A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:16 am

chapter 10: show
A/N: Woooo! 10th chapter! Believe it or not, I'm actually managing to stick to my intended schedule of weekly updates with this story, so far. It's kinda difficult, considering that these chapters tend to be rather long, and I really hope the quality hasn't suffered much as a result. However, I have also noticed that this story is getting much easier to write as I progress, so I'm hoping I'll be able to keep up the weekly updates over the summer.


--- --- ---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 10: A Thorn in the Paw


A small line of light illuminated the rocky floor of the den, reflecting directly back into Riza's eyes. She winced slightly, squinting a bit to reduce the brightness. Obviously, the night was over. That had passed long ago.

But the bright morning sun was not what woke her. A loud rumbling noise was being emitted from beside the lioness, which she could hear over even the continuous roar of the waterfall. She noticed that Mohatu was purring in his sleep, using Mari's extended forepaw as a pillow for his head.

Of course, that was hardly surprising. She looked around carefully, thinking about whether or not to wake the other two lions by telling them she needed to leave for a moment.

Considering that she would not be gone for long, she decided not to. She let her first paw slide off the rock gently, and the rest of her body followed shortly after, plunging into the cold water.

The sound of the splash woke the other two lions, but by the time they realized what had happened, Riza was long gone.

"Jeez," Mari exclaimed. "Is it really morning already?"

Mohatu's eyes opened steadily, while his wide smile faded away.

"...and what were you so happy about?" Mari grinned, leaning forward to stretch her spine out before the long walk ahead.

The lion stood dead still for a moment. "What?"

"You were purring all night," Mari explained.

"Oh," Mohatu replied, looking at the rock below his paws for a split second. "Was I?"

"Yeah. It was kinda loud, too."

Not surprisingly, he was thinking about her. Judging by his posture before he was awakened, that fact was rather blatant, and he knew it.

But, despite not seeing Riza anywhere in sight, Mohatu could not bring himself to tell her the truth. The question caught him by surprise, and he was not prepared to answer it in any way.

Quickly, he tried to tell a lie. "My nose is a little congested. I was probably snoring."

Without any further inquiries, Mari dropped the subject. "I guess so."

Yet, whether or not she knew the truth was hidden beneath her voice. Instead of dwelling on the issue, the lioness quickly prepared herself to jump into the frigid water. "Come on," she added. "Let's meet up with Riza and get outta here while we still can."

"Alright," Mohatu nodded.

The two lions swam back under the cliff at roughly the same time, emerging seconds later below the fall. The heavy water poured down on Mohatu's mane, making clear trails deep in his fur until it dripped off into the river. It was quite cold, but it did have the unexpected advantages of cleaning the dirt and mud out of his thick coat, and rinsing away the majority of his scent.

"Ugh!" Mari walked back over onto the grassland, groaning and shivering. She wiped her paw across her eyes to dry them, so that she could see clearly.

As she opened her eyes again, she found no trace of the lioness anywhere on the horizon. "I have no idea where she went," Mari said with a light tone of irritation.

"Should we give her a few minutes?" Mohatu asked, following Mari's path onto dry land. "She probably just had to use the tree, or something."

"If she doesn't return soon we should probably just leave," Mari answered. "I'd rather not linger around here."

As his fur began to dry in the sunlight, Mohatu looked to the late morning sky as several birds flew above in a 'V' formation, whispering to himself. "She'll be back..."

Yet, a chill of nervousness suddenly fell down Mohatu's spine as he began to consider the situation further. "Actually, I think we better go." he suggested.

"Huh? Why?" Mari asked, cocking her head to the side.

"If Riza is in trouble..." Mohatu began slowly, attempting to speculate with dilating eyes. "That means we are too."

"You mean-" Mari paused, immediately discovering the answer to her own question.

If Riza had been found, the secrecy of their mission would easily become compromised. Mari knew all too well that, under no circumstances, could that be allowed to happen. Not even Mohatu understood the true importance of keeping quiet.

If Rex knew what was going on, the entire kingdom would go berserk. It would be insane. Of all the things that could happen, it would be the worst possible thing.

"Ah, crap..." Mari swore. "Fine. I'll follow the tracks, but we need to stay hidden."


--- --- ---


Riza's ears twitched as the sound of pawsteps approached her. Quickly, she ducked her head into a nearby bush, trying desperately to remain hidden from the lions.

But she was too late.

"Isn't there somewhere you should be?" one of the lions asked. His furious, condescending voice was that of no lion other than the king himself. The two obedient felines who stood beside him were, presumably, his elite bodyguards.

The last syllable echoed in Riza's mind until she fell through the depths of insanity. She was not prepared to speak to the king directly, especially given the circumstances.

"Where is Usama? Why have you returned without him?" the king demanded.

Riza stood up and stepped away from the shrub courageously. "Usama is dead," she stated with an dull, blunt tone.

Rex scowled, drawing closer to the lioness. "How is that possible?"

"They were prepared for our attack," she replied. A slight intonation of fear could be heard in her voice, as she became dwarfed by the much larger leonine shadow.

"So you disobeyed your prophet's orders?" Rex yelled, clenching his teeth together angrily.

The king glanced over to his bodyguards and nodded. Without ever speaking a word, the two warriors guarding him leaped at Riza, and pinned her to the ground within an instant.

"No... no, no! If I didn't return I would have died!"

Unfortunately, the lioness's pleading tactic was far less effective against the king. Rex stepped towards her, completely unfazed by her cries. "There is no room for weakness out here," the king added ruthlessly. "The punishment for failure is death."

With the lioness's limbs pinned down, she only had one option left to buy her own survival. As the king proceeded to slash his paw across her throat, Riza began to describe the situation.

