Two weeks passed since Kopa had first met Vitani and Kovu. Things had gone a little quiet for Kopa, not least because he hadn't actually seen either Vitani that much since, and to all intents and purposes, Kovu had disappeared from the face of the Savannah. It was clear that Tamani, Kovu's mother, had stopped Kovu from interacting with the other cubs. Simba had warned Kopa about staying away from Tamani, which wasn't difficult for Kopa to do as she mainly stayed within the lair once inhabited by his great uncle Scar, but whenever he was sure Zazu wasn't around, Kopa would sneak about to see Vitani. She didn't mind Kopa as such, but she had become slightly paranoid about what her mother might say, and so whenever she saw Tamani or Nuka nearby, she would try to avoid being around Kopa for too long, occasionally shooing Kopa away. Sometimes, Nala had spotted them, but she didn't seem to mind so much, and she promised Kopa that unless things got bad, she wouldn't worry Simba. After all, Simba had other things to worry about.
News had reached Simba about a problem at Rafiki's old home, Grass Walls. At first, he had tried to avoid it, but eventually he relented and headed out with Rafiki to resolve the problem. That left Nala in charge of the Kingdom. Zazu had been tasked with keeping Kopa entertained, since it fell to Nala to take up the duties normally done by Simba. Kopa's idea of 'entertainment', however, meant that Zazu more often than not chose to avoid the boisterous young cub altogether and accompany Nala on her rounds. This meant that Kopa could then go and see Vitani. Vitani was sat on a rock overlooking a shallow pool to the south of Pride Rock, and to all who passed, she might have been asleep.
"Hey, Vitani." Kopa said as he walked up to the rock she was laying on.
She opened one eye and stared at Kopa.
"Oh, it's you." Vitani said in her gruff manner.
"Where's Kovu?" Kopa asked.
"Mother won't let him out of her sight now." She replied.
"Well, that's not fair." Kopa replied, "Kovu should be allowed out to play."
"Whatever." Vitani huffed. She shut her eyes again, "Now go away. I'm busy."
"You don't look that busy." Kopa cocked his head. Vitani opened one eye and glared pointedly at Kopa. When he didn't move, she opened her other eye and got up, stretching.
"Okay, what do you have in mind?" she asked, leaping off her perch.
"Well, Afua and Beba were going to race…" Kopa began. Vitani stared at him.
"Boring." Vitani said, yawning loudly. Kopa frowned.
"Well, what do you want to do?" Kopa asked. Vitani paused for a moment to think on it.
"I want to go to the Outlands." Vitani told him. Kopa's expression changed to one of worry.
"The Outlands?" Kopa said, "There's nothing out there! It's a wasteland! And it's forbidden too."
"Are you talking of the stories?" Vitani asked in a slightly bored tone. There had been a story going around that long ago, a pride of lions had dwelled in the Outlands, but not long after the reign of Scar began, he had the hyenas chase them out. There was talk that the hyenas had killed several of them and that as a result, the ghost of a thin, raggedy lion now dwelled there, waiting for anybody from the Pride Lands to cross the border.
"Mother says that's a bedtime story meant to scare the children." Vitani continued smugly, "She went through the Outlands after me and Kovu were born, and she never came across anything like that. There's really nothing to worry about."
"Yeah, except…" Kopa began.
"Not afraid, are you?" Vitani smirked. Kopa stiffened.
"No!" Kopa said defiantly.
Vitani jumped off her perch and stretched out.
"Then let's go." Vitani said.
"How are we even going to get there?" Kopa asked, "There's a herd of elephants standing guard there."
"A herd of elephants aren't going to be paying attention to two cubs." Vitani said, "We're just two innocent cubs playing a game of hide and seek."
Kopa remained silent. He still had misgivings about the whole adventure. Nevertheless he followed Vitani across the Pride Lands, past Pride Rock and towards the south-western border.
"Kopa?" a voice broke Kopa out of his thoughts and he almost jumped in fright. Vitani maintained her cool, however, as Kopa turned to face Nala.
"O… oh, hi, mother!" Kopa said, giving her his best I'm-not-doing-anything smile.
"Where are you off to, then?" Nala asked him.
"Oh, just off to play… hide and seek." Kopa said.
Nala didn't seem terribly convinced. She had never told Kopa the story of how she and Simba had tricked their mothers into thinking they had gone to the water hole when instead they snuck off to the elephant graveyard, even losing Zazu in a herd of animals in the process.
"Kopa, you're not off to the Elephant Graveyard?" Nala raised a suspicious eyebrow.
"N…no!" Kopa said. Nala looked down at her son, sure that in this case, he was not lying, but still…
"Well, don't go getting into trouble." Nala told them.
