They say death and loss are just a part if life.
But no one ever said that to a Mother who had been the one to sacrifice her life then forced to sit back and watch while her beloveds grew up apart from one another. And more importantly without her.
It was a continuous struggle for one lioness.
Zuri, former Queen of the Pridelands.
Everyday she sat and watched her beloved mate struggle with the sadness he felt for having lost her and their family. To watch her beloved daughters grow up without her in two different worlds. Close by and yet so far apart at the same time. And then there was her eldest…her beloved little boy, Kopa whom she had placed in the trust and faith of her family to watch over for her.
The former Queen wanted nothing more then to be the one to watch over her son. Kopa may have been a year old cub but he was still too much to be without her by his side.
All her cubs were much too young to be without her.
But she wasn't completely gone. Zuri spent a majority of her time looking in on her two daughters and the Pridelanders. Like she said she wanted to be the one to look out for Kopa, and she did when she could spare the chance but her daughters…the situation her beloved Eshe now named Zawadi was in made her reluctant to leave a majority of the time.
Even when news of her son having fallen ill from his wounds. That had sent her into a into a frenzy. It had taken both Mufasa and her Father to convince her that her son would be fine. It was her Uncle Mansa that confirmed it. But it was who he told her that her son had been placed in the care of that made her relax.
She remembered Chika.
The female gorilla that had helped them that time when they had gotten lost. She had spoken with her on other occasions at the borders between their lands and she knew her son would be in good hands. It didn't make it any less easy on her. Being dead and really unable to do anything was tearing at her very soul.
If only she could contact her family it would be easier for her. If she could just show herself to them she could walk along side them as if nothing had ever happened. And the thought had passed her mind on many occasions but Bakari had confronted her on it. Saying it was forbidden for the dead to walk along the living with them truly knowing. To act as though you were still alive. She thought it was ridiculous but she didn't want to argue with the Guardian in fear he would make it possible for her not to be there in spirit for her family. He had threatened to do just that right after he had found out she had contacted Simba through his dream. Zuri herself had dared him to do just that, calmly reminding him that he needed her for whatever purpose he was trying to install in her.
But she wasn't there for his job he wished of her. She had her own agenda. This was to correct the wrong that was done to her family. Zuri would see them together again; her soul could not rest peacefully until she saw her family back together. It was only then would she sit back and enjoy watching over them as she awaited her beloved Simba to join her in the afterlife.
And then together they could peacefully watch over their descendants like the rest of the Kings and Queens of old.
The thoughts of what peaceful times could be in the future however did not make the waiting any less stressful.
Although, nothing was more stressful then having to put up with Bakari. As much as she wished she could avoid the Guardian she couldn't. He was as part of death as she was. He was always there now where in the living he was only ever in her dreams.
She was often annoyed with the Guardian for his cryptic nature as she put it.
Every answer he gave her to every question she ever asked was just as cryptic as the answer before it. And sadly all made sense to her. But none was more cryptic and sadly true then the answer he gave her when Zuri demanded the truth to why it was her time to leave the life she had.
Sapphire eyes mournfully watched while her beloved daughter lay in the paws of a lioness who had acted against her. Anything the cub used to be was all washed away for Eshe or as she was now called Zawadi remembered nothing of having been born to another rather then the lioness she called "Mama." A painful thorn in her dead heart that was.
She did not know that only a Kingdom away her Father; sister and grandmother and true pride all thought she was dead.
Zuri was forced to watch her beloved daughter grow up in a life where she would know only hate…no…that was a lie. She would not know only hate for much to the former Pridelander Queen's relief; Kumai and the other lionesses seemed to start to take a liking to the cub. The cubs as well.
The only one she had to fear was Zira herself.
Eyes closing, the brown lioness turned from the scene and in a blink of an eye was gone from the Outlands and on top of the very top of Pride Rock. A place she loved to come when she was alive with her family, for up there you had the perfect view of the stars. Lifting her head she stared up at the twinkling lights in the sky.
They were beautiful, she thought.
Lowering her eyes from the stars she closed them again. Her body stiff. Zuri knew he was there before he ever said a word and so decided to by the one to speak first. "I cannot get a moment to myself now can I?"
An amused grunt was her only answer.
Eyes opening once more, she watched him one to stand beside her from her peripheral vision. She took in his appearance, which hadn't ever changed since they met. His furless skin was dark in colour, a brown much like her own fur. The only fur the Guardian carried upon himself was the peach fuzz that was atop his head and strips of it above his eyes.
She came to realize that he was a human.
Well a humanoid form as he explained it.
He was a being of spiritual power and could take the form of any he wish. It was this…human form that he preferred and so he kept it.
"Why are you here Bakari? Here to take my son away from my again? You can try but I have already told you. If you wish for me to guide those you deem lost in the days that are yet to come. Then Musa is staying by my side. I am already denied my other cubs I will not be denied him!" Her voice rose in octaves the more her anger rose at the thought of when Bakari had dared to try and take her son from her.
Zuri cared not for the rule of young spirits not being allowed to wander the plain of existence. She wasn't about to let her little boy be without her in the afterlife. Sure she could visit him where the spirits of all animals of every species went. But if she was here to watch over those she loved then he would be by her side as well. And all those around her agreed. Even Mufasa who claimed Bakari and Jelani as friends argued that his grandson should be allowed with his mother.
The former Queen knew this was the King's way of repenting for not having done a good enough job in sparing all the cubs like he had tried.
At first Zuri had been angry with Mufasa for not trying harder to give her a warning other than her dreams. But that anger had quickly subsided when she had seen just how much it had hurt the Father of her mate that he had to sit by and watch his only son's world fall apart around him again. It was after that, that Zuri couldn't truly ever blame him at all. And was grateful for Mufasa for standing up for allowing Musa to remain by not just her side but the side of those who watched over their loved ones with fierce abandon.
A deep chuckle to her left brought her back to the matter at hand.
Her head snapped to face the Guardian. "What is funny?" she asked.
"You lions and your stubbornness. You cease to amazing me. I have long since given up on making Musa leave. The boy does not wish to part from you even if that means living in the other plains with his great-great-great grandparents and you visit. I have given up for there really is no point in arguing about the matter any longer." Bakari stared at the lioness beside him with amusement in his eyes, a grin on his face which only widened when she smiled back at him.
As much as the Guardian annoyed her and angered her at times to where she wanted to scratch his eyes out.
He did have a good heart.
He was only following orders as was his job.
Whom he followed them from, he would never say.
His only answer would be some 'Higher Being.'
Whoever that was.
"Good." Zuri lifted her eyes back toward the stars. It didn't matter if they were on good terms or bad terms…in truth it was rocky. She would fight him if it meant keeping Musa by her side. Plus her little son loved his Daddy. He loved watching Simba and the pride. He was so little and yet so full of mischief like his Father and brother. Little…that's all he would ever be. He was a young spirit. He would never age.
Forever to be young in the body of a one week old cub.
But that didn't stop the energy the young one had.
At the moment she knew he was safe with her Father and Mufasa as well as the other Kings and Queens of the past who seemed to fawn over the young cub.
"So why are you here?" she asked again remembering the matter at hand. Bakari rarely approached her unless she was alone. For if she was with anyone else she rarely spoke with the Guardian and ignored him and did this purposely. She was going along with his plans, she knew who she needed to guide when the time came but that didn't mean she didn't have her own plans as well. Although deep down she figured Bakari knew of her plans but just chose not to say anything.