"It... it wasn't that simple! They had help! The lion we were fighting against—he... it was a massacre! He was-"

Before Riza could finish speaking, the king had already begun his painful execution. He started by drilling his claws into the sensitive areas around her throat.

The lioness closed her eyes, shrieking in pain. "MOHATU!" She cried the lion's name to get his attention, but also to tell Rex what he wanted to know at the same time.

While Riza roared across the savannah out of torment, another lion felt a surge of agony puncture his own heart. Instinctively, Mohatu ran forward with all his strength, ready to pounce on the lion and bring an end to the conflict once and for all.

He could hardly believe that the lion he saw claimed to be the prophet. The thought that all his pride's troubles could be brought to an end with a quick slash of his claws was simply mesmerizing. It was irresistible.

Either the king was going to die, or Mohatu would die fighting.

"No!" Mari whispered, trying as hard as she could to hold on to the end of Mohatu's tail, with both her mouth and forepaws pinning it down. "Now is not the time. We have to go! Now!"

Mohatu turned around, finally able to control himself. "She's going to die!" he whispered hastily.

Was he really going to let that happen? What sort of lion would sit back and watch while another was being executed?

"We're all going to die, if you try to kill him," Mari retorted quietly.

"But..." Mohatu mumbled with a hint of despair and sadness.

"Remember," the lioness scowled, suddenly finding a way to explain. "Remember what happened to Leo and Rex. Killing him won't solve the problem. It will only make things worse."

Mohatu's jaw lowered slightly, while his breathing became much more fluid. "You're right," he said, flattening his ears slowly.

As the lioness released her grip of Mohatu's tail, she picked up a rock and threw it over Rex's head. The sound of the impact caught his attention for a moment.

"Come on! Let's go!" Mari whispered.

Mohatu hesitated greatly, but had to make the choice.

He had to leave Riza behind.

The sacrifice was to save the Pridelands as a whole, Mari, and ultimately himself as well. With a slow stroke of his paw, he turned his back on the lioness he had tried to save the day before.

Subsequently, the duo began sneaking through the savannah, almost as if they were stalking prey. Unfortunately, they were the prey. Stealth was their only hope of survival. Mari and Mohatu fled quickly and quietly with their tails hugging the ground between their legs.

Meanwhile, Rex's gaze shifted back over to his latest victim. As her cries of pain faded away into a permanent rest, a strange thought occurred to the king.

Very few lions could have fought Usama and won, and many fewer against Usama's entire task force. Some lion was helping his enemies, and it had to have been some lion with a significant amount of combat training.

That constraint left only a few possible options, in regard to the lion's identity. No lion the king knew could have pulled off such a feat—other than himself, or his deceased and forgotten brother.

Whoever this 'Mohatu' was, he would inevitably become a thorn in the king's paw. Rex would have to remove the threat quickly, before it caused him even more trouble while he attempted to ascend the throne of his ancestors.

"Sheikra!" Rex ordered.

Upon hearing his name being called, an African hawk swooped down from the hazy sky above. "What can I do for you, sire?" he asked coldly.

"Tell Ganji to meet me at Pride Rock immediately," the king demanded. "I need to talk to him... in private."

The obedient bird of prey nodded. "As you wish, milord."


--- --- ---


"Okay, change of plans," Mari whispered as the duo hid in the shadow of an acacia tree. "If we can just make it to the gorge, we can sneak through the cactus field to get to the desert."

Mohatu raised a paw into the air to stop her. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! A cactus field?"

"No one is going to expect that," Mari retorted. "As long as we move carefully, it shouldn't be too bad."

"You're insane," the lion spat.

Mari rolled her eyes. "Insanity is charging at a lion with a burning stick in your mouth."

Mohatu's heart sank even farther into the ground. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the fact that Mari thought it was stupid hurt him more than he cared to admit. "That wasn't one of my better ideas..."

"Well, this is our only idea."

"Alright, alright... we'll do it. It's still insane, though."

The lioness exhaled heavily. "You know, when you've been through as much as I have, you kinda learn how to survive in these sorts of circumstances. If it's insane, but works, then it isn't insane."

"Okay, fine," Mohatu dropped his comment so that his companion would calm down. "So, are we just going to make a run for it?"

"Hmm..." Mari whispered, scanning the horizon carefully for any sign of movement. "It looks clear... but that doesn't mean we aren't being watched."

"They'd have to be insane like we are to follow us into a cactus field," Mohatu replied. "I'd say whether or not they follow us is irrelevant."

"I suppose you're right," Mari conceded. "Follow me, and don't stop until we get to the briars."

As she finished her words, the lioness leaped from the grasses. In only a matter of seconds, she was cruising through the Pridelands with tremendous speed.

In spite of being heavier and having a much clunkier posture, Mohatu managed to keep up with Mari's tail as she carved a wake through the golden grasses.

Suddenly, after several minutes of running, the grass vanished from beneath Mari's paws. She dragged her claws through the hard, brown dirt, kicking up a cloud of dust behind her as her momentum was brought to a sudden halt.

Likewise, Mohatu skid through the dirt beside her.

While the two lions tried to catch their breath, the landscape took it away. They were standing at the very edge of the widest and deepest canyon known to lionkind.

Over the time period of many millennia, the flow of water had washed away many layers of rock below the savannah. The sheer size of the gorge was breathtaking, and the brilliant shades of brown and red only added to the awe of the landscape.

Mohatu kicked a small rock off the edge, and watched as it bounced off the cliff below. By the time it hit the very bottom, it was too far away for the sound of the impact to be heard.

"My God..." Mohatu muttered, as he finally managed to overcome his speechlessness. The same chill flowed again through his spine: the chill of imminent death.

Yet, little did he know that two other lions were running towards him, from across the golden waves of savannah. After eying the two leonine interceptors, Mari padded over to Mohatu, who looked back nervously.

