The king of the Pridelands was flanked by three lionesses, one of which was his mother Sarabi, as he closed in on the intruder. The sun setting from behind was appropriate hindering the vision of their hunted quarry. The crashing of the nearby waterfall provided the perfect cover for their approach, easily drowning out the soft steps of the group advancing towards the oblivious outlander. The outlander in question was excitedly hunting his own shadow, taunting its futile attempts to escape. Simba noticed an immediate resemblance to Scar. However aside from physical similarities in colouring and build the two were very different. While Scar had been reserved and scheming, this lion was loud and somewhat clumsy in his antics. He looked like he suffered from malnutrition. His whiskers zigzagged before drooping in a rather pathetic way and knotted patches of dirty black fur were forming around the neck and legs. Occasionally he'd stop his 'hunt' to scratch himself muttering about a large variety of parasites. Simba nodded at his mother to surround the young outlander. He was jumping around dangerously close to one of the many chasms in the region, this one held a raging river at the bottom. It simply made him easier to pin down so the Pridelanders only needed to form a semi-circular shape around him for a trap, there was also conveniently long grass surrounding him, allowing Simba and his lionesses to crawl unseen, ever closer. "Ha, thought you could get away did ya? Not from me, no. I'm the king. The rightful king of all this land." He informed his defeated shadow.
"Oh, really?" Simba asked emerging from the grass as his lionesses followed his lead. The runt screamed and muttered incoherent nonsense. "What are you doing here? Your people are exiled, in case you forgot."
"I didn't forget!" The outlander babbled.
"So you knew you weren't allowed here but still came?" Sarabi asked.
The outlander paused in thought. "I mean yes, I forgot. I'm sorry, I'll just let myself out now..."
Simba stomped his paw as the outlander turned to leave. "Who are you?"
"No one, really." He replied in a rush, all the while looking around for an exit.
"Nuka." Sarabi muttered under her breath. She turned to Simba to explain. "Scar's son." At these words Simba's blood boiled and his claws tensed. Nuka gave a nervous grin and a single long, revolting string of slobber dangled from his mouth. Letting aloud a thunderous roar Simba advanced towards his 'cousin' who panicked. He moved backwards in a mad scramble, towards the unforgiving chasm. The weak earth underneath him began to give way and Nuka froze.
"Look out." Simba yelled and instinctively ran forwards to pull him from danger. Simba's yell caught Nuka's attention but his intention was completely misunderstood. Believing it to be an attack rather than a rescue, Nuka dodged with speed that seemed unnatural for one so scrawny and gave Simba a solid swipe around the face knocking him off balance for when the ground caved in. A cry from his mother was all Simba heard as he tumbled into the water below. It was an echo of his father's murder, Scar's son had thrown him to his death. Friends and loved ones flashed before his eyes: Nala who would be left all alone, Mufasa, who he'd failed to live up to and Kiara who would know the unbearable pain of losing a parent so young. The sun setting was appropriate.
"C'mon Ed, get up." Shenzi growled. "Get up now or we'll leave you to rot." There was still no reaction from her friend.
"It's no good, Shenzi. He's really sick." Banzai had walked up next to her to look at Ed. He was no longer wearing his lopsided grin but his tongue was still poking out of his mouth and eyes still mismatched. He looked a sorry sight.
"The rest of you." Shenzi turned to the clan. "Where's his food? He needs to eat something and not fish." She gestured to the nearby river. The hyena clan was in a sheltered location. They'd moved from the elephant graveyard for fear of either the Pridelanders looking for revenge for their actions under Scar or from Scar's loyalists seeking vengeance against those who'd killed their leader. It was not a good social standing for the hyenas. Their current position was a rocky gap at the bottom of a cliff. It gave them shelter from wind and rain and a healthy supply of water from the river. The main problem was food. Fish was the only thing in good supply and that wasn't healthy for a hyena, they needed meat, real meat.
"There's nothing here." One of the males said. "This place is drier than the graveyard." Shenzi sighed, too distressed to be angry with the clan.
"Any idea what's wrong with him?" She asked Banzai.
"Me? How should I know... Maybe worms?" He replied.
"Ain't worms." She said putting her paw on Ed's forehead. "Worms don't make you burn up like that." Ed shuddered slightly and shut his eyes.
"Yeah, you sleep now, buddy." Banzai rubbed his snout against Ed softly. He turned to Shenzi. "We've gotta get help."
Shenzi snorted. "Anyone who's friendly enough to help is too dumb to help and anyone who's smart enough to help hates us. We're on our own."
"Then we force someone to help us." Banzai snarled. "Why don't we march into the Pridelands, find that magical healing monkey guy and drag him back here?"
"You lost me at 'march into the Pridelands'." She turned towards the river disheartened.
"We can't just stand by and watch him suffer. It's not like you to just give up." Banzai called after her.
"Who says I'm giving up?" She called back. "But the Pridelands is suicide, not only would we cross Simba's turf but we have to go through the outlands as well and if they know we killed Scar..." She shuddered. "At least Simba would be merciful. We won't help him by getting killed, Banzai."
"We won't help him by just standing around here either." He replied. Shenzi's temper snapped, just as she turned to shut Banzai up a young female called from down river.
"We've got something here, it's no fish, some kinda big mammal." the female, Aminah, dashed into view. Drifting down river after her was a corpse. A big one.
"Ho-boy. We're eating tonight, ladies and gentlemen." Shenzi called to her clan which cackled excitedly in response. The clan was dragging the corpse up to shore.
"It's a lion!" Aminah called back.
"Ew, I'm not eating one of them." Shenzi raised her eyebrows.
"But we can't just leave him lion there." Banzai cackled at his pun. "He will be just fine for the, eh, mane course."
