A snow queen’s arrival.
“You silly thing!”
Allie watched the two lions
playing. She now knew why her cubs had
Meanwhile, Raja comforted Rani as the births of her cubs drew near. Rani’s labour had already lasted for two hours, but with Raja’s help, she was as comfortable as she could be. Raja stroked Rani’s paws while she snarled and mewed her way through her contractions. Raja knew Fleur would help if needed, but he thought Rani and he had everything under control. Rani wriggled and panted as the contractions repositioned her cubs ready for birth.
“How are you Rani?” Raja asked, as the tigress came down from another contraction.
“It’s okay at the moment,” Rani panted, “pains still high up, not low down yet, no cubs yet.” Rani was angry with herself for relying on Raja so much. She’d given birth to Rupert and Sally easily enough, and she’d been on her own then. Rani remembered the births of her first two cubs as a terrifying time, where she lay, screaming with pain and gripping the bars with her paws, trying to tear them apart with her forepaws during contractions,. She remembered getting a paw stuck between the bars of her cage, and having to tear it free with the aid of another contraction. Her paw ached for weeks after, and she could hardly put weight on it. Rani and Raja worked through the birth of Rani’s cubs, Rani’s contractions becoming longer and stronger. Raja looked at his mate, feeling her sweat soaked left forepaw in his.
“Place your paw on my belly Raja,” Rani panted, “quickly!” Raja did so, and Rani braced her hind paws, pushing down hard for the first time. Raja felt her efforts, for now Rani was forcing the cubs into the world. She knew her cubs were close, and was helping them along. Raja watched Rani’s face and paws, as well as glancing from time to time at her hind quarters. Rani curled her body into a tight ball during contractions and stretched full length between them, her eyes closed, teeth clenched and toes curled during the heaviest contractions. Raja felt his mate’s paws scrabbling at him as she almost crushed him during the worst of her pain. Rani suddenly squealed:
“My first cub’s nearly here! Raja, get ready to catch a cub!” Raja went to Rani’s hind quarters, the tigress curling and relaxing her toes as she panted so she didn’t push against the cub and force Raja to miss the birth. Raja watched as Rani pressed down, her toes curling so her black pads hid the orange brown fur between them, her claws extended. Rani pushed gently, pressing down into her tail as Fleur had instructed. Raja heard her mewing and gasping, then he saw a cub emerging, white paws and forelegs, then a white head, then, with Rani pressing down hard, a white body, white hind legs, and hind paws. Raja cleaned the cub up, while Rani wriggled and twisted, Screaming with pain while she strained to deliver another cub. Raja stroked the pads of her left hind paw; Rani mewing and pressing her toes into his pads.
“Go on Rani!” Raja urged, “You’ve got one healthy cub,
let’s make it two, push my dear, push!”
Rani gathered her strength and did just that. Rani’s second cub got stuck at first, but,
with Rani getting to her paws and bouncing on her toes for a while, the cub
freed itself and came quickly into the world, Rani unable to lie down before it
emerged, she birthing it squatting on her haunches, pressing down hard while
Raja caught the cub in his paws. It was
“Well done Rani! Well done!” Raja mewed, his joy at the safe births of the cubs almost overwhelming him. Rani examined her cubs, staring at the white cub in incomprehension.
“Surely that cub’s not mine?” She asked, waving a huge paw at the white bundle of fur.
“She is,” Raja mewed. Rani prodded the cub with one forepaw, the cub rolling over and gripping it in both her tiny ones.
“Bengal tigers can give birth to white cubs then,” Rani mewed.
“They can,” Raja replied. Rani gathered the two cubs to her and let them feed, Raja relieved she’d not rejected the white cub.
Rani’s cries of pain had caught the attention of at least one other animal, for Ahanu, walking down the passage near to the room where Rani’s labour had unexpectedly started, had heard everything and crept behind a curtain to watch. Now he emerged, his fascination turning to shame when he realised how private the thing he’d just witnessed actually was. He tried to look like he was just going somewhere, but there was nowhere else other than out of the room to go, and he couldn’t pretend he’d been there all the time. Ahanu felt sweat dampen his paws, and he knew he was unable to get out of this one.
“How much did you see Ahanu?” Rani asked coldly. She was sick of Ahanu prowling about, trying to emulate fleur or Salty, when he had none of their caution or experience. In fact the clumsy cross bred cub had the subtlety of a rock through a window.
“I was, well, I mean, I overheard everything, and thought I’d see what was going on,” Ahanu heard himself saying, his breathing shallow and paw pads now soaked with sweat.
“You thought you’d just take a look?” Rani asked.
“Um, yeah,” the cub replied.
