A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » June 14th, 2014, 10:55 pm

chapter 40: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Chapter 40: The End


The bright desert sun radiated its heat onto the barrens below, coating Leo's fur with its intense rays of thermal energy. The burn was soon released after several minutes, however, as Mohatu approached ever closer to the pyramid's large metal door. The shadow of the enormous blocky structure shielded him from the light, and within Mohatu felt an eddy of cooler air.

He placed his paw up onto the pyramid's door, but chose not to apply enough pressure to open it. Even as deliberate as that action was, Mohatu wasn't entirely sure how he would get inside, anyway. Unlike the other pyramids, which had mere gaping holes for entrances to the underground, this one was vastly different. It was much more intact, almost like it was more alive, in a sense.

After the passing of several moments of silence, Mohatu turned his back to the door. He set his focus on Zuria, who had followed closely behind. "Go hide in that bush over there... that should be a good hiding spot. Don't come out until Minerva and I have entered the pyramid."

Zuria did as she was told, and in due time, Mohatu found himself standing out in the open, all alone. He was by himself now, as his trial was meant to be. Now, all he needed to do was wait for Minerva. His friends would take care of the rest.

Deep breaths swelled up in Mohatu's lungs, while he prepared himself to accept his fate. He had been waiting for this moment for so long—he knew he could do it. He was once the king of the Pridelands; he was stronger than his brother, at one point in time. He was a new lion now, very different from the creature he once was. But that didn't make him any less powerful.

Regardless, Mohatu knew Rex wasn't the lion to underestimate, either. If the kings of the past needed Leo to prove his superiority in battle, that was obviously because his superiority was questionable at best. In any case, it was going to be a close match. That much was without doubt.

Now, Mohatu understood what all the hype was all about. This really was his trial. His success or failure would forever determine the fate of the lion kingdom.


---



Mari trekked her way around the back of the pyramid, obviously sure to maintain the most quiet appearance she could. For her, it was just another day, sneaking through hostile territory with only stealth to guide her path. She wasn't nearly as good at hiding herself as Rafiki was, but her abilities in that respect were nearly unparalleled by any lion.

Unfortunately, Mari's stealth wasn't going to do her much good. Sure, she managed to sneak around back without ever getting noticed, but there was a greater problem. The good news was the Mari found the second entrance to the pyramid. The bad news was that she couldn't get inside.

Just as Mohatu found himself facing a giant metal door, Mari also saw that her entrance was sealed in some form or another. Presumably, Minerva was going to open the door for Mohatu, but Mari had no such assurance. She pawed and kneaded at the door, but couldn't manage to bring it to budge. Somehow, she was going to have to get inside, but that was already proving to be no easy task.

Mari lowered herself to the ground, and made an attempt to stick her paws underneath the crack between the metal plate and the sand below it. Perhaps, she thought, she could pry it open from the underside. She shifted a thin layer of sand aside, before grinding her fur against the bedrock on which it rested.

That wasn't going to work, either.

As soon as her movement ceased, Mari's ear released a twitch. She paused, and it twitched again. There were whisks far off in the distance, but approaching rapidly.

Great, Mari thought. Visitors.

Immediately, Mari shot herself back upward onto her paws. Perhaps she was just being paranoid, but she did hear something. There was someone approaching, and the last thing Mari wanted was to be off her guard. She had to stay alert, especially in a time like this.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just any lion on its way to meet her. That fact became apparent as Mari's eyes dialed into focus. As her view sharpened, she saw that it was Rex, and behind him stood an army of a great number of lions, many more than Mari was capable of fighting herself. There were at least three on each side, perhaps even four—or more, depending on how many hid behind Rex as he led the front row.

Mari's pulse accelerated to unhealthy levels. Her vision narrowed with her eyes, and her perception of reality became distorted. While she had just felt the heat of dawn and the dryness of her tongue merely moments ago, she could now think of nothing other than her own survival. Time slowed to fill each beat of her heart, and blood rushed to fuel her muscles.

"Mari..." Rex said at last, obviously recognizing his former pridesister without any difficulty. In the slow passing of time that followed, the amount of silence thereafter seemed to last an eternity.

Now, the lioness had no choice. She had to fight.

Without response, Mari pressured her hindlegs like a spring, simultaneously extending her front claws and rising her lips to expose her teeth. As soon as she was within range of one of her adversaries, she unleashed all hell upon them—pinning one lioness to the ground and forcing the three near her to scatter. She exhaled her breath with such tremendous force, her roar shook the entire horizon.

Rex, however, saw the lioness's move and knocked her away with an easy, effortless strike of his own paw. He had lost one of his comrades to Mari's strike, but he still had six others, not including himself. This was a fight that Mari simply couldn't win, no matter how she sliced her way through it. Though she had made the initial strike, she was outnumbered and underpowered.

Before she could even blink, Mari found herself laying on the sands, her shoulder deeply cut and bruised from Rex's first attack. Rex's allies filled in the gaps to encircle her, and in less than ten seconds, the fight was over before it even began.

"I hope you aren't planning on leaving so soon," Rex threatened. His voice boomed into Mari's ears, frightening her as she feared for her life.

In consequence, Mari kicked herself back up, struggling to maintain her balance in such a short amount of time. She couldn't allow herself to have a moment to rest. If she fell to the ground and stayed there for just a second, Mari had no doubt that it would be the end of her life. She had to stay on the tips of her paws, constantly moving and dodging attacks from all directions.

With that in mind, Mari maintained her focus, despite her intense pain. It was all superficial, in the large sense. This was a matter of life or death. Never before had the lioness been any more focused and determined—not even when she fought Leo. All she felt was the heat of her blood, all she saw was the glow of Rex's eyes. All she could hear was her own breath. Her senses were dulled, but never any sharper.

Rex stepped closer. "I spent too long trying to hunt you down to let you get away now..."

Mari was too focused to speak her response. In fact, she barely even picked up on the king's words at all. Instead of saying anything, Mari focused on maintaining an aura of unpredictability. She picked another lion at random and threw her next series of attacks. This time, however, her opponent managed to counter the strike of her paw. As a result, his friend beside him moved in to cover, and Mari again lost her balance.

Mari tried to kick the other aggressor away, but it was no use. She missed. Her hindpaw was deflected by one of the lion's strikes, and all her momentum diminished with it. Without three other limbs and a tail, she would have fallen over all too easily. Due to her feline nature, however, Mari wasn't out of the game just yet.

With the lion in front of her startled, Mari turned 180 to face the lion at her tail end. She lowered her stance to the ground, ready to strike out for a third attack, even if it meant her doom.

But as soon as she saw four evil-looking lions with their wide grimaces staring her down, she soon changed her mind. Mari wasn't quite ready to die just yet.

"At first, I could not believe it," Rex taunted, sensing Mari's feeling of futility. Unlike the warriors around him, Rex seemed to keep his cool while he watched his opponent struggle. He knew without a doubt that he had already secured his kill, and that sense of triumph was easily audible in his voice. "But now..." he added, "I understand what you've done."

Mari took a giant leap backward, trying to give herself a little more fighting room. Although her first reaction was to fight, she knew she needed some sort of plan to make it through alive. Somehow, she would have to create a break in their formation, and run through. Then, she could lead them to Buraya, Rafiki, and the sinkhole, and somehow hope that Leo could come to the rescue as well.

"Tell me," Rex asked, "why do you think you can win? Do you think I don't know what you've been up to?"

Again, Mari stepped backward. This time, she tripped over a paw, and fell flat on her hindquarters. Two of Rex's lions rushed in to attack, and consequently, Mari rolled over to dodge their assault. It wasn't successful, however—before she knew it, Mari found herself staring upward at three lions pinning her down into the hot sand.

"I know what you know," King Rex added. "I see what you see. There is no stopping me."

Mari squirmed as she struggled to lift herself up, but it was no use. Every time she attempted to make a move, one of the opposing lions tightened his grip. Their claws pushed deeper into her flesh, and she felt more and more pain. Her head started to go light, and a black ellipse enclosed her peripheral vision.

The world grew darker and narrower. A searing, stinging pain ripped across each of Mari's limbs, and deep into her guts. Tears swelled in her eyes as she felt pressure up against her throat. Her auditory senses fell in intensity to a muffle, before dropping to complete silence.

Mari blinked her teary eyes once, glancing one final look at life. Within the blur, she saw the clouds, the sun, the sand, and the blood red stains of the lion above her. As she soon realized, that was her blood. She could taste its metallic presence in her mouth, too. One of her teeth felt like it had been bent backward, or something of that nature. In relation to the other pain in her senses, it was hardly noticeable.

All Mari felt was pain, but as her breaths ceased, it started to dwindle. Mari's consciousness faded, and with it so did her pain. Within seconds, Mari only felt a peaceful numbness in her body.

And then her vision disappeared, rooted out by the darkness that quickly surrounded and engulfed it.

That was it for the young lioness, at last. She had put up a fight, but the fires within her core dwindled. Now, her essence was extinguished. Her limbs ran limp, as her muscles all relaxed their control of her bones. For Mari, the war was over. Her eyes had already closed one final time. Despite being covered in her own blood, she was finally at peace.

That was the end of her troubled life. At last, Mari finally reached the end.


---



Minerva's brilliant coat of white fur cast a bright shimmer of light on the horizon, before she drew closer and revealed herself in greater detail. Her pace was a bit rushed, though Mohatu didn't think much of it.

Finally calming herself at the end of her run, Minerva apologized. "I am sorry about the wait... that took a little longer than I expected," she said. "We shall begin the trial immediately."

"It's fine," Mohatu replied, as reassuringly as he could. "I've only been here for a few minutes."

"Well... let us begin."

Minerva then leaned her paws up against the door, and rubbed it in a certain pattern. Whatever it was that she did, it managed to do the job. After no long amount of time, the rusty metal door split in two, and opened up a passageway that led downward.

"You first," the queen ordered.

"Yes, your highness," Mohatu replied. With that, he took his first step into the deep shadows of the unknown. The whole notion of exploring ancient underground tombs was no longer new to him, but still—something about the architecture of this chamber was just a little bit creepier than the last few he had explored.

Minerva followed closely behind, and soon after the door shut behind her. The outside brightness diminished, and like always, a row of torches ignited to light the path ahead. In this passageway, however, the torches were much farther spread out, and each one was significantly dimmer. Instead of glowing a yellowish hue, they were all a dull shade of red, only barely flickering to life.

As Mohatu looked down at the descending floor, he saw many skulls and bones in the crevices below. Spiders and their cobwebs crept around each one, inciting an even greater feeling of fear from the badass lion Mohatu wanted to believe himself. With each step he took, Leo found himself feeling more and more cubbish, like his power was suddenly leaving him.

As he saw an ominous black widow spider crawling its way through the eye socket of an ancient skull, Mohatu found it difficult to maintain any sense of bravery. He also heard bats, and even snakes within the deep lengths of the chamber below. Perhaps there were even more creatures than he had seen before—there were all sorts of noises in the darkness, and many of them weren't easily identifiable. Everything was all a bunch of horrified screams.

At the end of the passage, the pathway split off into three sections. Without question, that was where the trial would begin.

Minerva tapped Mohatu with her paw, giving him a nudge forward. In consequence, Mohatu turned around to see what it was—needless to say, he was a little creeped out by the sensation of something bumping into him in such little light. As he remembered Minerva was behind him, he started to feel a little bit more secure and a little less worried.

"Go on," Minerva whispered. "Your trial starts here. Go through the center path, and Rex and I will meet you at the end when the trial is over. Make it through alive, and you will be a knight."

"But if I die..." Mohatu voiced his thoughts aloud. "Then... y'know, you won't be able to fight Rex with me."

"I shall not worry about that," Minerva explained. Her voice was oddly nonchalant, considering how uptight she had just gotten earlier that morning. Something was strange—definitely, unquestionably so.

Mohatu shook the jitters out of his fur, and proceeded to follow down the continuation of the passageway. As he looked back, he realized that Minerva had taken a completely different path. That was what he presumed would happen, but for some odd reason or another, the trial just wasn't working out to be what he expected.

As the darkness of the deep passageway engulfed him, Mohatu tried to calm himself. He brought his mind into focus on his friends—Mari, Rafiki, Buraya, and Zuria. They were all playing their part, he assured himself, and they would be there to come to his aid if he needed it. Chances were, Mohatu would find Mari somewhere in the pyramid, too. After all, that was part of the plan.

They could work through the challenges together, and find their way as they had done so many times in the past. Together, they would be able to face off against Rex, and together, they could bring the kingdom to justice, as it was meant to be.

With those thoughts, Mohatu pressed forward. He kept going, and he didn't look back. The yelps, hisses, and high-pitched cries of animals he could not see still struck fear into his heart, but it was not an intense fear. The bodies of dead animals of all kinds didn't help with that, but still—Mohatu was probably the prophet. He truly believed could make it through.

After a short distance, Mohatu found himself staring at something bright up ahead. The solid geometric form of the passageway opened up to something much more natural and erratic, with an eerie green glow. As Mohatu stepped closer, he saw what appeared to be a green pool of acid.

However, it wasn't exactly a pool. It was more like a river of sorts, flowing from the left to the right. Mohatu wasn't stupid—considering that the liquid was glowing, and considering what happened last time he faced cavewater with Buraya's electrocution, Mohatu knew better than to cross it. He scanned his surroundings, instead looking for something to use to his aid.

Two oblong pillars protruded from the dusty ground on both sides. They both had markings on them, starting at the top and running downward vertically. One read FIRE and the other read ICE, in deeply-engraved, large letters.

Mohatu glanced at the fire pillar for a moment, wiping away the dust. At the bottom of the pillar was a thin metal flap; Mohatu pushed the flap inward and stuck his paw inside the hollow pillar. Within were five spherical objects, small enough to fit in his paw. Each one was hard and heavy like a rock, but they all had a shiny, red metallic glow.

Without fondling any of the spheres, Mohatu instead turned to face the other pillar. He wiped away the dust, and again found another flap at the bottom of it. Inside were more spheres. They were almost exactly the same, except the ones in the ice pillar had a shiny blue tint to them, instead of red.

This time, Mohatu grasped one of the ice stones into his paw. He pulled it out of its pillar, and placed it on the dusty ground below his paws. He inspected the orb carefully, noting a thin, protruding ring around its equatorial axis. It wasn't entirely spherical, but it was close enough to be considered as such.

Mohatu repeated the process, and drew out a fire orb from the other pillar. Now he had two to stare at: one red, and one blue. One fire, and one ice.

Mohatu's line of reasoning was simple. He could walk across ice, but he couldn't walk across fire. With that thought, Mohatu picked up the bluish sphere with his paw, and tossed it into the green river of glowing acid in front of him.

With a sound akin to breaking glass, the river froze solid as soon as the ball impacted the acid's surface. Steam rose in plumes, while the entire thing cooled to a standstill.

"That wasn't too difficult," Mohatu whispered to himself, drawing closer to the pathway. As he brought his nose closer, he had to smell it—just to make sure it wasn't dangerous anymore. Considering that it was probably fine, Mohatu went back to grab two more orbs to take with him: one fire, and one ice. He didn't know if he needed them or not, but he thought it best to take them with him.

Carrying the two spheres in his mouth, Mohatu crossed the dried acid without fail, and resultantly, a series of torches ignited on the other side of the chamber.

The room up ahead was circular, with a gigantic metal grate located in the very center. The floor wasn't entirely flat there; there was something below, and the ground was crossed with metal bars like chicken wire.

That was the least of Mohatu's concerns, however. As his eyes scanned the room further, he saw the figures of two lions: one Minerva, the other Rex. Immediately, Mohatu spat out the two spheres, and placed them onto the flat, rocky ground blow. Then, he walked forward and into the room's focal point.

Minerva approached Mohatu from the left, while Rex approached Mohatu from the right. The three came together in the center of the room, each with a determined look apparent on their faces. Even in the dim light, that was not difficult to discern.

Mari, however, was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she was hiding somewhere; perhaps she would come to Mohatu's aid when he actually needed it. Still, Mohatu wasn't happy to see his mate's absence, regardless of the circumstances. This was it; this was the time. He knew he was about to need her.

Rex's words were first to break the silence. "Leo... Leo... Leo!" he greeted Mohatu heartily, albeit falsely so. "I can't believe it's really true," he admitted aloud. "I thought I had disposed of you long ago..."

"I'm still here," Mohatu stated.

"I see. It seems fate has given me a second chance to prove myself," Rex grinned, as he approached his brother with talons exposed. "I thought I could kill all of my enemies in a single, glorious day... little did I know that Mari would let you live."

"And I'll give you that same offer," Mohatu stepped back, offering peace with an oddly threatening intonation at the same time. "You're my brother, Rex," Mohatu continued. "We needn't fight one another."

"No," Rex argued in retort. "I've been waiting for this day for too long to let you get by my grasp." As he approached Mohatu, the shiny stains of blood on his chin became visible in the eerie red torchlight. He showed his teeth ominously, striking fear into his opponent's own blood. "For as long as you are alive, you are a threat to my kingdom."

"The kingdom was mine," Leo taunted. "You're not the rightful leader!"

Rex leaned in even closer, staring his brother down to the core of his pupils. "That's where you're wrong," he answered. "All you ever saw was a pride rushing forward to conquer our homeland. You never understood... these pyramids empower us. The spirits of our ancestors fuel my conquest—I leech from their knowledge, and unlock their secrets. That is why I am stronger than you ever were."

Leo raised his own teeth. "I don't need it," he threatened. "You don't understand... I have Mari and Minerva on my side." Mohatu then shifted his eyes over to the queen. "We'll take him now," he commanded.

"Don't be so sure of yourself," Minerva grinned sadistically. "What ever is it that makes you think I'm on your side?"

Mohatu felt a deep chill run through his body. His heart pounded against his chest even louder, and his nerves went on full alert. He stepped back, widening both his eyes and ears. "What...?" he asked.

"I don't think you understand," Minerva explained. "Rex will not be the one to die here, today."

Mohatu continued to step backward and away from the center of the room, while Minerva and Rex walked side-by-side. Leo felt his confidence diminishing with each breath he took. "You... you're betraying me..."

"Surprised?" Minerva asked. "Do you really think I would kill my king and make you my mate? Hah... that's a good one. You're as blind as you are stupid, Leo. I knew who you were all along... and thanks to your stupidity, your death will be as swift as it will be painful."

"Soon, you'll be dead," Rex added. "And soon, all the keys will be in my paws. Then... we will truly be unstoppable."

"No..." Leo whined. "You can't! Listen to me!"

With Leo now more anxious than ever, Rex moved in to throw the first strike. He lashed out an attack across Leo's face, and added a brutal set of cuts on the latter's muzzle. Leo was more unprepared than ever, and in no condition to fight against the strongest adversary he knew. Combined with the fact that he was fighting two versus one, it was hardly a fair match by any means.

Leo's chance of survival really wasn't all that high.

As Mohatu recovered from the attack, that fact became ever apparent. He looked deep into his brother's eyes, but the only thing he could find was death itself. Without Mari, this wasn't a winnable battle. Mohatu was nothing without her.

"Mari will be here," Mohatu assured himself, also attempting to threaten his two opponents. "She'll attack when you least expect it, and then... we'll have a fair fight."

"You fool," Rex laughed. "She's not coming to save you now."

Mohatu stepped back again, but kept his weight off his front paws. This time, he assured himself that he was going to be ready to dodge Rex's next attack. "Don't you dare hurt her," Mohatu threatened.

Rex continued to hold his grin. In fact, he was only growing even more satisfied as he watched his brother suffer through such intense agony. "Or what?" he asked. "It's too late."

Mohatu lunged forward with every weapon he had exposed to the air, and lashed out against his brother with every last ounce of his strength. He unleashed all his fury, throwing out attack after attack with both his paws and his teeth. His thoughts blurred into a solid state of pain, and his anger fueled what little energy he had remaining.

Rex parried every attack with his own paw, almost laughing maniacally at Leo's odd movements. His fighting was outside of his typical style—sloppy, disorganized, out of timing, and full of imprecision.

Rex stepped forward, as soon as Mohatu drained himself. As the action died down, he decided to speak again. "Only now do you see the futility of your situation."

"I swear," Mohatu growled, panting heavily, "I will see you answer for your crimes..."

Rex swatted at his brother one more time, and in consequence, Leo fell to the ground to ease the pain. He heard a crack in his joints, and he could feel his warm blood running down each of his paws.

"No," Rex laughed. "This is the end for you. You will die here, as it was meant to be long ago."

The King placed his paw above Minerva's shoulder, tapping her gently. "Get ready to pull it," he ordered.

Minerva nodded, before turning her back on the two males. She then proceeded to walk to the corner of the room, and away from all the action.

Now, it was just Leo and Rex in the center of the room. With Leo on his side and in serious pain, Rex approached him and continued to strike out several successive blows on Mohatu's skull. With each attack, Mohatu grew more and more lightheaded, until he could barely even move.

Very much unlike the warrior he thought himself, Mohatu almost started to cry out in pain. He had suffered through enough. He could not bear much more, though Rex kept attacking without even the smallest sign of mercy. Relentlessly, Mohatu's head banged against the ground with each strike, blood oozing across his mouth, eyes and nose.

Eventually, however, the hits stopped. Tired, exhausted, and nearly dead, Mohatu raised his head and opened his eyes. He saw the figure of his brother, but it appeared that the battle was over. Rex had walked some distance away; he was now standing several tails away from the center of the room.

"Mari..." Leo whispered, using what little voice he had remaining. "Help me..."

"Look around, Leo," Rex laughed. "Look at what you once were, and see that I have taken your place as king of the Pridelands! Hahahaaa!"

Mohatu closed his eyes and looked away. He reached his paws downward to cling to the metal grate, easing away the intense pain that he felt both internally and externally.

Rex turned away. "Pull it," he ordered.

With that command, Minerva placed her paws down on a lever, and leaned all her weight against its handle to push it downward. In consequence, the metal grate in the center of the room collapsed. It swung downward, and opened up a gigantic hole in the center of the room.

Again Rex approached, this time nearing the edge of the solid portion of the room. He looked downward, and watch with satisfaction as he saw Mohatu clinging to the grate for his dear life.

Rex leaned downward sadistically, and placed his paws over Mohatu's. He erected his claws, and drove them deep into his older brother's skin, causing the latter to unleash a deafening roar that echoed across the entire room for several iterations.

Reg grinned, eventually coming to force his paws around Leo's in a way that released his grip. "Long live the king!"

Extremely weak, in significant pain, and with no will left to fight, Mohatu succumbed to the darkness. He retracted his hold of the metal grate. From there, he plummeted to his doom, down to the lower levels of the pyramid. If he was lucky, he thought, he would hit the bottom and die quickly.

"Hnnngh!" Mohatu grunted, as soon as his backside slammed into the hard, rocky ground below. For nearly a minute afterward, he could not breathe. A toxic gas irritated his eyes, nose, and throat, and as he looked upward, he saw the grate return to its position and seal his fate down inside what appeared to be an execution chamber of some sort.

Mohatu blinked his eyes, and when his vision returned, he saw his two mortal enemies walking back over the grate, directly above him. A burning sensation filled his lungs thereafter, and his once teary eyes turned into miniature water fountains—mostly from irritation, but also from his intense sadness and pain. Every bone and muscle in his body ached, burned, and stung with such excruciating misery.

Mohatu was trapped; he had no way out. This, too, would be his end. In his final, painful breaths of inhaling toxic gasses and watching ripples in a pool of blood beside him, all his memories flashed before his mind.

Mohatu had no chance of survival. Death was all around him—many creatures had died in his very spot, some only a few years old, other carcasses as old as the ancient kings themselves. As he came to terms with that fact, Leo did not try to escape. He thought about his life, and re-imagined every moment he spent with the love of his life. After all, even in the face of death, Mari was all that truly mattered to him.


---



"Hey, Mohatu," Mari called softly.

Mohatu refused to turn around in annoyance. "What do you want?" he asked. Though he did not realize it, the tone of his voice was quite bitter.

"I just wanted to explain..."

Mohatu shifted his posture slightly, turning to face the lioness. "Go on."

"You hit your head a few days ago," she clarified.

Mohatu raised a brow. "Thanks for telling me," he replied sarcastically. "I don't remember a single thing before this morning."

Mari chuckled lightly, allowing herself to relax, despite the lion's attitude. "That's probably a good thing. The past few weeks have been... very brutal, to say the least."

"Tell me," Mohatu insisted.

Mari began to pace from side to side across the dirt path. "Leo and Rex... they didn't just take our territory. They created a superpride... an entire kingdom, as they called it. Many prides have fallen to their conquest."

"But, you said Leo is dead, right?" The lion replied easily.

"King Rex is far more dangerous than Leo ever was," Mari cautioned. "He will stop at nothing to kill anyone who opposes him. That's why we're hiding out here. We can't hunt, we can't go anywhere. We can't do anything. The moment any of us cross that river is the moment we all die."

Mohatu returned the lioness's stern glance. "So, siding against him is suicide?" he asked. Despite having a tremendous headache, the lion managed to comprehend Mari's words.

Mari sighed, greatly resenting his question. "My mother once told me, that there comes a time in every lion's life when a very special opportunity arises. A chance to do something extraordinary... something unique, and something perfectly fitted to his talents. A chance to leave behind a legacy."


---



Mari and Mohatu followed the lioness's gaze to a lump on the horizon. It was a dead and toasted animal, no larger than a lion cub.

"Looks like a dead lemur... or something. I'm not sure what that is," Mari said.

"Whatever," Riza interjected. "It's food."

Mari stepped closer to the barbecued animal, examining the wounds carefully before lowering her head to smell it. She unsheathed one of her claws, cutting off three chunks of meat from the carcass, each of equal size.

"There," she announced. "We each get a third."

Mohatu shrugged slightly at the thought. "Actually, you can have my piece," he offered generously. For some odd reason or another, he was much happier knowing that Mari had enough to satisfy her appetite.

"You need to eat, Mohatu," she replied, sounding slightly worried. "You look like you've lost about a quarter of your weight since I found you."

Leaning back down, Mari bit off a large chunk and swallowed it whole, while she moved aside so Riza could grab her third.

"You said you were hungry," Mohatu added. "Besides, I can wait."

Mari swallowed the remaining piece of her share before picking up the last third between her teeth. She then turned around, carrying the chunk of meat to the stubborn lion.

With hesitation, Mohatu submitted to his desires and began munching on the meat Mari had dropped on his forepaws.

"You haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon, and there's no telling when we'll have our next meal," Mari reminded him.

"Mmm hmmm..." Mohatu nodded gratefully, savoring every bit of taste that he could. When he finished, the three continued their journey without further discussion.


---



As the lion looked around, all he saw were rocks and sand. He knew he would not even be able to see the sunset, because the entire horizon hid above them, as the two rested in the shadows.

