Chapter 10: Ruinous Ends

"Thank you so much Siika, I don't know how I could ever repay you." Sarabi looked over at the mother hyena with an expression full of gratitude.

"You gave my children a chance despite their species, you owe me nothing," Siika replied, smiling as well while she watched her two pups and Tasa playing at mouse, elephant, carnivore (their own version of rock, paper scissors).

"Thank you still." Sarabi repeated, while a fit of laughter erupted from the trio when Spite fell over as he tried to imitate an elephant. "Do you think Tasa will be well enough to leave tonight?"

"Sure," the hyena mother responded instantly. "He didn't break anything in the fall, just some bruises from being wedged in." Sarabi nodded in acknowledgment,

"I'll tell him as soon as it's dark then."

"Leave?!" Tasa exclaimed later that night. The half grown and his mother sat alone on a ridge top in the elephant graveyard, the waxing moon rising in the starlit sky above them. Sarabi had just told him everything that had happened in the Pride Lands that day, and that he couldn't return since Scar thought he was dead. "But I don't want to leave!" Tasa protested again.

"You sound just like Cali," Sarabi chuckled and her son grimaced at the comparison.

"I just…I just can't believe it," Tasa said after a moment, trying hard to keep from whining. "Scar just never seemed bad to me…. Even when Siika told us the truth last night I didn't really believe it…I didn't want to believe it." Desperately the young lion looked up as his mother with golden eyes pleading for help.

"I'm sorry Tasa," Sarabi apologized, nuzzling him comfortingly. "I wish I could have told you the truth but I didn't want you to be hurt."

"And I'm not now?" The young lion burst out angrily. "I just found out that someone I've respected my whole life is an evil tyrant who killed my brother! Don't you think that hurts?" The shift of emotion from loss to anger on his face threw Sarabi off balance and she tried to find the right words to say to her son.

"Tasa…I…I just…" the queen stammered and struggled to explain and calm him down before giving up with a sigh and sitting down next to a pouting Tasa. She let the half-grown lion cool off for a minute, admiring how much he had grown recently. His head was just above her shoulder now, and the red tuft that had once adorned his brow had grown into a respectable mane.

"I just don't think I'm ready to be on my own," Tasa suddenly spoke, catching his mother by surprise.

"But you don't have to be!" Sarabi responded quickly, "I told Cali's mother that you would meet them as soon as you escaped."

"Really?" the young lion asked, looking up in surprise.

"Of course!" Sarabi gave him a motherly smile as she added, "You don't think I would just ship you off into the wild on your own do you?" Tasa blushed sheepishly as she hugged him. "I know Cali isn't necessarily your favorite playmate but…" The golden lion rolled his eyes as his mother left the sentence unfinished and laughed instead. They sat quietly for another minute; both staring up at the star sprinkled sky and watching the clouds float across the moon.

"Will you miss me mom?" Tasa asked quietly, looking down at his paws.

"How could I not?" Sarabi murmured back, reminded at how awkward an age Tasa was. Truely old enough to care for himself but still so unsure if he was actually prepared to or not. "I would go with you if I could…"

"But all the lionesses look to you to lead them," the cub interrupted. "I understand."

"I guess I'm still queen in many ways," Sarabi said with a sigh, gazing towards the dark outline of Pride Rock in the distance.

"At least I've never been wrong about how great you are mom." The lioness immediately teared up when her son said those words, and as he stood up to leave she had to blink back the salty drops before saying goodbye. "I'll see you again mom, don't worry," Tasa told her confidently.

"But I do worry," Sarabi whispered as she nuzzled him goodbye. "Be careful." With a nod Tasa turned and jogged away, heading for the southern border. Sarabi sat and watched him disappear into the dark night. At least this time I can say goodbye, the mother lioness thought to herself, a brief memory of Simba coming to life in her mind.