“If you wanted to see the birth of a cub, then why the hell didn’t you ask to see the video of Allie’s cub’s birth!” Rani yelled, her cubs snuggling up to Raja with fear, “she is so dam anxious for everyone to see that video, so why didn’t you ask her to show it to you, instead of barging in on my private time!”
“I’m sorry!” Ahanu mewed, “it wasn’t like that! I promise it wasn’t like that! If I’d wanted to see a cub’s birth, then yes, I would have asked to see the DVD. As it was I was walking down the passage, heard something and investigated. I didn’t mean to pry!” Rani ran at Ahanu and belted him across his nose with her paw!
“You’re a disgusting cub!” She screamed, raising her paw for another swing at Ahanu, who was already screaming for mercy on the floor, “You know never to upset me! I’m furious! You heard what I did to Jespah, well you’re going to get even worse treatment! I hate those who intrude on my life!” Ahanu, his face stinging, stumbled to his paws and fled!
“Rani! Rani! Stop!” Raja pleaded, “You didn’t have to do that! That’s too extreme! Ahanu was just curious, wouldn’t you be if you were in his position?” Rani snarled her anger:
“I hate that cub!” She spat, “he’s always trying to be like fleur or Salty, the grey cat, but he’s not! Ahanu puts his big, fat, horrid paws all over a situation, leaving huge paw prints, messing everything up! Raja looked down at the two terrified cubs cowering beside him.
“You’re scaring the cubs,” he mewed, “that is wrong!” Rani looked down at the cubs she’d given birth to only an hour before.
“Ahanu’s ruined this day,” she mewed, “he’s spoilt everything!”
Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Ahanu lay with his face buried in his paws, crying like a cub. He’d meant Rani no harm when he’d investigated the sounds coming from that room. He’d just been curious, that was all. Then he remembered the phrase, “curiosity killed the cat,” and thought it fitting for his current situation. Still crying, his paws covering his face, Ahanu suddenly felt a paw touch his. It was a large paw and one he knew well. Looking round, he saw nick lying beside him.
“Dry your eyes and tell me about it Ahanu dear cub,” Nick purred. Ahanu poured out the tale of the birth of Rani’s cubs, waiting for the large lynx to slap him across his face like Rani had done, but Nick didn’t even extend his claws. His huge fat paws remained still. Ahanu loved Nick very much, and the huge lynx knew it. Ahanu wanted reassurance, and Nick gave him it, drawing him close and hugging him in his huge paws.
“Rani was furious with you because she thought you’d come to stare at her in her most vulnerable time,” Nick said.
“But I didn’t!” Ahanu mewed, “I heard her in labour and went to investigate. I hid and watched. Sally watched my birth, so why can’t I watch a birth too?” Nick thought about this.
“Ahanu,” he said, “I can smooth things over with Rani, but you must give me your word you were not spying on her and Raja.” Ahanu looked into his adopted sire’s face and, remembering Petra could tell if someone was truthful by touching their paw, took Nick’s paw in his.
“I wasn’t spying, prying, eves dropping, or staring,” Ahanu mewed, “when I realised what was going on, then I was interested to see what happened in the end, but that was all. I promise that was all!” Nick felt Ahanu’s paw pads, hot from emotion and soaked by the cub’s tears.
“Thank you Ahanu,” Nick mewed, knowing for certain his cub was telling the truth. Nick kissed Ahanu on his nose, this action bringing more tears to the cub’s eyes.
“I love you Nick,” Ahanu sobbed. Nick felt the cub’s paws squeeze his as hard as they could. Nick knew he was very close to his cross bred cub. Where Pipin was closer to Ellie, Ahanu was closer to him. Ahanu wouldn’t let Pipin hear him tell Nick he loved him, for the younger lynx knew his older brother wouldn’t stand such things. In fact Nick and Ellie knew Pipin disliked Ahanu intensely. Nick felt Ahanu’s paws gripping his hard.
“I will talk to Rani,” Nick mewed. Ahanu reluctantly let go of his sire’s paw, rubbing his eyes with clenched paws before letting his paws fall to the carpet as if exhausted by the effort of rubbing his eyes. Nick noticed Ahanu’s eyes were red by him rubbing them. He looked like what he was, a miserable cub. Nick loved his adopted cub with all his heart, and Ahanu knew this.
Scuffing paws announced Allie’s arrival. As Ahanu knew, her cubs weren’t far behind, and he was not disappointed. Orsa touched his paw, and Ahanu grinned at her, enfolding her in a huge hug. The female polar bear cub snuggled up to the lynx lion cross bred cub, burying her paws in his long leonine fur. Ahanu smiled and purred as he felt Orsa’s tiny toes gripping his fur. Bjorn crawled behind Ahanu and tickled the pads and toes of one hind paw, Ahanu laughing helplessly.
