A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 7th, 2013, 11:50 pm

This story was once available in its entirety on this website. However, for technical reasons I cannot circumvent, starting in 2015 I could no longer directly copy + paste new chapters over here for publishing. As a result, only chapters 1-46 are available here. For chapters 47 and onward, the links will take you off-site to FanFiction.net.

Image

Summary:

The Pridelanders seek to overthrow the lion kingdom, and they think they've found the key to their triumph: a rogue warrior to fight on their behalf. Though he is injured, Simba's great-grandfather possesses an unusual link to his long-forgotten ancient ancestors—a link that rivals the king's own.



Genre: action/adventure/drama
Rating: PG-13 for violence, mild language, and suggestive themes
Current word count: 293,947
Status: in progress

Timeframe: ~35 years before Simba's reign
Characters: Mohatu, Uru (cub), Rafiki, several OC's
Settings: the Jungle, the Pridelands, the Badlands, Lea Halalela



Chapters:
Avg length: ~5900 words each

  1. Reborn
  2. The Scar
  3. Something Fishy
  4. The Plan
  5. Celestial Serenity
  6. Black Dawn
  7. A Matter of Pride
  8. The Start of a Journey
  9. The Return Home
  10. A Thorn in the Paw
  11. The Void
  12. Life and Death
  13. The Mirage
  14. Bad Lion
  15. Aberrational Insight
  16. Revelation
  17. To Die For
  18. Incision
  19. Reunion
  20. Light
  21. New Horizons
  22. Subtle Infiltration
  23. The Great Evil
  24. Fresh Meat
  25. Balance of Deception
  26. Heart of the Lion
  27. Burden of Mercy
  28. Bared Ambitions
  29. Serpentine Slip
  30. Fear
  31. Perfect Execution
  32. Monkey Business
  33. Shock and Awe
  34. Betrayal Gardens
  35. Mohatu's Pride
  36. Sunset
  37. Royal Relations
  38. Twin Sunset
  39. Zero Hour
  40. The End
  41. Fallacious Presumptions
  42. Decay
  43. Broken Compass
  44. The Rex Experience
  45. Tropical Depression
  46. In Complete Sanity
  47. An Old Idea Made New
  48. A Private Tour
  49. Halcyon
  50. Declawed
  51. From Past to Future (working title; in progress)
  52. Lost but Won (working title; not yet started)
  53. The New Kingdom (working title; not yet started)
Last edited by Regulus on January 5th, 2017, 12:01 am, edited 18 times in total.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 7th, 2013, 11:52 pm

chapter 1: show
A/N: There used to be a long note here, but I have since removed it. Enjoy the read. :)


---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Chapter 1: Reborn


Life in the Pridelands: the many herds galloping across the golden savannah, the tranquilizing blue sky reflecting across the glassy surface of the waterhole, and the regal, yet oddly shaped Pride Rock protruding from the grassland. It was an amazing, carefree experience for any young lion cub.

But it was gone.

In the jungle, the waterhole reflected only the enormous trees on the other side. The shadows of vegetation were scattered about everywhere, which proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Hunting was impossible. There were no herds, and any prey that wandered into the jungle's catacombs could evade and hide in a matter of seconds.

It was no place to find a lion, but, oddly enough, that's what made it a haven for Mari's pride.

The dejected lioness saw her scruffy head as a reflection in the lake, while she leaned over for a drink. In the midst of the afternoon, she stood out blatantly, especially with her golden-orange fur.

Clearly, the stress from her new lifestyle was taking a tremendous toll. She looked as if she had aged several years, in a time span of only a few months.

In a way, she had indeed matured greatly since her lackadaisical cubhood in the Pridelands. In the wake of the king's conquest, she was almost forced to become a lioness. Even though she was still rather young, she had to make a choice. It was her decision to run away, and her decision to resist the oppressive kingdom.

Obviously, becoming a queen wasn't necessarily her priority.

Although it had been months since the remains of her pride left their home, she was not getting any more comfortable. The water she lapped up left a strange, bitter taste on her tongue. It was terrible. In addition, the air was humid, which made her fur feel sticky and nasty as well.

Mari could hardly sleep since she left the Pridelands. The noises at night were different and unfamiliar, and she could not shake the fear of being killed by the new king. The pain of being betrayed by her best friend had its own effects as well, but that was another matter entirely.

Things would never be the same again, and she knew it.

The lioness sighed deeply, as soon as she finished drinking. This was her new life. If her pride returned home, they would be killed. There was simply no other option—save betraying her family.

Mari quickly pushed that idea out of her mind.

She lifted her head back up, and gazed across the horizon. At the other side of the lake, another lion was clearly visible. He had been resting for nearly a week, with only a few minor interruptions since the lioness rescued him.

Mari saw him in battle before he nearly died; he was an unparalleled warrior. His strength even rivaled that of the ominous king himself. His speed and agility in personal combat were unmatched, as well. The lion's mere presence was enough to instill fear through the spines of his opponents.

Only one thought occupied Mari's mind. If the lion could recover from his injuries, he could be the pride's savior. It was a thought that filled Mari's heart with fires of hope, even as farfetched as it seemed.

The lioness grinned, stepping away from the waterhole. Her eyes darted across the dry ground, until she found the cracked shell of an empty fruit below one of the nearby trees. Mari grabbed the shell with her teeth, and walked back over to the lake to fill it with water.

Carrying the bowl of water in her mouth, the lioness began walking to her future savior. As she approached the lion, a flock of small birds scattered from a tree above. They made exotic, high-pitched chirping noises, which seemed to bring Mohatu into a state of consciousness.

From what Mari had seen, it appeared to be the first time in days.

The brown lion groaned in agony. Mari could not deny that as horrible as her reflection looked from living in the jungle, Mohatu appeared even worse. As she approached, she noticed the lion almost appeared broken, barely holding on from the fringes of death. His beige coat of fur contained numerous scratches and bruises, in addition to a thin layer of dust and dirt. There was no questioning the fact that he needed a bath, at the very least.

Perhaps what he needed was a fresh start—a new life.

Mari set the bowl down beside the lion, and began to walk away quietly. It was not her intention to disturb him.

Yet, inevitably, Mohatu's rest was interrupted, leaving only a deep feeling of turmoil. Thoughts of pain, suffering, and death plagued the unfortunate lion's mind. He opened his senses to the world around him gradually.

As the world faded into view, he immediately noticed two blurred figures, which appeared to be lionesses. He blinked, and the blurred images became slightly clearer, merging into one distinct entity.

As the lion's mind awakened, he continued to scan his surroundings, noticing the shadow of a thriving jackalberry tree shielding him from the sun's intense afternoon rays, not far from the lake nearby. His breathing and heart rate slowed, as his fears withered away.

There was no real conflict; there was only peace. He could not question the fact that he must have experienced one hell of a dream.

The comforting voice of the golden lioness in view greeted him. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to wake you, Mohatu. Are you feeling better now?"

"Ugh, I'm fine… I guess," he lied. The lion struggled to think of a correct answer. To be truthful, he only felt numb in his state of confusion, and he most certainly had no idea why this unfamiliar lioness was speaking to him. "Wh… who are you, and where am I?" He asked lethargically.

"Oh…" The lioness blushed, taken back by Mohatu's sudden inquiry. Perhaps he was more aware of his surroundings than she originally anticipated. She knew she would need to answer carefully to prevent confusion. "I'm Mari, and we're not far from the Zuberi River."

Mohatu's eyes widened slightly as his mind absorbed the information. The names sounded familiar, but from where, he could not quite recall. Heck, he could hardly remember what he was thinking two seconds ago. The lion stared directly into Mari's black eyes as he thought, before looking away out of embarrassment.

Mohatu shifted his gaze to the ground below, where he found the bowl Mari left. He leaned toward it to find it filled with water, though his neck screamed in pain. Eventually, he lapped up the water with his tongue, quickly drinking it all to relieve his thirst.

Meanwhile, the lioness attempted to read Mohatu's mind, so that she could prepare herself for any questions he would ask. "I'm sure this is all very confusing to you, but, don't worry, we're safe here. Busar has agreed to let you stay with us, as long as you need to," she assured.

"Okay... good." Mohatu muttered. He rushed through what he had been told in his mind as he erected himself on his paws. Although his muscles dreaded performing the simple task, he persisted.

He wasn't aware of what happened to him, but he knew one thing was certain: he clearly wasn't in the best of physical or mental condition. If he had to guess, he could have fallen down a cliff and been smacked by a crazy baboon with a stick. It seemed as plausible as any other scenario.

"It's kind of lonely out here," Mari said quietly. "Now that you're up, I guess I could take you to the pride?"

The lion thought for a moment, before responding. "Okay."

"Don't worry if everyone seems a bit strange," she warned. "We've all been through a lot, recently." However, to Mari, the future was finally starting to look a little less bleak. "Family troubles," she continued, looking behind her to see that Mohatu was still following.

"Why, what's going on?" Mohatu asked, clearly displaying a tone of concern in his voice.

Mari stopped in her path, and looked down to push a small rock out of the path and into the pond. "I'd... rather not talk about it, but I guess I don't have much of a choice," the lioness answered. She knew it would not be easy to explain, and it was a long story, after all.

But, to be fair, if she could not explain the futility of her pride's situation, surely he would never be of assistance.

"Narisah and Busar's two sons, Leo and Rex, ran away years ago," the lioness explained. "We thought they were dead, but they returned just recently, and chased us off. Leo declared himself the 'king' of the Pridelands... whatever that means. We had no choice but to leave home. We would have been killed."

"I'm sorry," Mohatu responded sympathetically.

"There is some good news, though. Leo is dead," she added, unable to bear looking the lion in the eye as she spoke. "Rex took his place as king... but it is only a matter of time before his reign is at an end too."

"Oh," Mohatu replied, feeling his heart sink to the ground. "You did what you had to do, I guess."

"Yes, but it wasn't right," she argued. "I don't believe in killing. It's what separates us from them." Secretly, Mari began to feel a splash of relief. Maybe her plan would work after all.

Her relief was quickly overcome with sadness. The lioness blinked before continuing, in an attempt to prevent her eyes from filling with water. "Besides… he was my best friend."

Mohatu wished to continue the discussion, but he wasn't quite sure what to say. The lioness was correct. He simply nodded in agreement.

The duo continued walking along the path in silence, with the exception of a few birds and the soothing flow of the Zuberi River nearby. Mohatu found the sensation of walking difficult with his lack of strength, yet still quite liberating.

Several boulders marked the path ahead, representing center of her pride's temporary home in the vast jungle. Vines hung from the trees above, and the area was mostly shaded, even in the late afternoon. It looked as if one lion had attempted to create a makeshift hammock of some sort, though Mohatu only saw the group of lions sitting in a circle on the ground.

"Mari, Mohatu, it's good to see you two," an old lion greeted. "Please, sit down. We would like to speak with you."

Mohatu did as he was told, not necessarily out of obedience, but mostly out of exhaustion. He bowed before the pride, and sat down beside Mari.

The oldest male lion watched Mohatu closely, waiting for him to get comfortable. "Allow me to introduce myself," the lion began.

He shared an appearance similar to Mohatu, but slightly lighter in color, and possessed a noticeably thinner mane. "I'm Busar," he said, pointing his paw towards his chest.

He then gestured towards the lioness to his left. "This is my mate, Narisah."

"Good day, Mohatu," the lioness beamed shortly after.

"That's Mari, as I'm sure you already know," Busar continued, "and the other two are Karttiki and Irena. Karttiki is Mari's mother, and Irena is the mother of a cub named Uru. We are all that remains of our pride."

"Hello," Mohatu mumbled, as the other two lionesses greeted him. With his muscles burning and an excruciating headache from hell, he was hardly in the mood for introductions.

"We have already discussed this, and we think it would be best if you stay here, with us," Narisah announced.

Mohatu looked at the lion with an expression confusion. This wasn't making any sense. He was injured and weak, and he was well aware of that fact. He would be of greater assistance to the pride if they killed him and ate him for lunch. "You want me to stay?" he asked.

"It's up to you, of course. But the truth is, we need all the help we can get," Busar explained.

"I'm sure you already know," Karttiki spoke up, "about the situation with Rex."

"Normally, we would be reluctant to let an outsider join our pride, especially at your age, but these are unusual circumstances," Irena added.

"I'll... think about it," Mohatu replied. "But there's not much I can do now," he admitted, remembering how difficult it was to find the strength to walk.

"When you're better, of course," Mari confirmed. "It should only be a few weeks."

Mohatu responded politely, speaking his mind. "I appreciate the offer, but I just... I don't know. I don't belong here." After Mohatu's final words to the group of lions, he strained his legs to lift his body off the moist jungle soil. "I need to get back to my own pride."

As their guest slowly walked away, Mari spoke to her family in private. "Just let me talk to him some more. I think I can persuade him," she smiled.

"Hah. He has no idea," Busar whispered. The tone of his voice dropped unusually low.


---



The lioness scanned across the horizon, looking for any signs of where Mohatu had run off to. Eventually, she spotted him leaning over a shaded rock in the distance, and ran there as well.

A short distance away, Mohatu lifted his front paws atop a bolder and looked over, deep in thought. Below, what he presumed to be the Zuberi River flowed down through the valley.

At some points, the water seemed to run violently around rocks scattered in the gorge, creating frothy patterns of bubbles. Farther down the stream, the water maintained a much greater degree of transparency, exposing the algae-covered rocks below the surface.

Hundreds, if not thousands of trees with various shades of green littered the valley's edges. For a pride that seemed to be struggling for survival, the lush scenery most certainly did not reflect that status.

The sound of another lion approaching shattered his concentration. "Hey, Mohatu," Mari called softly.

Mohatu refused to turn around in annoyance. "What do you want?" he asked. Though he did not realize it, the tone of his voice was quite bitter.

"I just wanted to explain..."

Mohatu shifted his posture slightly, turning to face the lioness. "Go on."

"You hit your head a few days ago," she clarified.

Mohatu raised a brow. "Thanks for telling me," he replied sarcastically. "I don't remember a single thing before this morning."

Mari chuckled lightly, allowing herself to relax, despite the lion's attitude. "That's probably a good thing. The past few weeks have been... very brutal, to say the least."

"Tell me," Mohatu insisted.

Mari began to pace from side to side across the dirt path. "Leo and Rex... they didn't just take our territory. They created a superpride... an entire kingdom, as they called it. Many prides have fallen to their conquest."

"But, you said Leo is dead, right?" The lion replied easily.

"King Rex is far more dangerous than Leo ever was," Mari cautioned. "He will stop at nothing to kill anyone who opposes him. That's why we're hiding out here. We can't hunt, we can't go anywhere. We can't do anything. The moment any of us cross that river is the moment we all die."

Mohatu returned the lioness's stern glance. "So, siding against him is suicide?" he asked. Despite having a tremendous headache, the lion managed to comprehend Mari's words.

Mari sighed, greatly resenting his question. "My mother once told me, that there comes a time in every lion's life when a very special opportunity arises. A chance to do something extraordinary... something unique, and something perfectly fitted to his talents. A chance to leave behind a legacy."

"So?" the lion expressed his lack of understanding.

"Well… do you believe in free will?" Mari asked. "Do you believe it's worth fighting for?"

'I… ugh…" Mohatu struggled to think of a response.

"Look," Mari sighed. "It all comes down to this: I think I know how to overthrow Rex. But I'll need your help to pull it off."

The lion shook his head, taking a deep breath. "I'm sure Rex needs to be stopped; I don't doubt that. But I'm not the lion to do it. I need to get back to my own pride. There's nothing here for me."

"Your family is dead," she stated bluntly. "Their blood is on the king's paws. I'm sorry."

Her words hit Mohatu like a splash of cold water. He lowered his head in shame as Mari sat in silence.

All things considered, the lioness was probably right. If he almost died, chances are, his family shared a less fortunate fate. "I... I wish I could remember," the lion muttered.

She walked closer to the lion, who, to her surprise, accepted her company. "We need to stick together, or our fate will be the same as theirs."

Clearly, Mari wanted Mohatu to stay. Yet, he still failed to understand why. "But, why me? I'm nobody special," he confessed, looking back up at the lioness approaching him.

The lioness shook her head, before smiling. "Yes, you are."

A strange, warm feeling developed in Mohatu's melting gut, as he found himself returning Mari's grin. Mohatu continued to stare into Mari's reflective black eyes, allowing her words to sink in.

If that's how Mari felt about him, surely it was worth sticking around for, if nothing else.

"I'll let you think about it," she said, unknowingly bringing the lion back to reality.

Mari stood up slowly, exposing a scratch across the left side of her back. It appeared to be a sort of battle scar. The dark red line was highly visible against her golden-orange fur, which blended well with the similarly colored sunset.

Mohatu considered asking her about the scar, but decided against it. Even though he had only been around Mari for less than an afternoon, he could already notice that the lioness wasn't very comfortable discussing her past.

"Wait, don't leave yet," Mohatu replied, trying to think of something else to say.

Mari paused momentarily, allowing the lion to speak. "What is it?"

Mohatu raised his paw slightly, pointing to the surreal, orange sky above. "Look."

Mari turned to face the sunset above the jungle mountains. She did not initially realize what the lion wanted her to see until several moments passed.

The sunset added a hint of sorrow to her thoughts, as the sight only triggered more memories of her past. "You should see the sunset at Pride Rock," she replied sadly. "This is nothing."

"We still have a little bit of daylight left," Mohatu said. "Do you want to go for a walk, or something?"

"I don't think we have time," the lioness replied, continuing to walk away. "We still haven't eaten yet, you know." She spotted a rotting log in the distance, under the jungle canopy, and began walking towards it. "Follow me."

"Oh, yeah!" Mohatu remembered. "You said you can't hunt out here, so what are we supposed to eat?"

"Bugs."

Mohatu's tongue extended beyond his mouth, as he quivered in disgust. "You can't be serious!"

Mari pushed on the hollow log with her front paws, forcing it to roll down a small hill. It fractured into several pieces, as it rolled into a much healthier tree. "Yes, I'm serious," she laughed, leaning down to eat any insects she could find. "This is what we have to do out here."

The lion picked a yellow grub up with his paw and brought it to his nose so he could smell it. Not surprisingly, he could barely hold it between his paws without it slipping away. He squished the insect slightly, and examined in even greater disgust as a stream of liquid oozed out.

"Here goes nothing," he muttered, before gulping it down as fast as he could. Its texture was slimy, and its taste was not too satisfying.

"It's about survival," Mari explained. "I'd much rather eat a wildebeest too, but we can't disturb the herds. It would attract attention from the kingdom."

"Ugh... yeah, I'm not hungry anymore," Mohatu chortled after gagging himself. "I'm going back to the pride."

"Goodnight," he whispered to Mari before heading back up the jagged, overgrown path. Many of the adjacent trees were hanging in his way, and as a result of the sun's increasingly dim light, he could hardly navigate back using his blurred vision alone. The tired lion relied primarily on instinct to find his way back up the valley.

By the time he made it to the secluded hideout, where the other lions gathered, his paws throbbed with an aching pain worse than he could have imagined. A voice called his name, though it wasn't what he expected. "Mohatu!"

It was neither the voice of Busar, nor one of the pride's loyal lionesses, but much higher in pitch.

He turned his head to meet the creature. He found what looked to be a babassu palm tree, but nothing else.

Suddenly, he felt something soft rubbing against his right front paw. He looked down to find a figure reminiscent of a fearful young cub. "Are... are you going to fight the lion king for us?" she asked.

Mohatu pushed a pile of leaves away with his other paw and allowed himself to fall down on his side. He then stretched his limbs out as he yawned.

"Yeah. I guess I will."


---



A/N: And that's it for the first chapter. I know there's already a character named Leo established in the TLK universe, but this guy is not in any way related.

I am also aware that Mohatu already has a semi-canon story which establishes his existence. Unfortunately, I have not read it, so this story may or may not end up conflicting with that.

In fact, this story is probably going to break a lot of what is already established in semi-canon. However, I am trying to stay as close as I can to what is already established in the first two Lion King films. This will probably break semi-canon, but not canon, and certainly not anything shot out of a cannon.

Please tell me what you think! Reviews are always welcome.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 7th, 2013, 11:55 pm

chapter 2: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 2: The Scar


A thick, dark layer of clouds and fog shielded the Pridelands from view. Occasionally, lightning struck, illuminating the ominous night sky above. Even from the promontory of Pride Rock, the massive downpour of rain completely blocked visibility across the horizon.

Two lions stood on the enormous rock, glancing over their kingdom in the storm. One shook the mist out of his mane, while the larger of the two lions glanced directly below, noticing a wet cheetah running towards Pride Rock.

"What are you doing here, Duma?" The king demanded. "It's just a storm."

The cheetah climbed up to Pride Rock as fast as he could. "I... I saw... the traitors, your highness," he replied, between his deep gasps for air. "They're here. In the Pridelands. Busar is with them."

The king shifted his attention towards his brother. "Rex, gather the knights above Pride Rock. We will make our stand here. Just as we planned."

"Yes..." Rex grinned deviously. He turned around and walked to the other side of the enormous rock with haste. "Soon, there will be no one left to oppose us!"

Leo's dark brown mane blew magnificently in the violent winds. As confident as he was, he felt something was not right as soon as his brother left. "Are you sure?" the king asked Duma. "I'm surprised he actually has the guts..."

Immediately, Busar swatted the cheetah away, causing the smaller cat to fall down temporarily.

Duma quickly regained his balance on his paws. He backed away from the lions with his fur standing straight up like spines.

The cheetah exposed his clenched teeth for a moment, before running away as Busar focused on his son.

Two lionesses stood beside him on each side, after following Busar up Pride Rock. Mari and Kartitiki guarded his right, while Narisah and Irena covered his left.

It was five versus one.

"I would rather not fight," Busar stated. "But your actions have forced me to do this."

Narisah nodded in agreement, while a harsh rain began pouring down on the lions. "You have brought order to the Pridelands... but at what cost? Uhai is dead. Akila is dead. Iltani, Korrawi, Isis, Vasari... they're all dead. Half our pride is gone, just because of you!"

"Their deaths were necessary," Leo spat, glancing behind his shoulder. "Those who are worthy of ruling a kingdom serve me. Only the strongest can survive. This is the way it must be."

He hoped to see his knights behind him, ready for battle. Instead, he found no one. A deafening silence filled the moist air around him.

His brother was not in position above Pride Rock as he promised. The lion clenched his teeth together with incredible force as he came to realize what this meant. Rex had betrayed him. He was left to fight alone.

But he would still take all the glory. His anger would fuel his strength in battle.

"This is your last chance, Leo," Busar taunted. "Stand down, or I will be forced to kill you."

Leo moved into his fighting stance, lowering his center of gravity closer to the ground. "You will not stop me!" Leo warned. "I am the king!" He watched each of the lions carefully, waiting for the perfect moment to make his first strike.

Busar inched towards his son at a snail's pace. In a split second, he turned to his right and winked at Mari. She knew what to do.

Leo had no space to move, nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. His only choice was to attack first, and expose himself to the other four lions.