"We won't." Kopa said, holding in a sigh of relief. Vitani and Kopa headed off into the long grass.
"Perhaps I'd better tail them." Zazu suggested. Nala shook her head.
"No, Zazu." Nala said, "While it would ease my mind to have you keep an eye on them, I need you here if Simba sends word he's on his way back."
"If you ask me, somebody needs to keep an eye on that troublemaker Vitani." Zazu said.
"It's up to Kopa who he makes friends with." Nala said.
"But Simba would…"
"Simba's not here, Zazu." Nala told him in a stern voice.
Vitani and Kopa were close to the border between the Outlands and the Pride Lands. As Kopa had said, a herd of elephants was close to the border. One of them spotted Kopa.
"What are you doing here?" the elephant demanded, "Any further is out of bounds!"
"Um… we're just…" Kopa began. He had an encounter with a rather cranky elephant by the name of Kia not too long ago, and he knew then that elephants were not animals to be crossed.
"Playing hide and seek." Vitani cut in.
"An unlikely story." the elephant snorted, "Simba assigned us to this area because curious young cubs were forever trying to get into the Outlands."
"No, we're not…" Kopa began. The elephant turned his attention to Kopa.
"Well, I know who you are," the elephant told Kopa, "and I would have thought given your family history, you'd have done everything to stay away from trouble. Didn't your parents ever tell you about their run-in with the hyenas when they were cubs?"
Kopa's eyes widened. He had always been told to stay away from the Elephant Graveyard, yes, and he had been told never to talk to hyenas either. But he had never been troubled to find out why.
"Clearly not." The elephant said.
"But there are no hyenas out in the Outlands." Vitani protested, "They've all gone.
"The hyenas might be gone." The elephant said, "But there's a lion out there."
"You mean that ghost?" Kopa blinked.
"Ghost?" the elephant laughed, "That'd be the story your parents told you. No, no, rest assured that the lion is very real."
"If it's out there, why hasn't the King made contact with it?" Vitani demanded.
"Full of questions, aren't you?" the elephant turned his attention to Vitani, "Not that it's any concern of yours. That lion may be a rogue, but he's made no attempt to cross the border. And he's certainly not a ghost: a few of the escaping hyenas weren't so lucky and he killed them."
Kopa blanched. He had not heard about that before, but it was reason enough not to go there.
"Now, run along and don't go near the Outlands." The elephant said, "We've got better things to do than to watch two tearaway cubs."
Vitani hopped onto a rock that allowed her a clear view of the Outlands. From here she could see nothing more than a dry dustbowl as far as the eye could see. There was no greenery, little water aside from the fork in the Zuberi River separating the two lands, and no trace of life there aside from the odd buzzard circling in the sky. However, the elephants were still watchful.
"Do you really think there's really a lion out there?" Kopa asked. Vitani turned to him with a sly grin on her face.
"Only one way to find out." She replied.
"But how are we…?" Kopa began.
"Follow me." Vitani said, running down towards the banks of the river. She scoured the banks, as though looking for something.
"What are you looking for?" Kopa asked.
"The elephants are guarding this place." Vitani answered, "But they can't keep their eyes on everything all the time. I know of a way in… it's somewhere further down this bank."
Kopa followed Vitani along the bank, occasionally glancing nervously behind him.
"Would you relax?" Vitani almost barked when she caught him looking behind, "We're not going to get caught. Aha!" Vitani stopped, and Kopa almost walked into her. She was staring down the side of a sheer drop into the river below. But a short way down from the edge, a fallen tree stretched across the river. Vitani deftly leaped onto it.
"Well, come on!" Vitani said, rolling her eyes as Kopa stuck his head out over the edge, looking down warily.
Kopa glanced at Vitani. Her eyebrow raised and a small smirk crossed her lips: she had misread Kopa's glance to mean that he might be afraid.
"Were you a fraidy-cat when making friends with hyenas?" Vitani teased, "Or when you went to get Kia's help in getting the Pride Lands back from Kesho and the other Hyenas?"
Kopa withdrew his face from the edge for a moment. Vitani turned away, ready to emit a small 'hmph' at Kopa, when he leaped over her, landing in front of her.
"We'll see who's a fraidy-cat." Kopa grinned, leading the way into the Outlands.
The Outlands were not what either of them had expected. There was literally nothing there but dust, dead trees, and termite hills. The landscape was occasionally dotted by the odd bone from animals that had obviously, and rather foolishly, tried to trek through the Outlands.
Vitani stayed behind Kopa as he led the way.
