Nala lay on her belly with her head over her paws, forsaking the shade and purposefully exposing herself to the sun. Better to burn than to sit among the hyenas. They barked and chattered to each other, leisurely bathing themselves by the roots of the dying trees. Nala stared out across the land, watching the heat rise from the earth and distort the horizon.
“She won’t speak,” her mother told some of the other lionesses. “She hardly eats. She doesn’t do anything. She just sits there…As if waiting.”
Nala could hear the worry and the fear in her mother’s voice. She couldn’t muster the energy to care.
“Waiting for what?” one of the lionesses muttered. “For Mufasa’s boy to come back and make everything right?”
“Hush!” the others hissed. “The hyenas will hear!”
Nala shut her eyes and barred her teeth, fighting the pain, fighting the anger. She remembered Scar’s coronation. He stood before the pride with his head up but his eyes downcast. Sorrow had pulled at his feline features, made his whiskers droop.
“Mufasa’s death was a terrible tragedy; but to lose Simba, who had barely begun to live…” He shook his head. “For me it is a deep personal loss. So it is with a heavy heart that I assume the throne.” He straightened up, looking each lioness in the eye as he adopted a determined resolve. “Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era…in which lion and hyena come together, in a great and glorious future!”
What a terrible leader he’d been! What a liar! He’d promised greatness but he’d disrupted the delicate balance of their lives. Hyenas had swarmed into the land and made Pride Rock their home. Scar sent the lionesses out to hunt over and over again to satisfy the gluttonous dogs that laughed such bone-chilling laughs. They gobbled up the meat from each kill, sucked the marrow from the bones. The huntresses were left with scraps. The hyenas lapped up the water springs and guarded them with savage jealousy. The neighboring animals, terrified for their lives and robbed of their watering holes, fled. The skies decided to communicate their disapproval by keeping the rain to themselves. The land that was once lush and green was now completely parched. And Scar lounged in his cave without a care.
Simba would never have stood for this, Nala thought acidly.
Mufasa’s body had been found. His son’s body had not. Scar lied about his intentions; he could’ve lied about what happened to Simba. As more darkness seeped into the land, the stronger Nala’s faith became. Simba was alive. Scar had somehow forced him to leave but Simba would return when he was strong enough. He would be king then and everything would be as it was. Nala would sit and wait. She would watch the horizon until she saw him, bounding across the cracked earth, fangs exposed as a roar burst from his lips, righteous fury burning in those orange eyes, wild mane rippling around his face. She would run out to meet him then and join him in the fight against Scar. What a glorious day that would be!
Nala waited for twelve years. Simba never came. A seed of doubt was planted, a seed that fast became a consuming vine of despair. It wove its way around Nala’s heart, made her believe she’d been mistaken. Made her give up on her prince. The day her mother was injured while on the hunt was the day Scar sent a hyena to find Nala.
“Your mother is unable to bring us our food,” he yipped. “Scar says it’s time to prove your worth. Go out and fetch us a nice, fat hog!” He licked his lips and laughed. “Yes, a juicy fat warthog would be perfect!”
“Fetch it yourself, you lazy mongrel!” Nala growled.
The hyena pounced.
Scar found them wrestling behind Pride Rock and put a quick end to their dispute. A strong swipe of his paw sent Nala’s head whipping to the side. Her body followed after, sailing away from the hyena she’d been about to bite. She crashed into the rock with a pathetic cry. Scar padded over on deceptively soft paws. He loomed above her, cold, indifferent eyes watching the blood dripping from her cheek. Nala stood with difficulty. Anger still burned within her. It wrinkled her nose, flattened her ears, and forced a low growl through her throat.
“You will do as you are told, Nala,” Scar said quietly, “for your mother’s sake.”
The despair came to rob her of her anger. Nala bowed her head. “Yes, sir.”
“Run along now,” Scar said, nodding at the horizon.
Nala barred her teeth at the hyena before she fled, sprinting across the barren wasteland that was her home. I’ll find him a warthog. I’ll find him the biggest warthog he’s ever seen. Maybe then he’ll choke on it!
A wild lion leapt over the root of the giant tree with a mighty roar. He collided with Nala, who frothed with frustration thanks to her illusive prey. She and the strange lion tumbled into a scrimmage. They fought, they bit, they scratched, they rolled…and Nala pinned him to the ground.
The strange lion blinked up at her in shock. “Nala?”