"Shut up." She told him but her smile while she said it ruined any effect the order had. But as they approached the corpse it looked somewhat familiar.
"Hey isn't that..."
"Wait is this..."
"Simba!" They said in unison. They exchanged surprised looks, which quickly gave way to devilish smiles. But then the lion spluttered sending a fountain like spray of water from his mouth.
"Oh God, he's alive." Banzai screamed and scrambled away, as did about half the clan. Shenzi, Aminah and a few others stood their ground. Simba's eyes sprung open and for the briefest of moments there was a fear in his eyes no different to the time he'd been chased through the graveyard by the very same being in front of him now. He leapt to his feet and roared but it was clear he was weak and confused.
"You lost, your highness?" Shenzi taunted. The hyenas cackled and began to mob Simba who swiped at those nearest.
"I don't want to fight…" Simba snarled.
"Good, so you can surrender now." Shenzi sneered.
"Yeah, yeah. Let's get him!" Banzai yelled, running forwards with a gleam of crazed hunger in his eyes.
"Wait!" Shenzi called an idea forming in her mind. She turned to Banzai and spoke quietly so the lion couldn't hear. "We could turn this into an advantage much better than one meal."
"What? We kill the king and the Pridelands are blown open for us, there's no other adult males to take charge.
"That's just tradition. The females can still be queen if need be."
"They still lose their leader and we can take the land."
"Sure, then the outlanders come in to take it back after we're still recovering from an attack on the Pridelands. Do you want that?"
Banzai paused. "No. But they aren't all bad, you know. The outlanders, I mean."
"Maybe, maybe not, But that Zira nut is, and she'd be in charge through some puppet on the throne. Better Simba than her."
"You... have a point." Banzai admitted. "What's the plan?"
"We cut a deal. There's no way he'd make it back safely without help, he's injured and surrounded by people who despise Pridelanders, probably doesn't even know the way back. In return we get help for Ed and maybe some food while we're at it." She added as an afterthought.
"I dunno..." Banzai began but Shenzi interrupted him.
"You wanted to do something and this is it. Opportunities like this are rare, you've gotta seize them." Turning to Simba again she repeated. "Are you lost?"
"What is it you want?" Simba spat.
"You remember Ed?" Shenzi nodded towards her friend, shivering in the corner. "He needs help. I think maybe your monkey is just the guy to do it."
"Rafiki? Forget it." Simba snarled.
"Hear me out would ya? You're in no position to make demands here. You're not our king and you're not exactly the most liked person around these parts. Lots of guys want to get their claws on you, kingy."
"Like who?" Simba asked.
"Daddy didn't mention much about these parts did he? This is where all the exiles go. Not just hyenas, although there are some clans around here that make us look like your best friends. I'm talking crocodiles that became too greedy, Rhinos and elephants that went mad, charging everything in sight, even vultures that were no longer content to just scavenge but would peck young cubs to death and standing between this and the Pridelands is the outlands, but you already know about those, don't you?" Simba looked at the ground briefly. "Exactly, so if you run off by yourself it's a death sentence. You need guides. You need us. I'll let you think about it. Run along now, you know where to find us." She signalled for the clan to break away, giving Simba a clear exit. Simba stared at the hyenas for a moment before starting to move out. Banzai gave Shenzi a confused look but she waved it away.
"Wait." Simba said, much less aggressively than he had been speaking. Shenzi smiled at him. "I guess I've got no choice. If you wanted me dead, you'd have done it already."
"Atta guy. Proving that some lions do have half a brain." Shenzi cackled.
"So you won't attack me?" Simba asked feeling rather childish in asking.
"If you behave." Shenzi sneered. "But I want your word that you will do everything in your power to help Ed."
Simba nodded slowly "I promise, once we're back in the Pridelands that I will."
"Good. Now it's too dangerous to move at night for someone like you..." Shenzi began but was interrupted by Simba.
"I can manage fine at night." He told them.
"Sure but so can the other hyena clans who come out at night and they haven't just washed up from a river. Nah you need your beauty sleep, believe me."
"You expect me to sleep with you around? In the middle of a gang of hyenas?"
"Yep. Seriously though you're covered in scratches and that back leg looks kinda weak. We rest here until morning." Simba just stared. Shenzi sighed. "See that ledge?" She pointed at a high point of rocks. "Our legs aren't strong enough to get up there but yours are, even with that dodgy back one. You can sleep up there if it makes you feel better." Simba took a few moments to move but cautiously made his way to the ledge. He looked exhausted and after a moments delay began to rest.
"This isn't gonna work." Banzai said. "Too much bad blood."
"We've gotta try, for Ed, right?"
"Right." He nodded still looking uncertain but no longer arguing.
"Aminah?" Shenzi called. The female gazed over. "Take some of clan out hunting. That'll get us some food and hopefully make him feel less... overwhelmed by numbers."
"Sure." she replied and signalled at a few members to follow her. Shenzi looked over at the Pridelands king, now huddled over and hoping Banzai was wrong, he usually was.
"How many of us are going with?" Banzai asked her.
"Just me." She replied. "Don't wanna make him nervous."
"What!" Banzai exclaimed. "It's too dangerous to go alone."
"I won't be alone." She nodded at Simba.
"pffft, good as." Banzai snorted.
"Who knows, maybe we'll be best friends by the time we get back." She chuckled. Banzai wasn't so amused.
"I thought Scar was our friend, it just showed you can never trust a lion." He snarled. "I still think it would easier to kill him now." He walked towards his bed. "I'm coming with you, there's nothing you can say otherwise, Shenzi."
She smiled. "Figured I'd end up stuck with you." Taking one last look at Simba, she entered the nearest cave for bed.
A/N: Title comes from TV Tropes page I thought appropriate. If you enjoyed please tell me why, if you didn't then also tell me why.