"It's over, Leo!" Mari taunted, moving confidently into position atop a boulder as lightning struck behind her. "This ends here. Now."

In a desperate move, the lion leaped straight forward, directly for Mari's head. The gusty winds and dim moonlight made observing him rather difficult, except during the frequent moments when lightning struck in the distance.

Mari ducked under the pouncing lion, and waited for him to land behind her.

Though Leo managed to sink one of his paws into Mari's back, causing the lioness to scream in pain, he gained too much momentum to hold on. The once arrogant and bodacious lion feared for his life as he slid off the wet rock below him.

Mari remained standing on the boulder, as the rain poured down on her wounded spine.

Leo began accelerating downward at a rapid pace, falling directly in the path of several rocks below. As he hit the first boulder, his body warped and twisted around it, before sliding off into an adjacent rock.

At last, he rested motionless, covered in an ever-expanding pool of blood. Though a dense fog hindered the pride's vision, it was quite clear that the king had fallen.

Mari jumped down and stepped over to the king's carcass. Seconds later, she and the other lions surrounded his dying body.

Checkmate.


--- --- ---


"Hey, wake up, sleepyhead!" Mari teased.

Mohatu opened his eyes, immediately noticing the long scar across Mari's back before anything else. He stepped back, unsure of what was actually happening. "Whoa!"

Mari lifted her forepaws up before backing away. Mohatu's reaction sent a wave of confusion through her blood. "What is it?" she inquired.

"It's just... you were... fighting Leo... and there's that scar..." the lion muttered. He took a few seconds to regain his breath, so that he could try to explain. "It was a dream, I think. I'm not sure."

Mari allowed herself to relax slightly. "It's probably just a dream. Nothing important, nothing to worry about." The tranquility in her voice seemed to put the lion at ease.

Mohatu looked around, just as he had done the day before. The wind blew gently against the many trees, and the sun was quite high above the horizon. Small, wispy clouds were scattered about the sky.

Overall, it was a very peaceful day in the jungles of Africa. "Yeah, I guess you're right," Mohatu replied.

In almost complete silence, Busar walked up beside the two lions. His weight must have been light on his paws. "Mari, can I speak to you for a second?"

"Uh, sure," she accepted.

Mohatu attempted to follow the elder lion, but decided against it as Busar shot him a stern gaze. Instead, he began walking in the opposite direction.

To his relief, the lion found that a good portion of his energy had been restored. As he walked, he did not feel the aching of his joints; he could move with ease.

A surge of excitement flowed through his body. With each passing second, he could feel the power building up in his chest. The urge to sprint through the jungle became increasingly stronger. He looked around, to assure himself no one was watching.

He spotted a lioness, probably a few years older than Mari, lying on a rock in the sun. She had an unusually dark coat of fur, with more of a brownish hue than orange or gold. Mohatu struggled to remember her name. He questioned whether he was even paying attention at the time.

He noticed that beside her, a disappointed cub sat with a similar, yet even darker appearance, presumably the same one he encountered the previous night.

Not too surprisingly, upon sighting the lion, the cub perked up almost instantly. "Hey, Mohatu! Where are you going? I want to come too! Can you take me somewhere? Please? Can you?"

"Whoa, slow down there," Mohatu laughed. "I'm just going for a walk, that's all."

Immediately, the cub begged her mother for permission to follow him. "Mom, can I go with Mohatu? Please, please, please, mom? Can I?"

"It's fine with me," he said calmly. After all, perhaps spending time with the young lioness would allow him to take his mind off the more important matters that Mari had lectured at him.

The cub's mother, Irena, nodded, and her daughter began to leap around in joy. "So where are we going?" she asked ecstatically.

"The river."

"Aw, that's boring," the cub scowled, quickly changing her mind. Her tail began to move rapidly from side to side.

"You wanted to come," Mohatu retorted smugly, which convinced her to keep quiet for a few seconds.

After a few moments of silence, Mohatu decided to speak again. "So, I don't believe you've told me what your name is," he asked, attempting to change the subject.

"I'm Uru."

Mohatu stopped walking and looked at the cub. "Hey Uru," he proposed, "that's the river down there, on the far side of this pass. Want to race?"

"Okay!" she yelled, taking off from Mohatu before he could even blink.

Mohatu shifted the majority of his weight to his back legs, so that he could quickly leap forward. His eyes were busy, observing the path carefully for any signs of obstructions. In only a split second, he dashed forward, propelling himself downhill with alarming speed, leaving nothing behind with the exception of a cloud of dust.

His paws rarely touched the ground, almost as if the lion was gliding downhill. He felt the liberating sensation of wind pushing against his mane, which only convinced him to push for an even faster pace. After only a few seconds, Uru was quickly left in his trailing cone of dust.

Suddenly, he felt euphoric. With the reflective surface of the water quickly approaching, Mohatu did not want to slow down, even if he had that luxury.

As he approached the river, his paws began to sink into mud. Instead of slowing down, he only kicked up large clumps of muck behind him.

Splash!

Unable to stop, he continued to plunge directly into the frigid water, creating an expanding wake several times his size. Within seconds, he was completely submerged, a respectable distance away from the shore.

Mohatu stuck his head out of the refreshing, yet icy water to breathe, only to find Uru staring at him. "I... ugh... just wanted to go for a swim. That's all."

"I'm coming with you," Uru yelled, jumping into the river.

"Uru! No!"

The cub's playful attitude faded away as she realized what she had done. She suddenly found herself unable to breathe, see, and, perhaps even more importantly, swim.

The powerful current of the river swept the cub far away in the short amount of time that Mohatu was able to regain his breath and vision. He managed to spot Uru's hind legs and tail sticking up out of the water as she tumbled around below the surface.

Mohatu swam after the escaping cub, with adrenaline pumping rapidly through his veins. His muscles worked together in perfect synchronization, propelling the lion downstream nearly as fast as he ran into the water.

Uru wasn't his daughter, but that seemed almost irrelevant to him in such a state of excitement.

Mohatu grabbed the frantic cub in his mouth with an unexpected elegance, never slowing down or losing focus. He began swimming perpendicular to the current, until the two were safe at the river's edge.

He let go of the cub after he climbed up a rock far above the water level. "Don't do that again," he cautioned, breathing heavily, while Uru coughed up water.

"You... you saved me," she said with admiration, continuing to gasp for air.

The lion shook the icy liquid out of his fur, causing everything nearby to get soaked as well. "Yes, but I also got you into this mess. It would be best if we can just forget it."

"Forget what?" Uru's mother responded, seemingly having appeared from nowhere. Oddly enough, it was the second time someone had done that in a single day. "I saw what you did there," she continued, causing Mohatu's face to turn red under his fur with embarrassment.

"We need more lions like you," the lioness smiled. "Welcome to the pride."

"But I..." Mohatu mumbled in bewilderment. His eyes shot open at once. "What?"

To the lion's surprise, Irena seemed more disappointed with her daughter than with Mohatu. "Uru, I told you not to try to swim in the river," she retorted with a stern expression.

"But..." Uru whined, continuing to violently hack up water.

"It's too dangerous," Irena replied. "That current is too strong, even for me!"

"Yeah... I'm just glad I could help," Mohatu stated, trying to change the subject.

At the same time, the lion glanced around for a ray of sunshine to warm himself up. "Ugh... I need to go dry off," he added quietly.

Uru and her mother seemed to pay little attention to Mohatu as he began to walk away.


--- --- ---


Deeper into the heart of the jungle, Mari and her mentor discussed the future of their pride in private.

"How's the situation with Mohatu going?" the older lion inquired casually.

"He seems pretty confused... actually," Mari answered. "I'm beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea," she admitted, hoping that he would understand.

"What do you mean?" Busar asked, stepping onto a fallen log.

"I... I don't know," she pleaded. "It just... I may have went too far. I think I put too much pressure on him last night."

Busar began to walk to the other side of the rotting log, which served as a bridge across a small valley below. "Well, I think we have a bigger problem than that," Busar insisted.

Mari cocked her head to the side, following behind the lion. "What do you mean?"

"I'm afraid the death of Leo is making us look bad," the old lion speculated. "I know Rex is going to use this against us."

Mari groaned. "Only an idiot would think we're the murderers here..."

"I know, I know," Busar sighed heavily while rolling his eyes. "I was just thinking. That's the kind of luck we have, you know."

"I mean, that would make no sense at all!" the lioness began ranting. "They manage to kill every lion but us, then blame us for fighting back? As if we haven't shown them mercy? What a load of crap!"

"I wouldn't be surprised," Busar retorted. "We need a hero, and we need him now, before things get even worse. They have a martyr now."

"Yeah," Mari agreed sadly.

"We need to get Mohatu to fight for us. Not just for our own sake, but for the kingdom as a whole..."

"I know," the lioness stated. "But..."

She looked down to find the thick jungle canopy a long way below her as she crossed the chasm. "We're manipulating him. He's going to be our puppet. Eventually, he's going to find out... and then what?" the lioness gulped.

The least she wanted was to be betrayed again.

Busar pondered Mari's words before stepping back onto the ground at the other side of the valley. "But are we manipulating him?" he asked.

Mari continued to follow the lion. "Yeah, I think so," she exclaimed. "Even if it is for the greater good."

Busar paused and stared at Mari for a second before speaking softly. "I know I ask a lot of you, and there is a reason for it."

Mari nodded anxiously. "Uh-huh..."

"I've given you many tasks, and every time, you have exceeded my expectations. You continuously put the needs of our pride above your own. You're a great lioness, and I'm honored to stand beside you."

"I try my best," Mari added.

"But, this time... there is something else I must ask of you."

"What's that?" she asked. In all honesty, she had not even the slightest idea what he was going to say.

"You need to stop that," Busar stated.

Mari twitched her tail and tilted her ears forward. "Huh?"

"Think about what's best for you, Mari. Not us."

"But didn't you just say we need him?" the young lioness asked.

A sigh escaped Busar's muzzle. "Forget what I just said. I need you to put our needs aside for a little while. That's more important right now."

"I don't think that's-" Mari retorted quickly before being interrupted.

"Excuse me," Busar muttered. He struck his chest with his paw as he let out a nasty cough.

The lion then lowered his head to the ground and repeatedly coughed even louder.

Moments later, Busar spat out a wad of fur covered in saliva. He slapped it away into a tree with his paw. "Sorry," he muttered. "I've had that furball stuck in my throat all day."

Mari rolled her eyes impatiently.

"But anyway," Busar paused for a minute as he tried to think of a way to explain himself. "What do think you'll be like in five years from now?" the wise lion asked.

"I... I don't know," Mari stuttered. "I'm hardly even four years old right now."

"Well then, what do you want in life? Don't think about us."

"Really, I don't know," the lioness replied thoughtfully. "I just want things to go back to the way they were... before we had to worry about any of this stuff."

"I see," Busar nodded. "I want you to think about it some more," the lion suggested.

"But-" Mari retorted in a state of disbelief.

"Don't worry about us," Busar reassured. "I think you just need some time with Mohatu," he continued. "I know it's hard for you to trust anyone after what happened, but you're going to have to get to know him. Put our struggles aside for a while."

"I guess I could try," Mari responded with hesitation.

The lioness turned away awkwardly, looking down to the jungle valley below, deep in thought. "You're right," she mumbled. Ironically, as Mari looked away, she found Mohatu walking up the path to the plateau on which she stood.

Busar spotted the lion as well. "Go on," he told Mari. "I'll leave you two alone."

The lioness began walking down the path, towards Mohatu. She decided this was the time to make things right.

Immediately, she noticed the lion appeared wet. Without a doubt, he must have been completely submerged in water.

"What happened to you?" Mari inquired, but tried not to get too distracted from what she was originally going to say.

The lion began to blush. "I... ugh... just went for a swim. That's all."

"Well," Mari began, "I wanted to talk to you..."

"If you don't mind, I'd like to go somewhere warm first," Mohatu retorted. Not too surprisingly, the lion was still shivering as the wind blew against his cold, wet fur.

"I know where we can go," the lioness replied, gesturing toward a path which led farther up a mountain. "There's plenty of sunlight up there, especially this time of day."

Mohatu did not speak a single word as he followed Mari up the narrow path to the peak. It served as an excellent lookout point, with no trees or rocks to obscure a line of sight to the surrounding jungle below.

The lion reclined on his back and stretched his paws out happily, in full view of the sun. "Oh, yeah... this is comfortable," he smiled.

Mari began to relax on the grass as well. "That it is," she agreed. "But, as I was going to say..."

The lioness paused, and turned her head to the clouds above for a second, before shifting her gaze back to Mohatu. "I hope I wasn't being too pushy last night... y'know..."

"Don't worry about it," Mohatu assured. "I would have done the same."

"You..." Mari twitched her eye. "What?"

"Actually," the lion continued, "I thought about what you said last night... and I kinda want to know more."

"Huh?" Mari asked. It was totally not what she expected the lion to say.

"How did my family die?" Mohatu inquired without emotion in his voice. He watched as a flock of colorful birds circled around far above him.

Mari stretched out her paws nervously before scratching the back of her neck. "Are... you sure you want to talk about that?"

"Yeah."

The lioness sighed, and looked back up at the puffy clouds above. "They were hunted down and killed by the king... king Leo."

"But why?" Mohatu asked.

"I wish I could tell you," Mari replied sadly. "I have no idea. Any lion who did not swear allegiance to the king was murdered on sight. I guess it was the only way he could secure his position within his new kingdom. It's like he thought himself a prophet, or something..."

"Oh," Mohatu sighed, but otherwise remained silent.

"...and I'm not entirely sure he wasn't a prophet of some sort," Mari continued. Her voice almost seemed to reflect a feeling of awe, albeit only vaguely.

"But, Since Leo's death," the lioness added, "Rex has been following in his paw prints. Every day, things just seem to get worse and worse... I really wish I could take my mind off of it, but it's so hard. We're surrounded by a living hell right now."

"We'll make things right," Mohatu promised. Though, in his mind, he doubted his own abilities. Even if he was as capable of a warrior as Mari seemed to think, that would only make him a bigger target.

"I hope so," Mari sighed. "I sure hope so."

Mohatu rolled over onto his side. "There's something else I wanted to ask you," the lion announced. "How did you get that scar on your back?"

"Oh, that?" Mari asked. "It's nothing, really. When we fought Leo, he attacked me. Luckily, that's all he managed to do to me. I easily could have been mauled that night."

"Wow," Mohatu exclaimed. "You really..." he began, but paused. "I guess you're even braver than I thought," he said in admiration. "I'll be honored to fight beside you," Mohatu grinned back at the lioness.

Mari smiled. Perhaps she really didn't have anything to worry about. Mohatu almost seemed eager to prove himself. "Yeah, same to you," she agreed, gathering herself back on her paws. "Are you warm enough yet?"

"I guess," Mohatu replied.

"I've got something to show you," the lioness continued. "There's a cave nearby. I figured you might want to check it out. It looks pretty... bizarre, but it might be a nice place to sleep."

Mohatu stood up as well. "I suppose I could go take a look."


--- --- ---


A/N: And that's it for chapter 2. This one is kinda slow as well, but things will start picking up soon.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 7th, 2013, 11:59 pm

chapter 3: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 3: Something Fishy


"So, I take it you're feeling better than you were yesterday?" Mari asked her future savior as the two walked down from the mountaintop.

"Quite a bit," Mohatu answered, grinning slightly. "I can actually feel my paws now."

Despite Mohatu being a young lion, Mari could not help but notice that his wounds seemed to be healing unusually quickly. "I'm kinda surprised," she replied. "I thought it would take a little more than a day for you to go from completely unconscious to walking up and down a mountain on all four paws."

"I'm not totally better, of course," the lion responded. "But I felt good enough to go swimming."

"Hmm," Mari muttered. She glanced over at the mountainside temporarily, allowing her eyes to absorb the strange beauty of the three-dimensional landscape. "Well," she began, looking back at Mohatu. "How was it?"

"Cold!" Mohatu exclaimed, nearly shivering at the mere thought of jumping back into that water. "But other than that it was... okay, I guess."

"I've never actually gone swimming in the Zuberi river before," Mari continued. "Sure, I've crossed it a few times, but I've never gone there at my own leisure. Could be fun," she proposed.

"What do you do for fun around here?" Mohatu asked.

Mari cynically answered the lion's question with a sarcastic, rhetorical question of her own. "What's fun?"

"No, seriously," Mohatu insisted.

"Look, today is the first day I've ever really..." Mari paused as she took a deep breath. "It's the first day I haven't had anything to do... in a long time." Although she was lying, there was a hint of truth in her words.

"What have you been doing?" the lion asked.

"Fighting, negotiating, planning... you get the idea. That's all I've done. Since I've lived out here, that is."

Mohatu ceased walking as he came to a fork in the path, which was now covered by the thick jungle canopy. "I could have guessed," he replied, waiting for Mari to lead the way. "So, where is this cave?"

"It's that way, not far from here," Mari answered, gesturing away from the river. "As I was saying... it has some strange markings on it, but it looks pretty cozy."

"What do you mean?" Mohatu asked, following closely behind.

"It's like... I don't know," she admitted. "It's not like anything I've seen anywhere else. It's just weird. You'll know it when you see it."

"What, that's all you're going to tell me? No hints?" Mohatu smirked.

"Well, to be honest, it kinda gave me the creeps when I first saw it," Mari replied. "It's nowhere near as creepy as an elephant graveyard, mind you, but still..."

"Interesting. Is that it, over there?" the lion asked, as his eyes met an unusually dark spot on the horizon.

"Yeah," Mari answered. She stepped off the path and began walking through the bushes scattered about the jungle floor. With each step, her paws made crunching noises from the decaying vegetation below. "C'mon," she nodded.

Mohatu kept his eyes glued to the ground, making sure not to step on anything sharp and pointy.

Not after long, the two were standing right before the mouth of the cave.

Mari stuck her head in first, then stepped inside. "This is it." She began looking around the walls of the enclosure, for the markings that she mentioned earlier.

"Hmm," Mohatu muttered. "It's not bad for a den, but where's the-"

"Found it!" The lioness interjected, holding her paw up against the wall. "It's over here." Her voice echoed off the moist walls of the enclosure.

Mohatu stepped closer. The portion of the wall was almost entirely flat, and even somewhat polished. It had nine markings on it, which were engraved deep into the surface of the rock.

"Looks like it was meant to say something, but I have no idea what," the lion replied.

"The only thing I can think of," Mari began, "is to look at it from afar." She took a few steps backward, so she could see all the marks at once. "What's it look like?"

"Hmm..." Mohatu tilted his head to the side. "It sorta looks like the night sky," he said. "Those markings are just randomly spaced around... like the stars."

"You know what I think?" Mari asked rhetorically. "I think it was a map of some sort. That would explain what the smaller markings are above each of them are for... it's like they're symbols, which identify places."

"A map?" Mohatu asked. "Well then, where are we on here?"

"I don't know," the lioness confessed. "It would make sense, but if we're here in the center, then, no... it can't be right. If it is a map, it must have been made long ago. None of the locations match up with anything I know of. It's possible the land has changed over time."

Mohatu chuckled slightly. "Could it be a star map?"

"Why would anyone make a map of the sky?" Mari asked.

"But why would anyone write on a rock in a cave?" Mohatu retorted.

"Well, I guess... I don't know." Mari replied. "I told you it was weird."

Mohatu continued to ponder his idea. "But, maybe the stars were used for navigation? Maybe... if we can decode the symbols, we can figure out where it's telling us to go."

"Believe me, I've tried," Mari insisted.

"It's just an idea," Mohatu added. The lion turned away from the marked wall, and proceeded to explore the rest of the cave. On the other side, he found another marking, but much less visible than the one across from it.

"What's this?" Mohatu asked.

Mari walked to the other side of the cave as well. When she found nothing, she squinted her eyes. "What's what?"

"You see that? It looks like the sun... but it has a spiral inside it."

"Yeah... I guess..." Mari answered softly. The mark was only faintly visible.

"I wonder if I could get a better look at it." The lion slid his paw across the symbol to wipe off a layer of dust. He noticed that the rock sounded hollow inside as he brushed his paw against it.

"Wait a minute," the lion grinned. He leaned against the wall, and sure enough, managed to push the chunk of rock deeper into the cave.

"You can move that?" Mari exclaimed.

"Yeah," Mohatu replied. "It's not as heavy as it looks."

Mari followed Mohatu through a small passageway that the lion cleared out by pushing the rock. "Jeez! How far back can this go?"

Mohatu kept pushing until the hollow boulder hit the cave wall and jammed itself into place. "About this far," Mohatu answered.

"Look at this!" the lioness exclaimed. She looked down, staring into a path that Mohatu had opened. It appeared to lead directly into a chamber below the actual cave itself.

"You want to check it out?" Mohatu asked as he stepped beside the lioness.

"It's too dark," Mari reasoned. "Why would we go down there? We wouldn't be able to see anything."

"Fine then. I'll go by myself." Mohatu took a step forward, before stepping down the slope to the chamber below.

His paw slipped, and gravity pulled the brown lion all the way to the bottom in under a few seconds. A cloud of dust rose from the slide of gravel behind him.

"Mohatu!" Mari called. "Are you okay?"

"Relax," the lion insisted, picking up on her unusual jumpiness. A smile of confidence formed across his face. "I meant to do that."

The lioness turned away, flattening her ears and tail. "Just... be careful."

"It's fine," Mohatu retorted before continuing to follow the path beyond Mari's line of sight.

As the lion approached the chamber, he noticed a bit of light coming from the other end. "Hey, Mari," he called, "I can actually see down here, if you want to check it out. It's not as dark as I thought."

"Uh... alright," she gulped in hesitation. "I'm coming." She reached out with her paw, immediately regretting what she had said. After all, she had every reason not to want to go with the lion. Curiosity kills cats.

As soon as she stepped down to the lower chamber, the air began to feel much cooler, and much drier as well. Below the surface of the Earth, the atmosphere felt strikingly different.

Meanwhile, Mohatu spotted a pool of molten rock illuminating the underground chamber. A significant amount of heat radiated from the magma as well, while thick bubbles of vaporized material rose to the surface.

The lion brought his nose closer to the glowing pool of molten orange goo. "Oooooh, there's lava!" Luckily, his nose was moist enough not to spontaneously combust from the scorching heat.

Mari thought to herself as she nervously inched towards Mohatu in the dim light. Did he say lava? What was this, Minecraft? The lioness felt her spine tingle with fear, curiosity, and excitement simultaneously.

On the other side of the chamber, Mohatu spotted an elegant box, carved from rock. He stepped closer, but took his time as he approached so that he could examine it from afar at first.

Engraved on the box was one of the symbols he had seen earlier: the Greek letter 'ε'. The spiral sun symbol appeared on the rectangular prism as well.

Mari approached nervously from behind. "Wow. I have to admit, I never would have thought-"

"Look," Mohatu interjected. "That symbol matches the one on the far right of the... map."

"Huh. You're right," she replied. In reality, she was mostly only amazed by Mohatu's near-photographic memory. How the heck could any lion remember that?

