"The time is near..." Zira hissed. She grinned a fang-y grin.
"So near, it's stirring the blood in my vains!" she sang, "Pridelanders, beware!"
"Yeash, Queenie," a lioness grumbled, "Could ya calm down fo' once?"
"What?!" Zira snapped.
"Nut'in, nut'in," she replied, hastily, "Jus' pumped fo' the foite."
"Good..." Zira snarled, "because this is the hour of vengeance! It... is... time..."
Zira stepped on the soft grass of the Pridelands, so different from the hard, dusty, bone-covered ground of the Elephant Graveyard. She hadn't felt grass in a while... Zira held her head up high, and grinned. Home at last!
Meanwhile, Zazu soared over the Elephant Graveyard, looking for the Graveyard Pride. They were here somewhere, but he had been flying for a long time and hadn't found them yet. Zazu sighed. He had been searching the graveyard for so long, and he still didn't know where they were. And then his sigh was a gasp. They were in the Pridelands already!
"Oh no!" he squawked.
Zazu flew back to the Pridelands, and soon found the Graveyard Pride nearing the watering hole. He flapped his wings as fast as he could, and finally got back to Pride Rock.
"Madam! Sire!" he yelled.
"Whaph, Shashu?" asked Kiara, holding Upelelezi in her mouth.
"The Graveyard Pride! They're here in the Pridelands, nearing the waterhole."
"Kovu," she called, into the den, after laying Upelelezi down.
"What is it?" he asked, walking out with Kizazi at his heels.
"Zira?" asked Kizazi.
"Yes, it's Zira. Kovu, it's time to fight."
"I'm ready, Kiara. Zazu, stay here with the cubs."
"'Stay here with the cubs'?" growled Kizazi, "I'm coming with you, I wanna help!"
"Kizazi, you're not gonna fight in a war," scoffed Kovu.
"I wanna help!"
"Kizazi, you've helped so much alread," Kiara said calmly, with a smile, "and we don't want you to get hurt."
"You're right," said Kovu, "you won't get hurt because you aren't going."
"Lionesses!" Kovu shouted into the den, cutting his son off, "It is time to fight! Zira and her pride are in the Pridelands, now, and we will meet them at the waterhole. We must go now, and get the hyenas!"
Without asking any questions, the lionesses raced from the den, after Kovu and Kiara. Kumbuka and Speckles trotted out from the den.
"What's going on?" asked Kumbuka.
"The Pridelanders and Zira's pride are going to fight for our lands," Zazu answered.
"Without us!" Kizazi exclaimed.
"Duh," said Upelelezi, toddling up to Zazu, "No safe! Right?"
"That's right," Zazu said, smiling at his little prodigy.
"But not fair," Kizazi continued.
"But for your own protection."
"But... But stupid."
"Yes, I'll give you that," Zazu laughed, "It might be stupid."
Meanwhile, Zira stood in the Pridelands. She could see Pride Rock from here... she had lived there once, and she would live there again. Her army of lionesses were behind her, waiting for the moment she stopped reminicing, and was ready for war.
To Zira's surprise, she could see lions in the distance. But Zira wasn't shaken for long. That little dodo bird must have seen them, and told Kiara. It's not like she couldn't take them, she just didn't have surprise on her side this time.
Kovu, Kiara and the lionesses and hyenas walked slowly up to the Graveyard Pride, and up to Zira. She stared loathlingly into Kovu's green eyes, and smiled. Kiara shuttered, and Kovu snarled.
"Zira..." he breathed.
"Kovu," she growled, through gritted fangs.
"Why are you here?" asked Kiara.
"Because... this is... my home."
"Not anymore," Kovu continued.
"But it will be again, my little lad."
Kovu extended his claws.