"You are a hard one to speak with." Bakari stated matter-of-factly causing the lioness beside him to roll her eyes.
"I am doing what you've asked…what more do you want from me?" Zuri turned to face him fully.
"How can I trust you if you took me from my family. It was you who lead me to my doom. I left my poor one week old cubs defenceless; you didn't even tell me that Dotty and Kumai were nearby ready to snatch my cubs. You simply told me that Kopa was in danger!" She started shouting in the end. Tears in her eyes. Her anger for the Guardian resurfacing.
Bakari watched the lioness his face becoming an impassive mask. He shook his head. "Would you have stayed there and allowed your eldest to be killed. Live with the guilt in knowing you stayed behind while he cried for his Mother to save him?" he knew that was a low blow but he knew it needed to be dead. He fell silent as he watched the anger disappear from her face for a brief moment to be replaced with grief at the thought of what she had lost and willingly given up to protect.
Zuri knew he was right. She would have gone even if he didn't lead her. Kopa was her baby and there was no telling whether Kumai and Dotty would have found her other little ones. She knew if she had stayed behind and protected the others and still was alive she would not have been able to live with herself if she stood back and allowed her beloved Kopa to die. She wouldn't have ever been able to face her mate and pride. Never would she have been able to look them in the eyes.
She had gone down fighting for her family. She had lost one cub to death. Even though he was right beside her in the afterlife she wanted him alive to live and grow up which he never would now. One died but the other three still lived. Separated but still alive.
But that didn't make her any less angry. Her anger flaring when he spoke the words she hated hearing from his mouth for weeks. "Plus it was your time. There really is no arguing about it."
"Why do you keep saying that?" demanded Zuri. Her sapphire eyes narrowing. "How can a Mother of ones as young as mine have a specific time in dying? Leaving them without a Mother! Tell me how?"
The lioness watched Bakari closed while awaiting her answer. For a moment she thought he did not have anything to give her as an answer other then the one he always gaze her. But no that wouldn't be the case this time around. "You can only cheat death so many times until it catches up with you."
What? She shouted in her mind.
What did the furless monk…human mean by that?
'You can only cheat death so many times…'
"What do you mean by that?"
Shaking his head, Bakari leaned on his staff and stared down at the brown lioness in front of him. "Think back…there were so many times when your life has been in danger…times when you nearly have died and yet you escaped and lived. Cheating death every time. One can only cheat it for so long before it snatches you."
Confusion washed over Zuri as she stood there listening. She hated his answers. They were always so cryptic and never a full answer. It was enough to make one want to pull their fur out. Bakari reminded her strangely of Rafiki and she had to silently wonder if the mandrill had ever met the Guardian and that be the reason he was the way he was.
But she did as the Guardian instructed.
She closed her eyes and thought back through all her memories. Everyone she had of her life both in the Jungle and the Pridelands. When it struck her, the memories…gasping she looked at Bakari with questioning eyes and watched while he simply nodded her head and spoke. "Ah, I see you remember. See, you cannot deny that I am not right. You have faced many things and overcome them and cheated death. The day you and your friends got lost and came across that leopardess. The time the grove flooded and you fell into the waters below and nearly drowned. The day you fought the hyenas, that day your mother ended up being the life traded for you…" he looked closely at her.
"The fight with Scar…when you slammed into that rock. You cheated death there and many times over. You should have died giving birth to your cubs when it became difficult and you had passed out while in the middle of giving birth to Kiara. If you hadn't had help you would have died that day." Shaking his head, Bakari stared into her eyes like he was piercing deep into her very soul.
"Death is neither patient nor impatient. But it catches you no matter how hard you run. Sooner or later…it will get you. And you my dear Queen had run for so long that you grew tired and it caught up with you and sank its claws into you. You can only run for so long…"
'You can only run for so long…'
So that had been it all along. Death had finally caught up with her for all the times she had cheated it before. She was grateful that she had or she would never have gotten the chance to have the family she always wanted with Simba. Yes, she was torn away from them when it had only begun but she had given birth to four beautiful cubs and that had been worth living for.
But still…she could nit help but pin for the ability to be there in person. For everything having been alright. To raise her cubs in person and love along side her mate. To stand back proudly as Kopa took the throne…to one day watch her grandcubs be presented to the Pridelands just like her son had been that faithful day a week after he had been born.
That was all but a fleeting dream now.
That however did not stop her from being there in the best ways that she could be. It had shocked her when it appeared that Eshe…Zawadi, it did not matter what you cub was named now, she was still her cub…could see her. No not just her. But the other ghosts as well.
At first they had put it off as her being young and innocent. Like her Father had pointed out to her that even she when she was young nearly caught glimpses of him watching over her. But as time went on it seemed to them that perhaps Zawadi had a gift. Which was fitting given that was exactly what the name implied. They had to be careful for at times it seemed the cub would see them and come toward them. At times it seemed she couldn't though those were the times that Zuri used to get closer to her.
Sometimes at night she switched back and forth, some nights she would lay along side Simba and Kiara when they slept and other nights she would lay beside Kumai and Zawadi and surprisingly Nuka. Who had seemed to grown attached to the smaller younger cub.
It saddened her to see what the three cubs she had come to love was treated and how they had honestly come to believe the lie their mother had told them. They deserved the truth. All of them deserved the truth. Those cubs should have stayed in the Pridelands where they would have been safe and raised without hate which she feared would be the case. But she also knew her mate; Simba would never have allowed the cubs of the one who killed his family stay any longer. He had tolerated them because in the beginning he wished not to judge Scar's offspring by their heritage.
She wasn't quite as surprised to hear that Kovu wasn't truly Scar's cub. But she remembered the rumours when she first came to the Pridelands and it was only confirmed by Scar himself who had figured out the cub was not his for around the time Zira had conceived he hadn't been around her for a large number of time alone.
That was another face in the afterlife she had come to accept at seeing. She been rather surprised to see that Scar had repented for the sins he had done in his life. Zuri almost found it hard to believe but when the reddish brown lion approached her too apologize on behalf of what his mate had done to her; she could honestly see how much his past crimes had haunted him. But by looking and talking to him she secretly pondered to herself on whether or not Zira herself would ever feel remorseful one day and repent just as much as Scar or should she say Taka as he preferred to go back once again.
However the more she thought about it, she highly doubted. Sca…Taka, may have killed his brother and did wrong but Zira was capable of worse. Much worse.
She was a cub killer.
Not even Sca…Taka seemed to have been that.
He had even allowed Nala and Mheetu to live when by law of the prides he could have killed them for they were not his own cubs. He could have done the same with Kovu but he hadn't. Zira on the other hand had…she had killed Mheetu and her beloved Musa and would have killed the others if it hadn't been for Hawa…
Poor Hawa…Zuri thought sadly.
The lioness had crossed over much like they had. She spent a good time watching over her sister and her new 'niece.' She rarely spoke to anyone. But when she and Zuri met in the afterlife the lioness had all but thrown herself at Zuri's paws begging forgiveness for the things she had done in the plot to kill her and the cubs. But Zuri had told her that there was nothing to forgive. Hawa had earned her forgiveness when she had shown up to help rescue the rest of her cubs when she had been too weak with her life fading to really do anything else. She would forever be grateful to Hawa for helping her cubs and making it possible that she didn't have to witness the death of yet another one of her own offspring.
