You see, I was never actually dead!" Simba was advancing again. He was twenty feet from Scar. Sarabi ran up in front of him. She stared into his eyes.
"Simba!" Sarabi cried and embraced her son. Mufasa rushed through the frightened hyenas and joined his wife. The rest of the lionesses (except Nala who was too close to Scar to move) ran to their prince as well. Simba advanced further. He did not want mushy stuff yet. In a second or two, the hyenas would realize Simba was mortal, and Simba needed to avenge the twins.
A female hyena stepped in front of him. "Don't touch him!" Simba stopped. "I know you!" It was the hyena from the elephant graveyard the day before the stampede. The stampede! "Scar tried to kill me and my father that day!"
Simba walked past the hyena to continue to Scar, but he stopped again. Scar had Nala's throat in his paw, his claws just pricking into some small blood vessels in her throat. "I'd be careful, Simba. I might go off the edge!"
"Fight me!" Simba challenged.
"Excuse me?" Scar's grip tightened on Nala's throat. Blood trickled from beneath his claws. Nala never showed pain willingly, and her face was fraught with pain. To save you… thought Simba.
"You are old, but now technique. I'm young, but inexperienced and still weak from not having enough to eat. You on the other hand… Fight me! Fair! Winner will have 'possession' of all of these others! The other dies!" Simba watched Scar calculate. He was mad, not stupid.
"Agreed. Here. Now. I'd say goodbye to your mother now!" Scar threw Nala out of the center ring of the canyon room. Simba's heartbeat raced. He'd never fought anything but the hyenas at Pride Rock. Mufasa had told him some pointers once, but they weren't for serious combat.
A living ring formed around Scar and Simba, hyenas around Scar's half, the pride lionesses behind Simba. Simba flexed his left hind leg. Scar knew that was his weakness. So what was his?
Scar attacked. He leapt through the air at Simba's throat and Simba ran out of the way. When Simba turned to see what Scar did next, he found his uncle on his back, biting into his mane. He sprang around, snarling and kicking like a Zebra with a leopard on its back. Simba jumped up and flipped over, landing his back in Scar chest.
"Oof!" Simba heard a rib break in Scar's chest. Simba tried to get up to pin Scar, but Scar grabbed Simba around the throat, holding him down. Of course, this action held Simba on top of Scar's chest, suffocating him as well. Scar somehow managed to flip Simba down onto the ground, pinning him down. Scar held him there and took the top of Simba's mane in his mouth.
"AAAARRRRRAAAUU!" Scar stepped onto Simba's left hind leg.
"That hurt!" screamed Scar.
"RRAAAAAHHHH!" Simba swung one of his paws across Scar's face! Scar immediately got off, holding his face the whole time. Simba got up and Scar turned back. They rose up to meet each other, clawing each other apart. One blow made Simba lose his footing and fall on his back. Scar was about to slash Simba's face. That would kill Simba if Scar aimed right, and Simba couldn't move. But right as Scar's claws were about to lodge in Simba's skull, someone jumped in front. Everything went in slow motion. The lion fell into Simba's chest.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Simba looked at Nuka's face. Both of Simba and Scar stopped. Nuka looked up at Simba. Scar's claws had gone straight into Nuka's chest.
"Simba," he coughed.
"Nuka? Why did you…?"
"It doesn't matter if he murdered her or not, he killed my mother."
"Nuka, you're the only brother I have! You can't leave me!"
"You were the only father I had. I couldn't let you fall. No one deserves to fall that early in life."
"Not this early either! You shouldn't have done this!"
Nuka smiled, blood dripping from his mouth. Scar showed no emotion.
"Only One, both strong and true
Brave and Wise,
Can save the victims
From his fatal lies…"
"Well said, Nuka," Simba tried to smile through tears.
"Simba. It's okay. I tried. And I succeeded!" And Nuka's handsome face gave out, he slumped down on the ground. Blood dribbled from his mouth. Simba closed his deceased brother's eyes and bowed his head in sadness.
Simba was on top of Scar in a second! "HE WAS YOUR SON! WHAT DID HE MEAN YOU KILLED HIS MOTHER!"
"Please, Simba! It's not my idea! It's Scar's!
"SAVE THE CRAP!"
"I didn't do anythi-"
"Tell me, or you WILL die! I've won this! One wrong move and you are dead and you aren't moving me anytime soon! I had no intention to kill you when I came into this, but then came Nuka! What happened!" Scar didn't answer. And Simba saw.
"You abused her! Her and Nuka!" Scar's face turned guilty; trying to form words but not uttering a sound and trying but not able to meet Simba's eyes.
"Vitani isn't your daughter! Zira found someone else who didn't abuse her or her son! That's what Nuka wanted me to know!" Now Scar was just angry. "She's probably with him now! She loved Nuka, but feared his fraternal genes! You found out about the other lion and went to your old pals the hyenas, who helped you to try and murder my father and me when I was a cub! But they aren't cooperating anymore, are they?" Scar looked around. Hyenas have few values, but one thing they can't stand is an abusive husband or father. Scar looked at Simba pleadingly.
"You are free to go, Uncle. I won. So I hereby order every hyena here to leave the Pridelands for the rest of their breed's existence. And the pride goes back to Pride Rock."
"You can't let the hyenas kill me, Simba! I'm your Uncle!"
"My uncle was Taka, not Scar. Scar is a rogue who betrayed my uncle. Run. Run away, Scar, and don't ever return. Otherwise, I will let the hyenas have you!"
Simba stepped off of Scar. And he did run. The hyenas let him pass and gave him a five minute head start.