"Ww-what are you doing?" Mohatu asked.

The lioness spoke quietly, keeping her mouth almost entirely shut the entire time. "Just... keep your head down."

Mari grappled onto the larger lion, and with a quick push, the two began tumbling down the cliff as one enormous wad of fur.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" Mohatu screamed, suddenly finding himself facing the sky above with nothing below to hold on to.

But that changed all too quickly.

"Ooof!" He grunted, beginning to roll down the cliff.

"Aaaah!"

"Hnnggg!"

"Ahhh! Dammit dammit dammit!"

Eventually, the ground leveled out, and the two lions rolled away from one another, tumbling in completely different directions.

The duo slid to a halt, with both felines suffering from several minor bruises. As Mohatu slowly crawled back onto his paws, he became aware of that fact while the world continued to spin from dizziness.

"Ugh!" Mari groaned. "That was a little bit worse than I thought it was going to be."

"Are you hurt?" Mohatu asked, ironically while he was asking himself that very same question.

"Only a little," the lioness winced. She limped herself back up on all fours, before trying to survey the land to see if her attackers were stupid enough to follow.

"Don't you ever do anything like that ever again," he replied, looking much more worried than angry.

Mari spat a faceful of dirt out of her mouth. "We were being followed," the lioness argued. "But, don't worry. We're never coming down here again."

Without warning, the lioness began trotting over to the other side of the gorge. As Mohatu's vision steadied, he took note and proceeded to follow.

The canyon branched off into two paths. One of the paths remained incredibly wide and open to the scorching sun, but the other end of the fork was short, narrow, and shaded. It was the perfect escape.

At the end of the pass, the path opened up into a mind-numbingly large field of briars. Both lions paused for a moment, savoring what little time they had remaining without thorns poking and scraping into their skin.

"So, how are we going to get through that?" Mohatu asked with exasperation.

"Just..." the lioness eased forward, bringing her body as low to the ground as she possibly could. "...very carefully."

As Mohatu followed, a thorn scraped the top of his mane. He tried to pull through, but the branch wouldn't move.

So he pulled harder.

Eventually, the tension in the branch overcame its strength, and with a loud crack, it snapped. Now free to move again, Mohatu continued to follow the lioness, dragging the branch with him as it stuck to the top of his head.

It was only a matter of time before the same painful experience repeated itself. Before Mohatu was even a few paces into the pit of hell, he had already acquired a plethora of spiky branches with his brown coat.

As the lion glanced over at Mari, he noticed that she didn't look all that much different. There was one stuck behind her ear, another on her shoulder, and two that stuck to her hind legs.

the lioness sighed. "You know, of all the places to burn... why did Rex have to ignite the jungle?"

"If I became an arsonist, this would be the first place to go," Mohatu added deviously, squinting his eyes with frustration. Needless to say, the lion felt a sadistic hint of relief as he began to imagine the path ahead bursting up in flames.

"Today would be a good day to become one," Mari joked to lighten the mood.

As they both knew, even the most challenging obstacle course could become quite easy with a little bit of fire to level the path.


--- --- ---


Before Mari and Mohatu made it through to the end of the field of briars, the sun was gone and their coats of fur were littered with prickly plants.

Suddenly, the reality of the situation struck a devastating blow to Mohatu. This was not the adventure he had hoped for. In fact, that thought was quite an understatement.

When he finally lowered his head under the last branch, he breathed an enormous sigh of relief.

Immediately afterward, he brought his paw up beside his nose to inspect it. For the entire hour before, putting weight around a certain spot on his paw was perhaps the most painful experience of the week. Obviously, that meant a lot, considering all he had been through.

As Mohatu analyzed the underside of his paw, two things caught his attention. Not only was a thorn jammed into the rough surface of his paw pad, but he noticed that one of his middle pawtoes was half-mutilated, missing a claw as well. Although it seemed strange, he did not think much of it.

But the thorn was too small for him to get his teeth around. For several minutes, he struggled to remove the pesky splinter from the edge of his large paw pad.

"Got one stuck there?" Mari asked, sitting beside him with her own fair share of barbs clinging to her fur.

"Yeah," the lion groaned.

"Let me look at it," she said, stepping closer.

Mohatu set the paw on the dry, cracked ground, with the pad facing upward, while the lioness inspected the wound carefully.

"Hmm..." the lioness muttered, examining the paw. "Looks like it's stuck in there."

"Gee," Mohatu replied sarcastically. After all he had been through, not even Mari could lighten his mood.

The lioness placed one of her paws over his to apply pressure, in an attempt to squeeze the thorn out. As she noticed that it wasn't working, she used one of her claws from the other forepaw to wiggle it around.

Eventually, she applied pressure at the right angles, and the barb shot out, swiping the lioness across her nose along its flight trajectory.

"There," she snorted. "It's out."

"Great," Mohatu replied, bringing his paw up to scratch an itch on the top of his mane. Unfortunately, there was a thorn stuck there too. "That's one out, but there's still a lot more."

Mari groaned before resuming her own grooming. "This is going to take all night."

"We should probably walk a little farther away," Mohatu suggested, as he pulled yet another twig out of his coat with his teeth.

"That might be a good idea," the lioness agreed, rising to her paws. "Just... out of sight from here."

Shortly afterward, Mohatu began walking further, looking up at the stars to guide him. The Leo constellation was all the way to the east, with its tail barely hanging above the horizon of dirt.

"Isn't it weird how everything always moves from east to west in the sky?" Mohatu asked.

"I guess," Mari muttered, hardly even paying attention. "Never really thought about it before."

"It's almost like we're all moving around in a circle... or something."