"Still think it's interesting?" Kopa frowned, "I don't think there's anything here…"
Vitani did not reply. She simply followed Kopa.
"I think we should head back." Kopa said finally.
Vitani gave a non-committal grunt, but as the two turned to leave, a low growling sound caused their ears to prick up. Vitani nudged Kopa, pointing to a small rock they could both hide behind. He followed her, positioning himself in front of her.
The pair peered over the rock. A male lion, a rather thin but well-groomed specimen, was pacing about. He was dark-furred with a black mane and a black goatee sprouted from his chin. Scars covered his entire body. Some looked like bite marks, others claw marks, but they did not look like they had been done by a lion.
"He kinda looks like Nuka." Vitani whispered, "Only better-groomed."
The lion sniffed the ground as if following a trail. His head snapped up, looking both left and right, before moving forward.
Moving forward to the very place Vitani and Kopa were hiding.
The lion growled as he approached the rock. Vitani and Kopa tried to slip around the rock to maintain their cover.
"Whatever you are, don't bother running." The lion said, "I can smell you. I will find you."
Vitani and Kopa crept further around the rock, trying to stay hidden. But the lion was not dumb. Instead of following them around the rock, he leaped atop it.
"Cubs?" the lion frowned, "Pridelanders, I dare say."
Vitani and Kopa backed away. The lion glared at them as they retreated.
"Run!" Kopa said. The pair broke into a run for the border between the Outlands and the Pride Lands.
The lion leapt deftly off the rock, landing not far behind them. A cruel smirk crossed his lips.
Then, with no warning, he leaped after them. His bounds were graceful, at odds with his somewhat dishevelled appearance. He caught up to the pair in no time, corralling them away from the border.
"And where do you think you're going?" the lion said, "I'd love to have you stick around for dinner. Normally, I'd go for something a bit bigger, but I'm starved, so…"
"I don't think so." Vitani said, and she leapt forwards, swinging a paw at the lion's face, scoring a small scratch down his face. The lion growled in pain and surprise as Vitani and Kopa ran off again, deeper into the Outlands. Shaking the sensation out of himself, the lion followed, but the pair had disappeared. The lion ran towards a small dust plain surrounded by termite hills. The damn things had been a pest to him since he had arrived here. Now it turned out that the lion could not even smell the cubs here properly as the termites had somehow masked the scent.
There was only one place the lion knew of that allowed two small cubs to disappear, and it was in the gigantic termite mound that he now called home.
Vitani and Kopa had taken refuge inside a massive termite mound with a large cave underneath it. The whole place was surreal to the cubs. It looked like it had only recently been vacated. Bones littered the floor of the cave, and there were one or two corpses that looked like they had been eaten from. They weren't the typical sort of prey either.
"Hyenas." Vitani remarked, swallowing lightly. It seemed the story the elephants had told them about the rogue killing the hyenas was true. It repulsed her to think of a lion that would willingly eat one of those mangy fur-balls. The lion must have been desperately hungry. But there was something about the way the corpse had been attacked that seemed a little personal.
"Come on out, little cubs." A voice echoed throughout the cave, "I know you're here."
Vitani and Kopa slipped through the shadows, heading deeper into the termite mound. Being so small, they made no noise as they moved, but all around them, they could hear the growls of the lion.
Unfortunately for the cubs, the lion knew all of the passages from the inside out, and he also guessed that they would try to hide deeper in the cave. With the entrance retreating behind him, he took a left at the stump of a dead tree the termites had fed on and ducked into a low tunnel that would lead him straight to the innermost bowels of the cave.
As he passed through, he glared at some of the carcasses that remained behind. The lion had a personal hatred for hyenas. Perhaps it was something he and the one who used to rule the Pride Lands now had in common: word was that he had been killed by the very minions he had manipulated. The irony was not lost: it was the hyenas that had inflicted the wounds on himself that had almost proved fatal. But after that day, his old kingdom had dissolved into disarray, and apparently those that remained behind allowed it to become part of the Pride Lands. Searching for food had become very hard as he was essentially banished to these Outlands, a place where nothing could possibly survive, much less thrive.
The tunnel started to widen and the lion knew he was nearly there. He could hear the whispers of the cubs nearby. In fact, the whispers sounded like they were right below him.
"… think we lost him." The girl said.
"I don't know…" the boy replied, "He lives here, maybe he could…"
"Correct." The lion said, wriggling his way free of the tunnel and leaping in front of the startled cubs. They tried to run back the way they came, but the lion managed to head them off.
"Now, now, I just want to talk." The lion said with a sneer that suggested talking was the last thing on his mind.
Kopa stood in front of Vitani. The lion stopped dead, staring curiously down at Kopa.
