Chapter 29: From behind Bars
That was the first thing he felt after waking up. A piercing ache located somewhere behind his eyes, very similar to the sensation of being stabbed with a porcupine's needle, only that he felt it in his brain. Many bad things had happened to him, in consequence of which he was now beaten, drugged and sore. But despite all of that, he was alive.
With utmost effort, he managed to open up his eyes. At first it was hard to recognize anything among the mist- his mind had to get used to nits regular activity again. But as soon as he was able to see clearly, the first thing he saw in front of him, were bars- strong, iron poles for which to struggle with he just didn't have the strength anymore. The bars were a clear sign of his tragedy and downfall, just as they used to be for the past months. But the sight of bars he'd gotten used to. It was what was on the other side of them that wouldn't give him a moment of rest, and not just for the period of time he spent in the ZOO, but throughout his whole life.
At the other side of the bars of Mufasa's cage was the Lion Walk. And Scar, sitting right in front of him with that same, passionless stare of his.
The captive feline attempted to stand up and roar, but all that his present state permitted him to do was to lift his aching head with an irritated, scornful snarl. That made his brother's face show a little discomfort, and he whipped the ground with his tail forcefully.
-"Wrrr… Now I know what you've been up to…" – Mufasa uttered. – "But your plan has failed again, brother! The stars are against wrongdoers like you. As you can see, the humans did not kill me…"
-"KIMYA!" – Scar suddenly interrupted, screaming in the sacred language. – "Kimya, ndugu! Unajua kitu. You know nothing."
And then, surprisingly to Mufasa, he calmed down. But not in a malicious manner of self-satisfied victory over his hated older sibling. No, it was… something different.
-"I know you're probably not able to believe me, but… I'm really going to miss you" – Scar said, looking him straight in the eyes.
Mufasa frowned. Was this another trick?
-"What are you talking about? Why am I still locked up? Where are they taking me? Are you hiding something from me?"
Straining his every muscle, Mufasa stood up growling and faced his brother, the bars of the cage being their only barrier. Scar smiled, but not like he usually used to smile. Somehow, he was happy, but not for his usual reasons.
-"Give my best to everyone at Pride Rock, brother."
What? At Pride Rock? What was Scar saying? Mufasa felt stupefied. His headache was overwhelming and he couldn't think clearly. All of this seemed… strange. Unlikely. Incomprehensible. He'd tried to kill their human breeder, he was being held in a cage… And now Scar was talking to him about Pride Rock? Was he dreaming? He turned his head, unable to make anything out of this confusing situation.
-"Explain this to me" – he looked at his brother finally, with a pleading request in his eyes.
-"My pleasure" – Scar grinned, seeing his perplexity. – "You never were exactly of the bright kind… But I guess all of this can be forgiven now. Ah, where do I start… First of all, I suppose I owe you an apology. I'm sorry for purposely making you mad for the past few weeks. Although since you did have me as a target of your anger, I suppose we're even. And more than that- even though you have an unhealthy tendency to yield to your low instincts, you are about to see that such behavior can sometimes serve a good cause. Even if one is totally oblivious to the actual fact. Don't worry, however- you'll thank me later."
-"I still don't understand a thing…"
-"I thought I told you to be quiet. Your ignorance is well visible in your face, believe me. So I advise you to wait for me to explain. It's peculiar how certain small things tend to escape your attention, and later grow to have a significant effect on your life- I suppose you've had this tendency since you were a cub. Do you remember how you failed to discover my two assassination attempts? Not to mention the presence of humans in the Pridelands, what lead to our eventual imprisonment… Well, presently we are facing a similar case. Because I don't suppose you remember the story with the bear?"
Indeed, Mufasa's lack of understanding was clearly visible in his expression.
-"What bear?" – he asked, startled.
-"Ah! So I was right again. You really should have ran a record of such news in your mind, just as I have done myself. Well, let me remind you of a certain talk you've had with the raven Moses more than three months ago, approximately. After he came back to serve us as majordomo, he quite eagerly informed you about a significant event in the ZOO, which you've thoughtlessly ignored. Should I continue?"
Mufasa quickly waved his head.
-"Fine. He said something like this- imagine that the other day, the humans brought a new inhabitant to the institution. A wild brown bear- caught in some forest far away. So they throw him inside a cage with three others of his kind that have gotten used to living in captivity years ago. Now get this- the bear starts acting really bad after being locked up. He doesn't eat, beats up his cellmates, all in all becomes a threat to himself and everything around him. Finally, he attacks one of the humans. Doesn't this sound familiar? Now guess what the bald monkeys did to him afterwards?"
The caged lion's jaw hung low. Everything was starting to become clear. It was true- he'd totally forgotten about Moses' report… Oh, what an idiot he'd been! He'd made another mistake that could have cost him everything.
What he'd done for him was… brilliant.! Outstanding! And it was also the most impressive kindness one could show to another, especially knowing who has shown it.
