Emerald dreamer96: This story was conceived while I was working, it was going to be the first half of a short story about different possibilities brought on by major characters dying early and how it might influence the world of The Lion King. It's grown into so much more, thanks mainly to first the support of Chu10and then her full collaboration in it. It took about 10 minutes for her to bring the story up to a whole new level.
This first chapter sticks pretty closely to the movie.
Hope it's as much fun for you to read as it's proving for us to write.
Chu10: So here we are, me and Emerald dreamer96 (the guy who brought you the wonderful one-shot The Last Day), collaborating on a story that sparked off from one of his unique ideas. I loved it, and after a night of discussion this story was born. It could count as my second big story that I'm working on, and for those of you who are following An Alternate Storyline, I'll be updating both this and that alternately, once per a week or two, when life permits. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it with him!
Over the lands, deep in the heart of Africa, the first pale blue rims of light rippled the purple dawn. A cry, a song, echoed across the vast expanse known to many as the Pride lands. The song was calling for a celebration of new, young life that had just begun. The life of royalty. The life of a Prince.
In the Pride lands was where lions ruled over the lands as monarchs. To the other animals, they were a respected species that took care of the lands - the ones on top, the ones at the apex. Today, the King and the Queen were going to present their heir, the new Prince, to their subjects. From the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, the animals that formed the Great Circle of Life came from all around to gather under a huge, monolithic rock that jutted out to the heavens and pierced the skies, its promontory facing where the sun rose. It was known as Pride Rock, an iconic structure the home, fortress and symbol of power of the rulers of the Pride lands since time immemorial. Tall, majestic and many would say beautiful, visible from every point in the Pridelands it had always been where the animals assembled in times of peace and war.
The powerful Lion King could be described in exactly the same terms as his seat of power. He was the very definition of what a King was meant to be, Tall, powerfully built, thick manned and carrying an air of regality that somehow also contained humility and gentle concern. He stood on the Promontory watching the crowds gather.
As the massive gathering of animals gradually came to a halt, above them flew a hornbill, his plumage of rich blue and his orange beak reflecting the golden sunrise. The bird winged his way to the tip of the promontory where the Lion King stood, his thick auburn mane gently brushed by the wind. Landing in front the King, the hornbill tipped his whole body in a bow, wings spread out as gracefully as a fan.
The hornbill absolutely adored King Mufasa and the family that he and his family had been serving for generations. He wore a smile of humility, beaming at the King, yet it was tinged with pride and happiness for the new Prince. His heart rose when the King smiled back, nodding back. Not merely a servant was he, but a friend to the King as well. The hornbill was honoured.
Down below, the throng of animals parted respectfully as a figure stepped into the path of sunlight. He was old, and had to carry himself around with the aid of a branch that was fashioned into a staff. Two ceremonial fruits hung at the end, clunking in a rhythm as he hobbled towards Pride Rock and made his way up the steps. This mandrill, Rafiki, matched the meaning of his name. A friend to all. As he climbed the last step of Pride Rock onto the promontory, up came the King to greet his old friend in a warm hug.
The King lead the way back to the Lionesses who lounged around at the entrance of the den exuding a relaxed air of relief and joy for their sister who returned her mates affectionate nuzzle before giving her son who lay in her paws a tender lick, waking him up in time to see the aged mandrill looking down on him. The tiny Prince's eyes widened in curiosity as the shaman waved his staff a short way above his head, confused at first he soon became caught up in the game batting at the tethered fruit, a single claw extending in excitement.
Seeing the Prince's excitement, Rafiki's aged face wrinkled as his lips pulled upwards into a genuine smile. In a ceremonial and ritual act that defined the Prince as being born as a lion and having the birth right to the Pride lands throne, he scooped up ever so little an amount of dust from the floor of the den, and sprinkled it over the young cub, gaining a sneeze from him. Still focusing his eyes on the cub that was curled up in his mother's paws, he took one of the ceremonial fruits that hung from his staff. Known by only a few animals in the Pride lands and valued by shamans, it was a special fruit that held a sweet, sticky red juice. Dipping his long finger into the fruit and painting a streak of red over the Prince's forehead, Rafiki blessed the young prince with a charm of good luck, a protection from evil. The King and Queen smiled proudly at their new born son, so fresh into the world, his eyes full of wonder at the warmth and love that surrounded him.
Giving the Queen a nod of assurance, Rafiki gently lifted the cub out of his mother's paws, and made his way out into the golden sunlight of the promontory. With every step he took, he got closer to the top, and the animals lifted their heads and craned their necks to catch a glimpse. Then, as the shaman reached the tip, he thrust the young prince high up into the air, above the heads of the tallest giraffes.
