The Lion King:
The sun had already risen when Sarafina awoke in the Pride Rock den. She looked around the empty cavern, realizing her hosts had already left to do their various duties. She stretched her limbs as she rose and made her way to the den's entrance at the base of the throne. Looking around, she felt disappointed that she would not have the opportunity to say goodbye.
It took her about half an hour to return to the river. She continued to follow it upstream. Eventually, she found where it divided from the Zuberi River. It was here that the wind shifted and she caught the scent of someone following her. She paused and looked back, catching a glimpse of white fur and a light brown mane as her follower ducked behind a bush.
"Leo, what are you doing?" she demanded.
The brawny male poked his head out from behind the shrub. "Sarafina, what a surprise," he feigned. "Funny isn't it, the two of us running into each other like this – totally by accident…"
"You were following me, weren't you?" she said frostily.
"What?" Leo protested. "Of course not." He paused a moment and then sighed. "Okay, yeah, I kinda was," he conceded in a defeated tone.
Sarafina turned around to face him. "What do you want?"
Leo trotted towards her. "I knew you were leaving today and I wanted to say goodbye."
Sarafina narrowed her eyes at him. "So, why didn't you just say goodbye?"
"I didn't really know how to say it," he said sheepishly. "So I just trailed you until I could come up with something – which didn't really happen."
Sarafina shrugged. "Well, goodbye then." She turned around as if to leave.
"So, where are you going?" Leo asked, hoping to keep her longer.
Sarafina thought a moment. "Who knows? Just – away from where I used to live."
"But aren't you already away from where you used to live?" Leo pointed out.
Sarafina rolled her eyes. "Not far enough."
"How far do you have to go before it's far enough?"
"As far as I can possibly go."
Leo raised an eyebrow. "Or you could stay here," he suggested. "If you asked Ahadi, I'm sure he'd accept you. He and the rest of the pride already like you; I can tell. And I think you like most of us – unless I read you wrong yesterday."
Sarafina shook her head, staring at the ground absentmindedly. "No, you're right. I do like you all. It's just - the point of leaving home was so I didn't have to live in a pride anymore."
"Why? What happened with your old pride?"
Sarafina didn't answer immediately. "They didn't care about me or what I wanted."
"That can't be right. I'm sure you just had a little misunderstanding."
"They wanted me to mate with our king after he'd already impregnated half the females in our pride."
Leo's expression went blank. "Uh… Okay?"
Sarafina sighed, figuring if she'd revealed that much of her past, Leo deserved the whole story. "Your pride is a family but my pride was a harem. My father was dethroned and killed when I was a cub and even though I don't remember him, I know he was no different than our present ruler. I had eight half-sisters by five different mothers – and six brothers who I had never met because my father exiled them before I was born. And our current king," she paused and fought a tremor of rage rising up in her chest.
Leo's expression slowly melted from one of shock to sympathy.
"If my mother hadn't hidden me when he first came, he would have killed me to insure the survival of his own cubs. And when he chose me to be his next mistress, the other lionesses said I should've been happy!" Sarafina spat the last word hatefully. "That's what belonging to a pride means to me."
There was an uncomfortable moment of silence.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to lay all that on you," Sarafina mumbled. "It's just when it started coming out, I couldn't stop talking."
"It's okay," Leo replied. "Sometimes I don't know when to stop talking either."
Sarafina laughed. "Yeah, I noticed."
"Yeah," Leo chuckled. Then he blinked in confusion. "Wait, what?"
"Thank you for the invitation but I just don't think I could ever be part of a pride again. As wonderful as it is here, your pride could end up just like mine and I can't take that chance."
"That wouldn't happen," Leo scoffed.
"How can you be so sure?" Sarafina demanded. "Ahadi is a good king but what if another lion were to come and dethrone him? How do you know the next king wouldn't force you and the rest of the males from the Pride Lands and take your mates?"
Leo opened his mouth to respond but didn't know what to say at first.
"That's what I thought," Sarafina sighed, turning around to leave.
"Wait, I got it," Leo called out. "If Ahadi were dethroned and another king exiled us, me and the other males would just start another pride, one that kept Ahadi's traditions alive. And our mates would come with us. You could come with me."
Sarafina blinked and turned back to Leo. "Come with – you?"
"I mean us," Leo corrected himself, blushing under his fur. "You could come with us."
Sarafina thought about it for a moment but frowned hesitantly. "I don't know."
"Just for another month," Leo suggested. "If you still feel the way you do now, you can continue on your merry way upriver to who-knows-where."
