At the centre of the Pridelands stood the large, majestic monument of Pride rock: home to King Simba's pride and family. Its caves provided them with protection from the strong, battering winds that frequently brushed across the many crevices and crevasses which dotted the lands surrounding it.
Within the main, largest cave, carved halfway up the sky arching formation, the pride slept quietly. The only noises were those of soft, thin fur brushing against each other. The many lionesses huddled together, creating a smooth, furry duvet flooring. Between them snuggled two cream coloured cubs. Although they were almost the size of the older lionesses snuggled close by, their brighter, unscathed fur showed they had not seen much in the terms of hunting or fighting.
Above this sea of fur, a group of other lions rested, their bodies nestled further from one another, only gently brushing. In the corner, a fully grown, mature male lion rested on his side. His whiskers wiggled slightly with powerful, snore-fuelling breaths. Snuggled up to his chest laid a cream coloured lioness of the same age.
Not far from this snuggly couple, their two cubs, the same age as the other two beneath them, rested in the morning's rays. The eldest, Kiara, kept her head nuzzled between her front paws, trying to avoid the sun's glance. Her younger brother, Kion, arose to all fours as a shallow gush of wind blew into the den.
With one almighty stretch, he began to walk out of the cave, tiptoeing through the sea of lionesses to the exit. Every now and then, a lioness would shrug or sniffle, causing him to change paths on the fly. At times, his balance would tremble, but somehow, he'd never seem to stumble onto them.
As the prince walked out onto Pride Rock's edge, the low resting sun shone over his yellow, cream fur, its heat slowly awakening each and every muscle throughout his body. A sweet, life-drenched stench swept across his nose, carried by a faint eastern breeze. He peeked in its direction, noticing a tiny, faint figure galloping towards him, only to disappear in a field of tall, uneaten grass.
What was that?
The adolescent lion continued to stare out across the savannah, his eyelids growing heavier with each passing second. It had been a long couple of nights, chasing off the continuous troublemaking hyena clan led by Janja within the Pridelands. He had slept for only a few hours over the past week and it was definitely showing, especially in his field of perception.
"Kion?" a deep authoritative voice shredded through his spine, launching it, and the rest of his body, four feet into the air before landing perfectly on all fours once more. Behind him, his father, King Simba, sat at the entrance to the den. A worried paternal look washed over his face. "Are you okay?"
A short sigh escaped the prince. "I'm just so tired." He kicked a small patch of dust with his paw, causing a cloud to fall upon the winding rocky path below. "Janja and his clan have had us on the run for a week now." His body withered to the ground. "None of us have been sleeping well."
"I see." His father approached him, lightly sitting at the peak's edge next to him. Both lions peered out over the savannah, their sight targeted towards the boundaries between the rich, fruitful Pridelands and the desolate, barren Outlands.
"I wish we could have a break for a bit, just to relax for once."
"Perhaps you can?" A thoughtful, brightening smile overcame the king's face. Kion looked up to him, a look of uncertainty cowering under his golden-yellow fur.
"What do you mean, dad?"
"How about this?" Simba raised his hind legs, kicking off the ground with one swift movement. "What if I do the second half of your patrol today? Then you and the guard can have a break for a bit." His father's words brought a new burst of power to his son's body. His tail beat against the ground with a triumphant, excited thud.
"Really?" His deep auburn eyes erupted with a rejuvenating energy of which they had severely lacked for many days.
"Of course. I could do with the exercise anyways." Simba stretched his spine, shaking his mane on the ground as he did so. "It's been a while since I've patrolled the borders."
"Thanks dad!" The adolescent male practically pounced at his old man, nuzzling the side of his soft, short fur against his bushy mane. Kion's flick of sprouting reddish mane splashed into his father's, swaying and swashing in a sea of affection and relief.
Unbeknownst to both of them however, a separate pair of emerald green eyes stared at their parental cuddling. The sleek, air-smoothed body of their owner had swept through the air on her ascent of the rocky monument. A small, sharp sneeze, followed by a blast of dust, alerted the king and prince to their lightning-fast eavesdropper.