Before Kovu could sound the traditional battle roar, a lioness had launched herself onto his back, and started to claw at his skin. This would not be a fare fight, he should have known. Kovu bucked and twisted, eventually shaking the lioness off of him. He kicked her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her, but not really hurting her. Meanwhile, unlucky Kiara was nose-to-nose with Zira, who was grinning wildly. She slashed at Kiara, who ducked and bit Zira's leg, getting down almost to the bone. Zira yelled, and grabbed Kiara's neck in her jaws. Just as she was about to twist and break it, Shenzi leaped onto Zira, slamming her down into the sand, and giving Kiara a moment to breath.
Meanwhile, Simba and his band of lionesses were trekking through the Pridelands, hungry and tired. With a limited amount of food in the Outlands, they had been forced back into the Pridelands.
"Are you sure we should be here, Simba?" asked Nala, looking around worriedly.
"We won't stay for long," Simba replied, "we'll take down a zebra or two, and we'll be back in the Outlands like that. No one will notice."
"The zebras might," Nala joked.
Simba laughed a little.
As Simba and the lionesses headed a bit deeper into the Pridelands, they began to notice a change in the mood of the lands. Something was... troubling.
"Come on," said Simba, looking over his shoulder at the lionesses, "this way."
"Zazu, I'm going to go help!" Kizazi snarled.
"You're parents ordered me to-"
But Zazu was interupted.
"I'm going, and you can't stop me!"
"And why not?"
"Because you have to stay here and make sure Upelelezi and Speckles are safe. So if I go, you won't follow me, I know it."
Kizazi glared at his babysitter, nuzzled his sister and then his future mate, and ran down Pride Rock.
"Kizazi, wait!" Zazu called after him, "Ugh, he's right, what can I do? I'm taking care of a litter here!"
"Well, then," Kumbuka said, with a mischievous smile, "You can't stop me either!"
Kumbuka raced after his friend.
"I won't let you keep all that attention to yourself!" he snickered.
Banzai bit deep into the hide of some Graveyard lioness, he didn't know which, while Ed was leading Waanzin, Kila, Kitu and NaZaidi out of the fray and behind a large rock, where they might be safer. There hadn't been time to bring them back to Pride Rock, and they had been forced to take them to the battle.
"Mum!" shouted Neo, upon seeing Banzai terring into Kijinga.
Neo zoomed to her aid, and knocked Banzazi flat on his back. But the instant Neo pinned Banzai down, he was shoved over by Shenzi, who dug her claws into his chest.
Meanwhile, Zira swiped and snapped at Dotty, Spotty and Ander, who had teamed up against the unstopable force that was Zira. Spotty ran headfirst into Zira's side, knocking her down and biting her back. Zira rolled over, and kicked Spotty with all her might. Dotty went for her leg, but Zira twisted and freed herself. She leaped away, and hit Ander in the jaw, and she flew backwards, hitting a nearby log. Dotty sratched at Zira, and ran off to check on her friend.
Kovu punched and scratched at the Graveyard lionesses, as Ed leaped around them, nipping their tails to destract them so Kovu could get a good punch in. Kiara leaped passed them, and got her claws on one of the lionesses' throats.
Simba looked over the hillside, and saw exactly what he was expecting to see. A pride of lions. A clan of hyenas. A war breaking out. He had been right all along, but he had never hoped it would go this far. But when Simba squinted for a better look, he realized that something wasn't right. The hyenas... were only fighting some of the lionesses... and they seemed to be... protecting others... And some lionesses were being attacked by other lionesses. And it finally clicked for Simba: The Pridelanders were fighting a rival pride, and the hyenas were helping them to do it!
"Lionesses!" he called over his shoulder, "the Pridelanders are fighing another pride with help from the hyenas! We need to join them."
Without question, the lionesses rushed down the hillside, lead by Simba.
Kizazi and Kumbuka had run the whole way from Pride Rock to the battle, and their legs were burning and aching. They both knew now that there was no way that they could help the Pridelanders now, but now that they were there, they could at least watch, and see how this would play out.
"Kizazi?" somebody asked, "Kumbuka?"
