To Be King
The sun rose high on the grassy plains of the African savanna, providing light for all creatures great and small. Although some stood in the sun's rays to feel its warmth and others dwelled in the shadows that the sun must always create, all of these creatures were connected to each other in their own way, every one of them a part of the great Circle of Life.
As the early morning sun soared high in the sky, it illuminated an enormous, mountainous rock with a promontory extending out and boulders below to support its weight. This giant stone mountain was known to the animals of the savanna as Pride Rock, home to the king's pride of lions.
High up on the very top of Pride Rock, a young cub was seated beside a much larger adult lion. The cub looked to him in admiration, for he was the Lion King.
The little cub turned his sight to all the land laid out before him. There were fields of green and gold, trees dotted here and there, curving rivers and rolling hills, and to the cub, it looked as though this land spread to the ends of the earth.
But the view only made his heart thump faster. He gulped, then asked his father, "Wh-What if I'm... n-not ready to rule the Pr-Pr-Pridelands?"
The lion let out a good-natured laugh and beamed at his son, "Oh, Mufasa! You have plenty of time to become ready. One day, when you're much, much older, you will reign over everything you see before you. Everything the light touches is our kingdom... your birthright."
Young Mufasa put on a smile to please his father, but he still felt doubtful that he would ever be ready to be king. His father, Ahadi, was such a strong, noble ruler, and Mufasa just knew he would never, ever live up to him.
The little golden-furred cub gazed up at his regal father. Ahadi had the broadest shoulders, the longest black mane, the most golden-brown fur, and brightest green eyes he had ever seen. All of those features, along with his large stature, confident demeanor, and incredibly deep voice that Mufasa was sure he would never have, made him the perfect king in his son's eyes.
Mufasa gave a small sigh and shuffled his paws. King Ahadi looked at him with concern. "You still doubt yourself, son?"
"Well... y-you told me that one d-day, the sun would set on your t-time and rise withm-m-me as the new Lion K-King, but I've been th-thinking that maybe... maybe I'm not the r-r-right one to be king."
"Are you thinking of Taka?"
Mufasa nodded. From the day the two brothers had first been told that only the eldest would inherit the throne, Mufasa had been doubtful and Taka had been jealous. His younger brother used to goof around with him all the time, but ever since that day, they hadn't had so much as a play fight. Taka was always going on about how unfair the whole thing was... Perhaps he was right. Perhaps Taka really did deserve to be the Crown Prince, not Mufasa.
Ahadi smiled gently at him. "Son, you know I love Taka very much, but according to our pride's traditions, it is you – the oldest of my cubs – who will succeed me. Your brother is next-in-line after you, until you have a cub of your own, that is."
"But T-T-Taka is really smart, F-Father! A lot smarter than m-m-me... He t-told me so. He told me that it wasn't f-f-fair that I – I had stolen his ch-chance to be k-king. Taka is so cl-clever, and I'm just... I th-think he would make a b-better king than me."
"Did he tell you that, too?" Ahadi asked quietly.
He didn't answer, choosing instead to shuffle his paws again. Though Taka could sometimes be a little mean to him, Mufasa would never want him to get in trouble.
"Don't worry about your brother. I'll speak with him later today," Ahadi smiled at him knowingly. "And if you still doubt your ability to be king one day, then there's something I will tell you later tonight. I think it might be just what you need."
The Lion King pulled his son into a warm embrace. Mufasa could have hugged his father all day, but it was soon time for them to leave. He looked back at the sunrise that had dyed the land red and orange, trying to take in the notion that he would one day rule everything before his eyes. He hoped his father had some really, really good advice for him tonight, because right now, he felt hopeless.
"How was he?" the queen asked when Ahadi slipped into the Royal Den, the roomy cave within the walls of Pride Rock. He walked over to nuzzle her cheek.
"Same as always, love," the king sighed, flopping down beside her in the back of the cave. "He still doubts his ability to be king, and he still talks with... well, you know."