Finally, the lion gave up. "What are you thinking?" he asked, unable to bear the anticipation of silence for a more prolonged period of time.

"Oh, nothing..." she replied quietly. "Just... remembering things."

"Like what?" Mohatu inquired.

"When we were cubs." Mari answered.

"It's not a sad memory, I take it?" Mohatu asked, noting the lioness's more lighthearted tone of voice.

"It is... kinda. But only because of what happened since."

Mohatu closed his eyes, while moving one of his hindlegs to get more comfortable. "Would it make a good bedtime story?"

"Don't you think you're a little too old for that?" Mari asked rhetorically.

"Not really," the lion purred. "I'd tell you a story, but the one I have in mind is almost worse than ours."

"I doubt it," Mari replied, almost trying to force a laugh out of the situation. "The Story of Mohatu and Mari in a nutshell: everyone gets killed."

"Basically."

"Nah, this is a little bit better," Mari smiled.


---



Shortly after, a painful ring of silence filled the air surrounding the battleground. The numb sensation slowly caused Mohatu's conscious to finally slip back into reality.

"So," the lion stated dizzily, "I guess we won..."

As the dust settled and the blood of the bad lions finished spilling into the dirt, Mari rubbed her head under Mohatu's mane once again. "I'm sorry I put you through all of this, but you just need to trust me a little while longer... until we're safe."

"Okay, okay... I trust you. I've always trusted you," Mohatu purred slightly, embracing the warm lioness's sudden display of affection. "I don't know what I was thinking."

"It's not important," Mari insisted.


---



"I'm not sure if you'll ever regain your memories completely," Mari added. "I doubt it. But I know for sure, that what you can remember is the worst of it. I knew you for years before any of that ever happened..."

Almost immediately, Mohatu's mood began to improve slightly, as his painful thoughts started to escape from the damaged depths of his mind. The lioness's massage, in combination with her warm voice, was enough to begin calming him.

"You weren't always a king," Mari continued. "I knew you for more than half my life, and you were my best friend."

"You really did mean that?" Mohatu asked lethargically, almost not believing the lioness after what he had seen. She had said it several times before, but perhaps he was only beginning to understand what she actually meant.

"Yeah," Mari smiled, continuing to scratch behind the lion's ear. "That's how I know this will make you happy. It always did."

Obviously, she was right; it did seem to have a tranquilizing effect on the lion. She knew he liked the back of his ears to be scratched.

For Mohatu, it was very weird, in a way, but he hardly cared, considering how good it felt. The lion sniffed, clearing his sinuses and allowing his purr to increase in volume. He then brought his head in closer to the lioness's paw, forcing her claws deeper into his skin to scratch his constant itch.

"You were the one to teach me everything I knew about fighting," Mari continued. "We spent half the day sparring, every day... for almost two entire years. You taught me everything you knew..." Mari sighed happily, remembering the best times of her life. "I learned from you, and you practiced your new techniques on me. It was all in good fun, and we got pretty good at it. We played games too..."

Mari pushed herself in closer to the lion with her three other paws, beginning to purr slightly. "There was one time we tried to build a dam around the waterhole... and another time we went to the elephant graveyard and tried to find out what made it so creepy. We also climbed trees, and you showed me all the cool places you found."

"You also taught me how to hunt months before my mom ever even tried," the lioness continued. "You were only a bit older than me, of course, but you were a prodigy! You made it look so easy. I never understood how you were able to do what you did with such little practice... but you helped me become the huntress I am today. You taught me so much more than my mom ever did."

Mari cleared her throat slightly, as she began to recall her more sensitive memories. "And... when my dad died, you didn't leave my side for three whole days. You weren't just a badass..." Mari added, gently stroking the lion with her other paw, "you looked after our pride, too."

The lioness slowed down her breathing a bit, reminiscing those years of her late cubhood. "I'm sure you don't remember any of that, but we had the best life..."

"But I took that away," Mohatu interrupted suddenly.

"No," Mari replied. "You made me who I am today. Without you... I don't know what would have happened."


---



"I..." Mari stuttered, as she finally began to express her worries. "I haven't felt like... myself, today. It's this place. It's this environment." The lioness's body began to chill unexpectedly, as she tilted her head aside and across the ground. "I know it seems crazy, but the energy is just... overpowering. I can feel it. It begs me to give into it."

"What do you mean?"

Mari closed her eyes, and started to speak at an even slower pace. "For a minute today, I... I wanted to kill Buraya. I was so close to fighting him. I want to see him die like the fool he is."

"No, you don't," Mohatu stated.

Mari tilted her head up, surprised by her companion's certainty. "Yes, I do. The way those two fought each other, the way he talked to me, the way he kicked sand at me—yes, I want him to die."

"But look at yourself," Mohatu explained. "You're just as guilty as I've ever been. We didn't kill him while we had the chance, and we won't. You know I won't, and you know you won't, either. You know it isn't right."

"That doesn't make it okay," Mari retorted. "It doesn't matter if I feel bad for it; the fact that we've killed so many today isn't going to change. I know we killed Usama and Ganji's prides, but this... this is different. We killed innocent creatures today, and not because we needed to do it for our own survival.

"This isn't war," Mari continued. "These aren't warriors we're fighting... not anymore. They're other lions were plotting to kill. We actually are assassins, now. We're killing to gain power over them. We're talking about killing innocents for the purpose of proving our own superiority."

"But I'm not," Mohatu insisted. "You know I'm trying not to do that. I want them to join me. Last year, I was able to unite the prides by killing Musashi, but now I'm trying to unite the prides by fulfilling the prophecy. I can make this work; just give me a chance."


---



"How do you manage to read my mind so well?" he finally asked, after a few seconds of pondering his internal thoughts in silence.

Mari exhaled a sigh. "It's obvious... thankfully."

Leo continued to stand in confusion for a moment, before the realization dawned upon him. If Mari was jealous in the same way, that had to mean that she felt the same way. And that also meant something else—something far more important to him. Maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that she actually did love him. Of course it was indeed wishful thinking, but the possibility was there. It had to be.

"You want me to be jealous of the red-maned lion... because you want me to like you?" Leo asked slowly, hesitant to suggest the thought. On the occurrence that he was wrong, Mari probably would have bit his face off for suggesting such a thing. But considering the way she was acting, it wasn't all that likely.

Mari lifted her head up. She didn't answer, but a sliver of a grin formed across the center of her muzzle. As she looked into Mohatu's eyes, her smile expanded without bound.

Mohatu grinned as well, showing the whites of his teeth. "It's true, isn't it?"

Even still, Mari refused to reply. She felt a tingling weirdness inside her, just from the thought itself. She could hardly speak. For several seconds, nothing happened but complete and total silence. "You got it," Mari answered, at long last.

"So..." Mohatu began, finally having realized the truth. "You told me all of that, because you wanted me to be jealous of the red-maned lion... because you wanted me to like you?"

Mari looked away. "Well... not quite," she clarified. "I wanted to surprise you."

Immediately, Mohatu lifted his eyelids. "With what? What's the surprise?"

Mari tilted her head aside, so that the flower she had lodged behind her ear was clearly visible from Mohatu's point of view. She reached a forepaw backward and grasped it between her pawtoes, before holding it between her and her friend in the sand. "This."

Mari waited for her companion to catch his breath, before she continued. She held the flower out in her open paw, with great anticipation. She was ready for Mohatu to reach out and grab it. "After our... talk... I wanted to give you this last night," she explained.

Slowly, Mohatu took a step forward. Even without taking a closer look, he knew what it was—more importantly, he knew what it meant. It was precisely the same type of flower that he had intended to give Mari long ago, several days before they found Lea Halalela. For that reason, it was a bit more special than any ordinary flower.

Mohatu's heart melted at that very instant. Though he had once felt the weight of his entire body pushing down on his paws, he now felt entirely weightless under the sun. All of his senses were dulled and numbed, dwarfed by the supernova of feels going on within his own stomach.

His dreams really were coming true, after all.

Leo really was right when he thought Mari loved him. What originally seemed too cruel to be real actually was a joke. What seemed impossible actually was impossible. She was his beloved Mari, and no matter what, she wouldn't ever really leave him. The trust he placed in her was indeed grounded in reality.

Mohatu placed his paw over Mari's, grabbing the wildflower between his toes. "Thanks," he smiled jokingly. "Minerva is going to love this!"

Consequently, Mari's head jolted upon hearing those words. "Look," she sighed, holding her head down as low as her tail. All of her energy had been drained from her previous rant, and now, all that was left was the dead-silent calm after the storm. "Whether you're with Minerva or me, I don't care. Whatever makes you happy...

"But," Mari raised her paw, suddenly interrupting herself. At that moment, her voice deepened to a growl, and her eyes fell to a playful scowl of sorts. "I would rather you be with me, instead of her. In fact... don't you dare think about giving that to Minerva. I'm trying to help you, but I'm pretty sure she's trying to kill us both. There is a difference, here."


---



Mohatu buried his face deep into his bloody forepaws. His naivety pained him too much. He had once been so happy—so careless in the face of danger. Although he had come so close to death, he never quite realized how close he actually was. He never lived every day as if it was his last; he believed that he really could have fought and killed his brother.

Mari told him he could, and he swallowed the lie whole without ever a second thought. He thought he was strong, and he thought he was a badass. He thought he was the prophet. He thought he could reclaim his right to the throne and fix all the problems he saw with the ancient kings. He thought he could live happily ever after with the mate of his dreams.

He was a fool. What he didn't understand was that everything always ends in death—he was simply too arrogant to see it. He always thought himself invincible and invulnerable, never able to fail.

But he had failed, and now he had to pay the ultimate price. That price was death. Not just his death, but Mari's death, and the death of his pride. Surely, it was the end. There was no turning back, now. Nothing could ever account for a mistake of this magnitude.

"I'm sorry, Mari," Mohatu coughed up even more tears. "I tried."

Mohatu exhaled a final breath, and then closed his eyes to keep the irritating, dense poisonous gasses out of his ocular organs. This truly was the end for him. This was the end of a journey, the termination of a fight of a lifetime, and a fall of an entire era across the savanna.

Finally, this was the end. As with all things, it ended in cold, darkness, and death.


---



A/N: Well guys, this is it. It's been a long journey, but I can't keep writing this story forever. I'm going to take a short break from this story for a while. I'm about to go on vacation, and I also need to focus on my project and midterm for school. In a few weeks I'll put up the epilogue, once I have the time. That will explain what happens to the kingdom, the cub Uru, the kings of the past, and Mari's pride after their deaths, and will inevitably tie everything in with the existing Lion King universe.

I know some people may be mad at me for killing off my characters, especially so unexpectedly, but let me explain. Believe me, I'll miss my characters much more than you will. I've spent the past two years writing with them, and I will miss them dearly. But I made my decision long ago, and this is what I had to do.

The point is, all too often, we think we know how the future will unfold. We think we know what's going to happen, and that we can plan ahead to live the life that we want. But that's not how things work. With life comes a slew of surprises. Nothing is ever predictable.

The message I want to convey here is just that. Very infrequently is it true that what we see aligns with what will actually happen. Life is always in motion. Change is everywhere. Futility is an illusion, but so is hope. There is no such thing as a sure victory, nor is there a such thing as a sure defeat. It's all in our heads. Everything is chance and circumstance; one single, unexpected move can upset the balance of the world and forever change history.

If I've written my story correctly, you should have been surprised by the events in several chapters. This was my intention. I wanted to keep my story as unpredictable as I could, and keep you guessing about how it would all end. At various points, everything changed in a snap, just like what happens in the real world.

That said, I hope you enjoyed the ride. If you liked my story, please leave a review and tell me what you think. If you didn't like my story, I still want to hear your opinion so I can improve my writing in the future. If you read my story, please review whether you liked it or not. I really don't care too much in that regard.

It's been a pleasure, and if you've been keeping up with this story from the beginning, thank you. Thanks for reading. If you are a fellow writer, I hope to have inspired you. I wish you luck in any current and/or future endeavors. If you are not a fellow writer, I still hope you can walk away from this story with many memories that you otherwise wouldn't have experienced, both good and bad.

Thank you for taking an interest in my story. This project has become a big investment of my time, thought, and emotions over the past two years, and I'm glad to have been able to share it. Whether you liked it or not, or decide to review or not, thanks for reading.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Carl » June 15th, 2014, 3:33 am

Are you going to explain how exactly the kingdom was reborn in the epilogue? Or is it a kingdom reborn simply because Leo and Rex created it in the image of the ancient kings' kingdom?

At any rate, your storytelling is excellent, and this has been a rather enjoyable read. I'll be looking forward to reading this epilogue and seeing how it all ties in with TLK.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » June 15th, 2014, 4:15 am

Hmm... what do you think, Sarabi? :proud2:

Really, I don't want to say, just yet. After I put up the epilogue, I'll gladly answer any remaining questions you may have. Until then, I'm just gonna say this to make you think a little harder about it.

You've basically picked out a fundamental flaw in my story. Yeah, I agree, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So... ultimately, what do you think? Am I really stupid enough to write a story with a title and have an ending that doesn't live up to it? Hmm... would I really do such a thing? I wonder...

Well, my ending note did mention that it's impossible to predict things. Perhaps that means something different than you think it does. Haha.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » June 21st, 2014, 3:19 am

chapter 41: show
A/N: I know I said I wouldn't put the epilogue up for a few weeks. But, as with everything in life, that was tentative. It actually turned out that I had more free time than I thought I would, so here you go. Chapter 41, the so called epilogue. It's a little early, and I do feel like I rushed it a bit. But... after you read through it, I'm sure you won't mind. ;)


---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

"Epilogue" Chapter 41: Fallacious Presumptions


Buraya's paws crashed onto the bright orange sand, which had been stained a deep red with patches of blood. The lion's motion stopped thereafter, and his eyes gazed downward at the carcass of a dead lioness. The dead body rested mere inches away, lifeless but still warm enough from the intense beating of sunlight from above. Its upper half had been separated from its lower half, in a rather dark and gruesome sight.

A small group of three vultures encroached on Buraya's position from the sky, before they encircled the dead animal and patiently awaited their meal. Buraya licked his lips with satisfaction at the immediate thought, eventually using his paw to kick a mound of sand over the lioness's bloody hindlegs. "Serves you right," he spat. "A lioness like you never deserved to live."

With those final words, Buraya turned his head away. His vision panned outward and upward to encompass the entire horizon line, cast below a deep and tranquil shade of blue. He stepped away so that the buzzards could do their job, and from there, he found nothing other than a relaxing sensation of victory.

He hadn't fought anyone, and he certainly hadn't killed anyone. That didn't matter, though. The lioness he despised the most was out of the picture; he was at least a little satisfied by that outcome. As he watched the buzzards flock around that dead body, he let himself enjoy the show. Soon enough, he thought, Mohatu would be back from the pyramid, and he would have a special place in the new king's hierarchy.

Buraya grinned. With Mari knocked out, perhaps he could even take her place as the second lion in charge. Oh yes, the wonderful possibilities! The lion almost purred at the thought. Such a pleasant notion it was.

Buraya's pleasure was interrupted all too soon, however. Due in part to his daydreaming, a lion approached him from behind before he could ever realize it. It startled him a little, but Buraya, being the macho lion he was, refused to let it show.

"Buraya!"Knight Inari called, more confrontational than ever before. The knight's old voice was oddly commanding, yet tainted from the usual tone with a hint of wonder. "What the hell are you doing alive?" he demanded.

"Oh," Buraya winced. "Umm... is that a bad thing?"

For the knight, indeed it was. Buraya was supposed to be dead. The fact that he was alive meant something was wrong, in addition to the oddity of Rex's presence. "Mohatu said he'd kill you and Zuria," Inari answered. Quickly, the knight could only come to one conclusion. "He must've lied to me..."

The fur on Buraya's spine began to arch, bit by bit. Within seconds, he stepped back and puffed out his mane. Needless to say, all his masculinity had quickly been disposed of; now, he was a little scared to hear those words. "H-he... um... he did."

Inari slammed his paw down onto the sand, demanding a better, more thorough answer. "Alright, what's going on? Don't lie to me. Tell me everything you know or else I'll kill you right here."

Frightened even further by the knight's intimidating yell, Buraya fell back onto his hindquarters and nearly whimpered an illegible, fearful response. After a brief moment, however, he was able to calm himself enough to speak clearly. "Mohatu... he's trying to take control of Giza. He's fighting Rex right now, and he asked me to help..."

Inari lowered his brows. His aggression was easily shown without any words. Much like Mohatu and Leo themselves, Inari was big enough to instill fear with his deathly stare alone.

"He was working with Mari," Buraya answered, in a meager attempt to continue where he had left off. For better or worse, the lion didn't dare to hold back any information when his superior looked so furious. Buraya's tongue slipped, and the words simply flowed out of his mouth from there. "But Rex showed up and... Mari tried to fight Rex, but she couldn't..."

Inari turned his focus away from his subordinate. He gazed out at the buzzards, deep in thought. Suddenly, it was all starting to make sense now. Apparently, Mohatu was a traitor. He was working with the assassins after all. Rex came to Giza to kill him, and the king kept his plans a secret so that he could execute Mohatu without any unnecessary difficulties.

In essence, while Inari had planned for Mohatu to kill Minerva, it actually happened that Minerva, Rex, and Mohatu all had their own plans. The lion's mind spun for a second—this was all getting a little too complicated. Every lion seemed to have their own agenda, and it was all a big hairball of a mess.

Inari shook his head, deeply frustrated. Really, was there not a single lion who didn't have some sort of ulterior motive?

But in any case, after a bit more time to think, Inari seemed to have figured it all out—or so he thought. Since Mohatu was a traitor, that explained what Rex was doing, as well as why he was so insistent on taking charge of the situation. Mohatu's false allegiance explained all of that, and Inari's ignorance explained why he had to be shunned from the royals' plans.

"I see," the knight answered, after what was actually only a few seconds in reality. Immediately, the lion came to only one conclusion. "Mohatu was a spy... he betrayed us..."

Buraya shivered. "Y-yes..." he answered uneasily. That wasn't exactly true, but Buraya didn't have the confidence to say much when he had his superior breathing down his neck in such an intimidating way.

"What about Mari?" asked Knight Inari. "Did she escape Rex?" Now that the knight had figured out what was going on with Mohatu, he immediately started slowly attempting to draw up some kind of plan for his next move.

"No," Buraya answered. "I... um... I saw the while thing."

"Good," Inari spat. He still gazed down at the other lion with his typical evil stare, despite his positive exclamation. "Now get out of my sight. Your usefulness ended long ago."

"But... sir," Buraya interrupted. "Shouldn't we go help them?"

Inari stepped forward. He drew out his claws, and quickly slashed Buraya across the side of his muzzle. Buraya consequently fell off into the sand with a cloud of dust trailing his path, leaving the older lion to look down upon him with disdain.

"No," Inari answered ruthlessly. After a moment's pause, he decided to speak again. "I will do what I decide to do," he retorted.

Buraya huddled himself deeper into his crater in the sand. "Y-yes... okay," he nodded.

Inari then kicked sand into Buraya's eyes, before turning around and leaving his subordinate completely. "If I ever see you again, you will be dead."

Other than that small retort, Inari did not speak any more words. On a similar note, he didn't even seem to care whether or not the younger one was still alive. In truth, it didn't really matter. Inari knew what he wanted to know, and now, it was up to him to make his next move. Since everyone started to turn their backs on each other, Inari now only felt comfortable working alone.

For the knight's purposes, the future wasn't so simple. No matter what he did, he was getting the short end of the stick. As it so happened, Minerva had just taken him out of command earlier that morning, and Rex had acquired control of his pride. Even though those actions actually appeared to happen for good reasons, Inari still held great resent against the royals for doing so.

Meanwhile, Buraya was worthless as an asset, and the traitor Mohatu was more than likely dead, as were the assassins. This meant that the king's enemies were mostly out of commission; for better or worse, Rex was going to be victorious. Unless Inari decided to stand in the king's way, no one else would, to his knowledge.

Inari paused momentarily. As he thought, he was unsure of whether or not he was content with that fact. Inari didn't like Rex all that much; that was obvious. But still—there wasn't any lion Inari could trust. In truth, for what it was worth, he saw Rex as being the least of all evils.

And that was how Inari came to his decision. With that thought at the forefront of his mind, he chose to side with the victorious lion, Rex. Inari put his own plans for assassination behind him; he would continue to walk his path of knight under the king's rule.

As such, Buraya had to die.

"On second thought..." Inari started to mutter, again turning around to face Buraya. "I don't think I can let you live," he added.

Buraya immediately gulped, shielding his eyes at the thought. "What? Why!"

"You were supposed to be dead," Inari insisted, deepening his voice as he returned his focus to Buraya, the worthless lion in the sand beside him. "I told Minerva you were killed, and if she finds that you're still alive, that's going to make me look bad."

"No..." Buraya begged, hiding his head between his forepaws. "Please... no!"

Despite his subordinate's cries, Inari stepped over toward the pleading lion, dragging out his claws. "This will only take a second..." he grinned. Consequently, he slashed his claws across Buraya's throat. Just like that, Buraya's world, too, fell into the pit of darkness, never to see the light of day again.


---



Meanwhile, on the other side of the pyramid, Zuria rested motionless in the bush. She was far out of sight, just as Mohatu wanted her to be. She carefully guarded the pyramid's entrance, but it was senseless at best.

Minutes passed one after another, but not one lion ever approached the door. It was as vacant as the desert was dry. Zuria wasn't too disappointed by that fact, obviously because she was still a little dazed from her snakebite. She really wasn't in any condition to fight another lion, anyway. But still—she would have been lying if she hadn't said it was a little boring.

Regardless, in due time, Zuria's boredom was relieved. The door she guarded slid open, but not from a lion that she could see. The door opened from the inside, and out came two lions: one Minerva, the other Rex.

So it was finally over, Zuria realized. That was her sign that it had all ended, but it wasn't the ending she expected.

A gulp filled the lioness's throat. If those two royals were still alive, that meant that they had won. That also meant that Mohatu had lost. Although Zuria wasn't necessarily saddened by that thought, she was definitely cheering for Mohatu over Rex or Minerva. After all, Mohatu was the one to save her life—Rex, on the other end of the spectrum, wasn't nearly as benevolent of a leader.

Slowly and quietly, Zuria removed herself from the cover in the bush. She opened her coat of fur to the outside world, eventually scanning the horizon to see where the two royals were headed. Minerva and Rex were walking so quickly and deliberately, like they just couldn't wait to tell everyone the news of their success.

And as it happened, a mob started to form off in the distance; several lions congregated into clusters around Rex and Minerva. Many of the lions Zuria knew as her peers gathered around the two royals, eagerly awaiting to celebrate the news of Mohatu's trial.

Zuria approached cautiously, but she did not get too close to the mob. It had been days since she had seen any of her peers—she didn't want to have to explain to any of them how she was knocked out by a snake. The mere thought of it seemed too humiliating to her. Instead, she kept her distance, so that she could eavesdrop without being noticed.

Curious as she was by her inner kitty, Zuria only wanted to know what it was that had happened. Sure, she heard the story from Mohatu's point of view, and she could probably guess what had transpired in the pyramid, but still—she had to know. Without a doubt, something big was going on for the king to even be there in the first place.

If he had something to say, it was definitely worth hearing.


---



Inari lifted his head up to the horizon as he walked away from Buraya's carcass. That one was dead, and now, he had more important business to attend to. Without a doubt, he needed to speak to the king directly, just so that he could get to the bottom of the truth and mend his relations with the victor.

He approached the many other lions at Giza as they sat in their group, after the king had made his return from the pyramid. Most were smiling and cheering, but they all seemed to be at least a little happy when they saw the two royals emerge from the pyramid's grand entrance. It was quite the welcoming party, to say the least.

Inari, however, was still a little less than enthusiastic. Even though Mohatu was the one who betrayed him, he certainly didn't have much love for Rex, that was for sure. Rex was the one to oust his position, after all—not to mention the fact that he kept such important information a secret, in the first place. In Inari's eyes, the king was no better than the rest of them, only marginally so.

In short, Inari was only about to do what he was going to do for his own good. He wasn't going to metaphorically kiss the king's butt for any other reason.

"Silence," the king roared his demand, upon emerging from the crowd around him. He stepped onto a giant block to use as a pedestal, before throwing his booming voice across the sands.

"We've waited a long time for this day," Rex continued. "For many weeks, we've worked day and night to keep our borders safe and secure... to eliminate the threat of the assassins." As the king paused, the volume of the entire landscape died down to complete silence. Nothing could be heard in the ambiance, not even the king's deep breath.

"But we refuse to be terrorized. Thanks to my efforts, the assassins will hunt us no longer," Rex added. He slammed his paw down onto the rock on which he stood, causing a loud bang to erupt through the air. "Mohatu was a traitor. He betrayed us by assisting Mari, and so I have brought them both to justice! Leo's death has been avenged!"

The crowd cheered out at large, with many lions throwing their paws into the air and roaring their battlecry. Unfortunately, little did anyone know they were actually celebrating Leo's death. Unbeknownst to the masses, that was how Leo was removed from existence: with cheer and glorious applause.

As the cheers and roars faded into silence, Rex gave only one final command. "Everyone," he ordered, "we will return to the Pridelands and rendezvous with Knight Zabayah and Knight Safar. Then, we will drive the remaining assassins from their hideout, and victory will be ours."

The applause continued, now erupting to even louder levels. Every lion around Inari burst out with excitement, so happy to hear the news. Nearly everyone and their grandmother was filled with pure bliss and joy to finally hear that the war was nearing its end. It had been a long, long while, and following Leo's death, the boost to morale was very much needed.

However, Inari's only response was to kick his paws through the dirt. "I should have been the one to kill those two," he spat bitterly. "I should be the one up there... I should still be knight..."


---



Zuria turned her head to the sand below her paws, upon hearing Rex's announcement from afar. "So Mohatu really is dead..." she whispered to herself. Oddly enough, the thought was starting to sadden her a little more than she originally thought it would. Zuria had only barely been exposed to the truth, but she still knew.

Just like Buraya knew, Zuria was aware that Mohatu really was Leo—she could see the irony of it all. She could see Rex for the villainous lion he actually was. The faux king was a liar, a manipulator, and a ruthless, passive-aggressive murderer. Leo was the true king, and although he had been working with Mari, neither of the two had threatened Zuria in any sort of way.

In fact, the lioness actually sorta liked Mohatu, a little.

He wasn't a bad lion at all. Mohatu was the one to actually help her a little; something even her brother never did. He was actually kind of... well, something, anyway. Zuria didn't know for sure what she thought of him, but she had grown to admire him in a weird sort of way—something she wouldn't ever have expected of herself.

Zuria rubbed her eye with her paw. She didn't dare show herself to the crowd, or even speak out against the king. She had been bitten by a wave of sadness that moved across her spine, and instead of making any direct confrontations, she retreated back to the cover of the bush. That was where she knew she could contemplate her new situation in silence.