-"The humans sent the bear away, haven't they? They considered him unable to live in captivity, and just... released him back into his natural habitat…"
Finally, his brother was satisfied with Mufasa's answer.
-"Precisely" – Scar mouthed every syllable of the word slowly, expressing how content he was to see that, as little reason as his sibling had, he happily regained all of it.
Mufasa understood. Scar had always loved to play games- as long as he could play with the lives of others, and not the other way around. So he had done with Sarafina, his former mate, so he had done with the cub Simba… and now he played a game where his brother was a pawn, only this time doing it out of different motives. Not to serve himself, but to sacrifice himself for the good of others.
-"Why, brother?" – Mufasa asked, feeling so much dazzled by such a sudden shine of his sibling's formerly deeply hidden good nature. The emerald eyes pierced him with a frank stare.
-"Because you deserve this. As retribution for all that you have lost. And for all that I've tried to take away from you…"
Then Scar did something he had not done in years. Something he'd hardly ever done sincerely, and never before- out of real sorrow for his mistakes.
-"I'm sorry, Mufasa… I have hated you for no reason… I'd committed a horrible crime in trying to kill my own brother out of sheer envy, and now I tremble to think that I do not deserve to ever be pardoned…"
As unnatural as it looked, Scar was crying. As hard as it was to imagine, Mufasa was experiencing it before his very eyes, touched and deeply affected.
Truly, for most of the time of their stay in the Lion Walk, the two lions had gotten along significantly better than when they lived in Africa, arguing only from time to time. But Mufasa thought that Scar's recent malicious, clearly intentional attempts to shatter his balance were clearly showing that his brother was still jealous of practically everything that he had- even of the answer Anya brought them from the Pridelands. And now it turned out that it was all a show… To enrage him, to make him furious so that, having lost his temper, he would prove to the humans just how unable he himself was to live in captivity by attacking his own brother, the lioness they lived with, and even their own human raiser…
He'd wounded his brother for nothing. And Scar let himself get scarred even more just to make him free. Now Mufasa was the one who felt awful.
-"I… I have been a fool. It is just now that I recognize my mistakes, my own flaws… I pardon you, brother. I readily forgive you. And I beg you- forgive me, as well."
Scar lifted his head, embarrassed by his own tears, but when he saw them also in Mufasa's brown eyes, he smiled.
-"Hmf! Like I have anything to forgive you… You see, this is the fact that I have been ignoring for years- that, truth be told, you owe me absolutely nothing."
This was one of the few moments when the two brothers felt as actual siblings. One of such was also the time when they escaped their cage together to go on their midnight walk around the ZOO. But now it was something different. It was a stronger feeling- as if an old wound had been healed, leaving nothing but just a single, painless scar. The two lions would have fallen into each other's embrace, only if they weren't separated by a wall of bars. Instead, Mufasa put his paw on his brother's shoulder as they shared a happy look of mutual content.
-"You had me fooled there, Scar… I thought that you were the bad guy in this whole story."
-"Oh, people often misjudge me, even my own relatives. I kind of got used to that- it does serve my cause from time to time. But there is one thing I would want to ask of you, brother. Please, don't call me Scar anymore. That old alias has become… inappropriate, somehow."
Mufasa smiled with true happiness.
-"Our parents would have been proud of you, Taka."
-"Yes, perhaps they would, for once… I did put a lot of effort in making this happen."
-"You're right, and I thank you. But… how can you be sure that the humans will actually send me back to the Pridelands?"
This time the usual grin of self-content appeared on Taka's face.
-"Heh-heh, you see, I've been doing far more things behind your back than I've already told you. I hope that you don't mind. Even though you chased him away, I stayed in contact with Moses. He revealed to me just what simple and predictable beings the humans truly are… It seems that in certain situations they have a law, or code of action, which they obediently follow. And so if an animal in the ZOO behaves badly, it is either put to sleep in the event when it actually manages to kill a human, or, if it doesn't, it is simply sent back to where it came from. To the environment it knows and where it would be able to live normally and prosper. So you can call yourself lucky that you didn't murder our keeper in your amok, Mufasa. I advise you to pay special attention to anger management, since you'll need it much when you get relocated back to the Pridelands. To live normally and prosper."
Mufasa did not know what to say. He was grateful, more than ever in his life. And even if he did feel a little scared about where would the humans actually take him, he did have a lot of hope deep in his heart that everything would be okay.
But there was still one question that remained unanswered.
-"And what about you, Taka?" – he asked his brother.
-"Me? Oh don't you bother your big red head with that, I'll manage. You know that I got used to this place long ago, and that I find it very pleasing not to have to run around the savanna in order to get my food. And besides, I will not be alone."
-"Do you mean… Laila?"
-"Obviously, I do."
-"Oh, right! I have noticed that you two have become close to each other during the past few weeks. So what are you going to do now? Are you planning to… befriend her a little more with me gone, and the atmosphere in the walk being a little more intimate?" – Mufasa smiled communicatively.