One was bad enough but if all had died…her soul would forever be tormented with the thought of being a failure as a mother.
The brown lioness was drawn away from her thoughts when she heard the soft voice of her mother approaching her. Lifting her head from where she was bathing Musa, even though the cub really didn't need it for he couldn't get dirt, it was a force of habit and the cub seemed to love the passing time with his mother. At the moment they were laying in a glen in the middle of the Pridelands. A place Zuri had brought Kopa on more then one occasion while she was still alive. It was not far from Pride Rock and she could see the great structure in the distance where at the moment she knew, after checking up on her before hand, Kiara was playing with her new friend Kodi under the watchful eye of the pride.
Something Zuri was happy for that her little girl had a friend her age to play with. Something she hoped that Kiara would always have a loyal companion with the male cheetah. She needed it, she thought. Especially someone who would stick around despite Simba's new over protectiveness. She had watched in amusement while her mate stomped through the Pridelands creating paths for Kiara to eventually use to play on in the future. None ventured too far from Pride Rock.
Musa himself turned to look at his grandmother. A wide smile came over his face. Mewing he jumped out of his Mothers arms and pranced over to the tanned lioness who smiled warmly down at him. Bending down, Zakia gave her grandson a quick nuzzle when she looked up at Zuri's question reached her ears. "How is he?"
Zakia didn't need to ask to know to whom her daughter preferred too. She smiled and answered. "He's just fine. Stubborn like his parents but just fine. They'll be leaving to escort him and Nuru to the Rasheda's in two more days. You mustn't worry; Chika will take good care of him. Tuma isn't like his father no matter how much he tries to be he's looking out for the cub as well."
Nodding her head, Zuri pushed herself up and closed her eyes as she felt to feel the wind blowing through the grasslands but unfortunately it just went through her translucent body. Sighing, she shook her head sadly and opened her eyes to look at her Mother. "Where are the others?"
"Your father has taken up with Mansa to watch Kopa. He's still smug that you chose to name your son after him. He taunted Mufasa about that for days when we heard what you decided to call him." Zakia shook her head, a ghost of a smile tugging at her muzzle while she tried to hide her amusement but was failing miserably. "The others…heavens know where they had gotten off too." The tanned lioness looked behind her went she felt something or rather someone batting at her tail and discovered Musa sitting on his haunches both front paws up and patting at her tail for the pure amusement it was providing him.
Shaking her head she turned back to her daughter. "How are things here…your father didn't say much. Not that he usually does." Both lionesses shared a chuckle at the expense of the brown blonde mane lion who would normally skulk when both his mate and daughter would tag team up on him.
Lifting her head to stare off into the direction of Pride Rock, Zuri stared at the great structure with the same fascination she did when she first saw it. It was still as magnificent as the day she came to the Pridelands. Even more so now that the lands were full of life when back then it had been barren when they arrived to help.
"Things are…difficult. Simba has become closed off at times…but he's following my advice I gave him…although I know he feels guilty about announcing Kiara as his new heir…I had heard him praying to me all night about it…if he'd only known I was right there sitting next to him…" Zuri fell silent sighing she tore her gaze away from Pride Rock. Only she; Mufasa and her father had been present for the presentation of Kiara.
Well present at Pride Rock. She knew the older ancestors were watching from above when Kiara had been presented to the Pridelands. But that was days ago.
"And for Eshe…Zawadi…" Zuri shook her head. She knew it didn't matter what her beloved cub was named but it was still hard. She named her after the lioness both she and Simba once knew in the Rasheda's and yet here she was named after another lioness for she had heard Kumai named her after her own late mother. It was Mufasa who had smiled and told her that both names suited the cub. Eshe meant Life and Zawadi meant Gift. The cub had the gift of life inside her. Something the cub was going to need growing up in the situation she was in.
Eyes softening, Zakia stepped toward her daughter. Musa behind her had his grandmother's tail in his mouth and was dragged along the ground on his rump. Nuzzling her daughter, Zakia smiled at her. "How are things with her dear?" she asked really wanting to know how her granddaughter was. It tugged at her heart strings, as well as the others, that one of their own was being raised in such a dangerous place.
"She's growing stronger each day. Her handicap of her eye doesn't even seem to be rendering her. I overheard in another month Zira has demanded that Zawadi is to join them in their training…I…I really don't know how I can stand to watch that but I must. I must be there for her in some form Mother…" Tears blurred the brown lioness's eyes. She knew the training Zira would put her daughter through would change her and build her to the lioness she would be in the future but Zuri deep down hoped that her silence guidance to her cub would help keep the sweet personality the cub already had.
"Everything will be fine." Zakia whispered laying her paw on her daughters. This was the only good thing of Zuri's death, the ability to be able to talk and touch her daughter in person. But she had wished she could have waited until Zuri died of old age then what had really happened. But when Zuri recited what Bakari had told her of all the times she had cheated death it all made sense to Zakia. All the times she had nearly lost her daughter while she was growing up. She was grateful she hadn't died young in cubhood, for Zakia would have been beside herself with grief if she had lost both her mate and the cub she had birthed. Zuri was and has always been her miracle cub.
Looking her mother in the eyes, Zuri asked. "How can it…Zira will…Zira will…?" Zira will raise her to be a monster; she wanted to say but could not bring herself too.
Zakia gave her daughter a stern look. "No she will not. She has your spirit. They all do. Every last one of your cubs has your spirit and Simba's. They just don't know it yet but they will. She won't be the same as if she were being raised in the Pridelands, that part is true. But this will shape her into what she needs to be…strong but in body. It's the spirit she inherited from her parents that will keep her strong of mind and soul. Just have faith my love." Zakia nuzzled her daughter knowing how much this was bothering the lioness.
Have faith. Zuri repeated. That's exactly what she told Simba to do, but at the same time it seemed not even she could follow her own advice.
Shaking her head, Zuri cleared her head of worrisome thoughts. She knew there was really no point in worrying, for worrying would get her no where in her mission to guide those who needed guiding in the darker days to come. That was the thing that was in need of worrying of. How was she to guide those who could not even see her? But she knew by the example of the others that soon enough she would be able to have full control of her abilities to communicate with the living much like how Mufasa had contacted Simba and Mohatu had spoken to them in the desert or how they were able to communicate with Rafiki.
The shaman was their connection to the world. His spiritual gifts allowed them full range of communication with him.
It both surprised and upset her when it was discovered the old mandrill knew somewhat of the things that would happen to her and had done nothing. It had taken her father and Mufasa to keep her from physically confronting the mandrill. But after Rafiki had shown his remorse from what had happened had she forgiveness the old mandrill.
She was beginning to come to understand what many of the others explained that it was rather hard to stay mad at the shaman. Plus he was a good connection to the realm. He would be there for her family when she could yet to touch them in any physical form.
Seeing her mothers mouth moving she realized the tanned lioness was saying something but she been to preoccupied with her thoughts to have heard her. Shaking her head she asked "What was that mother?" She watched a small look of irritation come over the other lioness's face much like it did when she was a cub and Zakia would come to realize neither her or Simba had actually been paying any attention to the things she were telling them.