“Leave my toes alone!” Ahanu spat, while curling his toes tightly round those tickling them. Bjorn smiled.
“I would if I could,” he said, “but the toes I was tickling now have hold of my toes, and because of this, I can’t leave them alone!” Ahanu grinned and wiggled the toes holding Bjorn’s, massaging the polar bear cub’s toes.
“Lovely to see you three getting on well,” Allie said. Ahanu grinned at her. Ahanu released Bjorn’s paw, the polar bear smiling at the lynx cub.
“You have gorgeously soft paws Ahanu,” Bjorn said.
“Same for you Bjorn,” he said, grinning at the polar bear. Orsa crawled up to Allie and took her paw in hers.
“Can we play?” She asked. Allie embraced her cub tenderly, Orsa enjoying her attention.
“What game do you want to play?” Allie asked. Orsa, smiling, touched the pads on the toes of her mother’s left forepaw with the tiny toes of her right fore. Allie grinned.
“First to tickle all four of the other’s paws wins,” she said playfully.
“That’s not fair!” Orsa complained, “I’m smaller than you, so you can reach all four of my paws with yours easily, I can’t reach your paws easily, not your hind ones Anyway!” Allie knew this to be true.
“All right,” she said.
“I can tickle your paws though,” Orsa said, “Then you could tickle mine, how does that sound?” Allie grinned.
“All right,” she replied. The female polar bear and her cub first examined each other’s paws thoroughly, as was the custom before beginning the game. This examination, carried out with sight and touch, or just touch in the case of blind animals, was thorough, taking in everything, from toes to heel pads and the fur between the pads. It was done gently, the bear, or whatever animal whose paws were being examined would often drift away towards sleep, their paws relaxing, the toes of the paws slightly curling as the paw relaxed. This composure soon vanished when the examination of the paws turned into tickling.
Allie examined her eldest cub’s paws, finding tiny paws with five toes on each and well defined black pads. Allie massaged Orsa’s pads, the cub pressing her paws into her mum’s as she rubbed the soles of her paws. When Allie had finished her cub’s rub down, Orsa turned her attention to her mother’s paws, rubbing her pads and toes like she’d had hers. Orsa felt her mother reacting to her paw massage by curling her toes so her pads bunched together. Orsa smiled, rubbing her mother’s paws until she relaxed her toes. Allie closed her eyes, concentrating on the sensation of having her paws stroked. Breathing deeply, Allie relaxed totally, Orsa smiling and patting her mother’s paw pads as she felt her relax.
“Play did you say?” Ahanu purred, “That looks more like relaxation. I wonder, could I have some of that?” Nick took Ahanu’s left forepaw in both of his and began to stroke it.
“That feels good,” Ahanu purred. Nick grinned and brushed whiskers with his cub. Meanwhile, Orsa and Bjorn massaged Allie’s paws, Allie smiling sleepily at her cubs.
“Stroke away my dears,” she said softly. Orsa and Bjorn caressed their mother’s paws, stroking them until she fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Rani stormed through the house in search of Ahanu, ready to rip the cub’s paws off. She was furious with him for invading her privacy, and wanted him to pay. Rani galloped round the corner and burst into the room where Allie, Nick and the cubs were. When she saw Nick’s face, Rani braked hard by digging her toes into the carpet.
“Oh, um, maybe not,” Rani gabbled.
“What were you thinking of?” Allie asked sleepily, having been woken by Rani’s entrance.
“Nothing,” Rani lied.
“She was intent on getting Ahanu back for watching the births of her cubs.
“You wanted to whack me with your paws?” Ahanu mewed, yawning expansively and languidly stretching his paws one by one, “well go ahead, though I hope you’ve left your poor cubs in good care, for I’m going to fight back like crazy!” Rani dug in her toes, trying not to give in to her urge to beat up the cub.
“Remember your cubs! Remember your cubs!” She thought angrily, trying to fight with her urge to smash Ahanu into the carpet. Rani, paws clenched, puffed and blew her anger. Allie touched the tigress’s paw:
“You touch Ahanu in any way that will harm him,” she warned, “I will bust you up!” Rani knew her words weren’t empty, and reluctantly, she let it go.
“Leave it out Rani!” Raja yelled, running in, their cubs following obediently at his heels. Rani looked at Ahanu, then at Raja, then at her cubs, before storming out of the room.
“Got rid of her,” Allie remarked. Ahanu snuggled closer to Nick, burying his paws in the larger lynx’s fur.