The queen of Ahadi's pride was the eldest daughter of the previous Lion King, the wise and much-revered Mohatu. Uru was known for having the most beautiful orange fur, more striking than her father's brownish-orange coat. It was a rare shade among the lions of the Pridelands.
As much as Ahadi loved her fur color, he had always thought its beauty paled in comparison to Uru's smile. "He's still young. I'm sure Mufasa will come around."
"You're always sure, aren't you, love?" he grinned.
"As a matter of fact, I am."
"I just worry that the other cubs are giving him a hard time about it... I know for a fact Taka is," Ahadi groaned, resting his large head on her shoulders. "Apparently, he told his big brother that he stole his chances of being king."
"That does sound like our Taka," Uru laughed.
"I don't see how this is funny," the Lion King said, lifting his head up and frowning at his queen. "Remember what happened between you and your sister? I'm can't help but worry – "
"Then stop worrying. They're going to be fine," Uru smiled at him, the smile that got him every time. "In time, Mufasa will become more confident and Taka more understanding. You'll see."
The handful of other cubs in the pride were playing together, having races and games of tag under the shade of an Acacia tree and the watchful eye of two lionesses. Little Mufasa shied away from them, running for the open fields on the other side of Pride Rock. He liked being the prince well enough, but it was a little lonely.
As he walked, the cub failed to notice the dark figure stalking him from the shadows. It took cover in the maze of grass, its scent undetected by poor Mufasa. The predator eyed the young prince, reared back, and pounced.
"T-Taka!" Mufasa laughed at his little brother.
"Gotcha! Some king you'll be if I can sneak up on you that easily!" Taka said gleefully, pinning his older brother to the ground. Where his own fur was golden and his hair was reddish-brown, Taka had the orange fur of their mother and the black hair and glowing green eyes of their father.
Taka also happened to be impossibly frail, so it took no more than a light shove for the bulky Mufasa to knock him off and stand back up. "Well, I w-wasn't on the lookout for a s-surprise ambush."
"And that was your mistake. If I were the king, I would always be expecting an attack," the scrawny little cub bragged. "I would always be prepared."
Mufasa rolled his eyes at his brother's fantasies. "I-It's not all y-y-you make it out to be. F-Father showed me the whole k-kingdom this morning, and it j-just goes on f-f-forever! Imagine h-having to r-rule it all."
"I do imagine it! But it's not like I'll ever get to, thanks to you," Taka grumbled, swiping at the dirt with his paws. "You could at least act a little grateful that Daddy picked you to be his heir."
"H-He didn't pick m-me..." Mufasa mumbled, eyes to the ground, "...It's tr-tr-tradition that the oldest son is heir to the th-throne."
"But a king can do whatever he wants!" Taka rebutted, his voice rising. "If Father had wanted me to be his heir, he would've made it so. If he wanted us to rule together, then that's what we'd do. But noooooo, he seems perfectly happy to let you be king instead of me." He wasn't sure, but it almost looked like Taka was beginning to tear up. "Why do you deserve it, huh? Because you were born a minute before me? You can't be the king. You couldn't give a single speech without embarrassing yourself!"
And at that, Mufasa burst into tears. He sobbed and sobbed, and surprisingly enough, Taka seemed about ready to cry himself.
"What's going on, you two?" The brothers heard the booming voice of their father, running down Pride Rock to stand between his bickering, crying sons. When Ahadi saw that his eldest son was in tears, he turned on the younger. "What did you say to him, Taka?"
"I – I didn't – "
"H-He didn't say a-anything," Mufasa suddenly spoke up, sniffing back his tears. "We were about to p-play, and I st-stubbed my toe on a r-r-rock."
King Ahadi looked to the ground. There were no rocks anywhere near them. "...I see. Well, son, try to be more careful next time."
His two sons nodded and began walking away from their father, but before Taka took two steps, Ahadi called out, "Wait a moment, Taka. I need to speak with you."
"What? Why am I in trouble?" the cub moaned, wiping away his own tears.
"I never said you were in trouble. We just need to talk, that's all."
