***The Return of a Brother***
The golden savannah was hot and humid just like he remembered it. Gently rolling hills dotted with lush acacias spread out in a seemingly never ending sprawl across the earth's surface. The sapphire sky was flawless and the sun shone down on the grassland. The returning Pridelander walked at a reasonable pace through the knee high grass, careful not to make too much noise. He was well aware that not many animals in this area liked to be startled, and he didn't feel like getting into a fight right now. He traveled past herds of healthy animals and flocks of countless birds; the land was in fantastic shape, and it only got better as he approached the borders of the Pridelands. He climbed a familiar hill that rose from the relatively level area around it. From atop the mound, he could see off in the distance the massive stone structure he knew as Priderock.
Alex smiled as he quickened his pace; he was almost home. It had been a long time since he had left the Pridelands and he was anxious to be back with the family that he had become a part of. Scar's reign had been a terrible period of time, filled with death, hardships, and violence, but it also built the pride into a stronger team. He remembered Nala, how she laughed and smiled. He missed her company and wanted desperately to see her. They had been through so much together, from Simba's supposed death, through Scar's madness, and to Simba's return as the true king. Now she surely had a child of her own, and Alex was giddy with excitement.
He had left the Pridelands reluctantly, but out of necessity. In the same way that Simba had to leave his jungle paradise for his family, Alex had responsibilities elsewhere. The plane crash that had left him stranded in the African Savannah had labeled him as "Presumed Dead" by all official reports. It seemed crazy to think that a teenager could survive a plane crash and almost two years alone in the African wilderness, though he had done it. Granted, he hadn't done it alone, but what was he supposed to say? That he had been taken in by a pride of lions? No, it was better to just say that he did it on his own.
The transition back into normal life had been difficult for him to say the least. There were just so many people in the city. The buildings even made him feel a bit claustrophobic in contrast to the open plains of Africa. His parents had been overjoyed as had the rest of his family; after all, he was presumed dead. For a while there had been a lot of news reporters looking for interviews with him, and he gave them readily, he was just careful not to make anyone curious of the area he lived in; Priderock didn't need humans near it.
One of the most annoying things that he found upon on his arrival was how everyone freaked out about his health. All the doctors he went to assumed he had contracted malaria, West Nile, or some other foreign disease. The ugly scars that covered most of his body did not help his case. He lost more blood to the doctors for testing than he ever had from all of his near-death fights with the hyenas. He received so much treatment for things he didn't have, it became pretty tedious and irritating. But despite all the difficulties of the past, he had finished his schooling and saved his money for the return trip. Neither of his parents were happy with the fact that he wanted to return to the place that almost killed him, but eventually they gave in and helped him to plan a trip.
He took a plane to the closest major city to the Pridelands, which still put him many miles away from his destination. From there, he hitched a ride with a humanitarian convoy heading in the correct direction. To Alex's delight, they dropped him off less than a two day's hike from the Pridelands' border. From there it was just a matter of walking, which he had no problem doing. He was an average sized human and came just as well as he had the time before. He had his backpack of camping gear which contained everything and anything that could be useful.
As he walked, Alex drew his knife from its sheath and began to whittle away at a large stick he found on the ground. The knife he had was not the same as the one he had originally arrived with; he had left that knife buried into a tree at the base of Priderock. He smiled as he remembered how he promised Nala that he would be back for it. Gradually, the stick he carved took shape. He removed all the knots from the sides and stripped the bark from the smooth wood underneath. In a short while, he had a well balanced staff that felt familiar in his grip. He spun the finished staff in disciplined arcs around his body, remembering how different it was to fight animals as opposed to people. Lions and hyenas always fought to kill, and if you fought with anything less than that in mind, they would kill you. It was a style of fighting that required strong core abilities like speed, strength, and balance. Efficiency was key; do the most damage with the least amount of effort possible. Fond memories returned of sparring matches with Nala in the early morning hours. He was very anxious to get home and see everyone, but the sun was beginning to set. He would camp for the night and arrive at the great stone in the morning.
Alex left early in the morning before the sun rose. He moved quickly through the lush savannah and soon arrived at Priderock. He entered the common area rather timidly; something about reunions always made him nervous. He looked around, but no one was there. The sun had only just risen; he figured that everyone was still asleep. He knew that Nala in particular was not a morning person. A familiar tree caught his eye. He examined the sharp eight-inch chunk of steel that protruded from the sharp wood. His old knife was charred and blackened from the fire that had engulfed Priderock the night of Simba's return. Its handle was gone as well, burned off in the inferno that ended the saga that was Scar. He ran his finger over the rusting metal; had he seen in lying on the ground, he probably would have discounted it for an oddly shaped stone. Though it kept its shape and remained reasonably sharp, it was hardly recognizable as a knife. He gripped the metal that the handle had been attached to and began to work it back and forth out of the wood that had grown up around it. A young voice made him turn.
