Disclaimer: The characters of the Lion King belong to Disney. I only own the human characters and any parts of this story that aren't in the films. Also, for those of you who read a lot of LK fanfiction, several characters are named after the human characters in other fanfics; I do not own that material and I am only borrowing the names as a tribute to the inspiration their owners provided for this story. Enjoy!
March 23rd 1913
Humanity's history is filled with countless tales of explorers penetrating the unknown and discovering the impossible; but not one holds a candle to the tale of the Lion's Plateau in the depths of the Southern Sahara Desert. Even to this day, the majority of the world's most learned men consider it to be nothing more than legend, a myth inspired from local folklore and superstition. Over the centuries, numerous explorers had gone in search of the legendary plateau, but without success, and often perished in the attempt. The first man on the cutting edge was the ambitious explorer Professor Richard Van Owen, on the day he made the most incredible discovery…
A tall, unshaven man in his mid-thirties, wearing a threadbare wilderness uniform, made his way through a valley of scattered elephant skeletons and live thermal vents, heading towards a cliff face that led up to a cave, formed by an ancient split in the rock. Richard Van Owen was a British scientist, a geologist by profession, commonly refereed to as 'an outcast' amongst his colleagues on the Royal Society back home for his eccentric beliefs. Among his obsessions was the journal of the legendary Sir Joshua Cody, which had brought him to this place.
Sir Cody had been a nineteenth century American adventurer and explorer under the employment of the late Queen Victoria, who had come exploring these parts long ago. Upon his return, he had relayed an incredible story of his adventures, which had never been accepted as true - except for Richard, who, following the information in the journal, which he had bought at auction, had rediscovered the legendary plateau. Now, nearly a year later, his explorations of this mysterious land still continued. Following him, carrying some of their heavier equipment, was Makeede, a black Algerian boy whom the professor had hired as his personal aid before venturing into the uncharted regions of the Sahara and discovering the plateau.
Originally part of a larger, joint French/English expedition, whose members had all either perished or deserted from the hardships of their journey through the desert, only Richard and Makeede had made it, and had been exploring the plateau for months now, the former documenting all of his incredible findings, with which he would soon be making up for all those years of scorn and rejection he had endured throughout his career. Having invested his entire family fortune back home to finance this expedition, when his colleagues had bluntly refused to do so, Richard now felt as if he were standing on the threshold of immortality.
With the expedition nearly complete, he only to add one final touch to his findings: collect the samples needed to prove the geological potential of this place. This, combined with his other discoveries, which he intended to reveal to the world upon his return, gave him every confidence that he would be going down in history as the great scientist and explorer he always envisioned himself.
Holding a kerosene lantern to light their way, Richard led the way up a landslide of bones that formed the only stepping stones up the side of the cliff, towards the cave entrance. Above them, the moon shone brightly in the night sky, a total silence filling the air. Exhaling from the extra load he was carrying for his master, Makedee suddenly paused as he became aware of the curious silence of the burial ground below them. Having grown up in Algeria as a peasant, he could 'read' the sounds in the wild - and a deathly silence like this usually meant imminent danger. He turned to his employer who was already examining the cliff walls with his hammer and chisel.
"Master Richard, this bad place. Place of devil. Please remember King Ahadi's warning! Let us go!" he whispered in broken French, the only language in which he could communicate with his master.
"Oh, confound it, will you swallow your tongue, Makeede! Ahadi may fear this place but I don't – and what he doesn't know won't hurt him. We must have those samples! Without them, this entire expedition will have been for nothing… Now, where did Mufasa say that vain was?" He stared into the mouth of the dark cave, "Let's go this way. Come on!"
With his servant still on edge, the two companions ventured into the cave. Richard went up ahead, his eyes hungrily scanning the rock formations of the cave walls. The passage widened as they ventured inside, until they hit an obstacle; a vertical wall, formed by a massive collapsed rock, stood before them, the continuation of the cave visible on a ledge above. Suddenly, Richard saw it: A deposit of the finest diamonds imaginable, which had been brought to the surface over millennia of geological shifting in the depths of the mountain, were imbedded in the granite walls. A fortune had literally just been presented to them on a platter.
"Eureka! Taka was right! Makeede, get the camera ready!" While Makeede nervously set up Richard's Kodak on its tripod, and inserted the plates, the scientist started furiously chiselling away at the walls, gathering his priceless samples in a leather pouch around his neck. Unfortunately, neither of them noticed the many sets of beady, gleaming eyes watching them from the shadows, silently approaching…
Having filled his pouch with all the samples he could gather, Richard rejoined his assistant who had finished setting up the equipment, yet continued to stare nervously around the dark cavern, "Master, please, let us go now…"
"No time for your superstitions now, my lad! Time for a toast, finally!" replied Richard, taking out a bottle of champagne from his backpack, which he had been saving for this moment, and filled two tin cups, "To success, my friend, and to science!" he said, passing his assistant a cup and proposing a toast. Unpacking a portable phonograph, he inserted a Beethoven cylinder and the opera music filled the cavern. Laughing like a kid in a candy store, he drunkenly gulped down his drink, refilling his cup as he did, dancing a jig, "May those charlatans of the Royal Society kiss my boots when they see this!"
