Hello everybody and welcome to my story!
After I stumbled over "The Lion King" way more than ten years since I first watched it, I promptly fell in love again and slowly but surely, some ideas for an alternate storyline formed in my mind. I'll leave it now up to you to either criticize or praise (maybe even both?) the outcome of my thinking and I hope that you'll enjoy this first little chapter at least as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Special thanks to Nala-Nay at that point for helping me with everything that needed to be corrected, deleted, changed or added. You are great. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own "The Lion King" or one of its characters and I most certainly never will.
Prologue: The Biggest Gift
It was a beautiful early afternoon in the Pridelands when Mufasa, the mighty king with the golden fur and scarlet mane, finished the first part of his usual border patrol, and made his way back to Priderock.
Well, to tell the truth, it was a rather regular day in spring, nothing really special about it. The sky was not bluer than usual and the sun did not shine any brighter than any other day this year.
But still, "something" had happened only a few days ago and exactly this little "something" made Mufasa think that every day since then had been even more beautiful than the last one.
Sarabi, his former best friend and present life mate had given birth to a beautiful small lioness with the light tan-colored fur of her mother and eyes as blue as he had only seen them on his grandmother during some rare occasions in his youth.
That was the very reason why they had named her after the long-passed queen: Nala…, Princess Nala of the Pridelands, as her official title would be.
As Mufasa walked towards the den, he felt a little bit saddened regardless. Sure, he loved his little cub with every fiber of his heart, but she was female after all… – not that he thought that male cubs had a bigger value, no, in his pride, lions and lionesses held themselves as complete equals… well… as he let his mind wander back to several occasions during his relationship with Sarabi, he even had to admit that females were in charge most of the time…
However, as he thought about it, he could have blamed his tingle of sadness just as well on him being male - the point was only and alone that he wouldn't ever get the chance to teach Nala about the wisdom of the kings that was passed from generation to generation and that once had been given to him by his father.
No, Sarabi would teach little Nala what being a princess meant and the reason was simple: Lionesses did not need to know how to patrol borders, or fight other rivaling predators. Guaranteeing the security of the pride was and had always been a lion's task whereas nature intended the females to be the better hunters and, in most cases, the better caretakers for their offspring.
The fact that there wouldn't be a chance to ever get a second cub did not ease the small pain in Mufasa's heart though, but he and Sarabi had decided to only have one cub in order to prevent jealousy and rivalry between the siblings. A decision his parents had made as well.
Not too long ago, the leader of a herd of wandering Gnus told Mufasa's major domo, Zazu, about a lion from another pride - Scar was his name – that had tried to kill his slightly older twin and family only to ascend the throne. His plan, however, failed and the king, a very wise leader whose name he had unfortunately forgotten, banished Scar from his lands instead of killing him.
It had sent a cold shiver down the king's spine as he had thought about his two children – both of his very own blood – going for each other's throats for nothing but power and after a long talk with his mate, the queen had declared to visit the shaman of the pride, Rafiki, as soon as she had fully recovered from giving birth to Nala. They had already spoken to him and he had assured them to know a way to solve their little problem without affecting anything about their love life.
As Mufasa finally entered the den and saw his mate lying on their usual royal spot, their daughter peacefully snuggled up into her paws, he still could not help but smile.
With every step he took towards his little family, all his worries seemed to melt away a bit further until he stepped onto the low platform and laid himself down next to Sarabi, nuzzling her lovingly with not a single troubling thought left.
The bigger parts of parenting might be in the paws of his beautiful mate, but that would not stop him the slightest from ripping every male that came too close to his little sweetheart into tiny shreds!
After making this decision as final as the circle of life was, he finally started to speak with his deep but gentle voice: "And how are my favorite two girls today?"
He leaned closer towards Nala who had woken up only minutes before Mufasa arrived, giggling happily as her father carefully nuzzled her belly with his snout.
She sure was a bundle of energy and he secretly reasoned that this could get him quite a headache when she grew older.
"Your two girls are just fine, Mufasa." Sarabi replied with a content sigh "Little Nala here grows stronger every day. I'm sure she will be ready by tomorrow to go for her first walk."
Mufasa lifted his head up again, successfully hiding the mischievous twinkle in his auburn eyes by shooting his mate one of his charming smiles.
"That is without doubt wonderful… but nonetheless; I have to kindly remind my queen that she just forgot the 'favorite' in 'favorite two girls'…"
Sarabi looked at her love for a moment, puzzled – but as the light dawned, she grinned widely and started to nuzzle under Mufasas chin.
"Oh, how rude of her…", she answered innocently and licked his cheek "… how could she dare!"
The mighty king chuckled deeply, as he nuzzled his mate back, savoring the feeling of her soft fur rubbing against his own.
He wished he could stay there and go on like this for the rest of the day, but sadly, he was the only male in his pride and the western borders still needed to be checked.
Oh, Mufasa had not the slightest idea of whose path he would cross, as he resumed his patrol…
Out there in the savannah stumbling slowly through the grass, was a lioness that had way too much problems to recognize the beauty of this afternoon.