"I was saying," Zakia started again this time making sure her daughter was paying closer attention before continuing. "I think it would do you some good to go and check up on Kopa yourself. There are plenty of others here who will look after Kiara and Zawadi." She held up her paw to stop Zuri from saying anything giving her a stern look that clearly said to allow her to continue. "You need this Zuri. You sit here worrying about him every day and think Musa might like to see his older brother." Zakia waved her paw to her grandson who perked up at the mention of his brother.
Letting go from where he'd been chewing playfully on his grandmother's tail, he darted under her and grinned widely up at his mother. A grin Zuri noticed that unlike Kopa, Musa did not inherit from his Father but rather her cousin, Jaali. Kopa may have reminded her of her cousin and Simba combined but for some reason she saw Jaali in the little brown cub.
His tiny paws wrapped around his mother's leg. "Kopa! Mama! Kopa! Big brother!" The cub chanted repeatedly and Zuri thought she felt her leg start to jostle from how much the cub was bouncing while holding onto it.
Turning her attention down to her son, Zuri pondered it. When Musa saw that look of concentration come over his mothers face his grin got wider and he forced tears into his eyes. "Pwease Mama? Pwease?"
Zuri was taken back by the tears in her youngest sons eyes. It reminded her of Kopa and how in the past when Kopa had first been born how his tears could make her drop what she was doing and do anything for her little boy. It was only as time passed that she came to realize that Kopa needed to learn to get out of that habit of crying for attention and if he threw a tantrum she would correct him properly.
And now here she was staring at her forever one week old son staring up at her with equally wide warm brown eyes. Brimming with tears. Tears of begging.
Oh how could she refuse that face? She sighed outwardly.
A cheer from Musa told her the cub knew what his mother's answer would be.
Turning her eyes back to her Mother she saw the other lioness was smiling at her while Musa danced around the both of them doing what they have anointed as his 'Happy Dance.'
"Very well…I'll check in on him myself." She could not help the smile at the thought. She been wanting to see her beloved son for some time but feared if she went to see him and saw how sick he was she would loose it or what would happen to her daughters if she were too be away from them for too long. But her Mother was right; they would keep a good eye on both of them.
"Good." Zakia chuckled at her daughter's stubbornness.
"Big brother, Mama!"
Laughing, the two lionesses turned to the brown cub who was now switching his weight from paw to paw. If he were alive, Zuri figured he would have to go badly but was doing everything to hold it in. She smiled at the memories of the times she had caught Kopa doing exactly that.
"Yes, my son we shall go and see your big brother." Zuri spoke softly to Musa. Speaking lowly to her Mother who agreed she would come and get her should something big happen in the Pridelands and to the girls; Zuri then cast one last longing glance toward Pride Rock. In the distance she could catch sight of the Hunting Party leaving to catch their next meal. She knew from days of watching them that Nala had taken over position of Lead Huntress, a position she once held. She was happy for her friend, Nala was very skilled and would be a good Lead until Kiara could eventually become Head huntress…well that was unless Eshe…Zawadi took over when she came back or possibly a future mate of Kopa when he returned.
Zuri shook her head to get away from thoughts of the future and what could be. Now was not the time to think of such matters. The path towards it was one thing to think of for one had to be mindful of where you put your paws when you allowed yourself to think of too many outcomes in the future and what it could hold.
Be it good or bad.
"Come Musa." Looking down at her son she smiled and turned on the spot walking a few steps with Musa bounding on after her, waving quickly back at his grandmother when the two of them vanished from sight.
Travelling from one location to another in the blink of an eye was disorienting at times. When Zuri first tried it, she felt as though her head was spinning and that she would faint. Could the dead actually faint? She would ponder to herself on many occasions. Zuri had soon come to realize that it was just the 'shifting' of worlds like as if you blinked and when you opened your eyes everything was changed.
Now here they were.
Gone were the open grasslands of the Pridelands and here were the dense trees and thick underbrush's of the Jungles she, Zuri, had grown up in.
A place she thought she would never lay eyes on. And now that she was she felt her dead heart heavy with sorrow under the circumstances in which she was seeing it again.
From beside her, Musa was turning on the spot eyeing all the trees and plants were wide curious eyes. His expression perking at all the sounds they could hear all around them.
The sounds of the Jungle.
Oh, how Zuri had missed it all.
You never truly realized how much you missed something until it was right in front of you again.
"Grampy! Uncle!" Musa's loud cheer brought Zuri from her thoughts.
The young lioness watched while Musa was at her side one minute and the next he was bolting head on toward where his Grandfather and Great Uncle were awaiting them.
Kopa Sr. grinned widely at the sight of his grandson. Spreading his front paws apart and squaring his shoulders his head bent to greet the brown cub who latched onto his snout with another shout of; "Grampy!"
Mansa watched the display with his ever knowing impassive face. But Zuri could see the tiny grin tugging at the corners of her Uncles muzzle that he wouldn't let show completely. Even in death her Uncle had his pride. "Hello Uncle." She greeted approaching at a much calmer pace then her son who at the moment was in a mock wrestling match with his grandfather.
"Hello niece." Mansa returned her greeting. The both of them watching the cub and grown lion wrestling on the ground. Well more like Kopa Sr. was lying on his side while allowing Musa to climb all over him and playfully smack him with his paws. Making fake groans of pain while begging for mercy from the cub.
"Hello Father." Zuri called over to them. Shaking her head at the sight of her grown father on the ground with Musa climbing all over him growling playfully. The sight tugged at her heart because for a moment she saw a sight that she had missed out on growing up. Musa reminded her of herself thanks to his brown pelt. And for a brief moment she saw herself in place of her son, wrestling with the father she never got the chance to really play with growing up. Something she always wanted.
That and it was like watching Kopa and Simba wrestle. Only Musa would never get the chance to wrestle with his Father in life.
Kopa Sr. laughed rolling onto his paws he lifted Musa up off him and held the cub in his paws above him. Turning his head he cracked a large toothy grin at his daughter. "Hello my beauty, I see your mother convinced you to come all the way out here."
Scratch that, she thought thinking back to whom Musa's smile reminded her of. It seems both her sons inherited their smiles from all three lions, her Father, their Father and Jaali.
Approaching them, Zuri reached out grabbing Musa by the scruff and pulled him away from his grandfather allowing the grown lion to flip back onto his paws. Grinning, Kopa approached his daughter and rubbed his head against hers after she set Musa down on the ground. Purr, Zuri nudged her head under his accepting the affection her Father dotted upon her.
The two stayed like that until the sound of someone clearing their throat rather loudly drew their attention. Both brown lions swivelled their heads toward the gray mane lion who was watching them rather impatiently. "I believe your daughter is here for a reason, my friend." Mansa spoke matter-of-factly.
Kopa's face morphed into one of confusion before it hit him over the head like a fallen branch. "Oh!" He exclaimed. 'Oh, yes." Grinning at his daughter he stepped back from her, "I hope your Mother clued you in on his over all health?" The moment they had all heard that young Kopa had fallen ill many of them had argued over who would be the ones to check over on him and watch him carefully.
In the end it had been decided that they would take turns. Although the old brown blonde mane lion knew his daughter was torn apart. She had three cubs that were separated in different parts that she needed to keep an eye on. He did not blame her for wanting to stick close to her youngest and Kopa had reassured his daughter by telling her that her eldest would want her too. Young Kopa loved his baby sisters and brother and been devastated to loose them as much as he lost his Mother. If he knew his sisters were alive he would want them protected and safe and watched over by their Mother.
