I turned around, terrified, to see Zira in front of me, an evil leer on her face. My hunch had been right; she was planning something. While she was glaring at me, I realized something very important; she was planning to kill me. Not to injure, not scratch or maim; but to kill me. I shrank back as she began circling me, evil chuckles escaping through her bared teeth. I'm not normally that scared, but give me a break; Zira wanted to kill me, almost certainly very painfully. "Well, well, little prince; it seems you're all alone, where no one can find you! Perfect." She chuckled a little more, then continued speaking; though I wish would have hurried it up already. I recovered a few shreds of defiance, and spat, "Dad will find you and stop you, or Vitani will find me and warn him!"
Zira just laughed more, pure delight shining in her eyes; I knew then she was going to enjoy every minute of my death. She was revenge-crazed; I could see it as she continued circling me, looking up at the sky and away from me for a few seconds, "Scar, this is for you, my love! I will restore your bloodline!" She looked back at me, hellfire burning in those crimson eyes, and said the most chilling and harmful words I have ever heard in my life; "Vitani has played her part well." Before I could even react to the statement, she leapt at me with claws extended. She knocked me onto my back, and began slashing at my fur with wild abandon.
I shrieked as lines of burning pain were sent racing up my body; but I was overwhelmed a far, far worse pain. Vitani had betrayed me all along. Everything we had had together was a lie; she had just gotten close to me so Zira could kill me. That hurt worse of all; worse than the agony as blood, my blood, flew around me; a soul-wrenching, searing paroxysm of white-hot anguish as I felt the world fade away. I welcomed death at this point; hell, I was begging for it. But the torture went on, my mind and body racked with pain.
Gratefully, after a brief amount of time and much blood loss, a strange lethargy overtook me; was this the prelude to death? I hoped so. I was still vaguely aware of Zira still wounding me, of my blood, my life-force leaving me, and of the emotions in my head; but I was slipping away. I heard a confused, dull combination of sounds as I retreated into my consciousness, where the pain was even less immediate and menacing. I floated around in a boundless black space, surrounded by pinpricks of light. As I slipped away even further, the pinpricks grew larger and larger until I surrounded by blinding white light...
I stared down at the unmoving body; I had done it! There was nothing that could stop me now, not even Simba… I nodded to my pride members, signaling that we should leave before my daughter shows up. We went to find a good hiding place to strike Simba at his weakest; the mourning of his son.
Where is he? He could be hurt or worse! No, don't think that Vitani! Don't even think that for a second… Lati, apparently reading my thoughts, said while running beside me, "We'll find him, Vitani; I promise you we will!" Yes, we will find him; but will he be alive? was the only thought I had as we raced towards Rafiki's tree. When we got within sight of the tree I saw something that I would never forget; Kopa's body. I came to a dead stop in front of him. I looked down at a mass of unmoving fur, rent with bloody gashes. I stared for a few seconds, completely overwhelmed; this was what had become of Kopa? Something in my heart snapped at that moment; unable to do anything else, I just broke down and started crying, throwing myself to the ground in anguish. We were too late! My best friend was gone. If only I had run faster… maybe I could've… I kept thinking of ways to blame myself for his death, mentally beating myself again and again. After I had controlled my sobs, I heard a small voice whisper weakly.
"Vitani?" I looked down to see that Kopa had spoken. I looked down at Kopa, but he closed his eyes. I looked too Lati on my right, keeping my panic reflex under wraps as best as possible.
"Lati, I-I need you to get Simba and warn him! Mom and the others should be on their way back; I need you to beat them to him, and bring Simba back here to get help!" I said, my voice becoming stronger.
Lati nodded, "Okay, Vitani." His face took on a look of guilt reminding me strongly of Kopa, and he said weakly, "Vitani, I'm so sorry! This is all my fault…" He kissed me on the forehead before he sped off.
I went back over to Kopa's beaten body, and broke down again. I began to look towards Kopa, pleading with him, as if my voice would bring him back, "Kopa, please don't die, please! I need you, Kopa; you're my best friend and confidant." He became limp and fell back, the his amber eyes closing... "Kopa, please don't leave me!" I shrieked tearfully. After that, I was finally at a loss for words; I just lay there, crying. I looked up towards the heavens, silently pleading to whatever deity happened to be listening at that time, O God, please! Don't let him die; please bring him back!
The first thing I remember is no pain. I woke up in a strange room, entirely and spotlessly white. Was I dead? Is this what heaven was, just a total blank void? Engrossed in my thoughts, I almost jumped when I heard a voice coming from behind me, "You're not dead, Kopa." I turned around, and saw what looked like a bigger version of my dad approach me.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"My name is Mufasa. I am your grandfather, but for now I guess I am also your guide." He said, smiling at me.