The reaction was immediate and joyous. The monkeys cheered, leaping and drumming their rhythms of joy on the rocks. The zebras, gazelles and wildebeest bucked and reared on their hind legs in a show of happiness. The cheetahs nodded their heads gracefully, inclining their bodies in a cat-like bow, and the birds sang their jovial songs. Even the large and lumbering African elephants fell to their knees in respect for the Prince.
A bright ray of sunlight broke through the clouds, shining down on the cub. It seemed as if the Great Kings of the Past were smiling down unto the young Prince, who was still too young to catch the significance of the situation or how important a position he was in at the moment. As the King and the Queen joined the shaman and the Prince on the heights of Pride Rock, the animals gave another cheer, just as loud as the one was their new Prince, the birth of a new era.
Despite knowing the ins and outs of the ceremony Mufasa still hadn't been able to prevent his heart from skipping a single beat when Rafiki thrust the infant prince into the air. Nobody, not even Queen Sarabi noticed the momentary flash of fear in him. By the time he had made his way back to the promontory he had suppressed it but he still felt relieved when Rafiki brought Simba back to his mother.
Mufasa smiled wryly to himself at how paranoid he was, he wondered how anyone could consider him brave if he couldn't even make himself relax at a presentation ceremony. He was amazed at just how much love he felt for the little bundle of fur now hanging from Sarabi's mouth. Every little gurgle, mew and whimper brought a new wave of affection that completely overwhelmed him.
He stood alone on the promontory while Sarabi and Rafiki talked about something, he always felt a guilty thrill as he looked over his kingdom and subjects, he knew that it was of a King to serve his Kingdom yet he couldn't shake that sense of Pride when he saw all those creatures in one place in honour of his family. He knew such thoughts were unworthy and resolved to walk amongst them later and thank them personally for attending.
But such thoughts were just a distraction he was looking for one animal in particular.
"You promised me." He muttered sadly to himself.
He once more searched the now dispersing crowds hoping that he had merely missed the brown Lion, but no there was no sign of his brother. Mufasa felt his happy emotions drain away replaced by sadness and anger, he had deliberately sought out Scar the night before and told him how much it would mean to him if he would attend. Scar had eventually agreed, although Mufasa thought that it was more out of wanting Mufasa out of his mane. He noticed that Sarabi and Rafiki were looking at him so he forced a wide smile on his face and walked to meet them, and upon seeing his son again his smile became genuine and he felt his good mood returning. Scar could wait for later.
A grey furred rodent poked its nose at the ground, sniffing out for trails of leftover food that it could scavenge. The scent of killed prey was very strong in the den, but the smell of lion was not far off as well. It was a smell of danger and the mouse knew that it had to move as quickly as it could. It sniffed, and followed, and sniffed, certain it was on the trail -
It squealed in fright as a huge paw came down unto it, and rudely lifted it up, hanging the poor rodent by its tail. The mouse turned - and there it was, looking into the glowing, green predatory eyes of a lion.
"Life isn't fair, isn't it? I shall never be King..." A smooth, deep voice purred at the rodent. The mouse squealed and struggled, too in fear to even beg for mercy. "And you shall never see another day..." the lion lifted it to his mouth, opening his jaws and exposing two rows of razor sharp teeth.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with your food?" A loud, pompous voice interrupted the lion, and in walked the blue-feathered hornbill from the Prince's presentation, Zazu.
The lion dropped the mouse in surprise, and the rodent scurried away into the shadows.
"What do you want," the brown-pelted lion said unhappily, looking down his nose at the hornbill and rolling his eyes. It was more of a statement than a question. He wanted the hornbill out of his mane. Such an annoying majordomo, he thought. And of course my dim witted brother has chosen him as a royal servant. How lovely of him.
Zazu changed his tone to a prouder one, and started to gesture animatedly. "I'm here to announce that King Mufasa is on his way," he started enthusiastically, but then remembered why he was here for, and continued, not very happily, "and you better have a good excuse for missing the ceremony this morning."
"Zazu, now you made me lose my lunch," Scar sighed.
"You'll lose more than that when the King gets hold of you," Zazu crossed his wings.
"Ooh, I quiver with fear," Scar hissed the last word, baring his teeth at the arrogant bird. Just who did he think he was to talk to him in that tone? He could teach the bird a lesson, he thought, and smiled to himself, getting up and moving towards Zazu. Zazu noticed his change in expression and started to shrink backwards.