Sadly something that bothered them all was the exiled Prince thought he was the last of his family to be alive. That he thought that everyone else had died that night.
It angered all of them that Jelani wasn't telling the cub the truth! Kopa Sr. seethed silently to himself.
The Guardian had been the only one with the most contact with the boy; he should have at least told them the truth. However when they confronted the Guardian about it, he only told them it was necessary for the young Prince to be left in the dark at the moment.
The touch of a paw on his made him look back at his daughter who was giving him a saddened gaze that told him she knew what her Father was thinking about. For out of all of them it angered Zuri the most because this was her son who was being lied too and she could do nothing. Not even when she had slipped into Simba's dreams had she been completely allowed to tell him what happened to their other sons no matter how much the former Pridelander Queen desperately wanted too.
"Yes…mother informed me. But how is he truly?" Zuri asked wanting to know how her eldest was truly handling being on his own.
"He misses you…all of you…a lot." Kopa Sr. explained with a sad shake of his head sending some of his mane into his face. "He speaks of you and Simba often with Nuru. She seems to think that it's good for Kopa to think of his losses and for the most part it helps the cub get everything off his chest. That serval was a good choice of companion for him." He flashed a grin over at Mansa who rolled his eyes and looked away although he was 'playfully' waving his paw around on the ground which young Musa was chasing giggling.
"Yes…I wanted to see Nuru from when I first heard of her. Thank you Uncle for giving my son a friend." Zuri smiled at her Uncle who groaned and shook his head. She bit back a laugh. The brown lioness knew that her Aunt would get a laugh out of seeing her mate right now. A lion who held a tough attitude his entire life, one who wouldn't hesitate to punish the cubs if they were out of line, one who she has a cub both feared and respected despite his gruffness. But like she always knew, behind her Uncles façade was a lion who loved and looked out for his Pride. It wasn't really until death that she knew that her Fathers death had changed her Uncle a lot for the worst.
But Mansa cared for his family. Even though Kopa wasn't his blood by any means the cub was still his family by the fact that Zuri had been his niece. Her Father and Uncle were like that of brothers all through life and so Mansa would protect the boy as much as he would his own.
This made Zuri's heart swell with love for her Uncle.
"Where is he?" asked the brown lioness.
"Just beyond the trees." Mansa grumbled while taking his paw away from the brown cub just as Musa was about to pounce and attach himself onto his great uncle.
Trying to hold herself back enough, Zuri had ended up bolting on past her family and toward the familiar trees in the distance. She knew this place, the gorilla grove she been too when she was a cub. Her body passed through the bushes like a gust of wind and came to a stop once on the other side. Her eyes took in the large gorilla troop in front of her. Many were sitting around eating, the young running around playing and that's when she heard a familiar laugh that brought tears to her eyes.
From behind a small circle of females who sat around talking, came three young gorilla's followed by none other then her son who was giving chase in a game of tag.
From behind her, both her Uncle and Father came to stand beside her. Musa was now proudly perched atop his grandfathers head laying on his stomach nestled in his mane watching with wide bright eyes at the sight of his older brother. "Big Brother!" Musa shouted waving his paw even though he had pretty much known already that Kopa like his sisters and Daddy couldn't see him like his other family could.
Kopa Sr. glazed to the side and smiled slightly at the look of happiness on his daughters face despite the tears she had in her eyes. This was another reason he and his mate wanted Zuri to come and check on her son. Kopa Jr. had finally begun to move around more the day before and by the morning was running around playing with the young gorilla's who had asked him to play.
They had wanted their daughter to see that her son was alright in more ways then one. To lay her fears to rest. Kopa still grieved but it seemed the cub was also allowing himself some fun just like his Mother would have wanted him too. Zuri wouldn't want her son to wallow in deepening grief or self-pity. It simply wasn't the way she raised him to be.
Zuri watched with blurry tear filled eyes at the sight of her eldest running around with a large grin on his face. But she quickly stepped forward when the cub suddenly sat down and lifted his paw to his chest where his wounds reached from his face downward and flinched when they stung a bit. However just as she was to reach him a smaller spotted cat darted out from the troop and hurried to Kopa's side.
"Kopa, are you alright?" the spotted cat asked.
The exiled Prince took a deep breathe and nodded his head. "Yeah…it still hurts but not much." Was his answer.
Eyeing the two, Zuri soon came to realize that this spotted cat was Nuru, the serval, that her Mother and Uncle had guided too Kopa for the cub to have a companion. She eyed the serval closely but soon enough relaxed and smiled when she saw how much the spotted cat seemed to already care about the young cub. But something ached inside her for when she reached out to touch her cub, her paw went right through him and she felt her tears returning. She wanted to be the one to ask if he was alright, wanted to be the one to take care of him.
It was then she took in the look of his wounds and she whimpered at the familiar sight of his missing ear and the scratches that were now healing. Two of her cubs would forever be scarred from that night in more ways then one. The only thing she took with happiness out of her son's wounds was he was no blind like her daughter now was in her one eye. Although she knew in time part of Kopa's wounds would eventually be covered by his mane. The ones on his neck anyways. The part of the cuts that marred his cheek would forever be seen as well as his missing ear.
"My baby boy…" she breathed bending her head down next to his secretly hoping he would look over and see her. And for a brief moment she held her breathe when he turned his head and stared at her, his eyes meeting hers and she thought he had seen her but he said nothing and no smile came over his face telling her that no he wasn't seeing her.
Closing her eyes, Zuri sighed but didn't pull away. Instead she leaned forward and laid her face close to Kopa's so close that her face nearly passed through his. She held it there. Touching him and yet at the same time wasn't. But pretending too with a gesture she did many times before when she nuzzled her baby boy. "I miss you…"
"He misses you too Zuri."
The former Queen pulled back to see that her Father had come to stand close to them. Musa still perched on his head looking down at his older brother with a wide smile and curious look. Zuri remembered this was the first time Musa was seeing his brother and it saddened her even more that the two of them would never really know each other in life. She had hoped to raise Musa to stand along side his brother, to accept Kopa as his King and that he would be there right along side him to help guard the pride and Pridelands. She was going to teach him that there was just as much honour in being a second as it was being King. Something she figured Scar…Taka…really never figured out in life.
"How much did it take for his wounds to heal?" Zuri asked, she could still see how rest her sons wounds were telling her that they were just only healing but the worst seemed to be over.
"Couple of days. Chika managed to clean and heal them properly in time. Your son is stubborn, if he'd only told Nuru about the infection getting worst he wouldn't have been in such a state when they arrived." Kopa Sr. shook his head. But he pretty much guessed that stubbornness seemed to run deep in their family on both sides. Which worried him about his grandcubs adventurous sides in the future. "He has both yours and Simba's stubbornness in him."
The brown lioness laughed and shook her head. "I pretty much came to that conclusion a long time ago." Turning her attention back to her eldest son she watched as he strolled away with Nuru who was taking him to where she had set down some birds she had caught for their dinner. As well as a snake which it seemed her son made a face at thinking he was going to made to eat it but Nuru simply laughed and said it was for her not him. "She seems to care for him."
"Oh yes," Kopa Sr. agreed nodding his head. "Very much so. She's a funny little thing, never seems to stop talking. But when it comes down too it she does appear to care for Kopa in the weeks they spent together travelling to the Jungle. It seemed Kopa feared she would leave him once they arrived and she got him to the Rasheda's but now it appears he's stuck with her." He looked toward his daughter who appeared to be contemplating something. "What is it?"
"Is it true the Rasheda's are gone from the Grove?"
Closing his eyes, the brown male nodded his head. "Yes…for months now. They left the grove shortly after you became pregnant with the triplets. It wasn't safe for them there anymore. This troop will be heading to where they are located now shortly. Tuma and Jaali have a truce that would allow them to live together in the same wide territory under the promise that no lion or any other predator would be allowed to hunt their troop." He explained. He and Mansa had discussed it and they thought the plan had potential and Mansa wondered why they hadn't tried it in the past. It allowed the expansion of territory plus more prey even if they didn't hunt the gorilla's.
Zuri smiled and nodded. She knew her cousin could be a great King if he just put his mind too it. "How is Aunt Leta?" She turned this time to ask the question to her Uncle who finally made his way forward.
"Stubborn and strong. I take it she might have some time left in her." Mansa grinned at the thought of his mate. He checked in on his pride from time to time. He would not openly say it but he was proud of the decisions his son made for the Pride and their safety. He did exactly what Mansa would have done if he was still alive and the Pride was in danger if they stayed in their old home. It was a sad thing, the Rasheda's had lived there for nearly fourteen generations and yet not the Pride would never live there again. But the pride was alive that's all that truly mattered. He missed his family, more importantly he missed his mate. He was glad she still lived to be there for their offspring. Their daughters needed her for he had died when they were only five months old.
It didn't strike him as odd that his mate was still the Queen Regent for the most part. The pride looked up to her and Jaali was relieved to have his mother there beside him to help with decisions he seemed to have trouble with deciding.
Zuri chuckled and shook her head. She hoped her aunt was doing well. Kopa needed those who were blood to him by his side at the moment and he shared the exact blood with Leta from her and his grandmother's side. Her attention was drawn back to her son when she heard him cry out and she hurried forward only to stop when she heard laughter all around her.
Blinking she eyed her son who was spitting and scraping his tongue with her paw with a look of disgust on his face.
"Ew! Ew! Ew! EW!"
"Well least we know you don't like snake."
Zuri looked toward Nuru who was getting off the ground from where she had toppled over in laughter. It took a moment for her to realize that the serval must have tricked her son into eat a part of the snake. She bit her lip to keep herself from laughing for her son's expense. Even though he could not see her, she did not want to laugh for she knew if she did if she was still alive it would have made him feel bad.
"You're evil!" Kopa glared at Nuru who only smiled manically at him with laughter dancing in her eyes.
"Mommy?" Zuri turned to face her youngest who had pushed himself up to sit on his grandfathers head. "Is big brother okay?" A soft smile came over her face at her sons concern for his brother; she nodded and stepped toward them. "Yes your brother is just fine."
Musa pursed his lips and looked at his brother then at his mother. Jumping off his grandfathers head he pranced toward his older brother and sat down beside him watching him. Kopa was much bigger then he was unlike his sisters. Musa may not have seen his brother when he was still alive but the cub remembered his big brothers voice from the times that Kopa would call out to him.
Behind him, his mother; grandfather and Great Uncle moved to lay themselves down at the edge of the grove where they could watch over the exiled prince.
Zuri watched while her youngest sat along side her eldest son. Crossing her paws in front of her she relaxed and enjoyed the view of them together. A sight she thought she never see. Yes, Musa was dead and could not interact with Kopa but seeing the two of them side by side still did her heart good. She watched Musa then jump around both Kopa and Nuru giggling while chanting. "Big brother!" Over and over at the top of his lungs.
Her Musa was filled with such innocence that she knew he would always have.
"How are things in the Pridelands?" Mansa asked from her right. The old lion rarely left the Jungles now. He could easily watch over the Rasheda's like he wanted too now that Kopa would be brought the pride in just another two days. Zuri could not blame her Uncle, the Rasheda's was his pride and he wanted to look after them but she was happy that he took time to watch over her and her cubs as well. But she would not deny him to stay in the jungles with his pride and family he wanted to look in on now.
Settling herself so that she was leaning into the side of her father, who at the moment was grooming the top of her head, Zuri eyed her Uncle and sighed. "As well as they can be. Simba is still preparing his 'marked trails' for Kiara in the future. As for Es…Zawadi…I fear for her. In only a few more weeks she will join in with the other cub's trainings. I don't know how those cubs hold up with it…Zira is far too rough with them. Her need for revenge just drives her on."
Stopping his grooming, Kopa Sr. laid his head atop his daughters and took a moment to think it over. "Well we know Zawadi don't really be in any danger. She's too…important to Zira's plans. If she were to get terribly hurt it would ruin Zira's plans." Although that wouldn't stop her from smacking the cub around from time to time, he feared but he didn't voice that out loud. Not wanting to worry his daughter anymore than she already was for her daughter.
"Have you figured out how you will get them reunited?" Mansa asked turning his head to face his niece.
Straightening her body so that she was no longer leaning against her Father, Zuri furrowed her brow while she gave it some serious thought. "Not yet…but I do know it won't be for some time sadly. We all know what the Guardians have planned for our prides and I can't really act until that has come into play. Then and only then will I truly be able to come forth and put my plan into motion." She explained looking toward her oldest son. She didn't want to believe when it was explained to her what Jelani had planned for her son but she knew it was something that had to be done. If he could manage it, it would make him stronger then any she ever known. It would test her son's strength of body and mind and she wanted to help him but knew that this was something her son had to do on his own.
She could only hope it did not break him. He managed through his loss of them for the most part it seems but she could still see it in his eyes and expression from time to time that it still affected him. And she had no doubt it forever would affect him but it would also give him strength where he would need it in the future. Nothing made you stronger then wanting to prevent more loss in your life. That would eventually be the driving force for her son. She knew it would be, for she knew him well. He was her and Simba's son and every good quality they had was inside him. Kopa just had to look deep within him and see it and harness it.
Settling back down, she settled for this chance to watch over her son. A spark of pride shinning inside her.
"You will do well my son." She whispered watching him as he and Nuru went to join the troop. A loving smile spread across her muzzle. "You have all the strength you need inside you. You only need to look my beloved boy. Times ahead will be hard for you. But you will prevail just like your Father did. You have so much of him inside you; you only need to see it. You will be a great warrior…and an even greater King when your trials are done. I know it to be."
They had stayed for two days and nights to watch over Kopa. From time to time, a messenger from the Pridelands would come and find them. To keep them up to date on what was occurring there. It wasn't until Kopa along with the gorillas had begun their move toward their new home that it was decided that Zuri would return on home to the Pridelands to check on things for herself.
"He'll be just fine." Zakia smiled nuzzling her daughter. Draping one paw over her, she licked the younger lioness's cheek. "It's only a two day journey from here to where the Rasheda's are now located. He'll be with family soon. You know they'll welcome him."
"Yes, but Kopa carries the news of our deaths. Even if the deaths of his father and sisters aren't true he still believes it and he will tell them that. It will tear them apart to hear about my death but more so to hear that Kopa thinks we all are dead." Zuri glowered shaking her head with a sneer. It wasn't right but there was nothing she could really do about the situation so all she could really do was sit back and wait for her son to return to where he really belonged.