Mohatu placed his paw above the metal box. "I wonder what's inside," he thought aloud. "Should I?"

Mari nearly choked on her own saliva as she gulped again. "Eh, I guess..."

The lion attempted to gently push the lid of the box off, though it required all his strength to be able to move it.

Eventually, the heavy metal lid slid off with a loud grinding sound.

Mohatu jumped back at once, as a cloud of dust engulfed his face. "What is it?" Mari asked curiously.

"This is a... sarcophagus." Mohatu whispered in amazement. "Some lion died in here!"

He brought his paw up to cover his nose. The terrible stench of decay that had been trapped within was released, and nearly knocked him unconscious.

After he recovered from his immediate surge of nausea, the lion peeked inside once more, only to find the dried remains of another feline. "God, this thing must be like a thousand years old! There's nothing left but fossilized bone... and..."

He pulled out a disc-shaped object made from rock. "...and this."

Mari walked even closer. "What is that?"

He held the banana-sized disc up in the air with his paw. On one side, it contained the symbol 'ε'. On the other, it contained an odd but precise structure, almost like it was designed to fit directly into something. "A key, perhaps."

"Wow," Mari exclaimed. "This is... this could be a huge discovery! I'm no history expert, but I think we should tell someone what we found."

Mohatu set the artifact down on the ground, which made a ringing metal noise that echoed across the walls. "Does this mean we won't do anything fun today?"

The lioness examined the disc closely. "Perhaps this is crazy and all... but this could be exactly what we've been looking for!" After a few seconds, she picked it up in her mouth.

"What do you mean?" The lion asked.

"Lert's ger sermewer er bert mer enverterng," Mari suggested.

Mohatu perked his ears up. He looked at the lioness as if she had turned into a basket case.

Mari spat out the artifact so that she could speak clearly. "I said, let's go somewhere a bit more inviting. I'll explain everything later. But I think, now that we've found this, we may be able to decode the map... or at least find out what it really is." After she finished talking, the lioness attempted to carry the artifact again.

The duo began walking back up to the other section of the cave, with Mari leading the way. "Irm rerry gering ter herve ter sher Berser thers, lerter," she repeated.

"I'm not sure what you said," Mohatu admitted, "but I was kinda looking forward to doing something fun," he insisted, following a long pause.

"Wer ster cern," Mari mumbled unintelligibly, before setting the ancient artifact down again.

This time, the object was lying outside of the cave where it could be seen in the near-overwhelming brightness of midday. It had a shiny, reflective surface, despite its obvious age.

"I just think this is a little bit more important," Mari continued, stepping outside the cave. Immediately, she noticed the sensation of a gentle wind blowing against her fur, and the intense heat radiating from the sun at noon.

"Okay, okay..." Mohatu replied dejectedly.

"But, once I tell him what we found, I'll let him decide what to do with it. We'll have the rest of the day off," she assured with a grin.

"Alright," Mohatu nodded. "I guess I'll wait here."

"I'll be back in a little bit," Mari added.

As she walked back, the lioness almost seemed to frolic through the bushes.

Although Mohatu only knew the lioness for little more than a day, he could not question that something had made her happy, simply by the way she held her tail up high. He knew he did something right—but he had no idea what it was.

He shifted his attention back to the ancient artifact.

"God, this thing is weird," Mohatu thought aloud, as he stared at the disc. The lion wiped off another layer of dust with his paw. At last, in the light of day, he could make out even more writing beneath the big 'ε'.

'Algenubi.'

But what did it mean? What was Algenubi? The lion's mind was filled with nothing other than questions.

Mohatu retraced his steps to clarify his thoughts.

There was a cave with a wall littered with symbols.

On the other side, there was a spiral sun, which marked a path leading to a chamber below.

Inside the chamber was a sarcophagus.

Inside the sarcophagus was a disc with a symbol matching one on the map, and the word Algenubi.

The lion scratched the back of his ear with his hind legs as he thought. Did the spiral sun represent death? It seemed like a good guess, but what about Algenubi?

Could it have been a warning?

Mohatu turned the disc over again. The other side was covered with pins and gears. "What the heck is this!" He whispered to himself.

Whatever it was, it was part of a whole. It looked as if it could fit together with something else.

It said Algenubi.

Perhaps the disc itself was Algenubi.

Mohatu wiped his forehead with his paw before stepping back into the cave.

"If this is part of the whole..." he whispered, "then these other symbols are the other parts. Maybe... the symbol identifies which part it is."

His thoughts were getting him somewhere. But, one question continued to remain unanswered.

If Algenubi was part of something larger, then why did he find it in a sarcophagus?

Was Algenubi, instead, the name of the lion that rested in the cave?

"Gah," Mohatu scratched his head again. Nothing made any sense.

The lion turned away from the cave in frustration.

With the blue sky above him, Mohatu lounged with his back against a rock. He let out a deep sigh as he watched the clouds slowly move past the horizon.

He only hoped Mari knew more.


--- --- ---


"Guys!" Mari called with excitement, as she trotted up the path to where the other lions were residing. "You're not going to believe this!"

Mari's mother stretched out her paws before falling face-first out of a hammock made of vines. "What's going on?" she asked in a state of bewilderment, as she sat upside-down with her hind legs still in the hammock.

The golden lioness took a second to catch her breath. "I was showing Mohatu the cave, and... that's not a cave."

"What do you mean?" Busar asked, beginning to show a small level of interest.

"It's a tomb," Mari exclaimed. "Mohatu found it."

"Are you sure?" Karttiki asked.

"Of course I'm sure!" the lioness replied impatiently. "You saw those symbols on that wall... but there's more to it than just that."

"Mhm..." Busar mumbled.

"Don't you know what this means?" Mari asked. "Lions once lived out here! And not just any lions, but-"

"Not so fast," Narisah interrupted. "We can't jump to conclusions so soon."

"But it makes sense!" Mari insisted. "Think about it."

"Mari... slow down," Busar replied calmly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Where do you think Leo got this idea of a kingdom from?" Mari asked. "He left for a year. We don't know where he went beyond the desert. All we have are questions about who he met, what he did, and what he found, before he returned to kill everyone."

"Let me get this straight," Karttiki interjected. "You think there's some... connection between this cave, and the kingdom?"

"YES!" the lioness exclaimed. "I have a feeling this tomb is just one of many, and if that's true..."

Busar nodded. "She has a point. I guess we should take a look."

"I'm not done yet!" Mari added. "If Leo found remnants of some other civilization, that would explain where he got all his crazy ideas from. That would also explain why he sought to conquer everything he saw. He was searching for these tombs."

"Let's take a look first," Narisah retorted. "We'll follow your lead."


--- --- ---


Mohatu rolled over once he heard the sound of other lions approaching. He looked past the tall trees blowing gently in the wind to find Mari in the distance. Busar and two other lions were with her.

"Show us what you found," Narisah asked.

Mohatu set his paw on the disc, which remained on the ground by the cave entrance. "It's this thing. It was inside the sarcophagus."

The lion then stepped away, as the other four examined the artifact.

"Very interesting," Busar mumbled. "I've never seen anything quite like this before."

"Well... do you have any idea what it is?" Mari asked.

"No. I don't."

"Damn!" Mari exclaimed. "But, this was obviously made by someone. It had some purpose."

Busar flipped the disc over, revealing the intricate mechanical framework on the other side. "I have no idea who... or what... could have made this. The fact that this even exists is strange in itself."

"You mean..."

"Whatever this thing is, it wasn't made by lions," Busar continued.

"Don't tell me you think humans did this," Karttiki retorted. "Humans are just a myth."

"Indeed," Busar replied. The volume of his voice was brought down to nearly a whisper. "But all myths have their origins in truth."

"Mohatu, can you show us the tomb?" Kartitiki asked. "This is something I need to see for myself."

Mohatu pointed towards the cave. "It's in there. You won't miss it."

"Should we take a torch?" Narisah asked.

"No, that's okay. There's lava."

Narisah gazed heavily at Mohatu with an expression of disbelief.

"He's not joking," Mari added.

With Mari's reassurance, the older lioness stepped into the cave with her nose leading the way. Busar and Karttiki followed behind, while Mari and Mohatu remained at the cave's entrance.

"That took a little bit longer than I expected," Mari apologized. "I didn't know I was going to have to convince them how important this is first."

"Yeah," Mohatu nodded. "I guess-"

"But maybe... they're right. Maybe I am going too far with this."

The lion began walking away from the cavern. "What is so important about it, though? You said you would tell me later."

Mari walked quickly to catch up to the lion. "It sounds kinda strange, but it's just a gut feeling, really. It seems like we've found something... a piece of something, that could lead to something else. That must be what that map is for. I have no doubt about it."

"Uh-huh..." Mohatu replied.

"The problem is, if the other pieces are scattered around, they're in Rex's territory. If this is one piece of nine, it's a safe bet he has the other eight."

"I'm not so sure," Mohatu replied, before fixing his eyes on the glassy surface of the river rapids on the horizon. "But I wouldn't know."

"You know, it just... it kinda makes me wonder. What if there was some civilization that existed before us? Would that change anything?"

Mohatu stepped onto a rock. "I don't know. But there's one thing I do know for sure."

"And that is?"

He pointed to a fast-moving body of water flowing through the rapids. "Slide rock."

Before the lioness could react, Mohatu leaped off the rock he stood on, running straight for the river.

Mari watched, scowling at first, but her attitude changed quickly. She allowed herself to cave in to the desires of the playful cub that hid within her heart.

The brown lion slipped around several other stones before jumping tail first into one of the roughest sections of the river. The lioness was crazy enough to follow him.

Mohatu then floated on his back, with his head safe above the surface. His hind legs led the way, as he quickly drifted downstream through a narrow channel. Though he didn't know it, Mari followed directly behind him.

By the time he reached the end of the rapids, Mohatu felt something kick him in the back of the head. He swam around to see what it was.

Mari smiled uncontrollably, as the two lions floated off to the side of the river, into a much calmer whirlpool. "I wasn't going to let you have all the fun."

Mohatu forcefully stuck his paw out of the water, splashing frigid water across Mari's muzzle. "Sure you weren't!"

"Hey!" Mari smirked, before splashing water back at the lion. "No splashing!"

Mohatu kicked his hind legs to create an entire wall of water, which ended up engulfing them both. "No rules!"

"Well, now that we're all wet, wanna do it again?" Mari asked.

"Okay, but this time, you're going first."

Mari paddled out of the whirlpool and back into the current. She slid slowly across the smooth, rocky surface of the shallow riverbed.

Mohatu felt something slimy move past his paw. He looked past the surface of the water, where a small group of fish swam below.

Suddenly, he had an idea.

The lion climbed out of the water, onto a slippery rock. He remained there, waiting patiently for a fish to swim past.

It was not long, merely a matter of seconds, before a good-sized fish jumped out of the water beside him. With his cat-like reflexes, Mohatu grabbed the creature between his jaws.

Several scales peeled off, as his teeth gripped into its flesh. It had a strange taste to it, similar to rotten meat. However, it was still unquestionably a much tastier alternative than eating insects, despite its extraordinary sliminess.

He resisted the urge to try to bite harder into it, which would have swallowed the fish whole. Instead, he glanced behind to look for Mari.

The lioness was approaching. Not to his surprise, she was wondering why Mohatu didn't follow her down the river. "Where did you go?" she asked curiously.

Mohatu released his grip on the fish, allowing it to plop down on the wet stone below his paws. "I brought lunch."

Mari seemed baffled by the situation, as soon as she saw what fell from between Mohatu's teeth. "How did you..."

"It was nothing," Mohatu shrugged.

Meanwhile, the fish below him attempted to flop to freedom. It mindlessly kicked itself around on the rock with its powerful fins.

"Stop it!" the lion commanded. He placed his paw over the fish's tail so that it could not move.

"You want it?" he asked Mari.

"Sure, I guess," Mari answered. She leaned down and bit a chunk of meat off. The lioness chewed it for several seconds with an odd expression on her face.

"How is it?"

"It... ugh... tastes kinda fishy."

"You don't say," Mohatu replied as his stomach growled. He bit off a chunk of flesh as well, swallowing it as soon as he could. "You can have the rest, I'm going to go catch another one."

"Wait," Mari interjected. She suddenly found herself feeling slightly embarrassed.

It was an odd situation for any lioness to be in. Typically, she was the one to bring back meals. Never before had a male lion offered her food, and especially not during a time when food was scarce.

"I... just wanted to say thanks," the lioness whispered. "It's nice to eat some meat for a change... even if it is fishy."

Mohatu turned his gaze back around to meet Mari's eyes. "It's the least I could do," he replied humbly. The lion turned away, as he realized his heart was melting.

Even with his limited and biased sample of four females, Mohatu could not deny that she was the cutest lioness he had ever met.


--- --- ---


A/N: Alright, so this is where one of the main plots of the story starts to come in.

I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way before I forget: this story is purely fictional. I am not, in any way, imparting any sort of religious beliefs on anyone.

Also, I am not going to completely rewrite the 'religion' of the Lion King as it is expressed in the films.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:01 am

chapter 4: show
A/N: This chapter was very difficult to write, but I've finally finished it. It has taken me much longer than I originally intended, and I apologize for the absurdly long wait. Hopefully the next few chapters won't take me quite as long, but I'm not going to make any promises because of real life and all that good stuff.


--- --- ---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 4: The Plan


Mari sat down on a slippery rock with what remained of the half-eaten fish in her paws. She chewed off the flesh with a remarkable amount of patience, until only the head and spine remained.

The lioness brought her nose closer to the head, in an attempt to see if any meat was left. Something wobbled in and out of the skull as she clenched the carcass with her front paws. Squished between them were two slimy orbs of gel—the eyes.

It was absolutely disgusting.

As starved for flesh as Mari was, she wasn't going to eat that. The lioness pushed the carcass off the stone with her paw. It fell into the river, quickly floating away in the current with a cloud of blood expanding under water's choppy, translucent surface.

The drying lioness looked up to the sky as she noticed something dark appearing in the top corner of her peripheral vision. An anvil-shaped thunderhead loomed on the horizon, somewhat hiding behind the mountains of the jungle. It was not uncommon for storms to spontaneously appear in the heart of Africa's jungle, but it had the potential to ruin her evening, nevertheless.

She glanced back upstream, where Mohatu had ran off to. Not a single creature was within her line of sight, as far as she could tell. He said he had gone somewhere, but the orange lioness did not expect him to go far.

Mari began meandering back up the river, savoring the time she had been given to think. Much had happened in the preceding hours, and most of it made little sense.

Undoubtedly, she was blinded by her ignorance. The entire pride was completely oblivious to the tomb that hid only a minute away from their new home.

How did that happen? How did one lion manage to find, in one day, what she could not find in an entire month? Mari knew there was something special about Mohatu... but was she only beginning to understand what it was? Did he have some uncanny ability to see what she could not?

The lioness swallowed heavily. If she could not see, she could be fooled. If she could be fooled, her chances of survival would be slim at best.


--- --- ---


"Well..." Karttiki muttered, causing her voice to echo across the walls of the cave. "I guess she was right, but I still think this is a bit ridiculous."

"I don't know, Kaat," Busar whispered. His tail shifted into the shape of a question mark while he scratched his chin with his paw. "Whatever this is supposed to be is beyond me."

A dim orange outline of illumination surrounded the mass of each of the lions. Narisah's fur glowed brighter as the lioness approached the pool of lava in the corner of the cave. "There is something strange about this place... although I'm not sure if it-"

"It's probably just your imagination," Karttiki retorted. "I don't understand, therefore aliens, isn't valid logic."

Busar sat down on the warm, flat floor of the cave. "Isn't it though? We have no way of knowing what happened generations before us. I've lived my whole life in the Pridelands. We all have. Let's try to keep an open mind."

"No... no. It's not that," Busar's mate replied. "It's almost as if the cave itself is alive. I wonder if..." the lioness cleared her throat before she continued speaking. "I wonder if it's possible Mohatu noticed it as well. It's like... something guided him here. Like, it's calling out to him... and to us."

"Could it be his curiosity?" Mari's mother asked rhetorically. "I know, he was just in a coma a day ago, and then he found this. But it's just a dead lion. That's it. It is what it is."

"You have to admit, though, this is incredibly strange," Busar replied. "How would you explain how a dead lion ends up in a tomb in the jungle?"

"I... I don't know," Karttiki answered. "But the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. We've never seen humans, aliens, or Gods, so it's kinda ridiculous to jump to such conclusions."

"Guys... stop," Narisah insisted. "Let's not start this again." The lioness paused for several moments, deep in thought until an idea struck her. "But, I think I have an answer."

The other lioness tilted her head. "Do explain."

"The lion was an exile. He came here... to die."

"But what about the symbols?" Busar asked.

"It's possible he didn't know any more than we did. You saw the corpse... he was obviously injured before he died. It's possible he sought solitude in his final moments, and this was the only cave around. Of course, this doesn't exactly explain the symbols in the first place."

"Don't you think you're reading a little bit too much into this, Busar?" Karttiki inquired. "I can take my claw and write on a wall too, but that doesn't mean what I wrote is important. It's just a wall."

"Yeah," Busar agreed. "But why would any lion write on a wall? Could he have been trying to warn us of something?" The male lion asked. "Like, maybe a sort of 'keep out' sign?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Mari's mother sighed. "This is the jungle. No lion lives out here, so making a message would be pointless."

Busar continued to argue. "What if your daughter is right, though? Is it any coincidence that Mohatu found the cave?"

Karttiki rolled her eyes. "This is crazy..."

The lion raised his voice slightly. "It's no more crazy than my sons running away, calling themselves kings, and trying to kill us."

Sensing his discomfort, Narisah walked closer to her mate and nuzzled him gently. "I know it wasn't our fault."

"No... I didn't mean it like that," Mari's mother apologized, after realizing what she had implied. "I didn't expect Leo to betray us either—I don't think anyone could have expected that. But there's lots of other possible explanations that are unrelated to any of the ridiculous theories you're thinking of."

"There's only one way we'll know for sure," Busar replied. The lion looked all around the chamber nervously. "You know the plan," he whispered, raising his eyebrows.

"I don't doubt that," Karttiki finally agreed. "If there is anyone that will be able to find out what happened to Leo and Rex, it's going to be Mohatu and Mari."

"I assume you already talked to her about it?" The wise lion asked.

"No," the lioness replied. "Of course she knows about the plan; that was her idea. But I haven't asked her if she wants to be the one to do it. I'll tell her tonight."

"I'd be surprised if she doesn't already know she's going to be the one," Busar added.

"I don't know if she's thought about it or not," Karttiki responded. "But, I'm sure she'll be up to the challenge."

"Actually," Narisah interrupted, "I think it would be best if we all talked about this."

Busar nodded in agreement before grabbing a stick between his teeth. He held it over the lava until it caught fire, as the other two lions began walking out of the cave.

"It's going to be a long night," Karttiki moaned. "I guess I'll go find Mari and Mohatu. I'll meet you two at five rocks."


--- --- ---


Mohatu's eyes remained fixed on the water running beneath his paws. He waited patiently, salivating at the thought of biting into another hunk of flesh.

His paws were getting numb from the intense chill. Simultaneously, his throat was growing drier, but regardless, he continued not to move a muscle until his eyes met a splash of water upstream.

The lion lowered his head until it was barely above the surface of the water. As the school of fish swam closer to him, Mohatu watched intently. His tail roamed about with obvious pleasure, despite the lion's deep state of concentration.

Splash!

Mohatu submerged his head into the river, clenching one of the many scaly creatures between his teeth. He then lifted his head up quickly, and simultaneously swallowed the fish whole, acting like a pig.

"There you are," Mari called.

Mohatu noticed the lioness approaching, and tried to recover quickly from the euphoria of enjoying a delicious meal. "Hey," he replied, smiling casually as he stepped onto dry land.

"Looks like we might be getting a thunderstorm tonight," said the lioness, pointing towards the thunderhead looming beyond the jungle peaks. "If you want to do anything else today, now's the time."

The lion's eyebrow shifted upwards slightly. "Odd. I didn't see that a minute ago."

"It happens. You know, with monsoon season and all."

The lion nodded. "Yeah... I guess."

"Well?"

"Whatever you want to do is fine with me," Mohatu replied. "I don't really care."

Mari placed her forepaws on a boulder. As if she had nothing better to do, the lioness began to lick herself clean, after noticing her paws were covered in dirt particles that clung to her wet fur. "Well, I don't care either," she said, almost sounding lackadaisical for the first time.

"Would you care if I pushed you off that rock?" Mohatu grinned.

Mari leaped onto the bolder, turning to face the brown lion below her with a playful expression. Her tail moved up into the air with confidence. "Try it," she begged.

Mohatu circled around the boulder with cat-like patience. He waited for the perfect moment to catch the lioness off guard.

"The ground is lava," Mari teased.

Mohatu looked at the lioness with a confused expression. The dirt below his paws wasn't burning.

It took him a second to realize what Mari had really meant: she wanted to play a game. Acknowledging the idea, Mohatu began to play along. "Dammit! I'd rather not burn alive today!"

His eyes caught sight of an enormous alstonia tree on the other side of the boulder. Mohatu hastily leaped across the rock and sank his claws deep into its trunk. For added support, he placed his hind legs above the tree's roots. "I'm going to live!"

"Impressive," Mari replied. "But can you climb up to that branch?"

Mohatu looked up to the branch above him. It was only slightly out of range of his paw, if he attempted to reach up to grab onto it.

The lion coiled his hind legs, before jumping into the base of the tree. He sprang off the enormous trunk and grabbed a hold of the branch above him. Using every ounce of his upper body strength, Mohatu began to swing back and forth across the branch to gain momentum.

"What are you doing?" Mari asked.

He spotted a branch slightly higher than the one he held onto, and when he was ready, the lion released his grip and soared through the jungle canopy. As he flew through the air, Mohatu managed to grasp on to the other branch above. While he held on to the higher branch, the lion pulled his weight up by wedging his hind legs into the crevices of the tree's bark.

"That would have been too easy," Mohatu bragged, after placing all four paws above the higher branch. He swished his tail around delightfully above him.

"Don't get too cocky," the lioness replied. "Rex could have done a hell of a lot better than that."

Mohatu tilted his head. "What was that? I can't hear you," he lied. The lion backed up, until his hind legs were planted firmly against the base of the tree. He ran forward, gaining tremendous momentum as he ran across the branch on which he stood.

"...but you're just as crazy," Mari added quietly, rolling her eyes.

Mohatu repeated the process, jumping around from one branch to another. Within seconds, he was high enough to be safe from any impending volcanic eruption below, even if it was only imaginary. Although many leaves obscured his vision, he had a magnificent view of the jungle.

Not far away, he saw what appeared to be a fire on the surface of the jungle floor. He squinted his eyes to try to get a better look. "Huh," he thought. "That's weird."

The brown lion looked down to see if Mari was still standing on that rock. Oddly enough, she, and another lioness, were looking back up at him.

"Hey, get down here!" Mari yelled.

Mohatu jumped from the branch, aimed at a pile of hay in a leap of faith.

