Part I: The Years of Innocents

Early one morning, just as the dawn was breaking over a distant land, a dark pelted lioness calls to her cub.

"Mufasa…" She called softly. "Come meet your baby brother." A young cub with golden fur and a bright red tuft of mane poked his head around the corner of the cave. He peeked in to see his mother. Between her paws was a tiny infant. He slowly walked up to her, and looked down at his new sibling.

"Wow…" That was all little Mufasa could say about the tiny lion.

Suddenly, a huge shadow appeared over him. The little cub looked up to see a huge black maned lion with the same golden fur he had. It was his father. The massive male made his way over to his mate. The lioness looked up at him, a sparkle in her eyes.

"Uru…" He whispered. "He looks just like you…" Uru blushed, and looked back at her mate.

"He looks like you too, Ahadi." She smiled. "He has your nose and eyes." Ahadi licked his mate tenderly on the cheek.

"And what will his name be, my love?" He asked her. She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then her eyes got that glint Ahadi always saw when she had thought of something brilliant.

"Taka…" She said slowly, testing the sound. "Prince Taka."

As time went by, The sons of King Ahadi and Queen Uru grew considerably. Mufasa, being the larger and older of the two, always protected his younger brother from harm. But, there was one danger that little Taka couldn't escape: a lovesick cub by the name of Zira. Zira was obsessed with the prince. She followed him every where, and always had a longing, hopeful expression on her face. In Taka's opinion, the young lioness was quite strange. He tried to avoid her, and sometimes even hid from her, but Zira always found him.

One afternoon, Taka was being more vigilant than usual. That morning, Zira had that look on her face, the one that told him that she was planning to make a move on him. He had begged Mufasa to take him with him to the waterhole with his friend, Sarabi, but Mufasa had refused. As of late, he had been spending more and more time with Sarabi than with him. Taka knew why his brother chose the lovely female over him; he was to clever not to know. But it made him fearful that Mufasa wasn't there to protect him from Zira's aggressive shows of affection. Taka thought that he might be able to catch up with his brother if he headed for the waterhole before Zira found him again.

"Mother, I'm going to the waterhole for a drink! I'll be back soon!" He called to Uru, who was sitting several meters away.

"Alright, Taka. But you have to take Anga with you!" Taka spun around, and stared at his mother in disbelief.

"You can't be serious?" He cried. "Do I have to?"

Uru nodded.

"No Anga, no waterhole." Uru said sternly. Taka sighed, but agreed to his mother's terms. Anga was Uru and Ahadi's head advisor. The hornbill was always at either the king or queen's side, and never questioned her rulers. She annoyed the princes to no end, and as soon as Mufasa was old enough to walk in the Pride Lands without her, he took advantage of it. Taka on the other hand was still young; only a hint of his jet-black mane was sprouting on the top of his head.

Suddenly, a bright blue bird perched herself on the queen's shoulder.

"Did you call, my queen?" Anga asked in her high-pitched, singsong voice. She always seemed to know when she was needed. Or unneeded, in Taka's opinion.

"Yes," Uru replied. "I need you to escort Taka to the waterhole. That won't be any trouble, will it?"

"Oh, heavens no! I'd be honored to chaperone the prince! It would be my pleasure." It was clear that cubsitting Taka wasn't her favorite pass time.

"Thank you, Anga." Uru said smiling. Then, she turned to her son. "And Taka, please behave yourself!" The cub gave a sly grin. "What would make you think I wouldn't?"

Taka strolled down the path, Anga flying overhead. He looked straight ahead, not wanting to start a conversation with the gossiping bird. As it turned out, he didn't need to talk to her.

"So, where's your friend Zira?" She asked. "You two really do make a cute couple!" Taka rolled his eyes.

"I barely tolerate Zira! How could we be considered a couple, let alone friends!" He snapped. Anga gave a little chuckle, as if she knew something he didn't. "What's so funny?" He demanded. The hornbill landed on the ground infront of him.

"I think you should give her a chance. You never know with young lionesses." Taka glared at her.

"Why should I?"

"Well, if you must know, the two of you are betrothed." Taka tilted his head in confusion.

"Betrothed? What does that mean?"