"No, Scar, don't look at me that way..." Scar prowled closer and closer. "Ahh help!" Zazu shouted as he flew off in panic, but Scar was faster. He clamped his jaws around the bird before he could escape.
"Scar! Drop him." Mufasa's deep voice commanded.
Zazu's beak parted Scar's lips and spoke surprisingly clearly.
"Impeccable timing your majesty," he complimented gratefully.
Scar sighed contemptuously spat out Zazu who with astonishing dignity for one covered in drool and who had just narrowly escaped being eaten picked himself up and started cleaning himself off while Scar approached Mufasa.
"Why if it isn't my big brother descending from on high to mingle with the commoners," Scar said with exaggerated cheerfulness.
Mufasa chose to ignore the mocking tone as he got straight to the point of his visit.
"Sarabi and I didn't see you at the presentation of Simba." He accused.
Internally Mufasa winced at the irritated tone of his voice knowing that the conversation could only go downhill from here. He was proven right moments later when feigned shock and remorse with obvious insincerity.
"That was today?! Oh I feel simply awful," he proclaimed, scratching the wall with his claws as he did so, producing high pitched, shrieking sound that made Zazu flinch. "Must have slipped my mind," he finished casually.
Zazu now fully cleaned off, broke into the conversation walking forwards from between Mufasa's feet before taking to the air in emotion.
"Well as slippery as your mind is, as the King's brother you should have been first in line!" He ranted hovering closer to Scar's face and more importantly his teeth. Scar interrupted him by snapping at the air within inches of Zazu causing him to flee once again to the safety of Mufasa, cowering behind his leg.
"Well I was first in line, until the little hairball was born," Scar reminded him, bitterness seeping into his voice as he leaned closer to the frightened bird.
Mufasa felt the need to step it, he didn't like the way Scar was talking about Simba, especially since he hadn't even bothered to keep his promise to attend the Presentation.
"That hairball is my son, and your future King." He informed his brother meaningfully.
Scar's reaction was typically sarcastic. "Ohh I shall practice my curtsy."
The brown Lion had had enough of being lectured like a misbehaving cub; he began to walk past his brother towards the cave exit. Mufasa, despite everything, was still shocked at the rudeness his brother was showing him and called after him.
"Don't turn your back on me, Scar." Mufasa warned, putting emphasis on who Scar was disrespecting.
Scar paused and looked back, his voice taking on a sinister tone, losing its mocking humour and becoming something darker and somewhat threatening.
"Oh no, Mufasa. Perhaps you shouldn't turn your back on me."
The meaning of the words could not possibly be taken any other way and Mufasa could not tolerate such a blatant threat to his position, brother or not Scar had gone too far. He leaped in front of Scar baring his teeth for the first time emitting a low snarl.
"Is that a challenge?" He growled putting emphasis on the final word to underscore just what would happen if it was.
Scar flinched but quickly regained control and once more spoke in a mocking tone.
"Temper, temper. I wouldn't dream of challenging you." He assured his brother, contempt and disrespect practically flowing from his mouth.
Zazu who had been looking forward to seeing the arrogant Lion who caused the King so much trouble being put in his place spoke again.
"Pity, why not?" He asked clearly irritated.
Scar looked down at the Hornbill with contempt but explained anyway.
"Well, as far as brains go, I got the lion's share. But, when it comes to brute strength - " Scar began before pausing at the final two words and looking directly at Mufasa to show what he thought about him. " - I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool." He sighed. Scar then walked out of the cave without another word, and this time Mufasa let him go.
The golden King let out a deep sigh. There had been a time when the two brothers had been... well brothers that could always count on each other for anything. They had been best friends doing everything together, sure there had always been a slight rivalry but it was playful and to be dropped the moment the other needed help or was feeling upset. Sinking into those idyllic memories was more than tempting but he knew that it would only make the current situation more unbearable, that past was dead and he feared it would never return.
Zazu also let out a sigh but his was more of irritation and exasperation.
"There's one in every family, sire...two in mine actually."He fluttered up onto Mufasa's shoulder staring after Scar.
"And they always manage to ruin special occasions." He finished.
"What am I going to do with him?" Mufasa asked not expecting an answer; he probably should have given how well he knew his Majordomo.
"He'd make a very handsome throw rug." Zazu commented, jokingly suggestive.
Mufasa smiled but felt obliged to reprimand his friend.
"Zazu!" He chided amusedly.
Zazu wasn't finished yet.
"And just think! Whenever he gets dirty, you could take him out and beat him," he said happily.
The two chuckled as they to left the cave and headed out into the Savannah.