"But, if we're moving, wouldn't we feel like we're moving?" Mari asked easily.

"Not if we're moving slow enough, I suppose," the lion speculated. "It would only be one rotation every day."

"That..." Mari tried to consider his idea. "I don't know."

"Of course, I have no idea what those sparkling dots are anyway, and much less of an idea why we don't see them during the day."

"Yeah..." Mari muttered, looking at the ground before continuing. The ancient kings probably had the answers to such questions, but, being the more primitive lions that they were, neither of the two possessed a very strong background knowledge of the subject.

"We don't really know anything..." Mohatu sighed.

"Look, I'm sure everything will make sense, once we get to Lea Halalela," Mari reminded. "That's why we're doing this."

"Yeah," Mohatu exhaled sarcastically. "But it's just as likely that we'll find more questions than answers. Especially if things keep going like this."

Mari paused for several moments. He was right; things weren't exactly going as she had envisioned them, either. Her attempt at trying to be optimistic had failed miserably.

"Mohatu... I..." the lioness tried to apologize. As much as she knew Mohatu was going to tell her it wasn't her fault, she knew in her heart that it was. Nearly every decision that had been made up until that point was hers.

Not only had she brought Mohatu into the entire mess to begin with, but she was using him. She never thought she would feel guilty for it, but it was what was happening. It was eating her away from the inside out, and there was nothing she could do to prevent that.

Sensing the discomfort in Mari's voice, the lion knew he had to say something. "You've had some bad ideas, but it wasn't your fault..."

Yep. She was right. That was exactly what he said.

"Yeah... I know," Mari lied, before lightening up slightly. "Please, if I ever suggest running into a cactus field again... just kill me," she tried to laugh, but her mood would not allow it.

"No, seriously," Mohatu replied. "This would probably be a lot worse if you weren't with me."

For a brief moment, Mari's heart began to soften. She looked back at the field of spurs again, while holding in a cute mew. As the lioness caught her breath, she noticed they were far enough away to stay hidden.

"I think this is good enough," she announced, changing the subject and sitting down on the brown desert sand.

The lioness began to relax in the sand, and consequently, her feelings of guilt and sadness increased tenfold. She was not only using Mohatu, but he was blissfully unaware of it, too. Nothing she could have told him would have made him understand that.

In an attempt to distract herself, Mari began to lick the remaining barbs out of her fur.

Mohatu simply sat and watched, admiring her beauty while she wasn't looking. After she allowed Riza to die, pushed him off a cliff, and forced him to crawl under a field of cacti, he was beginning to have second thoughts.

She definitely wasn't perfect.

Nevertheless, she did attempt to save his live three times in one day. That was plenty more than he could have asked for. Even when she was covered with thorny twigs, she was still cute.

Mohatu sat down as well, making a cradle in the sand with his growling stomach. Reluctantly, he began to clean the garbage out of his fur too.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mari began watching Mohatu for a change. He was lost, alone, malnourished, and certainly in dire need of grooming. As he sat in the sand, casually cleaning himself under the night sky, Mari found it increasingly difficult to contain her feels.

She secretly pitied him and his blissful ignorance, in a strange way.

But as strange as it seemed, she almost wished she could be him, at the same time. Even in the state he was in, the lion's abilities were beyond that of any ordinary large cat. Unlike the lioness, Mohatu's potential was nearly limitless.

The complete silence allowed Mari's thoughts to gather and fester even further into her mind. She wanted to say something to him, but she had no idea what it would be. He looked so miserable, and in the lioness's heart, she knew she wasn't actually faring much better either.

"Mohatu?" Mari called softly.

As the lion turned around, his eyes lit up noticeably.

"I..." Mari stuttered, beginning to turn away. She had no idea what she was going to say. In fact, she hardly even knew why she called the lion's name in the first place.

Mohatu's pulse went up suddenly, for reasons he could not explain. There was a strange tension in the air, just from reading the lioness's sad and nervous body language. "What?" he asked casually, trying not to sound demanding.

"It's just that..." Mari sighed, anxiously scratching under her ear with her paw. "Nevermind," she concluded lazily, as she rested her head above her forepaws. "It's nothing."

Mohatu's tail twitched from one side to the other. He hated seeing her look as depressed as she did, but he also knew that he would likely be of little consolation in his current state. "Are you sure?" He asked.

No, she wasn't. Something was bothering her, but even she wasn't entirely aware of what it was. "I guess I..." she began mumbling.

Mohatu cleaned his paw, while waiting patiently for the lioness to continue.

The lioness eventually blinked her eyes, trying not to get too emotional. "I was going to say... I'm glad you're here too."

Suddenly, Mohatu looked away to hide a satisfied smile. Based on the way she was acting, the lioness's comment was only the tip of the iceberg. Now, he was almost certain that Mari liked him for sure. There was a good chance that she felt the same way.

As the lion continued grooming himself, Mari's embarrassment faded away while she noticed his faint smile. Her spirits lifted slightly as well.

With an unexpected jolt of energy, Mari stood up and walked closer to the lion. "You've done a lot for us, over the past few days..." she began, her voice gradually growing calmer.

Mohatu picked the last barb out of his fur with his teeth, and spat it out in the sand beside him. He then looked up to the lioness standing on the other side.

"...and I guess I never thanked you for that," Mari continued. Gently, she nuzzled her head across the lion's thick, brown mane.

As a yawn trailed Mari's words, she decided to sit down beside the lion. "I know things are only going to get worse from here, but I will try to help you as much as I can," she added warmly, resting her head in the sand beside Mohatu's shoulder.

Not too surprisingly, Mohatu began purring with an uncontrollable rumble. He sighed happily, and his muscles relaxed despite a total lack of movement.