"Gonna try scaring me off with a big roar are you?" the lion laughed, "Or perhaps you're hoping to stall? Forget it. Nobody knows you're here, I'd presume. I can do to you whatever I want."
"Is that so?" another voice growled from behind the lion. In shock, the lion turned around to see where that voice had come from. The sight almost turned the lion's dark fur white.
Simba leaped on top of the lion, tearing into the rogue. The rogue tried to fight back, but Simba was younger, bigger and healthier. With a swift stroke of his paw, Simba smashed the lion across the face, sending him sprawling into the wall of the cave. Vitani and Kopa stepped back in awe and shock.
"Be thankful that I don't agree with killing those who are already beaten." Simba snarled at the lion, bearing over him. The lion tried to struggle to his feet but suddenly found himself unable to stand.
"If you ever come near my son again, then you'll pay the penalty." Simba growled, "Do I make myself clear?"
The lion shook his head to clear it, but Simba took that to mean that he didn't understand, so he roared as he pushed the lion over, applying a paw to the rogue's throat. The sound was amplified in the cave.
"Alright, alright…" the lion choked. Simba glowered at the lion long enough to make sure the lion got the message.
"Run. As fast as you can." Simba told the lion. The lion got up and limped away.
Kopa and Vitani sidled up to Simba slowly.
"Dad… it's not what you…" Kopa began.
"You deliberately disobeyed me." Simba said to his son angrily. The irony was not lost on him: once his own father had said those same words to him.
"I'm… I'm sorry, Dad, I didn't mean to…" Kopa began.
"We're going home." Simba said, cutting Kopa off. He started walking away, and without a word to each other, Vitani and Kopa followed him out.
The sun was setting when Simba, Kopa and Vitani arrived back in the Pride Lands. Simba looked up to see Zazu flying towards him.
"Sire!" Zazu said, "I trust that your trip…" Zazu stopped dead when he saw the expression on Simba's face and the two cubs staring at the ground with guilty expressions.
"I'll talk with you later." Simba said to Zazu, "Take Vitani home and tell Nala I've returned."
"Yes, of course, Sire." Zazu said, lading between Vitani and Kopa. He turned to Kopa.
"Good luck." Zazu said. He turned to give Vitani a quick glare of disapproval before taking flight, indicating Vitani to follow him. Vitani left with a quick glance to Kopa. Kopa hung his head in shame. He knew he should have tried to talk Vitani out of it, but at the same time, he had been curious himself to see what was out there.
"Kopa!" Simba called. Kopa winced, sensing his father's anger as he called his name. Kopa got up and padded slowly over to his father's side, not daring to look up at his father's disappointed gaze. He sat down beside his father, staring glumly at the ground.
"Kopa, what did you think you were doing?" Simba asked in a voice that conveyed his disappointment with Kopa, "I'm very disappointed with you. You could have gotten yourself killed! I don't know what's worse: that you disobeyed me or that you put somebody else in danger as well as yourself! The Outlands are forbidden for a reason!"
"I just…" Kopa began, "I didn't mean anything by it…"
"You're lucky I had to go through the Outlands to get back." Simba said, "Because I saw two cubs being chased into a cave by the rogue. Do you have any idea how afraid I was when I realised it was you that rogue was chasing?"
"You were afraid?" Kopa looked up at his father, almost forgetting his guilt.
"I was." Simba replied, "I thought I was going to lose you."
Simba sighed. He stared back up at the stars.
'Father, I could really use your advice now.' Simba thought. The stars remained silent.
"Have I ever told you that I did the same thing at your age?" Simba said after a pause.
"You did?" Kopa blinked.
"I was told by my father not to go into the Elephant Graveyard." Simba said, "But when Scar told me what was there, I couldn't resist. I even took Nala along with me. We were both ambushed by hyenas. If it wasn't for Zazu fetching my father, we'd both have been dead. I always saw my father as brave, and I wanted to prove I could be just as brave. But I ended up disobeying him and disappointing him at the same time. He was scared that he might lose me that day. So, I do know. And that's something I never want to experience again."
Simba sighed heavily.
"I know you wouldn't have gone on your own. Was this Vitani's idea?" Simba asked. Kopa did not reply, as he did not want to get Vitani into trouble. But his silence was as good as a confirmation in Simba's books.
"Kopa, I told you to be careful around her." Simba said, "But maybe I think it's best if you don't see her any more."
"But, Dad…" Kopa began.
"No buts, Kopa, that's final." Simba said, "There's no telling what situation she might put you in, in the future. And I don't want to think that every time you go off with her that you might be led into danger. Promise me, Kopa."