For Zuria, her time in the kingdom was over. At that moment, she swore to herself that she would never side with Rex again. Her loyalties were with Leo and Mari—the two who were brave enough to die fighting for their beliefs.

"I swear, Rex," Zuria whispered silently, almost menacing in a slight way. "This can't be over yet..."


---



As the many pawns and peons scattered below Rex's pedestal at the end of his speech, the king jumped down to meet Knight Inari directly. Now, it was just the three of them: king Rex, knight Inari, and queen Minerva. The others had all drifted off on their own ways; some went to the Nial River, while others trotted over to the main pyramid for their private celebrations.

Inari, being the knight that he was, was forced to resort to sycophantic behavior. After all, the other two were his superiors. Falsely, he lowered his head with shame, pretending to act with remorse. "I'm sorry for my outburst this morning. I was not aware of your plans."

"I intentionally kept my plans a secret," Rex admonished. "Now get up."

"Milord..." Inari pleaded. "Am I still a knight?" he asked.

Rex's response was simple and devoid of all emotion. It was almost as if he barely cared at all. "Only if you can prove yourself in the next battle," he answered. "Two of the assassins are dead, but there are still more, hiding beyond our reach. In a few days, we will hunt them down, and then..."

"You'll have all the keys," Inari easily continued where the king left off. He was able to read the kings mind without any effort whatsoever, considering the circumstances. In reality, he was thinking the very same thing; it all came back to the keys to the kingdom.

"Precisely," Rex grinned.

"Thank you, your highness," Inari faked a grin as he bowed to his superior. As he rose to his paws thereafter, he continued to feign a state of gratitude. "I am proud to be in your service. I'm not going to let you down, this time." With those words, Inari turned his back around, and went his separate way, as well.

Just as Inari left the scene completely, Rex whispered to himself, almost letting a laugh slip past his throat. "I would hope so..."

Seconds later, the queen naturally moved in closer to her true mate. She placed her bright white paw over Rex's, before running her forehead through his mane. "That's how we do it," she smiled. "I'm so proud of you."

"Now that Leo is dead, it will all be easy from here," Rex added. "I can truly say that the throne is all mine. No one will stop me from getting the last key and opening the tomb of Regulus."

"That was masterfully executed, if I say so myself," Minerva widened her grin in her state of deep love and admiration. "You're so powerful... so inspiring..." she fawned, rubbing the underside of the king's chin back and forth with her pawtoe. "It's a wonder Mohatu ever thought he had the chance."

Rex chuckled sadistically. "He never did." His happiness was no doubt apparent in his words—the king enjoyed his victory, and very much so, at that. After so much time trying to track his brother down and kill him, he had finally done it. His acquisition of the throne was almost complete, now. Minerva's loving presence only made it that much better.

But it was also at that moment when another voice sounded afar. This time, it came from above. It was a voice from the sky, Godlike in origin. Obviously, that only meant one thing. It didn't take Minerva and Rex long before they realized they were being watched by the ancient kings, yet again.

"You think it's over?" the voice laughed. "You are wrong."

Rex looked up to the sun, at which point he saw the ghostly figure of one of the ancient kings—this time, it happened to be Adhafera. It wasn't exactly the voice of Algenubi, but the blurry, loosely-defined, translucent features of the ghost were similar enough to be comparable.

Minerva raised her head, as well. "What is it, your highness?" she inquired formally. "Speak to us, and we shall listen."

"You've done well thus far, but your fight is far from over," Adhafera lowered his voice. He spoke slowly, emphasizing his words in an overly-dramatic way. "They... are... coming..." he warned.

"But... who?" Rex tilted his head aside. "It is over. I killed Leo. The kingdom is mine, now... you can't say I didn't do it. I did. We fought, and I won. I am the clear victor."

"Not so fast. You do not have Algenubi's key," the ghost of the ancient King Adhafera cautioned. "Until you can acquire each of the eight keys and bring them to Regulus's tomb, you are not our heir."

"Right," Rex spat. "I know that. I'm still working on it, and now, it'll be easier—"

"Exactly," Adhafera insisted, slightly interrupting the mortal being below him. "This is not the end. You have not won the battle. You've started it."

"Started what?" Rex asked, raising his paw provocatively. "I've ended it! Leo is dead! He can't hold up against me; you saw it. You saw me kick his ass! I pounded his head into the ground. It wasn't even fair. There is no lion who could possibly stand against me. I am the king of beasts."

"Wrong," Adhafera retorted. Now, the ghost seemed to be getting a little stubborn. "You think the war is over... you are wrong."

"I'm not sure I understand," Minerva shrugged, also cocking her head aside. She agreed in part, but it seemed that there was a bit she didn't understand. "Yes... we do still need the final key," she admitted. "But now we can find it, and we'll take it from the remaining assassins—Leo was the true threat. The remainder of the assassins shall not stand against our might without him."

"Don't be so certain," Adhafera insisted. "Your overconfidence is amusing. You have provoked the beast. Now, the fight begins."

"What should I do, then?" Rex demanded.

"Find the last key," Adhafera explained. "Kill your father, kill your brother, and kill his cubs."

"Busar is an old hag," Rex spat. "My brother is dead, and Leo never... had... any... cubs..."

Oddly enough, as Rex's words trailed off into silence, he started to question what it was that he knew about Leo's life. Perhaps Leo did have cubs. If that was the case, then Rex had just made a new enemy.

Minerva took a step backward. Her tail lowered to the ground, and her ears fell from their normal position. She retreated into a shell of guilt and shame, before grabbing her mate's attention. "Umm..." she whispered. "It's possible that Leo... does have a cub," she explained, very embarrassed to proceed with any further details.

"What?"

"Well, I..." Minerva shook her head; her eyes darted to the ground. "I seduced Mohatu so that he would not expect me to betray him," Minerva added slowly. "Unfortunately, this means that I also bear his cub, now..."

Rex's eyes dilated. Whoa. So Minerva was pregnant, and pregnant with Mohatu's cub? That was big news, no doubt. As the thought occurred to Rex, he didn't like any small bit of it. His mate was bearing the cubs of his enemy. Leo was practically his nemesis, all things considered. He couldn't let that bastard's cubs live, even if it meant killing his own mate.

Rex showed his teeth to the lioness. He stepped closer to her, drawing out his claws. "You... what?" he hissed violently.

"Rex, calm down," Minerva pleaded, fear now evident in her eyes. "Don't hurt me. I will kill the cubs as soon as they are born, I can assure you. I am on your side, I just did it so that Leo would let down his guard. You never would have been able to kill him so easily if I hadn't fooled him into mating with me..."

"Hmhmhmmm..." Adhafera rumbled a chuckle from the background. "Well, are you going to let her live?" he asked Rex. "A wise king would never let his queen bear the cubs of his adversary. Such atrocious acts deserve none other than death. That would be the wise punishment, for sure."

Minerva shook her head. "I did this all for you," she insisted, passively arguing her case with a twitch of her tail. "We are celebrating today, because I was able to fool Mohatu—you know there is no other reason for our success. You saw the look on his face..."

"Silence!" Rex demanded, effectively shutting up the other two. A very dark and devious thought entered the realm of his mind at that very moment. It was, perhaps, the darkest thought he ever had. Even considering all of the evil things he had done in the past, what he had in mind now was something even more sinister. It was something so evil, the great kings wouldn't even condone it.

"I'm not going to kill my mate," Rex announced. After a second of pause, he turned to face Minerva. "Actually, the truth is, I have a better idea," he then retorted, lowering his gaze. "Alright, Leo... since you impregnated my mate, I can play that game, too..."

Minerva stepped back, this time more out of surprise than fear. Obviously, she was able to infer what Rex's unspeakable idea was, simply with that single comment alone. She wasn't too fond of Rex's new idea, but it was far more preferable to the alternative of being killed. "Are... you going to do that?" she asked slowly.

"Yes," Rex grinned. "I am."

"Careful, careful," Adhafera cautioned. "Make the wrong move, and it will be your death warrant."

"This is the right move," Rex retorted. "What's fair is fair."

"A king mustn't always be concerned with the concept of justice," the ghost said. "It is better to instead consider what is best for you. What is fair is rarely the most advantageous move."

"Leo is dead, so I still have the advantage," Rex bragged. "I can't be stopped... no cub is going to change that."

"We will see," Adhafera laughed. "Find the last key, and we will see."


---



Back inside the pyramid, darkness prevailed. The torches ceased their illumination, and not a hint of light could be found from any of the corners. All Mohatu could see was pitch black in every direction.

It was like he really was dead, but he knew better. He was in too much pain to be dead.

The burning sensations of toxic gasses filled Mohatu's lungs, growing even more painful by the second as he tried to hold his breath. After his humiliating defeat and betrayal, Mohatu wanted nothing more than to be free of the pain—but he still felt it. He was still alive, barely clinging on to the flicker of life remaining inside him.

But after only a short amount of time, Mohatu could tolerate the burning pain no longer.

Fortunately, the toxic, irritating, and noxious gasses were far denser than air; they congregated at the bottom of the room. As such, Mohatu raised his head, and struggled to lift his weight onto his paws. He groped around with his good forepaw, until he found a fossilized skull lying on the stone floor. He held his breath, and pushed the object into another. His plan was to make a little pile to stand on, just so that he could take a breather.

Mohatu, being a typical lion with rather small lungs, was obviously running out of breath a little too soon. He couldn't find and stack enough bones in the dark in such a short amount of time. Hopelessly, he placed one paw on the few bones that he had collected, and then the other against the stony wall. He used his claws to maintain a grip, leaning against it to rise his nose as far upward as he could.

"Ahhh..." Mohatu exhaled his breath forcefully. He then inhaled again, filling his lungs with slightly less toxic air. After the stinging that he had been feeling within his gut, Mohatu's continued breaths were quite relieving. It was like inhaling cool arctic air, in comparison. It rejuvenated him slightly, although the pain he felt around his joints was still no less than excruciating.

There, leaned against the wall in the darkness of total silence, Mohatu rested for several minutes. He allowed himself some time to relax, just to gain control of his air intake. If he had breathed in just a second later, he felt as though he wouldn't have made it. He was that close to biting the dust.

As his adrenaline faded, Mohatu could hear the dripping of a liquid into a pool. Roughly once every second or so, the plop sounded like a leaky pipe. Leo shifted his focus to that sound, in an attempt to use its echo to map out the architecture of the chamber.

But more importantly, the sound drew out memories within Leo's mind.

The last liquid Mohatu saw was a sort of acid, glowing green in hue. Mohatu had thrown the ice sphere into the stream of burning liquid, and subsequently he had turned it all to ice. That was how he was able to cross.

Suddenly, an idea brewed in Mohatu's ingenious mind. He had brought the two grenades with him to the last chamber, because he had predicted that he would need them again. Now, he was glad to have thought of that. Perhaps, Mohatu now reasoned, since he had fallen down into the chamber below, there was a chance that the two spheres had dropped with him.

If there was more acid, somewhere down there where Mohatu was, he could throw the fire grenade into it, blow a hole through the chamber, and escape.

Mohatu threw himself from his recline on the wall. He returned his weight to all four paws, despite how much pain he faced doing just that. Even though his aches and emotional torment hurt him greatly, Mohatu knew what he had to do. He had to survive—above all, it was his strongest instinct.

And so Mohatu continued to grope his paw around the floor, as he held his breath. In only a few seconds, and much to his fortune, he found a spherical object. Through the darkness, silence, and pain of betrayal, Mohatu managed to unleash a small grin in the corner of his muzzle, as he clamped down on the special sphere with his paw.

Mohatu had been humiliated by his brutal defeat at the paw of his brother, no doubt. But that wasn't going to kill him; his life definitely wasn't over.


---



A/N: Hmmm... now what did I say at the end of the last chapter about being unable to predict the future? One little thing can happen, and it can completely turn everything around. Well, can you really be surprised, now? LOL. Though you may not have realized it, there was a bit of a double meaning to that last note.

The story's not over, guys. I was just pulling your leg. Bazinga! :D

Starting with this chapter, things are going to be heading in a new direction. The first 20 chapters were focused around Mohatu, his mission, and his identity. Chapters 20-40 were about Mohatu's relations with the ancient kings and their followers. Chapters 40-60ish will see this story through to the end... and I actually mean it this time.

There may be 60 chapters total, but there may be closer to 75. I don't know, honestly. All I know is what's going to happen plot-wise, and there's still plenty of life left in this story. I'm aiming for 20 more, though. For some reason partitioning things into thirds is mildly satisfying. It just seems like the right thing to do.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » August 15th, 2014, 8:42 pm

No, I'm not dead. No, I haven't stopped working on this. :P

chapter 42: show
A/N: Finally, after a bit of a break, I'm back with another chapter. Regular and frequent updates may or may not resume soon, depending on how things go in the near future. I plan on being able to write the next few chapters rather quickly, but as I always say, it's all tentative.


---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Chapter 42: Decay


Mohatu grasped down onto the sphere in his paw. He clinched the smooth surface between his leonine talons, through the eternal darkness around him. His breath was running low, but his lack of inhalation fortunately blocked out the pervasive scent of sulfuric death in his nose. With only one hope, Mohatu released his grip, and consequently sent the metallic sphere flying forward into the darkness of the unknown.

The lightweight metal object clashed against a wall in its path, after no more than a second. A strange clinging sound filled the moist air thereafter. Dink... dink... dink dink dink... roll...

Whooooooosh!

Suddenly, a painful singe of orange exploded to life. The air in the chamber burned into a fireball, hot and glowing from its exceptional flammability. The chamber ignited into a roar of ferocious burning gasses, shaking the ground and rumbling after a deep blast of a shockwave. It was a burning sight, bright as the sun—if not even a little brighter.

The initial blast knocked Mohatu off his paws and forced his body down onto the ground with a grunt and a thud. Any ability to withstand the heat and pressure was negligible. No matter how big Mohatu was, he could not circumvent the laws of physics. Not even his tail could help him keep even the slightest sort of balance.

It was there, on the burning, hard ground, that Mohatu realized what he had done. By throwing the fire grenade across the room, he had effectively turned the chamber from a dark, lifeless coffin to an internal combustion engine.

On instinct, Mohatu flinched while the tips of his hairs singed with frying pains. The added discomfort of the burn knocked him consciousness for a second, and kept him from returning to the tips of his paws. Though the metallic sphere had exploded quite a distance away, he still found himself experiencing one heck of a hit—the confined space kept all the gasses in the room and acted as a pressure cooker.

After a time, Mohatu released a lifeless cough from his throat. The moisture on his nosepad quickly dried up from the heat. As Mohatu's eyes opened again, he found nothing but a big, bright blur. There was a hint of perceptible light now, but it was painfully bright to the extreme, much more intense and ferocious than any conventional raging fire.

Much to Mohatu's luck, in due time, the flames dwindled to a mere smoulder. After only a millisecond, a crater had formed in the ground where the fire grenade exploded.

With what was now a more gentle glowing light, Mohatu naturally came to inspect his surroundings. Rock, skull, boulder, block, wall, block, bone, pool of acid—nothing too far out of the ordinary for such a strange place.

Leo knew he had to find his way out. He had to find and save Mari—if, in fact, she was still alive. That was a big if, he knew for sure. But regardless, he did not allow himself to jump to any preemptive conclusions. There was still a chance that Rex hadn't killed Mari. There was still a chance, however slim it was—there was still hope.

That small sliver of hope was the only driving force for Mohatu, even as weak as it was. As soon as he collected his balance, he set one paw in front of the other, beginning to walk through the charred bones and singed dirt. Puddles of acidic ashes collapsed under the lion's pawtoes, as the rest of his limbs followed through and formed the pawprints of his trail.

What Leo approached was a crack in the stone wall of the chamber, near the crater of the grenade's initial explosion. Fortunately, it was only a crack; he hadn't brought the entire chamber roof down from above. A few blocks had been blown away in an arch-like pattern, but that was the extent of the destruction. The sandy gunk of grout between each of the cracks had been washed away entirely, and now—what Mohatu saw was a clear escape from the execution chamber.

Through the taint of blood and the glowing smoulder of fire, Mohatu leaned the weight of his massive form against the wall, and much to his luck, managed to break through the cracked crumbles of what was left. As he emerged on the other side, a cloud of dust and gasses followed behind, spewing out of the room and filling the air of the next hallway. Mohatu could only gather a few breaths before the air in the next corridor, too, was too toxic to safely inhale without a burn.

The lights on the corridor lit as usual, and lined the path to guide the way. It was an elevated passage, parallel and running along the side of an enormous, cylindrical chamber, half-filled with murky, sludge-like liquids. Below and to the right of the passage was the familiar scent of animal waste products, like decaying biomass.

For most intents and purposes, the rotten smells of methane and hydrogen sulfide gave it away. Mohatu's passage to freedom was along the lines of the pyramid's sewer.

As Mohatu stepped alongside the slow-moving river of combined liquid and solid wastes, what was left of the toxic green, glowing sludge flowed down into it. Shades of red twirled around as well, as it all mixed in with the bones and blood of other, less fortunate prisoners of the kingdom.

Running purely on rage and adrenaline alone, Mohatu's survival instinct carried him the rest of the way, to a point where the path broke off from the sewage chamber. At the end of the corridor, Mohatu found two passages: one going up, and another leading to a vertical, metal doorway.

Too exhausted to climb up the stairs, Mohatu continued the path straight, for a few more steps until he reached the door. It opened as he approached, and the falling sunlight combined with the fresh air of the outside desert filled his senses.

At last, the leonine hero was qualified to claim that he had survived the encounter. Finally, Leo had made his escape, alive and intact in one piece. His breath of relief was never any more welcomed. Though he had only been in the chamber for a few minutes, the fumes were enough to make his lungs as lifeless as the remainder of his mutilated body.

"Ugh," Leo exhaled a cough. His head fell to the sand, and his eyes shut to block out the onset of celestial light. He wasn't dead, but he sure as hell felt like it. Now that he had made his way from the pyramid, the only thing his physical form allowed him to do was rest.

And so he did.


---



By the time Mohatu's eyes opened once more, it was night. He could clearly see the millions of stars scattered about the sky, including most prominently the Leo constellation—the lion in the heavens. It was a dark night, very unusually so. The moon was nowhere to be seen, and not a single light ignited on the horizon below. This was the darkest night Leo had ever seen, at least to his memory.

Had it not been for the lights in the sky and the lack of them on the ground, Mohatu wouldn't even have been able to tell which way was up. He was that disoriented, like a sleepy lion on catnip. His own internal compass and gyroscope was broken, and his sense of movement was nebulous at best. He could feel the dried up stains of blood on his fur, as sticky and scratchy as they were. That was, however, his limit. His brain was blocking out the majority of his senses, so that he didn't have to feel the pain of his injuries.

The worst of those injuries, by far, was on the side of his head. The clawmarks where Rex attacked him were apparent—the area was numb, and covered with the formations of scabs. Mohatu's left hindleg was a little out of place, like it had been displaced from its socket. His mane was ragged and tangled, and patches of fur were missing from where he was burned. His entire face had been scalded, as well as his chest area. His forepaws felt weak, and somewhere in his spine, he could feel a sharp pain.

It wasn't a pretty picture. Far from it.

This was it. This was the most brutal beating Leo had ever been through. Even after his fight with Mari, he wasn't in as bad of shape. This was worse. In the jungle, he had been given time and comfort—an ideal place to heal. Now, what he had was only the dry sand in his throat. He was all alone, isolated from any other creature. The nearest source of water was the Nial river, but that was too far to walk.

The lion twitched a muscle and consequently, albeit unintentionally, dropped himself into a world of pain. "Mari," Mohatu cried, knowing that she had to be near him. "I need you..."

But the lioness never made her appearance. The horizon was as silent as the wind.

Using his right hindleg, Mohatu tried a little harder to lift himself. A stinging surge of pain sparked the ignition of a powerful nerve down in his leg. Ouch. Okay, lesson learned. Moving that limb was definitely out of the question, too. Not on his own, at least. Mohatu needed something or someone to lean against, but he knew he didn't have any such fortune.

Using the weakened muscles in his better paw, the injured lion grabbed a pile of blood-red sand from the ground. Its weight felt tremendous as it slipped through the cracks between his pawtoes. Each grain slowly passed through like the sand in an hourglass—ticking away at what Mohatu thought for sure was the final moment of his life.

He had been betrayed. He had been fooled. Worst of all, he had almost been killed. As lucky as he was to have survived the ordeal, his inner lion was already truly dead.

Gone was the ferocious beast and proficient warrior known as King Leo. What remained was merely the bloody skin of a lion—once so powerful, graceful, and honorable, now slayed to tatters like an animal well beyond its prime.

As each second passed, Mohatu found less and less energy within himself. Without Mari—without his compass to guide him—the idea behind Mohatu truly was dead.

Even if his wounds could heal, he would never be the same again.


---



A great way south of Giza, the stars shone dimly above the towering, termite-infested Outlands. It was there, deep in the rusty-orange hives of a dry and dusty hell, that the native Pridelanders made their last stand.

Much to the pride's misfortune, the only water within a few thousand tail's radius was a few puddles, leftover from the gigantic tempest on the day that Mari and Mohatu had begun their journey. The only fluids around were all dark and dirty, with an odd foam of bubbles along the top layer of the surface. It was hardly even water. At its deepest point, the substance only came up to half a pawtoe. It tasted of a dry, arid and bitter dirt, which scraped the lions' teeth every time one went for a drink.

Oddly enough, the innocent cub Uru cared the least. Though the termites never ceased biting her in the rump, the young one wasn't anywhere near as miserable as those around her. For her, it was just a simple fact of life: yeah, it was hot even at night, she was itchy even in her sleep, and every sip of fluid was infected with dirt, insects, and bacteria. Uru had never lived in the Pridelands; she didn't know any better. She couldn't fathom the idea of a happy life.

With the darkness of the night sky to clear out her mind, the young Uru was fast asleep curled up by the warmth of her mother, the chocolate-furred Irena. For the little lion girl's other caregivers—the rest of the pride—it was a totally different story.

"Ugh," a lioness groaned from inside the termite mound, not at all unlike Mohatu in her agony. Her eyelids lowered to cover parts of her glowing, bluish irises. With great irritation, she scratched the back of her ear with her hindleg, and temporarily relieved herself from the constant itch of termites. "I need some catnip."

She twitched a muscle in her hindlegs. More fleas were biting her back there, too. It was a sharp, pinching pain, though far more annoying than painful. The only way the lioness could escape the faceless torturers was by letting go of reality with the 'nip. That was if, in fact, she had any—which, by the nature of the universe, she didn't.

Busar slowly padded over to the lioness's position. As he came to rest beside her, he gazed up from the cavity in the spire, overlooking the many desert rocks and night stars, just as his son was doing a great distance away. "We all need a little catnip," he whispered.

A deathly silence filled the air around the two felines. Their only comfort came from the termite mound they stood inside—dry, itchy, and eerie. It was a hard, agonizing life, but it was the best they could manage, given their situation. After all, the spire out in no-lion's-land was at least a little better than no den whatsoever. It was better than the hardships of life in a destroyed jungle.

But still, it wasn't any place to call home.

"It's times like these..." Mari's mother began slowly, sighing her way through her words. The sorrow she faced had all become one continuous blur, and she struggled to even understand herself as her thoughts occurred to her. "Some nights... it's worse than the jungle. I wish I could forget about it all." She shook her head thereafter, eyes lowering to view her paws as a termite crawled between her toes. "Even if it's just for a minute..."

"It's been so long," the lioness continued. "So long since I've felt... joyful." Karttiki lowered her head at the end of her expression, too lazy to scratch herself as a termite crawled through the fur atop her head and between her ears. "Now, it seems like all I do is scratch and worry."

Busar paused for a moment. "About Mari?" he eventually asked, perking his ears up.

"Yeah..."

"She's safe," Leo's father assured the lioness. "Mari's a smart girl, an excellent fighter. We don't need to worry..."

"But how long..." the lioness asked, trailing off as she again looked up at the night sky. "How long has it been since they left? It feels like it's been years since I last saw her... but I guess it's only been a few days."

"I lost count," admitted Busar. He twitched his nosepad and looked up as a flying insect landed on his forehead. "We must've been out here for weeks. When we left, the moon was full. Now I can't even see it. "

Karttiki shook her head. "Maybe I had a false hope, but I really thought they'd be back already," she replied. Reluctantly, and despite Busar's consolation, her mind brought her to one conclusion and one conclusion only. "I wonder if something happened out there. You would think they'd—"

"I don't know," Busar interrupted. "We just need to be patient. I'm sure they found something, even if it wasn't Lea Halalela. We just have to give them a little more time."

Karttiki sighed. "I have a feeling they're not coming back at all. We've lost everything... everyone... and now them, too."

"No... it's not true," the other lion whispered, wincing internally at the thought. His only tangible reaction was immediate denial. "Don't be so morbid. I hope not... I sure hope not," he repeated himself, as if it would somehow make a difference.

"That shiny artifact isn't going to save us," Karttiki argued. "I don't even remember what it was like to have hope—hope for a better future, hope that this would all work out in the end. There's no such thing... not anymore."

"That's not true," Busar replied, more confidently this time. What Karttiki had said had given him a bit of a reminder as to why he had such high hopes to begin with. It was all about the ancient kings and the artifacts. That discovery, simply in and of itself, was a major boost to morale.

"I've seen all the same losses you have," Busar continued. "I've watched so many die... but I still have hope that they'll come back soon. If Mohatu and Mari are gone, I don't know what I'll do—it just... it can't happen."

"We'll all die, that's what will happen," Karttiki answered, most cynically with a bitter snap of her tongue. "None of us are in any condition to stand up against an entire kingdom. Even if we band together, we can't do a damn thing without those two. We're powerless. I've thought this through many times, and there's nothing we can do. That artifact of yours changes nothing."

"Heh," shrugged Busar. "Maybe I'm just old and half senile, but I think there's something special about those two and what they found. Even if it isn't true, I'd rather live and die happily with the illusion that it is."

A deep sigh escaped the mouth of Karttiki. "I wish I could keep thinking that," she retorted. She shook her head, scratching one of her forepaws with another. "Maybe I was optimistic, but not anymore. Not without my daughter here."

Leo's father tried to force a smile. "She'll be back," he assured. "Just give them a few more days to return."

"It's three lions against a kingdom," Karttiki stated, planting her argument in front of the old lion in the simplest terms possible. "The odds aren't in our favor."

Busar's eyes deepened. "But there's so much we don't know. What happened to my sons? What's Lea Halalela? What are the artifacts for, and what do the ancient kings want? When Mari and Mohatu return, we'll have answers... and perhaps more."

Karttiki licked across the inside of her dry, desert cottonmouth. "Those are only more reasons why we're going to die. If this all turns out to be a blind rabbit chase, we've wasted our time... and what's worse, the lives of our own cubs are at stake."