In only a matter of seconds, the loneliness that both lions felt began to fade away. Yet, it was not until hours later that the two finally collapsed under the clear night sky, exhausted and deprived of sleep.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Kal » May 8th, 2013, 12:20 am

Whoa, looking good here, Regulus. Really well written, and what strikes me initially as a very interesting premise. I'm keen to see Mohatu's reluctant crusade against what sounds like a pretty formidable enemy in Rex. He's been through quite abit. Poor lion-guy.

Motivation is my big problem too. Agh. And I now see that you are on Fanfic.net? Excellent.

(Oops, yeah, this was after chapter 1!)
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:34 am

I put everything in spoiler tags now... because of spoilers in the later chapters. Now the first page looks weird, but oh well. :P

It definitely starts out a bit different than what would probably be expected from a story like this, but I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)

Also, I didn't bother to edit the notes from when I originally uploaded it to FF.net, so that's why they're there.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Kal » May 8th, 2013, 12:37 am

I probably should've waited a bit before posting :P

... but I'll add that the layout stuff you've 'integrated' is pretty impressive also!
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:40 am

Nah, it's fine. I was actually wondering if someone was going to post before I uploaded all 10 chapters that I've written so far, just to troll me, lol.

Either way, the formatting is still a work in progress, for the most part.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Dark Huntress » May 8th, 2013, 12:41 am

Very good! I love the story going on! Was very sad when Riza was killed :(
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 8th, 2013, 12:56 am

lol, I'm such a jerk. :innocent3:
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Dark Huntress » May 8th, 2013, 12:58 am

You are, oh, well, I need to go kill a character...
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » May 12th, 2013, 2:12 am

chapter 11: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu


Chapter 11: The Void


Mari began tossing and turning in her bed in the sand. As the early hours of the morning passed by, the sand below her paws grew hotter. She knew had been sleeping in the badlands, no doubt, just from the scorching heat of dawn. The dry heat boiled any remaining trace of moisture from her coat of fur.

It was nearly hot enough to fry an egg, and it was only the beginning of day three.

With an exasperated yawn, Mari glanced slowly at her surroundings. On the western horizon, nothing could be seen but hills of sand.

To the east, it was equally hot and arid, but much rockier. Several enormous boulders extruded from the sands, which had been carved into rather odd and unstable-looking shapes by many years of weathering and erosion. The shadows left by the rocks seemed rather inviting, but the lioness could not bring herself to move.

Instead, she continued to lazily inspect her surroundings. Farther north, there were a few random, scattered patches of dry grass, which looked a bit more promising.

Promising, not because of the grass itself, but because a dark streak moved through it. The lioness blinked her eyes to refresh the image, but it was gone. She could only wonder if she actually saw something, or if it was just her imagination.

Mari looked back at the sleeping lion beside her. Although the lioness was weary of suffering the same fate as Riza, she did not want to wake Mohatu. This was the desert; the chance of being caught by one of Rex's patrols was slim to none. It was rare for any lion to ever venture beyond the gorge.

Slowly, Mari rose to her paws and walked over to the grasses, after her curiosity took over. With a closer look, she identified several dark stripes.

The creature she saw was a zebra.

Naturally, the lioness unsheathed her claws and began creeping forward. Although her body was not hidden beneath any grasses, her fur color alone was enough to keep her hidden. Only her shadows could be seen; her vibrant, tawny coat blended with the bright yellow sand almost perfectly.

She continued to creep forward, silent and hidden, until she was within pouncing distance.

Swiftly, the lioness leaped toward her unfortunate prey, wrapping her teeth and claws around the Zebra's throat.

Although Mari was never the best huntress in a group, she had the uncanny ability to hold her own. Very few lionesses could bring down a medium-sized prey without the assistance of a pride—but, like her mother, she was an exception. Although she was neither as quick nor as brutal as many other lionesses, she was quiet enough to have the element of surprise on her side.

After a brief struggle, the creature lay dead in the grass, with several chunks of the striped equine's flesh dangling from Mari's teeth.

Mari did not usually feel any guilt during her hunts, unlike when she fought other lions. It remained true even during and after the kill, as she watched her prey struggle for survival.

While she regretted terminating the zebra's life, she had not killed the creature for pleasure, or even out of blind, misguided hatred. Like defending herself in battle, it was for her own survival.

After a few delicious bites of meat, the lioness began dragging the rest of the carcass through the grass with her teeth. Since it was not far, she decided to bring it to Mohatu.

However, it did not take long before Mari started questioning her actions. There was another reason why she was bringing Mohatu the kill. It was not because she wanted to drag a dead animal across a hill of sand.

It was not because Mohatu was incapable of walking to the carcass, either. Heck, there was no reason why he couldn't hunt on his own. More than likely, he would have had even better luck than the lioness.

The true reason was because she felt guilty.

Even after all Mari had done for him, she also had to consider what she hadn't done.

Everything she did for the lion, she did with only one intention: to make Mohatu like her. She needed him to like her, but not for the right reasons. She needed him as her weapon, and she loved him, as a weapon. Her friendship with Mohatu was the key to understanding, overthrowing, and eventually abolishing the lion kingdom, but hardly anything more.

Yet, somehow, her actions only began to prove that the line she had once drawn was being blurred. She was no longer acting nice because she wanted to use him. She was acting nice because she felt guilty for using him as well.

As Mari dragged the carcass beside her original resting position, she observed the lion carefully as he breathed in and out every second. Despite her rather loud struggle with the kill, Mohatu remained asleep. He was quiet, and, oddly enough, the atmosphere was incredibly peaceful.

Mari stood still, suddenly being absorbed in her own thoughts. She had acted very unusually the night before, and she truly did not understand why. Perhaps she felt more than just guilt...


