At the edge of the Pridelands, not far away from the world-changing event unfolding in the Outlands, a single, tear-torn lion wandered, pacing up and down in the sheltered safety of his father's cave. The pitter-patter of heavy, nourishing rain continued to pour in echoes through the cavern walls, though he couldn't care less about the weather. His heart and mind were washed with doubt, fear and regret.
"I can't go back." He walked towards the eastern side of the cave. On the wall, a single, large claw mark had been etched into the rock. Next to it, a deposit of a lighter, softer stone, strangely shaped in the form of the Uasilands. The little flick at the eastern end of the fallen kingdom was even represented.
Kopa remembered the warm, flowing waters that rested there. The times that he and Karimu would spend playing, resting.
"But Karimu is lost." He turned back to the west. The bright light spearing from Pride Rock blinded him with sorrow. Images of love, hope, and peace had become corrupted by hate, fear and violence. He knew that, any minute now, the others would find out.
Simba would find out.
Part of him wanted to run into the falling sun, never to be seen again. But someone was anchoring his heart here.
"I love them both." He sat down; his tail laid flat on the stone-cold floor. "But I can't..." His breathing intensified, a small river of tears running down his face, through his mane and splashing onto the floor. "I can't be with either."
He thought about his dream. To start a pride, a family. To be loved and bring love to those around him. He thought about how he would cuddle his cubs dearly, allow them to nibble his ears and pounce on him whenever they’d want. But he knew this was impossible now. The only lionesses he ever loved, ever cared about were either dead or out of reach.
But that is what he thought...
"And it's all MY FAULT!" He pounced at the eastern wall, striking at its stony, irregular surface. His claws burned through the surface, scorching his anger-fueled mark onto its surface. His claws scraped the wall's surface with ease, only stopping when there was no wall left to scratch. As his paw flung to the floor, he felt a strange bump beneath it.
Peering down, he noticed his paw rested in a large, seemingly familiar paw print. It was old, made years ago. The shape was very similar to Kopa's but was slightly bigger, slightly deeper. A layer of warmth shuddered across his spine as a warm breeze blew through the cave, pooling in the paw print before him. His ears flicked upwards as he heard heavy, stony footsteps behind him.
"Kopa?" The deep, calm, majestic tones of Kopa's father rumbled through the cave, his stony, lava pulsating body illuminating the room. "Something troubling you, my son?" He slowly, regally, approached Kopa. The young lion had flopped to the floor, tears rolling down his face like salty waterfalls of sorrow.
"I don't think you can help this time, father." He stared away from his father, a grim, gloomy expression bleaching his muzzle. A kick of the paw, rolling small pebbles from his grasp only added to the depressing aura surrounding him.
"Perhaps I can." He sat in front of his shrunken, sulking son. He knew how much it hurt, failing to protect the ones you loved. As the rocky lion laid down, Kopa released a single, heavy stream of breath, before turning to his inquisitive father.
"I failed, father." His brown, once sweet and attractive eyes closed shut. "I've lost two mates now. I am the last of the bloodline." His ears fell into the void, falling with his mind as he snuggled up to himself.
"I failed you."
"You haven't failed, Kopa." He nuzzled against his son. Though made of stone, the boiling lava pumping through his veins brought warmth to his cold, barely lifeful body. His actions seemed to have little effect on Kopa's mood, but he did hear his son give a shallow, barely audible purr of affection. "You could never fail me, or yourself."
Another slight breath escaped Kopa's lips. "How would you know what failure's like?" He peered, inquisitively at his father. "You never failed me or mother."
This comment shot a sharp pain through Ni's heart. Unbeknownst to Kopa, he had felt failure on this level, even more so in fact. He felt a small tear of lava roll down his face, dropping to the floor, dissolving a small spot of the cave's floor.
"You were not my first son, Kopa." His head dropped with the weight of this reveal.
"Wait!" Kopa's ears flicked up. Did he really hear his father correctly? "WHAT?!" He even arose to his front paws, sitting upright as his eyes scanned his father's face, hopeful to hear more.
"I think it's time I told you about Nguvu..."
Long before I came to the Pridelands, I was a part of the Uasi Pride. The very Pride that you became a part of. I was a follower and friend of the Mlinzi of the time, Ulinzi, a name that had been passed from Mlinzi to Mlinzi for generations.
In those days, we were at war with another pride, The Shinda Pride. They were barbaric, even more than the Uasi Pride could be. Every Pride they fought, every pride they defeated, they consumed. Everyone hated them, even me.
But this would change when… I met her...
One day, I met a lone, starving lioness whilst on patrol. She was severely hurt, a large, spewing wound etched along her side. With no thought, I carried her back to the Uasi Pride. Of course, it was revealed she was the daughter of a rebellious leader within the pride. They wanted to live normal, peaceful lives.
She wasn't that bad looking either. Once healed, her creamy, smooth fur was eye-catching. Her well-contoured, savage yet cuddly face stuck in my heart like a warm, fluffy thorn. Before I knew it, we were mates and the centre of the unification of both prides.
Once they realised that peace was possible, many of the Shinda Pride joined the Uasi Pride. In time, we would have a single cub. A son named Nguvu, named so for his strong, playful personality. He was my life and joy, as was she.
But some despised us, still loyal to the Shinda pride's old ways.
They attacked us. Stole them and dragged them into a field. I can still smell the blood-scented pollen at the end of my nose. The cries of pain and terror as they were sliced, clawed and then burned in a bushel of dry grass.
I was too late to save them. The lions responsible for their deaths were never found, sulking away into the shadows to serve a darker, demonic master. Though I didn't know this at the time. I saw their death as a result of my weakness. I saw myself as useless, hopeless. In time, I left the Uasi Pride, knowing I was no use to them. I ran and ran and ran. Until I found this land.
I saw how Scar destroyed the Pridelands, how he drained the land of all life, all hope through his selfishness. I saw how he treated the lionesses under his command. Starving them, using them for his pleasure. It was then I realised there were animals worse off than myself. Ones that were more than stronger than me yet still enslaved.
I knew I had to help.
So, I saved Nala from the hyenas. I met with them, assisted them. I fell in love once more, with your mother. I had a purpose once more. Even though it didn't last, it was worth it.
"Wow!" Kopa was frozen in shock. He never knew his father's past. Hell, he barely knew anything about him nor even asked. "I never knew what you went through."
His ears dropped once more, but not in sorrow for himself. It was clear now that he was being foolish, selfish. He nuzzled his father, who laid silent, weeping softly as he felt his son's soft, life-stained mane.
"It's okay, my son." Ni arose to his paws before sitting at the cave's entrance, overlooking Pride Rock. The sunset showed behind the monument. Hours had passed since they had started their talk, but now, it was setting.
"I just want you to know that no matter how dark your life may seem right now, it is not the end." Kopa approached his father, listening to his wise, knowledgeable words. His father turned to him, smiling reassuringly. "You are not alone in this world. And I think-"
A heart-piercing, ground trembling roar shattered through the sky. To the east, a bright, otherworldly blast exploded from the southern part of the Outlands. The roar was more than recognisable to Kopa.
"It can't be?" His heart stopped. It couldn't be, could it?
He felt the crumbling, disintegrating feeling of his father's physical form dissipating back into the ground, though in spirit, he was still there. The young lion arose to his paws, nearly tripping up as he moved closer to the cave's entrance. The roar still rattled in his mind. Its sound, he knew, could come from one creature. One lioness...