Several pieces of dead grass flew up into the air, as Mohatu came crashing down into the pile. He thrashed about for a few seconds, before emerging tail-first. "I'm alright."

As he turned around, Mohatu spotted Mari and her mother, Karttiki. "What's going on?"

"We're going back to Five Rocks," Karttiki explained. "We've got some... things... to discuss."

"It's about that artifact, isn't it?" Mohatu asked.

"Sort of," Karttiki answered. "I'll explain later."

Mohatu rolled his eyes as he followed the two lionesses. He was growing tired of those three words.


--- --- ---


The burning logs from Busar's small fire illuminated the circle of lions. The pride stood around the last bit of light as the sun retreated behind the jungle's towering mountains. The rumbling of thunder could be heard far off in the distance.

Mari turned to Mohatu with a dirty grin. "Actually, you might not want to sit there."

"Why is that?" the lion inquired.

The golden lioness raised her paw. "It's the crap zone. There's a bird nest up there... and that's where their crap falls."

Mohatu looked up, and inched back slowly, while his face began to turn pink. "Oh. Didn't see that." Once he was in the clear, Mohatu moved to the other side of Mari.

After the lions were comfortable sitting around the fire, Busar attempted to explain the situation to Irena, while she held her sleepy cub. "Mohatu, could you tell us what you found?" Busar asked.

"Well... I think it's an artifact of some sort," he explained. "I'm not sure what it is, but I noticed that the big symbol on it is the same as one of the symbols on that wall."

"Indeed it is," Irena replied. "I saw it. I didn't see what was in the tomb."

"There was this rock," Mohatu continued. "It had a spiral symbol on it... it kinda looked like the sun. I wiped the dust off the section of the wall, and noticed it was hollow. So I tried to push it. That opened up a passageway to the bottom half of the cave, and, in there, was the sarcophagus of a lion. That was where I found the artifact."

"Fascinating," Irena muttered. "Is that all?"

"That was it, basically," Mari added. "There really wasn't a whole lot to see."

Busar focused his attention on the lioness beside Mohatu. "But, you said something else, earlier?"

"I think... I don't know for sure, but I think, that artifact has some importance. It has a very precise structure, like it was intended to fit into something..."

"I agree," Mohatu added. "I think there's more to it than that."

"My guess is that the writing on that wall is a map of some sort," Mari explained. There are nine symbols, seemingly scattered around the wall, but what if they actually represent a location? What if what we found is only part of a whole... and to read the intended message, we need the whole."

"I think you're missing the point here," Karttiki interrupted. "What if there is no message? What if it's just a dead lion? Then what?"

"Then we're right back where we started," Mari reminded.

"I think it's worth looking into," Busar explained. "What we have, quite literally, could be the key to the kingdom."

"What do you mean?" Mohatu asked.

"If we are to bring an end to this terrible war, we need to figure out how it started," the older lion continued. "My sons were arrogant and ambitious lions, but they were never flat out evil. Not until they left the Pridelands for an entire year."

"And this means?"

"All I'm saying is that something must have happened out there," Busar replied.

"But what does this have to do with the disc?" Mohatu questioned, as a nearby lightning strike shook the ground below.

"If Mari is correct, it is possible that Leo and Rex found one of these artifacts when they ran away. This could be the very reason why they turned against us. Leo was always the curious one..."

Narisah continued where Busar left off. "We can't all go following in Leo's paw prints; that would attract too much attention from Rex. But, a small group should be able to slip through the borders undetected."

"I'm interested," Mohatu replied.

"We need someone strong... someone capable of surviving in the unknown. Some lion who is brave, smart, and capable of being a leader. Are you sure you're up to this?" Busar's mate asked.

"I guess," the lion answered, and then winked at Mari. "But I'm not going to go alone."

"I'll go with you," Mari replied, causing a wide smile to form across Mohatu's muzzle.

The other lions breathed a sigh of relief. Not even Karttiki doubted that the two would make a perfect team. Persuading them to accept the mission was hardly necessary.

"When do we start?" Mohatu asked.

"Preferably sooner, rather than later," Busar said.

Meanwhile, a strange, cackling laughter sounded from the clouds above, interrupting the Pride's discussion.

"What was that?" Mari asked, looking up to the sky.

The thunderhead began to take the form of a lion, while the wind started blowing with significant force. The loud roar of the gusts brought Uru into a state of consciousness, and the cub began to push herself back into her mother's fur. "Oh, you don't know, do you?" the voice continued.

"What the hell is going on?" Karttiki asked. "Clouds don't talk!"

"You imbeciles..." the ghost murmured. "You have no idea what you have there, don't you? It's amusing, really."

"Reveal yourself!" Busar demanded.

"Oh, I suppose I've forgotten my manners. Heh, that's what ten millennia of waiting will do. I am Algenubi, former king of beasts."

"Algenubi?" Mohatu asked quietly. The lion scratched his head while he repeated the name. Algenubi.

"What do you mean, king?" Busar asked.

"Oh, you pitiful fools, frightened by what you do not understand. The kings were the unopposed rulers. Our strength was unmatched. Our intelligence was far beyond that of yours. Our conquest was inevitable. We are an unstoppable force for order. Not even death can hold us back... and that is why we shall rise again!"

The pride of lions below merely gazed up in amazement, as they stared into the eyes of a Godly creature. Only a single thought ran through their minds: was that what it meant to be a king?

"Look at yourselves," Algenubi continued. "Hiding, like cowards, in the jungle. I don't know how you ever managed to find my tomb. You're pathetic... and to think you call yourselves lions. It's a joke, really. Except..." the ghost fixed his attention on Mohatu. "Except you. You were the one, weren't you?"

"It was me," Mohatu admitted. "I found your tomb."

"Take the artifact. Keep it. Go to Lea Halalela. Only there will you find answers."

"But... what is it?" Mohatu asked.

"Must I explain every little thing for your insignificant mind to be able to comprehend? It's a key. If you can find the others, and bring them to Lea Halalela, you will be able to unlock the knowledge hidden there by the last true king. Only then will you have proven yourself worthy of being his successor."

"But maybe I don't want to be king." Mohatu retorted. "The king is evil!"

Algenubi simply laughed. "Look around, Mohatu, and tell me. You think these are your friends? You have no idea. You'll understand someday."

The other lions gulped. "Don't listen to him," Busar replied. "He's trying to turn you against us... just like he did to Leo and Rex."

"Oh, am I?" Algenubi asked sarcastically. "Now, why would I do such a thing..."

"Where is Lea Halalela?" Mari demanded from the ghost.

"It's beyond your little cradle in the Pridelands, of course," the ancient king answered easily. "It's deep in the desert. Oh, don't worry, you would die long before you'd ever make it there, weakling."

Mari's eyes widened. Suddenly, everything made sense. Whatever this Lea Halalela was, Leo and Rex must have found it. "Whatever we do, we can't let Rex get his paws on the key," Mari replied.

"Go to Lea Halalela. Find the keys, and fulfill your destiny," Algenubi reminded Mohatu ominously. The lion's shape began to distort and fade away. "You can be so much more. You are a lion... the king of beasts. Remember..."

The clouds cleared up, leaving behind a dark, empty sky, with the belt of Venus on the horizon. As the winds died down, the remaining lions looked at one another with expressions of disbelief. Nothing remained of the fire but a pile of ashes.

"Did that just..." Karttiki stuttered.

Mohatu replied, equally flabbergasted. "What is this, I don't even..."

"I... guess that answers our question," Busar began. "This whole time... we've been completely unaware of all this." The lion lowered his head. "How could we have been so stupid..."

"There's no way we could have known," Narisah replied.

"But what are we supposed to do now?" Karttiki asked. "Just hide the key and hope Rex never manages to find it? That does not sound like a good plan."

"No," Mohatu insisted. "We'll go to Lea Halalela. We need to know more, and that's the only way..."

Irena placed her paw over her cub, pulling the trembling Uru closer into her warm coat of fur. "Be careful," she warned. "I'd hate to see you follow Rex's path."

"I won't take Rex's place as king of the Pridelands. I promise."

Simultaneously, Busar shifted his gaze to Mari. "Are you sure you're up for this?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes, I am," she assured her mentor. "We can do this."

"You'll do fine," Karttiki replied, trying to be optimistic for the sake of her own daughter.

"I don't care what Algenubi said," Mohatu added. The lion looked up to the night sky with hope as he yawned. "I'm not going to be the next king. Even if it means I have to die."

"We'll leave as soon as the next storm hits the Pridelands," Mari told Mohatu. "That'll give us the cover we need to escape to the desert."

"Alright," the lion acknowledged Mari's plan. "So, everything's good? It's all sorted out?" Mohatu asked.

"I'd say so," Mari replied. Meanwhile, the other lions looked at one another with worried, but hopeful expressions.

"I guess I'm going to go get some rest. See you in the morning."

"Goodnight," Mari yawned in return. The lioness wandered away as well, before lying down beside her favorite sleeping spot under the stars. She tried to push the worries out of her mind, so she could allow herself to fall asleep.

Likewise, the remaining lions began to recline sleepily.

"They're going to be walking along a dangerous path," Narisah whispered to her mate. "I'm not sure who I'm worried about more."

"I don't know either," Busar sighed, creating a grove for his head to rest on the thick grass. "I knew things were bad, but I never knew we had Gods against us..."

Narisah curled up beside the old lion. "He's no God," she replied. "He would have killed us already."

"Gee, that's comforting," Busar replied sleepily.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:04 am

chapter 5: show
A/N: I actually planned on uploading this chapter a few days ago, but I didn't get around to doing that. Although, to be honest, I think that actually turned out to be for the better. This chapter should seem more 'polished' as a result, since I've spent a bit more time on this one. At least parts of it should be, anyway. I hope it was worth the wait!


--- --- ---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 5: Celestial Serenity


"This is it, Rex. This must be it," one lion whispered to another. The two were alone, standing gallantly amidst an unrelenting sea of bright orange sand.

Numerous cuts and scratches were buried beneath their thick coats of fur. Clearly, the young adult lions looked as if they had been to hell and back. Indeed, they had experienced both the heat of the Badlands and the heat of battle, for roughly a month. As a matter of fact, hell wasn't much of an exaggeration, to say the least.

But despite their continuous struggle to survive, the two brothers made it through alive.

They looked across the desert horizon with awe. A distinct shape was faintly visible, standing above the blended edge of the Earth and sky. It looked almost like a group of mountains, but different, in a very peculiar way. They were perfectly shaped, symmetrical, and precisely spaced, converging to specific points in the sky.

They were not mountains, but pyramids. They were created not by the forces of nature, but by the ancient kings.

"So that's Lea halalela," the other lion replied, with his jaw agape. He looked up to the larger lion beside him, while sand blew through their manes and irritated their open wounds. "Can it really be? Are its secrets truly worth the risk?"

"We will see," the older one answered. "We came all the way out here for this. There is no turning back now."

It was evident from their combined expressions of fascination and astonishment that the two lions found much more than they initially sought.


--- --- ---


Back in reality, Mohatu buried his head into his paws, while the scene of Leo and Rex faded into darkness. Even in his semi-conscious state of sleep, he could not shake the thoughts from his mind.

In fact, the vision in his head only caused the lion to raise further questions. What was Lea Halalela? The image of three enormous triangular structures in the desert had been burned deep into his subconscious mind, but what were they?

Was Algenubi trying to show him what he needed to find? Was this some mode of telepathic communication?

The lion stretched his paws out as he yawned, scratching lines into the ground with his claws. He had decided within an instant that trying to sleep was pointless. It was undeniably a futile effort, with so many unanswered questions on the cusp of his mind.

Mohatu rolled over so that he rested on his other side. His new position was slightly more comfortable, but the feeling of pleasure faded after merely a few minutes. Eventually, the lion rose to his paws and began pacing around the jungle, deep in thought and writhe with various emotions of curiosity.

Above him, the night sky bathed the many trees with a dim light. Beyond the trees stood a bright round circle—the moon. It was significantly brighter than any of the other strange objects in the sky, and much larger as well.

Something was there, very far away, glowing faintly. Mohatu could only wonder if it was watching him, perhaps calling to him, even.

"Algenubi?" he hailed, although his voice was little more than a feeble whisper.

Only a cricket answered. Perhaps it had been several crickets in all reality, but no lion could tell the difference, if it even mattered. The jungle was filled with all sorts of strange, exotic noises, regardless of the time of day.

Mohatu's eyes turned to the soil below his paws. "I need answers," he muttered quietly. "And I need them now."

Moments later, the lion began to make lines in the sand with his claw. His unwitting movements were mostly a result of nervousness as he waited meekly.

As he realized what he was doing, he tried to remember the locations of the symbols on the cave wall. The thought occurred to him that he could decode and interpret the message if he saw it before his eyes.

Mohatu ran over to a patch of dirt that was surrounded entirely by tall shrubs and grasses. He extended his largest claw, and began writing on the smooth surface of dirt.

From what he could remember, on the left there were three dots. On the right, there were six, in the shape of a backwards question mark. Mohatu's paw replicated the marks as he envisioned them on the cave wall.

The marking labeled 'ε' was farthest to the right. If he connected the dots, the one closest to it was 'μ'. Next in line was 'ξ', then 'γ', and then 'η'.

It made no sense. There was no pattern. After moments of staring at the group of seemingly meaningless symbols, the lion looked up to the stars and sighed in exasperation.

Yet, as he began to scratch his ear, something stood out while his head was tilted to the side.

The position of the symbols seemed to align with a cluster of stars, as long as his head remained in the awkward position. There were three on the left, and four on the right, in the shape of a backwards question mark.

Could he have been right? Was it a star map?

The lion shifted his neck back into its normal position, and the alignment faded. Was it just his imagination? Was it pure coincidence?

Mohatu's gaze returned to his markings in the dirt. For several minutes afterward, his eyes wandered sporadically between the heavens above, and the potential star map below.

As Mohatu continued to think, yet another critical realization dawned on him. He connected the curved line he drew on the right side with the three markings on the left. The shape vaguely resembled that of a large feline.

Did it represent a lion in the sky? Did it mean Algenubi watched over the land? Could he have been watching Mohatu's every move?

The mere thought began to freak him out. There was a message hidden within, that much was certain.

He pointed his paw towards the star that marked the lion's head in the sky. It was the same one that was labeled with the character 'ε'.

The lion's eyes widened, and his tail stopped dead in its tracks. "You! You're Algenubi!"

Suddenly, Mohatu began to feel a loss of breath. If each star in the night sky represented an ancient king, there must have been thousands of others, if not millions.

"Whoa..." he whispered. For a single moment, he had recognized the vastness of time and space. The amount of stars in the sky was nearly infiniteand so was the ancient kingdom.

He was nothing.


--- --- ---


Meanwhile, Mari heard rustling in the bushes adjacent to her, further driving her mind into a state of consciousness.

Although the lioness would not have been sleeping anyway, she groaned in frustration. There was simply too much at stake. The burden of guiding Mohatu rested squarely on her shoulders.

There was not a doubt in Mari's mind that the lion was destined to be the next king of the Pridelands. He could overthrow Rex easily. He would overthrow Rex, this she was sure of. He had already escaped death once, by a sheer stroke of luck and deliberate actions on her part.

Not every lion was born great, but some were. He just happened to be one of those lions. After all, he was Mohatu: the supposed 'savior'.

But forcing him to follow that path would not be easy. For the sake of everything Mari's pride had fought for, she could not allow him to become the next king. The coming months would be the challenge of her life.

Yet, at the same time, she began to wonder if she, herself, could stay loyal to her pride. Whatever entity that Leo and Rex found beyond the Pridelands managed to brainwash them both. Would she become corrupted as well? How strong would she have to be to resist?

The lioness looked to the stars, glistening above her, as she rested her back on a cradle in the grass.

She would have to be strong. Her pride depended on it. They trusted her with their lives. It was not just the few lions that remained after Leo's purge who needed her either; she felt it obligatory to honor her dead brethren as well.

Mari brought her paw up to rub her eyes. She yawned, and a slight roar nearly escaped her.

Consequently, more rustling sounds came from the bushes. Something was definitely moving over there. Whatever it was, it heard her.

The lioness began to follow the sound with her nose plowing through the many blades of grass. Nothing smelled out of the ordinary, but she did recognize the familiar scent of an adult male lion.

"M-Mohatu? What are you doing?"

"What do you mean what am I doing, what are you doing?" Mohatu whispered from behind a large shrub.

"I heard some noises," Mari replied. "Are you..." she began to ask, but her voice faded into silence.

"I'm fine," the lion answered. "I'll go back to bed... in a little bit."

Mari's eyes darted across the horizon in a sudden moment of awkwardness. "Well, I... ugh... can't sleep either."

Mohatu stared at the lioness, waiting for her to continue.

"Do you mind if I stay here for a little while?"

The lion's heart began to beat faster as he resisted the urge to tell her to stay with a frightening level of enthusiasm. "It's fine, I guess..." he replied, trying to keep calm.

In consequence, Mari sat down beside him. "What's this?" she asked, staring at Mohatu's scribbles in the dirt with an expression of confusion.

"I was trying to crack the code," Mohatu answered. "But then I realized... it's not a code at all."

"What is it then?" asked the lioness. "Wait a second... is that a-"

"Yes. If you connect the dots, it looks kinda like a lion."

"Weird," Mari exclaimed. Her eyes lit up wide with fascination. "I never looked at it that way before."

"There's more to it than that," Mohatu continued, nodding his head to the serene night sky above. "Look at the stars, and tilt your head to the right."

"Uh... okay," the lioness replied, tilting her head in the opposite direction. She did as the lion told her, but could not find the constellation. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Other way," Mohatu laughed. "Doesn't that look like a lion?"

"I guess it kinda... ah, I see it now!"

The stars in the shape of a backwards question mark on the right represented the lion's mane, and the three on the left represented the constellation's legs and tail.

It was not unusual for lions to claim to see patterns or images in the stars, but this one was blatantly obvious. It actually looked like a lion. After Mohatu had pointed it out, it was nearly impossible to miss.

Mohatu grinned. "I guess I'm not crazy," he stated with a playfully rhetorical tone.

"How did you notice that?" Mari asked quickly.

The lion began to smile even more as he started chuckling. "I don't know how I've done half of the things I've done today."

"Figures," Mari retorted.

As he ceased his mild snickering, Mohatu's eyes returned to the night sky. "I guess all these sparkling dots are kings... or something. Hell, if I know. I still can't believe that actually happened!"

Mari yawned. "Yeah, me neither. But, considering all we've been through, it isn't too much of a surprise."

"Hmm? Why is that?" Mohatu asked, showing a moderate level of interest.

"I sorta always suspected something was out of place," Mari continued to elaborate. "Leo... he wasn't really a murderer until he left the Pridelands."

"Why did he leave?" the brown lion inquired.

"It's a long story," Mari replied, before dragging her tongue of sandpaper across one of her forepaws to wipe it clean.

"That's okay," Mohatu attempted to persuade the lioness. "It's not like I have anything better to do right now."

Mari looked up, beginning to regret ever mentioning the word 'Leo'. "Don't you?"

The lion sat still for several seconds, staring deep into Mari's eyes with boredom. They both began to notice crickets chirping loudly in the trees behind her, as many more moments passed by.

"Okay, fine, I guess I'll tell you," Mari began, finally giving in to Mohatu's stubborn gaze. "It all started one evening, back when I was first learning to hunt..."


--- --- ---


The back of Mari's throat tingled with thirst, as she approached the drying waterhole on her return home. The lioness was beyond exhausted after several hours of chasing prey.

The lands were, without a doubt, going through an intense dry season. Despite the cooling temperatures of night, not a drop of dew could be found on the many blades of grass under her paws. For the first time in generations, the Pridelands were becoming a desert. What would happen when the waterholes dried up as well? Who would get the last drop?

It was a question the lioness pushed aside as she continued to walk. She would worry about it another day. She could see the reflection of the moonlight glimmering across the horizon, and that was all that mattered. As long as some water remained, there was no cause for immediate concern.

The lioness brought her muzzle to the surface of the water. Before she began drinking, Mari heard Busar speaking in a strange, authoritative voice. Immediately, she began to wonder what happened, as it was very unusual to hear the lion speak with a stern tone—especially to his own son.

"You're overreacting, Leo!"

The lioness paused. She could only wonder if Leo had done something wrong. Her question was answered quickly with her friend's response.

"Am I? Am I really? The safety of our entire pride is at stake here, and you tell me I'm overreacting?" Leo retorted angrily. The young lion sounded as if he was on the verge of slaughtering whoever was in his path out of rage.

Whatever it was the two were arguing about, Mari could not question its importance. She tried to drink quickly, gulping down as much water as possible. The sooner her thirst was quenched, the sooner she could investigate.

"Calm down. We have no proof of who did this... not yet," Busar replied. "Musashi hasn't done anything wrong!"

As the lioness finished drinking, she glanced over to the other side of the drying waterhole. Leo's younger brother was there as well.

Leo grew more frustrated by the second. "What! No proof?" The lion looked down towards an imprint in the cracked surface of dirt, which was once underwater. "Look at these tracks! If these aren't hyena prints, then what are they?"

The imprints looked similar to a lion's paw, but were slightly smaller in size. Each toe print was far too close together to be a lion, and the claw marks were clearly visible. They completely surrounded what remained of the empty but bloody carcass, so the kill was unquestionably intentional, requiring both precision and organization of a hunting party.

More than likely, Leo's assumption was correct.

"It could be another lion," Busar retorted. "We can't make assumptions-"

Leo's younger brother interrupted his father. "Haven't you seen the way that filthy hyena acts around us? She has no respect for you. She doesn't have any respect for any of us!"

"That's no reason-"

"YES IT IS!" Leo roared. "She's plotting to kill every one of us! I heard it myself! And... and you're just going to sit here in your cradle of ignorance, and let it happen? You have no idea what happens outside of Pride Rock. You only live in this little den of superiority. Tell me, do you even know the hardships all the other creatures are going through right now, because of the hyenas?"

"You don't understand," Busar retorted. "We cannot-"

"If those slobbery, mangy, stupid poachers are going to try to intimidate us, we need to push back. If they want a fight, we'll give them a damn war."

"LISTEN TO ME!" Busar roared. "We are not going to attack first. If they attack us, we can retaliate, but until then, this is all speculation, and nothing more."

"They did attack us!" Rex corrected. "Good lord... are you blind?" he asked in frustration, gesturing towards the dead lion cub. "Abeni is dead, and it's all because you're too damn cowardly to put the hyenas in their place."

"You don't care about our pride! You never have! You're not brave enough to look out for any lion other than yourself," Leo concluded in disgust.

"You aren't going to blame the hyenas because you fear them," Rex added. "That's all there is to it!"

"You know that's not true," Busar yelled. "You are the one acting out of fear... fear of what will happen if we do not act."

After waiting for the perfect moment, Rex added to the conversation by seizing the opportunity to insult his father. "How many cubs will have to die before we retaliate? Is there like some specific number?" the younger brother questioned angrily, while Leo was nearly ready to run off.