"It isn't," Busar insisted.

Mari's mother sighed again, placing her muzzle to rest above her paws. "If only I could believe you..."


---



Back at Giza, Zuria made out a dark, furry hump on the horizon, despite its inadequate visibility under the dim starlight. It was merely an unusual shadow in the sands behind the pyramid, no more than a blob in size from her perspective.

Regardless, it was an object of interest.

Hesitantly, the lioness pawed over to the mysterious dark spot on the ground. Without even a first glance, she had already assumed the worst. Knowing that both Mari and Buraya were supposed to be back behind the pyramid somewhere, it was difficult not to jump to any premature conclusions. She knew the dark lump was probably a dead lion, and right she was.

The lioness's conclusions were accurate, sure enough. As she filled the gap in distance, the form of the blob expanded to take shape of a lion. With little work in regard to identification, Zuria immediately recognized it as her brother.

"Buraya?" She whispered, calling him softly. "Is that you?" she asked, although the carcass didn't move. Considering the huge red stain around his mane, there was little doubt in the lioness's mind that her brother had bled to death some hours ago. She wasn't just a little late—that dead lion was clearly long gone, by now.

A large amount of cognitive dissonance erupted within the confines of Zuria's mind. Sure, she never had much love for her brother, that was obvious. But still, even as annoying as he was, he was still a lion. He was still her brother. Seeing him rest on the sand in a pool of his own fluids was little more than she would have bargained for.

It wasn't the first dead lion Zuria had seen, and it wasn't even like she hadn't killed lions with her own paws. She knew what a dead animal looked like—that part was not what shocked her. It was something else. It was the loss of someone she knew for so long; a soul suddenly gone, taken from its essence and reduced to a mere decaying object.

The lioness gently placed he paw over Buraya's dead mane. She stroked it for a brief moment, before looking down into the lion's closed eyelids. "What happened?" she asked. "What did you see?"

Her words eventually faded to silence. The entire horizon around her died; not even a cricket dared to make a sound. The vast sea of sand was just as dead as the lion below Zuria's paws.

At silence's end, the sharp sound of a mandrill's words followed thereafter, in bitter contrast. "A tragedy," whispered Rafiki, planting his covered sword a short way into the ground. He shook his head as his eyes fell shut, groaning slightly. "Mhmmm... this is not good."

Zuria was hardly startled by the sudden arrival of her monkey friend, but that mattered little. Her thoughts were on her brother, and only scarcely drifted to anything else for any short period of time. "I... don't know..." Zuria shook her head, rubbing an eye with the soft top of her forepaw. Squinting, she leaned down to inspect Buraya's injury further. "I can't tell what happened... or why."

Rafiki pointed his hilt toward the body in the sand. What he could see was limited by the shallow starlight, but he could distinguish the cuts beneath Buraya's mane. "Those were lion's claws," he answered. "He was murdered."

Zuria tilted her head slightly. Even as gruesome as the sight was, she had to get a closer look. She drug her paw out, and consequently lifted Buraya up from his limp shoulder. Much to her surprise, she found no other claw marks. No other part of his body showed any signs of injury. It was just that one incision around his neck.

"Rex didn't waste any time," Zuria added shyly. "He went straight for the kill."

"Yes," Rafiki paused. He felt a strong lump in his throat, but he pushed it down as he began to speak. "Zuria," he began again, loudly sighing, "the damage is much worse."

With the mandrill's slow, sorrowful pace, it was again getting to be a little too quiet. The eerie chill of death under the night sky quickly began inciting shivers down Zuria's spine. "Did you find the others...?" the lioness inquired, her voice as low as her ears.

"Mari is dead," Rafiki nodded his head downward. There it was; he broke the news. His words hammered down on the grim reality of the situation, and drove Zuria deeper into a state of unrest. "But I have not seen Mohatu."

"So... I guess that's it, then," Zuria reasoned. "I saw him walk into the pyramid, and Rex said he killed him." Her words left a bitter taste of of saliva on the back of her tongue. She shook her head thereafter, much less than pleased by the thought. "They're... both dead."

The mandrill looked up, for the first time in hours. His eyes met with the gentle glow of the skydome, but it did not last long. He soon reverted his chilling gaze to Zuria once more. "We need to find him," Rafiki insisted.

Zuria, however, showed little reaction.

"The ancient kings buried and preserved their dead, and their spirits live on," he continued. "We must do the same. Perhaps someday... another lion will carry on in Mohatu's place."

Zuria exhaled her voice. "I'd rather take this into my own paws." The lioness's eyes returned to the dead lion in the sand thereafter, as she briefly contemplated her next move. "You can go look for Mohatu," she added. "But I... I think I'll just stay here a minute."

As Rafiki turned away, Zuria placed her paw over Buraya's chest. She applied a little pressure, aggressively but also playfully so. "Psst..." she whispered. She leaned down toward the lion's carcass, grinning away her formations of tears. "I told you I was the stronger one."
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » September 20th, 2014, 5:01 am

chapter 43: show
A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Chapter 43: Broken Compass


"There she is," Buraya smirked from the corner of his eye. "She's a goddess, isn't she?"

Mohatu's tunnel vision slowly faded into a much broader view of the world. The space that was previously absent opened up to reveal his surroundings—some type of wonderland tomb, somewhere. The shiny, brown tile floor was most recognizable as a structure of the ancient kings. The old smells of dust and ash in combination with the gentle lights of torches were also heavy identifiers.

Something was weird, however. The individual tiles on which Mohatu stood were a bit wobbly. Each one alternated orientations like a ship in rough seas. The entire horizon was moving erratically, with little predictability to its sway. It was all Leo could do to keep his balance; his only option was to use his knees as springs and ride through the shocks.

In due time, the ground shifted from an odd and eccentric state to having that of more of a predictable skew. The tiles' movement had sent particles of dust and dirt flying through the air, which now rained down upon the tomb as the environment stabilized itself.

Now a little bit more comfortable with his balance, Mohatu opened his eyes to the world above him. What he noticed was most peculiar; the tomb had no ceiling. It was like an observatory—stars and a crimson skyline formed around Leo's perception like a bubble. Each one emitted a faint, wavy light from its central point, oddly reminiscent of the way water droplets fall into puddles. It was all moving, expanding, and shifting, like the skydome was made of wet paint and quickly rotating about an axis.

Needless to say, it was a strange sight. Mohatu, however, didn't think much of it. His hazy state of mind was no more solid than the ground below him. He had no capacity to think critically; his senses absorbed the surroundings he perceived without ever a regard to the reality he faced.

Mohatu simply shook the dizziness out of his head, unaware of the dreamscape he was in. Despite the fact that his vision was nebulous as hell, he could still make out Buraya's figure beside him.

"What are you waiting for?" Buraya asked, nudging a paw at Leo.

Mohatu's jaw fell agape. "Huh?" he asked. In all honesty, he had not the slightest clue what was going on. His childlike ignorance became apparent, as his face looked oddly similar to that of a much younger lion. In all truth, he did feel years younger than his age—but Leo had little idea how old he really was.

Buraya nodded his head forward. "Minerva," he stated casually. "She's beautiful... just look at her!"

Mohatu followed his companion's line of sight with his own eyes, until he reached the elegant embodiment of a bright white lioness. To say the least, she was a true queen from head to tail. The horizon's chaotic movements stopped entirely, as Mohatu brought the lioness into focus. Oh yes, a beauty she was, indeed. So powerful and shocking was her appearance, she could command the very physics of nature.

"Go on," Buraya nodded. "Give her a good kiss. She'll like that."

Without further ado, Mohatu brought one paw in front of the other. He set his pace forward, up to meet the regal lioness. Around her were several lions, but this didn't bother Mohatu. He held his spine straight and walked with elegance, just like the remarkable king he truly was. With his mind clouded by fog, he made no thought against doing it.

Minerva spent the time bathing herself, licking the cracks of her pawtoes and cleansing them from the taint of dry, desert sand. Her eyes were elsewhere, like she wasn't paying much attention to the outside world. As Mohatu approached, however, she looked up. Her eyes met with Leo's, and locked in place for a brief moment.

What she found was simple. The lion in her vision was unremarkable in nearly every respect. Instead of paying him any mind, she merely returned to her business of grooming herself. That was far more fascinating.

As Mohatu made his next step toward the queen, his paw crashed into a hard, invisible wall, like glass or some other transparent ceramic. By the time his vision cleared, he started to see a very transparent reflection of his own image in the wall. He looked dry and dead; his eyes were bloodshot and twitchy. He had a slit in his ear, and a twig entangled in his long, dark chestfur.

Before Mohatu could get a better look at himself, the wall lifted up vertically and disappeared into stardust up in the night sky. It dissipated like the pop of a bubble, and became one with the milky, illuminate backdrop of starlights. Surprisingly, though, there was no sound to compliment the event. Whatever the object was, it remained silent and subtle even in its disappearance.

Now free to enter Minerva's den, Mohatu was almost starting to change his mind. Such thoughts were exemplified when his hindpaws started to slip out of place. He had already made a fool of himself by walking into an invisible wall—all while Minerva was staring him down like she was stalking her prey. Now, he was even struggling to keep his balance on the slippery tiles.

"Gah," Mohatu laughed at himself, somehow hoping it would ease the pain of his embarrassment. "I don't know what that was... hah! Have you ever seen anything like this?"

"Yeah... right," Minerva hissed. She looked down at her claws again, very uninterested.

"So..." Mohatu stood awkwardly as the lioness broke eye contact. He wasn't quite sure of how he should have proceeded, but he knew he wasn't going to back down now. He had nothing to lose. He was going to do it; he just needed a way to break the ice.

After noticing that Mohatu wasn't going away, the lioness coughed. Minerva looked up, gazing at her visitor with utter hatred.

Mohatu's heart sank. His breath collapsed down in his throat, and whatever it was that he wanted to say, it was stuck. After being subject to such scrutiny, Mohatu couldn't even speak a word from his tongue. He was under too much pressure.

Leo merely chuckled. "Oh... God... this is weird," he whispered thereafter, trying to ease the tension. After collecting his breath for a moment, he found that he had bought himself time to fix his words. "But..." he stated, a little louder, "I..."

Minerva squinted.

Quickly, Mohatu tried to think of something kind to say. Minerva was beautiful all around, but he wanted to giver her a worthy compliment. He thought of many potential options, but none of those were going to work. As time never ceased ticking away, Mohatu simply panicked. He didn't know what he was supposed to do, so he just picked something at random and went with it. "I really like the color of your eyes," he continued. "They... umm... well, it looks really good on you. It's beautiful."

Minerva took no time to deliver her canned response. Her voice was much less tense, but rather hard as she spat out each word. "Your voice sounds worse than a dying squirrel," the queen growled.

Mohatu closed his eyes. His ears fell parallel to the ground, but even more noticeably, his entire head dropped below his shoulders. "It's not... that... bad. At least I don't think so," he argued, although he was hardly sure of himself. Minerva had just hit him where it hurt most—his self esteem.

"Eww," Minerva shuddered. "Yes, it is. You're disgusting."

"But..." Mohatu's heart skipped a beat.

"And look," Minerva exclaimed, pointing a claw at his torso. "Hmph... you don't even have a red mane." Minerva turned her paw up; the underside pad was facing the starlight from above. She cringed, and her brows shrunk to fill the space on her forehead. "Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me?"

"What...?" Mohatu asked innocently. He looked down at his mane, but he couldn't find anything wrong with it. Sure, he was a little dirty, but that was only a representation of his badassery out on the savannah. "Yeah... so what? I don't think..."

Minerva leaned forward, showing her teeth. She placed her muzzle right up to Mohatu's, eying him with the deepest hatred imaginable. "You're stupid and naive," she spat in his face. "Your voice is disgusting, your mane is hideous, your nose is too big, and one of your ears is shorter than the other. You can't fight, you can't kill, and you get your ass handed to you by any lion who crosses your path."

Mohatu turned his head away, but the shock of pain kept him largely immobilized.

"You think you're such a badass, but you're not. You were once a hero, a villain, a savior, and a conqueror... and yet now you are none of those things. You are nothing. Without Mari, you'd have died aeons ago."

"But..." Mohatu cried.

"Why are you even talking to me?" Minerva demanded. "Unless you have a red mane, I don't want to have anything to do with you. You're worthless... it's about time you grow up and see it. The rest of the world already has."

Mohatu held his eyes shut to hold in his tears. He turned around, no longer able to talk to Minerva, anyway. "Wow..." he whispered. "I guess I am..."

As Mohatu opened his eyes once again, he found himself facing not just Buraya, but an entire pride of lions, each varied and different in their unrecognizable appearance. Leo tried to force a smile as he approached them; somehow he made a slight attempt not to let those hateful words bother him. Mohatu thought himself strong enough to take a few insults, or so he wanted to believe.

That said, Buraya's sight had suddenly planted an idea in the lion's mind. Leo wanted to tell his story to his friends, to see them laugh at Minerva's absurdity. Surely, he convinced himself, he wasn't useless. Surely, he would find some kind of support. There were plenty of lions in the chamber; one of them was bound to think higher of him than Minerva ever did.

But Mohatu was in for a surprise.

"You're so stupid," Buraya teased. "I can't believe you fell for that!"

The entire group of felines erupted into laughter, with Mohatu at the very center of it. He cringed as a cubbish tear of innocence fell from his eye. He tried to look away, but he had nowhere to go—he was surrounded by unfamiliar laughing muzzles in every direction. There was no escape. He could only go downward.

Mohatu tried to take a step forward and run away, but his body prohibited it. Instead, he turned his head back up to the horizon line, gazing at each lion with his glassy ocular organs. "Why do you all hate me so much?" he asked, his voice cracking and whining like a child's.

"Because you are worthless," one of the lions yelled.

Welp, that explained it.

The words stung Mohatu harder than he ever could have imagined. So it was true. He was hated, tricked, fooled, and betrayed, all because he was of lesser value. He wasn't one of those red-maned lions, and therefore he wasn't even worthy of speaking to a lioness in any sort of complimentary manner. How foolish he was not to see that.

"I guess I am worthless..." he whispered again. It was a brutal blow to him, as he had just been hit in the very center of his own insecurities.

In the midst of his turmoil, Mohatu felt something kick his hindleg. It was soft, warm and furry... like the paw of a lioness. However, it had a much stranger presence, almost a bit tingly in a weird, indescribable sort of way. When he looked down to see what it was, he saw nothing but a giant, faceless pile of brown fur. It was little more than a glorified hairball, growing up his leg.

Immediately, the lion turned back around. Through the aqueous distortion of his eyes, he could sense the blurred appearance of a laughing Minerva. As her breath lowered, she brought her paw up to her mouth and released a whistle.

As it so happened, the queen was hiding the figure of a gigantic lion behind her—a lion who looked to be her mate. After a time, the dark and shadowy figure revealed itself. It was Rex, the infamous king of the Pridelands. He stepped out from behind Minerva and nuzzled himself into her chest. "I'm so happy you're here," he fawned. "I love you so much."

"You're the best lion I could ever have," Minerva smiled back, looking into Rex's eyes with the seductive sight of love clearly reflecting from her own. "You're the best lion of all time. No one else can even compare..."

Mohatu twitched. He felt like he was being held down and forced to watch, despite every muscle in his body trying to move. His system wasn't responding properly. The best he could do was speak in a soft, cubbish voice. "But..." he whined, unable to do much in his state of unrest. "What about me? Aren't I a good lion, too?"

Mohatu's question wasn't necessarily directed at Minerva. It was directed at anyone within earshot. It was merely a hope that some lion somewhere would speak out. However shallow it was, it was a hope that someone could sense his pain. It was a hope that he wasn't hated by every being in existence.

But obviously he was.

The queen's brow shot downward, as she eyed Mohatu with yet another deadly stare. "Are you freaking kidding?" Minerva asked. "It's obvious that you're not a good lion, because you're not my snugglekitten. You're worthless."

Mohatu tried to cover his face with his paw, but he couldn't even do that. Something was preventing him from being able to free himself; something was blocking his own life essence, disrupting his nervous system from its very core. It was like poison, like some kind of seizure. It was like his mind lost synchronization with his body.

"Love can do great things to a lion," Minerva stated. She smiled to herself, deeply engulfed in the fires of her passion. "It motivates us, it rejuvenates us, and it gives us our fundamental meaning in life. Anger, hatred, fear... love is more powerful than all those things. But I... I cannot love you. That is why you are worthless. That is why I will always be stronger."

Repeatedly, Mohatu felt a weird twitch in one of his hindpaws. His eyes blinked open again, and he saw the dim light of a furry blob. A burst of energy fired down his spine, and he erratically flinched several times. He was, however, unable to make any other movements.

"Do you know what sucks for you?" Minerva grinned sadistically. She looked down at Mohatu, intent on making him as miserable as possible. "I have love, and you don't. You'll never be loved, because you are not worthy of receiving it. No lioness is ever going to want to be near a despicable lion like you... much less even begin to love you."

Mohatu's heart imploded, as it sank itself into his stomach.

"Heh," Minerva laughed. "I'm sorry, poor Leo," she continued sarcastically. "It's too bad... but you can't blame me. You can't blame anyone. It's your own fault."

At that same moment, Rex leaned all his weight down onto Mohatu's body. The king gazed downward, squeezing his paws into Mohatu's neck. Somehow Mohatu's flail of defense had ended in failure, although he wasn't entirely sure of how or why any of it happened. All he knew was that he was about to bite the dust. Everything else was a blur of motion.

No one loved him, and therefore he had to die. That was the only distinguishable truth.

But it wasn't happening quickly enough. Despite his pain, Leo was still alive, gasping for his final breaths. To make matters even worse, the crowd started to cheer Rex on. From that moment henceforth, all he could hear was only a single roar, blended with the whisks of motion as his body was sliced repeatedly by the kicks of a king's talons.

All Mohatu's senses combined into a single one—a pervasive feeling of dread. Though he couldn't make out the individual chants of the crowd, Mohatu knew not even a single spectator came to his support. As Leo faced his final moments, everyone in the crowd seemed so happy to watch him fall.

"Minerva is right," Rex spat. "That's why you deserve to die."

Consequently, with a simple stroke of his paw, Rex sent a powerful shockwave of energy down Mohatu's body. The energy went straight to Leo's stomach, and expanded from there. His body folded inside of itself; his forepaws smacked into the pads of his knees. The impact was so strong, the adjacent ground disintegrated in a ring from the shock.

The ground below Mohatu dissipated into a hole, and he soon found himself staring up at all the many lions, scattered about. He looked back at himself, falling down into some type of sinkhole, whatever it was. The world was a blur. All he knew was that he was falling.

Falling...

Another warm twitch came from Mohatu's hindpaw.

Falling...

The scent of a familiar lioness found its way into Mohatu's nostrils.

Falling...

Mohatu's dreamscape vanished. Dark lights in the sky illuminated cloudlike patterns.

Falling...

"MOHATU!" A lioness yelled.

Falling...

"MOHATU!" The same voice yelled again. "WAKE UP!"

This time, Mohatu's eyes opened for good. Immediately, he felt himself exhausted and drenched in a world of insurmountable pain. His front paws hurt, his rear paws hurt, his back hurt, his tail hurt, his teeth hurt, his nose hurt, his ears hurt, and his neck hurt, just to name a few. Needless to say, everything hurt like it had been shattered and burned in the fiery pits of hell. Both on the inside and outside, Mohatu had never felt any greater pain. He was little more than shredded meat.

The distinct furry appearance of a lioness's muzzle made its way into Mohatu's field of view. As its mouth moved slightly, Mohatu prepared himself to absorb the words. "Thank goodness, you're alive," Zuria exclaimed. "We were starting to wonder if you'd ever make it."

"Wha—" Mohatu croaked. He was too tired to know what was going on, and too dazed to comprehend a single word.

Outside of Mohatu's field of view, Rafiki unleashed a hearty laugh as he leaned back. "Haha! What you do... pick a fight with a sand dragon? Heh!" He had set his shiny weapon aside, and a plethora of various, primitive tools sat in the sand by his feet.

Unbeknownst to the lion, his surgery had already begun.

Mohatu's only response was an unintelligible groan. He had no idea what Rafiki said, although he questioned whether it even mattered. Despite his pain, he tried to turn himself over on the sand. It was, obviously, a pointless gesture—that he quickly realized. From that moment onward, Leo simply relaxed his muscles and listened to Rafiki's soothing words. He had no other choice.

"Singe marks... heh," Rafiki continued, as he inspected Mohatu's injuries around his hind legs. "Must be a dragon! Those will cook you up! It's their breath... yuck! Nasty stuff. One little sneeze and then—kaboom! Hahaha! Fire from sky!"

Not surprisingly, Rafiki never quite seemed to shut up in his enlightened mood of humor. "You ever seen a sand dragon's saliva? It's sticky green gunk; the goo 'splodes at the first sight of heat. Hmph! No good!"

"Mrr..." Mohatu purred out a croak in his agony. It wasn't a happy purr—it was a cry of pain. His injuries consumed his mind, even despite Rafiki's upbeat tone.

That silly attitude of Rafiki's was short lived, however. Soon after, Mohatu started wishing he could have it back. Before the lion even realized it, the entire scene fell dead silent. Both Rafiki and Zuria had paused for a moment, like something important was just about to happen.

"Hold still; do not move," Rafiki cautioned slowly and seriously, although Mohatu couldn't see anything that was going on. In all reality, this was actually a very good thing. The mandrill held his sword right at the surface of Mohatu's hindleg, ready to make an incision. "Hold still... Rafiki is here. Rafiki is expert healthcare professional, heh! This will only sting a little..."

Mohatu heard the monkey's words correctly, and complied by trying to relax. He did indeed feel something on his hindpaw, although he had no idea what it was. All he could do was keep his mouth shut, tighten his teeth, and hope the monkey knew what he was doing.

Within seconds, the pain from Mohatu's hindleg grew powerful enough to infect his breath. It felt as though he had just been stabbed, though maybe a little bit worse. It was a sharp, burning, searing pain, violently grabbing his brain's sensors and beating him up from the inside out. His breathing held constant for a second or two, before he groaned outward with all his voice. "AAAaaaaghhhghhh..."

"There," Rafiki beamed, patting his hand down on Mohatu's flank. "The worst is already over. You took a beating, but it is not as bad as it looks."

Mohatu's yelp decreased in volume over time. The area became numb and warm, as the open cut swelled with the shiny black mass that was his blood under the starlight. It eventually dried and clotted, sealing the cut from the misery of cold air around it.

In the time that passed, Mohatu's thoughts reverted to his dreamland. As soon as his pain had faded enough, he questioned his imagination. He questioned why it was that he had dreamed of attempting to kiss Minerva. He questioned why he had not seen Mari—why she had not supported him in his time of need. All he found in him was his deep, dark hatred for the evil white lioness who ruined his life, as well as his inability to fight back for himself.

Deep inside Mohatu's emotions, he knew he was entirely powerless. After his tremendous failure, he had never felt any more worthless. He felt as though the entire world was against him, and rightfully so, it was. All his memories stemmed from that one experience: betrayed by Minerva and killed by Rex, with Mari nowhere in sight to help. Even reality itself was an utter nightmare.

What Mohatu had seen in his recent dream was a product of his failures and insecurities, and little more. As the images repeated themselves over and over in front of the backdrop that was the night sky, Mohatu was only barely able to understand this. It was only through the sight of Rafiki and Zuria—that was the only way he knew what was real and what was not. Even then, it had taken a great deal of time for Mohatu to reach such a conclusion.

Perhaps it had been seconds, minutes, or hours. In regard to the rate of passing time, Mohatu was most uncertain. His consciousness was almost completely diluted. His perception of reality versus his inner thoughts was skewed to high hell and back, as deformed as he was on the outside. Apart from the simplest of simple terms, differentiation between any abstract thought was impossible for the broken lion.

All things considered, it was probably his injuries that had caused him the pain he felt. There was a good chance he had suffered at least some degree of brain damage from the fall—it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. With the added sting of betrayal and the release of adrenaline to that mix, the picture of his internal misery grew a little clearer.

But still, what Mohatu experienced was worse than the product of all those things. Never in Rafiki's days had he seen a lion in such terrible condition. Nowhere in his arsenal of painkillers did he have a concoction strong enough to treat Mohatu. Rafiki could treat the wounds, that much was true, but he couldn't mend a broken mind. There was no way he could devegetate a vegetable.

Zuria, however, knew exactly what to do.

"Mohatu," the lioness whispered, placing her dirt-covered paw above his nose. She wiggled it across his whiskers, trying her best to wake him. "Mari and Buraya are dead," she added.

"No," protested Rafiki, almost immediately. "Do not burden him yet. Let him rest—until the psilocin dust wears off."

Regardless of Mohatu's mental state, that thought of Mari did indeed penetrate his senses. No anti-reality visor he could put up was strong enough to block out that one word, Mari. Instinctively, he knew what that word meant. The mere sound of Mari's name brought so many thoughts with it, all thoughts of love, peace, and happiness. For Mohatu, the name was synonymous with all good things.

"Where is she?" Mohatu murmured. The lion made no other movements due to his pain, but this was different—this was important. He had to know.

Zuria retracted her paw and closed her eyes. A sigh came from her muzzle, but even as depressed as she appeared to be, it was no match for the wall of suffering that Mohatu was about to crash into. Just from the lion's spontaneous reaction, Zuria knew this wasn't going to be easy. But she had already grabbed Mohatu's attention; there was no turning back now.

"She's..." Zuria began, but her voice stopped halfway through. A gulp filled her throat as she glanced at Rafiki, who stood shaking his head. By the time the lioness could regain control of her lips, the silence of the night clashed with the gentle brashness of her answer.

"Dead." The sound of the word fell upon Mohatu's ears like the impact of a heavy weight.

Zuria bit her lip. Well, there it was. She had said it. To her it was just a harsh fact, but to Mohatu, it was something else entirely.

Mohatu's whole body shivered. Suddenly, he felt cold. He could sense each of his bones turning to ice, as the wave of shock plowed its way throughout his body. At that instant, it was as though everything changed. His greatest fear had been realized.

A tear fell from Mohatu's eye before he even tried to open it. He kept his muzzle shut for a good while, as if it was somehow going to retain the little heat that remained in his lifeless carcass. In time, though, he had to ask.

"...what?" Mohatu cried. He couldn't accept it. He knew the truth, but he would not allow himself to admit it. He used all his mental strength to convince himself that he had heard Zuria incorrectly.

"Rex killed her," Zuria answered. "And Buraya's dead too..."

Mohatu lifted his muzzle from his forepaws and set it down in the sand. With the motion, he released a high-pitched cry of pain, like the squeal of a dying mouse. He felt a tremendous stabbing force in the center of his gut; it was an injury so deep, it was able to dwarf all his wounds tenfold. There was simply no other way to describe it, other than an intense, tremendous pain, fresh out of the gates of hell.

