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 their 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 by local folklore and superstition.
Over the centuries, numerous explorers had gone in search of this legendary plateau without success and often perished in the attempt. The first man on the cutting edge was the ambitious explorer Professor Richard Van Owen, who made history on the day he made the most incredible discovery ever…
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, often refereed to as 'an outcast' by his colleagues on the Royal Society back home because of his eccentric beliefs. Among his many 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 explorer under the employment of Queen Victoria, who had come exploring these parts long ago on behalf of the British Crown, for which he had received his knighthood. Among the places he'd discovered and recorded in his journal was the Lion's Plateau, as he'd named it. The incredible story of his adventures, of course, had never been accepted as true – except for Richard, who, following the clues in the journal, which he had bought at auction, had rediscovered the legendary plateau.
Now, nearly a year into his expedition, his exploring of this mysterious new 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 assistant before venturing into the uncharted regions of the Sahara and discovering the plateau.
Originally part of a larger French/English expedition, whose other members had all either perished from the hardships of the journey through the desert or deserted, only Richard and Makeede had made it and had been exploring the plateau for months now, making incredible findings. This discovery would soon make up for all those years of scorn and reject Richard had endured throughout his career. Having invested his entire family fortune back home to fund this expedition, when his sceptical colleagues had bluntly refused to do so, Richard now felt as if he were standing on the threshold of immortality.
With his expedition nearly complete, he only needed to add one final touch to his findings: collect the samples needed to prove the geological potential of the plateau – the primary purpose of this entire expedition. This, combined with his other incredible discovery, 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'd always envisioned himself to be.
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, casting its light upon this eerie silent, ancient elephant graveyard. Panting from the weight of the equipment he was carrying for his master, Makedee suddenly became aware of the curious silence all around them. Having grown up a humble peasant, who herded sheep for a living, he could 'read' the sounds in the wind – a deathly silence like this usually meant imminent danger. He turned to his employer who was examining the cliff walls with a hammer and chisel.
"Master Richard, this bad place. Place of devil!" he muttered in broken French, the only language in which he could communicate with his English master. "Please remember King Ahadi's warning! Let us go!" Richard was annoyed at the interruption.
"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. Besides, we must have those samples! Without them, this entire expedition will be for nothing… Now, where did Taka say that vain was?" He stared into the mouth of the dark cave with his lantern, "Let's go this way. Come on!"
With his servant still on edge, the two companions ventured into the cave. Richard walked 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 from the cavern roof, stood before them, the continuation of the cave visible on a ledge high above. But they needn't go any further because, suddenly, Richard saw what he was looking for.
Holding his lantern close to the cavern wall, the light revealed a deposit of some of the finest diamonds ever seen, which had been brought to the surface over millennia of geological shifting in the depths of the mountain, imbedded in the granite wall. They had just discovered a fortune in an untapped diamond mine!
"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 cavern walls, gathering all the samples he could carry in a leather pouch around his neck. These alone would make both men filthy rich! Unfortunately, neither of them noticed the many sets of beady, gleaming eyes watching them from the shadows, silently approaching for the kill…
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, 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 cavern was soon the dark cavern was ringing with classical music. Laughing like a kid in a candy store, he drunkenly gulped down his third drink, as he danced to the music, "May those charlatans of the Royal Society kiss my boots when they see this! We've made history, Makeede! Makeede...?"
Suddenly, he realised he was all 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.
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, are you all right, lad? 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 stump of the elbow, the rest of Makeede's body having vanished completely. The trail of fresh blood leading away into the darkness told him everything; while he'd been celebrating, his assistant had been attacked unawares, his screams for help undoubtedly having been muffled by that accursed phonograph he'd foolishly set up. Then, Richard heard it again; sinister hyena laughter, all around him.
He barely had enough time to grab his rifle, when he saw them: several hyenas emerging from the shadows, approaching him in attack. The blood dripping from their jaws told him they'd just finished devouring poor Makeede. Richard narrowed his eyes in rage.
"Die, you miserable bloody bastards!"
Snarling like a madman, 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'd been celebrating like a fool, he had removed his heavy utility belt, including his ammunition pouch, which was now back inside the cave, along with his pack. Meanwhile, those wretched creatures were getting closer, moving in for the kill.
With no other route of escape, Richard run for his life, darting back into the cave, going for his backpack. Before he could get there however, he felt a set of jaws grab hold of his waistcoat, followed by another lock painfully around his ankle. 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 barely managed to shake them off by bashing them in the head with the barrel end of his empty shotgun. Seeing his only chance of escape, he bolted for the far wall. If he could only make it up to that ledge, he might have a fighting chance…
Struggling frantically, his attackers closing in fast, he managed to find some sound 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 for him to shake them off. Clinging on for dear life, Richard felt his bloodied fingers lose their grip on the rock.
Just as he thought he was doomed, suddenly he saw another figure emerge from the shadows on the ledge above. A feeling of utter relief swept over him as he recognised a very familiar face, "Taka! Oh, thank God! Help me, I'm slipping! Eh...Taka, what are you doing?"
His relief turned to horror as he read the traitorous expression in the figure's green eyes, who sneered down at him, "What has happened to my father's favourite? You ask the help of the lowly prince Taka who shall never be king, because he's always bested by his older brother and shunned by his proud father? Such irony, wouldn't you say, 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. Young, shy Taka, whom he had befriended along with his brother and parents, had led him into this ambush? Why? The figure smiled sinisterly.
"Because I'm 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 will 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, who had in fact told him about the diamonds, rather than Mufasa, had been plotting to kill him all along, to use his death as an excuse to disgrace his older brother. Richard was furious, realising Taka's treachery.
"You little bastard set me up!" he cried in furious outrage, "You will never get away with this…!" In one last desperate effort to save himself – and expose this traitorous plot to the King, who had accepted him and Makeede as royal guests all these months – he reached into his waistcoat, drawing a knife. He managed one slash across the unsuspecting Taka's left eye, but his soon-to-be assassin was faster and stronger. In the blink of an eye, he dug his claws into Richard's exposed hands, pinning them to the rock and 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 swarming below, waiting for the main course.
"Shenzie, Banzai, Ed, my faithful friends, dinner is served!" Giving the helpless Richard a shove, he sent the man plummeting straight back into the midst of the hungry pack of hyenas.
Having lost his knife in the fall, Richard was once again subjected to the agony of being mauled alive; the hyenas tore whole chunks out of his flash, ripping him to pieces. As they gnawed his corpse apart, one of the mangy beasts collided with the camera tripod Makeede had set up only moments ago. The camera went toppling over; as it hit the ground, a protruding stone grazed the snap button, taking a photo of the hyenas feasting on Richard's dead body, his murderer watching the scene of carnage from atop his ledge with sickening delight at his first murder…
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. Also, for those of you who don't know, Taka is Scar's birth name, taken from the LK comics. Please review and I will update faster! REVIEWS ARE INSPIRATION! Enjoy!