Kopa looked at the ground.
"I promise." He said finally.
"What?!" Tamani almost screamed. Vitani had recounted the tale of hers and Kopa's journey through the Outlands when Tamani had demanded to know why she was so late coming back to the cave.
"What did I tell you about staying away from him?" Tamani advanced on Vitani, forcing Vitani to retreat a few steps. Tamani turned away. She paced backwards and forwards. The fact that she had not submitted Vitani to a punishment suggested that there was something else on Tamani's mind right now.
"Describe this rogue." Tamani demanded when she came to face Vitani.
"Dark fur, black mane, kinda looked like Nuka, except he was all scarred." Vitani replied, shrinking back from her mother.
"Oh, he does, does he?" Tamani replied, continuing her pacing. Eventually she stopped.
"Nuka!" Tamani shouted.
"Yes, mother?" Nuka said, popping his head up from behind a nearby rock. Apparently he had been listening.
"Eavesdropping, were you?" Tamani glowered at Nuka, causing the youngster to shrink against the wall.
"N…no, of course not!" Nuka stammered.
"It doesn't matter. I'll deal with you when I get back." Tamani snarled, "Keep an eye on Kovu and Vitani. Do not let them out of your sight. Am I clear?"
"Y…yes, mother…" Nuka replied, almost sighing in relief that he wasn't to be punished. Tamani left the cave.
By the time Tamani had made it into the Outlands, the sun had fully set and the night was alive with the twinkling of many stars. Tamani viewed the Outlands with disgust. She had not been here since she had to bring Kovu and Vitani through here to return to the Pride Lands.
Vitani's description of the lion that had attacked her sounded a lot like it could be Kosa, whom she had previously thought dead by Scar's hand. Obviously the weasel had somehow survived being set upon by hyenas. Tamani almost scoffed, because it was something Scar should have made certain of. And now it seemed he was hiding out in the Outlands.
The number of hyena carcasses certainly told of one who held a grudge with the mangy, flea-bitten poachers. The teeth marks were definitely those of a lion. And a few of the wounds on more recent carcasses looked like they were made to be painful but not fatal.
Tamani tried to catch a scent, but all she could smell was decay. A large termite mound was nearby, with a cave that was large enough to house a number of animals. As she headed towards it, however, the sound of stones falling caught her attention. She turned too late.
"Kosa…" Tamani snarled as she hit the ground.
"Well, well…" the dark-maned lion named Kosa sneered, "Somebody's here to pay a visit… to violate my sanctuary…"
"Let me up and I'll violate more than your sanctuary." Tamani growled.
"Oh, yes, I'm sure you will." Kosa replied, pressing harder on Tamani, "It's been a long time since you were in such a… compromising position with me."
"Don't even think about it, you filth." Tamani remarked. She looked down, seeing that Kosa was standing awkwardly on one leg.
"I'll think about what I like, I'll do what I like and there's not a damned thing you can do to stop me…" Kosa stopped for a moment, realisation dawning on his face, "Was that your daughter that I was trying to eat today?"
Tamani's eyes widened with rage.
"Oh, it was!" Kosa laughed, "Wow, what a bad mother you must be to let such a young one out of your sight for that long! But, then, had your King Dearest not tried to have me killed and then usurped my land, none of this would have happened."
"If you hadn't given me a weakling for a child, you wouldn't have been set upon." Tamani replied, "But seeing as Scar failed, I'll just have to do the job myself!"
With that, Tamani kicked out at Kosa's legs. Kosa roared in pain and he let Tamani go. She got to her feet and launched herself at Kosa, taking his throat in her jaws and dragging him to the ground. Kosa tried to bat Tamani away, but Tamani would not let go. With a big thrust to the left, she broke Kosa's neck and he collapsed to the ground. Tamani glared at him, watching as his body spasmed and then voided, his life leaving him. She backed off, laughing manically as blood dripped from her jaws.
"Oh, you were always the first, Kosa." Tamani said, the sneer in her voice plain, "The first to bear me an heir, no matter how weak, sick and frail he is, and now you are the first to die by my hand." She cackled manically, "And now, Simba will also suffer me. I'll take his world apart. I'll make sure nothing, nothing, stands in the way of our glorious return to power!"
Kosa: Sin (Swahili)
First of all, apologies for not updating this in some time. This chapter was a real pain to write, not least because I'd get so far doing one thing and then lose track and wish to start the chapter over again. I've taken to writing paragraphs for each section, so I know this story is likely to be a minimum of nine chapters before it concludes. I do intend on carrying this story out to its conclusion, however long that takes. I've also revised portions of the previous chapters.