Hell didn't even begin to describe it. This was worse.

Tears flooded Mohatu's eyes. They rolled down the sides of his face, and diverged from the tips of his hairs to moisten the sand below. Within seconds, the entire area under Mohatu's chin was drenched in his salty, ocular fluids. "How do you know?" he whined. "No... she can't be dead. She was too strong for that... too strong to die..."

"Well... she's dead," Zuria confirmed hesitantly. "She's right there."

Mohatu lifted his head up, but he couldn't see anything with his watery eyes. He couldn't even discern sand from sky, much less find the two dead lions on the ground adjacent to him.

Though Mohatu didn't know it, what he was looking at happened to be the blood-stained hindquarters of a lioness, torn apart from the intense action of a fight. It rested in the sand beside the other carcass, presumably Buraya's. With Zuria's help, Rafiki had brought the remains of the two to his baobab tree, where they were to be buried.

"I could only find the half," Zuria continued. "I don't know where the other half went..." she paused, looking up at the sky to take her eyes away from the gore. "Probably vultures."

Mohatu tried to clear his eyes, but he simply couldn't. In all honesty, he didn't even want to see what was left of his best friend. Without looking, he knew the pain of the image was too tough on his eyes. He could very easily see Mari's deformed carcass in his mind, and that was good enough for him. No more detail was required.

Yet, some uncontrollable force pushed Mohatu up on his paws. It was not external; it came from inside himself. Perhaps it was his curiosity, or perhaps it was some type of closure he desired. Regardless, something persuaded Mohatu to limp around. He knew he was only going to hurt himself, but this was something he had to do. He had to see her one last time.

Slowly, Mohatu brought his paw up and dried his teary eyes on the softest part of his fur. After a blink, his vision was clear enough to see through to reality. At that precise moment, Mohatu had found the most unsightly image he would ever come to encounter. What he saw looked no different from ground meat, with patches of pale orange fur mixed in. Though it was difficult to interpret under the dim starlight, it was definitely Mari's fur color. Mohatu had noted so by the look of her tail—it was practically the only part left untouched.

Mohatu stared for a moment, before the realization hit him even harder. All that remained of Mari was her tuft.

For Mohatu, that was good enough. He didn't want to see the rest of her body, or all the harm that had been done to her. Already, it was unthinkable, unbearable, and heartbreaking. The lion blinked his eyes, and instantly his tears rushed back into place. He felt too many sads developing in his gut—holding just one of them back was beyond impossible.

Leo collapsed to the ground, and with him came another stream of tears. "I..." he sobbed, "I don't even..."

"She may be dead, but her spirit will live on with us," Rafiki mourned. His voice cracked slightly, but he also seemed to be the least affected of the three. Something about his mystical philosophies kept him from getting too involved in the chilling sorrow of the event. He seemed not saddened but hopeful, rather. It was as though he knew something the others didn't.

Subsequently, the baboon escaped from the mystic trance and made his move. Slowly yet deliberately, he meandered around Mohatu and reached for Mari's body with his hand. He started to pick it up, but he was met with the protests of Leo.

"No!" Mohatu argued. Whether or not it was a command or a plea, no one was sure. Though he seemed to be denying reality, Mohatu was rather insistent with his broken voice. "Don't take her away yet."

In response, Rafiki backed off. He instead made a step over to Buraya's carcass, before repeating the same procedure. He grabbed the lion's underside with his hands, using the powerful muscles in his back to drag the dead animal across the sand. Buraya was nearly twice his weight, but the baboon didn't lift; he pulled. Getting the dead animal to slide across the dry sand and dirt wasn't too much of a challenge.

Zuria approached the burial site with a heavy heart. It was only a few tail lengths away, near the base of Rafiki's tree. Mohatu was still close by, and so was what remained of his beloved lioness.

Zuria's attention was focused elsewhere, however. She watched carefully as Rafiki brought her brother near, and waited for a silence to penetrate the air around them. It wasn't that she waited deliberately; it just so happened that time was passing several times quicker than her thoughts could move. By the time her eyes caught sight of what was going on, several breaths had already passed.

The lioness nodded sadly. "Drop him in," she whispered, twitching her nose in the process.

Zuria wasn't a lioness of many words; instead, the look on her muzzle spoke for itself. She didn't say any special final prayers, or even make the smallest movement. For the time being, she too was dead—joined in heart with her brother, in an alternate dimension of mindspace.

But it was not to last. The limpness of Buraya's joints became apparent as he descended the slope, down into the hole that Zuria had made some hours ago. When Rafiki released his grip on Buraya, the body twisted and warped around like a rag doll, throwing out no resistance to gravity's pull. The carcass drug a bit of dirt downward with it as it slid in, but that only served to assist the burial.

At last, Buraya rested in his final location. He was open to the night sky, but it was for the last time. It wasn't long before Zuria started filling the hole with the mound of dirt behind her. First she stuck her paw in the pile, and then scooped up a pawful of dusty Earth, clasping it between her toes. "Goodbye, brother," she whispered.

With a gentle kick, the dark dust and grains fell into the hole and clumped down on Buraya's fur. Seconds later, it happened again. The process occurred repeatedly until he was entirely covered, some odd hours later.

Mohatu closed his eyes from afar, trying his best to block out all those thoughts. It was those two words that remained stuck in his head, like some kind of poison gnawing away at his mind. "Goodbye, Buraya," Leo whispered. The thought repeated itself thereafter. That was the last thing he remembered hearing before his awareness again faded.


---



Sometime later that night, Mohatu felt a tap on his paw. He wasn't sure what had happened or where his mind went, but it didn't matter. All that mattered to him in the entire world was gone. There was nothing left in reality save death and destruction—but even that was questionable. Not much was left to be so blissfully optimistic.

"Hey... it's time for Mari, now," Zuria whispered.

For a moment, Mohatu had almost heard Zuria speak in his mate's voice. It was almost as if he was experiencing a hallucination, like he wanted to believe he could still hear her. In the end, it was the harsh, abrupt termination to Zuria's words that made him realize his ears were fooling him.

With the onset of reality, Leo's memories returned to him. Mari was dead—he had seen it with his own two eyes. Only now, Zuria's words started to sink in. She had just buried her brother, and now it was time to bury Mari.

That meant it really was final. This really was the end of all good things.

"You can't," Mohatu immediately jumped up, as he cried aloud in protest. He knew it was senseless, but some part of him just wasn't ready for it to all be brought to an end. In fact, that didn't even begin to describe it. He knew she had to die sometime, but this was just too soon. They were supposed to live their whole lives together—this abrupt ending wasn't part of the plan. Somewhere along the line, fate had gone horribly wrong.

"I'm not ready for her to go!" Mohatu yelped. He felt his sense of devastation all over, as it entangled him deeper in his misery.

Zuria flattened her ears. "You never will be. If we don't bury her, she's going to rot and attract flies. Now, I don't think you want that, so we have to..."

Mohatu cringed. His paws folded in toward his chest, and a loud whimper followed. The image he had in his mind wasn't pretty; he knew he had no choice. It was now or never—but it just wasn't fair. This was all being forced upon him so abruptly.

There was no way it was possible that someone so integral to his life could disappear in such a way. Nothing so important as a creature's life could simply cease to exist. It seemed improbable, impossible even. She had to be somewhere... alive, somehow. Her life essence had to be preserved in some way, or so Mohatu thought. "It just..." Mohatu sobbed. "It can't be... she can't be dead. She's too young... we had so much to live for..."

But no matter how much Mohatu begged, it was time to say goodbye. At the same time he was begging for mercy from the Gods, he also knew he was denying the inevitable. The end would always exist in death; there was no way around that fact. Ultimately, the two were always one in the same. One did not exist without the other. No end was without death, and no death was without end.

Sure, it seemed morbid, but that was reality. This was all reality—the blood, the gore, the betrayal, the pain, the broken lioness. Not a single pretty sight stretched its way into existence.

"There's not much time," Zuria insisted with a groan from her throat and a sigh from her nostrils.

Mohatu winced. The rush wasn't really helping things any, either.

Leo exhaled his breath. He blinked his eyes, as a new rush of thoughts came to him. "No," Mohatu said again, but this time his protest was a little stronger. "If we're going to do this... I need to do it right. This..." he shook his head, "isn't the place to bury her. Not here. Let me..."

Both Rafiki and Zuria looked hesitant, but they allowed Mohatu to continue in spite of their exhaustion. Neither of the two had the audacity to interfere with a weeping lion king yearning over what remained of his beloved lioness.

Mohatu blinked his eyes, but it was still futile. With all his combined sorrows, he thought he'd never be able to see clearly again. Despite this, he weakly erected himself onto his paws. He didn't need to see clearly to walk through sand. He allowed himself to face the horizon, making no other attempt to stop his endless crying. "I'll take her," he added, his voice cracking profusely along the way.

He reached his mouth forward and grabbed Mari's tuft with his teeth. Though he never spoke his idea aloud, Mohatu knew what he wanted to do. He had a special place in mind, for someone who would forever hold a very special place in his heart.

"Where are you going?" Zuria asked.

With Mari's tail in his mouth, Mohatu didn't reply. He followed his paws, leading only to wherever they would take him. In truth, there was that one special place he had in mind, but more importantly, he just needed to get out and walk to clear his nausea.


---



Somewhere in the general vicinity of where he wanted to be, Mohatu dropped Mari's tail from his grasp. For quite some time, a mad sickness had been brewing within the confines of his stomach, but he tried his best to hold it. He had to tolerate his pain, at least until he could give Mari the funeral she deserved. Then—only then would he allow himself to concede to his pain and die.

Mohatu brought his paw up to wipe his eyes. His entire muzzle was wet, but he had reached the end of his tears, mostly. From the dryness of his throat and the arid sand below his paws, he was left to assume he had no more water in his system. However true it was, he had already cried his guts out; there was little left to follow. Inside, he was nothing but empty.

Fortunately, this meant he could see a little clearer. Unfortunately, this did not mean he was any less miserable than he had been for the past few hours. The night passed on, but Mohatu never felt any perception of time. For him, life was over; that was the end of the very fabric of time itself. Without Mari, Leo had no reason to continue. This funeral was to be it; afterwards, he'd be done with existence.

The immediate thoughts incited another intolerable rustle from within his belly. He could feel a tingle on the inside of his stomach, as sick as he was from his torment. He hadn't eaten in a while, but the empty, yet heavy solidity of his gut kept him weighted down. It was only getting worse—as he stood still and gazed out across the horizon, he felt a lump in his throat. He gagged, and his chest convulsed around his esophagus. The nausea was simply unbearable.

Leo's jaw opened to a roaring position, but his breath stopped. He had no voice, only a pained and saddened look on his face. The stare of his eyes fell to the sand below his forepaws, and he subsequently felt the massive lump enter his mouth. He expected a great deal of gunk to erupt from his stomach, although nothing ever happened. He heaved repeatedly, but as he watched his paws, he realized he had nothing inside him.

After nearly a minute, the involuntary motions ceased. Finally, it was over. He could breathe again, and as such, out came a groan of relief from his throat. Still, he felt remarkably heavy inside, for some odd reason or another. It was as though he had a lead weight inside of his guts, but its existence could only be felt.

Free to move again, Mohatu blinked his eyes and returned to looking for the special place. As usual, he gathered his concentration to swallow his pain. For now, finding the spot was more important. He knew it had to be in the sands somewhere, wherever it was that he and Mari had left it just the night before.

Somewhere.

Mohatu sighed. What an oddly vague place it was.

The spot Mohatu had in mind wasn't recognizable by any particular landmark. It was merely sand, just like any other part of the horizon around it. There was not a thing remarkable about it, aside from the very event that had transpired there just the night before. That was only one way he'd know. He'd see one little thing—an object of what was now his most sacred memory.

A small object, yes. Like looking for an ant in a field of raging zebra, definitely so. As improbable and discouraging as it was, Mohatu refused to care. He had only one vision. For most intents and purposes, futility was practically damned—there was no escaping Mohatu's perseverance when it came to such things. The world had already ended in hell. For the battle-torn lion, finding that one little thing was all that was left.

As a result of his channeled persistence, it was not long before Mohatu found what he desired. In due time, Leo's eyes dialed in on a small, dark spot in the sand. With the aid of the peachy glow of dawn behind the horizon, the object's shadow was what gave it away.

Mohatu stepped closer to the object, tears stained below his eyes. He continued his inspection as he approached, relentlessly staring it down with an intense focus. That was it. It had to be.

No bigger than a tuft in size, a small desert wildflower protruded from the sands. Unfortunately, the details of its form and color were all but indistinguishable in the light, or lack thereof. That, however, was irrelevant; Mohatu knew exactly what he was looking at. That mark in the sand was precisely what he wanted to see, no more and no less than expected.

Mohatu set his paws down in front of the blossom. He allowed his hindlegs to rest behind him, while his weight collapsed to the ground. He had the flower's stem between his two forepaws, and his nosepad right up to its stem. Its fragrance had that familiar, pleasant scent of Mari; it was something that almost seemed to have a tranquilizing effect on him.

Almost.

A deep moan sounded from Mohatu's throat. He wasn't relaxed in the least, but finding the trinket did have some little effect. It was as though a great weight had been lifted from his insides, while his prior memories returned and his recent memories faded to hold a lesser impact.

Leo nuzzled the flower without even realizing it, subconsciously hoping that he could obtain some of that precious essence of Mari's being. her dead body was a gruesome and disgusting sight, but this was different. The flower in front of Mohatu's nose had a certain smell of life that no other trinket could obtain. It reminded him of his love more so than anything else. It was a reminder of her life, and not the harsh reality of the contrary.

There was something strange about it. Its presence spoke to him on such a deep level, as sublime as could possibly be. That flower contained the antidote to all Mohatu's suffering. It was the one last flicker of life in a world otherwise void of it.

After several moments of some minor sense of peace, Mohatu was finally ready. Perhaps not ready in the fullest sense, but as ready as he would ever be. He had Mari's remains and a trinket to remember her by—now, against his will, it was time. He had to commence the burial.

The sun's bright orange light was now protruding over the horizon; dawn had officially arrived. Many stars still lit the dim sky over toward the west, but Mohatu kept his eyes on the wildflower as he began the process.

The lion dug his front paws into the sand. Lump after lump, he started making a cavity in the ground beside the flower. The first few paws of dirt were easy to remove, but as the hole deepened, the ground grew harder. Beneath the thin layer of sand was a more clay-like substance, dry but surprisingly tough to dig through. Its tint was slightly reddish, with layers of grey and black tossed in.

Much to the frustration of his paws, Mohatu kept digging. The repeated motions ran through a loop, cycling once with every breath. He stuck his paw in the hole, grasped a bit of dirt, and tossed it out. Again, again, and again he continued the process, until finally the hole was deeper than his pawlength.

By that time, the sun was already above the horizon. All the stars were hidden behind the blueness of a new morning sky, but Mohatu's fatigue was creeping up on him at an even more rapid rate. His exhaustion was nearly limitless, but he maintained his stance above the ground. He had but one more task to accomplish before he could allow himself to die.

Mohatu's nose guided him to the rotten smell of Mari's flesh. His tired paws did all the work for him; by the time he knew it, he was almost done with the job. He closed his eyes and held his breath as he picked Mari's hindlegs up by the tuft. From there, he carried her to her grave.

The deep emotions of such a painful process had become lost to Mohatu—his body carried out his actions without much comprehension. His heart had already turned to stone. As he watched the dirt pour down on Mari's lifeless body, he felt nothing but the water forming in front of his eyes.

In time, less and less of the lioness was exposed to the outside air. Mounds of dirt piled up upon her, pushing her remains deep down into the ground. That was where she would forever rest, never to see the light of day again, never to breathe another gust of wind.

Mohatu picked up one final plot of dirt, and tossed it over Mari's burial site. She was now completely covered, and the dirt had been returned to its original height under the surface. The hole was gone, and so was the mound beside it. But as the Earth returned to its former state, Mohatu knew he would not.

A sniff came from the lion's nose. He stepped over the burial site, before lowering himself down to lie across the sand. The brightness from above contaminated his eyesight, but he did not let that bother him. Mari was dead. Now it was time for him to rest as well.

Mohatu grabbed the flower with his forepaw, and repositioned it closer to himself. He set it back down in the sand, so that it now covered and marked Mari's burial site.

"I already miss you, Mari," Mohatu sobbed.

"You were my best friend... the best friend I ever could have asked for. You meant more to me than anyone ever could have—and you always will. You saved my butt more than once... and I... I just wish I could have saved yours. I did this all for you... I wanted you to be happy... I wanted us to be together... but I failed. It's my fault... I'm sorry."

Mohatu closed his eyes with tremendous force. He grabbed the flower and pulled it close to his heart, holding it with incredible tightness. It was the same tightness that he always wished he could hold Mari with—that close, strong, and blissful lionhug of pure love.

"You were everything to me... and now that you're gone, I don't know what to do anymore. I'm lost... I need you. You were my better half. I don't want to live without you; I don't want to live at all anymore. It's pointless."

Mohatu wrapped his tail around himself, and snuggled up with his own loneliness in the sand. In all the hellhole that was the desert, he now had nothing else. He was but the shell of his former self, and all of his livelihood was reduced to a single mark in the sand.

"Pumzika kwa amani," Mohatu murmured. His tears seeped into the ground below him, running down into the burial site. "I promise," Mohatu added, "I won't let you die alone. I'll join you soon."


---



A/N: Yes! Finally, I've managed to write out and upload another chapter. I do feel bad about the long waits, especially after I said the updates would be more frequent. It's not that I haven't had the motivation to work on this project; I've really just been rather busy. Suffice it to say that I am becoming an adult now, which means doing all sorts of adult things. That takes up precious free time. It's all time I think I have, but I really don't. I'll learn my limits eventually, though. :P

So, combined with the added work load of university and what little social life I've been trying to build over the past few weeks, my free time is a lot more limited than it was last year, or even last month. Those weekly updates I used to provide back in the summer of 2013 will likely never be happening again. I just don't have the time. I'm focusing most of my energy towards school and making new friends... but I still hope to be able to provide monthly updates.

I'm not abandoning this project; I'm just slowing down. It's for the best, though. Things have been improving in the life of Regulus, especially over the past few weeks. This lack of free time is actually a positive. That's probably surprising, considering I can write some depressing stuff... but seriously. I consider writing to be a healthy habit, and I am trying to balance that along with other areas of my life. Monthly updates seem like a good pace from here on out.

But remember, it's all tentative. xD
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » October 27th, 2014, 2:43 am

chapter 44: show
A/N: Another month, another new chapter. As the title suggests, I'm taking things in a new direction, this time. I've mostly focused on Mohatu and Mari up until this point. I haven't really explored Rex's character at all—but this is where that changes. Now that I've introduced Rex, I'm going to start following him, too.

You're probably going to like this chapter, or at least I think so. This is going to establish the framework for the next sequence of events, which, I promise, will actually bring this story to an end.

But it gets better. We're also going to see the return of a dearly missed character. :)


---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Chapter 44: The Rex Experience


With only a faint crimson aura of sunlight illuminating the Pridelandian savannah, Rex's arrival was now certain. Finally, at dusk, he had made it back to the very center of his kingdom. Far off in the shadows of Pride Rock, his figure could be seen marching ever closer to the towering structure. With him were his two most trusted guards, as well as his loyal queen, Minerva. More importantly, however, was the key noteworthy subject they brought with them.

Another lioness was carried along by the two subordinate males, who appeared to be sedated and unconscious. Her forelegs were draped over the backside of one of the lions, while her hindlegs rested on the other. The two walked in unison, each carrying half the weight of the golden feline above them. She looked as though she had been attacked and injured, though she was far from dead.

Of course she wasn't dead—no, not Mari. Rex never even considered killing one of the few lions who knew the location of the key of Algenubi. The lioness was of high importance to him for that very reason. Her survival was, in fact, paramount.

Nearing his arrival to the great throne, Rex stopped in his tracks. He turned aside and raised his paw to the two royal guards, pointing toward the sloped backside of the mountain. "Take the prisoner to the den in the back," he ordered. "Make sure she remains unseen."

"Right away, sir," the lions nodded.

Before the two managed to leave earshot, Minerva already started to protest. The moment she opened her jaw, it became clear she had a very different idea of how to deal with the captive. "Are you sure we should not hold her in the main den? It will be easier for her to escape from the back."

To Rex, it was a rather foolish suggestion. The king almost released a chuckle under his breath. His mate surely wasn't the sharpest knife in the box. Despite her status as queen, there was so much Minerva didn't know or understand.

Of course, it was a challenge for any lion to match Rex's mastermind. Not even Leo could do that. Rex was simply the best of the best. His elaborate strategy was far too advanced to be comprehensible by even his closest admirers—and he was more than willing to let it show. "Normally, you would be right," Rex grinned. "But her escaping... now, that's a prospect I hope to realize. Mari's escape falls precisely into my new plan."

The regal queen blinked her eyes, inching her head forward. "You mean...?" she paused mid-sentence, and her ear twitched in the breeze.

"With Leo gone, she is no longer a threat to my rule," Rex insisted. "I will have Knight Safar deal with her. If she will not cooperate—and having known her in the past, that is very likely—we will set her free."

Minerva arched her brow. Her tail twitched to exemplify her disbelief. "You've finally found her, and you're going to let her go? Have you gone mad?"

"Consider this," Rex asserted himself. Momentarily, he turned his back to the lioness queen, intentionally creating a long pause of silence before he turned his head and continued. "You spend months upon months looking for a wildebeest in the savannah. When you finally find one, what do you do? Do you kill it, or do you set it free?"

Minerva paused for a moment. Her instincts as a huntress supplied her answer. "I would... kill it."

"It is better to let it go," Rex explained. "If you set it free, the wildebeest will return to its family. The family, in turn, becomes the next target. Why settle for one wildebeest when you can have an entire herd to feast on? You cannot focus on the one—you must see the larger picture."

"So you think Mari will lead us to the assassins?"

Rex's evil grin allowed his teeth to show. Never before was it so obvious that he admired his own brilliance. "Oh... yes. I do. She's a feisty little one, but we will soon see her working toward her own demise. Mari's escape will be the catalyst for our ascension."

"An ingenious plan, I must say," nodded Minerva. The orange glow of her fur was most magnificent under the falling evening sun. "Only a lion of your caliber could have acquired such wisdom. This is the kind of thinking that earned you the title of king."

"Of course," Rex smiled. His smug sense of superiority never fell from his face. "Now go and prepare for our grand feast tonight. I'll inform the others of the news."

Minerva bowed with utmost respect to her king. "It will be done."


---



Rex's brigade had been making a return from the kingdom's territories throughout the day, with groups of no more than five arriving at a time. Now, however, it was clear that the king himself was back from his expedition to the holy land. His many knights and subordinates had already prepared his arrival in the den, and from the look of the mass of lions standing around, the next meeting was about to take place.

Earlier in the day, a group was returning every few minutes. They had all readied for the grand gathering at Pride Rock, the very center of the new kingdom. For many, it had been a long and arduous trip that lasted from dawn until dusk. Expressions of fatigue were painted on the many faces of the king's loyal followers, but this did not deter them from maintaining their upbeat attitudes.

Aside from the massive gathering, Pride Rock had not changed during Rex's short leave. Strict control over the area was maintained by the revered Knight Zabayah, both before, during, and after his absence. During any hour of the day, patrols could be seen for as far as the horizon could extend. Despite the recent losses of Knight Ganji, Knight Usama, and many others, the Pridelands remained no less a fortress.

Rex raised a paw as he completed his ascension. His eyes gazed down at his subjects, no less pleased than he had ever been before. "My pride," he began, smiling from end to end of his muzzle, "I have gathered you here on this beautiful evening to celebrate my progress. As you may already have heard, yesterday marked a pivotal moment in my conquest."

Before Rex could continue, he inhaled his largest, most kingly breath. "Our two most feared enemies are now dead—Mari and Mohatu. I am also pleased to report that our final attack will be beginning shortly. Soon..." Rex almost laughed at his own sarcasm, "every last conspirator will be dead, and at last, Leo will rest in peace."

After a brief period of silence, one of the king's subjects spoke out from the crowd below. His voice gulped with nervousness as he addressed the royal lion, but he had this unbounded curiosity that could not easily be quelled. "My liege... is it true that Mohatu betrayed us?"

Rex's smile immediately dropped from his muzzle. "Do you question my judgement?" he spat.

"No... not at all, sire," the subordinate bit his lip. "It's just that... y'know, I heard Mohatu was a promising student at the academy. It seems odd that he would turn his back on such potential. He... he could have accomplished great things under your leadership."

"Ah," Rex grinned again. Though he was initially unsure of how he would answer the question, he now decided to use the situation to his own advantage. "I see. I cannot answer why he would turn against us... for it is a question that eludes me, as well. This kingdom stands high as a symbol of greatness; any who oppose it are foolish, and their motives are questionable at best."

"What did he do?" another of the subordinates asked.

Rex stepped back. His eyes widened. "What?"

"How did Mohatu betray us...?"

A nervous sweat broke out from Rex's forehead. He forced a gulp in his throat, before he could even prepare a half-baked answer. "He and Mari attempted to assassinate me during his trial as knight. They were going to kill me, but I... I knew... I struck the two down with my own paw," he lied.

The roars of cheering lions broke out from below. The many heavy vibrations shook the ground like an earthquake, gloriously applauding Rex for his triumph.

"To celebrate," Rex's mood again lifted, "my queen is returning with a grand feast of impala and zebra. Those of you who have scored a kill within the past week may eat all you wish. For those of you have not... you will have to work for your next meal."

Another cheer erupted. The crowd was purely ecstatic when they heard the news. After a long series of failures following King Leo's death, the kingdom was finally starting to come back together. This would be the new golden age; it seemed so for sure.

"Let this be a lesson to you all," Rex ended with one final, devious grin. "In this kingdom, loyalty and excellence are always rewarded."


---



As the hours of the night passed, Minerva and her team of huntresses made their return to Pride Rock. With them they carried a number of fresh carcasses, all to be distributed under the king's most loyal followers. It was one of the king's more pleasant feasts, marked with the tasteful joy of impending victory.

Though the moonlight was dim and eerie, the warmth of each celebrating feline could be felt across the Pridelands. Morale was high, and so were the night's temperatures. Gentle gusts of wind only cooled the den slightly; songs of joy, laughs of pleasure, and roars of dominance persisted long past nightfall. This was a celebration unlike any other since Leo's initial conquest of the Pridelands.

As the night came to its peak, the celebration faded. The air became quieter as the eruptive laughs lost their frequency, and the many cheerful lions left to sleep snugly in their dens for the night. "So..." one of the few remaining lions began as awkward silence started to fill the air. "Did any of you hear what Mohatu did?"