"I don't care what you say," Leo spat. "I'm not going to sit and watch while my land turns to hell. I'll let you be the one to tell Vasari her cub was murdered tonight."

Leo then spotted Mari across from the waterhole. "I mean it," Leo continued. "You can tell her."

After he had spoken his final words, the adolescent Leo began running towards the lioness at full speed. "Mari!" he called. "There you are! I've been looking for you."

"What's happening?" she inquired, looking at him worriedly.

"We're leaving tonight," Leo stated. "Rex and I going to hunt down the hyenas. I'll be back in less than a week. I promise."

"But..."

"It'll be fine," Leo replied. He stepped closer, and licked Mari behind her ear. "They won't be able to mess with us."

The lioness shook her head, as her eyes became glassy and filled with water. "No, no, no! I mean, what's going on? Why are you doing this? Is Abeni really dead?"

"I overheard Musashi talking about taking over the Pridelands a few days ago. I didn't realize she was being serious, until now. They want control of the waterhole, and they're willing to kill us all for it."

"It's that bad?" Mari asked.

Leo's eyes darted rapidly across the horizon. "It's worse than that," he whispered. "I need you to run away."

Mari struggled to hold back tears. "But, why? Where should I go?"

"The hyenas are going to attack Pride Rock at midnight, tonight. Dad wouldn't believe me... but I'm not going to take the risk. Rex and I are going to try to catch them with their tails down before it happens, but I want you to be safe."

"Should I warn the others?" Mari asked.

Leo stood still for a moment as he thought. "Tell them to split up. It will make it hard for Musashi to plan an attack."

"Are you sure you can do this?" Mari whispered anxiously.

"We'll make it through alive," Leo assured the orange lioness beside her. "But, I wanted to tell you..." the lion paused, taking a break to stare at the ground.

"I just want you to know, no matter what happens tonight... you'll always be my friend."

A single tear began to roll down from Mari's eye. She nuzzled Leo in a spontaneous moment of bliss, feeling the gentle warmth of his mane for the last time.

"Go back to Pride Rock," Leo commanded. "Tell the others to evacuate. I'll find Rex, and we'll drive the hyenas away from the Pridelands by morning. Remember us. Remember why we fight."


--- --- ---


"You see," Mari explained, "Leo and Rex left the Pridelands because they were chasing the hyenas. The next morning, I followed the scent all the way to the outskirts of the Pridelands... and into the Badlands. I never dared to follow them beyond the borders. No one did."

"Was that the last time you saw Leo?" the lion asked. "That was it? He just left?"

"Yeah. He had good intentions... but I just don't think it worked out that way."

"Seems like the whole issue could have been avoided," Mohatu replied easily. "It would make more sense to ration the water supply."

"That it would," Mari agreed, exhaling lightly. "But who would have enforced it? And, besides, I don't think the hyenas would have-"

The lion raised a brow. "So, you agree with what Leo and Rex did?" he asked.

"No, I don't. Their purge is going to plague us for generations to come... but you have to understand. It was a tough time for us, and negotiating the issue wasn't as easy as you'd think."

Mari sighed heavily after lecturing at the lion beside her. "Regardless, it's in the past now. What's done is done."

"Fair enough," Mohatu agreed. "But still, I don't know... it's not what I would have expected you to tell me."

"What did you expect me to say?" Mari asked.

"I don't know... it's just weird. You made it seem like Leo and Rex were heroes."

"Hah," Mari laughed lightly. "He was... kinda."

Mohatu leaned forward. "Huh?"

"I used to think so, at least. I assumed he died in the Badlands, trying to save us. I looked up to him. I wanted to be like him." The lioness shook her head slowly. "I was such a fool."

"What? How was that foolish?"

"Perhaps he was a hero, but that doesn't mean he wasn't also a blood-thirsty, power-hungry... monster. The two are, by no means, mutually exclusive. I was foolish enough not to see that."

"You don't think true heroes exist?" Mohatu asked.

Mari's face began to reveal an expression of despair. "In a time like this? No, I don't. There are no heroes anymore. Not on either side of the conflict."

"Well, I do," Mohatu announced. The lion began to tremble with anxiety. This was it; this was his time to tell her. "I can think of one."

"And who would that be?"

He paused for a minute, trying to regain his composure. It was just one word. All he had to do was say it.

The lion's voice was reduced to a nervous whisper. "You."

Instinctively, Mohatu looked back down at the markings he made in the dirt, immediately regretting the decision to say anything. Why did he say it that way? It was far too dorky.

Mari closed her eyes to hold back her sudden surge of gratitude. Her face began to turn pink with embarrassment. "Thank you... but I'm no hero."

"If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead," Mohatu replied, trying to add reason to his words. "I'd say that qualifies."

"No... it's not like that."

"What about your mother? Busar? Irena? Are they not heroes?"

"I think you misunderstood me," Mari replied. "Not being a jerk doesn't make someone a hero. It just makes them... not a jerk. A hero is a lion that goes above and beyond that. As much as I want to think such a lion exists, I doubt it. I'm not the naive cub I used to be."

Mohatu was relieved to find that Mari hadn't picked up on the actual, deeper meaning of his words, and happily followed the lioness's interpretation instead. "You don't really trust anyone, do you?" he asked, trying not to sound too rude.

Mari held her head down for a brief second. "Look, I... I'm sorry. It's not you... it's me." Obviously, she was beginning to feel uneasy about where the conversation was headed.

Mohatu leaned back, stretching his legs out comfortably. "It's okay. Nobody's perfect. I won't bother you about it."

"I would rather not have talked about it to begin with."

"I'm sorry," Mohatu replied. "I didn't mean to."

"I know you didn't," Mari said neutrally. "I'm not going to hold that against you. I'm sure you mean well with your questions, but there's just too many things I'd rather not ever have to talk about."

The lion yawned. "Well, if you ever change your mind, I'm here for you."

"I appreciate the offer," Mari nodded.

The lioness then moved her flank into the air as she stretched her spine and forepaws paws on the ground. "You know, I guess it's about time to go back to sleep," the lioness added. "It's getting late. It'll be morning soon."

"Are you sure?" Mohatu asked. "I wouldn't mind staying up a little later."

"I think I've had enough insomnia for one night," she replied.

"Oh... okay then." The lion placed his paw over Mari's tail for a moment, pinning it lightly to the ground as she attempted to walk away.

"Despite all we've been through... today was actually kinda fun," he smiled, before relaxing his grip of her tail.

"Yeah," Mari beamed back at the lion. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Goodnight," Mohatu replied cheerfully.

The lion rolled over onto his back and gazed up at the stars. He dozed off minutes later, as happy thoughts filled the lion's mind.

She was his hero. He liked herperhaps even a bit too much.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:07 am

chapter 6: show
A/N: Just as a fair warning, from here on out the upcoming chapters will be much darker than the previous ones. This is basically where the story starts to earn its 'T' rating, although in reality nothing here is any more violent than what you'll find in a high school history textbook. I'm really only saying this because the tone of this chapter is a little bit bloodier than I originally intended it to be, considering this is a Lion King story and all.

--- --- ---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 6: Black Dawn


The moon that previously lit up the night sky shifted far below the horizon. As time passed, the lion shape clearly visible in the stars moved all the way to the west as well. The constellation of Leo could barely be seen above the jungle mountains.

Dawn was approaching quickly.

Unfortunately, Mari had not slept a single bit. She sat uncomfortably by the waterhole, after relieving her dry throat with a refreshing drink of water.

Yet, despite the lack of moonlight, something bright loomed beyond the trees on the other side of the small body of water. A strange orange glow lit up the horizon, but it wasn't the sun. It couldn't have been. This was different.

Simply out of curiosity, Mari decided to take a look. She followed the edge of the pond closely, where there were fewer trees obstructing the path to the other side.

The lioness looked across the glassy body of water as she shuffled through the tall grasses. The lake began to reflect the strange light as well.

Her eyes moved to the other side of jungle. Before she could realize what the light was, it became apparent that the light was spreading rapidly. It was everywhere.

Simultaneously, Mari began to realize she wasn't alone. A deep, authoritative voice sounded from the grass. "Don't move, lioness!"

Mari stopped dead in her tracks. Needless to say, she did not recognize the male's voice. It wasn't Mohatu, and it definitely wasn't Busar.

the lioness's heartbeat accelerated to ludicrous levels. This wasn't good. Certainly, it was the worst thing to happen in months. One of her worst fears had become a reality, and it was time for her to face it.

If it wasn't a lion she knew, it must have been a lion that wanted to kill her. It was only a matter of time before things got ugly.

Yet, Mari did not move out of apprehension.

"What are you doing all the way out here, hmm?" The voice asked suggestively.

Mari's claws dug into the dirt below her, ripping the grass roots straight from the ground. Clearly, he knew why she was there. He must have known, she thought, or else he wouldn't have come to the jungle.

His intentions were obvious. He wanted her pride dead, and the key of Algenubi in his paws.

But that was clearly out of the question.

"I'm giving you time to think about who you're messing with," Mari replied in an equally threatening tone, finally acquiring the courage to speak.

Obviously, she had even faced off against Leo and Rex before, so her fear did not control her entirely.

Yet, her success in those encounters was largely due to the fact that she had prepared herself, both mentally and physically. Of course, this was in addition to the fact that her pride was with her when she killed Leo.

Though she hated to admit it, that was an assassination. This time, it was nearly the complete opposite. The element of surprise was being turned against her.

Whether or not she could hold her own after rotting in the jungle for months was what concerned her. Essentially, it was all about to come down to her experience and physical conditioning.

Regardless, she wasn't going to go down without a fight. She waited for her attacker to approach, shifting into her fighting stance and readying her muscles for battle.

At long last, a silhouette of a lion emerged from the tall grasses, laughing condescendingly. "Hah! You? Is that a joke?"

The lioness growled in retaliation, showing off her sharp teeth.

"Huh. Perhaps you're not such a coward after all," the assailant continued, surprised by the fact that Mari was willing to hold her ground.

Suddenly, a realization dawned upon the lion. "Wait a minute... you must be the one that killed Leo! So, tell me, if you're such a good fighter, why are you hiding out here? Are you scared of what you might find in the Pridelands?"

"I'm not afraid of a straight fight," Mari replied. "This is your last chance: leave or die," she warned.

"Not going to happen, missy. Your little apostate here is done. This entire jungle is being burnt to the ground as we speak."

Instinctively, Mari denied his words out of anger. "You lie."

"Soon, there will be nowhere left for you to run and hide. Surely, you must realize Rex's kingdom is unstoppable!"

Mari clenched her jaws together as hard as she could. This wasn't going to happen. This couldn't happen.

If any lion was going to die, it was going to be this jerkface. She had already decided that much.

As confident as mari's attacker seemed, she knew something he didn't. The very thought that kept her awake suddenly gave her a rush of hope. "It's not what you think," Mari retorted. "If Rex thinks he can just squash us with a single stroke of his paw, he's in for a really nice surprise."

The lioness approached her opponent slowly and with caution. "Times have changed," she continued. "We're done running. Soon, you'll see how a true lion fights." She then lifted her paw up, showing off her claws and begging the lion to come forward.

"Show me what you've got!" He roared in an attempt of demoralization.

"You know, I've been waiting a long time for this day," the lion added. He continued to step closer to Mari, until the two were nearly breathing on each other.

He made the first move by pushing her back lightly, almost playfully, intimidating the lioness for his own sick pleasure.

As a result, Mari jumped back, flattening her ears even more. She swung her tail around to keep her balance.

"So, you think you're a tough lioness, eh?"

She then swatted across the side of the lion's face, slashing his ear with a furious strike of her claws. As the lion backed away to protect himself, Mari lashed out repeatedly against her opponent, landing several continuous strikes.

The lion jerked away, squinting his eyes at at Mari. This time, it was his turn to retaliate. He leaped forward, and pounced on the unsuspecting lioness with all his strength.

His massive weight nearly crushed Mari's spine.

The lioness gave in, allowing herself to collapse to the ground to alleviate the pain. She used her hind legs to kick the lion rapidly and keep him away.

Seconds later, Mari's defense failed. The attacking lion stepped onto Mari's stomach with only a few minor scratches, forcing her to gasp for air. Shortly afterward, he placed his forepaw around the unfortunate lioness's throat, before pressing her neck to the ground.

"That was too easy!" the lion taunted. "But, since you insisted on being such a feisty one, I'll be sure to give you the slow and painful death you deserve."

He allowed the lioness to breathe slightly, only to keep her conscious and aware of her own hopelessness.

Mari began to panic. She was pinned down; she could not fight back. Unless she could make a move, this was the end for her.

The lioness was starting to feel lightheaded as the life drained out of her. She could not stop her eyes from watering as the pressure on her throat gave her an immensely uncomfortable feeling.

Her muscles tensed up. If she was going to survive, she would have to do something. She would have to do it quickly, before she only lost even more of her strength from a lack of oxygen.

She tried to roll over, and knock the lion down on either side, but he was too heavy.

The lioness wiggled her hind legs, trying as hard as she could to break free, but she lacked the brute strength.

In a final moment of desperation, an idea sparked in the lioness's mind. Mari wrapped her forepaws around the lion's head, which pulled him in even closer.

The attacker was unsure of how to react. Instinctively, the lion tried to resist, pulling backward.

With her opponent in a state of confusion, Mari broke a hind leg free with a sudden burst of power and jammed it into his unsuspecting groin.

Consequently, the lion backed off, as he roared madly in pain. He leaped rather high into the air, before limping away.

Mari took several deep breaths, trying to inhale as much air as quickly as possible as she continued to lie on her back. At last, her muscles began to relax as she realized she managed to break free. She knew all too well that she was lucky to be alive.

After Mari recovered from her rush of adrenaline, the lioness rolled over and pushed herself up off the grass.

Her opponent was limping across the ground, trying to walk while simultaneously being curled up in the fetal position and screaming in agony.

An enormous wall of fire encroached from behind him. The entire jungle was burning, and the stars of the night sky were completely obscured with a thick black smoke.

Mari walked slowly over to the lion. "You brought this on yourself," she stated dryly.

The lion continued to moan, hiding his face in the burning grass. Whether he could not speak, or did not wish to, the lioness was unsure of. He swung his paws out in random directions as he groaned, trying to hit Mari, but his strikes lacked any significant power.

In a strange, sadistic way, it was rather amusing how the attacker went from having a lion's ego, to being completely and utterly hopeless in a split second. His mouth was far bigger than his pain tolerance. Behind his thick mane, he was nothing but a frightened cub. He could no longer hide the fact that he experienced fear.

It wasn't the first time Mari had seen it happen. As soon as she was old enough to hunt, she learned quickly that strength is only a facade. She had seen many large, confident beasts meet their end, and every time, it was the same story. The bigger they were, the harder they fell.

But, no matter how many times she saw it, a dying lion was never easy to watch. Although it was only a matter of seconds, he had suffered long enough. It was time to terminate his life, she decided.

"Pumzika kwa amani," Mari whispered, as she swiftly sliced her claws across the lion's throat.

She then turned away, gazing into the fire's reflection on the lake. It wasn't the first time she had brought an end to another lion's live, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. Yet, every time she still felt a splash of regret as she gave her opponent a quick death.

It was what she had to do. He would have either suffered the excruciating death of being burnt alive, or he would have alerted his friends of Mari's presence. Killing the lion was the best option. It was the only option.

But there was no time to think about it. With the furious orange glow of fire engulfing the jungle, not even the haven was safe anymore. She had to warn the others, although she did mean what she told her attacker.

With Mohatu on her side, the roles of predator and prey could easily be reversed.

With her opponent resting in a pool of his own blood, Mari began running up the path to five rocks, despite the wind and smoke irritating her eyes and lungs. This was a matter of life and death, and she was well aware of that simple fact. Mari knew what was at stake.

Unfortunately, before she could run too far, a smouldering log crashed down before her, bursting into flames. Suddenly, her path to the pride was totally blocked.

With the majority of the jungle on fire, there was no easy way around. Regardless, she would have to find an alternate route. Rendezvousing with her pride was paramount.

In the heat of the moment, the lioness began scouring the jungle hastily for another way around.


--- --- ---


Despite all the excitement going on, Mohatu continued to sleep peacefully, not far away. He felt something warm pressing against his fur, leaving his imagination to fill in the rest with his dreams.

"Mari..." the lion muttered unconsciously. Mohatu rubbed his head against the warm grass on which he laid, as he tried to curl himself around the lioness.

The imaginary feline seemed to have a strange affection towards him, which was thoroughly reflected in her amazingly beautiful eyes. At that very moment, nothing seemed to matter other than the warmth of her fur against the cool night air. And, God, was she warm.

She was hot.

Even after several minutes, Mohatu did not dare to move. He was afraid of sullying his shining moment of bliss with the most beautiful creature on four legs.

But still, the heat was excruciating, especially around his tail. Suddenly, the thought of jumping into the river's icy water didn't seem like such an awful idea.

The lion began to cough on the imaginary lioness, as an irritating sensation scratched the back of his throat. His difficulty breathing suddenly brought him into the realm of the real world.

Mohatu jumped up at once, arching his back and extending his claws out of instinct. He looked back at the tuft of his tail, and saw it combust before his very eyes.

Mohatu crammed the burning tuft in his mouth and licked it with his tongue, extinguishing the fire with sticky saliva. He then twitched his face slightly. Unfortunately, he noticed that two of his whiskers had been burnt to a crisp as well.

It was a crazy morning already.

He then shook his body violently from side to side, trying to shake off the crusty layer of sleepiness that held his nerves back. There was no time for that. Mari's pride—his pride—was in danger. This was his chance to be a hero. This would be his finest hour.

The shrub which he slept beside suddenly burst into a fireball, throwing even more cinders far into the sky.

On second thought, his own survival was a little bit more important than being a hero. Not surprisingly, he decided he would have time for that later, but first, he had to make it out alive.

Mohatu ran up to the trunk of a burning tree, before springing from it in a leaping motion to get over a tall wall of fire. It was an impressive, adrenaline-pumping start to any morning, but he still had a long way to go.

That was, if the lion even knew which way to go. Visibility was simply horrendous, and the smoke only added to his feeling of disorientation. No matter which direction Mohatu looked, the lion simply could not find any identifiable landmarks.

He began to pace around at random, hoping to find a tree that he could recognize. The heat soared well beyond excruciating levels, and his breath was running short.

An orange figure emerging form the dust and ashes caught the lion's attention. Almost immediately, he recognized the lioness as Mari, running swiftly through the scattered flames.

"It's good to see you!" Mohatu greeted happily. The intensity of his relief upon seeing her was nearly beyond comprehension.

"No time for that," Mari retorted quickly, stopping only for a second. "Rex must have found us out here, and we're cut off from the rest of the pride."

"Is there a way around?"

"I'm not sure... just stick with me," the lioness commanded, taking complete control over the situation.

Mohatu followed as Mari hustled through the ashes. He kept his eyes focused on the path ahead, while his surroundings warped into a bright, luminous blur of orange and gray.

Mari stepped off to the side, suddenly slowing down to a more comfortable pace. She then glanced over at the brown lion beside her. "You see that?"

A surprisingly large clearing stood before the two lions. Thick plumes of smoke covered the entire horizon, but this spot was a lush green under the shadow of the night. It had not been burned.

"I don't see anyth-"

"Look harder," Mari interrupted.

Mohatu struggled to concentrate as the crackling sounds of fire scattered his mind. The smoke blurred his vision, which also deeply irritated the lion. He rubbed the gunk out of his eyes, trying to bring the trees ahead into focus.

"Wait a minute..." muttered Mohatu. He caught a glimpse of something moving back and fourth. It was long, slender, and orange. The tip seemed a bit bigger and darker, while the entire figure shifted positions in a whipping motion.

It was a lion's tail.

"Oh... I see it."

"I wonder how many of them there are," Mari replied. "If it's just a few, we should be able to take them..."

A wide smirk formed across the lion's muzzle. "Y'know... forget that!" he exclaimed quietly.

The lion used his claws to cut off an enormous branch from a tree. As it fell into the soil, Mohatu picked the shrub up by the end with his mouth.

"Uh... huh? What are you doing?" Mari asked.

Mohatu attempted to speak with the big end of the stick clenched between his teeth. "Ir ar ther firr Gerd!" he claimed playfully, which translated roughly to 'I am the fire God!'

The lion leaned his head down, dragging the shrub across a patch of burning grass. Within seconds, the fire spread to his new weapon as well.

"Interesting..." the lioness murmured. "So, what, are you just going to burn them alive?"

Mohatu shrugged, before running directly towards the lion he saw at full speed.

He then realized that perhaps the idea wasn't as good as he originally intended. The smoke blew in his face, and his vision was reduced from abysmal to null. Still, it did not manage to stop him from being a brave, fearless idiot, running happily into the face of danger in the name of Mari.

After hearing the thunder of Mohatu's heavy paws approaching, the ignorant lion glanced backward. His eyes met a wall of fire nearly as big as himself. He had no time to run.

The shrub Mohatu carried contained several branches at the other end, which glowed a deep red from the heat. Each pointed tip burned its way into the unfortunate lion's fur as he yelped aloud in pain.

Mohatu then slung the shrub away, into the tree which the lion hid behind. Intentionally, he brought the inferno to the designated burn-free zone as well.

"You're going to regret coming out here, punk," Mohatu taunted, as his booming, masculine voice roared across the jungle.

The burning lion backed away, before trying to lick his scorched wounds from a safe distance. Two of his buddies approached Mohatu from the side. As Mari approached Mohatu from behind, it was two on twohardly a fair fight.

The four lions circled one another with a heavy guard up, somewhat resembling a deadly game of chess.

Mohatu, however, had other ideas. His eyes met a large vine, which hung from the enormous tree he burned in the background of his focus.

With the intention of impressing Mari with his tactical genius, Mohatu ran hastily over to the vine. He looked back to see the two opposing lions following him.

To his surprise, Mohatu's opponents were less experienced than he originally thought. They were running right into a trap.

The lion grabbed the vine with his mouth as he ran past it. He held on with his powerful jaws, and began to swing up in an arc. As gravity countered Mohatu's momentum, the lion swung back, kicking one of his opponents with enough energy to send the big cat tumbling backwards into a wall of flames.

Subsequently, Mohatu let go of the vine, dropping back onto the ground.

With the other lion in shock, Mari managed to place a few precision strikes of her own around his neck. Seconds later, all three of their opponents were knocked out.

Mari sighed heavily, leaning down to bite the throat of her opponent. She was going in for the kill.

For a brief moment, Mohatu's face reflected a slight expression of disbelief. It surprised him that she actually went farther than she needed to, given what she had said the day before. However, as the lion's jaw opened slowly, he could not bring himself to ask her about it.

He knew why she killed the lion that fell to the ground below her. It was war. He had been defeated. He deserved a warrior's death. It was a strange concept, but it felt all too familiar to him.

"Pumzika kwa amani," Mari whispered.

"What's that mean?" the lion asked, as his thoughts somehow slipped out of his mouth.