But Taka's answering chuckle had even more amusement in it.
-"Hahaha! Brother, as I have said before, you don't know half of what I've been up to behind your back."
The other feline stared at him, amazed with what kind of news could Taka still surprise him.
-"What do you mean?" – he asked curiously.
-"Well, what can I say…" – the black-maned lion sighed, but then stood proudly, delivering his announcement. – "Laila is pregnant. She's been like that for weeks now."
-"WHAT? I can't believe this… And you're trying to tell me that… you're the one who… made her like that?"
-"No, bloody Leo the lynx did… OF COURSE I'm the one! Damn it Mufasa, you really have to stop asking stupid questions if you're going to be the king of Pride Rock again. Yes, Laila and I are quite happy with each other and we've planned to start a family here together. So I guess I'm going to be a father… again."
Mufasa looked at him joyfully.
-"And a fine father you will be!"
-"Yes, time will tell…"
-"But wait- where is our young expectant friend, anyway?"
-"Sleeping. She's still under the influence of the human drugs. I couldn't wake her up, and that's a real shame- she's probably going to be mad when she finds out that she didn't have a chance to reveal her secret and say goodbye to you personally…"
There was a moment of silence, during which Mufasa just gazed at his younger brother with a smile. And then he said-
-"Send Anya to me as soon as possible."
-"Oh yes, I'll keep you informed. And I will be dying to hear the news from Pride Rock… As I said, give my best to Sarabi and the lionesses. And say hi from me to that little hairball of yours, too."
-"Simba's not a hairball! He grew a lot since we saw him last time!"
With a grin of mischief, Mufasa stretched out his paw in order to jerk at Taka's mane. And for the first time in years, he didn't move away- rather, laughed at it with unoffended amusement.
Again, silence fell in the Lion Walk. It was hard for the brothers to admit the inevitable- that in just a few moments, for the first time in their lives, they were to be separated. And that made a touch of sadness appear on their faces.
-"So this means we'll never see each other again, doesn't it?" – Mufasa finally expressed the sorrowful question with a broken voice.
-"Yes. That is right" – Taka answered, looking towards some spot in the distance.
-"And there is no way for you to come with me?"
-"No, that's impossible. The humans want me to stay here with Laila and our cubs."
-"So be it, then!" – Mufasa said smiling, but his brother did not see it, as he had his head turned away.
-"For the past years we have been getting in each other's way, thus harming the kingdom, even though we are brothers and the sons of kings. Now we must separate our paths and go in opposite ways- to establish kingdoms of our own, where one as well as the other will try his best to maintain a commendable reign. And even though I wish you the best of luck in your journey, Mufasa, my brother, know this and keep in your mind the motto of our tribe- Sisi ni moja. We are one. And we cannot be totally torn apart."
Filling Mufasa's eyes with tears, Taka expressed the most important truth that kept their pride together for generations, no matter what test or hardship they had to endure. And then, doing what he deeply enjoyed, he started to sing- with his brother quickly joining him in the twofold choir of brotherly love.
As you go through life you'll see, there is so much that we
And the only thing we know is things don't always go
The way we've planned.
But you'll see every day that we'll never turn away
When it seems all your dreams come undone.
We will stand by your side filled with hope and filled with pride.
We are more than we are-
We are one.
But as soon as the brothers were able to finish the first verse of the Pridelands' anthem, the song was interrupted as Taka got shot with tranquilizer and wasn't able to say anything anymore, only sending Mufasa a last look of farewell.
-"Remember me" – whispered the older brother.
The moment has come- the humans entered the Lion Walk in order to take its oldest inhabitant away to places unknown.
AN: BOOM! You wanted something good to happen? Well how's this for a happy conclusion?
I know some of you have been predicting something like this might happen, but I didn't want to reveal what was in my mind to keep the tension strong. Did I do good? I'm sure some probably had a hunch that Scar might actually want to trick Mufasa and make the humans kill him. But I thought- to hell with Disney and his type of storytelling, I'm not going to make these characters black-and-white and obviously good guys and bad guys. I was thinking of something that had never actually happened in a Disney movie.
Namely, a conversion. A change of heart. And not like with Kovu in TLK2, but a situation in which the main villain, truly downright evil, becomes good. And so my favorite bad guy, Scar, seeing that he'd lost anything and that fighting with Mufasa is indeed futile and pointless, decides to help him be happy instead of wanting to destroy him for no reason. The time they'd spent in captivity makes him reconsider everything he'd ever known about his brother, and eventually, he lets go of his hate. With a lot of sacrifice from himself, using his cunning mind, he makes Mufasa's only dream come true.
And yes, congratulations to the ones who predicted that Laila is going to be with Scar. Truly, she wouldn't do that if he was a selfish bandit, but being able to sympathize with him, she discovered his inner good and helped him in putting his plan in motion.
But wait! I'm talking as if this is the final chapter! No no no, this is not the end yet! XD