Epilogue

"And so it was that a young cub, much like yourself, grew up to overcome all obstacles and rule as a wise and brave king, as he was destined to do."

Mufasa's voice trailed off, and the Lion King lapsed into a profound silence. Beneath the velvet night sky packed with stars, not a creature stirred, not a sound broke the stillness. It was as if the entire world lay in awe of the tale, just as young Simba did. The cub stared up at his father, golden-furred cheeks soaked and streaked with tears of grief and happiness, amber eyes as round and luminescent as the moon high overhead, overflowing with emotions unnamed.

Finally, Simba managed to unlock his throat and whisper into the hush. "Wow...Dad...that was..." He swallowed. "Did Dhahabu really become the greatest king ever?" He paused, then smirked. "Other than you, that is."

The gigantic lion chuckled deeply, a rueful and embarrassed expression on his muzzle. "Don't exaggerate, son...and there were many great kings in these lands, and others as well...but certainly Dhahabu became one of the greatest. He always kept the teachings of his father in his heart, and over the years the respect and love for him spread across the lands. The kings who followed him paid great homage to his memory, and were forever in awe of his reign. Despite his uncertainty he proved time and again his worthiness for the throne...from the most momentous of his decisions and actions to the most commonplace."

Simba digested this, then sighed contentedly as he rested his head on his forepaws. "That was a great story, Dad! It had everything...excitement, adventure, sadness, laughter, love..." Here he blushed, and Mufasa laughed aloud at his expression. "I'm glad you told me...and didn't hold anything back."

The Lion King smiled appreciatively. "You're quite welcome, son. I knew you were old enough to hear it...and cubs must learn about the adult world and what it contains at some point anyway."

Tilting his head, the cub considered this, then grinned eagerly. "I hope you tell me another story like that soon, Dad! But...if you do...can you make it not so...unfinished?"

Mufasa blinked. "Son, the Circle of Life never ceases its motions...there is never a true ending, one tale leads into another, all are as interconnected as the rushes the weaverbirds plait together to form their nests."

"Yeah...I guess so. But...still there was some stuff you didn't tell me that I'd like to know." Simba's expression was one of intense curiosity.

"Oh really?" Mufasa smirked. "Well, fire away!"

The cub blushed a little, then ventured, "Well...what happened with Njaa and Asumini? Did they stay together?"

The golden monarch murmured in understanding and winked. "Ah yes...those two. Indeed they did, son. As I said in my tale, they did have to spend much time apart, as Njaa traveled elsewhere to form a new pride with his brother and nephew, and could only visit twice a year. But prior to that, he and Asumini became as close as a lion and lioness could be...their emotions and loyalty to one another, despite the distance, could fill the hours of many other nights with the words of tales.

"Suffice it to say that they too shared themselves with one another, and produced a cub, a shy little girl named Winda who, though somewhat naive and complacent, had a strong mind. Dhahabu lavished great care on her, and it came as no surprise when she was betrothed to Mohatu at a young age, much as you and Nala were."

He snickered as Simba rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Mohatu...he was true to his word, and never faltered in his determination to repay the animals for their respect. He grew to become a wise and introspective adolescent, and then adult, who seemed to have a rapport with the herds like no other. He even feared to hunt them, or cause any harm whatsoever. His life, too, is much too complex for me to tell you at this time...but his father was right. Mohatu's star is the brightest of them all...you can see it there, shining in the east, especially during the rainy season."

Simba's jaw dropped at this development, and then he beamed. "That's perfect, Dad! How the two families joined that way...and Mohatu...you have to tell me about him sometime." He stared unblinkingly at the majestic star glittering like a faceted diamond high above the peaks of the eastern mountains. But then a frown crossed his face. "But what about Ukware? He got away, you know...what happened to him?"

A dark look formed on Mufasa's muzzle, as if his brows were a building thunderstorm. "That one...he did indeed join the hyena clans, and no one was ever the wiser, because he laid low and bided his time. He took a mate, Jazua, and they had a daughter...she learned all the tales of hyena glory Ukware related, and believed firmly in the greatness of her species, how they were destined to overturn the tyranny of the lions." A soft growl escaped him. "She in turn passed this on to her son...a hyena named Jalkort. Most hyenas know their place, and are satisfied...they are a proud species, but worthy of great respect.

"Yet for Jalkort this was not enough. He was neither bloodthirsty nor devious, but he made the mistake of entering the circle of one Gur'mekh, drawn by the visions of a great future for hyenas and a change in the status quo, just as his grandfather Ukware had always espoused. And thus it was that he became instrumental in, not the uplift, but the downfall of his clan...he aided in the death of Avina, your great-aunt and grandmother, and this led to a chain reaction that ultimately caused the death of both Jalkort and your great-uncle Shaka, and the banishment of the clan from Kiburi...the Pride Lands. Yet the curse of Ukware did not even end there...Jalkort's three offspring still hold revenge in their hearts, and may yet find a way to achieve it." He paused and regarded Simba thoughtfully. "You met them earlier today, in the elephant graveyard...Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed."

The young cub gulped and crouched low, in remembrance of the chastisement he had received for that foray, but also in fear as he realized anew the danger he had been in. The descendants of Ukware...out for leonine blood...in the same locale where Sulubu had met his end. But that thought struck a chord and made him remember another point. "I see...I had no idea. I'm so sorry, Dad. I'm also sorry I couldn't have met Sulubu, or honored him...he was so brave!"