--- --- ---


Meanwhile, a large, muscular, brown lion stepped slowly into an expanding field of darkness. Simultaneously, a heavy metal door, nearly the size of an elephant, began to make a low-pitched grinding and clanking sound as it closed slowly from above.

The bright, yellowish-orange light of the outside desert fell beyond the door, as the lion enclosed himself in the shadow. The big cat stepped forward, unintentionally pressing down on a square tile on the floor. He could not see where he was going, for there was not even a hint of light.

Suddenly, with a strange mechanical flicking noise, several torches began to ignite along the walls of the structure. They were spaced at equal intervals along each of the four walls, with about a dozen on each wall, except the door behind him.

The lion shifted his gaze to the side, until his eyes met another lion, very similar in appearance.

"What is this?" the other lion asked in a state of awe, as the giant door slid down behind them. His voice echoed off the walls and hard floor, while his face held an emotion of curiosity with the intensity of a youthful cub.

The two lions were both much older than cubs, of course, but their insatiable thirst for knowledge had never changed.

"I don't know... it's even weirder on the inside. Who knows what secrets our ancestors have buried beneath our paws," the larger lion replied.

The two felines gazed around at the empty room, simply admiring the architecture around them, despite its apparent lack of complexity.

With a rush of fascination, the smaller of the two began looking at a nearby wall, which was decorated with strange markings and patterns. "Wow... who could have done this?"

The lion gently slid his paw across the wall to rub away a thin layer of dust. Simultaneously, the same stone that he touched moved farther into the wall, without any external force.

Immediately, a second row of torches suddenly illuminated the pyramidal ceiling of the temple. Even from the inside, the structure appeared massive, perhaps even big enough for a herd of elephants.

To the lion's surprise, what he saw was only the beginning of the tomb. Whatever it was that his companion did, the switch also caused a gaping hole to appear in the once-polished stone tile floor. The center tiles had slid open in a rotating, circular pattern.

The curious lion lowered his head into the hole. From his viewpoint, at least three more chambers occupied the space below. "Rex..." he began, barely able to speak from the surge of awe flowing through his blood. "You're not going to believe this!"

Before his brother could take a look, Leo attempted to leap down to the level below.

As the heavy lion landed, his claws slid off the floor of the lower room, and he struggled to pull himself up. He was going to fall farther down, and he knew it.

In his state of panic, Leo tried to throw his paws out farther onto the smooth, glossy surface, but to no avail. "Rex! Brother! Help me!"

The lion's grip was slipping. Inevitably, he was going to fall.

He had to let go.

"Ugh!" the lion exhaled heavily, dropping onto another hard floor below. It was too short of a fall for him to orient his body in the air, but too long of a fall to keep the wind inside his lungs.

"Leo?" the other feline called out, looking down into the hole.

Leo attempted to speak, but could not for several moments while he tried to catch his breath. While the lion rested on his back, Rex made an enormous leap down to the bottom to assist his brother.

"I... I'm fine," Leo began to speak. Quickly, the lion pushed himself back up onto his paws. "Do you really think after all we've been through I can't take a fall like that?"

"Yeah-yeah-yeah, fine," Rex replied jealously. "It's a wonder you could even fit inside here with an ego that big."

"Ahem," Leo forced a cough, and nudged his brother. "I killed Musashi's clan, did I not?"

"With me," Rex corrected.

"That doesn't mean I needed your help. I could have killed them all myself."

Rex flattened his ears. Clearly, he was getting annoyed with his older brother's shenanigans. "That's bullcrap and you know it."

Leo grinned. "Heh. You only wish you could be as awesome as me."

"Stop deluding yourself," Rex spat.

"Just admit it," the lion smirked. "You're jealous of my abilities."

Swiftly, Rex jolted his hindleg into his older brother's knee, causing the lion to wobble and eventually fall to the ground.

"Seriously, Leo?" Rex attempted to feign disappointment. "Stop making a fool of yourself. You can't even walk without falling over," he said condescendingly.

Leo scowled, before climbing back up onto his paws for the second time. The lion's tail swatted at the air behind him, as he began to plot ways to exact his revenge in the future.

Meanwhile, Rex walked forward, directly into a long and narrow passageway that he had found. Without warning, he left his older brother behind in the dark.

Instead of following, Leo began walking in the opposite direction. On the other side, there was yet another passageway, very similar in appearance. As Leo stepped closer, a row of electrically-lit torches flickered on to illuminate the path.

After a few paces, the path terminated orthogonally into another. At the end of the second path, there was little to be seen other than darkness. Yet, Leo continued walking anyway.

As he approached the room at the end, nothing happened. There were no lights that somehow magically turned on, no doors that opened, or no walls that shifted. It was just a dark, empty room.

The lion paused for a moment, to consider his next move. Yet, in the silence, he heard something moving. It was approaching him.

Instinctively, the lion drew out his claws. He lowered his weight into a comfortable fighting stance, scanning into the dark void for any sign of movement.

After a time, he heard another sound, emanating from the shadows.

In an attempt to scare the creature, Leo breathed out a heavy roar that shook the entire structure. As the sound echoed and amplified throughout the tight confines of the passageway, it even managed to hurt the lion's own ears.

Two small, vertically-slit eyes emerged from what sounded like water. Whatever the creature was, it emitted a deep growling sound as well.

Bravely, Leo walked right up to the creature to face his fear eye-to-eye. After all he had been through, he was ready to fight.

Suddenly, a grid of lights ignited around the roof of the room, revealing the creature to be a crocodile. It was swimming beneath a weird, underground, and artificial riverbed of some sort, which ran through the chamber.

As the reptile stared at Leo for a moment, the scaly creature's aggression faded.

Leo's bravery alone had defeated the crocodile's morale. The creature began turning around, returning to his home in the darkness, and as a result, it became apparent that the reptile had been defeated and put in his place.