"Hey!" it called. "Don't touch that!" A young lioness stared at him angrily and started to growl.
Alex stopped and stared at her in amazement. Her deep blue eyes were unmistakable, as was her gutsy attitude.
"That's my mom's, and she doesn't want anyone to touch it, so don't!"
Alex took a knee and set down his gear. "What's your name?" he asked her calmly.
The lioness blinked at the change in the conversation. "Ummm, I'm Kiara." she responded hesitantly, unsure of how to treat this human.
Alex smiled at her uncertainty. "What do you know about this knife, Kiara?"
She maintained her skepticism as she spoke. "I know that it belonged to my Mom's friend a long time ago. Before he left, he stuck it into the tree. She doesn't want anyone to move it in case he comes back."
Alex was quiet in thought; he was trying to figure out how to best go about this introduction. "Are your parents around?"
Kiara took a step backwards, seemingly taking his question as a threat of sorts. "My dad's the king. He's out on a patrol, but he's gonna be back any second!" As if on cue, a rustling in the bushes farther down a path caught their attention. "Daddy!" Kiara shouted, running to her emerging father. "Daddy, there'saguyhere, andhe'saskingallsortsofquestions aboutus! She said urgently.
Simba frowned, somehow making sense of her jumbled sentence. He growled and came bounding towards the tree.
Alex stood and smiled at the familiar lion. Simba froze and stared blankly at the returned human. "Alex?" he asked astonishedly.
"It's good to see you, Simba." Alex greeted as he pulled the massive lion into a firm hug.
"When did you get here?" he asked, still shocked by Alex's return.
"Just now, I was talking to Kiara, but I guess I kind of freaked her out." He replied sheepishly.
Simba chuckled and called his daughter over. She walked over, clearly confused at her father's happiness. "What. Who is this?"
"Kiara, this is Alex. He's your mother's kind-of brother; pretty much your uncle. That's his knife in the tree."
Alex blinked in synchronism with Kiara. Uncle. He hadn't thought of it like that before, but it made sense. Nala was like a sister to him, and he was her brother. He looked down to Kiara who was still quite surprised.
"You're the guy that Mom always talks about? I- I'm sorry… I didn't know."
Alex laughed at her embarrassment. "Don't worry; it's good to be a little suspicious."
"Yes…" agreed Simba rather darkly. "It is."
The trio ascended the ramp of Priderock towards the main cave. They entered the cool interior of the great stone and looked around. Alex smiled at the sleeping lionesses; he saw a lot of familiar faces, but there was one in particular that he was searching for. He quickly found Nala towards the back in the area that he remembered usually being taken up by Scar. He walked quietly through the maze of unconscious bodies and knelt beside his sleeping sister. He moved to wake her gently, but Kiara had a different Idea.
"MOM!" she cried, crashing into the slumbering lioness.
Nala awoke with a start and glared at her nearly grown daughter. "Kiara! You are far too old to be waking me like that!"
"But… Alex is here." She responded, pointing to the kneeling human behind her.
Nala gasped and quickly rose to her feet. "Alex!" she cried as she lunged and pinned him to the stone. "I've missed you so much, it's so good to see you!"
"It's great to see you too, Nala." Alex said through a wide grin. "I told you I wouldn't miss Kiara's first hunt."
Simba smiled. "Well you got here a week early. Pretty good timing if you ask me."
Nala climbed off of her returned friend and Alex stood to follow the lions out of the cave. They didn't want to wake any of the others.
"So what have you all been up to since I left?" Alex asked, curious of how the new pride and developed.
"Not much," Simba replied honestly. "We haven't had many serious issues emerge in a while. There are always squabbles between the herds, but they're never very difficult to resolve."
Alex was surprised. His memories of the Pridelands were filled with conflict; it seemed strange that everything was alright. "So no rouges, droughts, rival prides, or anything?"
Nala sighed. "Actually…"
Simba cut her off. "Kiara, would you go find Zazu for me, I need his report."
The young lioness smiled before bounding off. "Sure daddy!"
Simba frowned and turned back to Alex. "Sorry, she has a tough time understanding… there have been some troubles with the outlanders."
Alex blinked, he had never heard that term used before. "Who?"
Nala decided to explain. "When Scar's followers left, they settled in the outlands, just outside our borders."
"What? Why would they do that?" Alex asked quizzically. "There are plenty of better lands than that stretch of dirt."
"They want to return." Simba said darkly.
"Like they want forgiveness, or what?"
Nala shook her head. "No, Zira wants to kill Simba and have her cub follow in Scar's tracks."
Alex stared blankly. "I- I killed Zira…" he spoke slowly.
"She survived." Nala uttered darkly. "And she wants the Pridelands."
Alex frowned at the memory, how Zira had attacked him the night Simba returned and how he had only narrowly survived the encounter. He had thought that a knife to her chest would have done the job, but clearly it hadn't.