Taka hung his head, then sulkily followed his father into the deeper grasses, but not before shooting his brother a look that clearly said "This is all your fault." He did not like upsetting Taka, but sometimes he felt like his younger brother went looking to be upset. And all this time, Mufasa had thought he was the sensitive one.
He did not see his brother again for the rest of the day, so he supposed Taka was avoiding him. It wouldn't be the first time he had done it. Still, Mufasa wasn't too happy about this, because Taka was one of the few cubs in the pride he ever played with.
Mufasa had to spend the rest of the day by himself. When his father approached him later that night, Ahadi found him lying on the shore of the waterhole, looking at his reflection and talking to himself.
"Everything the l-l-light touches is o-our... No, no... Everything the light touches is o-our k-k-kingdom... Our k-kingdom... No! K-Kingdom... Oh, why c-can't I say it?"
"You will," Ahadi whispered, gently rubbing his son's back. There was a gentle breeze through the land that night, moving the water forward and back over the shore. The lion and the cub stood there, letting the water soak their paws.
"Come with me, son. There's something you need to hear."
Mufasa had almost forgotten what his father had promised him after he had shown him the kingdom. Something to make him less shy, perhaps? He would love to be as loud and sure as his younger brother.
Whatever it was, Mufasa couldn't wait to hear it. He followed his father away from the watering hole, and without saying a word, they made their way to an open field, nothing on the horizon but grass and, off in the distance, Pride Rock.
The king and the prince sat together in the grass, silently. Mufasa noticed his father was gazing up at the endless stars overhead, hundreds upon thousands of twinkling lights that appeared when the day turned dark.
His eyes still watching the stars, Ahadi quietly said, "You asked me this morning whether or not you were, or ever would be, ready to rule. You doubted whether or not you're the right lion to be king one day."
Mufasa swallowed hard, looking down at his damp paws. He had let his father down, he just knew it. But as though he could read his thoughts...
"You could never disappoint me, son. But you have to stop being disappointed in yourself. I know you're full of doubt right now," Ahadi said, bending down to whisper in his son's ear, "but let me tell you about a time when I doubted myself. You're just a cub, but my doubt came as an adult... You know that I'm not of royal blood, not like your mother. Many years ago, back when I was just a common rogue, your mother and I fell in love. She wanted me to be her king, but I thought I could never rule this land. I didn't think myself capable or deserving of the throne... or of her."
"Wh-Wh-What did you do, F-Father?" Mufasa asked, his eyes wide.
"It's not what I did, son, but what she did," Ahadi explained, a warm smile on his face. "Your mother told me something then that her father told her when she was just a small cub like you. And that's what I'm going to tell you now."
Mufasa said nothing. He grinned in anticipation, eager to hear the words that had been passed down the royal line, from father to son, from mother to daughter, from Uru to Ahadi, and now from his own father to him.
"Look at the stars. They are the Great Kings of the Past. They watch over us, guide us, and help us through all the obstacles we face in our lives. One day, my life will be over, and you will be the new Lion King... but I'll always be with you, watching over you from the night sky until it's your time to join me."
"All of th-those k-k-kings will watch out for m-me?" Mufasa asked his father in amazement. "Will they f-f-fix how I t-talk?"
"You're not broken, son," Ahadi whispered, nuzzling his head. "The Great Kings will help you all your life, but the confidence to rule comes from within... and I do believe it's already there. You just don't realize it yet."
Mufasa beamed at his father. He wanted to be as good a king as he was, just as fair and wise and kind. He wouldn't have thought it before, but now, gazing up at the stars beside his father, Mufasa knew he could do it.
"I am going to be king one day," he grinned.
"Well, how about that?" Ahadi laughed. "You didn't stutter."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hello, my excellent readers! I'm glad you're interested in my story. Each chapter in this story will be set at a different point in time in the world of The Lion King. This story will mainly focus on three different storylines, the first about Mufasa and Taka, the second about Prince Kopa, and the third about Ahadi and Uru. There will be many other stories told along the way, but are the main three.
Thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated.