A/N: This is as canon as possible while integrating an AU. It is a combination of TLK II and the story of Kopa.
Zira was stalking through the Pridelands alone again. She never bothered much to join a formal hunting party, for she could not stand most of the other lionesses. She knew there were several who were close to her and would remain loyal to her, which was her main advantage. She could not do anything yet, though. She needed an heir. Scar needed an heir.
The only cub they were able to have together, young Nuka, was too small and weak. Besides, he did not have the correct temperament for a king; someone else would have to do. Unfortunately, Scar was murdered before they could try again.
Zira had been on the search for rogues ever since. She had managed to convince one to mate with her, but, unfortunately, she had produced a female, little Vitani. Now, Vitani did have great e leadership potential, and if she had been born a princess, she would have made a fine queen someday. However, as a female, it was highly unlikely should would ever require enough strength to take on Simba and win.
Vitani was now six months old, and Zira had recovered enough to start her search anew. She had now reached the edge of the territory. This was where most visitors were met, though she was not sure what lay beyond.
Then she heard a distinct "mew." Her ears pricked, she silently stalked towards the bush where the noise had originated. Peering carefully over the leaves, she was surprised to find a tiny brown cub staring up at her with green eyes.
Zira lifted her head and looked around, wondering where the cub's parents were. She sniffed the air, but they seemed to be alone.
What happened next was even stranger. She distinctly heard a voice inside her head, Scar's voice, say: "this one."
Zira blinked several times. Was she imagining it? The voice continued: "this is my heir. Take him in for me. He shall be king."
Now Zira knew she had heard something. The message was clear; she had to adopt this cub.
She slinked forward until she was behind the bush with the tiny lion. The cub let out a whimper. "What is your name?" Zira asked gently.
"K-Kovu," the cub said in a small voice.
"Where is your mother?"
"G-Gone." The cub let out a shudder.
"It's alright," Zira said soothingly as she pulled Kovu towards her body. "I will take care of you. You will not be alone any longer." She paused. "And one day, you will be king." And all would be right with the world once again.
"This is the day," a voice hissed. "You know what to do."
Vitani stared up at her mother without moving. She did not like the plan; she did not like her part in it. But Zira was her mother, and she had to obey her orders, didn't she? "He won't be hurt, will he?"
Zira's lips curled into a wicked smile. "No, dear. We just need to… drive him off. If he comes back, it will be too late. Kovu will take care of him. Let's hope he knows what is in his best interest."
Vitani frowned. Hadn't this happened with Simba? He had come back, and Scar had not been able to defeat him. Her mother was not a murderer, tough, was she? She just wanted them to have what was rightfully theirs.
"Go now," Zira said in a low hiss. "Find him."
Vitani scampered out from behind the tall grass. She was finally old enough to be out on her own. She had only recently stopped receiving milk from her mother; eating meat felt liberating. She was not far from Pride Rock. She could see several lionesses scattered about, lying down and soaking up the sun.
And then she spotted him. Kopa was a stocky lion cub with rich yellow fur. His was almost a year old now, and his reddish-brown mane was starting to make its way down his neck. He had been trotting forward, but he stopped when he saw Vitani. His eyes lit up, and he smiled at her. "Hi, Vitani," he said brightly as he neared her. "Great day, isn't it?"
Vitani smiled nervously. "Yes. I enjoy the sun."
Kopa nodded. "Me too. What are you doing out here all alone? Isn't your brother supposed to be watching you?"
Vitani made a face; she hated being watched. "I got rid of Nuka earlier. He's no fun."
"Well, I'm lots of fun," Kopa said with a grin. "Do you want to go explore?"
"Sure," Vitani said. She knew her mother would be pleased. This was exactly what she needed. "Can I lead this time?"
Kopa shrugged. "Sure. Let's go."
Vitani was nervous as she started forward in a direction that led away from the Pridelands. She needed to say something. "How is your sister?"
"She's great," Kopa said brightly. "She just got back from the nursing den."
Vitani smiled slightly. "That's good." All mothers with newborn cubs spent a month in the nursing den until the cub could open its eyes. The young lioness suddenly wondered what her mother was planning on doing with Kiara. Perhaps she would not view her as a threat since she was a female.
"Where are we going?" Kopa asked curiously as he looked around.
Vitani shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. "Just exploring." She was glad that he continued to talk to her. She did not want to be alone with her thoughts, lest her conscience start nagging her. Kopa was her friend. Why was she doing this? "I've never been out here before." She usually kept close to Pride Rock.
"Oh, there's lots to explore," Kopa said. "I can show you everything."
Vitani winced as she watched him beam with pride. It was times like this when she wondered if her mother was right. Kopa was not a bad guy, and he wanted to be king so much. Was it really wrong if he attained his goal? Why not let the past goal?
But she had to listen; family was important. She knew that no one thought that her family belonged here. She could see the way the lioness looked at them, and she could hear the whispers. The others cubs stayed away from her and Nuka. Kopa was the only one who was different, so why was he the one being punished? He was her only friend… What was she going to do without him?
"Is something wrong?" Kopa asked with worry in his voice.
Vitani had not noticed that she had slowed down, and she was staring at the ground with a somber expression on her face. "Kopa…" she began slowly as she came to a halt. She did not want to do this. There had to be a way out. But… If she did not comply, would her mother kill him? She shuddered at the thought. She could not let that happen. "You have to leave."
"What are you talking about?" Kopa said, clearly confused. "I thought we were going exploring."
Vitani could not bear to look at him. "Get out of here. Away from the Pridelands. You're in danger."
"Vitani… This isn't funny. What's going on?"
Vitani gritted her teeth and turned her head away. Why couldn't he just leave? Why did he have to make this so difficult? "Go!" she shouted. "You can't stay here!"
"Vitani!" Kopa's voice sounded panicked now. He scampered around her so that he was facing her. "What are you talking about?"
Vitani finally slowly raised her head to look at him. Her eyes were filled with sorrow and regret. "I'm sorry," she whispered. She could hear the sound of racing paws. They were coming. "Just run." She spun around and saw some of her mother's friends racing toward them.
"Good work, Vitani," one of them said, giving her a sly grin as she walked past.
Kopa's eyes widened when the lionesses surrounded him and began to slowly pace around him. "What do you want? Vitani?" He looked at her for help.
Vitani cringed inwardly. Teeth clenched, she forced herself to turn away and flee the scene.
Nala lifted her head when she saw her mate enter the den, appearing tired and worn. Luckily, baby Kiara was still fast asleep in her mother's arms.
"They killed Kopa," Simba said with anguish in his eyes.
Nala let out a gasp. "No!" Grief began to cover her own face. Not her little boy! She knew Zira had been close to Scar, but she did not suspect she would go this far to extract revenge.
Simba let out a heavy sigh. "There were too many of them. I tried to stop them, but…"
"It's not your fault," Nala said, letting some sympathy slip into her voice. "We all trusted them."
Simba's eyes fell on his daughter. "Did they come after Kiara?"
Nala nodded. "Our mothers fought them off. Your mother was injured, though. My mother is helping her. I'm not sure she's going to make it…" Tears welled in her eyes. Why did tragedy have to strike just when they thought everything was fine? What had they done to deserve this?
Simba let out a groan. "No. They must be punished. They cannot get away with murder." He clenched his teeth together and growled.
"What are you going to do?"
"Banish them," Simba said. "They can try to survive in the Outlands. They no longer belong here."
Nala smiled grimly. "It's probably for the best. I can't believe they'd go after Kopa…" He was so young and innocent; he had never seen it coming.
Simba stepped forward and nuzzled his mate comfortingly. "Everything is going to be alright" he whispered. "We have Kiara. I promise I will never let anything happen to her."
Both lions looked at the baby. Kiara opened her eyes and blinked at them uncomprehendingly. She had no way to know that she was now the future queen of Pride Rock.