"It means 'rest in peace.'"

Mohatu shifted his focus back to the lion he killed, whispering those same words. "Pumzika kwa amani."

"It's not over yet," Mari replied, lifting herself back up. She began to walk further through the jungle, while eying Mohatu earnestly. "We've got a pride to rescue."

"Actually, I've got a better idea," Mohatu followed, just before suggesting a different approach.

"What are you thinking?" Mari asked.

"If those three lions were waiting out here, their leader must not be too far away. If we can take him out, their entire attack will be left in shambles," Mohatu explained decisively. "We'll hit them where it hurts."

"But what about our pride?" Mari asked. "We can't leave them out to die."

"Are you sure?" Mohatu inquired. "What would they want us to do?"

"No, no, no," argued the lioness, immediately rejecting the mere thought of his idea. "You don't understand. It's not like that. It's more important that we all live to fight another day."

The lion stared into the intense jungle flames as he pondered Mari's words. "It was just a suggestion..." he muttered quietly.

"And not a bad one," Mari added. "But this is a matter of priorities. We'll search for their leader after our pride is safe."

"Fine," Mohatu agreed. "Let's just go. We're wasting time."


--- --- ---


Irena's eyes jolted open as the sound of pawsteps grew louder at an alarming rate. Her eyes were greeted with an enormous black cloud of smoke and ashes.

"Wuh... HOLY SH-"

"The jungle's on fire!" Busar yelled hastily, despite having shallow lungs. After running all the way from Five Rocks, he was nearly out of breath. "Grab the cub. We need to get outta here."

"Wh- which way do we go?" Irena asked nervously. "And where are the others?"

"We're going to rendezvous at Five Rocks. From there, we can cross the chasm and we should be safe by the river valley."

Irena grabbed the fearful cub Uru in her mouth, before nodding for Busar to lead the way. Neither of the lions wasted a single moment in the process.

As Irena glanced beside her, she noticed the shadows of Narisah and Karttiki as well. They were safe, at least, but Mari and Mohatu were nowhere to be found.

Suddenly, Busar crashed to the ground behind a cloud of dust. Several roars broke through the smoke, as an entire group of attacking lions appeared in every direction that wasn't on fire.

A small battle erupted at their position. Busar, Narisah, and Karttiki formed a line, trying desperately to keep Irena's cub safe behind them against a seemingly endless series of brutal attacks by several aggressive lions.

"Where the hell are Mari and Mohatu?" Busar asked, before driving his teeth into the guts of one of the lion that had pounced on him. He quickly finished off one opponent, but many more remained, eager to join the fray.

Irena placed her cub gently on the ground, and ran towards the other three lions to join the fight. She picked an opponent at random, and, without warning, began lashing out successive helpings of whoopass.

Conversely, Narisah backed away, as two additional lions approached her. "You're doing good, just need to do that fifty more times," she replied in exaggeration.

All the lionesses were occupied with opponents of their own, and thus unable to offer any assistance.

Busar's mate continued to step backward, until she felt Uru's tail pressing against her hind leg. It was the end of the rope for her, and the end of the proverbial rope was literally on fire. "Someone get over here!" she yelled. "I need help!"

The male lion leaped to the side, lunging toward one of Narisah's attackers. In the corner of his eye, he watched the other lash out continuous strikes at his mate.

Narisah closed her eyes, trying to ignore the pain as her body crashed to the ground in defeat. She had little energy remaining to move, much less fight back against several opponents.

As the lioness's body began to rest, her senses became magnified. Amongst the sounds of crackling wood and roars of fighting lions, she sensed something else.

As time passed slowly, the feeling drew nearer. There were more lions approaching. Narisah did not know whether or not they were friendly, but she could only hope.

Eventually, a familiar voice sounded from behind her attackers.

"Let them go."

Even in their scattered states of mind, the sound was loud and clear. All the leonine warriors suddenly stopped fighting. Their eyes shifted to Mohatu at once, who stood boldly in front of a scorched tree.

"And just who might you be? The king of the Pridelands?" one of the attackers asked sarcastically, amazed by the fact that a single lion had the nerve to be so bodacious.

"It doesn't matter who I am," Mohatu retorted. "I said let them go."

"You think I'm scared of you?" the lion asked, approaching Mohatu with an equally bold, aggressive stance.

As the attacker came nearer, Mohatu swiped him away with a simple stroke of his paw. The other lions were amazed that Mohatu did not even bat an eye.

"You should be," Mohatu replied with an odd quality of both arrogance and wisdom in his voice. After fighting the first few lions, he was building a shell of confidence in his abilities as a warrior.

The remaining four attacking lions approached Mohatu at once. It became apparent that they would need to work together to fight him. He was big, tough, and fearless on the outside. He would be difficult to kill; even a brainless lion could have realized that blatant fact.

Mohatu stepped back, luring the lions under a specific tree branch. When the moment was right, a heavy, orange mass crashed down on one of the assailants. The opposing lion's skull cracked beneath Mari's paws, as the lioness leaped down on him like a concrete bomb.

In the moments that followed, the remaining three adversaries found themselves sandwiched between Mohatu and Mari on one side, and the older lions, save Narisah, on the other.

Busar brought one of the attackers to the ground by biting into his flank. As the lion squirmed around to protect himself, Mari slashed violently across his head. His blood began to spill onto the ashes.

Mohatu effortlessly pinned the other hostile down after a quick skirmish, and crushed the unfortunate feline beneath his paws.

The remaining lioness lowered herself to the ground in submission. She rolled over on her back, placing her paws in the air with her claws retracted, begging to be shown mercy. "I... I'm not like them! I'm RizaI'm just a huntress."

Karttiki glared at the lioness angrily, but refused to attack. "You made your choice, and now you will live with the consequences."

"Please! Don't hurt me!" the lioness pleaded.

Riza's cries gained Mohatu's interest. He walked over beside the lioness, knowing she should not be allowed to live, considering what she had done.

Mohatu, however, did not wish to entertain that thought. He quickly adopted an alternate idea. "Why should I let you live after what you've done?"

The lioness began to catch her breath. "Because I... I can tell you what I know. King Rex sent us out here to burn the land and kill anyone we found... I don't know much more than that, honestly! Please! Just let me go!"

"There's more you're not telling me," Mohatu insisted.

"No, there isn't," Riza replied. "Rex doesn't tell us anything. Food is becoming scarce... things are getting rough, yet he keeps insisting that everything will be fine as long as we do what he says."

"And you believe him?" Karttiki asked. "Leo and Rex killed more than half our pride."

"I... I wanted to," Riza muttered sadly.

"Get up," Mohatu commanded, suddenly feeling a strange sympathy for the lioness.

"Does this mean..." Riza began to ask, but struggled to find the proper words. "I... I don't want to die!"

"Relax," Mohatu insisted, as an idea bloomed in the lion's mind. He glanced at Mari for a moment, before looking back at the submissive lioness. "I'm not going to hurt you. We don't believe in killing. It's what separates us from them."

Riza's jaw snapped open. "I... I see. I guess I... I never really..."

Mari tried to hide a smile, as she was pleased by the fact that Mohatu had made the right decision. She refused to speak, instead letting Mohatu handle the situation.

Mohatu grinned slightly, knowing that he did the right thing. He could sense the truth in the lioness's words as the realization dawned on her. She had been shown the light.

"I can still make things right," Riza pleaded. "There's a lion named Usama; he's the one that led the attack. He was checking out a cave to the South before he told us to move up here."

Mari gulped, realizing the lioness was referring to that cave. Usama had the artifact. He had what he was looking for.

"Let's hope I find him before you do," Mohatu retorted, motioning for his pride to follow.

"Be careful," Riza added. "Just a fair warning... Usama is one of the king's knights. He's very cunning, and very brutal..."

Mohatu seemed undaunted by her warning, but remained cautious. "Thanks for the heads-up," he replied respectfully.

Meanwhile, the fire began to burn off, leaving enormous piles of ashes surrounding the pride. As the lion left the plateau with Mari and Karttiki following, three words echoed across the scorched jungle mountains behind him. "Pumzika kwa amani."

A surprisingly dim light began to emerge from the horizon on the East, while Mohatu glanced over at the orange lioness beside him. The night was over. The sun was rising. Now, it was time for vengeance.


--- --- ---


A/N: I kinda regret having this chapter so far back in the story, because I really wanted to get to the actual fighting sooner before it got too boring. But, that being said, I tried to make it well worth the wait.

This is only the beginning... :)
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:09 am

chapter 7: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 7: A Matter of Pride


Narisah's eyes peeked open slowly, as the light of dawn momentarily pushed her pain aside. The lioness groaned, eventually rising to her paws despite having two dislodged limbs.

Busar placed his paw over his mate's shoulder, pushing her back down gently. "No... you're hurt. Stay here with the cub," the lion insisted. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

"I-I'll be fine," the lioness stuttered, laying back down on the gravel against her will. For better or worse, she did not realize the severity of her injuries.

As she relieved her paws from the pressure of supporting her weight, a loud, cracking noise sounded from one of her joints. Consequently, Narisah screamed in terrifying agony. "AHHH! It-it's worse than I thought! I... AHH!"

Busar's ears twitched at the high-pitched cacophony. Seconds later, his mate calmed slightly as he abruptly licked her under her closed eyes with affection.

"I love you," he whispered. It was all he could do.

With his mate purring slightly, Busar reluctantly stepped away to help the other lions. Unfortunately, securing Algenubi's artifact and killing Usama were the greater priorities.

Riza, the foreign lioness, turned away. She felt somewhat uncomfortable after seeing what her pride had done to the unfortunate feline, and her expression matched her feelings perfectly. She walked away, pacing around and inspecting the damage to each dead tree, only to give herself something to occupy her mind.

Meanwhile, Irena watched as her cub stepped over to the injured lioness.

Being as young as she was, Uru recovered quickly from the immense fear she had experienced just moments before. In an act of sentimental concern, she then began kneading behind Narisah's ear.

"I'll stay here," Irena mewed. Seconds later, she laid down beside her injured companion in an attempt to comfort the dying lioness.

Uru continued pawing at Narisah. "Aren't you going to get up?" she asked. The innocence of the cub's words caused her mother to shiver.

Narisah breathed heavily, but spoke with a soft, lethargic voice. "I... shouldn't... it hurts."

The lioness saw Busar's shape diminish beyond the horizon as he followed Mohatu's path to the cave. It was not long before Narisah lost sight of her mate through the dense cloud of dust and smoke.

Suddenly, Uru appeared in her immediate vision to fill the void. The cub leaned against one of Narisah's paws, curling up into the shape of a near-perfect sphere. The older lioness continued to purr quietly, stroking the cub's head with her other paw.

It had been many years since she looked after her own cubs, but she would never forget the many pleasures of being a mother.


--- --- ---


"Stop!" Mohatu whispered. "I think I see them."

The coffee-colored lion placed his paws over a jagged granite boulder that was covered in ashes. As he looked down into the valley below him, he observed three lions carefully.

"I can go down and distract them," he suggested. "If things start to get ugly, back me up."

"I'm coming with you," Mari insisted.

Mohatu beamed deviously at the lioness beside him. "Sounds good to me."

"You two! Shh!" Karttiki whispered angrily. "Listen!"

Both Mohatu and Mari twitched backward for a split second, before remaining totally still. The voices of the lions below pierced through the silence of dawn.

"No... tell Rex they found it first. It's very important."

"Are you sure? What makes you so certain?"

"It was sitting right here! Those fools must have found it. Fortunately, I don't think they have any idea what this is..."

"Yeah, I guess... but what is it?"

"That's classified information."

"But I just want to know! You make it seem so important!"

"It's none of your business! You are under my command. You follow my orders, and that is all. Is that clear?"

"Ah, yes, Usama. I... ugh... meant no disrespect."

"The next time you question my orders, I will kill you personally."

"I understand... I'm sorry."

"I don't want your apologies, you pathetic sack of crap! Just act like the lion you're supposed to be, dammit! Now go on!"

Karttiki interjected with a quiet but bitter tone. "I think I've heard enough. It's no wonder they haven't killed us yet... they're too busy threatening each other."

"Seems like it," Mari added.

"Either way, I guess we're not going to hear anything important," her mother replied, sounding rather disappointed. Karttiki then faced Mohatu and nodded. "Now's the time."

As Usama lowered his head to the ground to pick up the key of Algenubi in his mouth, a loud boom shook the ground below his heavy paws. The trio of lions jumped down from the hill behind him.

"Put it down," Mohatu demanded simply.

Usama turned his back around and flattened his ears. As his eyes met Mohatu, the artifact he carried in his mouth flew out and fell into a pile of ashes. "WHAT?"

"There, that's better," Mohatu scowled as he approached his opponent cautiously.

With a sudden, unexpected burst of energy, the lion slashed Mohatu across his face with fury. "You freaking IDIOT!"

Mohatu roared, raising his left forepaw to block the strike. Unfortunately, his quick reflexes only managed to soften the blow to his skull, not prevent it. The lion was left feeling slightly dazed, and backed away cautiously.

"...nobody tells me what to do!" Usama roared, before pouncing onto Mohatu with his teeth and claws exposed.

Mohatu retracted the weight from his forepaws. For a split second, he managed to balance on his hind legs, until the two beasts clashed in midair. Both lions leaned forward, pressing against one another with all their strength.

The two were evenly matched, as neither was able to gain a distinct advantage. The roars of their epic struggle could be heard throughout the scorched jungle, and echoed loudly across the riverside mountains.

Mohatu shifted to his right, and allowed his opponent to push him back. It was a risky move, but it had the potential to give him an instant kill if he could align himself properly.

Consequently, the other lion fell forward. As Usama's forepaws crashed down on the ground beside Mohatu, the former combatant realized his mistake.

For a single moment, Usama's jugular vein was exposed to Mohatu's jaw. He had no way to protect himself. If Mohatu was fast enough to make the strike, the kill would be his.

Mohatu bit down, hoping for nothing less than to hit the critical area. Before he could sink his incisors deep into his opponents neck, Usama began to thrash about violently.

Usama was too strong. It was apparent that he simply had too much energy. The opponent was even able to swat his forepaw around, and knock Mohatu violently onto his back.

The lion spent the second afterward gathering his balance back on his paws, trying desperately to minimize his sudden disadvantage. While Usama possessed the lion's share in terms of speed, Mohatu discovered he held a small edge of his own.

Despite the fact that his eyes were closed for an instant, he was able to predict his attacker's movements with a near-terrifying degree of accuracy.

As the lion expected, his opponent seized the opportunity to strike again with a powerful grappling attack. Mohatu watched intently as the large lion lunged toward him.

Out of mere instinct, Mohatu jumped to the side to evade, before kicking his attacker off balance with a strike of his own.

A sudden realization dawned on the victorious lion, as he eyes followed Usama's fall to the ground. His muscles instinctively knew how to react in the heat of battle. It was as if he had trained his whole life to be a warrior—the art of combat seemed strangely familiar, to say the least.

He inched toward the fallen lion slowly, keeping his guard up and his wits on edge. As Usama tried to get up, Mohatu fixed his eyes on the leader's jugular once again.

A surge of adrenaline flowed through Mohatu's forepaws, and with a single strike, the lion ravaged through the upper body his opponent. His left paw shredded into Usama's shoulder, while his right paw gouged the victim's eyes. Of course, this was while his teeth punctured deep into the lion's protective mane, which began to absorb a significant amount of blood that would have gone to Usama's head.

Suddenly, the lion ceased to resist. Usama's body collapsed to the ground, kicking up a small cloud of dust.

Usama the lion was dead. As a direct result, the attack on Mohatu's pride lost all hope.

Realizing that he had been breathing far too heavily, Mohatu let out a sigh of relief. He took a step back from the carcass, before glancing across the black valley.

Mohatu shifted his focus to the other four lions fighting around him. Mari and Karttiki were holding their own against the other two adversaries, but as their leader fell to the ground, it was more than evident that the tide of the battle had changed.

Both of Usama's minions stared at Mohatu with puzzled expressions of awe and disbelief. They seemed to lose the ability to adequately defend themselves.

The blood of Mohatu's opponents spilled in the moments that followed. Even without his help, it was an utter massacre.

Of all weapons, none have more potential than the mind.


--- --- ---


As Busar nearly reached the cave, a deafening roar penetrated through the thick, smoky atmosphere. The clamorous rumbling sound managed to shake even the mountains themselves.

The old lion stopped walking. He twisted his head around, only to glance at his long, morning shadow.

A second, continuous roar boomed across the valley of the cave. It was not a call for help, nor was it a cry of pain. It was Mohatu's blissful declaration of victory.

Not to Busar's surprise, his pride had won the day. The lion gazed into the rising sun, which hung visibly above the bleak, mountainous horizon. Despite the destruction that was brought to the jungle, a small glimmer of hope was literally rising from the ashes.

The roars continued to echo without end, spreading through every adjacent chasm and valley. The sound only grew louder, until it was nearly loud enough to travel all the way to the Pridelands.

Finally caving in to the primitive instincts of a lion, Busar inhaled heavily, before adding his own voice to the harmonious thunder. For the first time in years, the hearts of each feline in the jungle were filled with a brief but beatific sense of pride.

Before the roars terminated into a void of silence, the flame of the last burning log fizzled out. Glaring beyond it, Busar noticed the blood-soaked bodies of three lions.

"Maybe Rex will think twice before attacking like that again." Mari thought aloud, throwing her paw into the air. It was unlike her to make such a comment, but the euphoria of actually winning a fight lifted her spirits through the sky and beyond.

Mohatu slapped Mari's paw with his own, grinning widely as he gave her a high-five. "Y'hear that, Rex? THIS IS OUR JUNGLE!"

Busar stepped closer, until Mohatu, Mari, and Karttiki noticed his presence.

"We actually did it," Mari nodded, carrying a heavy smirk. "Usama is dead, and we've got the key!"

Busar sighed, before lowering his head and tail to the ground.

"Ugh... is something wrong?" Mari inquired suddenly. Her ears twitched slightly as the lioness's tail shifted to mirror Busar's.

As he answered the lioness's question, his voice began to fall apart. "Narisah is hurt, and we're going to have to find somewhere else to go."

Within an instant, Mari's eyes shot open. "Oh... well... how bad is it?"

"I think we're going to have to leave her behind," the old lion stated wistfully.

"What? No! We can't..." Mari retorted, with a distinct tone of animosity towards the idea.

Karttiki gulped, but otherwise kept quiet.

The other lion was far more decisive. "Don't worry, we'll think of something," Mohatu added convincingly.

He then looked behind his tail, taking note of the three dead bodies. "Should we throw the carcasses in the river?" he asked. "They might wash up somewhere else, and Rex won't be able to figure out where the battle was."

Mari's mother rejected the idea. "I... don't think that's going to work. There were too many of them. I wouldn't be surprised if at least one escaped... and besides, with the trees gone, there's nowhere to hide. We're sitting ducks."

The old lioness paused for a moment before continuing. "Not to mention that Rex is probably going to figure out what we did anyway. We can't just fool him like that."

Busar added his thoughts as well. "We can't risk it. We're going to have to move North, into the Outlands now. There's a few deserted spires we can hide in, and plenty of termites to eat."

Mohatu quivered in disgust at the thought. His pride was such a nutty bunch. Termites? Did he really hear Busar say that? It seemed about as appetizing as eating regurgitated manure.

"Well..." Mari raised a paw, breaking the silence with another suggestion. "What if we move West to Bangweulu island, instead? It would be farther away from the Pridelands, and certainly farther from Rex's territory."

"Heh..." Busar scowled. "No."

The other lion shook his head. "What's wrong with Bangweulu island?" Mohatu asked curiously.

"There's a pride of nipheads there," Mari retorted. "But, when it comes down to nipheads or termites... I'll go with nipheads."

"Uhh... nipheads?"

"They're a bunch of hopeless, scummy lowlifes," Karttiki interjected with a deep grimace. "They're despicable, really."

"They're catnip addicts," Busar explained.

Mohatu tried to force a laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. Would his pride really rather live in a termite mound, than with a few drugged cats?

In fact, life on an island didn't sound all that bad of an idea to him. "Y'know, I think we all deserve some catnip after a night like that," he chuckled lightly.

"Wait, you're kidding, right?" Karttiki asked. "That stuff is dangerous. You know, in large doses, it can erase all your memories and wipe away your entire identity. A little more exposure than that, and it kills even the toughest of lions."

"Relax, it was just a joke," Mohatu replied, seeing that Karttiki had interpreted his statement a bit too literally.

Meanwhile, Mari began pacing forward slowly, looking away only for a split second. "Come on," she sighed. "We need to figure out what we're going to do. Narisah needs our help."

"Okay, okay... but you said Bangweulu is an island?" Mohatu asked, beginning to follow the other three lions back to Five Rocks.

"Yeah, that's the only problem," Mari responded. "I mean, it's good if we can get across it, but that in itself is a bit of a challenge."

"How hard could it be?" the lion asked with a striking amount of ignorance.

"It's not rough or deep water," Karttiki explained. "It's the crocodiles you have to watch out for."

"Hmm... well, what if we used one of these charred logs to float across?" the brown lion suggested.

"That's not going to help," the old lioness insisted. "It's just a bad idea, no matter what."

Mari looked up to her mother. "Outlands it is, then?"

"Yeah..."

"Damn," Mohatu hissed under his tongue. The jungle was bad enough, but a termite infested motel? Ridiculous! Preposterous! It was absurd, if not asinine. On second thought, asinine only began to scratch the surface of the stupidity of that idea.

"Busar is right," Karttiki admitted. "It's our best option."

"Alright, alright... fine," Mohatu agreed, though his only intention was to end the conversation temporarily.


--- --- ---


After the lions had ascended up several rocks, the remaining three felines could be seen through a thinning cloud of smoke and ash. Of course, they had heard the roars of Mohatu's success, but they were unaware of the plans for the next stage.

Irena was the first to greet the four.

The lioness swept a burnt twig away with her paw, before closing her eyes and dropping her tail. "She's got a nasty fracture in her left front paw, and her left hindleg looks mutilated as well," Irena told them. "There's no way she's going to be able to move without help..."

A jolting chill flowed under Mohatu's skin at the despair of the lioness's voice. He struggled to find his words. "That's... pretty bad..."

"We're going to have to leave her behind," Busar sighed in anguish. "There's only so much we can do."

Mari's eyes began to reflect the sunlight as they filled with water. "Of all the deaths we've seen... and to think, it just doesn't ever end."

Busar walked over to his mate, while Karttiki placed her paw on Mari's shoulder. Mohatu merely stood still, gazing into the charred mountains as he thought.

"What are we going to do?" Mari asked. "Are we really just going to leave her behind to die?"

The lioness's mother seemed to understand the necessity of the idea. "We need to leave. If we stay here, we'll be putting our lives in danger as well. It's for the best."

"There's gotta be a better way," Mohatu mumbled. The sheer hopelessness of the situation was beginning to drive him nuts. He had killed many opposing lions to protect his new pride, but he was worthless when it came to healing.

In essence, taking a life was easy. Yet, protecting one was a different matter entirely.