"Waanzin!" exclaimed Kizazi, "What are you doing here?"
"I'll tell you in a minute, come over here!"
Kizazi and Kumbuka huddled behind the rock, where Waanzin, Kila, Kitu and NaZaidi were sheltered.
"Hey," said Kumbuka, nervously. He had only met Waanzin.
"Hi," they repled.
"Nyugh nugh..." mumbled NaZaidi.
Kizazi peered over the rock. To his surprise, a number of lionesses were pouring down a nearby hillside, lead by a famillier looking lion.
Simba charged down the hill, Nala at his side. He grabbed the leg of the first Graveyard Lioness he saw, and flipped her over, quickly moving on to shoving other lionesses. But the reinforcments hadn't snuck in unnoticed. Zira, after pinning Kiara, spotted Simba, and melded back into the quickly shrinking crowd.
Zira watched as Simba grappled with Neo. Altough Neo was too young to be at his prime, Simba was far passed his, and they were a good match for each other. Neo was almost able to overpower the old lion, and soon had the upper paw. That is when Zira leaped over the heads of the other lionesses, and landed easily on Simba's back. She ripped into his flesh with a triumphant roar. Having caught Simba off guard, Zira was able to twist her body, and grab onto his throat with her sharp teeth. She pulled back, causing Simba to shriek in agony. Simba was unable to shake her off, now that her claws were so deep in his flesh.
Nala ran up to Kiara, and helped her to get up.
"Mom?" Kiara asked, 'What are... why are you here?"
"We saw the fight," Nala answered, "And in the end, we are one pride."
Kiara smiled, as they charged back into the fray.
Kovu and Vitani were side-by-side, facing off against a pawful of the remaining Graveyard Lionesses. Kovu hopped towards one, faking her out, and Vitani jumped on her from behind. When the lioness fell to the ground, trying to kicked her opponent away, another of the lionesses skittered away, frightened. With only one left, Kovu and Vitani could surely take her. But just as he was about to pounce, Simba's blaring scream sounded, and Kovu's eyes widened.
"Vitani," he barked, sharply, "Finish this for me."
Taking off at full speed, Kovu rushed to Simba's side. Kovu drew a sharp breath, when his eyes landed upon a horrifying sight; Simba's neck was gushing blood, and his chest was ripped and bleeding. Zira wasn't faring much better. Her chest was bleeding even worse than Simba's, and clearly her back leg was causing her terrible pain.
Kovu stared, too frightened to intervene.
Kizazi searched the crowd of lionesses, trying to locate at least one of his parents. His eyes landed on Nala and Kiara, ganging up on one of the Graveyard lionesses. Kizazi eyes flitted around, searching for his father, just as Kumbuka pulled himself up next to his friend.
"Kizazi!" he gasped, pointing into the crowd, "Look!"
Kizazi looked towards where Kumbuka pointed, and saw Simba and Zira grappling on the ground, as Kovu watched, seemingly helpless.
"That's Grandpa Simba!" he said, shocked, and staring at Kumbuka.
"GET HER!" they shouted.
Kovu turned. He was shocked to see the two cubs, and was wrenched back to reality. Kovu leaped towards Simba and Zira, and punched her in the chest, knocking her off of Simba. Her head slammed into a rock, and she screamed out in pain. Kovu looked down, and gaped upon seeing his own paw smeared with his "mother's" blood. But Kovu didn't take the time to focus on it, and he hurried to Simba's side. He shuttered, seeing how bloody and mangled Simba's body was.
"Simba!" he yelled, "Simba!"
"Kovu..." he groaned, "Kovu... I was... wrong. About the... the hyenas... the hyenas and... and about why you..."
"It's alright," Kovu interupted, "I understand."
"Tell Kiara... and Nala, I... I--"
"Love them," said Kovu, managing to smile, "I'll tell them, Simba."
And with a smile still on his face, Simba went limp.