"You mean with Denebola's snake?" another asked.

"Not that. This feast was amazing and all, but back when we were at Giza, Mohatu killed an entire herd of wildebeest... in like three seconds. You should've seen it! The whole Nial river lit up like the sun!"

Expressions of disbelief erupted among the many subordinates. "No way!" one exclaimed. "He couldn't have!"

"It's true," the other lion insisted, "I saw it with my own eyes." He rolled over onto his back, and rubbed his belly with his paw. "Even after tonight, I haven't eaten as good, since. We had enough food to last for days after... and it had a really nice smoked flavor."

"Man..." the lion beside him sighed. "It would have been great to have him hunt for us again. It's too bad he had to..."

Glancing over at the clique, Rex couldn't help but furrow his brow. Did they really think Mohatu was so great? No—they didn't know—they didn't understand. Those imbeciles were only blinded by what they saw, the flashing lights of the battery's sparks. They interpreted the power of the ancient kings as something spectacular inside Mohatu. In truth, Mohatu wasn't all that powerful; he had only used his environment to cheat the situation.

"Ah," Rex interrupted, joining the circle of discussion. "Mohatu was a magnificent hunter, was he not?"

"Yeah..." one of the lions agreed. He jolted slightly, as he realized a lion of such importance had just joined in on the conversation. As soon as Rex approached, the conversation suddenly grew much more serious.

"I admire what he did," Rex continued. "Really, I do. What Mohatu found was a powerful artifact of the ancient kings. He used their power as his own, and used that to kill every last wildebeest in the river. It was an impressive feat."

"Yeah! It was amazing!"

"Indeed," Rex forced himself to nod. "I must admit that fighting him was no easy task. His use of the ancient king's power was what made him such a strong adversary." Shortly afterward, the king placed his paw over his subordinate's shoulder with a slight nudge. "That, my loyal subject, is why we celebrate tonight. His death is an important victory for the kingdom."

Another subordinate lion almost shivered into a bow. "Congratulations, my liege," he nodded. "I admit... at first, I doubted whether you'd be able to live up to Leo's legacy. But—for you to kill such a beast—it's good to see justice brought to even our most powerful enemies."

After setting the matter straight, Rex quickly left the scene. Having heard such praise all day, it meant very little to have yet another lion say the same old things. Each compliment was just a duplicate of another, hardly worthy of his limited attention.

Instead of sticking around with the peons, Rex's paws carried him to a location closer to the main den, where he found the remaining three of his knights had gathered under the starlight. The trio had formed their own circle as the night progressed, sharing their stories from their recent efforts in different territories of the kingdom.

It was a reunion long overdue; since King Leo's death, the knights had all been sent to lead their prides in various territories of the kingdom. Only now, following king Rex's grand victory, were they together again. The general happiness of the three was no less than apparent.

"My elite warriors," Rex smirked as he joined in. "What a pleasure it is to see you again."

Two of the knights showed a sincere reaction, but Knight Inari gulped as he bowed. "Yes... milord."

Like the keen king he was, Rex quickly picked up on his knight's hesitation. "Inari... Inari..." the king smiled devilishly. He nudged himself in closer, making Inari even more uncomfortable. "My loyal Knight, what is it that troubles you? You don't look so happy to see me. Did I do something wrong?"

Inari bit his lip. "Hah, it's nothing."

The king, however, was waiting patiently. He would not proceed until he knew the truth of the matter. "Nothing, y'say?" he asked, cocking his head a few degrees.

"With all due respect, sire, you..." Inari tried to voice himself, but again, he held his breath while he struggled to articulate his thoughts. "I don't like being left out of the loop. There are things you are hiding from us... things, as knights, we need to know."

Rex turned away with a shrug. "Is that so?" he inquired loudly, almost sarcastic in tone. Turning back to face the other two, he repeated his question. "Well, is it?"

The three knights looked at one another, but not one looked as though they dared to speak a single word.

"You see," Rex explained, "being king isn't so simple. It would be great if I could keep each of you updated on my progress, but alas, it is not so easy. I mustn't trouble myself with your needs, but instead, the needs of the kingdom as a whole. Letting Mohatu think he was safe and undetected at Giza was key to my strategy."

Inari nodded. "I understand..." he feigned complacency, although his expression of contempt easily gave away his true feelings.

Rex started to frown as he continued to look down on his subordinate. "I take it you are not satisfied by my answer, are you? You want more... you want to know..."

"Right, Leo always shared his plans," Inari explained. "We collaborated. We shared ideas. That was how we were so successful... he was open to suggestions, and we always did what we decided would be best." Looking to the side, Inari sought the approval of his two comrades. "The only reason why Leo led the attack on Pride Rock was because he knew the land. We let him take charge. You have forgotten—"

"I have forgotten nothing! I am even more successful," Rex argued. Droplets of spit flew from his tongue as he hissed out at the three. "You forget that it was Leo's lack of secrecy that allowed the assassins to accomplish their goal. His willingness to collaborate led to his own demise. To be truly successful, to be a true king, one has to stand above his knights."

"Hah, well I guess it worked out for you," Inari replied with a shake of his head. "But I want to know what we're doing before I just jump into this next battle, claws ablaze."

"That," King Rex gazed upon his inferior with utter disdain, "I am afraid I cannot say. All I ask is that you do not question the wisdom of your prophet."

"But—" Inari struggled to express himself, as he faced the ominous stare of his superior. "I've been with this kingdom for as long as you have. I've taken part in every major battle since its rebirth. You know me... you can trust me completely," he lied.

"No," Rex remained firm in his stance. The longer he stood in close proximity to Inari, the more annoyed he grew. "Your faith is all that I ask. The key to my plan lies in its secrecy itself."

"But... Leo wouldn't—"

"Excuse me," Rex yelled. He brought his nosepad dangerously close to Inari's, now showing his dominance with the exposure of his teeth. "Are you not listening? Do you not understand the concept of authority?" he asked, as condescendingly as possible.

Inari stepped back. "I believe I do, sir."

"Here's how it works," Rex admonished his inferior. "I am the king, and you are not. You do what I say, and you do not question it. I am the strongest lion in all of Africa—that is why I make the decisions. Not you."

Inari gritted his teeth. "I understand..."

"Now," Rex stepped back and lightened his eyes, now conveying a more cheerful expression. "If I recall correctly, I do remember you being troublesome, yesterday..."

"I'm sorry," Inari bowed, lowering his ears in submission.

Rex pointed a claw toward the lion's chest. "I want you to remember something," he announced. "The next time you think you can step out of line, remember that it is your king who has complete control of your pride, as well as every other pride in this kingdom. You are a skillful soldier, Inari... but this rebelliousness of yours mustn't continue."

"Right," Inari nodded. "You have my sincerest apologies," he exclaimed sycophantically.

"Now," Rex looked out to the other two knights. "I must speak with each of you individually—you will both be playing a pivotal role in our next battle."

"And me?" Inari asked.

"I have yet to decide what I'm going to do with you," the lion king shrugged. Another droplet of spit flew from his tongue as he snarled his response.


---



"Knight Zabayah," Rex addressed, "before I give you your next orders, I must ask. What is the status of our defenses in the Pridelands?"

"Excellent," he answered in his deep, raspy voice. "I have not had a report of a trespasser in days. The Pridelands have been quiet since the day after Usama's attack. I should be able to offer some of my soldiers to assist in the upcoming battle."

"That will be necessary," Rex nodded. "Adhafera has alerted me to an upcoming threat, so I will be ordering additional soldiers to aid in the next mission. But... there is also something else I must ask of you."

"And what is that?"

Rex kept silent for a second, while he stared into his subordinate's eyes. Though his request seemed absurd, he spoke in the most serious tone possible. "I want you to take down your guard."

"Did I hear you correctly...?" Zabayah's brow scrunched. "I'm not sure I understand..."

"You needn't burden yourself trying to understand," King Rex insisted. "I have a prisoner, and I predict she will try to escape. It is my direct order that you do not harm her. Tell your soldiers to look for and follow any unrecognized lion or lioness, but do not attack. Report any findings directly to me, and only to me."

"As you wish."

"When this lioness escapes, it is critical the she is tracked, but remains unaware of my plans. Let her go, keep sight of her, do not be seen, and report her location to me. If this plan fails, you will be solely responsible."

"Orders acknowledged, my liege," the knight bowed.


---



"Knight Safar," Rex called out the moment he reached earshot of the mangy lion.

Only after a few seconds did the knight ever respond. Safar's focus shattered as his head turned to greet his king. He looked a little angry, though admittedly, that was usual for him. "Yeah?" he cocked his brow. "You need me for something?"

Surprisingly, so bright was the knight's red mane that it still remained visible as at waved in the dimmest moonlight. Each fiber pointed up and outward like a spike, ragged but nevertheless intimidating in appearance. Also notable was a large gash across his muzzle; it ran all the way from the inside of his right eye to the bottom left of his nosepad. Safar was a cold, harsh, and brutal lion—perfect for the task about to be at the forefront of his paws.

"I have a new job for you," the king explained. He greeted his subordinate with a welcoming and encouraging nod, affirming that what he was about to command was not so much a chore, but a task of pleasure, rather. "You're going to like this, I can assure you."

"I'm listening."

"There is a hostile lioness in the back den. Your goal is to..." Rex grinned, now speaking sarcastically, "I'm sure you understand what I mean when I say... welcome her to our pride." Rex gave the other lion a suggestive smirk, but otherwise remained silent as he gathered his next breath. "She's sedated at the moment, but do be careful—she is a feisty one, and very loyal to her friends."

"Heh," Safar exhaled heavily as he leaned back on his hindpaws. "What'd the little fartknocker do? Spit on you?"

"She sank her teeth into one of my own lionesses," Rex explained, no emotion in his voice. "Ripped her right in half, cut through the spine and everything. I had her outnumbered a dozen to one, and she still wouldn't give up. She knows no fear, and—"

Safar lifted a paw as he tilted his head, almost in disbelief. "Really? Do I believe that? All that fire inside her, and now she's knocked out in the back of the den?" The lion smiled to himself. "Looks like the feisty little princess just came crashing down into reality."

"Yes..." the king replied. Before Rex continued his speech, he turned around and brought a paw up to his chin. "Of course... there are some things I would like to extract from her. This lioness knows the locations of the key of Algenubi and the last remaining assassins. You are to acquire this information from her. That is a direct order."

The knight stared blankly for a second. His jaw opened wide, and his eyes lit up at once. "Okay."

"There is more, my faithful subject. You must remove her claws so that she is no longer a threat to us. Other than that, you are free to do what you wish with her... however, I must also ask that she remain alive and able to walk. She's no good to me if she cannot walk."

"Yeah," the knight looked up briefly at the starry sky. When his gaze returned, he stared back at his king for a moment. "So you're gonna have me torture the little fartknocker?" Safar nodded, almost shrugging with his radiant nonchalance. "I can do it."

"Declaw her, torture her, and get answers... but she must remain able to walk. That is your task."

"Yeah, I'll do it."


---



Mari's eyes flinched. Her nose twitched. An odd scent berated the insides of her nostrils, and immediately, she jumped to the tips of her paws.

Without even thinking, Mari knew exactly where she was: home. She was in the back den of Pride Rock, facing northwest toward the elephant graveyard. The den was about twenty tails above grass level, near the main ascending slope. A large boulder guarded the entrance, irregularly shaped and mostly flat on the top.

With a sore paw and a blood-red face, Mari stood up to face the exit. There, directly in the center of her view, she found three lions. Two were guards, and Knight Safar stood between them.

Oh, what a pleasant surprise. Mari couldn't even be alone for a single minute. As soon as she woke up from her state of vegetation, she knew she was going to have to talk to a few lions she didn't recognize.

But of course, the lions in Mari's view weren't just any ordinary lions. Of course, this probably wasn't going to be any normal conversation. As preferable to being dead as it may have been, of course Rex didn't want Mari dead—what she knew was far too valuable. This, more than likely, was going to be an interrogation.

It was a thought that was most displeasing to Mari, but she never allowed her hopes to fall. Mari knew something these three lions didn't, and that was going to be key to her survival.

Sure, the three probably wanted to pick her brain. But if they did—Mari knew they would not like what they would inevitably find. If she had to be the one to tell the kingdom of Leo's redemption, then she was more than willing to say it. She knew more than the kingdom did; she could set matters straight.

Despite being captured and held in enemy territory, Mari did not feel a drop of fear. She collected her strength and used it to assert her own dominance—not to Safar's surprise. "Drop your claws," Mari demanded. She gallantly placed herself in harm's way, demanding a moment of peace so that she could explain to the lion the whole story.

"You first," Safar insisted.

Mari's reaction was identical to that of a very brave lioness. "No!"

Safar showed his teeth as he stepped forward. This caused Mari to flinch, but she otherwise remained courageous. Blood shot through her head, and her adrenaline began to flow again. If that attacker was going to go after her, Mari knew she wouldn't go down without a fight. Her reaction was more like an instinct than a thought, but it led her reactions in the shortest notice.

"Drop your claws!" Mari yelled again. This time she was a little louder, a little more afraid, and a little closer to ripping Safar's head off.

In response to the provoked lioness, Safar took yet another lackadaisical step forward. There was no way he was going to allow the little fartknocker to boss him around like that. Safar was a knight, and arguably a knight even tougher than Rex. Anything the lioness did meant nothing more to him than the wind against his backside.

Mari's breath increased. She began to panic, growing more and more afraid of the knight as he approached. "If you take one more step forward, I'll kill you!" she threatened. She backed up her words with a measurable tenseness in her muscles. In truth, Mari meant every last word of what she said. This lion was encroaching on her space, and she would have none of it.

Safar grinned. He raised his forepaw and stepped closer.

An explosion of rage surged through Mari's blood. She lunged forward and lashed out with her claws—only to find that her tail was immobilized. Though her forepaws leaped high into the air, her hindpaws never made it off the ground. Her backside was confined to the ground, all thanks to a heavy boulder pinning her tail to the denfloor.

Fantastic, Mari sarcastically thought. An expression of deep hatred formed between her whiskers, as she muttered curses to herself.

In consequence, Mari remained a safe distance away from the knight. No matter how badly she wanted to rip him to shreds, she couldn't. She was locked in place, no doubt about it. There was nothing she could do but sit and watch.

"I'm sorry," Safar interrupted the lioness's struggle. He kept his cool throughout the entire ordeal; not once did he even flinch at Mari's awful display. "Do you have any idea how freaking rude that was?"

Mari's eyes again met the knight. She felt her heart collapse; the front she had put up was utterly senseless. She was back in the Pridelands now, alone and defenseless. Her dread quickly started to overpower her. Her jaw opened, but she could not bring herself to speak a single word.

"Did you say something?" Safar asked with a wicked grin.

"I..." Mari tried to speak, but her voice failed her.

"What happened?" Safar teased. "I thought you said you were going to kill me."

"I..." Mari stepped back. "Well... that's..." she blushed.

Safar couldn't help but laugh at the lioness's golden reaction. Indeed, Rex was right. This was going to be a pleasurable assignment, perhaps the most enjoyable assignment the knight would ever be given. It wasn't every day the king gave him an opportunity to play with such an overconfident beast. It wasn't every day he could torture someone who held themselves in such high esteem.

All things considered, the little fartknocker was bound to learn her lesson soon enough—if she hadn't already. It was a lesson Safar excelled at teaching. Mari may have thought herself a pretty young princess, but torture just happened to be Safar's specialty. He'd prove her wrong. He'd shove her face right through the ground, and tear her will apart from the inside out.

"Haha," Safar chuckled. "You look really nice, y'know that?"

Mari's heart dropped to the very bottom of her chest. Oh, no. He wasn't thinking about... no. Oh God, no. Mari winced at the mere thought. She did not like where this was going, not one bit.

"That's good," the knight smiled, even more so after witnessing Mari's defeated reaction. "I like to have nice things..."
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » December 8th, 2014, 5:32 am

chapter 45: show
A/N: I know, I'm a week late with this one. Instead of the usual "I'm busy" excuse, there's a different reason this time. This chapter was just hard to write. Like many scenes in previous chapters, I have a certain personal connection to the events going on here. Unlike all of those, though, lot of what is written here is borrowed from something I wrote in the past, and adapted to work here in this story.

One would think this would make things easier, but it doesn't. Writing this chapter has been a complete challenge for a number of reasons. For one, it brings back memories of things I'd rather forget, and for another, I really wanted to make sure that what is here turns out in the way I intend for it to. It may not seem like it, but all the events of this chapter are crucial for the final plot developments I have planned.


---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Chapter 45: Tropical Depression


Leo's paws twitched in the sand. His eyes were closed in his state of erratic semi-slumber, and his mindvision remained a simple fade of blur and haze. Even as the days croaked in quick succession, the lion's condition seldom changed. Leo had been confined to his internal thoughts ever since Mari's perceived death. Since the tragedy, he never even came close to engaging with reality. All he experienced now was no more than his inner turmoil.

Much to his misfortune, the lion's final trinket was long gone. Long ago, the wildflower he once held had wilted into a brown, rancid, and organic mush. Without even a tombstone to remember her by, every last trace of Mari was now wiped from existence. She was completely gone in Mohatu's eyes, but the days continued so disrespectfully, like nothing had ever happened.

Of course, one exception to this did exist—Mohatu's mind contained the last traces of what he shared with Mari. Some flicker of her essence was still alive inside of him, and he knew it.

From that day onward, Mohatu lived solely in his memories. Now, he was lost inside his own head. He was little more than a husk outside his daydreams; he made the decision never to return to the real world, not even for a much-needed sip of water. Sure, he couldn't live for more than a week without passing away from dehydration, but that thought concerned him little. The thought of dying seemed more comforting than ever.

In truth, life was more than miserable for Mohatu. Life itself felt like a disease, like some kind of parasitic fungus taking over his body, one cell at a time. Life—the very essence of life itself—was slowly killing him. Leo was sure of it. He felt more dead when he was alive than when he convinced himself he was not.

Ultimately, that was it. Inside the dark, dead world of his eyelids, things were slightly different. In his imagination, Mohatu could remember his love, interact with her, and... somehow be with her. There, he still had some purpose, however small it was. He had some sliver of happiness through his dreams. There, he had the life that life now denied him.

But even as good as it seemed, the happiness and existence of that life was just a tad above negligible. Even the lion's dreams weren't anything relaxing, and even an imaginary Mari couldn't turn the inevitable fate around. Mohatu's newfound fears still haunted him, even in his own, controllable world.

Even Mohatu's most treasured memories were now corrupted. After several instances of the most horrendous nightmares he had ever encountered, it was no less than obvious that everything inside of the lion's head had made a turn for the worst. The inside of Mohatu's mind was no place for recreation, even as much as he wished it to be.

But there was no stopping it. With no distractions, Mohatu's memories ran free and rampant at every hour of the day. All things considered, he was bricked.

"Stop!" Mari commanded inside the lion's head. She drew her voice from the very bottom of her lungs. Her paw slapped across the imaginary landscape of dirt, before firmly gripping the sand beneath her. "Excuse me, I have something to say. Could you please just let me talk for a few minutes?"

"Okay, okay," Mohatu backed off, scurrying the center of his weight to the ends of his hindpaws. "It doesn't feel good to be neglected, does it?" he snapped back. He was still showing a hint of bitterness in his outward expression.

"Mohatu, I said stop," Mari insisted for yet another time. She didn't have the patience for any of those shenanigans, and that was more than evident by her rock solid stance, and the way she forced her words down into Mohatu's ears. She was about ready to place her paw across Mohatu's mouth and fix the problem herself, but she thought it best not to resort to such measures just yet.

Meanwhile, All Mohatu did was lean back even farther. "Okay then, go ahead," he shrugged. He knew not to anger the lioness any further. Any more, he realized, and she was probably going to explode in a burst of feline fury.

"Okay," the lioness inhaled her breath. Now that Mohatu had finally shut his trap, she was ready to begin with her lecture for the day. "You are making a big mistake," Mari explained again. "I wouldn't trust Minerva as far as I could throw her. If she knows who you are, and she knows who I am, she's going to try to turn you against me. She is the queen. She is our enemy."

"She's my mate," Mohatu answered, blissfully unaware of the reality of the situation. "You're not."

In essence, Leo was actually proving Mari's point. Minerva was using Leo's loneliness to her own advantage—that was exactly what was happening, and Leo was too blind to see it. He was clinging to that very idea of being partners, and using it to shield himself from reality.

Mari's scowl grew in intensity. "Why won't you listen? Don't you understand? Don't you trust me? You know I would never do anything to hurt you. I've been here for you... I always have! You can't say that about her."

"You did hurt me," Mohatu corrected. He couldn't quite look Mari in the eye, anymore; instead, he focused his gaze on her nosepad to relieve his strain. He was a little too embarrassed to admit to being as sensitive as he was—but at this point, he had nothing left to lose. "What you said last night hurt a lot... and nothing you can say will ever make up for the fact that you just don't like me."

Mari ceased all her movements. Now, she stood in the sand like a statue, not even moving her chest to breathe. The intensity of her stare pierced Mohatu's gut with such tremendous energy, he found it hard to focus. He couldn't think straight at all, much less try to hold up an argument.

Seconds passed. The bottom of Mari's jaw inched downward. It was as though she was trying to breathe, but her shock simply wouldn't allow it. "Do..." she began, absolutely baffled by what Mohatu had said. "Do you really... believe...?"

Mohatu's eyes crossed. His tail fell to the ground, and he started to twitch his paw. He noticed something was a little wrong with Mari. Why was she acting like that? It was like she had just broke herself, straining her brain a little too hard.

Finally, after a few seconds, Mari regained her composure. "Come on," the golden lioness smiled uncontrollably. "You know me better than that. What on Earth makes you think any of that is true? That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in my life!"

"Umm... well," Mohatu sighed. His relief flooded his eyes, and his breath returned to a more normal pace. "Yeah, I thought so too."

"Of course I like you," Mari added playfully. She ran her paw across Mohatu's shoulder, nudging him onto his side. "What wouldn't I like about you?"

"Welp," Mohatu shook his head, as the onslaught of memories poured through his mind. "I just thought... you'd want someone better than me. Someone who can actually... y'know..." Mohatu paused, somehow forgetting what it was that he was even concerned about. "I... umm... I'm not sure. Someone with a red mane, I guess."

Again, Mari repeated her stare. This time she was a little more lively. "Do you really think... I would be so stupid...?"

"Hah," Mohatu chuckled. "I guess this is a trick question, so... no, I don't think that!"

"There's nothing wrong with you," Mari reassured the lion. "Nothing at all. I don't know what could have made you think of such a thing, because I really couldn't ask for anyone better. Damning you to all hell just for being who you are is one of the most ridiculous things I could ever do."

"Yeah... exactly!" Mohatu nodded in agreement. His voice lowered to a more confident tone, but carried the volume of a whisper. "That's kinda what I thought this whole time," he grinned.

"Yeah," Mari giggled. She ran her muzzle up Mohatu's neck, eventually bringing her tongue up to gleefully wipe the bottom of his chin. "That's the spirit. I guess you had the right idea all along. Do you have any idea how stupid I'd be to let someone like you get away? Hah! Crazy! Lions like you only show up once every couple thousand years."

Mohatu purred, until a slight hint of a blush began to appear beneath his fur. "Thanks, but now you're overdoing it. I'm not that special."

Mari stood up, placing her forepaws paws above Mohatu's mane. "Yes, you are," she insisted. "Who was the lion to conquer Minerva's pride? Who was the lion to liberate Safar's refugees? Who was the lion to kill Musashi, forge an alliance with Ganji, repel Rex's attack on the jungle, and decode the location of Regulus's tomb... twice?"

"Well..." Mohatu's blush became ever more apparent. "You could say Leo did all that."

"Of course he did," Mari winked suggestively. "And who was the great lion to enslave more than fifty thousand humans, slay the great dragon Zhuyin, conquer most of Tigress Emperor Yong's territories north of the Himalayas, establish new prides in the middle east, end the great crusades, and bring running water to the northern Sahara?"

"That was King Denebola," Mohatu insisted.

"Yes, exactly!"

"But I didn't do any of that... and I probably never will," Mohatu sighed. "That's all history... long gone and in the past now." He pushed Mari off his chest, before regaining his weight back on his own set of paws. "Let's be realistic, here," he argued. "Maybe I'm good at some things, but I can't just... I'm no one special. I'm not some sort of God."

Mari simply grinned. "I'm not so sure I believe that." She then brought a suggestive nod to her muzzle, as she playfully nudged her companion. "You're pretty close. You're about ninety percent God, and... one percent lion." Drawing out her paw, she examined it to find clumps of Mohatu's manefur between her toes. "The other nine percent is fur, of course."

"You won't say that when I fail," Mohatu argued.

"But that's because you won't."

With utmost impeccable timing, an actual cat tail emerged from the cattail grasses behind the duo. Its pure, bleached whiteness reflected the sunlight from above, almost blinding in the bloom of its sudden presentation. Its presence was soon followed by the dark, narrow slits of a king's pair of eyes. Around the eyes came the mane, and before both, a set of claws revealed itself.

"Well, Mohatu?" Minerva's daunting voice shattered the sky. It was soon followed by the rapid clash and subsequent bang of thunder. The queen's Godlike powers were clearly well above Mohatu's own.

"Come on," Mari cocked her head. "Let's kill them quickly, so we can make it back in time for lunch. Karttiki's hunting impala for us today—don't want to miss that! Let me tell you, she always kills the best ones, just savory enough to take away from the bitter taste."

Mohatu felt a chill arise from within his stomach. Mari wasn't really thinking of fighting the royals, was she? No... no. She was out of her mind. There was no way she could hold her own against those warriors. That would be her end for sure. Mohatu knew it all too well, especially after seeing what Rex could do. But Mari, on the other paw—her deep look of naivete was beyond painful to bear.

"So..." Mohatu gulped down the lump in his throat. "I guess this is... it."

Mari's heartwarming smile expanded across the length of her muzzle. She looked down at her mate, almost chuckling with some sort of unfathomable happiness. "Ha!" Her tail twitched. "Don't be so silly; nothing is going to stop us. As I said, we'll be done with them in time for lunch. All you have to do is remember who you are."

Mohatu raised his paw, drawing every ounce of courage to convince the lioness otherwise. "No... Mari, we have to get out of here."

Mari's overconfidence was increasingly apparent in her cocky demeanor. She left Mohatu behind her, and charged forward into the swampy grasses, kicking up dirt, muck, and water beneath her hindpaws. Head first she jumped into battle, so eagerly awaiting her own demise. She was as blissful as she was ignorant.

"MARI, NO!" Mohatu asserted himself. "DO NOT ENGAGE!"

"What's wrong?" Mari shrugged as she looked back over her shoulder. "These guys are easy pickings!"

"These are all knights and the royal guard," Mohatu explained, his hindlegs already starting to tremble from fear. "We have to leave. NOW."