Suddenly, he realised he was alone; Makeede was nowhere to be seen. Richard frowned; his assistant was not the type to desert him like that. Sliding the stylus off the cylinder to stop the music, he called, "Makeede, where are you, boy?" The reply was some sinister laughter coming from the mouth of the cave, chilling him to the bones, "Hyenas…"
Dropping the champagne bottle, he grabbed his Lee Enfield rifle and approached the entrance, brandishing the weapon as he went. Suddenly, he spotted a hand projecting from behind a boulder. Thinking Makeede might have tripped and hurt himself, he reached out to him. "Makeede, what's the matter…? Oh, Lord…!
The shock awaiting the scientist made his insides turn to ice, as the bloody limb came away loosely in his hand - he had found his assistant's severed arm! Ragged flesh and splintered bone protruded from the elbow, from where the arm had been ripped clean off Makeede's body. And the trail of fresh blood leading away told him everything; while he had been celebrating, his assistant had been attacked unawares, his screams for help undoubtedly having been muffled by that loud phonograph. Then, Richard heard it again; hyena laughter, all around him.
He barely had enough time to cock his rifle, a mixture of fear and rage building up inside him, when he finally saw it; several hyenas emerging from the shadows, approaching him in attack. The blood dripping from their jaws told him they were the ones that had killed Makeede. Richard narrowed his eyes in rage, "Die, you miserable bloody bastards!" He opened fire, killing one hyena after another until he run out of rounds. Reaching into his pocket for more ammunition, he found there was nothing there but his watch! While he had been celebrating, he had removed his heavy appliance belt, including his ammunition pouch, which was now back in the cave with his pack. Meanwhile, he could see those wretched creatures getting closer, moving in for the kill.
With no route of escape, he darted away back into the cave, going for his backpack, for his spare ammunition. But before he could get there however, he felt something grab hold of his waistcoat, followed by another tug on his arm. In an instant, he was pinned down by the hungry pack, which started gnawing and clawing at him, mauling him. In spite of his pain, the bloodied and battered Richard managed to shake them off by bashing them in the head with the barrel end of his shotgun. Seeing his only chance of escape, he bolted for the far wall. If he could only make it up to that ledge…
Struggling frantically, his attackers closing in fast, to renew their attack, he managed to find some footing, his fingers grabbing hold of the edge of the ledge above. Before he could pull himself up however, he felt the hyenas' jaws grab hold of his legs in a painful grip, dragging him back down. No matter how hard he kicked, they were too many of them to shake them off.
Just as he thought he was doomed, he suddenly saw another figure emerge from the shadows on the ledge above. A feeling of relief swept over him as he recognised a familiar face, "Taka! Oh, thank God! Help me, I am slipping…!"
His relief instantly turned to horror as he read the traitorous expression in the figure's green eyes, who sneered, "What has happened to my father and brother's favourite? You ask the help of the lowly prince who shall never be king, because he is always bested by his older brother? Such irony, wouldn't you agree, my dear Richard?"
"Wh… Why are you doing this? What did I ever do to you?" asked Richard, unable to believe what he was seeing. What was young, shy Taka, whom he had befriended along with his brother and parents, playing at? The figure smiled sinisterly.
"Because I am tired of growing up knowing that I will always be nothing but my step-family's hanger-on; and with you around, my brother's position as future king would be secure forever. On the other hand, your demise should bring Mufasa's capabilities as the heir to the throne under question, when it comes out that he led you to your death by telling you about this place. Such a shame; the brave and responsible Prince Mufasa kills the Royal Guardian with his big mouth!" Too late, Richard realised Taka had been plotting to kill him all along, to use his death as an excuse to disgrace his older brother, who had indeed, confidentially, told him about the diamonds.
"You little bastard set me up!" Richard snapped in furious outrage, "Ahadi will kill you when he finds out…!" But Taka only chuckled cruelly as he suddenly dug his claws into Richard's hands, causing the man to cry out in pain.
"I think not, Richard. As you humans say, 'dead men tell no tales.' And that dead man who is to take the truth with him…is you!" Without another word, he turned to the crowd of hungry hyenas still waiting below.
"Shenzie, Banzai, Ed, my faithful friends, dinner is served!" Giving the helpless Richard a shove, he sent the man plummeting straight into the midst of the hungry pack of hyenas.
In an instant, Richard was once again subjected to the agony of being mauled alive; the hyenas were ruthless as they tore bites out of his flash, ripping him to pieces. As he rolled over, soaked in his own blood, desperately trying to shake off the killer scavengers, his body collided with the camera tripod. The camera, which Makeede had set up only minutes ago, toppled over; as it hit the ground, a protruding rock grazed the snap button, taking an accidental photo of the hyenas feasting on Richard's dead body, his murderer watching from the background with sickening delight…
Author's notes: This is my first LK fanfic. For those of you that are great fans of LK fanfics, the character Joshua Cody is a name borrowed from Crossing Boundaries by Hewylewis. However, please bear in mind that is not a sequel or a spin-off to that story and the Cody mentioned here is only a borrowed name. Please review and I will update faster! REVIEWS ARE INSPIRATION! Enjoy!