The skies crackled with eldritch, corruptive lightning sweeping across the dead, impossibly cracked land. Kovu had frozen entirely. A rush of cold, deathly air rushed behind him, casting a shadow upon the shuddering, frightened adolescent lion.
"So... What do you think?" The echoing, yet loud whispering presence chuckled softly. As Kovu turned around, he was met with its source. A large, foreboding sheet of darkness tinted with a greenish hue. It was the size of a mountain, dominating the space before him with its chilling, soulless presence.
"Wh...Who are you?" The young male trembled, cautiously querying the mighty demonic god that stood before him. The shadow started to twist and contort, shrinking down in size until it was just about the same size as him. The remaining bulge of convulsing, corruption slowly shifted, stretching and contouring itself. The resulting feline form sent shivers down Kovu's spine as a familiar face revealed itself.
Scar now stood before him, in the flesh nonetheless. The old lion king smirked gently towards his chosen successor, slowly approaching him as Kovu suddenly bowed, not by his whim. It was as if someone or something was forcing him down to the decaying, dusty ground.
"Everything the shadows touch is my kingdom!" The proud, aloof entity sat beside Kovu, watching as a darkening hue enveloped the land, reaching out to the strange, crystallised structure, flickering on the horizon. The ground shuddered beneath them, seemingly shifting in the void below. Scar turned back to Kovu, placing his paw beside him. "And it will be yours... one day..."
Scar's all-knowing grin kept Kovu frozen. His mind conflicted with what it saw, and what it believed. Here was his 'father', the only one who had given him everything in his life despite never knowing him. He stood there, in the flesh. And yet... Kovu felt nothing, no connection, no sense of compassion. He looked up into Scar's dead, soulless eyes, the slightest, heart-heavy tear rolling down his cheek.
"What did you do to my father?" A silence fell. The two lions stared at each other before Scar's slithering chuckle broke the thick, heavy silence. He looked out at the horizon, watching as the darkness around them swirled this scarred land.
"Oh, Kovu..." His grin grew and grew, not fading as he slowly turned his maned head to his chosen successor. The shadow-laden clouds closed in, seeping across the pair as darkness consumed them. A flash of hallowed, green light flickered through the clouds, a thunderstorm, crackling through the puffy clouds, creating images, visions, shots of history.
"Your parents worshipped me!" The clouds continued to show a lion and lioness, bowing before the mighty, flickering figure of Scar. Between them, a pair of small bundles lay, wiggling around slightly as the male arose, stepping before the mighty king of the time. "They sacrificed everything for you, to me!" Scar seemed to raise his claw, striking down the two adults in a swipe. The clouds thinned, the lightning intensifying. The painful, pleading cries seeping through the air. Choking, wheezing until... nothing.. nothing but silence.
"No..." The clouds faded. Kovu's cheeks twinkled with soul-lit tears. His heart broken, frozen with a stinging, shallow sense of betrayal. The chill quickly steamed away as he turned to Scar, his eyes focussing, clawing unsheathed, teeth snarling. "YOU TOOK THEM!"
"You were mine to take, little Kovu!" Scar stood tall and proud, grinning widely as he looked down at the agitated, fuming lion before him. He could feel it, his anger, his hatred of him. It felt so good, so nourishing. He felt his body tremble with power. Oh, how he loved it.
"You are mine, whether you like it or not." He approached, pressing his muzzle before Kovu's. His hot, humid, molten breath seeping before Kovu's face, burning the young lion's fur as he stared forward, locking eyes with the mighty, false god.
"I'm not-Ahhh!" The scar etched across Kovu's left eye burnt, sending a throbbing shot of agony across the young lion's face. He collapsed to the ground, clawing away at his face as his excruciating, tormented screams echoed across the land. Scar encircled him, bellowing with laughter as Kovu's claw raked his eye, seeping a fiery green hue from within...
Vitani and her hunting party continued through the strange, broken land, following a singular straight path laid out before them. The skies around them flickered with the shadows of floating rocky islands, floating in the green-lit void.
Tazama scoured the land, her sharp eyes trembling as she scanned the ruined landscape. Whispers filled her mind, seeping into her brain gently, slowly. The wisest of the party couldn't believe the impossible, reality-shattering reality around her. She strolled slowly, her mind delirious, trying to understand every inch of this strange, foreboding place.
"Keep up Tazama!" Vitani called from the front. The others turned to the keen-eyed lioness, before turning back to their leader. Shaking her head, she regained focus. The whispers faded as she trotted up, catching up with her fellow lionesses.
"Finally got the brains to catch up, huh?" Shabaha grinned softly, rolling her eyes as Tazama passed her. Her sister, Imara, followed beside her, nudging her sister slightly as she teased their smart, sharp friend.
"Silence!" Vitani growled from the front, halting her stride as she slightly turned her head to face them. The party seemed to listen, halting in their place, as silent as could be. The crackling of thunder was the only sound reverberating across this dead land now.
The scurrying, starching of paw steps quickly came into range, causing Vitani's ears to flick slightly. As she turned, she was met with Kasi, rushing towards them.
"Kasi, what did you see?" The leading lioness placed a paw forward as her friend approached, panting heavily. She allowed a minute to catch her breath before Kasi could talk properly.