The long, thick tail slithered around in the mud before disappearing completely under the water. Without even fighting, Leo was victorious.

Yet, this did not stop his younger brother from running towards him. Having heard Leo's roar, Rex wanted a piece of the action as well. Seconds after the reptile fell back under the surface completely, the lion joined up with his future king.

The eyes of the two lions wandered off to the other side of the river, which glittered with gold and various other shiny metals, protected from the elements for thousands of years under the tomb.

"No way..." Rex spoke with his jaw hanging halfway between his muzzle and the floor.

Leo backed away, before getting a running start and leaping across the stream. Once he reached the other side, the lion glanced around at every golden nook and cranny.

One object in particular stood out to the leonine warrior. It was a gold-plated box, slightly larger than the size of an average adult male lion. In the center, there was an obvious, but strange marking.

It looked somewhat like the sun, but inside the circle, it was a spiral.

Leo placed his paw over the symbol. Immediately, the top of the box twisted open, connected only by a hinge on the other side.

Curiously, the two lions peeked inside. What they found was the preserved skeleton of a lion-like creature. Yet, resting on its mummified chest, was a large disc. The symbol 'δ' was embossed on the top of it.

"What are you doing?" a strange ghost-like figure suddenly asked from behind the two lions.

"Well, we... ugh... we were exploring this thing..." Rex turned around, answering hesitantly. Struggling to find his words, the lion turned to his older brother and whispered into his ear. "Holy crap, do you believe this? We're actually talking to a ghost!"

"Get out of my tomb," the ghost demanded rudely. "I'm not going to ask again."

"Wait... so this is your tomb... and that means you're dead?" Leo asked curiously. Being the brave lion he was, Leo was hardly afraid of any threat the ghost would throw at him.

"I was a king," the ghost retorted. "I cannot die. I have only come here to rest."

"So, what's all this?" Leo continued gesturing at all the elegant decorations surrounding the room.

"It's... God dammit, just get out of here," the king retorted in frustration. "It's none of your business."

"I found my way in here," Leo smirked cockily. "I think I deserve to know."

"But..." the ghost mumbled.

"I saw your little traps," Leo nudged his paw toward the ghost. "If you're going to try to keep me away from your treasure, you're going to have to try a little harder than that."

The ghost stepped back. "You mean to tell me you're the prophet?"

"Prophet?" Leo smiled. "I like the sound of that."

The ghost shrugged, seeming mildly surprised that the lion in his tomb was not alone. Although the king's prophecy did not specify their savior to be a lone lion, he had assumed that the true prophet would not keep company around with him on a journey of such importance. "If you're the prophet, who's this idiot you've dragged along with you?"

Immediately afterward, Rex growled his teeth at the ghost. "I'll show you who's the idiot," he threatened.

"He's my little brother," Leo replied, patting his paw above Rex's head playfully, but with a hint of condescension and sibling rivalry.

"Hmph," the ghost snorted. "Well, if you think you're the prophet..."

Leo's eyes shot open as he heard the old king speak again. "Huh?"

"If you think you are the prophet, then I suppose I should give you the information you seek," the ghost said quietly.

Both lions sat still, listening intently to the ghost's wistful words.

"Regulus, Algieba, Denebola, Zosma, Algenubi, Chertan, Adhafera, Jabhah, and Rasalas: we were the great lion kings. For many centuries, we ruled all across Africa. We built tombs such as this to leave our mark in history, and emphasize our superiority. But, now, they also serve another purpose."

Leo nodded, while the ghost paused for a moment.

"In each of our tombs is a disc. If you are truly the prophet, you must find the tombs, survive their traps, and take the discs."

"Is there some reason for this, or-" Leo began to ask.

"Each is a key. Find all eight keys and bring them to the tomb of king Regulus at Lea Halalela. If you can open the tomb of our last king, you will have earned your right to become one of us."

Rex cocked a brow. "And become immortal like you?" he asked curiously.

"Regulus hid all of our knowledge in his tomb—it is a nexus of power and a paragon of wisdom. If you are truly the prophet, you will be able to retrieve it, and restore our kingdom to its former glory. Anything you seek from us, you will find at Lea Halalela."

Suddenly, Leo's imagination began to fill with thoughts of conquest and power. He certainly liked where the conversation had headed. "A kingdom, huh?"

"Yes," the ghost nodded. "You have already found my disc, the key of Zosma. Find the others, and all our power will be yours."

Leo and Rex stared at each other, while the ghost faded away.

It was at that moment, precisely, when Leo began to consider himself the king. He always knew he was destined for greatness, but he had no idea it would be of that magnitude.

"What makes you think you're the prophet?" Rex asked bitterly, showing considerable amounts of both annoyance and jealousy in his voice.

"Who else would it be?" Leo asked, smirking slightly.

The other lion coughed. "Ahem... me?"

Leo scowled, hardly even able to believe his younger brother would make such a comment. Between the two, it was simply a well-known fact that Leo was the strongest.

Rex looked down, scratching his forepaw across the muddy tiles. "I could be a king too..." he muttered angrily.


--- --- ---


Mohatu mumbled in his sleep, thrashing around from side to side. Eventually, his sudden movements grabbed Mari's attention.

"What is it?" She asked, knowing that he was obviously awake.

Her question seemed to bring the lion back into consciousness. He stood still for a moment, absorbing the enormous dump of information he had been given by his subconscious.

As Mohatu looked back at his dream, he only noticed that the facts lined up with reality. It made too much sense to be a dream. He knew what he saw in his mind was what actually happened. "Another weird dream," Mohatu replied curiously.

Mari shrugged. "Mhm? What was it about... if you don't mind me asking?"