"No, we don't. The plan is plain and simple," Mari argued. "You keep your eyes on Rex, and I'll take the rest."

A burst of both rage and fear ignited inside Mohatu's lungs. He yelled, but more out of anxiety and concern rather than anger. "GET OUTTA THERE, MARI!"

"Are you kidding?" Mari spat. "Let's make these guys pay for what they did. It's finally time for vengeance. Just trust me on this one, you can take him."

Squinting her eyes, Mari faced off against her first opponent. Talons screamed through the air, and paws crossed violently through the sky. Within seconds, Rex's army encircled the little lioness, each adversary nipping their way through her fur.

"Ahh," Mari cried aloud, before kicking one of the aggressors square in the muzzle. She began to tremble and thrash around, unsuccessfully dodging each attack. She had been hurt a little, but she wasn't giving up the fight. Her pain only fed her anger, and her anger increased her concentration. "Mohatu, I need you to get this one off of me," she demanded.

Mohatu hunkered down in the grass. He made every attempt possible to hide himself, somehow praying he would not share Mari's certain fate. It was already too late for that, and he knew it.

"Mohatu! Where are you?" the lioness cried.

Mohatu closed his eyes as the oncoming screams ruptured his ears. He couldn't look. He couldn't watch. He knew what was going to happen, and there was nothing he could do about it. This, like all things, was the end. Mohatu knew for absolute certain that there was no such thing as a winnable battle. Mari was a fool to think otherwise, and now she had to suffer the consequences of her short-sightedness.

Mohatu buried his muzzle into his forepaws. "Why didn't you listen?" he whispered. "Why couldn't you believe me when I said it was too dangerous?"

A heavy paw landed in front of Mohatu's nosepad. With a gigantic boom and a clasp of thunder to boot, Mohatu's senses made the jump back to reality. His nightmare dissipated, and the paw he imagined took Zuria's form.

Though the line between dream and reality wasn't so clear, Mohatu came to his senses eventually. He wasn't really with Mari, Minerva, Rex, or any of the knights. None of what he just saw was real—but Zuria was, and so was the approaching thunderstorm.

Almost immediately, Zuria caught Mohatu's heavy breathing. She looked down on his deranged form, examining the lion for the first time since that one horrendous night. Mohatu had lost a lot of weight and especially muscle mass, but more notably, he hadn't bathed in days. His coat of fur was almost sinfully atrocious in appearance.

Mohatu looked up and met Zuria's gaze. "What?" he spat rudely. "You interrupted a good nightmare, y'know. I was almost finished dying."

Zuria's mind paused for a time, but her tongue eventually unfolded itself enough to speak. "Rafiki says there's a tropical storm coming tonight, and I haven't seen you in a while..." she explained softly. Her response was delivered in very stark contrast to Mohatu's immediate bitterness, much like the gentle gust of wind after the roar of thunder that awakened him.

Despite this, Mohatu's glare never ceased. His brows lowered slightly. "Good. Maybe something will finally kill me."

"You know..." Zuria sighed. She wasn't liking Mohatu's dejected reaction, but there was little she could say about it. Instead, she mentioned only what she originally came to say. "I don't know if you've noticed, but everyone is gone. They all went back to the Pridelands, so the pyramids are empty. We should stay in there tonight, it'll be—"

"No," Mohatu grunted. Zuria's proposal was not very well received on his end. He had other ideas, and if that simple fact wasn't apparent by the look of utter disdain between his whiskers, he felt himself too lethargic to explain.

"Forget it," the lion insisted. All things considered, the thought of an impending monsoon meant absolutely nothing to Mohatu—nothing other than another way to die. He actually looked forward to being caught in the eye of the storm; he was just waiting for lightning to strike his pitiful tail, and then... he'd have the end to his meaningless existence.

"Fine..." A resulting lump formed in the lioness's throat, but she did not let it hold her back. "You know where to find us... if you change your mind."

"Yeah, whatever."


---



Mohatu lowered his head in the shadow of a palm tree, down by the wash of the Nial river. The shadow's dark, harsh contours blew violently in the winds—the storm was definitely picking up now, and Mohatu was right out in its path.

The sun had shifted a few degrees, but the clouds were still plowing in from the horizon. Mohatu watched as the two collided into a point of intersection, and the clouds obscured what brightness there once was. The harsh outline of the tree's shadow faded, and in its absence, a shower of liquid bullets harassed the landscape from above.

Many droplets of water fell from the sky and collected on each of the tree's fronds. At first it offered some protection from the rain, but the heavy gusts of wind shook the fronds free, where the droplets fell below and pummeled Mohatu's mane.

Water seeped deep into the lion's fur, very uncomfortably so. His whole muzzle became drenched as soon as the downpour started. It wasn't long before his eyes were forced shut, and a chill went straight to his bones. Even though it was summertime, and the heat of midday was rarely pleasant, the rain was no better. It was a shock to his senses, as stinging and electrifying as it was a bombardment from raw, untamed nature.

For Mohatu, however, these were all secondary sensations. What he wanted more than anything was to end his misery. No matter how nature tormented him, it would never be greater than the torment he faced on the inside. He had kept it all to himself around Zuria, but now that he was alone, miserable, and wide awake, his thoughts came running in at full speed.

"Mari..." Mohatu whispered. He tried to reach out to the lioness with his paw, but it was no use. He couldn't touch that which only existed in his imagination. Nevertheless, he could still try. He could still speak to her, somehow... even if it was all in his head.

Perhaps he was going crazy, but that thought carried no weight. Certainly Leo wasn't crazy in his own eyes. It was everyone else who was, somehow going about their lives without the lioness he held so dearly. Mohatu knew who he loved. He knew what he had to do.

"Mari," Mohatu repeated himself. His voice only rang through his mind at first, but as he continued to repeat the thought, he began to speak aloud. Somehow, by some stroke of luck, he felt something inside himself. He could see Mari's image, just as hurt and confused as he was. She was a nonphysical reflection of him, but yet, somehow, her own entity.

Carefully, Mohatu tried to explain why he had summoned her. He could feel her image fading, but he tried his best to keep her around. He tried his best to allow her to understand the circumstances. He spoke quietly but clearly, looking directly at Mari's ghost as she rose as an abstract figure in the rainfog. "I know you're wondering why I'm still trying to talk to you..." he addressed the imaginary lioness, so softly he was barely speaking at all.

Immediately, Mohatu realized that he didn't need to speak very loud—he and Mari shared a very special connection. Mari reacted as though she could hear him, even when he was silent. She stood curiously, calmly, and with ears at full attention.

Mohatu interpreted this as key to continue. He still voiced his thoughts, but it was really only a measure to give Mari permission to listen. "Well," he continued, "you've been dead for a week now... or maybe longer. I don't know. Either way... I think it's time I tell you. There are some things... I just... you need to know, okay?"

Mohatu cleared his throat. "Listen, Mari. Please." With that final call for attention, the lion began to release more of his thoughts. "I know life isn't fair. It should be, but it just isn't. In many ways, it can't be. But knowing that doesn't take away from the pain. At this point, I'm not sure what can. I've failed, plain and simple. I've failed to do my job and protect you."

Mohatu cringed as the downpour struck deep into his fur. Every last fiber of fluff was now completely soaked, dripping water from its end to form mud in the sand. Bright, sharp bursts of lightning illuminated the muted grey and purple outlines of clouds, and every few seconds, rumbles of thunder shook the lion's paws. He was growing more miserable by the second—cold, wet, sad, and alone.

"I'm sorry, Mari..."

But as Mohatu felt increasingly terrible, his inner thoughts grew louder. He wasn't alone, and he was determined to convince himself this. He was speaking his mind against the wind and splatters of raindrops, crying out from the depths of his lungs. All he wanted was to think Mari could hear him... and he could almost see her listening in the clouds. He could almost hear her voice, talking back.

She was quiet, though. For a moment, Mohatu considered that he was just talking to himself, and he knew he probably was—but this thought didn't deter him. He only wanted to speak to Mari. He only wanted her to be real.

And so Leo continued to speak, as if doing so would make her real. "From what I can remember of my short life," he continued, "I've met a few lionesses. None of them I've liked anywhere near as much as you... not even Minerva. No, especially not Minerva."

Mohatu shuddered at the thought. After all she had done, Minerva was now a lioness he truly hated. She was a memory he wanted not to dwell on. Quickly, he shifted away from the topic, and brought Mari back to his attention.

"But..." Leo continued, "you see... with you, things were always different. Ever since we first met, I sorta liked you... much more than I was ever willing to admit. It's all completely inside me, but I can't control it. Sometimes I wonder if I should try to or not, but that's... no... that's beside the point. It doesn't matter. Nothing can stop me from thinking about you, even though you're gone. I wish I could stop, and turn to face the world alone like you did without me... but I just can't."

Mohatu practically choked himself with his exaggerated breathing. His helplessness fell upon him with such tremendous intensity, he struggled just to keep his paws in the mud. "Maybe it's just part of life, I guess... but it's when I have to deal with this loss that I need you the most. Every day, I can't help but wonder how different things would be if I—I could have... somehow... prevented the whole thing from ever happening. I should have been more prepared, but I wasn't."

Mohatu inhaled a deep breath. "This is where I failed. I never expected Minerva's betrayal, even though you warned me of it. I was too stuck in my own head... too weary of you and too trusting of Minerva. I just wish I had listened to you. You were always the wiser of the two of us. And, for that—for not seeing that... I'm sorry. Even if you can forgive me, I'll never forgive myself. I've made such a huge mistake..."

Mohatu's tears blended with the rainwater on his muzzle. He was sobbing just as much as ever, but that was impossible to see with the fog of wind and water everywhere. "I know it seems selfish but I—I just need you so much. For all the times we've been together, I've been at a point in my life where a lot of changes are happening. I'm confused, scared, and worried about nearly everything, even if I don't always show it. I try not to think about it, but I just can't do it anymore. Ever since you've been gone, I've completely fallen apart. I'm completely broken without you.

"Ever since I found you, I've been confused. I always was. I had no idea what would become of us, or how we would all manage to survive. It was all little more than an afterthought. All I knew was that you believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself. But now... now that you're not here, I see the world for what it really is. And all I can say is, I don't want this to be the way it ends."

Now, Mohatu was merely rambling. At this point his thoughts ran on autopilot, and there was little he could do to stop himself. "It started when you saved me, and gave me another chance at life," he muttered. "You were always my pillar of strength, in the same way that I was yours. I always thought you would be there for me, and I would be there for you. We were a team. We worked together. This wasn't supposed to happen. We were always supposed to be together. Until..."

Mohatu closed his eyes. "...until death, I guess. It seems fate has a strong way of teasing us. I see. I really just wish you still existed. I don't know why I live anymore, when no one else means anything to me like you do. It's hard. I've lost so much of myself from all this... I haven't been motivated to do much of anything. With you, I've lost my inner self. I've lost my passion. Every day is such a strain... just to exist."

"I always have to ask myself—why? Why do I live? I'm nothing anymore. Without what matters to me, what hope of a future do I really have? If the future continues like my past, I absolutely want to die. I don't want to be king... I don't want any of that. I just want you."

Mohatu blinked, but forcefully closed his eyes as the wind and water bombarded them. "This is where you come in, Mari. I need you. You may not have a physical body anymore, but I need your comfort more than anything else in the world. I only wanted to have some purpose in my life. Right now, I desire social interaction so much, you probably have no idea. I want a hug. I want to know you still love me, even though I messed up. All I ever wanted was to be loved, Mari."

By this point, the lion's words were all running together in a jumbled mess. He was speaking without regard to any filter, letting every thought roam free. Despite the cold misery of the environment, it was helping him, in a way. Just thinking Mari was there, believing she could listen—it helped him release quite a bit of pressure.

"I promise you, it was just an accident," he continued. "I didn't mean for you to die. Even if you hate me for it, I'll still love you. It was my fault... it was my mistake. I won't ever turn my back on you, not ever again. I've been neglected and forgotten too many times. I know the pain of not existing. It's what I mostly felt. I won't ever let you feel that. I can't let it happen. You are wanted, Mari. I hope I can still keep you company, even though... you're gone. I hope somehow we can still be together.

"Being with you will bring me joy in a world otherwise devoid of it," Leo continued. "I know how hard it is to find companionship in this world; that's why I won't give you up. I promise, I haven't forgotten you, and no matter what, you'll always hold the most special place in my heart. I'll go through anything I need to, so that we can talk again."

A purr began to sound from Leo's belly. "Lions will come and go, but we'll always be together. We may be worlds or dimensions apart, but somehow, I know we're connected. I can feel you like no other. I can sense your comfort."

And it was true, to some small extent. Mohatu did feel himself growing more relaxed with each breath. The raindrops against his fur brought him into a state of transcendence. His head grew light, and his hearing faded out. His body ran numb in the pawtoes.

It was Mari, Leo convinced himself. It had to be. Talking at her had done him a bit of good, and for a second, he started to feel infinitely grateful. "Thanks, Mari," Mohatu tried to force a smile from underneath his tears. "Thanks for being here with me. You've already cheered me up a little." He then rolled over into the mud, and let himself enjoy the moment with his love.

Eventually, however, one small request rose to the center of Mohatu's mind. "There is something I want to ask of you, though. Can you please take me into your world? I'm tired of having bad dreams where I'm rejected and betrayed all over again, or murdered at the paw of my brother. I'm tired of feeling like everyone hates me..."

On second thought, the fear almost drove him mad. "Please," Mohatu begged aloud, "take me to your world tonight. Let me die. I want to be with you. I want to be happy again. As long as we're together, we'll be able to do anything. You're right... those bastards won't be able to get to us. Just... let me..."

Mohatu looked at the mud on his paws. Reality began to make its ugly return as he felt the mucky pool of water around him. A sudden awkwardness slapped him thereafter, and he realized he was just talking to an imaginary figure he tried to envision in the rain. "Sorry... anyway..." Mohatu sighed, before his euphoria faded in its entirety. "It's just something to think about. Please do it if you can. Goodnight, Mari. I love you. Sweet dreams."

As Mohatu finished his words, he started to feel the tips of his fur expand outward. It was, quite honestly, one of the most strangest things he had ever experienced. It was almost as if Mari was rubbing herself across him. It was like something was there, pulling at him, and then—

The static electricity discharged. KsssttzzztttzttttBOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Lightning struck the tree beside Mohatu. It ran bright with a fiery glow before fading to nothing but superheated, charred cinders and ashes. The resulting sound knocked the lion flat out on the ground, and he remained deaf for seconds afterward. Every other sound became muffled, if not silent. As he caught and inhaled his next breath, Mohatu released a sigh.

Leo glanced up at the sky, clouded with the darkest, most deadly-looking thunderheads he had witnessed since the last time he had been out in a monsoon. Realizing he was still alive and breathing, Mohatu felt nothing but turmoil. "Ugh..." he muttered. "Why can't I die too?"


---



The usual array of torchlights ignited on both sides of the pyramid's main passageway. Zuria padded down the corridor, each row of lights coating her fur in a dim red glow. The hall terminated in a poorly-lit room—a library filled with shelves and shelves of ancient texts.

Zuria paused at the entrance, taking a moment to catch her breath and admire the room once again. It was a special place, after all, littered with mounds of the world's most forbidden knowledge.

Many of the books contained little more than smeared and faded print, if at all visible beneath millennia of dust. Some, however, were in better condition than others. The ones made with the most pristine of materials were easily read, and many of the out-of-place texts had been refurbished by the new kingdom only months back. It was only a few out of a collection of thousands, but it was a good starting point.

Literacy in the new kingdom wasn't all that high. Zuria only knew a few words and characters by heart, but many of her superiors—namely Inari and Minerva—had a much greater grasp of the ancient written languages used by their common ancestors. Being the two to initially encounter the first ancient texts, Leo and Rex were probably the most literate, but how much of that knowledge Mohatu maintained was questionable.

Normally, the library was carefully guarded by the royals. Only the students with the most prestige were ever granted access to a few select books, and Minerva had banned her students from exploring the room at their will. Written language was rarely taught at the academy—the royals preferred to keep that knowledge to themselves.

But with every lion now gone, Zuria couldn't help herself. She had long wondered what the library contained, and since the confrontation with Rex, she now had her chance to explore the room at her own leisure.

Rafiki also enjoyed staying in the pyramid's secluded room, as its peculiarity was a good match for his own. The baboon found himself predictably familiar with the ancient kingdom's texts, having encountered the same room roughly a year ago while he followed behind Leo and Rex's initial expedition. Rafiki's ability to read was unparallelled by any non-leonine creature, and his wide background of knowledge in other subjects helped him to become one of the most well-read baboons around.

It was there in the library, where Rafiki spend the most of his days following the attack. While Zuria was most interested in the ancient king's military strategy, Rafiki scoured the shelves for any omen of Mari's death. The prophecy was vague, sure, but this wasn't the sequence of events that Rafiki had imagined in his head. Something was still out of place, and he knew it. There were still several pieces of the puzzle that just didn't make sense.

Rafiki sighed and set a book down on an empty section of a nearby shelf. He put the text to rest beside the golden bust of an ancient king, which later served to act as his leaning post. Eventually, he turned his head to greet Zuria as she entered the room, but her look of disappointment answered any of his preemptive questions.

"He's not the same anymore," Zuria explained. "He's not going to come. All he's doing is moping around."

"This can't be..." Rafiki shook his head.

"Well, it is," Zuria insisted. "If you want to talk some sense into Mohatu, be my guest. But I don't think that's possible. He's too busy wallowing in his pity and wishing for his own death. I don't even think he's given himself a bath all week."

"Mhm," Rafiki stepped forward. "He did fail, yes... but he has been through worse. No lion has ever reacted to failure so strongly."

Meanwhile, Zuria could guess the true cause of Mohatu's misery. Unlike Rafiki, she seemed a little less confused about things. "Do you think it's because," she blinked, gulping slightly, "well... because of Mari."

Rafiki brought a finger up to stroke his beard. He contemplated the thought for a brief moment, before disregarding it entirely. "No. That can not be," the baboon insisted.

"I think he loved her," Zuria explained. "Like... crazy, madly in love. Why else would he be so upset? You've even said it yourself—you've never seen another lion act like that before. It's the only explanation. I lost my own brother, but you don't see me acting like that. There must be some reason... there has to be. That's it."

"Then the prophecy makes nonsense as I see it!" Rafiki swatted the adjacent book off the shelf and into the floor, where its pages folded between the binding edges in the wind. "Hah! Nonsense!"

"Then you should understand it perfectly," Zuria spat.

"No! Not so jumpy!" Rafiki then collected his weight back on his feet with the help of his sword, and recovered quickly from his outburst. "The prophet is the lion to resurrect the kingdom beyond its former glory." The baboon breathed carefully, making sure to emphasize his words. "If Mohatu is the prophet, he must have cubs to carry on his legacy. Mari is dead, so she cannot be his true love."

"How do you know...?" Zuria questioned.

"Biology," Rafiki smirked. "A cub is born only after a lion and a lioness—"

"You know that's not what I meant!" Zuria swatted her tail. "I mean... what makes you think you know so much about this prophecy? Maybe you got one of your little riddles backwards and made a mistake somewhere."

Much to Zuria's surprise, the baboon was more than ready to admit his shortcomings. He knew what he knew, yes, but more importantly, he knew what he didn't know. "I do not know for sure. I only thought I understood," Rafiki answered. "Prophecies are a tricky thing, but no matter the truth, this cannot be it. This is nonsense."

A dead silence carried high permittivity throughout the room, until the lioness interrupted its development. "What if..." Zuria proposed, now a little less flustered than before. "Do you think it's possible the tomb of Regulus could allow Mohatu to resurrect Mari? What if this is what motivates him to open it?"

"I cannot say," Rafiki shook his head. "Either Mohatu is not the prophet, or his true love is not Mari... or Mari is undead. Each of those possibilities seems equally implausible."

"Maybe Rex really is the prophet..." Zuria whispered. "At least he can actually act like a king."

Rafiki turned away. "That is what I am afraid of."

"Why?" Zuria asked. "Is that a bad thing? As much as I hate Rex, at least he's actually a lion I can respect. He doesn't just sit around on his self-pitying rump all day and wish for his own death. He can actually fight and take care of himself—something I've yet to see Mohatu do. Mohatu is just a... a... he's not Leo at all!" Zuria spat. By the time she finished those words, her internal frustration was starting to show.

The mandrill winced in response. "Ignorance," he said calmly, but his words did not travel far.

Meanwhile, the lioness did little to change her attitude. "If he keeps acting like this, I'd say he doesn't deserve to be king."

"Ha, you think? Be careful what you say," Rafiki cautioned. "Every lion fights a unique grief on their own turf. Our metrics of his actions are no more accurate than his own. There may be more we do not understand..."

The lioness's ears flattened. "What's with all the riddle-speak, and why does it matter? I get that he was set up and betrayed and all... but I'd do a better job dealing with it. I'm not the idiot to mope around after getting my ass kicked... not when so much is at stake. Mohatu doesn't see... he doesn't understand... he doesn't get it! He's just being stupid!"

Shaking her head, Zuria released her last burst of frustration. "And... y'know what? If he can't shape up, I'll recruit an army to fight Rex without him. That's what I'm gonna do... that's what a respectable queen would do. That way we'll have the battle we were meant to have, and we'll see who really deserves to win."

"That is ignorance, Zuria," Rafiki glared sternly. "I understand, but obtain patience. I will talk with him."

"Yeah, well... whatever. I mean it. He really needs to grow a pair. What kind of leader is he, if he can't even—" Zuria argued, before being interrupted by Rafiki's finger.

"You may hold your opinion, but I will decide for myself," Rafiki insisted.
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » December 19th, 2014, 2:16 pm

chapter 46: show
A/N: November's update was a little late, so it seems like this one is early, being that it's only a week or so later. But it isn't early. This is early/mid December's chapter, so everything is on schedule. I hope to publish two more updates before the end of January, so expect more soon. :)


---


A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Safar's Poor Balls

Chapter 46: In Complete Sanity


Another bleak dawn stretched across the ever-demoralizing landscape of the Outlands. The same rusty, rocky spires of termite mounds almost lit with a surreal, photogenically-martian aura. This was all starting to illuminate from the sky's strange, unwelcoming palette of thunderheads, fireflies, sunrays, and large rainbows—quite the outlandish combination, indeed.

In any case, however, the summer's latest monsoon had come and gone, leaving the desolate Outlands stained with a darker, wetter shade of sand than usual. As one of the driest places known to lionkind, this was not a forgettable thing. Even the Pridelands only received a thunderstorm every once in a couple moons. For the Outlands, the recent downpour was a rarer, one-in-a-thousand occurrence.

Usually the dividing river would function as a rain barrier of sorts, like a mysterious, invisible wall segregating the two biomes. But not last night, no—the moisture drop over the river ceased to exist. The rains came like a bat out of hell, and left just as quickly. In most places, the sands were so hyposaturated that the oncoming droplets vanished upon contact. If not vaporized by the scorching heat, the water seeped down to bedrock in mere seconds.

On most nights, Uru and her mother Irena would sleep huddled on the outside ground to avoid bugs in the den, but again, last night was the exception. The thunderstorm had Uru cuddled to her mother and whimpering for her dear life, while their fellow pridemembers joined in to escape the liquid misery. Even their rambunctious little bug buddies were settled in, too dazed and confused by the odd prospect of water to go about their normal bloodsucking business.

Of course, that storm was on its way out as dawn was on its way in, but there was just something odd about the thunderheads, far off in the distance. Something about its menacing light caught the eyes of the pride, as breaths of morning air filled their lungs. Double rainbows and still winds complimented that pungent scent of ozone.

"Is... is it all over now?" Uru asked.

"Yes, sweetie," Irena answered warmly. With a gentle motion of her paw, the mother pointed out at the morning horizon, and invited her cub to look for herself. "See? It's way over there now."

While Uru held an expression of relief, the others weren't nearly as content with the situation. Karttiki, especially, looked as though she had been kicked in the gut. Waves of torment crashed upon her soul, every time a splash of light darted its way across the sky. The sights reminded her of the last time she saw her daughter, so long ago.

Her daughter, Mari. The eager lioness who dreamed of saving their pride. The lioness who truly believed she could incite the change she wanted to see, no matter how much the world drug her down. The image of Mari was an image she wanted not to dwell on, filled with little more than remorse and regret.

Karttiki knew what was at stake. She knew her daughter wasn't ready, but she sent her out there anyway... all out in the wilderness...

It was a mother's nightmare, no doubt.

Karttiki had parted with Mari the day that Usama attacked, and the day the jungle's fire seeded the last superstorm. She was never able to remove that image from her memory—the image of her daughter's tail waving in the distance, as she walked into the fog below the thunderheads, off into the Pridelands with Mohatu and Riza. She saw everything burning and crumbling around them, and the whole world falling to its eternal demise.

That was the moment she started to have second thoughts about the whole ordeal. That was the moment the first true wave of fear struck her. That was the last Karttiki had ever seen of Mari, and she was certain it was the last time she would ever see her daughter again.

As she looked down at the cub Uru, though, a whole new breed of thoughts ran into her mind. Unlike the naive cub and her mother, Karttiki spent plenty of time watching the Pridelands from afar. Every day she'd walk down to the river, and eagerly wait for the moment she would find Mari in that strange land. This act of reconnaissance, however unintentional, gave her a hint of knowledge in an area that remained blank to the others in her pride.

Unfortunately, as it so happened, Karttiki never found Mari. As the days came and went, she never even expected to see the lioness again. By now it was all an act of habit; she was acting like a lioness peeking through the bars of her cage, despite knowing she'd never escape. It was just something to do, something to pass the time. She had taken up the hobby of counting lions in the Pridelands, if only to quell her boredom.

That said, in her time staring and gazing into that once-welcoming land, the lioness did find something of interest. Not too surprisingly, it was that very thing: the sheer ludicrous number of lions in the Pridelands. She saw a whole migration of prides, all gathered over Pride Rock. She heard their roars, like the thunder in the distance. She saw their expressions of relief and joy that were so evident in the movements of their tails—

—and she knew something was wrong.

The lioness twitched her eye, rather nervously at that. "And of course," Karttiki sighed, "it's not going to the Pridelands. Would've been a good one, too."

Naturally, Irena and her cub were most confused by this. Karttiki seemed to be speaking of some strange thing, completely unrelated to the scenery in front of her. Based on the lioness's behavior, it wasn't entirely unlikely that she was starting to lose her grasp of sanity. Nevertheless, the others humored her.

Busar, however, knew what she meant. Karttiki was simply waiting for the right moment to escape. Much like her daughter, she couldn't bear the thought of sitting around while danger loomed ever closer. If the thunderstorm had gone to the Pridelands, she could have used the opportunity to go investigating and look for Mari. That, however, wasn't the case. The storm seemed to avoid the Pridelands entirely, and without it, she'd have no easy way of sneaking in.