Simba and Mufasa were underneath the promontory of Pride Rock. The drought dispersed with the return of the land's king. The herds were back and the pride was healthy. A month ago, Simba sent out scouts to recover the bodies of the twin sisters who had died. He wanted them buried next to Nuka's body, which was beneath a single tree near his favorite stargazing spot.
Scar's hyenas had done a number on Mufasa. Only one of his legs was still healthy, and the time without food in the canyon had affected his strength more than the lionesses. He was no longer strong enough to rule as king. Simba was to take his place today. He was getting married.
On the march back to Pride Rock from the canyon, the two had set off for some alone time. The moon made Nala's eyes sparkle and Simba's mane shimmer. Simba looked at Nala. She was unlike any lioness in the world. Strong and supportive, yet gentle and kind. Headstrong but graceful. Simba realized he had loved her all his life, betrothal or not. Nala did, too.
"Nala, we have been betrothed all our lives. I want you to pretend we never were and never will be for a moment."
"I'm pretending. Now what?"
"Nala, you have helped me in more ways I than I can imagine. You never sold out or betrayed me. Nala, I love you. You are the one and only lioness I need more than anything in the world!" Nala turned to look into Simba's fire red eyes, so full of passion and strength and need.
"Nala, I ask you, not as a prince, but as a lion in love, will you marry me?" Nala smiled and nuzzled Simba's chin. Her heart melted at his words. "As a lioness in love, I accept."
Today was the day. Mufasa and Simba had to stay below Pride Rock while the females prepared Nala in the cave. Simba watched nervously as the kingdom's subjects began to file in next to the lion's den.
"Simba, for the last time, you'll be fine! You won't forget the chant. You won't fall off the rock. Neither of you will back out at the last moment! For goodness sake, stop worrying!"
"That wasn't what I was going to ask, Dad," Simba said.
"Then what were you going to ask, son?"
"Why couldn't Nuka have someone like Nala before he died?" Mufasa looked at his son. "Simba, remember how I told you about the Great Kings of the Past?"
"Nuka was a great lion. He is up there now with the twins, you know."
"That doesn't answer my question, Dad."
"I know, son."
In the cave above, the lionesses were making a ruckus.
"Nala, congratulations, dear!"
"Don't forget to smile!"
"Oh, let me put this flower behind your ear! You'll look great with it!" Nala was dizzy from it all. Vitani, now an official adolescent, had had enough.
"Would you guys just give her some space! It's her wedding day, not yours! At least let her get some air!"
"Now, Vitani, I don't think you understa-"
"You better shut your beak, Zazu! You are a bird! NOT a lion! If anyone doesn't understand, it's you, Banana-Beak!"
"Thank you, Tani!" Nala sighed. The lionesses filtered out of the cave. Sarabi and Zira, who had returned home, went down to join Simba. Sarafina stayed with her daughter.
"Mother, I'm so nervous! This can't be ordinary!"
"Nala, when I got married, I was just as nervous as you are, and the only ones watching me were a monkey, my best friend, and my husband-to-be! You'll do fine!" Nala smiled at her mother and hugged her.
Vitani showed up in the cave entrance. "Time to go, Nala."
Nala walked up the ledge-trail to the top of Pride Rock. She'd never been up here before. The pride formed a path for Nala to walk through once at the top. The 'path' led to an open circle of space, walled by the rest of the pride. Rafiki was in the center of the circle, waiting with his stick. Nala stepped up to his right side and Sarafina sat down behind her. Timon and Pumbaa were behind the ring of lionesses with Zazu, crying their hearts out. Zira, her new mate, and Vitani sat at their left. They all waited.
They came. Sarabi and Mufasa walked shoulder to shoulder down the 'path.' They walked up to Nala. Mufasa bowed his head to her, and she did in return. Sarabi hugged the youth. They walked over and sat down behind Rafiki. Nala's heartbeat rose. He would be there any second.
The pride saw Simba as he walked up the spiraling ledge to the top of Pride Rock. He rose each paw with dignity and honor. He stopped when he reached the top. Everyone bowed to him but Rafiki. He walked into the ring and in front of Nala. He raised her head with his paw so that they looked into each other's eyes. Simba nuzzled her gently before seating himself on Rafiki's opposite side. The joining began.
Rafiki chanted softly, growing in volume at places. He broke one of his odd nuts into two halves. The shaman dragged the juice from one half across Nala's forehead and juice from the other half across Simba's. Still chanting, he joined the two nut halves together. Nala and Simba both extended a paw and touched the large nut. Together they chanted. They were one in the same; partners who would do anything for the other. Rafiki finished with one last pact, and the nest King and Queen of the Pridelands were joined.
Simba and Nala walked up to their mate and nuzzled each other. The animals below and there with them broke out into cheers of ecstasy! The mates smiled at the others. They turned to one another and roared together. Now their joining truly was complete! The pride roared in acceptance! Simba and Nala caressed each other. A powerful wind came in, lifting Simba's soul. He looked up into the heavens.
Listen to the wind…
Simba did listen. Nuka and the sisters were with him. The wind whipped through his mane, lifting up. He was ready to take his place in the Circle of Life with Nala.
Nala looked down at the kingdom's subjects. She saw the hippo that had nearly killed her over a year ago. There was the herd of gazelle that she had taken her first kill from. There was the elephant that had nearly trampled her. And over there was the herd of wildebeests from the stampede Simba continued to have nightmares about until after he asked her to marry him.
But there was one subject that she couldn't take her eyes off. Simba saw him, too, and smiled. Nala knew who the lion was immediately. Her father.