Sighing, Zakia nodded her head. "Yes the news will hurt them. But there is nothing we can do about it." The older lioness stated. "Now go."
"Maybe I should follow them." Zuri looked off in the direction she watched the troop head off into with her son and Nuru among them. She moved to follow but her mother quickly cut her off. "He'll be just fine. Has anything happened to him during the past few days?" Zakia asked eyeing her daughters face while Zuri seemed to be pondering some excuse but in the end she sighed and shook her head to indicate that no nothing had happened to her son. "See…then there is nothing to worry about right now. Your father has already taken Musa back to the Pridelands with him so Musa can see his Daddy. You on the other hand should check on Zawadi. I know your dying to see that she's alright."
"But you already told me that she was…" Zuri protested but she knew it was no use. Her mother was right; she was dying to see for herself that her daughter was still in one piece. She trusted Kumai to take good care of the cub, and it seemed that Kumai was already getting attached and loving the cub as her own. Something that sparked both jealousy and relief inside the brown lioness's heart and mind.
Eyes softening, Zakia nuzzled her nose against her daughters. "Go my love; your son will be just fine. Mansa will be watching over him along the way to the Rasheda's as shall I and Jelani." Zuri had seen the Guardian twice since she come to see Kopa. Both times he just stood apart from them watching her son. Each time she took note that Kopa could see the Guardian but was choosing not to speak with him, when she approached and questioned this Jelani simply told her: "I plan to let him come to me on his own."
Grunting her frustration, the brown lioness nodded. "Very well. Report to me as soon as they reach the Rasheda's."
"Will do. Now go you silly cub." Zakia smacked her daughter's rump causing her to jump much like when she was a cub. "Mother I am not a cub anymore."
"Does not matter, you will always be my cub." Zakia smiled sitting back while she watched Zuri take her leave. Shaking her head, she turned to look off in the direction her grandson was going off in with the gorillas. Mansa had already gone off ahead to watch the Rasheda's while she Zakia would follow the troop to watch over Kopa herself. Just two days to go before her grandson's destiny began and with a smile she turned and began to follow them. Looking forward to seeing her sister once more.
Living out there was a fate worst then death.
At least that's what Zuri thought.
The place was so barren with little water and food. So dry and dusty and hot. Yes, she could not feel any of it anymore in her ghostly form but she knew it from the animals that had passed through it and hearing it from the small pride she been looking in on for weeks now.
It was not a place she would have wished anyone even her own enemy. Much less the cubs she had come to love and care for as well as her own daughter.
If it wasn't the raging heat that was dangerous but the sandstorms that would bury anyone and anything alive within seconds should you get caught out in one?
It was that exact situation she came across when she arrived in the Outlands to see upon her daughter. The storm was not as bad as of yet, but she could see it howling in the distance and feared when it would get there. Her eyes searched the area and she realized the lionesses were nowhere to be found.
They must have gone out to hunt, she thought. Unlike in the Pridelands were the pride never hunted more then twice a week at the most the Outlander Pride hunted more in hopes of catching fresh prey that wondered into their paths. This worried her however because that left her daughter in the care of the other cubs. In the Pridelands a lioness always stayed back to watch the cubs but out here their pride was much smaller and they needed all the lionesses they could to help find food.
So far Esh…Zawadi, had never been in any danger with the cubs. Nuka was growing with age and would be enough to watch over the cubs till the adults returned. Plus it did her heart good to see the bond that was very slowly building itself between her daughter and Nuka.
Stepping toward the termite mounds where the Outlanders had stationed as their new home, she peered on inside in hopes of catching the cubs. But stopped when she could not see or hear them. Yes there were many caves but the chance of hearing the cub's laughter or loud voices always echoed and now she could hear none. "Where are they…?" Stepping further into the mounds the brown lioness strained her hearing in order to catch anything that would tell her the cubs were inside.
Moving on deeper, she checked every crevice she could find but found anything that would indicate the cubs were inside.
Please…please, let them be inside! Zuri pleaded mentally.
Her prayers however fell short when she picked up the sound of angry shouting outside and in the distance.
Cursing, the brown lioness leapt through the wall of the mound not bothered at all with passing through it. Bounding on along the ground, Zuri stopped when she came to a small rock side that overlooked the very place Zira had dubbed her training ground for the cubs. And there they all were…including her daughter. Only to half of her relief, Zawadi was off to the side, along side a large rock that protected her from the blowing wind even if just a bit, simply watching while Zira paced back and forth shouting out commanding drills to her cubs.
Her heart ached for the sight before her. All three older cubs looked dirt and exhausted from their day of training and eyes squinted to see their best through the building storm. What really caught her attention was the tints of blood on the ground, which she soon came to realize, were from the scraps on the underside of their paws.
"Faster!" Zira called out to her cubs that were running their daily drill. It was always the same. Stalking, running, climbing jagged rocks and wrestling with one another. "Kovu take your sister!" The lioness growled.
Kovu stood on his tired legs but did as his mother instructed. Turning he ran at his sister, who had tried to dodge but didn't have time to jump from the rocks she was on before Kovu rammed her. With a cry, Vitani rolled down the rocks and ended up cutting her legs. Landing on the ground with another much louder cry this time, the lioness cub curled up clutching her now bleeding leg to her chest.
"Vitani!" Kovu and Nuka ran for their sister.
"Great job you little termite!" Nuka snapped at his brother growling. "Look what you've done!"
"I didn't mean it! Mom said to go after her…" Kovu protested standing beside his sister's head his paw resting on it stroking her fur. A look of remorse on his face.
"That is enough!" Zira growled making her way over to her cubs. "Vitani get up this instant!"
"But mom…" Vitani whimpered the cut in her leg stinging.
"I said get up!"
Whimpering, Vitani tried to get to her paws but fell down again. Growling, Zira turned and began walking away. "Come with me right now. We are not done your training. Vitani I suggest you get to your paws or you will be left behind. Boys follow….I said follow right now!" Zira hollered causing both Nuka and Kovu to jump at the tone in their mother's voice. Looking at their sister with sympathy they both hurried on after their mother with Vitani calling after them to wait.
From where she stood, Zuri felt for the young she-cub. The sight of the blood from the wound and Vitani's tearstained face tugged at her heart. "Oh Vitani…" she whispered and began hurrying down the rock side when she heard the voice of her daughter calling out.
"'Tani! 'Tani! 'Tani!" Zuri watched as the brown she-cub came darting from behind the rocks she been hiding by. She watched Zawadi dart toward Vitani with wide fearful eyes and tears streaming down her own face. Zawadi stopped at Vitani's head nudging the older cub with her nose. "'Tani hurt…?" The little cub asked but Vitani's only answer was a whimper.
Quickly making her way down, Zuri hurried to the two cubs sides. Reaching out with a paw she laid it just above Vitani's head. "Shh, it's okay Vitani. It's okay a cut it doesn't look deep." She spoke although she knew the cub could not hear her. Lifting her head she could no longer see Zira or the male cubs. She could not believe that Zira had just left her wounded daughter out in the middle of a building sandstorm.
Turning her attention back to Vitani she soon came to realize that Zawadi was staring at her with wide eyes. Looking toward the cub, she stared back at her. Blinking her eyes she brought her face closer to the brown cub. "Can you see me little one?" Her eyes widened when Zawadi nodded her head. "Well…don't say anything okay…because Vitani can't see me. You wouldn't want to confuse her right?" She smiled as the cub quickly nodded her head though confusingly.