She had been walking for nearly a week straight – no food and almost no water had been consumed. Her feet were sore and heavy and she did not know where she was going.
As if this was not enough, the poor lioness that must have had a beautiful dark golden coat under all that dirt covering her, was highly pregnant – already two weeks past the assumed day of birth, to be precise.
Oh, how she ached to rest… only for a couple of minutes – these where the thoughts running through her mind again and again, but she kept going… kept walking for her unborn child, holding tightly to the last bit of hope that was beginning to slowly fade inside of her.
She made three more shaky steps before her weak legs finally gave in, making her fall into the dusty dirt - face first.
She felt no pain though, but what she did feel were her eyelids drooping ever so often – begging for a little sleep; promising comfort and safety.
A single tear rolled down her cheek as she realized that there was no hope left… that she had failed her cub… that she would die out here… alone…
But the last thing she saw was not the burning sun – it was a big shadow and two auburn-rimmed eyes glancing down on her worriedly.
She mobilized the last bit of strength and everything the once proud lioness was able to whisper, was a single and weak "help".
Mufasa was highly alarmed as he saw a silhouette collapsing into the high savannah grass not too far away from his position and without even hesitating, he rushed towards it.
As definitely as this was a lioness lying here in front of him, barely alive, she did not belong to his pride, because he surely had not seen a coat like this for a very long time.
He shook his head to get rid of these distracting thoughts - now was not the time to think about furs: This obviously pregnant lioness just had whispered a trembling "help" and the king knew that she needed nothing less.
He quickly lifted her now unconscious body onto his back and started to run back towards Priderock, trying to go fast and gentle at the same time to enhance the chances of survival for his new found cargo just a little bit.
At least the luck was on his side as he finally arrived at the entrance of the den, because the lionesses had already returned from their hunting session.
He laid the lifeless body of the outcast down onto the ground and ordered some of his subjects loudly to go and get Rafiki; others should check the western border for any enemies that might have followed the stranger into the Pridelands.
It did not take long for the old baboon to arrive, but Mufasa had spent this short time pacing in circles under the worried glances of Sarabi nonetheless.
Letting the member of a foreign pride, a pregnant lioness even, die on his lands, could eventually end in a war and that was to avoid at all costs!
After Rafiki had finished his examination, he turned to Mufasa, a very serious expression on his face.
"The lioness is very weak indeed…", he began hesitantly. "I fear that…" – he sighed sadly, gripping his wooden stick tighter. "…I fear that I can only save either the cub or its mother…".
Even though the den was filled with lionesses, these few words caused a deadly silence that was only interrupted by some quiet coughs.
"My cub…" – It was the foreign lioness that spoke "… save my cub… n-no discussion… I have nothing left anyways… r-raise it…"
Mufasa shot a pleading yet somehow authoritarian glance at his subjects, which instantly left the cave, knowing that their presence would not do anything but disturb.
In the end, only Mufasa, Sarabi, Rafiki, Nala and the lioness, of course, were left in the den.
The queen of the Pridelands carefully settled her sleeping princess onto the ground and made a few steps towards the fading female.
"What do you mean with 'nothing left anyways'…?", she asked softly "… you must belong to a pride at some point…".
The outcast shook her head merely noticeable.
"Not any… more…", she whispered, a few tears escaping her eyes "… please… you wouldn't choose… your life over… over the life of your cub, would you…?"
Sarabi did not answer but looked at her mate and quickly nuzzled into his mane to hide the tears she was about to spill as well.
"Who…", Mufasa finally murmured with his eyes downcast, his decision already made "… who am I to deny a mother's last wish…?"
He looked at Rafiki and nodded his head slightly – giving the baboon his permission to begin whatever was necessary to save the unborn child.
"Thank… you, your majesty...", breathed the outcast only seconds before her head fell back – unconsciousness taking her again.
As Sarabi had recovered from her little outburst, she shot one last sorry glance at the lioness, before walking back to the still soundly sleeping Nala, mumbling the words: "I don't want her to wake up to this…", as she picked her up and hesitantly walked towards the mouth of the den.
Mufasa only looked at her with a genuine expression of love and understanding, fully aware that neither Nala nor Sarabi needed to be attendant right now…
It took Rafiki hours to help the lioness give birth to her child and the mighty king didn't even know what the shaman was doing most of the time, but mostly because he didn't dare to take a look.
Mufasa only remembered that the baboon had called for a lioness once or twice, ordering her to get some specific herbals or to fill a strange-looking basked made of leaves with water to wash all the blood away.
In the end, however, all those troubles and pain-filled roars had not been in vain, because there, in the paws of the shallow breathing mother, laid a small bundle, its eyes still closed.
"It is a boy…", Rafiki finally said with a sad smile on his face and the foreign lioness shed more tears.
"A… boy…? T-then… Simba shall be his name…", she stated weakly and softly licked the top of the young lions head, causing a light mew.
"You are… going to b-be a mighty lion, you hear?", she sniffled and laid her head next to her paws, showing that the last bit of energy inside her was gone.