"What do you mean my guide?" I said, my ears twitching slightly; my grandfather had a particularly deep and resonating voice that put my feline hearing a little on edge.
"You have a very important decision to make, Kopa." Mufasa said, his face growing serious.
"What decision?" I asked, becoming confused.
"You see you have a choice. You can either come with me and join the Great Kings of the past in Heaven; or you can go back to those who love you on Earth." He said.
"You mean I can go back?" I asked. "Yes, that is exactly what I mean." He said, smiling slightly. "And things will still be the exact same?"
"Yes my grandson, nothing will have changed."
"Then I choose heaven. There is nothing left for me down there; the love of my life and best friend betrayed me, resulting in my death, You saw how I died; there is no reason for me to go back!" I shouted, despite the nagging voice in my head that said go back.
"Before we leave allow me to show you something." Mufasa said, motioning to a pool of water that had suddenly appeared in the middle of the white floor. I followed him, and looked in, gasping at what I saw. "What do you see?"
"I see Vitani; but she's crying, and all I can hear is her wanting me to come back." I said, guilt building up in my chest. "That is your reason for being here... and that is your reason for going back." Mufasa said gruffly. "But Grandfather, you heard what Zira said; Vitani was the one who ultimately led me to my demise." I said, but not as strongly as last time; all I could feel in my heart was remorse and empathy, I was still looking at the water.
"Kopa, you and I both know she did not intentionally do anything! Look at her! It was her soul crying out for you to come back that brought you here. Will you deny her that? Can you go on into the afterlife knowing you were the reason she was scarred?" Mufasa said, the pool started showing scenes of Vitani as an empty shell, only whispering my name and intermittently crying, with only Lati to try and comfort her. The idea of her in that much misery was too much for me to bear.
"NO!" I said, swiping at the pool with my paw. "That can't be true; she loves him! NO ONE needs me down there."
"Very well then." Mufasa said, giving a disappointed sigh. He opened a portal and gestured towards it. I looked at the pool one last time. It showed scenes of Vitani and I together; watching the sunset, the day she saved me in the waterhole, and other happy memories from my past.
"NO, I am going back!" I said, screaming. My desire to leave was completely overridden by my determination NOT to leave Vitani like that. "I-I just didn't realize what was happening. Please let me go to her!" I screamed, begging as I ran towards the pool.
"Then go." Mufasa said. He growled, making the pool ripple. I jumped in headfirst, feeling as if I had just jumped into a fast-moving river. I careened and moved in every direction completely out of control, until I suddenly was submerged in a pool of silvery light. When I broke the surface, I found myself lying down in a pool of blood, MY blood. But, oddly enough, I felt no pain at all. "Vitani?" I said, whispering her name in the hope that she'd notice.
Vitani had sent Lati to get Simba for help; this meant there would be more than just him, and we decided to move farther away. But at least I could kill him before he can banish me. I surveyed the scene with relish, thinking, Finally, REVENGE WILL BE MINE!"
"Vitani?" I looked up from my weeping to see Kopa looking up at me through half-lidded eyes. At first I couldn't believe that he was alive, but I felt him grasp my paw. I began gushing out tears anew, but this time they were for joy.
"Kopa! I can't believe it you're alive!" I said, squealing. He quickly shushed me and told me to keep quiet.
"Vitani, I need you to do something for me." He said quietly.
"Anything." I said matching his volume.
"I need you to not tell anyone I'm alive." He read my shocked expression. "Look, Tani; your mom is still alive, and even if her plan fails she will still attack me and kill me. You can't even tell my dad. No one must know I'm alive."
"But-" I began to say, then closed my mouth, "Okay, Kopa; I'll do it. But where will you go?"
"I'll find out when I get there; right now, Vitani, remember; my dad can't suspect a thing." I nodded my head in agreement. He closed his eyes, and I started to cry again. It wasn't acting or preparing for Simba's arrival; it was because I knew that even though he lived, I'd probably never see him again. I bowed my head in my misery, wailing to the sky.
I was waiting for Nala to get over one of her more violent mood swings when I noticed a furry blur crash into me. I waited for it to get up and looked at it apprehensively. The blur, who I recognized as Lati, started spluttering out words. "Kopa-Vitani-Hurt-Zira-Mom-Help!" he kept on speaking incoherently.
"Whoa, calm down there!" I said, not expecting what was coming next. "What's the matter?"