Mom! Mom! Watch me!" Simba called to her as he leaped from the boulder and neatly pinned a flower under his paws. "Very nice," Sarabi answered, smiling proudly at her son. The golden cub gamboled over, scrambling up her side and plopping his light weight down on her shoulder. "I like going out with you mom…even if you do make me take a lot of baths" said the cub. "Well I'm glad to here that," laughed the queen, rolling onto her stomach and pinning down Simba to tickle him. "Ahh! No! Stop!" the cub howled, fighting back laughter as mother and son rolled in the green grass.

He'll be ok, Sarabi told herself as she came back to the present and caught a last glimpse of Tasa on the horizon. He's a prince of the Pride Lands after all.

So that's how I left the Pride Lands and gave up my claim to the throne. I snuck past the hyenas and over the southern border without any trouble. For a long time me, Cali and her mother kept a vigil over the border, hoping that someone would come and tell us it was safe to return home. But as the weeks rolled by we gave up hope. Cali and her mother drifted off to find another pride, but I stayed behind. I still hadn't quite come to terms with Scar, my mentor, being such a bad king. I clung to the belief that one-day my mother would come find me and say that it had all been a mistake. Weeks turned into months though and I turned three years old without seeing another member of my old pride.

Eventually it wasn't my mother who found me but Nala. After leaving the Pride Lands she had found her way to the nearby jungle and discovered something wonderful—my brother Simba was still alive. He had returned just ahead of her, ready to take the crown back from Scar and return the Pride Lands to their former glory. Nala begged me to come with her to find him and help fight against Scar and his hyena legions. Uncomfortably I turned her down, still unsure what I thought about the lion that had been a father figure for me. Nala was her understanding self though and with a sincere goodbye went off in search of the brother I had still not met.

That evening I kept a closer watch on the Pride Lands than usual. Faint sounds of battle reached my ears and I could just make out the shifting hoards of carnivores as they fought on Pride Rock itself. A lighting bolt from an approaching storm started a grass fire right at the base of the feature, but by the time the leading edge of the storm reached me the downpour of rain had already put out the eager flames. Suddenly a roar reverberated over the land and I saw a male lion silhouetted on the peak of Pride Rock.

It wasn't Scar. I had heard his dominating roar for all the years of my life and knew it like my own paw. As the storm continued to roll over I sat in the falling rain and wondered what they had done to him, and if I could now return home. Suddenly raindrops quit hitting me in the face and I looked up to find a small break in the clouds. Above the storm the moon was full and a silvery beam of light reflected down on me and cast a long shadow. Glancing over my shoulder it looked almost like my silhouette was traveling down that solid path of light…to where I didn't know.

That's when it hit me. I may have been tied to the Pride lands by a childhood loyalty to Scar, but without him as king I was free to choose my own path. And just because I had looked up to Scar didn't mean I was going to become him. My brother had returned, determined to repair the kingdom I might have ruled if given the chance, but I was glad to let him have it. I had never really wanted to be king anyways.

What about mom? I thought, looking forward at the dead Pride Lands again. With Simba back she would still have someone to care for her as she grew older, and I wasn't a little cub anymore. I didn't need her to look over me. I had gotten used to being alone these last few months, the life of a rouge wouldn't bother me.

Resolutely I stood up and turned away from the Pride Lands and set my paws on a new path. I was a prince of the Pride Rock, taught by the king himself and raised to be strong. Maybe I had been wrong about Scar, maybe I had been fooled into thinking that the Pride Lands I grew up in were ruled by a kind and wise king, but everyone makes mistakes. It's how they are handled that sets the greats apart. Without glancing back I loped away from the border, following the beam of moonlight over the rain washed savannah grass to new horizons.

A/N- That's it, Tasa's story is finally over and I hope you enjoyed it. I tried not to make the parting between him and Sarabi too sappy, but she had already lost one son so I didn't think it fair to put her through another harsh parting. Perhaps if I get enough reviews I might one day write some stories about Tasa's adventures after he leaves the Pride Lands, but for now this is the end. As always, please REVIEW and thanks for reading!