"As prince, a lioness is chosen to be your mate at birth. Zira was the closest to your age, and your father thought it'd be a perfect match." The cub just stared at the bird, his mouth gaping open.

"Are you saying that Zira and I will be married?" He cried. Anga nodded, her beak forming a smile.

"So you better be nice to her, Prince." Taka snarled, mumbling under his breath. He didn't even like Zira! How could he marry her?

He pondered about his situation, trying to figure out if he could find anyway out of it. He was often told he had a brilliant mind, and was sure he could find the loophole he was looking for. Suddenly, he heard an odd sound. It sounded like a moan of pain, and it sent Taka on full alert. Anga had also heard the sound. She spun around, startled.

"What on earth was that?" She shirked in a panic.

"I don't know." Taka replied. "I'll go find out." He waited for the sound. He would follow it once he heard it again.

"Gaaahhhh…!" He shot off in the direction of the sound. As he dashed through the brush, he spotted something moving; a flash of light tan against the deep golden grass. He slowed to a halt, and slowly walked in the direction of the movement. He crept silently through the grass, and suddenly, he burst into a small clearing of dirt in the sea of vegetation. Lying before him was the most terrible sight he had ever laid eyes on. There on the ground, was a lioness, drenched in blood. She had a gaping wound on her side, likely the result of a wildebeest defending itself from her attack. She weakly turned her azure blue eyes on him, and said softly,

"My time is up… please, take care of my Sarafina…" As soon as these words left her lips, she exhaled her final breath, and she was gone. Taka couldn't believe that he had just witnessed his first death. He was still recovering from his shock when he realized exactly what the lioness had said. 'Take care of my Sarafina'. Who was Sarafina? But, just as suddenly as the lioness's time had come, something tiny and fluffy had made it's way to Taka. At his paws sat a young cub, barely able to walk, and probably not even able to speak.

"Sarafina…?" Taka guessed. The cub started to squeal and giggle at the sound of the name. Taka stared at her, and she stared back, his emerald eyes meeting her sky blue ones. At once, Taka felt connected to the little cub. She was his responsibility. He knew that she had been sent to him for a reason, he just didn't know why.

"Prince Taka?" Anga called. She parted the grass with her wings, finding Taka and the tiny cub. "Good heavens!" She exclaimed. "What happened here?" Taka looked back at the still form of Sarafina's mother, then looked back at Anga, his eyes telling the story. The little blue bird gulped. "Oh…" She took in the scene, her eyes finally landing on the light tan cub. She looked solemnly at Taka. She knew that this was the dead lioness's cub.

"I'm taking her back to Mom and Dad." Taka declared. He picked up Sarafina by the scruff of her neck, and marched back the way they had come. Anga just nodded. She could tell that the prince had already bonded to the small cub. She didn't know what King Ahadi would do with her, but whatever it would be, Taka would never leave her. That fact was clear as day.

Taka arrived back at Pride Rock, the cub still hanging from his mouth. He found his mother on the rock's largest ledge, talking to the baboon Rafiki. He trotted up to her, and set Sarafina down at her paws. Uru just stared.

"Taka…" She said slowly. "Who's cub is this?" his eyes welled up with tears.

"I… I saw a lioness die…" He said, choking out his words. "She asked me to take care of her cub. Her name is Sarafina." At the mention of her name, the cub looked up at the dark-pelted lioness, then at her equally dark son. She giggled at the prince.

"Taka! Taka!" She shouted. "Taka! Taka! Taka!" At this, Taka's heart melted. Sarafina knew his name after only a few hours. He looked up at his mother with pleading eyes. Uru smiled at her kind-hearted, gentle son, and nodded.

"She can stay."

That night, as Taka curled up to sleep, Sarafina tottered over to him, and plopped down at his side. She nudged his paw, and he put it over her, and held her close. Something about having Sarafina at his side felt right. He closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep. Uru lay a little ways away, watching her young son and his new friend. She heard the sound of footsteps, and turned to see Ahadi at the cave's entrance. He stopped in his tracks, seeing the strange cub cuddled up next to Taka. He looked to Uru for an explanation, but she just smiled.

"Taka's found a new friend." She said simply.