"Don't worry about it," counseled Simba. "She won't bother us."
Alex hoped he was right. Scar and Zira had attracted a rather vicious crowd, quite unlike the normal lions that stayed at Priderock, and undoubtedly they had swelled their ranks with rouges and outcasts. For now though, he decided to push the troubling thoughts out of his mind. He was happy to be back home, and there was no way he was going to let Zira ruin it for him.
"You said Kiara's first hunt is in a week?" he asked, intentionally changing the subject.
Nala smiled. "Yes, but I'm a little worried that she won't be quite ready." She leaned in with a hushed voice. "She isn't exactly a naturally born hunter."
Alex smiled. "Well maybe I could help her out. Your mom taught me pretty well, and it would give us some time to get to know each other."
"I think that's a great idea," Simba agreed. "I'll send her your way when I see her."
"Sink lower to the ground." Alex whispered to the young lioness who lay in the grass next to him. "It's extremely important to keep as low of a profile as possible."
Kiara nodded and kept her eyes glued to the tree stump ahead of them that was serving as a target. "Low to the ground…" she repeated quietly as she regulated her breathing.
"Advance, but do it very carefully and very slowly. The biggest mistake you can make is to go too fast."
Kiara moved forward, immediately stepping on a twig. She winced, but stayed frozen. A few more steps brought her within pouncing range of the stump.
"Remember, push off with your back legs; use your front only for balance."
The young lioness prepared herself and let loose her pent-up energy at the target. She flew through the air and within a few fast bounds, she was on it. She slashed at the soft bark a few times and looked back to Alex for approval.
"That was good, just remember that a real animal won't hold still; you will have to chase it." He reminded her. "And, it will fight back. On my first hunt the lioness ahead of me got kicked in the ribs by the zebra we were after."
Kiara looked a little shocked. "Wow, was she okay?"
"Yea, just a little bruised. I'm just telling you so you stay careful; hunting is dangerous."
Kiara snorted as she sat on the stump. "You sound like my dad."
"How so?" Alex asked quizzically.
"He's always telling me how the world is sooo dangerous and that I need to be careful." She sighed as she glared off into the distance. "He won't even let me do anything on my own."
"Well, your father knows well how bad things can get if you let them," he commented as he sat down next to her. "You can't blame him for being a little overprotective."
"It's just annoying. I can take care of myself, and he won't let me!" She sighed and rolled onto her back. "Sorry, I don't even really know you yet and I'm already spilling my life problems onto you."
Alex smiled. "Don't worry about it. You may not know me, but you've got enough of your parents in you to make me feel like I know you pretty well."
"I'm nothing like my parents!" she huffed adamantly.
"Oh no? Sorry, I must have confused your parents with the other King and Queen."
Kiara stared at the amused human with an un-amused expression. "I'm not like them." She repeated.
"Maybe not like they are now, but you would be surprised at what they were like as kids."
"Got any funny stories?" the lioness asked, suddenly extremely curious of her parents' early life.
Alex laid his head back into the savannah grass, searching his memories for a good story. It was difficult; almost all of his adventures with Nala had been extremely serious. He didn't find many of them to be very entertaining, but maybe Kiara would.
"Okay," he began. "This wasn't funny at all at the moment, but it does kind of show how you are like your mother."
Kiara nodded and listened intently.
"Ummm, this was when your mom was about half as old as you are now; she was still pretty much a cub. A few fully grown hyenas were making fun of her… so she attacked them."
"Wait, my mom fought hyenas when she was a cub?" Kiara asked astonishedly. "Why didn't she ever tell me that?"
Alex shook his head. "It isn't exactly a pleasant memory. It didn't end well."
"Why not?" Kiara stepped from the stump onto Alex's chest, as if begging him to explain. "Did she get hurt?"
"A little, but nothing more than a scratch or two. I on the other hand, almost died."
Kiara stared. "How does that connect me to my mom?"
Alex looked the young lioness in her eyes. "You both have that same fire in your eyes." He explained. "You know who you care about, and I think that you would act just as your mother did if you thought there was any threat to them."
She nodded, somewhat apprehensively. "Maybe… I don't know."
Alex rose to his feet. "Trust me, you are a lot like her. Now come on, the hunt is probably back by now. We wouldn't want to miss dinner, would we?"
Kiara smiled and fell into step alongside her newly returned uncle on their way back to Priderock. Alex was glad to be back, it felt as if he was finally home. It would be nice to get away from the heavy bustle of typical human life, and just relax for a few weeks with his real family. There were no problems out here now that Scar was gone, it was a perfect world.
I received many, and I mean many requests for this, and although I don't usually like to write to 'appease the reader' I eventually decided that this story was not complete. So in response to my fans' pleas and my own desires, here is the beginning, of "Nala's Brother: Return to Priderock".