"Sir, Kopa has been hurt or killed by Zira and my friends' and mine parents. There's a plot against you and stage one was Kopa. Please hurry, I don't think he's going to make it." He said, adding the end bit softly. The only things I heard were Zira, Kopa, and dead, but that was enough. I let out a growl alerting the lionesses. Within a minute they were at my side. "Lead the way!" I shouted letting the cub take point. I don't know how long we ran, but the sight I saw was horrific; my nightmare had come true. My son, my little Kopa, was lying dead or unconscious in a pool of his own blood. My brain had temporarily shut down while repeating one single thought; This can't be happening! I sprinted the rest of the way to my son's body. I noticed Vitani make room for me as I nuzzled him, licked him, did anything I could to wake him up; he wasn't moving. I looked at Vitani; her tearstained and woebegone face said it all, so I didn't check for a heartbeat. All I did and all I could do was break down and cry. My son... my only son... was DEAD!
From where we were we could hear what was going on, but I could see well enough that the time to strike was now. I gave the signal to my friends; we stalked up to Simba and his pride and when we were within earshot we rushed them. The air filled with screams of rage and anger as our two sides clashed. I made my way through the fray to where Simba was guarding Lati and Vitani. All I saw in his eyes was hate. We circled each other, both of us waiting for an opportunity. Simba growled and struck first, knocking me to the ground. As he moved closer I tripped him, taking that moment to press my claw to his throat. I should've killed him then and there, but I wanted to savour this moment. I wanted to let him know he had failed the moment Scar was murdered. I noticed all the lionesses had surrounded us, but they had kept the cubs out of this, I saw them run away, probably to get their friends. No matter; I had my prize. "Simba? How does it feel to lose a loved one?" I said, relished every minute of his pain, "How does it feel to know that someone murdered them? How does it feel, Simba? Tell me!" I said, pressing down on his throat harder.
He spat and said, "I already know what it feels like! Zira, you and Scar are both abominations that should never had existed! I let you live and stay in the Pridelands after you had sided with him, and this is how you repay me?" He was about to growl until I pushed down hard enough to close off his windpipe.
"Now Simba," I said, lowering my voice to an evil simper, "We wouldn't want you to give out the wrong impression would we?" I moved my claws, letting him breathe again. "Now you were saying?"
"Go to HELL!" he shouted in rage, turning the tables on me. I should've killed him when I had the chance.
I used the trick that Nala had always used and flipped Zira over. I stared down into her face, hate burning in my eyes. I opened my mouth to rip out her throat but something stopped me; a few somethings to be exact. "Stop!" I turned around to see Vitani and all the outlander cubs with her. Vitani was the one who had shouted, looking at me tearfully, "My best friend and my father are dead; now you're going to kill my mother, too?"
"Stay out of this!" I said, bringing my gaze back to Zira. However, knowing the cubs were there I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So I did the next best thing. "Zira, I exile you and all other lionesses who stood with you to the Outlands!" There was no vote; my word was law and no one else was going to challenge me. I let Zira up and spoke again, "However, the cubs and their parents are allowed to stay if they reswear their l loyalty to me." I said. I noticed the loyalist lionesses go join Zira and motioned for their cubs to follow them. All but Karina went. I gave Zira one last look and said, "Leave!" with as much anger as I could muster; but with a heavy heart, I knew I had had just more or less sentenced those cubs to death...
I picked up Kopa's body and we went our separate ways. "SIMBA! Hear this! We are NOT finished yet!" I heard Zira yell, cackling madly as we headed back to Pride Rock.
The next day, I sat through Kopa's funeral service, conducted by Rafiki, with a heavy heart. I looked at Nala, and saw the tears running down her face as the strains of the traditional funeral chant rose from mouths of our fellow pride-members. "Memory eternal... Memory Eternal... Memory... Eternal... "
I nuzzled her gently before looking down at her stomach, "I know we just lost Kopa, but at least we have the little one." Nala looked up at me, "What do you want to name her?"
After I was sure everyone was gone from where my parents left me, I climbed out of the cave-tomb I was in. I headed out into the Outlands until I found Zira's new home; a giant collection of termite mounds. I snuck past the other lionesses and cubs, surprised to see Vitani standing nearby, alert. I motioned for Vitani to come over. She walked over, tearfully, "Kopa- I don't know what to say. I-"
I cut her off. "Vitani, I know this counts for nothing right now, but I love you. I always have, I always will." And with that, I set off into the night, going wherever my paws would take me.
Yes everybody; this story is over. But stay tuned for more from Strike and Brasta; the completion of this trilogy, The Lion King III: The Pridelands Reborn!