"I don't know... it almost seemed real," the lion added, yawning slightly. "But, before I forget, are you sure you don't know of any ancient temples out here?" Mohatu asked, cocking his head to the side in bewilderment.

As Mohatu's consciousness was brought farther into reality, he noticed the lioness looked quite different from the night before. It was almost as if something had happened to her since he last set his eyes on her.

The fur around her muzzle was a deep red, not too different from the long, red scar across her back. She looked absolutely exhausted, although she wore an unusually large grin across her face.

"Nope," Mari admitted. "It doesn't surprise me that you dream of such things, but I really don't know."

"I just don't get it then. Why am I seeing this? Is there something you're not telling me?"

"You just have to trust me," Mari said wisely.

Of course, the lioness's clever choice of words obscured whether Mohatu had to trust that she was telling the truth, or that he had to trust her despite telling the truth.

"I do trust you," Mohatu replied, though something strange about the situation was beginning to make him feel uneasy. She hardly trusted him, and she was asking him to trust her?

"Believe me, I'm just as confused as you are. But I have no doubt that once we find this... temple, things will become much clearer. So that's what we need to do."

Mohatu sighed. Undoubtedly, that was almost exactly the same thing Mari had said the night before. The whole situation was just confusing, and Mari's ambiguity wasn't making it any easier to deal with.

Of course, as soon as the lioness backed away, revealing the zebra carcass, the lion's perspective changed a little.

"Maybe you'll be able to think better on a full stomach," Mari beamed at the lion.

Mohatu's eyes widened. "Is that a-" he asked with a grin.

"Yes. I found a Zebra today."

"That's great!" Mohatu exclaimed. "How far away was he?"

"Right there," Mari motioned with her head. "I'll let you enjoy your breakfast," she nodded afterward, as Mohatu stared at the dead animal.

"You didn't have to bring me this," Mohatu said with gratitude before he bent down to grab a mouthful of dead zebra.

"It was nothing," the lioness replied, her tone of voice slightly reflecting her guilt for all she had been putting him through. "We've got another long afternoon ahead of us, so enjoy the meal while you can."

Mohatu muttered something with his mouth full of delicious meat, but his words were not easily understood.

"What?"

The lion cleared his throat before trying to speak again. "I assume you scouted around this morning?"

"I've hardly been awake for an hour," Mari confessed. "And, honestly, I'm not sure where we are. We're north of the old boundaries of the Pridelands, but that's about all I know."

Mohatu ceased eating and looked up to Mari with concern. "We really don't know what we're doing, do we?"

The lioness sighed deeply. "No, I'm afraid we don't," she responded, looking at the sand below her paws.

"Then why don't we just assassinate Rex and put an end to this conflict? Seems a lot easier than this..."

"Because I'd be killed on sight, and so would you," Mari replied bitterly. "That's why we had to cross the Pridelands under a field of cacti."

"But you killed Leo."

"We've been through this before," Mari retorted. "I'm lucky to have survived my encounter with Leo," she explained. "I'm not doing anything like that again."

Mohatu looked back up at the lioness after swallowing another chunk of flesh. "But I'm with you now. It would be easier."

Mari pushed a mound of sand away with her paw nervously. "That's... beside the point. We can't just kill Rex. Some lion will take his place, and we'll be back where we started."

"But how is finding Lea Halalela going to help us?" Mohatu asked.

"Look, I don't really know..." Mari replied hesitantly. The lion's bombardment of questions was beginning to get the best of her.

Although Mohatu suspected something was suspicious, he did not want to annoy the lioness with an interrogation. He chose not to say anything, but his facial expression easily revealed his true feelings.

Mari sighed. "You don't trust me, do you?" she asked sympathetically, totally understanding how the lion felt, to Mohatu's surprise.

"Yes I do," Mohatu answered, suddenly realizing how stupid it was to doubt Mari's knowledge, after all she had done for him. Of course he trusted her; he had no reason not to.

"I know this is all confusing, and I know it doesn't make any sense," Mari continued. "But, the truth is, there's someone—or something—out here that changed Leo and Rex."

"And?" Mohatu begged the lioness to continue.

"Leo was never the real threat, and neither is Rex. Those two are just the shadow of something greater... something... I don't even know what."

"The ancient kings?" Mohatu asked.

"Perhaps, yes," Mari nodded. "Whatever it is out there... that is what we must confront. Everything else is secondary."

Mari began pacing in circles, impatiently, as she thought aloud, while Mohatu continued to eat his lion's share. "When they returned, I wanted to think something happened to them when they left the Pridelands," Mari explained. "But what we've found so far is only convincing me that I was actually right. There is some sort of catalyst of evil out here... and we'll probably find it at Lea Halalela."

"Okay, that makes sense, I guess," Mohatu nodded. After finishing his final bite of meat, the lion licked his chops. "Is there any water around?"

"Nope," Mari replied. "This is the Badlands. If there's any water, it's a mirage."

"Great," Mohatu sighed sarcastically, rising to his paws.

Mari turned away and began walking north. "Leo and Rex made it through... there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to as well," the lioness tried to convince herself. "It's just not going to be easy..."

Mohatu closed his eyes and shook his head, before following the lioness. Although it was nice to eat a zebra, and he enjoyed spending time with Mari, he would have been lying if he said he wasn't worried. With each passing step, the future only looked a little bit hotter, a little bit drier, and a lot more confusing.


--- --- ---


A/N: I have to say, this chapter was a hell of a lot of fun to write. Leo is such an amusing character; I'm beginning to wish I hadn't killed him off. :P
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Dark Huntress » May 12th, 2013, 2:29 am

Yes, I rather like him. He's like taking Scar and Mufasa and making them one...very awesome chapter! Can't wait till next Saturday!
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