"There's an opening ahead, with a series of rocks." She looked behind the group, noticing the similarly rocky structure on the horizon. "Like the one we came in on." Vitani took a moment to think, lowering her head before quickly raising it, her eyes gleaming with illuminating, complete ideas.
"Very well." She stepped forward slowly. "Come on then, we've got to get to that gateway!" The lioness started to s sprint, followed closely by her hunting party. They quickly rushed through the dead, decaying land, the ground started to crack and break apart as they approached, revealing the mass destruction around them. Tazama was still at the back of the group, trying desperately to keep up. She noticed a small island break off from the rest, floating ahead at a faster speed. She blinked her eyes, contemplating every possibility, every outcome, before concluding.
She lept out, easily landing on the island as it just swayed passed. She held on for dear life, watching as the void lit hue beneath convulse, ripple as if reaching out. The others watched on as they hurried, leaping from boulder to boulder before landing on the other side with ease. Tazama took a deep breath as she reached the edge of the island using every inch of her strength to propel her body forward, leaping across the void and onto the other side of the decaying pathway. The others met here after a few seconds, halting before her as she caught her breath.
"Damn, even I'm not that crazy!" Shabaha chuckled softly as her strong, capable sister strolled up to the weaker lioness, helping her up. The small group huddled up, checking up on Tazama with a gentle, respectful worry.
"I'm fine!" The smart lioness replied to all the gentle nuzzling from her fellow lionesses. Kasi, in particular, seemed obsessed with her, constantly chucking up on her, checking her wounds and state. It was only when Tazama stepped forward slightly that she relaxed, letting her dear friend continue towards a fierce, plotting Vitani.
"I'm glad to hear so, but we need to move!" The ever-dominant Vitani sprinted ahead leading the way down the tightening canyon ahead. Each member of the hunting party couldn't believe their eyes as they watched the islands floating above them move, zoom past them as they ran. As they did, a blinding, whispering light blossomed ahead, causing all but Tazama to halt, lifting their front legs in an attempt to shield their eyes from the burning rays.
Tazama though continued to stare. Her mind burned as the whispers grew, though she couldn't quite figure out what they were saying. The distorted, almost scream-like whispers sent images through her mind, scorching her brain with flashes of different events, mostly lions and hyenas, all praying before Scar, before being slaughtered.
The light slowly began to fade, imploding upon itself as the screams within Tazama's head silenced. Off in the distance, the gateway opened, pulsating the ground around it with ethereal energy. The gush caused by its awakening rushed towards the group, causing them all to hold their ground. As the wind-battered their fur, a series of thunderous crackles etched across the sky, to the north. Vitani ignored them, slowly but surely leading her fellow huntresses closer to the gateway.
"Come on! We have to-" Her words of encouragement were halted as a familiar, echoing roar screeched across the skies, sending a darkened pulse through the air, choking them all as it passed. Vitani collapsed to the ground as the blast hit the gateway, creating a body-shattering boom within its epicentre.
Vitani didn't see it coming. Landing softly on the cracked, decaying ground, her body fell through, freefalling into the darkness below as the others halted, knocked back just slightly as their leader plummeted to her certain doom. Even Kasi, the fastest among them, was too slow to catch her, reaching out with her paw as she looked own, the sound of her leader's terrified, pleading screams ringing in her ears.
"VITANI!" The slender lioness watched, cheeks spewing with tears as her leader fell into the abyss. The fog crept in, covering up the land beneath them. The storms faded as the cries of the party gained dominance. They all froze, unsure of what to do.
A shallow tremor rumbled from below, heating the ground softly as it intensified. The remaining lionesses all looked at each other, petrified for the most part, apart from Shabaha. The brave lioness felt the tremors through her paws, slowly following it to its source. She turned due west, watching as the ground seemed to crumble in on itself, the roar like tremor slowly breaking through, building and building in power until...
"WOOOAAHHH!!!!" The ground gave way before her, spewing out a familiar lump of fur into the sky, before landing with a heavy thud. A sudden gasp rushed through the hunting party, as Kasi and Shabaha rushed over. It was Vitani, breathing heavily, coughing slightly as she caught her breath.
"Vitani! Are you okay?" The rest of the hunting party approached their fierce leader, gently nuzzling up to her panting body. She raised her head, turning her attention between each of them before chuckling softly.
"I'm fine." The young leading lioness smiled, causing a wave of grins to reflect back at her. The small team snuggled and chuckled softly, relieved to see their leader back with them. With a blink of her eyes, Tazama felt something off, slightly to the north. A small shudder of pebbles fell from an island above. At its edge, a seemingly strong, focussed lioness stood. A series of marks etched into her right shoulder.
"Because of her!" The others turned, their mouths agape as the lioness leapt down, standing defensively before them. Her eyes scanned her surroundings, checking the skies above her.
"And who are you?" Shabaha growled at the strange lioness. Her sister moved beside her, slowly creeping in, preparing to attack at any sign of aggressiveness. The rest of the hunting party, apart from Vitani, formed a semi-circle, ready to defend their leader at any cost. The lioness stared at each of them, still standing strong and proud, sticking her chest out slightly. "I am Potea!" Her eyes turned to Vitani, who had just regained enough strength to stand. At the same time, a slither of darkness rushed across the sky, seemingly heading towards a sparkling structure in the distance.
"And you're all in great danger..."