Kiara and Nala sat together, looking upon the many lionesses who had given up fighting, and lay, most not dead but many wounded, in the red-flecked grass. Kovu hurried up to them.
"Is something wrong, Kovu?" Kiara asked, reading his expression.
"It's... It's Simba," Kovu said, sadly, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Kiara and Nala both gasped, and looked at each other.
"Kovu..." a shaky voice gasped, from somewhere behind them, "Kovu..."
He glanced at Kiara.
"Go," she said, "Just be sure to come back."
Kovu nodded, and walked towards the lioness who called his name. It was Zira, lying in the dust, blood pooling around her head. Kovu held back vomit.
"Kovu..." she coughed, "Kovu, please... tell me... did... did I... get him?"
Kovu looked down at Zira. He despised her for murdering Simba... He detested her for what she had tried to turn him into as a child... But most of all, he hated her for what she had just taken from Kiara. But despite that, she had still been his mother once, and there was something inside of Kovu that forced him to grant her a peaceful death.
"Yes, Mother," he said, "You got him."
And with a bloody cough, Zira died.
Kiara, her fur wet with tears, stood on top of a large rock, and called out to the lionesses;
"We will not take in any more lions, the Pridelands are overpopulated as it is. We won't let you murge with our pride."
"Well, we con still foit you, Queenie!" shouted Kijinga, "We awnt go'n live in ah Graveya'd again!"
"We are not saying you have to go back to the Elephant Graveyard," Kiara continued, "But the nearby mountains are uninhabited, although I warn you that a pride lives on the other side of them. You could move to the mountains, which I assure you is uninhabited, and where I assure you there is food."
The Graveyard lionesses muttered and hissed at each other.
"Foin, Queenie," said Kijinga, "We'll go to the mountains, but if your wrong, we'll be bock to take the Proid-londs!"
"This is noice, though, isn't it, Neo? You'll get to be king of the mountains!"
"Coo'..." said Neo, pausing from licking his paw.
"C'mon, goils, let go!" Kijinga called over her shoulder.
And the lionesses headed back in the direction they had come.
"No! No guys!" Kovu yelled, "The mountains are the other way!"
"We knew thot!" growled Kijinga, defencively, "We was just... just checkin' somethin'..."
And the hurried passed the Pridelanders, in the right direction.
"Should I go with them?" Vitani asked Kovu, "Just to make sure they get there?"
"Yeah," he replied, "I think you'd better."
Kizazi, Kumbuka, Waanzin and the other hyenas sprinted out from behind the rock, calling out for their parents.
"Mom! Dad!" cried Kizazi, running up to his parents.
"Momma!" squealed Kumbuka, hugging Dotty around the neck.
"Kizazi, what are you doing here?!" yelped Kiara.
"We wanted to come and help," he replied, smiling up at his parents.
"I am going to kill that bird..." growled Kovu, looking towards Pride Rock.
"It isn't his fault, Dad. I'll explain it all later."
Kiara stood on Pride Rock, looking down on the many lionesses. There was Kovu, sitting with all of the cubs around him. He was gesturing towards the sky.
“It's that one,” Kovu said, smiling, “the sparkly little yellow one, right by the moon.”
“Are you sure?” asked Kizazi.
“I'm sure. You can tell, because it's right by Mufasa's red star. Oh, and to answer your question, Kumbuka, yes. Scar is the very dark green star, way over there, by all the clouds.”
“I told you, Speckles, ever kind of king has a star,” Kumbuka said, smirking down at his sister.
“Stars!” cried Upelelezi, excitedly.
Kiara laughed at her perfect little family. Kovu heard Kiara, and looked up at her, grinning. He said something to the lionesses, and they all sat down, and looked up at Kiara. She gazed up at her father's star. Even though she was crowned queen so long ago, her time had really come now. Kiara took a deep breath, and she roared, louder than any Lion Queen before her.
(Epilog coming soon)