"I'm afraid there isn't," Mari said, almost at the point of crying. "You can't carry her to the Outlands, it's too far. And even then... what would she do once she's there? It's over..."

Ironically, Mari's perplexed state of mind was bothering Mohatu nearly as much. For a brief moment, he considered defying her and saying that he could help, but the golden-orange lioness had a point. Without the ability to walk, Narisah would surely die within a matter of days, regardless. That much was inevitable.

Mari turned away, then followed her head with a step of her paws. She began walking away from the pride, dragging a smooth line in the ashes with the end of her tail. "I'm tired... I can't do this right now," she groaned with an unusually high-pitched voice on the verge of tears.

Ironically, what bothered her the most was that she, herself, was responsible for the deaths of several adversaries. As heartbreaking as it was to have to leave a pride member behind, in the back of her mind, she knew her actions may have had the same effect on the families and friends of the attackers she claimed as her kills.

The lioness sat behind a rock, burying her face deep into her paws to hide from the grim reality. She couldn't even bear to look at Narisah's injuries or speak to her pride.

As her adrenaline rush faded away, she realized she was pathetic. The thought only repeated itself, exacerbating the situation even further.

She had fought gallantly, but it wasn't good enough. She knew her pride was in danger, but despite that obvious fact, the brutal reality of the situation had not occurred to her. Mari knew her pride was playing a risky move by fighting back against the kingdom, but she had forgotten just how risky it actually was.

That wasn't the way it played out in her mind. Mohatu was supposed to turn the tide of the war. The previous battle was supposed to be his battle to win. What good was a victory, if her pride did not survive to celebrate?

It was all completely meaningless. Mohatu only created a false sense of hope.

The same, continuous loathing thoughts filled the lioness's mind well beyond her breaking point. Eventually, she drifted off to sleep in the early hours of the morning, while she was almost entirely secluded in her sorrows from the rest of her pride.


--- --- ---


Mohatu thought about following Mari away, but questioned whether or not his presence would be welcomed. Before he could decide, Karttiki began speaking to him.

"You should get some rest too," she suggested. "Tonight might be a good night to sneak past the Pridelands... provided that Mari is up to it."

"Huh?" Mohatu paused. "But weren't we going to wait for a storm?"

"That would be preferable, yes, but I think security is going to be pretty low tonight."

"What, because of the attack?"

"Possibly. But I was actually thinking Riza might be of some assistance."

Mohatu frowned initially at the idea. Bringing along a third lion would only take away from his dream of spending time with Mari.

To be honest, the entire idea almost seemed too good to be true, from the lion's simple point of view. Going on a secret mission, looking for some ancient crap, trying to kill some evil king, all with a pretty lioness that probably liked him—how much better could it possibly get than that?

It seemed like a sort of epic fantasy. There had to be a catch. This was that catch.

"Well, it would help, I guess..." Mohatu admitted.

The lioness continued to elaborate on her idea. "Riza probably knows those lands better than we do now. She should have no problem being able to get around the patrols, and especially at night... which means there isn't any sort of need to wait for a thunderstorm."

As Karttiki lectured at him, Mohatu caught a glimpse of the very lioness approaching in the corner of Mohatu's eye.

She heard her name and stepped closer. "Ugh... what were you saying?" Riza tried to grab Karttiki's attention.

"We have a very special job for you, if you're interested," the lioness began. "Do you know what it is Usama found in the cave?"

Riza shook her head. "No."

"Well, neither do we." Karttiki answered easily. "But we need to know."

"Uh-huh."

"The answers are probably buried somewhere in the Badlands." The lioness gestured towards Mohatu, before continuing. "Mohatu, here, has volunteered to sneak through the Pridelands to figure out what it is, along with a lioness named Mari. It would help out a lot of you went with them."

"I see," Riza replied nonchalantly.

"Have you ever heard of Lea Halalela?" Karttiki asked.

The other lioness sat still for a moment. "Lea Halalela?"

"You know?"

"Can't say I do," Riza clarified. "I know I've heard of it before, but I don't know what it is."

Despite not getting a definite answer, Karttiki proceeded to ask another question. "Well then, have you ever been to the Badlands?"

"A few times," the lioness replied. "Nothing but sand there, mostly."

"Actually, it doesn't matter," Karttiki corrected herself. "We're going to need all the help we can get, regardless. Are you in?"

The lioness pondered the proposition for a moment, before reluctantly accepting the offer. "I'll do it."

She then looked at Mohatu wearily. "I guess I owe you something, huh..."

Mohatu placed his paw gently above Riza's. "No... it's fine. You don't owe me anything."

As Karttiki nodded and began to walk away, Riza rubbed the top of her head under Mohatu's thick, dark mane. "Well, I appreciate what you did today," she admitted. "I thought I was going to die..."

Mohatu backed away out of surprise at first, but later accepted the lioness's embrace. "I was just doing what was right."

Riza looked upon him with glassy eyes. "I'm not going to forget that. We need more lions like you."

"Ugh... thanks," Mohatu replied humbly. "But, really. It was nothing." He then stretched his front paws out, and leaned back into a depression in the ashes.

"So... I guess we're leaving tonight," Mohatu muttered, in an attempt to change the subject.

"Fine by me," Riza said, backing away slightly. "No sense in sticking around here anymore."

The tawny lioness yawned before making herself comfortable on the ground, a respectful distance away from the lion. Obviously, Mohatu and Mari weren't the only lions that had spent most of the night awake.

"Besides, I could use a good nap anyway," she purred, closing her eyes happily.


--- --- ---


The remaining lions gathered mournfully around Narisah, just before she politely shooed them away.

"Could you... give us a few minutes?" the dying lioness asked heavily.

Busar nuzzled the back of his mate's head, while Irena picked up her cub and began to follow the other lionesses away, in accordance with Narisah's wishes.

"Busar..." she whispered slowly. "You need to get out of here."

A single tear fell from the old lion's eye, creating a damp spot on the lioness's shoulder. Intense emotions of sorrow flooded his heart, which prevented him from speaking as time continued to lapse afterward.

"Remember when we first met on the savannah, eight years ago?"

Busar closed his eyes. It was too painful for him to recall, but he could not remove the thoughts from his mind. "Yeah..." he answered softly with a sniff that was louder than his actual voice. "That was one of the best days of my life."

"We were so young," Narisah thought aloud.

"And so happy..." Busar added.

"Yeah," the pale lioness agreed. "I knew it would have to end someday..." she continued, beginning to drop tears as well.

Narisah then exerted herself to lean forward, pushing her nose directly against Busar's muzzle. Naturally, he returned a kiss, just as they had done many years before.

"But at least I get to say goodbye," the lioness added, after pulling away seconds later.

"No!" Busar squalled, rubbing his head into the lioness's fur. "I'm going to miss you so much."

Narisah wrapped her good paw around the lion's mane. "It's okay," she reassured her mate.

"You can't just-"

"Busar," she interrupted. "I may not always be with you, but I will always love you."

The lion nudged his head between Narisah's paws, while she rested her muzzle above his ears. Her gentle breathing pushed Busar's manefur back and forth across his head.

Nothing held either of the two from displaying their true feelings. It was their last moment together, and that thought was all that occupied their minds.

"I love you too," Busar replied.


--- --- ---


A/N: It kinda bothers me how everything in this chapter seems to skip around a bit, but I'm not sure how else to do it. There's sorta a lot of things going on at once, and the next chapter will basically be the same way.

Either way, it would be nice to hear some opinions on how the story is going so far. Creativity doesn't just spawn out of thin air. Not always, at least. :P

And, one last thing: I'm going to try to start updating this a bit more regularly from here on out. My goal is to be able to post a new chapter every week. That may or may not actually happen.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:12 am

chapter 8: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 8: The Start of a Journey


A gentle breeze pushed lightly against Karttiki's fur, as she gazed across the smoky horizon. For as far as she could see, not a single piece of vegetation had survived the inferno. The entire valley was charred.

As her eyes wandered down to the river, even farther below, she noticed something frightening: the cave that held Algenubi's tomb was no longer hidden.

It was left wide open, suddenly exposed to the harsh elements of nature, and in plain sight of any creature to wander near it. Prior to the burn, the many dense trees had shielded it from view, but this was no longer the case. The gaping hole in the valley now stood out even more than the lions, with their bright and tawny coats of fur.

It became obvious that the fire had another purpose. It was not just a scare tactic, or some crazy method to flush any trace of the pride away from Pride Rock forever. Rex's intention was to reveal what was truly inside the jungle.

A thorough search of the jungle would have taken the king months, but a search of the charred land could be completed in a fraction of that time. If that was his plan to begin with, it was pure genius.

Provided that Karttiki's realizations were true, it would mean an eventual encounter with the king himself, if her pride intended on staying in the jungle. While that was partially inevitable anyway, it still wasn't the happiest thought.

In all reality, if Rex was willing to destroy an entire ecosystem to reveal a simple key, there was little any lion could do to stop him.

That artifact was much more than a big hunk of shiny, reflective metals. In truth, she was only beginning to fathom the magnitude of its importance. It was something that Leo and Rex had figured out many moons ago, and they more than likely wanted to keep its significance a secret.

Despite her realizations, the lioness continued walking away from her pride. She was not passing by the cave simply for the sake of sightseeing.

Other, much heavier thoughts occupied Karttiki's mind. Narisah was approaching death, and her daughter was about to undertake the most dangerous mission she could imagine.

The following months would not be easy for any of the lions, but it was what was necessary. That had been decided long ago.

As she walked closer to the riverbed, the lioness spotted a small, green shrub with jagged leaves. While nearly every plant had been burned to the ground, the soil near the water was far too moist to combust. The small green plant was precisely what she came for.

It was catnip.

Karttiki used her claw to cut off a few leaves from the main stem of the rest of the plant. At the same time, she held her breath, trying not to inhale the strong scent that would cause her mind to go berserk with pleasure for several minutes.

The stem that held the leaves was gripped carefully between the lioness's pawtoes. Karttiki balanced on her other three limbs, while she held the plant with a slight wind at her back. Cautiously, she began walking back to Five Rocks, carrying the delicate bunch of leaves with her.

If she was going to leave Narisah behind to die, she was also going to make sure that the lioness spent her final moments in peace.

After all, Narisah deserved nothing less.


--- --- ---


Mohatu's eyes split open at a snail's pace, gradually allowing the light of midday to fill his vision. Although he had slept through several morning hours, the aforementioned light was hardly any brighter than a full moon.

Everything he saw was a bleak shade of gray. The strong, smoky scent of burnt vegetation was actually somewhat refreshing, but it was certainly not a worthy trade for a bright, sunny day.

In a strange way, it was nearly a perfect reflection of the bittersweet situation he faced. While the lion had his first taste of victory, he could hardly consider it as such. In truth, he failed. His home was reduced to ashes, and one of his own was on the verge of death.

Before his eyes snapped open fully, the lion's thoughts switched to the topic of Mari. He suspected she felt the same way about the situation, but she seemed to be taking the news much harder.

Perhaps it was because the two would be leaving their pride behind in search of Lea Halalela. Despite the fact that the adventure seemed like something to look forward to from Mohatu's point of view, the lioness may have had an entirely different outlook.

Regardless, she was apparently under a significant amount of stress. It was not difficult for him to imagine why she ran off like she did hours ago.

His first instinct was to find and comfort the lioness, but it did not take long for him to realize that he had absolutely no idea where she had gone, and much less of an idea what he would say if he found her. Yet, it did not stop him from attempting to look.

After finally deciding it was time to get up, the lion's paw stretched across the ashes, inadvertently bumping into Riza's stomach in the process.

As a result, the lioness beside him moaned as she rubbed a paw across her sleepy eyes. "Uuuugh... what time is it?" she asked drearily.

"No idea," Mohatu replied. "I can't even see the sun."

As the brown lion stretched his hind legs out behind him, his ears picked up on a slight rumble far off in the distance. "Did you hear that?"

"Sounds like thunder," Riza answered. "Which means it's probably earlier than you think it is."

"Yeah, well, if that's the case," Mohatu insisted, "we should really get moving."

Riza groaned, kneading at the dirt and ashes below her forepaws. "Why is that?"

"If it's about to rain, that will wash away our scent after we get through the Pridelands. We'll be virtually invisible."

"Okay, okay..." Riza acknowledged. The lioness rolled onto her back, and buried her head comfortably into a groove she made in the sand. "Just let me sleep for a few more minutes."

Meanwhile, Mohatu used his forepaw to wipe away a layer of dust that stuck to his mane. "That's fine," the lion replied. "I gotta go talk to Mari anyway. I'll be back soon."

With that, the lion trotted off in a seemingly random direction.

As Mohatu wandered, he passed by several hills, rocks, fallen logs and crispy black shrubs, but found no sign of Mari anywhere. He did, however, come across several other leonine creatures at Five Rocks.

As Mohatu approached Busar and his mate, Karttiki walked towards Five Rocks from the opposite direction. She was carrying something green in her left front paw, which stood out vibrantly.

"Here," Karttiki announced, setting her paw on the ground beside Narisah and releasing her grip on the plant. "You're gonna want some of this... it should help alleviate the pain."

The injured lioness inched closer toward the plant, eventually grabbing it with her healthy paw. She then pushed the nip towards her nose, before taking a deep breath.

Seconds later, Narisah's eyes closed while she sighed happily.

Busar waited for a brief moment, before nudging the back of her neck with his nose. "Is that better?" he asked softly, while trying to hide his tear-stained face from the other two lions.

Narisah used her paw to rub the plant all over her muzzle. Consequently, the lioness's purr increased in volume by several orders of magnitude. "I feel guuuuuud..." the lioness smiled back.

A final tear fell from Busar's eye as he nuzzled his mate for the last time.

Unfortunately, his moment was cut short by a rumble of distant thunder. The lion backed away sadly, but carried a warm smile on his face. "I love you," he whispered once again.

The lioness rubbed her head on the lion's paw. "Smimi si amevaa suruali..."

What Narisah said in response was unintelligible by any of the felines around her, but they could not question the obvious tone of happiness and contentment in her slurred voice.

Busar wiped his muzzle dry with the back of his paw, before glancing over towards Karttiki.

For the first time, Mohatu noticed a distinct intonation of sympathy in the lioness's voice as she spoke to Busar. "I know what it's like... but it'll get easier in time."

"How did you deal with it?" Busar asked, clearly referring to the death of Mari's father.

Karttiki placed her paw gently over Busar's and chuckled lightly. "I had a lot of nip..."

Meanwhile, Mohatu struggled to resist the sudden urge to burst out laughing from behind the two. Only a true nip addict would caution against the dangers of using it. It was irony at its finest.

"You were a nip addict?" Busar asked, almost not believing her.

"No, of course not." she replied easily. "I didn't need that much nip. I had Mari too."

Busar lowered his head to the ground sadly. "Yeah..."

As the three lions sat still, another boom of thunder shook the air, reminding them each of the situation ahead.

"It is time," Karttiki broke the silence. "...which means I guess I better go find Mari," she added, stepping away from the old lion beside her.

Busar continued to sit still, feeling rather melancholic given the circumstances of the situation. After some time, he called the other lion's name, showing little emotion in his voice. "Mohatu."

"Yes?" the younger lion asked.

"Come here," Busar requested.

Mohatu approached the elder lion slowly, before sitting down in the spot that Karttiki had made warm.

Busar was first to initiate the conversation. "You know Leo and Rex were my sons, right?"

"Yeah."

The older lion sighed. "So much of this is my fault. I really should have listened to them before they ran away." Busar paused for a moment, gathering his breath before continuing. "But they were young; they did not know better. They were not ready to face the horrors of war-"

"You mean, when they fought the hyenas?"

"Yes. And look what happened to them. Their hatred consumed them. They became so obsessed with being strong and powerful, that they were willing to kill us to become stronger."

"Uh-huh," Mohatu nodded.

"And look what they've done," the lion continued sadly. "That kingdom of theirs destroyed an entire ecosystem today... don't you ever forget that."

Mohatu gulped. "It's awful."

"Once you leave, you're going to see some ugly things... and survival will not be easy. But you cannot let it change who you are."

Mohatu nodded, while Busar continued his lecture. "I've been watching you over the past few days. I know you're a good lion at heart... but don't let all go to your head like it did to my sons. We need a savior now more than ever."

"Is there some greater meaning behind all this, or-" the lion began to ask. Busar only seemed to be rambling, and Mohatu was not entirely sure what the older lion said was even making sense.

"Remember what I've said. When you have to question who your loyalties lie with, you will know why I told you this."

"But," Mohatu almost scowled, interrupting the older lion. "I'm not sure I understand what you mean."

"That's okay," Busar replied. "You will understand someday."

However, Busar was afraid to mention what would happen if Mohatu didn't understand when he had to make the critical choice. The old lion merely held his breath instead, until he figured out how to conclude his speech. "As long as you are calm—at peace—you are following the right path."

"Well... ugh... thanks for the advice," Mohatu nodded.

"And, do not be afraid to talk to Mari if you need help," the lion added.

Mohatu's face began to turn pink under his fur, as he began to question how much Busar knew. Mohatu was rather embarrassed by the thought of any other lion knowing how he felt about her, although he tried his best to hide it.

"It seems you share a strong bond with her, which has formed unusually quickly. Be grateful of that." The old lion began to choke up as he continued. "It's a beautiful thing... while it lasts."

"Oh..." Mohatu muttered under his breath. He definitely knew.

"Is that all?" Mohatu asked, trying to change the subject without sounding impatient.

"All that I can remember, at least." The older lion nudged his paw into Mohatu's shoulder with encouragement. "I think you're ready."


--- --- ---


On the other side of the small mountain, Karttiki began searching for her daughter. If anyone knew where to find Mari, it would be her. She knew precisely where to look, guided only by the simple intuition of a mother.

"Mari?" the older lioness called softly. On second thought, she actually had no idea where to find the younger one, given that all her favorite places were reduced to ashes.

Fortunately, Mari heard her mother's call.

The orange lioness placed her weight on three of her paws, while rubbing her eye open with the other.

"Mari?" the older lioness called again.

"I'm awake," she grunted sleepily.

Hearing her daughter's voice, Karttiki managed to find the nest of ashes that Mari was sleeping in only seconds before. Right beside it, her eyes met the outline of a big, golden-orange cat.

"Are you ready to..." the elder lioness began to ask, before struggling to speak the words she intended. Her depressed tone of voice was enough to convey the actual meaning of her unfinished question.

"Already?" Mari asked. Her question was mostly rhetorical; she knew the timing would be perfect. She only wanted to deny it.

"...yeah."

The younger lioness sighed heavily. "So, this is it, then?"

Karttiki stepped closer. "I'm afraid so," she whispered.

"I don't know... I'm not sure I'm ready for this," Mari admitted.

"Neither am I," her mother replied. Yet, as she continued to speak, Karttiki's voice suddenly increased in strength. "But, when our paths cross again, we'll be back in the Pridelands... and this will all be over."

"If we ever meet again-"

"Mari," Karttiki interrupted. She knew why the lioness was worried, but she also knew that her daughter gravely underestimated her own abilities.

The entire plan was her idea to begin with. It was, perhaps, the most brilliant idea in the entire history of lionkind, even if it seemed a little bit absurd.

Leo and Rex were able to create a kingdom, but obviously the young lioness had learned quite a bit from growing up with the two. Mari never received the same level of attention they did, but in the eyes of her mother, she was just as capable, if not more so.

The older lioness repeated something she had told Mari long ago. "There comes a time in every lion's life when a very special opportunity arises—a chance to do something extraordinary, something unique, and something perfectly fitted to her talents—a chance to leave behind a legacy."

"No matter what happens from here, you've already done that," Karttiki continued.

"Wuh... what? How?" Mari asked.

"Without you, we all would have died today."

"It was mostly Mohatu that-"

"But saving him was your idea," Karttiki smiled.

Mari shrugged slightly. "I guess."

"Even if Mohatu becomes the next king, this is going to work out for us. What better strategy is there, than to have kings fighting one another?"

Mari cocked an eyebrow. "How is that better? We need to end the fighting, not make it worse."

Karttiki smiled. "That's why you're ready."

"What do you mean?" Mari asked, almost shocked by her mother's reaction.

"I was thinking about this a lot last night," her mother explained. "You are much more wise than you think you are."

Mari began to chuckle lightly, looking away. "Yeah... I guess."

"Both Leo or Rex thought they were the prophets, but I know you have a role in this somehow. When the kingdom crumbles to the ground, it will be, in no small part, because of you."

"And if it doesn't, that will also be because of me," Mari retorted.

"Well, I'd rather not think of it that way," Karttiki forced a laugh. She wrapped her paw around her daughter's neck, bringing her into an enormous lion hug. "You've already done much more than the rest of us combined, and I'm very proud of you."

The younger lioness began to purr quietly. After several seconds passed, the two separated for what they both knew could be the last time.

"Just do your best," Karttiki added. "You can't do more."

"I'll try," Mari nodded sadly.

While the orange lioness began to walk away, she was stopped by her mother, one last time.

"Hey," Karttiki called, waiting for Mari to turn around before continuing. "Good luck out there. If anything happens... you know where to find us."

The lioness gulped heavily. "Godspeed."


--- --- ---


Back at the now-scorched location of Five Rocks, several ominous storm clouds gathered behind the eastern jungle mountains, over the Pridelands. The faint rumbling of thunder was barely audible from the pride's former haven.

A few paces away, two lions stood atop a small hill, overlooking the devastated landscape below.

Mohatu turned around to face the creature behind him. His eyes met the black orbs of a saddened lioness.

"I... uh... think it's time," Mari whispered. "If we leave now, that should put us at Zulu falls shortly before sunrise. It'll be perfect."

Mohatu, however, did not seem to comprehend her words.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, noting Mohatu's unusual lack of response.

"I could ask you the same," Mohatu replied, sensing the distress in Mari's voice as well as his own. "But I'm fine really. I was just thinking... about what we might find," he responded with a tone of curiosity.

"And?" Mari asked.

"I saw something in a dream last night. It was just... rather odd."

Mari's ears perked with a rush of fascination. "Interesting."

"It's probably nothing," Mohatu replied.

"Perhaps..." the lioness speculated. "I... I'm not entirely sure. When clouds start to talk, who knows what's really going on."

"Yeah," Mohatu sighed in agreement. "Well, first things first, we need to cross the Pridelands... and it looks like we should probably get going," he said, attempting to bring his mind into focus on more immediate concerns.

"I guess you're right," Mari replied sadly. "Let's go."

The brown lion scanned the horizon for the third and final member of their party. "Riza!" Mohatu called. "We're leaving now!"

The lion then turned back to face Mari. "I'll follow you," he affirmed.

The lioness twitched her tail. "Wait, we're taking her with us?" Mari asked.

"Yeah."

"I guess that's a good idea," Mari replied, shrugging slightly.

The two lions waited on that same hill, watching the bleak horizon with thunderheads above and scorched land below. The lightning strikes far off into the distance were nearly as bright as the late afternoon sunlight, that was obscured by the dense clouds of ash.

