Chapter 9

Final goodbyes

"Mom!" Lakae half-screamed, half-cried.

My head was ponding, making every thought an enormous struggle. I could hear Mita desperately trying to save her sister, and then Chakaa's moans of pain. My fur was matted and sticky, blood soaked parts of my fur, while the other parts were covered in filth. Every muscle in my body ached. Lakae's grief-stricken sobs rang through my ears, making guilt unfurl inside my stomach. I felt hollow inside, feeling the weight of Tatony's death weighing down on my shoulders.

"Nala," A soft voice said.

I turned my head towards the voice numbly. Ocio looked at me concerned, her cub cowering behind her legs. Aisha and Titan were watching me from slightly to the left of Ocio. Be Strong. I took a deep breath and then my mind began to tick. Someone would need to help Mita with Chakaa, which was my main priority right now.

"Aisha, I need you to help Mita with Chakaa. Titan and Estana, you two need to make sure that all of the outlanders are gone. We don't want any more surprise attacks. Ocio watch Jabari. I'm going to try to comfort Lakae," I finished.

"Help her, please." Lakae was now begged, wanting to get help from us, but not willing to leave her mother's side.

I turned, feeling my heart tighten, and padded over to Tatony's body. She looked peaceful, almost as though she were sleeping. I might have even tricked myself into thinkng that if she didn't have so much blood covering her. Lakae watched me, her big, blue eyes overflowing with tears.

"Help me," She whimpered.

My legs suddenly felt as though they might collapse underneath me. I sat down abruptly.

"Lakaeā€¦" I trailed off, not knowing what to say.

"Nala, save her," Lakae was shaking now.

"I-I can't," I whispered, closing my eyes.

Lakae feel silent. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes. She needs you Nala. Shape up. I opened them, locking eyes was the small cub. She was crying, but her face was stony. Her eyes narrowed slightly, even inch of her tensing.

"Get away," She growled at me.

"Lakae, there was nothing I could do. She died protecting you," I tried explaining in vain.

"Where were you?" She spat at me.

She might as well have punched me in the stomach. Where was I? If I had just been a better leader maybe Tatony wouldn't be dead. Lakae turned away from me and curled up into a ball next to her mother's body. I stood up silently, and walked away.

"Nala, we patrolled the area, but there aren't any outlanders snooping around," Estana trotted up to me.

He looked tired and beaten up. His ear was torn and bleeding, while I could see he was limping pretty badly. His usually vibrant eyes were now dull as he waited for my reply. Titan stood next to him, looking even worse. His fur was stained red on his side, and looked like it might still be bleeding. Scratches tore through his check and he was panting heavily. What was I thinking? He needed medical attention, not to be patrolling the boundaries for outlanders that weren't there.

"Titan, you need to see Mita as soon as possible. Don't bother her; just wait for her to finish up with Chakaa. Estana, I-"

I what? I need your help? I need you? He gave me a puzzled looked. I swallowed trying to process my thoughts. Where was he most needed right now? I couldn't think of anywhere, so he might as well just stay with me.

"I need you to stay here and help me. Lakae's really hurting," I tried to explain.

"And by the looks of it, so are you. Nala you need to relax. I'll deal with Lakae," He walked towards Lakae.

An hour passed, then another. Chakaa was going to make it, but there was no guarantee she would ever be fighting material again. Titan was fine as well. Lakae wouldn't even talk to me, much less look in my direction. As far as she was concerned, I murdered her mother. I had already felt responsible for her death, but now I just felt like shit. Despite everything I couldn't stop thinking about Kiara. This made me feel extremely guilty, considering that she wasn't even here and there were much more important things at hand.

I focused on the outlanders right now. How did they know where she was? Was someone spying on them, or was there a traitor on the inside? She doubted the second option, everyone had gotten pretty beat up in the battle, besides Ocio. Could Ocio be a spy? The idea seemed impossible, but I didn't know if I could rule it out. I did know one thing though, if the outlanders knew where we were, it was only a matter of time before they attacked again. And unless all the lions in the savanna decided to join my pride, we were going to be slaughtered, literally.

"We need to move," I finally said.

"What? We need rest, not to go for a journey," Mita protested.

"I know we need to rest, but it'll only be a matter of time before the outlanders attack again," I explained.

"At least let us get something to eat first," Aisha piped in.

"Fair enough, Ocio and Estana come with me." I called out.

"Nala, as a healer, you need to stay here. You were beat up pretty badly too," Mita warned me.