"My little Simba… y-you look so much like your daddy…", she whispered "… he would be s-so proud…"
The lioness opened her eyes one last time and looked at Mufasa, staring right into his soul with her pleading gaze.
"P-please… find him a loving mother… take care of him… h-he will have no one left when I am gone…", she begged with an almost inaudible voice.
Mufasa looked at the little golden bundle in the lionesses' paws and sighed with watery eyes.
Besides all the moral aspects he would fail if he denied her request, the king also knew that he was growing older as well and that the possibility of a second male in the pride who could help him patrol the borders in the near future would be more of a blessing than a curse.
"You have my word as king of the Pridelands.", was what he choked out and now even he could not hide the fact that he was deeply touched by the passing female he found only so recently ago.
The outcast smiled a small smile – probably the first one since weeks – and looked back at her sleeping son, peace finally settling over her face.
"Farewell, my Simba…", she sniveled with a fainting voice"… keep the ones you love close to you for that a life without them is hardly bearable… and… and always r-remember that I will… watch over you… wherever… you… may… go…."
With one last breath leaving her lungs, the outcast's eyelids finally dropped… forever.
She had given the biggest present a mother could make: Her live for her cub's….
Rafiki walked up to the lifeless body and touched it on various spots to check for a pulse.
After some short seconds he shook his head slightly and wiped his eyes with one hand, before he turned to the sleeping cub and picked it up carefully, freeing it out of its dead mother's embrace.
The baboon placed Simba in Mufasa's lap and patted the king's shoulder sympathetically.
"You should go find a mother for him…", Rafiki suggested gently, before leaving the den with slow steps.
Simba immediately snuggled closer to the king's paws, needing the warmth they were providing him. He was just a helpless cub as his Nala was… but without parents… without anyone.
Mufasa did not know what to do – he couldn't adopt the child himself – rivalry was a too high risk to take - but on the other hand side, he also had to keep his promise as king.
"Mufasa?" – it was Sarabi's soft voice ringing in his ears like a beautiful melody, promising a solution to all his problems.
The queen walked up to her mate, a curious looking Nala peeking over her head.
"Oh, kings…", she whispered, as she saw the motionless body of the outcast and quickly turned away to safe her daughter from the disturbing images.
Instead, she looked down to the golden bundle in her love's paws and somehow, a smile crept onto her face.
"What to do with him?", Mufasa asked, suddenly very undetermined.
"I know something…", his mate replied slowly, a knowing look in her eyes as she straightened up.
"Sarafina?", Sarabi shouted and that was enough for her husband to get her idea.
Sarafina was one of his mate's closest friends, born in the same summer and apart from her blue eyes and her slightly lighter fur, she even looked almost the same as the queen.
Mufasa did not know too much about her, but what he did know was that she was a skilled huntress and would often be described as kind-hearted beyond words.
Furthermore, she had always wished for a cub and had been nearly devastated after Rafiki had told her that her wish would most certainly never come true – until today.
"Yes, Sarabi?", her quiet voice finally rang out as Sarafina entered the den.
Her face fell quickly, as she realized that the lioness lying in front of her was definitely dead.
"She really did not make it…", she stated with a lowered head.
"No…", Sarabi answered and put a paw onto her friends shoulder "… but her cub did."
The young lioness's mood slightly lightened with those words and her glance fell onto the cub in Mufasas paws.
"His name is Simba…", the king explained and invited Sarafina with a nod of his head to come closer.
"What a lovely name…", she replied as she looked at the small lion in awe – little did she know, that the royal couple intended her to adopt him.
"What a pretty coat he has… almost… royal…", Sarafina went on and really was right with her statement: Simba's coat was as golden as Mufasa's – a tingle lighter maybe – and that was highly uncommon in this pride.
"Aye…", Sarabi agreed whereas the mighty king carefully picked Simba up to place him in Sarafina's paws, who did not complain at all.
"… He really needs a mother, you know… and we can't take him in because of our little sunshine up here…"
The queen's friend needed a few moments to get the hint, but finally stammered: "W-what? Y-you want me to…? I-I…?"
"We want you to be the mother our new little Pridelander needs right now…", Sarabi confirmed and smiled warmly.
Sarafina emitted a mixture between a cough and a laugh as she returned the smile and unconsciously tightened her grip around the cub in her arms a bit.
"A… a mother…? Me…? A-are you serious…?", she asked in disbelieve and beamed at the royal couple as they nodded in unison – along with a unwilling Nala, who was still sitting on her mother's head, gripping the fur under her paws fiercely to not fall off.
Sarafina lovingly nuzzled her new son's belly, being rewarded with a comfy purr from him.
"I am going to be the best mommy you could imagine, my little one…!", she promised in a whisper and on the verge of crying. "Oh, I love you already…!"
And with that, a new era in the history of the Pridelands begun…
That's it for today! I hope you liked it. Feel free to tell me what you think and always keep in mind: Reviews are an author's bread. We feed on them and we starve without them – we can even upset our stomach with bad ones. ;)
Random fact of the day: The average male lion can sleep up to twenty hours a day. Now, that's my boy! :o