"I'm going to stay with you until help comes." Zuri explained, and she could only hope one of the other cubs returned for their sister or one of the lionesses came and collected Vitani. Even though the cut wasn't deep and would heal quicker that way, the leg would still need to be looked at before the cub could properly walk on it. Until then she would stay there beside the two cubs, not just because her daughter was left out there but because she cared for Vitani as well.
She watched as Zawadi crawled around Vitani to lie in front of her. The cub stared at Zuri with bright eyes. She seen this lioness before, she remembered her. It was the one she spoke to that day she saw that brown cub and brown lion with that strange blonde mane. She quickly looked around her but could see none of them but the brown lioness in front of her. "Who…" She started but was cut off when the lioness shook her head for her not to say a thing especially when Vitani looked confused to whom the other cub was speaking too.
"Don't worry about who I am sweetie. I am a friend…right now that's all you need to know." Zuri whispered although inside her she was screaming. I am your mother. I am your mother. Tell her, you are her mother and that she is your little girl. But she clamped her mouth shut and didn't say a thing. Turning her attention back to Vitani her eyes softened at the cub's whimpers of pain and fright about being left out in which the cub obviously knew was a sandstorm that was rising. Zuri wanted to tell Zawadi to run and find shelter but if the cub inherited her stubbornness like the rest of her cubs she knew Zawadi would not leave Vitani's side.
And judging by the way the cub crawled closer to Vitani licking and nuzzling the older cub's cheek. It was a sure sign the cub was loyal and would not leave her friend. "You're a brave girl to take care of your friend." She spoke softly causing the brown cub to look back at her. New tears in her eyes. Seeing the cubs gray eye made her sad but one blind eye was better then being dead, she told herself. She could handle her cub being blind in one eye hell, she could handle if she was blind in both but she would not be able to handle it if Zawadi was dead. One cub was enough she would not be able to handle if another one of hers was as well.
But she feared if the two cubs were out in the rising storm any longer when it got worst that both cubs would die anyways. Something she did not want to witness but she wasn't about to leave either of their sides. But if the time came, if she could touch her daughter she would make sure to carry Zawadi away for her daughter meant more to her. It was a terrible thought but it was the truth.
Zawadi meant so much to her. As did Vitani but Zawadi was her little girl and she would not be able to handle the loss of another one of her cubs.
Looking at Vitani she watched the cub carefully. Her whole arm was now covered in blood and the front of her chest where she clutched her wounded leg to her. She wanted to try and think of something that would calm the cub and then remembering something that would at times calm Kopa when he was young she turned to Zawadi. "Baby girl?" she whispered making the cub turn back to her.
"Vitani can't hear or see me…but I know a song that might help calm her down. Do you think you can sing it with me for her? Nod your head if you think you can?" Zuri's smile widened when the cub nodded her head to agree. "Good girl." She smiled and then thought of a song that she thought her daughter would be able too follow. It took a few minutes before it came to her. "Alright sweetheart. All you got to do is follow everything I say as best you can. Okay?" The cub nodded her head vigorously wanting to do anything that could help her hurt friend.
"Hush little cub."
Zuri chuckled and nodded. She would not correct her daughter for she was still young and learning and just too sweet in the way she tried. She saw Vitani's eyes open and look at Zawadi with confusion to why the cub was trying to sing to her.
"Do not fear, for I am here."
"Do…not…fear…fer…I…am…here!" Zawadi squeaked happily.
Smiling, Zuri nodded. "Too chase away all the monsters and wipe your tears."
"Too chass away…all the monters….and wipe you…your…tears!"
"I will take care of you. Keep you safe and cherish you my dear."
"I will…take…care…of…you….Kep…you safe…and chersh…you my dear!"
"Hush little cub. Dry those tears for you are safe and I am here."
"Hush…wittle cub…dry…those…tears…fer…you…arr…sa…safe…and I…am here!"
"Good job baby girl." Zuri smiled at the cub who squeaked happily. She stumbled and messed up a few words but she still tried and that made Zuri's heart soar. She had sung a song not just to Vitani but to her daughter as well and Zawadi had sung along with her.
She watched Vitani lift her head and smiled meekly at the younger cub. "Thank…thank you Zawadi…that was a sweet song…" she praised the cub who squeaked happily and laid herself against Vitani snuggling really not caring that she got some of Vitani's blood on her. She just wanted to be close to her friend and make sure Vitani didn't hurt anymore.
Zuri watched the two female cubs with a soft loving smile. But it slowly turned into one of worry when she noticed that the wind was starting to pick up and the sandstorm was just getting more dangerous and there still wasn't any sign of the male cubs or any of the lionesses. She had hoped Zira would come back when she realized Vitani hadn't followed but that was soon thrown out the window.
Catching movement from the cubs she watched as Vitani slowly and painfully manoeuvred her body so that it was covering Zawadi's to protect the smaller cub from the blowing sand. Vitani tucked her face into the smaller cub to try and shield her own face as well. Both cubs started whimpering as the howling wind picked up. Standing, Zuri went and moved her body over them in hopes that it would shield them a bit but she could see it was obviously failing. "Hold on little ones…I'm sure someone's coming."
Lifting her head, Zuri stared off in all direction but she couldn't see anything now but she was soon picking up the sound of voices in the distance.
Bending down, she peaked under Vitani. "I hear someone calling for you baby girl. You need to call back to them to let them know where you are." She watched Zawadi poke her head out from beneath the golden fur cub and stare up at her confused before she nodded her head and started shouting out as best she could with the sand blowing into her face and mouth.
"MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!"
Zuri clenched her eyes shut when Zawadi cried out for she knew the cub was not crying out for her.
"MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!" Zawadi continued to cry out.
Lifting her head, Zuri stared off into the distance hearing the voices of others soon coming closer to them. But it wasn't Kumai that came around the corner and through the sand by Dotty and Asma coming through the storm. Both their eyes widened at the sight of the two cubs. "Vitani! Zawadi!"
"Auntie!" Both Zawadi and Vitani shouted out.
Zuri stepped back and watched while the two lionesses hurried over to the two cubs. Watching calmly as they inspected Vitani's wound but they picked up both the cubs, telling Vitani they would see to her leg when they got back home and out of the storm. She wanted to run after them, fight them, take back her daughter but she knew there was absolutely nothing she could do.
The former Queen didn't know how long she been sitting there, the lionesses and cubs long out of her sight and hearing range, dusts of sand blowing around her raging faster by the minute. Alone with her thoughts when suddenly a brownish-gold paw waved in front of her face. "Zuri?"
Blinking and turning her head Zuri saw Mufasa standing there beside her. Watching her with a look of sympathy on his face that she wanted to wipe off. She didn't need his pity or anyone else's for that matter. Pity got you nowhere.
"Are you alright?"
Looking back the way she'd seen the others go she sighed and nodded closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. "I will be…"
Opening her eyes she looked back at her father-in-law with a sad but warm smile. Stepping closer to the lion that resembled her mate and welcomed the arm he draped over her and buried her face in his mane and welcomed the comfort her mate's father was offering her. Closing her eyes and whispered.
"I will be."
Another chapter done. I know most were waiting for a chapter solely based around a lot of what Zuri was doing. Don't worry this won't be the last there will be more.
Hope you enjoyed and please remember to review.