"Erm, Am I interrupting something here?" The cheetah queried, fur twinkling in the rising sunlight, especially around the many mesmerising blackish-brown marks and spots that coated her. As she approached, Kion squirmed his way out of his father's embrace. His fur-coated cheeks luckily hiding the rapid reddening of his cheeks.
"Nah, you're good. Fuli." The cub trotted towards her, his father watched the two with interest. "My dad and I were just talking about our patrol today." His smile barely held stable with excitement.
"Oh, well the guard's waiting for us at the lair. "She turned her slim body to the bolder path she used to reach the rocky peak. "Maybe it'll be best if we talk more there?"
"Sure!" Kion approached her, following in her pawprints as they started the long trek down Pride rock to the Lion Guard lair beneath them. "See you dad!" Simba could only sit and watch as his son and his cheetah friend hopped down the stable rocks beneath them.
"Stay alert, son!" Simba called out. Kion seemed to barely take note of his father's concern, focusing more on both the position of his paws in reference to the path, and the standing of the slightly smooth fluffy cheetah ahead of him.
A silence fell at the peak as the king sat at the edge of Pride Rock, overlooking the kingdom. It had been many years since he had done a full patrol of its borders. He recalled ever since Kion was but a newborn cub and Kiara had run into Kovu, son to Zira, leader of a group of banished lions called Outsiders. Zira stood as a devout follower to Simba's now-deceased evil uncle, Scar. The king knew that with Kion, as leader of the Lion Guard, there would be less need for him to do his patrols. He now relied more both on his majordomo Zazu's morning reports and daily reports from Kion and Ono: the keenest of sight among the Lion Guard. Together, they helped build a picture of the problems affecting his kingdom.
"Somebody seems worried." A familiar, calming voice soothed Simba's spine. Turning his mane coated neck slightly leftward, he noticed his queen and mate, Nala, approaching him. "What's wrong?"
Simba let out a short, mind-clearing burst of breath. "It's Kion. He's worked every day for the past week, day and night, protecting the Pridelands whilst I've done barely anything." His head dropped low, staring down at the large, fur-engulfed blobs protruding from his legs. The shallow slots in which his claws laid dormant lightly blew in the coming shallow breeze. "I think I'm asking too much of him"
"Oh, Simba." Nala approached her mate and king, ruffling her short, cream coloured fur into his long, luxurious mane. "He knew what to expect when he took the job. I heard your conversation." She continued to explore his lump of facial hair, seemingly having a relaxing, calming effect on the adult lion. "You've made the right choice."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Simba embraced his mate, the nuzzles and snuggles of each only aiding the balance of their hearts and bodies.
"Hmm, I still remember the day he came into his world." Nala's blue, sparkling eyes cast back into her mind, reliving the precious memory of holding her son for the first time. "You should have seen the way he looked at times in the first few days, filled with wonder and amazement."
"Yeah, and he's never lost that look, even now." A sarcastic grin creaked over Simba's face, forcing a tiny, comfortable giggle out of Nala.
"Who does he remind you of?"
"I don't know? Who?" Simba asked, adorning his face with a slightly confused, if only poorly acted, frown. In response, Nala, with all the agility and strength that made her a vicious, efficient huntress, pushed her much bulkier mate to the ground, pinning him to the ground.
"You of course." The pair continued to nuzzle as Nala slightly moved off of Simba, allowing him free movement once more. As more lionesses awoke from their sleep, the air arose each to all fours. Nala rounded up a few of the lionesses ready to hunt, whilst Simba returned to the cave, hoping to catch a quick nap before Zazu's morning report in a few hours' time. Although, in the back of his mind, Simba thought that nothing would change today apart from his later patrol. But he could not be so much further from the truth...
Not far away, a single lion, one that had travelled far and wide in a search for a missing princess, was slowly creeping in on Pride Rock. His arrival would only bring a darker, more worry-rich future for the kingdom of the Pridelands.