Was I? Now that she mentioned it, my body did ache everywhere, including my shoulder, which had taken a few good blows. I lay down, suddenly feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lakae glance at me for the first time since her mother's death. She was still curled up next to it, not touching it, but not willing to let anybody else get near it.

"Take a rest Nala. Nobody will blame you," Mita advised.

I glanced over at her. She was sitting next to Chakaa, who was sleeping. Chakaa was a beautiful lioness, but she looked extremely pale and very weak and the moment. I sat my head in my paws, feeling my eyelids suddenly become very heavy. Maybe I would take a nap, didn't I deserve it? I slowly drifted off.

Screams cut through the air, bouncing around inside my skull. The stink of blood and death filled my nose, making it almost impossible to breath. The hot, bright sun beat down on me. I chocked on the air, and then began to cough violently, blood spraying everywhere. My throat burned. It hurt more than anything else. I sucked in a quick breath, making my throat hurt so painfully I began to see stars.

A golden lioness was running towards me. Her leaps were graceful, and she easily kept up with the large lion at her side. His mane was red, making him resemble the sun. Their amber eyes looked up at me with happiness. Kiara. Simba. They were alive. I tried to move towards them, but my paws were stuck to the ground. Oh, well. They would be here soon enough, and then my family would be whole again. Then I caught a glimpse of something running after them. Zira.

Her strides were twice as long as theirs and her dark pelt made her blend in with the shadows. Her eyes were wild and wicked, her lips curled into an evil grin. She was gaining on them fast. I tried to open my mouth to warn them, but no words came out, only a horrible pain in my throat. Panic gripped me as I tried to run towards them in vain. They were so close I could almost touch them. And then suddenly Zira was upon them.

She overtook Simba was surprising ease and had him pinned within seconds of the attack. Kiara screamed, looking at me to help her. Zira laughed wickedly, bringing up her paws slowly. Her long, sharp claws glinted in the sun as though they were taunting me. Then she brought her paw down in one swift motion, slicing Simba's throat. I stood paralyzed, watching in horror as she stole Simba from me once again.

Kiara turned away from her father, and ran towards me. Her once cheerful eyes were now wide with panic and despair. She reached out for me, so I could take her away from all the pain and keep her safe from Zira. But I could not help her. She had my daughter in her grasp now, slowly pulling her away from me. I struggled to reach out to her, take her paw, anything. But Zira had her already, and I was once again powerless.

Zira drug her already bloody claws down Kiara's spine, making her scream out in anguish. No. This can't be happening. This can't be real. But it felt oh so real. Zira slammed her paw into Kiara's head roughly, and then again, and again. Kiara moaned, tears flowing from her eyes. She looked straight at me.

"Mommy, help," She whimpered.

I woke abruptly to the sound of someone screaming. My body was shaking, and it toke me a moment to realize that I was the one screaming. Mita ran towards me, worry all over her face.

"Nala, are you okay?" She asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I lied as best I could.

She didn't look convinced and said, "You were screaming,"

"Just a bad dream,"

"Okay, well it's about time to go. We were waiting for you to wake up and eat, Mita explained, dropping food by my feet.

I felt my cheeks flush bright red. Everyone was waiting on me. I wish somebody would have woken me up. I quickly gobbled down my food, not realizing how hungry I was until I started eating. Practically everyone was watching me, which made me feel just a tad self-conscious.

"Everyone ready?" I asked.

"Yup," Estana spoke for everyone.

I stood up and glanced around. We should travel towards the water hole, so we can stop and drink on the way. We'd need to find different source of water to live around though, the water hole was just too close to where we were before. The thing is that I didn't know if there were any more water holes around. I could be leading a suicide mission right now. I tried not to think about that.

"Estana, I want you to walk next to me," I told him.

He nodded. I motion for the rest of the pride to follow as I walked off towards the water hole. Everyone followed me as I started to walk away, that is everyone but one.

"Lakae, I know you're sad, but we need to go," I tried to persuade her.

"No," She turned away from me.

"It's what she would want. Please," I begged her.

I could see her hesitate, and then she said, "I don't want to go,"

"Losing Simba was the hardest thing that's ever happened to me. Not only was he the love of my life, but he was my best friend. I miss him every day, but I'm not sad anymore. I know he is watching over me, just like your mom's watching over you. She wants you to be safe, and to be safe you need to come with us," I explained, hoping she would understand everything.

"Okay," She whimpered, standing up.

I guided her over to Ocio, who I knew would take care of her during the journey. Ocio nodded at me and the pulled Lakae in closer to her. I walked back up to the front of the pride next to Estana. He watched me, giving me a small smile of encouragement.

"Ready?" He asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be," I replied, walking away from the battlefield behind us.