Mufasa's mood lightened slightly, and he ran a massive paw over his son's ears. "That may well be, but he learned as you did, but too late, to obey his father. Yet, if you wish to honor him, that can be arranged, son...his grave remains to this day, and I visit it every year on the anniversary of his death, as did my father before me, as did Mohatu and Dhahabu before him."

Simba gasped and leaped forward to embrace his father's leg tightly. "Really? Awww Dad, that'd be awesome!" His grin stretched from ear to ear.

A lump formed in the great king's throat as he embraced his son tenderly. "It is a tradition, one which I think you will adopt rather quickly. But there is also another way you can honor Sulubu...his memory lives on in his descendants, or rather Dhahabu's. Your uncle Scar has his coloration...and his son Kiruu is the spitting image of Sulubu. Remember, and be mindful." Mufasa's tone hardened slightly.

Simba ducked down even lower as he pulled back from the embrace, hearing the reproach in his father's tone...obviously Mufasa knew of his treatment of Kiruu, rubbing in his cousin's face the fact that he was the future king, and did not approve. Remembering the gallant brother of Dhahabu, the young prince resolved to mend his ways, and treat Kiruu with the respect he deserved. Perhaps they could even become friends...although he feared it might be too late.

Seeing his son's distress, Mufasa relented and embraced him again, kissing the top of his head and ruffling his mane tuft playfully. "So, was that all you wished to know, son?"

Shaking himself, the cub forced his thoughts from their berating of his own actions and cleared his throat. "Uh...no. There's two more things left unexplained. What happened to Tembo and Cheko, and their families, if they had them?"

A broad smile bloomed on Mufasa's muzzle. "Oh, Tembo served Dhahabu loyally, as I said, and Mohatu as well, although not as majordomo...he took time away for his own family late in Dhahabu's life, and then a few months after Dhahabu stepped down and relinquished the throne to Mohatu, he died quietly in his sleep, and after that Tembo...withdrew from pride affairs. There was a great funeral...Njaa, though old, made a special journey to attend, as did Taraji and Jahili, and Makani, who had left Kiburi on a sojourn of the self, philosophical and perceptive."

For several minutes he lay silent, contemplative, as Simba watched with a downcast expression...the cub did not like to hear of death, particularly of a lion so much like himself. "But I digress...anyway, although Tembo stepped down, he lived for many many years afterwards, for elephants are a species of greatness, even in their longevity, and live through many lion generations. I am sorry to say he died the day before you were born, so you cannot meet him...but his daughter is the matriarch of the elephant herd."

Simba managed a small smile. "So Tembo met his 'horrible fate' after all..." Secretly wiping a tear away, the cub flicked an ear with slight impatience. "But what about Cheko?"

His father rolled his eyes and looked away. "Although he served faithfully, I am sorry to say his family fell in distinction, rather than grew as Tembo's did. None of his descendants have amounted to more than simple guards within the meerkat colony...and I have heard that one even adopted a carefree, selfish lifestyle utterly without responsibilities, and was outcast...supposedly he disappeared into the Majonzi and is now in the jungle, in the company of a warthog, of all creatures..."

Simba burst into laughter at this thought, collapsing in the grass. Between gasping breaths, he stuttered, "Boy...am I glad...I won't ever...meet him!" Mufasa joined him in his gaiety, and for a while neither could speak, their lungs aching as they lay embracing in the cool night air.

After some struggle, Simba finally regained his composure enough to ask his final question. "One more thing, Dad...what happened to Taraji and Jahili? You said they came to Dhahabu's funeral...?"

Mufasa sighed and rolled back onto his stomach, lowering his face to Simba's muzzle. "Very well, I will tell you this and then you must sleep. Fair enough?" When his son nodded reluctantly, the Lion King let his voice drift as he recalled the past one final time.

"Taraji and Jahili...they did indeed join Njaa and Tauni in their search for new lands, and found them...the pride they established, the Nje, still exists to this day. Before their departure from Kiburi, Makedde had determined that Taraji was with cub, and she gave birth to a daughter not long after they reached their new home. They named her Sahau, because they wished to forget all the pain and anguish they had suffered.

"When she grew older, she became the queen of Nje, and ruled with fairness and in peace. But sadly, her son Shetani became bitter and jealous of Kiburi, and misinterpreted the tale of Dhahabu, thinking his family had been exiled rather than given a blessing. And it did not help matters when the lands experienced a drought and famine that left them dry and destitute. Eventually Shetani's daughter, even more in despair than her father, came here for help, although it galled her to depend on others.

"The Nje Lands were beyond hope, however, so I invited her and her pride to share our lands, where the jungle borders the Majonzi, and she accepted, but she still remains somewhat bitter, as can be expected. Perhaps someday she will soften...at heart she truly is a good and sweet lioness, like her great-grandmother, although she also bears Taraji's temper. And perhaps you will meet her."

Mufasa gazed down at Simba, whose attention remained raptly fixed on him, eyes bright in the darkness, but reflecting the sparkling glow of the stars. "Her name is Ushandra...but you would know her as...Zira."

THE END


(A/N: And that's a wrap! The references to Ukware's descendants are another way I connected my fic to "Chronicles of the Pride Lands", just as Mohatu's story is meant to link him to "The Brightest Star". Cheko's connection is of course obvious, as is Taraji and Jahili's. For anyone who is wondering, the son of Scar who appears out of nowhere, as well as the original name for Zira, both came from friends of mine with whom I was involved for a long time in a bulletin board Lion King RP. Hope you enjoyed the tale. R/R!)