Sarafina stared upstream a moment longer before turning around and giving Leo a serious stare. "Fine, one more month, but don't expect me to change my mind."
Leo grinned. "Oh, you'll change your mind," he promised coyly.
Sarafina raised an eyebrow, but then came closer and licked Leo on the cheek.
"Um, not that I'm complaining but what was that for?" Leo asked.
Sarafina shrugged. "A thank you."
"Don't know yet." She smiled invitingly.
Leo returned her smile with his own arrogant grin. Stepping closer, he nuzzled her along her cheek and neck.
Several yards downriver, Nadra watched her daughter's exchange with the young male Pride Lander. Queen Uru stood beside her, waiting expectantly for the other lioness to retrieve her daughter. "See? She's fine."
Nadra turned around and began to walk back the way she'd come.
"Wait, won't you go to her?" Uru asked.
Nadra paused and shook her head. "If she were to ask, would you allow her to join your pride?"
Uru was flabbergasted. "If you're really going to just leave her here, then yes, we would accept her."
Nadra nodded. "Please don't tell her I was here."
"So, you're really just going to abandon her?" Uru demanded irately. "But you're her mother!"
Nadra looked over her shoulder at Uru. "You have no idea what sort of life she's escaped. Believe me, she's better off here than with our pride."
Uru scowled. "The best place for a daughter is with her mother."
Nadra laughed. "If you could see what life was like outside your pretty little kingdom, you would know that's not always the case. Think poorly of me if you wish but leaving Sarafina here is the best thing I can do for her."
"Then why did you come here in the first place?" Uru demanded.
Nadra sighed. "Because, like you, I thought her rightful place was with me and our pride. I thought that her best chance was to be his…" Nadra grimaced, unable to finish. "I was wrong." She turned towards the queen and met Uru's glare unflinchingly. "Everything I did, I did because I thought it was the best I could do for her, but now I know there's somewhere else that's better for her." She looked back towards Sarafina and Leo. "Someone else better."
"If it's so terrible where you come from, why don't you stay as well?"
Nadra stared at Sarafina, tears running down her cheeks. "I'd only remind her of what she escaped. I belong with the rest of the wretches who shamed her for dreaming of a better life."
Uru shook her head. "I don't think I'll ever understand."
"Then consider yourself lucky, Your Highness."
The month passed before Sarafina knew it. At the entrance to the den, she stood before the king and queen timidly. "I know I can be of service to this pride. I'm not much of a hunter now but I promise I'll get better…"
"Sarafina," Ahadi interrupted with a kind smile, "you don't have to ask. We already consider you part of our pride."
Uru stepped forward and nuzzled Sarafina affectionately. "We're so happy to have you."
As the queen stepped back, Sarafina rubbed her eyes with the back of her forelimb. "Sorry, dust in my eyes," she said sheepishly.
"Of course," Ahadi chuckled.
Leo paced along the grassy field outside Pride Rock, waiting for Sarafina.
"You should go," Uru urged. "Someone's waiting for you."
Sarafina looked towards Leo and smiled. "Oh, him? He follows me everywhere, it's so annoying."
"I bet," Uru said with a knowing grin. She gave Sarafina a gentle nudge and the young lioness loped off to meet her admirer.
"It's a shame," Ahadi sighed, "I was thinking she might be a good match for Taka."
Uru rolled her eyes. "I tried but you know Taka, he thinks he knows better than anyone about courtship." She looked up at Ahadi. "I really hoped that Nadra would come back. I'm overjoyed to have Sarafina in our pride but I just don't understand why Nadra couldn't stay as well. How could she choose a life she says is so horrible over her daughter?"
Ahadi nuzzled Uru. "Sometimes, when you live in a terrible situation for too long, it becomes hard to leave it."
Uru rolled her eyes. "That's completely illogical."
Ahadi nodded. "It makes sense to someone who's lived out there – who's endured the hardships outside this world."
"Like you?" she asked, nuzzling his silky mane.
Ahadi nodded. "Lucky for me, you and your father found me – saved me before I was trapped in that world forever." He gazed towards Sarafina and Leo's retreating outlines. "I'm glad we could do the same for Sarafina."
Uru smiled. "Me too."
Proposed OC and Semi-Canon Voice Cast
Ahadi - Sean Bean
Nadra - Kate Mulgrew
Uru - Marina Sirtis
Note: I didn't look for voice actors to play the teenage versions of Mufasa, Sarabi, Sarafina, etc., etc., but I have a very good reason for this – I'm lazy.