"Did you tell them we're leaving now?" Mohatu asked, while the duo waited patiently for Riza to join up.

"They should be leaving too, actually," Mari answered. "If not now, very soon."

"Hmm... it just seems like we're forgetting something," Mohatu added.

"That would probably be lunch," the lioness replied with a growling stomach. "It's too bad charcoal isn't very appetizing."

Mohatu laughed. "You mean you've actually tried it before?"

The lioness rolled her eyes while an odd smile formed across her muzzle. "You wouldn't believe the weird things we did as cubs."

"If eating fire-dirt was one of them, then you're probably right. I guess that explains the whole insectivore thing too?"

Mari chortled as several cubhood memories surfaced into her consciousness. "You don't want to know about that."

"Apparently," Mohatu replied.

He then turned away for a moment, looking for the other lioness. "Riza!"

"I'm here," she announced, while she trotted up the hill. "Let's go."

"I just know we're forgetting something," Mohatu said.

He had neither his wallet, nor his keys, but both were largely irrelevant and unfamiliar to a lion. He was, however, forgetting the key.

"The key! That's it. What are we going to do with it?" the brown lion asked.

"It would be rather difficult to bring it with us," Mari answered. "I kinda thought the whole idea was for the others to hide the key. There's no way we're ever walking into the Pridelands with it. It needs to be as far away from Rex as possible."

"Are you sure?" Mohatu asked, twitching his nose as a fly landed on it.

"Yeah, they'll take it with them. It'll be fine."

"Alright then," Mohatu nodded. "I guess we're ready."

With those simple words, their ambitious journey had officially begun.

Mohatu took a deep breath before making his first step toward the Pridelands. It was a small step, especially for a lion his size, but its affects would be felt for generations to come.

"Mohatu?" Riza called, while sharing a bewildered expression with Mari.

"Uhh... what?" he asked, wondering why the two lionesses were looking at him with such odd expressions.

"The Pridelands is that way," Mari chuckled, nodding in the complete opposite direction.

"Oh. I knew that," Mohatu lied.


--- --- ---


A/N: This chapter is a little bit shorter than I wanted it to be, but I sorta figured this was a really good stopping point, so I'm going to end here.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:14 am

chapter 9: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 9: The Return Home


Several minutes passed by in silence, as the trio made their journey across the annihilated jungle landscape. The moist, smoky air almost seemed to be unusually quiet, without any strange noises from the jungle's few exotic birds and insects.

Between the soft steps of the lions and the steady roar of the Zuberi river, Mohatu could almost hear the sounds of battle from the night before. Usama's final roars echoed in the lion's mind, ringing through his consciousness.

As he began to feel the familiar heat of flame gathering on his coat of fur, he shook his head slightly, trying to clear his thoughts.

Suddenly, a brisk wind caught the brown lion's attention. He realized he felt free.

"You know, it feels kinda good to get out," Mohatu exclaimed optimistically, attempting to spark a conversation.

Although the reality of seeing the jungle in such a condition of despair never faded away, the lion was more than happy to be leaving, after all.

"Yeah," Mari nodded. "But I'd feel a lot better if no lion wanted us dead."

Mohatu chucked. "True."

Riza gulped, as the brighter lioness's comment reminded her of a thought she tried to forget. "I guess that goes for me as well," she added softly.

Riza was now resisting the unstoppable juggernaut known as the lion kingdom, and it was no surprise to the other two lions that she was only beginning to come to terms with that idea.

But she had seen Mohatu fight, and nothing terrified her more than having to face off against a lion of his level. Remembering the lion's bravery was all it took to ease her mind. If any lion could stand up to the king, it would be him.

Yet, Mohatu's presence was not the only thought that calmed her. As the lioness took a quick glance at her surroundings, the sight of a small, charred mammal made its way into her focus.

"Hey, look over there!" Riza alerted the other two. "I think I found lunch."

Mari and Mohatu followed the lioness's gaze to a lump on the horizon. It was a dead and toasted animal, no larger than a lion cub.

"Looks like a dead lemur... or something. I'm not sure what that is," Mari said.

"Whatever," Riza interjected. "It's food."

Mari stepped closer to the barbecued animal, examining the wounds carefully before lowering her head to smell it. She unsheathed one of her claws, cutting off three chunks of meat from the carcass, each of equal size.

"There," she announced. "We each get a third."

Mohatu shrugged slightly at the thought. "Actually, you can have my piece," he offered generously. For some odd reason or another, he was much happier knowing that Mari had enough to satisfy her appetite.

"You need to eat, Mohatu," she replied, sounding slightly worried. "You look like you've lost about a quarter of your weight since I found you."

Leaning back down, Mari bit off a large chunk and swallowed it whole, while she moved aside so Riza could grab her third.

"You said you were hungry," Mohatu added. "Besides, I can wait."

Mari swallowed the remaining piece of her share before picking up the last third between her teeth. She then turned around, carrying the chunk of meat to the stubborn lion.

With hesitation, Mohatu submitted to his desires and began munching on the meat Mari had dropped on his forepaws.

"You haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon, and there's no telling when we'll have our next meal," Mari reminded him.

"Mmm hmmm..." Mohatu nodded gratefully, savoring every bit of taste that he could. When he finished, the three continued their journey without further discussion.


--- --- ---


As the lions continued to walk, the surrounding air became increasingly moist with each passing second. It had a strange, sticky and sweet smell, which managed to somehow make all three lions very uncomfortable. Before they even got to the ford at the Zuberi river, the mist had already transformed into a light rain.

But, eventually, the three lions made it to the first landmark on the way to their destination. The river was the only obstacle between the jungle and the Pridelands.

Mari paused, studying the rapid flow of water carefully before attempting to walk through the ford. "This... might be a bad idea."

"It's deeper than it usually is, but I don't see the problem," Mohatu replied, scratching his mane with his forepaw.

"Our family has a history of dying from natural causes. That primarily includes drowning in flash floods and falling off cliffs," Mari protested. "Only Leo and Rex were able to change that trend."

"Then we'll cross quickly," Mohatu suggested.

"That doesn't seem like a wise idea," the stubborn lioness retorted, much more serious in her tone of voice.

Riza rolled her eyes while the other two began to argue. "You know, I think I'm with Mohatu on this one. It's just a river. No big deal, really."

"No, you don't understand," Mari replied. "It might not be raining here, but all that water that's falling in the Pridelands right now is going to come here." The lioness scowled, preparing to back away from the river's edge before continuing. "In fact, we probably shouldn't even be standing so close."

"It's just water," Riza sighed with impatience.

"But it moves very fast."

Although Mohatu was not necessarily worried about being caught in a flash flood, he easily picked up the tone of distress in Mari's voice. "Actually, you have a point," he admitted.

"What, do you not know how to swim or something?" Riza asked, almost condescendingly. From her point of view, the two were simply being ridiculous.

Mohatu did not want to argue. Instead, he turned to Mari with an idea. "Get on my back."

"What?" Mari asked, flicking her tail in bewilderment.

"Just do it," Mohatu insisted.

Mari walked behind the lion, and proceeded to climb on top of him. "If you insist..." she muttered.

Seconds later, her forepaws were wrapped safely around the lion's mane, while she rested her bodyweight on her underside, which was pressed against his spine. "I'm ready."

"And how is this supposed to help?" Riza asked.

"Mari's weight should make it easier to walk through," Mohatu explained with the lioness on his back. "And that is faster than swimming."

"This is ridiculous," Riza complained.

Mohatu turned his head to the side, clearly unable to deny Riza's statement as he began dragging his paws onto the riverbed. He knew carrying Mari on his back wasn't exactly for practical reasons, but he pretended it was.

This was as close as Mari had ever been to him—as close as she would ever allow. If not for the unpleasant weather, he would have savored every moment of it.

The weight of Mari pressing down on his back forced his paws into the rocks, allowing him to easily grip the bottom despite having most of his body underwater.

However, having the lioness on top of him also slowed his pace down significantly. He dragged his paws through the fast moving water for what felt like an eternity, only barely managing to keep his nose above the waterline.

Once again, it wasn't necessarily one of his better ideas.

After nearly a minute, Mohatu walked back on shore and Mari let go, leaping onto the mushy, wet ground. The two turned around to find Riza still standing on the other side of the river.

"Was I supposed to make a second trip?" Mohatu asked with a tone of both amusement and irritation.

Riza scowled, obviously having regretted speaking her comment. "No," she answered simply, as she began to tread into the water.

The violent flow of water pushed her around, and the lioness struggled to keep her head up. When she finally reached the other side, both Mohatu and Mari had walked several paces parallel to the river's sweeping current to meet her.

"Any idea where we go from here?" Mohatu asked, grabbing Riza's paw to help the lioness up.

Mari was first to answer the lion's question. "North. We'll be lucky to be out of the Pridelands before tomorrow morning."

Mohatu took a quick glance around at the unimpressive, gloomy horizon. "So this is the Pridelands? It doesn't seem like all it's cracked up to be, to me."

Mari pointed to the east. "On a clear day, if you look out there, you can sometimes see a faint, pointy mountain in the distance."

The male lion squinted his eyes for a moment, but saw no farther than a few paces ahead with the smog and rain.

"That's pride rock," the golden lioness continued. "That was our home. As you go farther that way, the land becomes nothing but beautiful, lush savannah with more zebra and giraffe than you could ever imagine. We had elephants, gazelles, and rhinos too..."

The lioness breathed heavily before speaking again. "It feels like it's been years since I've walked on these grasses, but it's really only been weeks."

"Wait, this was your home?" Riza asked, interrupting the lioness slightly.

"Well... not exactly," Mari answered. "My family was actually from the drier, rockier half of the Serengeti. We moved to the Pridelands when I was very young. I grew up here, though."

Mari began walking North, away from the river, while the rain started to pour down at a much quicker rate. As the other two followed behind, Mohatu asked the lioness further questions to pass the time.

"Why did you abandon your true home?" the lion inquired.

"Actually..." Mari pondered the question for an unusually long amount of time. "I'm not sure that I know the true reason. I guess it's because there weren't a lot of lions where we were."

"How many were there?"

"Well, I don't know," Mari answered. "I know there were a few other lions, but I also remember none of them being my age. I was the only cub."

"Makes sense, I guess," Mohatu nodded.

"And, at that time, the Pridelands were a much better place to be. There was plenty of food and water, so no one really cared about anything," she explained.

A happy smile began to form across Mari's face. "That was the good life. No rules, no worries... just right."

"Seems like it," Riza replied.

"Yep."

As the trio continued, the winds only grew stronger. Every minute, lightning would strike nearby as well, shaking the entire savannah violently with a deep booming sound. Despite the awful conditions, they continued to march directly into the eye of the intense storm, which was seeded and fueled by the jungle inferno.

"This is getting pretty bad," Mohatu groaned, squinting his eyes in the wind as raindrops shot almost horizontally into his face. "Do you think we should find shelter?" the lion asked.

"There's no time for that," Mari answered. "Just keep moving!"

"Okay, but I think-" Mohatu began, as his voice was interrupted by the crackling sound of nearby thunder. With a sudden bright flash and a deafening boom that followed, all three lions became slightly paranoid. The storm was ravaging the entire Serengeti, unlike anything that had ever been seen by a lion before.

"I think we should wait for the storm to pass," Mohatu continued.

"And get caught by Rex? Not a chance. We have to keep moving."

"If you say so," the lion retorted, dragging his paws through a rough, messy sea of mud.

As awful as the storm was, it indeed had the major benefit of keeping the trespassers hidden. When Mohatu glanced over at the other two lions, he couldn't even see them with all the water pouring down.

It was cold, wet, nasty, and brutal, but they each persisted.

After several moments, the strongest cell of the storm passed over. The clouds to the left, from across another river, barely obscured less and less of the bright orange sun from view as the minutes passed by. Not only was the storm breaking up, but the giant, glowing ball of light was going down as well.

"It's going to be a long night," Mohatu sighed.

"It will be," Mari nodded in agreement. "But at least we get to watch the sunset tonight."

"Ummm..." Riza interrupted hesitantly. "You realize that's a bad thing, right?"

"Once we get to Zulu falls, we'll be safe," Mari explained. "This rain should be able to hide our scent until we get that far. Once we're there, we can stop and rest, and we'll be out of the Pridelands in the early hours of the morning."

"Zulu falls?" Riza asked. Her eyes widened for a moment. "We might have to go farther than that."

"Look, as long as we don't run into any patrols in the morning, it'll be fine," Mari replied.

"I suppose I could help with that," the other lioness agreed. "Zulu falls it is then."

"What's so special about Zulu falls?" the male lion asked, beginning to feel left out of the loop, to some extent.

"There's a cave behind the waterfall," Mari answered. "The only reason why I know about it is because Rex pushed me into that waterfall one time. Unless you walk through, though, it's pretty hard to find."

A quiet laugh escaped Mohatu's muzzle. "It's amazing how that happens. No one ever discovers anything good intentionally. It's always an accident."

"Usually," Mari grinned.

As time passed in silence, the sun fell beyond the horizon in its entirety. Simultaneously, the light drizzle of rain that fell from above ceased, leaving only enormous puddles of water and mud under the grasses.

Mohatu began to yawn. The walk was getting to be incredibly tedious with each passing step. This was, of course, aside from the fact that the lion's intense hunger and lack of energy only served to exacerbate the situation.

"I'm getting kinda tired," Mohatu spoke up amongst the crickets.

"Me too," Mari replied.

Mohatu tried to think of ways to keep himself busy before collapsing to the ground, but failed to generate any mildly interesting ideas. "Have any jokes to pass the time?" he asked dully.

"Not that I can think of," the golden lioness answered.


"I have one," Riza began. "It's kinda racist though."

"I don't really care," Mohatu replied monotonically.

"Alright, then. There's these two blonde lions, and they walk into a bar..."

Mohatu waited for a second. "And?"

"They walk into a bar..."

"But then what?" Mohatu asked, waiting for her to continue the story.

Riza began to smirk. "What do you mean? They walked into a bar. It hurt."

"That may just be the cheesiest joke I've ever heard," Mari interjected, looking away while rolling her eyes.

"At least you actually tried," Mohatu added. "I've got nothing."

When Mari's eyes wandered across the horizon, her mind was flooded with memories of her past.

Moments later, her gaze returned to the other two lions, while she consequently let out a depressed sigh. "Wow," she muttered, after her mind had switched to an entirely different topic.

"What?" asked both Riza and Mohatu.

Mari used her forepaw to point to an enormous tree. "You see that big acacia tree over there?"

Mohatu and Riza looked beyond Mari, and spotted what vaguely resembled a tree protruding from the savannah. Under the cover of night, it was rather difficult to determine what loomed on the horizon without the moon's illumination. Unfortunately, the brightest light in the night sky stayed hidden behind the remnants of the anvil-shaped thunderheads.

"I used to sleep up there, sometimes," Mari continued. "It was the best tree in the Pridelands."

"Looks pretty cozy," Mohatu replied with a lazy smile across his face.

"It was."

"Wish I could have grown up in a place like this," the other lioness replied softly.

Suddenly, Riza's comment reminded Mari of something else. "Actually," Mari began, "there was something I wanted to ask you."

Mari paused for a moment, trying to find the most polite way to phrase her question. "Since you're not... from here... how did you get involved in Rex's kingdom? What happened there?"

"Leo conquered my pride," the other lioness explained uneasily. "It just sorta... happened."

"And you didn't-" Mari began to ask, before being cut off.

"What was I going to do? He promised us opportunity... a better life, really. He made it seem like he was making history with the whole 'lion kingdom' idea."

The lioness turned her head away in shame, feeling guilty and stupid for ever having believed the lies. "But that's not what really happened. Sure, he brought us to the Pridelands after that, but glory only came to those who could kill, and were willing to kill for him. Usama was a prime example of that."

"I'm sorry to hear that... but it is interesting," Mari muttered.

"Mhm?" the other lioness asked, cocking her eyebrow.

"Well... I don't know. We're trying to figure out what happened to Leo and Rex when they left the Pridelands, and what their motives were for creating the kingdom."

"I'm not the lion to ask," Riza admitted. "I didn't know him personally."

"Leo was like a brother to me... then he just left. I never saw him again, until he returned as the king," the orange lioness explained sorrowfully.

"I don't know what would have happened to him," Riza added. "Your guess is better than mine."

Mari nodded, before changing the subject. "Well, at any rate, we should be getting closer to Zulu falls. It can't possibly be that much farther from here."

Riza glanced up at the layer of clouds, which gradually became thinner as the storm broke up into smaller and lighter fragments. When her eyes fell back to the horizon, she proceeded to ask Mohatu a question. "Well... what about you?"

"What about me?" Mohatu inquired.

"I mean, where are you from?" the lioness clarified.

"Leo and Rex killed my family. I guess I'm just a rogue now... I got swept up in this whole thing too. There's not really much more to remember than that."

Riza did not find it hard to believe what he had said, and simply nodded. "Must have been pretty hard," she thought aloud.

"The whole situation seems to be pretty hard for everyone," Mohatu replied.

In all reality, the loss hardly even mattered to him after all he had been through. After finding Mari, discovering the key of Algenubi, and facing Usama's siege head-on, he had almost completely forgotten about his true family.

But before he could even try to remember, the lion's thought was distracted by the whisper of an orange lioness.

"Shh! Can you hear that?" Mari interrupted. Either she was imagining things, or she began to hear the steady, uninterrupted roar of the waterfall over the chattering of the other two.

"Hear what?" Mohatu asked.

"That's gotta be it. That's Zulu falls up ahead!"

"It's about time," Mohatu sighed in relief.

"Okay," Mari began, walking up to the very edge of the river. "Just follow me. I'll show you where the secret den is."

Mohatu and Riza stepped back, forming a line behind Mari. The other two scowled when she leaped into the cold, glassy water, but followed soon after.

The three treaded water at a comfortable pace, until they reached the base of the waterfall. At that point, Mari ducked her head under, and began swimming under the rocky cliff itself.

Suddenly, a cavity filled with air came into Mari's vision, under the cliff. The orange lioness pulled herself up out of the water, and into the secret den. With the exception of a small crack being open to the outside world, it was almost completely secluded.

While Mari shook the water out of her fur, the other two lions pulled themselves up as well.

"Jeez, it's dark in here!" Mohatu exclaimed, noticing the lack of any sort of light before anything else.

"And cold!" Riza added, shivering.

Mari stopped to look back at her freezing companions. "Still, it's as good a place as any."

The lioness quietly stepped beside the other two and lay down on the hard, cold, and rocky surface. A heavy sigh accompanied Mari's thoughts as she took a moment to relax.

"I wonder how they're doing..." she whispered, obviously referring to what little remained of her pride. Her voice was incredibly soft; to the point where she began to ask herself whether or not the other two even heard her.

Judging by their lack of reactions, they never did.

As she looked back at the events that morning, a surge of pain swept through her heart. She had left Narisah behind to die, without ever bothering to see the lioness one more time. Somehow, she had forgotten.

It was a difficult time for every lion in her pride, but Mari could not shake the feeling that she should have done more to help. She ran off and left them in a time of need. Even though they all agreed, it still felt wrong.

Perhaps her guilt was not a result of making the wrong decision. After all the time she spent in the jungle, she was finally home. Yet, she started to feel like she had just left home.

Her home was with her pride. Her pride was a day's walk away.

The lioness held her head up for a moment, unintentionally revealing her expression of sorrow to the felines beside her.

Mohatu glanced over, but was unsure of what to tell the dejected lioness. Heck, he was hardly even sure what was bothering her, although it was hardly a challenge to think of a few possibilities.

"I'm sure everything will be fine," he muttered with a lazy, sleepy tenderness.

"Yeah..." Mari replied. She stared at the cave's ceiling for what felt like an eternity and a half before continuing. "I'm going to go back out for a little bit."

Mohatu stretched his paws out before collapsing to the ground between the other two lions. With a sigh of exasperation, he closed his eyes and drifted into a peaceful state of mind. "You sure? I'm just now starting to get warmed up again," he said.

Despite his comment, he actually considered following for a brief moment.

If only they could have been alone, he would have told Mari something important. He would have to tell her how he felt, eventually. As strange as it seemed, the act of keeping his feelings to himself was simply an agonizing task, to say the least.

Although there was a good chance his infatuation would be short lived, she seemed like she was the one. Viewed through the eyes of a lonely male lion, she was perfect in nearly every respect.

But, perhaps more importantly, it was no surprise that she saw something in him as well. She saved his life for a reason, and being able to kill Rex was hardly convincing on its own. If anything, that very thought was the initial spark, and that was also what would make it worthwhile, he thought.

But he knew there would be plenty of time for such conversations in the future. Until then, it was time for him to rest.

Although, unfortunately, he couldn't. Mohatu heard a splash behind him, as Mari jumped back into the water. She had temporarily left the hidden den for Mohatu and Riza to share.

After Mari swam back through the waterfall and climbed around an adjacent, smooth rock, her eyes focused on the lights above.

Considering how many stars lit up the night sky, it seemed absurd to think that only the kings would be up there. Quietly, she called out to both her living and deceased family. "I don't know if you can hear me or not," she whispered, blinking away tears.

"But I... I just want you to know..."

The lioness stuck her muzzle through the fall, rinsing her face off under the heavy stream water. "I miss you guys," she added, looking back up at the stars while water fell down behind her head.

"I wish I didn't have to do this," she said finally, before turning back around.

Back in the den and seconds later, Mohatu heard Mari pull herself out of the water, and onto the flat, rocky surface beside him.

"You should get some sleep too," Riza whispered, curling up with her tail. She tried as best as she could to hide the obvious tone of frustration in her voice.

If the two love birds were going to chit-chat for a few more minutes, she planned to sleep elsewhere. The lioness was all too familiar with the feelings of homesickness, which she had experienced during earlier stages of her life, but she was not totally fond of sleep deprivation either.

"Yeah, I will," Mari replied sadly. She leaned her back against the wall of the den, while a puddle of water formed below her.

Barely even feeling her limbs from the numb, wet chill, she rested her head down and let her paws relax while she stretched out.

After having heard Mari's conversation with the stars, Mohatu extended his forepaw and placed it over Mari's while he tried to rest.

The lioness neither moved, nor spoke a single word. She felt slightly uncomfortable at first, but she was far too lazy to do anything about it. Her heartbeat only accelerated quickly, before slowly going back to a normal rate after a few minutes.

Just Mari's reaction in itself was enough to make Mohatu grin. As he began to drift off to sleep, a faint, happy purr could be heard between every breath.

Mari left her pride, but Mohatu's purr reminded her of something else. It was a gentle, comforting, rhythmic sound, that only put her mind at ease.

While she left her family behind, at least she was not totally alone. Comforted by that very thought, she fell asleep as well.

For that night, at the very least, she knew she could trust Mohatu. While the lion's future was uncertain, like a dormant volcano, it was beyond obvious that he had a soft spot—despite having the blood of a fighter and destiny of a prophet. Unlike Leo and Rex, Mohatu wasn't a king.

Not yet, at least.
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