"There will be others," Busar assured her with an affirming and encouraging nod. Despite his attempt to calm the lioness, he only made matters worse.

"Wait..." Irena interrupted, worries now evident in her voice. "Are you thinking of—"

Busar attempted to mask his expression of defeat, but he neither could nor would lie about his intentions. "Yes..." he admitted.

"But... you can't!" The mother protested. "The cub... it's dangerous."

Uru looked up. She didn't know what was going on, but she knew what those words meant. "Mommy...?" she asked.

Busar held his breath while he motioned for the lioness to follow him. He wasn't going to tell Irena about Karttiki's reconnaissance when the cub was around, and that was why he had been putting it off. He had to break the news to her, and he wasn't looking forward to doing it.

"Stay here," Irena patted her cub. "Everything will be okay." Following the termination of her words, she dashed off to Busar and Karttiki, joining the two in what was no doubt going to be a very adult discussion.

"I know, okay," Irena pleaded as she left the cub's earshot. She decided to speak first, not even allowing the other two the chance to explain themselves. She then stared and paused, waiting for Busar to see the fear in her eyes. "I get it," She continued. "You're worried about your son, and Kaat is worried about Mari. But... you can't. You're not going, too. We need you here. Uru needs you here."

"Kaat and I..." Busar tried to explain, but his mouth fell short of his thoughts.

Karttiki stood silently, but Irena was only beginning to react. The thought of the two leaving her in the Outlands with her cub was not a notion she welcomed, and not after long, she was displaying a very strong repulsion to the idea. "And what am I supposed to do... just me and the cub, all alone...?"

"No..." the old lion argued, albeit very weakly. "Believe it or not, I don't want this to happen—I am on your side here."

"And when were you going to tell me, huh? How long have you two been planning on doing this?"

Now, the other lioness stepped in. "Two days," Karttiki answered with her usual bluntness. She was as firm in her voice as she was in her stance, and she took the pressure off of Busar almost immediately. "Now, what Busar hasn't told you yet is that there are about fifty lions in the Pridelands—much more than any single pride. That wasn't true last week."

Irena held her tail tensely. Her ears leaned forward, but she was too shocked to speak.

"And," Karttiki continued, "I don't know what's going on, but it looks like security has been quadrupled. Whatever's going on over there—whatever it is—we're not going to like it." True, that was her pessimism speaking, but she was still correct in the largest sense.

"The cub's safety is the first thing on my mind," Busar assured Irena with a forced nod. "I have no plans of leaving you, especially not in a time like this. But... we can't be safe if we don't know what's going on. We need to know what they're planning. If things go from bad to worse—"

"Right," Irena sighed. "I... umm... of course. Things will go from bad to worse..."

Suddenly, another clasp of thunder occurred off in the distance. The sound was accompanied by a lonely, scared, and trembling lion cub, who began to cry from the other side of the termite mound.

"Mommy...?" Uru whined as she padded closer.

The adults only had a moment to speak, but as they shared a glance at each other, they each knew it was enough. The coming days were going to be dark, inevitably, and their survival wasn't all that certain.

Irena embraced the worried cub, wrapping her paws around the younger one's torso. "We're all here... it's okay..." she said, although in reality, she was trying her best not to cry.


---



Back in the Pridelands, and back in the more obscure dens, things were a little different. Mari was still alive, of course; though admittedly, she wasn't in the most pleasant of situations. Captured by King Rex and held hostage by his knights, things were bad, but not quite worse. Not yet, at least.

Mari glared at the lion in front of her. Despite even her best efforts, what Safar was thinking remained most obscure. No matter how hard the lioness tried, she couldn't read him. His expression was almost blank and jaded, but his sadistic stare and erratic movements painted a slightly different undertone. What Mari knew for sure, however, was that she had to play her paws carefully.

She couldn't just attack the knight in front of her. With her tail pinned to the denfloor by a heavy boulder, any sort of physical retaliation was impossible. That said, she could still fight back in other ways, and she knew it. All she needed to do was tell everyone Leo was still alive—it was all a matter of treading carefully. Unfortunately, time was against her in that case.

Knight Safar brought his paws forward. "Now listen..." he began, lowering his head sternly. "Don't be rude. I am going to ask you a question, and I expect you to answer. Okay?"

Mari's heart continued to pound against her chest. She flinched at the movement of her adversary, and to make matters worse, the emphasis on the knight's words did little to calm her.

What... is your name?" Safar asked, pausing heavily as he cocked his head.

Considering the long trial of silence, Safar repeated himself. This time, he was even more firm with his voice. "I want... you... to tell me... what... your name is." Deeply, he stared into Mari's eyes. "Can you do that?"

Safar turned his paw toward his mane. "You see," he continued with utmost condescension, "I... am Knight Safar." Grinning, he later exposed the cutting edges of his teeth. His hot breath poured down onto Mari's muzzle, and his whiskers flared outward with a smirk. "I would rather you call me Hellcat... most prisoners around her do. It's just a... y'know, a reputation I've earned."

Mari reached for her deepest breath. Her eyes blinked momentarily, against her will. She tried to calm herself while staying alert at the same time, though that was hardly the easiest task to accomplish. "If you think I won't tell you a thing, you are gravely mistaken," she warned. It was the only thought she could muster, but it managed to hold Safar back for a moment or two. "That's right," Mari insisted, "I'll tell you—everything you want to know and more."

Safar extended a claw from one of his pawtoes. "I asked you a question, and you're not answering it. Do you have any idea how freaking rude that is? I asked you not... to... be... RUDE!" Furiously, the knight snapped his jaw shut at the trailing end of his words.

Again, Mari gulped. She paused for a moment, before she raised her voice and asserted herself. "You know what? Be patient, and I will answer your question, okay? Just give me a minute. You can continue your little tirade about etiquette and manners later. There is so much you don't understand, and I... I need to explain."

"Excuse me! Watch it!" Safar demanded. His voice was nearly a yell, and his outburst caused his tail to go haywire. In the seconds that followed, he raised his head and brought his eyes to an uncomfortable distance from Mari's. "Look at me," he whispered. "Look me in the eyes."

Mari complied, but her grimace grew tenfold. She stared down at the knight with tremendous hatred and disdain, complying only out of fear. The accompanying silence was especially agonizing for the liongirl; it brought her a unique pain of its own kind. It was a pain of both fear and anticipation, intertwined with frustration and fury.

Mari remained completely unsure of herself, unable to think and almost unable to breathe. Her concentration was failing her. She knew all she had to do was say that Leo was still alive, but something about Safar's glare just happened to make her brain grow numb.

Impatiently, Safar waited no longer. With a quick, brutal motion, He jabbed his talons deep into Mari's flesh. His forepaw went straight from the ground to Mari's gut, where the action inflicted a resounding "ooomph!" from the lioness.

Mari almost collapsed from the blow, but she remained high on her paws. Tears of pain and fear were forming in her eyes, but Mari knew better than to let it show—not in front of her enemy. She had been through worse, certainly, although she was starting to lose hope. "Don't you dare touch me again," she threatened emptily. "This is your final warning."

"Look at me," the knight demanded again, this time a little calmer with his voice. "Do you think I am freaking stupid?" Safar asked. After a brief pause, anger filled the lion's lungs once more. "ANSWER MY QUESTION!"

Mari choked. "Um... ye—no! No!"

"Okay! Y'know what?" Safar stepped back and raised his paw at Mari. His rage exploded into a certain aggressiveness with his voice, but he also managed to keep some degree of composure. "To hell with you! To hell with you, fartknocker! I am not stupid, okay? NOW ANSWER MY QUESTION! WHAT IS YOUR NAME?"

Mari almost tripped over her hindlegs as she stepped back. No matter what, she couldn't put enough distance between the crazy bastard and herself. The knight's insanity was too much to bear at the moment. All she could think to do was to try to talk some sense into him, but that seemed to be well beyond a monumental task. "Just... listen to me," Mari said softly. "This is going to sound crazy, but you have to believe me. Rex has lied to you... to the whole kingdom. My name is Mari, but I never killed Leo. You... you have to help me find him—"

"Shut up!" Safar yelled. He stared at Mari intensely, just wanting to see that very specific reaction that he usually received from his prisoners. "I do not like the way you are looking at me."

Despite her fear, Mari couldn't help but roll her eyes. "Oh, for the love of—"

Safar pressed himself forward again. "Look at me. LOOK AT ME. I AM NOT STUPID, OKAY?"

"Fine, whatever, okay," Mari admitted. With no small hint of sarcasm evident in her tone, she attempted a half-baked apology. "Of course you're not stupid, genius. There, happy now?"

Safar stood still for several seconds. As the tension grew, he opened his mouth and casually raised his paw. "Look at me," he demanded. "You still haven't told me your name." Now being surprisingly patient, he stepped forward, leaned in, and waited for Mari to tingle at the sound of his next words. "What... is... your... name?"

I am Mari," the lioness spat, largely ignoring the knight's tirade. "I already told you... it's true, and you know it. Now, if you want to know where the key of Algenubi is, I'll tell you that too, but first, I—"

"No, it's not," Safar interrupted brashly as he raised his brow. "I expect you to tell me your name, fartknocker. Can you do that?"

"I just did," Mari asserted herself. "Twice, actually. My name is Mari, you freaking dimwit."

"That's not the correct answer," Safar admonished. "Do you think I am stupid?" He raised his teeth and brought his nosepad directly up to Mari's, giving the lioness an impressive display of intimidation. "Do... you... think... I... am... stupid...?"

Mari couldn't muster the courage to speak this time, but the look in her dark, glowing leonine eyes was worth more than a thousand words. She had that unmistakable look of 'you're dead if you don't stop this crap' plastered onto her face. On the inside, it remained especially true—Mari was already thinking of a thousand ways she could welcome her idiotic torturer into a world of pain.

"Look at me," Safar demanded. "But do not look at me like that!"

Almost instantaneously, Safar raised his two forepaws and brought them together to squeeze Mari's head by the sides of her cheeks. He then threw her face down into the ground with all his weight—something that proved to be a much greater force than what the lioness could resist. Before Mari could release a grunt of pain, Safar was using her head as a stepping stool for his front paws.

Safar grinned, savoring the moment. "You have sass, fartknocker... but let me tell you something. You're going to listen now, okay?"

Mari groaned. She struggled to speak under the pressure, and she was starting to worry that she had already broken a tooth from the impact.

"You take that sass... and to hell with that!" the knight smiled. "The choices you have made have brought you here today..."

Again, Mari groaned.

"Now look at me," Safar continued. "Look... at... me..."

Mari's irises darted upward to meet Safar's. Now, her expression was a little different. She still had the same appearance of contempt, but this time it was coupled with a most unfortunate understanding of reality.

"Tell... me... your... name..." Safar demanded slowly, emphasizing each word like he was talking to a newborn cub. He lifted his paws, thus releasing Mari from the weight and giving her the ability to move her jaw freely. As he looked back down, he eyed the lioness with that same blank, yet sinister look that he held before.

Mari didn't respond immediately. In consequence, Safar placed one of his forepaws back over the lioness's head, and tried pushing down again. "Can... you... under... stand... me...? Do... you... think... I... am... stupid...?"

After another second, the knight snapped. "SPEAK, FARTKNOCKER!" Safar yelled.

Mari raised her claws and exposed her teeth, despite the fact that they were in pain after being pressed together by the weight of the lion above her. "No... I don't think you're stupid," she answered. At that point, she took a conservative step backward and leaned her spine against the boulder above her tail.

"But..." Mari qualified her response, "you are FREAKING INSANE!" She raised her voice, somehow hoping some other, more level-headed lion would hear her cries. "I've told you already, but you won't listen. You're no more attentive than a squirrel!"

Mari then slowed herself down, and began to speak in the same tone as Safar. She looked the knight square in the eye, communicating on a level she knew he would understand. "My... name... is... Mari..."

"I'm sorry," Safar shrugged. He acted so nonchalant, it was as though he hadn't even heard a word of the lioness's little outburst. "Are we done yet?"

"You know what?" Mari demanded. "Just... just let me go. Let me talk to someone—anyone—but you. You're insane."

Safar smirked. "I didn't hear you..." he said calmly, before turning into a monster and exploding with rage. "All I can hear is HOW FREAKING RUDE YOU ARE, FARTKNOCKER!" Clearing his throat, the lion again calmed himself. "Now what was that little freaking thing you were saying...?"

"I said you're insane," continued Mari. "Now shut up and listen to me for a Goddamn minute, or bring me someone else who actually will! My name is Mari. Whether you believe me or not, you have to understand... I can explain everything if you would just stop antagonizing me and let me speak!"

Safar lunged himself toward Mari with no warning. Both his paws crashed down on her head, and his teeth sunk deep into her neckfur. In a flash, Mari found herself in a new world of pain, now pinned down by her much more sensitive neck. She had no time to react, and her paws lacked the strength to overthrow the knight.

Safar growled down at the lioness below him. "Do you think this is a game, fartknocker? What, is that it? Is it some kind of freaking game to you?"

Mari's only response was a struggled grunt. "Get off me!"

Safar tightened his grip on the lioness's throat, by pushing down on her neck and pinning it even harder to the ground. The act cut off the majority of Mari's airflow. Mari was now grasping at the denfloor and trying to move even the smallest amounts of air into her lungs. It was all a senseless gesture, of course—the best she could do was release a whisper of a cough.

"I'm sorry," Safar released his grip. "What was that?"

Mari coughed. As soon as she caught her breath, she released a shallow cry. "Help!"

Suddenly, a pause of silence split the two. "Oh," Safar grinned. His attitude lightened up by several orders of magnitude upon hearing Mari's cute little plea. He seemed beyond delighted with Mari's new change of perspective, now that he had asserted his dominance. "You're trying to cry for help, is that it?"

Mari, however, remained silent. So that was what the knight wanted? Was that what this was all about? He seemed more concerned with whether or now Mari would submit to him rather than whether or not she would tell him the truth. No wonder she was having such a hard time—Safar was just being a sick bastard.

Safar placed his forepaw back over Mari's head, and sunk his claws into her skull, right between the ears. "Well, go on," he smiled as he inflicted even more pain on the lioness. "That's a fun game... let's play it! Cry for help!"

Mari refused to speak.

Safar used his other paw to cut a slash into Mari's face. "Didn't you hear me? Cry for help!" He demanded.

Still, Mari refused to speak. Though it was unpleasant, she could tolerate the physical pain... at least for the time being.

"Cry for help!" Safar demanded again, in very much the same manner.

"Help!" Mari whispered. Finally her voice came to her, after being trapped inside of her lungs. She was hesitant to say anything, unsure of how this new, terrifying game would all play out. However, something told her she had little choice in the matter.

Safar repeated his motion of striking the lioness with his claws, this time causing Mari to bleed. "Aww, is that it? Is that all you can do? Don't you want to be heard? LOUDER!"

"HELP!" Mari cried.

The knight started to chuckle. "Do it again. I'm sure someone is on their way to save the damsel in distress."

"HELP!" Mari continued her bellow. This time, she was almost vocal enough to shatter the ground. "THIS GUY IS FREAKING CRAZY! HICK HIS ASS, LEO! LET'S RIP HIM TO FREAKING PIECES!"

Safar released his grip. He turned his back to the lioness, and stepped out of the den to meet the two guards at the entrance. "Do you see anyone coming?" he casually asked.

One of the guards shook his head.

"Well," Safar feigned his sorrow as he turned back around. "I don't think anyone is coming. You cried as loud as you could, and look! No one! Are you ready to play nice, now?"

Mari looked over at the two guards, almost in disbelief. Was it really true that no one had heard her? Was it really true that no one cared, and no one was going to intervene? A deep, daunting chill formed in the pit of her gut, and Mari's stomach turned itself inside out. This was bad—in fact, this was about as bad as things could possibly get.

"Help me, Leo," Mari whispered. "I don't know who this guy is, but..."

"But what?" Safar raised his brow again. "Look at me, talk to me, and don't be rude."

Yet again, Mari felt her heart sink into her chest. There was just no end to this, at least not form where she was sitting. Mari tried her best to think of something snarky to say, but her humiliation was beginning to run its course. Even more so, she was unsure if provoking the knight further was the good idea she wanted it to be.

But on second thought, did she really care if she made Safar angry? No, not particularly.

Mari just couldn't help herself. This guy was essentially little more than a glorified clown. Mari, being the lioness she was, could barely resist the idea of reversing the tables against him. Now that she knew what he wanted, she had a better idea of how to fight back against him.

And that, of course, was the exact thing she was going to do.

"Oh... don't you worry, I didn't say anything important," Mari rolled her eyes. "It's just that Leo will be on his way any minute now," Mari warned. She glared at Safar, intentionally holding that expression in her eyes that he despised so much. "Then," she tried to hold a grin, "you can explain to him why you think you're not stupid."

The knight paused for a moment. It was as though the lights in his head flickered; he twitched, and then returned to normal. "No," Safar insisted sternly. "Y'see, that's freaking rude, okay. I don't like it when my nice things aren't nice. Be a good fartknocker and play nice."

"Okay," Mari smiled back, most sarcastically.

"How about this," the lioness then proposed. "Do you like magic tricks? I can show you some magic tricks..."

Safar remained unamused. Mari didn't appear to be in pain anymore, so he was still rather displeased with the situation's development. If anything, he was more displeased than before. Now, he knew his attempts at demoralizing the lioness weren't working as well as he planned.

In response, Safar grew slightly more aggressive. He approached an uncomfortable distance, and then violently drew out his claws. "No!" he answered with a furious yell, swatting Mari across the muzzle. "Now... tell... me... your... name..."

"Ouch!" Mari yelped. "Y'know, maybe you would have nice things... if you didn't hit them all the time. Has that ever occurred to you?"

Safar continued to stare. "Tell... me... your... name..."

"You know, I'm really curious. What's it like having dementia?" Mari asked.

Again, Safar continued to stare. "Tell... me... your... name..."

"My name is Nala," Mari answered jokingly. "Or... no... wait, is it Fartknocker? Gee, I wish I could remember."

Safar's eyes lit up with pleasant surprise. He almost jumped when he heard the word, so delighted that Mari was now catching on. "Fartknocker! Yes! That's it! Your name is freaking Fartknocker!"

"You like that name... yes?" Mari asked. "Yeah, I think it's pretty good, too."

"It's a fitting name for a fartknocker," Safar addressed his prisoner, this time feigning a degree of friendliness and formality. "Now look at me. My precious little Fartknocker... what game can we play now?"

Mari smiled. "Why don't we keep playing the game where you assert your dominance over me to convince yourself that you're the alpha-male that you think you are? If you keep negging me and hit me again, I'll have even less self esteem, and I'll beg you for mercy. Your attempt at belittling me will make me undermine my self-esteem, so I'll be vulnerable and seek your approval. Then I'll apologize to my great and powerful master for being the sassy, fartknocking prisoner that I am."

Safar held a scowl.

"Or I can show you some of my magic tricks," the lioness grinned back. "Your choice, really."

Now, Safar was furious. His anger exploded in Mari's face with a yell. "DO YOU WANT ME TO SLICE YOUR HEAD OFF?"

Mari felt a slight chill at the notion, but she did not let it deter her from making yet another snide comment. "Yes. I do. A fartknocker like me doesn't deserve to have a head. I'm being a baaaaaaad prisoner." Mari grinned thereafter, exposing the shiny edge of her teeth.

"TO HELL WITH YOU!" Safar yelled. "TO HELL WITH YOU, SASSY FARTKNOCKER! YOU'RE GOING TO FREAKING DIE!"

"Not yet," Mari insisted. "I haven't even had my turn at negging, and I haven't shown you that magic trick!"

"LOOK AT ME!" Demanded Safar.

Mari paused and did exactly as the lion said. She stared into the knight's eyes, countering his intimidating glare of fury with her own surprising nonchalance. "My turn now," Mari whispered in comparison. She waited for Safar to step forward, at which point she began to whip up her own insults.

"Here we go," Mari gulped. "You look like you're going through life having one epiphany after another. You're always thinking that you're on this verge of figuring out what's holding you back... you think you can finally be productive and successful and get your life going again."

Mari raised her paw. "But..." she then inhaled a deep breath, almost hesitant to break the news to the poor guy. "No matter how hard you try, nothing will ever change. The cycle of frustration and mediocrity you're experiencing isn't a result of something or someone in your way. The common denominator is you. It's who you are.

"So, you see, the thing is," Mari continued, "the problem you're having is actually yourself. The thing standing in the way of your dreams is you... but you'll never see it, because you'll always look to a fartknocker like me to place the blame."

More agitated than ever, Safar lowered his ears and whiskers, and exposed his teeth and claws. He was so close to killing Mari, but he held himself back—he knew Rex wouldn't allow it.

Mari had already caught this. She knew something was keeping Safar from seriously hurting her. She knew she held information that Rex probably wanted, so she had reasonable suspicion to believe she'd not be killed.

And fortunately, right she was.

"Aright," Mari smiled. "Now it's your turn again. Oooh, this time... try insulting my fur. That might work."

Safar stepped closer. His disgusting lionbreath almost made Mari cringe, but the lioness made no move to defend herself.

"You know..." Mari said calmly as the knight approached her. "I'm going to give you fifteen seconds to figure out why you're the dumbest lion in existence. Go on, guess. I'll start counting."

Safar lowered his front paws into pouncing position. He was done playing games now, and it was time for him to truly put Mari in her place. At this point, he was almost ready to kill Mari if he had to.

Mari just smiled. He was falling right into her trap. "One..." she started counting.

The lioness continued, watching Safar squirm into his fighting stance. "Two... three..."

Safar pounced on the lioness, effectively pinning her to the denfloor. He unleashed his wrath, making Mari bleed in several different spots across her belly. It was all nothing more than a series of superficial cuts, but seeing the lioness's blood calmed him a little.

Mari coughed as the action of being knocked off her paws took her breath away, but she continued to stare at the lion and count. "Four... five...

"Wow," Mari winced from the pain, looking up at the ferocious beast above her. "You haven't realized your mistake yet? I guess you still have a little more time. Six... seven..."

"The freaking choices you have made in your life have brought you here today," Safar insisted. "But it's okay. It's just like... sand in the water."

Mari ignored the lion and continued counting. "Eight... nine... ten... you must really be stupid!"

With the knight on top of her and pressing down on her chest, Mari slowly moved one of her hindlegs into position. She continued to count, distracting the lion from the actual situation. "Eleven... twelve... thirteen..."

Mari extended the claws in her hindleg, making sure to keep her eyes on Safar's face at all times. She tried her best to keep him confused, so that he would least expect what was to come.

"Fourteen..." Mari counted. "Fifteen..."

"SHUT... THE... HELL... UP!" Safar demanded.

"I really can't believe this," Mari smirked, despite the pain she felt from where Safar's claws were puncturing her skin. "You really have no idea what's about to happen, do you? You really can't see your mistake?"

Before Safar could respond, Mari let an enormous smile appear on her muzzle. "That's unfortunate," she lied. After appearing not to fight back at all, she then jabbed her clawed hindleg into Safar's groin, where she made no attempt to soften the blow to his manparts. Her attack was precise and focused; she had been preparing it for more than a quarter of a minute. She didn't just hit him; she completely clobbered him in the most sensitive area with all of her strength.

In effect, it was like squishing grapes with a medieval-style spiked club weapon—attached to a bulldozer.

Safar yelped, immediately releasing his grip on the lioness's neck. He jumped high in the air and came crashing down as far away from Mari as he could waddle. He held a forepaw between his hindlegs, covering the annihilated spot while he tried to catch his breath and swallow the pain.

Indeed, he was a complete moron for not seeing his mistake.

Now free from the lion's awful grasp, Mari collected herself. She inspected her cuts and brushed off the pain, before shifting her weight back on her rump. Now she rested in an awkward sitting position, half-leaning against the boulder that pinned her tail to the ground.

Mari almost chuckled to herself, as soon as she glanced at the lion's pain. A surge of pride awakened her; she realized she couldn't have dealt with the situation any more successfully. Now, she was sitting on much more favorable terms. "Are you done playing games, yet?" she asked.

The knight didn't respond. He couldn't. He was in so much pain, he even hid his face as he started crying.

"Go on," Mari smiled, making no effort to restrain herself from seizing the opportunity. "Cry for help."

Safar groaned.

"I said cry for help," Mari repeated herself. "Don't you want to be heard? Do it again, this time a little louder."

With one paw covering his injury and the other paw covering his face, Safar was now openly sobbing into his fur. He was crying so hard, his tears were nearly projectiles flying through the air. His muffled whines echoed from the sides of the den, and even the two guards at the entrance had to stop and look down upon the lion with pure shock.

"Oh," Mari exclaimed sarcastically. "I'm so sorry. I don't think anyone heard you. I don't think anyone is on their way to help you... you poor, poor thing."

One of the guards stepped closer, but they both eyed Mari with respect and fear. Neither of the two dared to repeat Safar's mistake.

"Just between us," Mari addressed them, "I promise everything I said is true. I really am Mari, and Leo really is still alive... he's probably on his way right now. It's a long story, but it's not as complicated as you might think. Leo never died. I never killed him. We're good friends..."

One of the guards blinked as Safar continued to yelp, but otherwise the two remained motionless, more afraid than anything else.

"Look," the lioness then calmed herself, after a long breath. "That's not the first impression I wanted to make, but I didn't have much of a choice. Just help me get this boulder off my tail. As long as you're not trying to hurt me, I'm not going to do that to either of you."

One of the guards darted off, never to be seen again. He left without speaking a single word. The other continued to stand in the center of the den's entrance, hesitant to move a muscle.

"Or don't," Mari sighed. "I guess you have some obligation to keep me here... so okay, yeah, I get that." The lioness then turned her head back to Safar, who was still bawling like a cub.

"Are you done yet?" Mari asked. "You know, once you're able to walk again, maybe you should go tell Rex you're not the right lion for this job. This was the most pitiful torture session I'm even capable of imagining... and I think some other lion could probably do a better job."

Safar groaned again. He definitely wasn't going anywhere for at least a few hours.


---



A/N: LOL, dat sass. Writing this chapter was such a hootenanny of a good time. I admit, I was laughing my way through most of this. I feel like it's a good contrast to keep the balance from last chapter's big wad of depression, and it really accentuates Mari's character. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. xD
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Re: A Kingdom Reborn: The Legend of Mohatu

Postby Regulus » February 1st, 2015, 9:28 pm

For reasons unbeknownst to me, FanFiction.net has disabled the view HTML code feature in their editor with a recent update. I can circumvent this, but the changes have also affected the code itself. My program that converts the code to BBcode to post here no longer works. Those bastards!

In short, All story updates from here on out will only be available on FanFiction.net.

Chapter 47 is finished, and you can read it here -> https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8940312/47 ... -of-Mohatu
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