Hearing something crawling towards him, Ahanu looked round to find Raja and Rani’s white cub approaching carefully, feeling her way carefully with one white forepaw, while dragging herself slowly across the carpet with her other forepaw and pushing with her hind legs, the toes of both hind paws digging into the carpet for purchase as she crawled. Ahanu remembered when he must have looked like the cub did now, and took pity on her, disengaging himself from Nick’s hug to turn and embrace the white tiger cub in his paws. The white cub, mewing with surprise at the feel of two huge paws taking hold of her, soon began purring when Ahanu drew her into a warm and comforting embrace. Burying her tiny paws in his fur, she snuggled close, the cross bred cub’s warm fur inviting her to snuggle deeply into it. Ahanu, while cradling the tiny tiger cub in his paws, wondered why she’d come to him.
“Why seek me out little one?” Ahanu asked. The cub, working her tiny paws deeper into his fur, sighed contentedly before replying.
“I don’t know. I’ll go if you want me to.” Ahanu didn’t want her to leave.
“No little one,” he purred, “I would like you to stay, if you want to stay of course. I just wondered why you crawled to me. After all, we don’t know each other.” The white cub raised a tiny paw and touched Ahanu’s nose with her toes.
“You were there when my brother and I were born,” she mewed, “I know it, for I could smell your scent in that room. Raja, he’s my sire, told me you’d watched everything, and that he was glad you’d seen everything, that he felt safer knowing another cat was there, even if this cat wasn’t meant to be there at all. Mum doesn’t agree, she wanted to do horrible things to you. Beat you up, whatever that is, amongst other horrid things, which Raja didn’t like. He pleaded with her not to harm you, telling her you were only a cub, like tem and my brother, but she’d have none of it. I wanted to meet this supposed horrid cat for myself, for your scent wasn’t a horrible scent. I wanted to see what this cat was, and now I know.” Using her paw which still touched Ahanu’s nose as a guide, she leant close and kissed his nose, then, feeling carefully for Ahanu’s forepaws with the same paw she’d used to find his nose and finding one, the cub kissed that too. Ahanu cried for joy. The cub kissed his nose, and his forepaws in an attempt to soothe him which made the cross bred cub cry even harder. Ahanu held her forepaws as firmly but gently as he could, the tiny tiger cub purring as she felt the embrace of his paws.
“I don’t know what I am feeling is called,” she said, “but I want to stay with you Ahanu. You’re not dangerous, and I think you want me to stay.”
“I love you little one,” Ahanu choked. The cub thought for a minute.
“If love is wanting to be close to someone, and with them for no reason other than you want to be with them, then I think I love you too Ahanu,” she purred. Ahanu released the cub’s tiny paws, which she thrust straight back into his.
“Hold my paws!” She mewed, “please,” she added suddenly. Ahanu smiled and kissed her nose and the toes of one forepaw. Smiling, the cub curled her toes into Ahanu’s fur, her tiny toes holding him tightly. Ahanu purred softly, gently examining the cub from nose to toes, the cub enjoying his paws working over her body. She wriggled with pleasure as his paws explored her from nose to tail, working her own paws into his at every opportunity she had. Raja watched this, loving every minute of it.
“I love this,” the cub mewed, working her tiny right hind paw into Ahanu’s left fore and pressing her pads and toes hard against his. Ahanu smiled and drummed his toes on the sole of the cub’s paw, the white tiger cub smiling and returning his gesture. Raja marvelled at how gentle Ahanu was with the four hour old cub, gently playing with her, but making everything count, from the way he stroked her fur, to the way he massaged and tickled her paw pads, the cub loving every minute.
“Your paws are big!” the white cub mewed, exploring Ahanu’s left hind paw with both her forepaws, “but I can feel you like having it stroked, just like I like having mine stroked.” Ahanu smiled and curled his toes round the cub’s tiny ones, holding her toes tenderly.
“I don’t believe this,” Raja thought as he watched, “Ahanu’s so gentle, almost cub like in his gentility.” Nick and Allie also watched Ahanu’s acceptance and playfulness towards the cub making them want to cry. It was plain to all they loved each other.
Ahanu released the cub’s paw and she crawled towards his forepaws. When she reached them, she crawled a little further, until their noses touched. Ahanu reached down with one forepaw and tickled the pads and toes of the white tiger cub’s left hind paw, the cub laughing merrily at him and hugging him as best she could with both tiny forepaws.
“That’s wonderful to see,” Raja purred, happy his white cub had found a friend. Secretly, he wondered if Rani would reject the white tiger cub if she found out about the cub’s and Ahanu’s blossoming friendship. His thoughts were answered by a scream of anger and the sound of pounding paws. Ahanu, engaged in massaging the white tiger cub’s left forepaw, looked up, just in time to see Rani barrelling down on the white cub. Throwing himself across the cub’s body, he held her in his forepaws, letting Rani crush him before she harmed her cub. Nick was faster off the draw than raja, sensing danger, he threw himself to his paws, right beneath Rani’s forepaws, the tigress tripping over him and landing in a flailing heap on the floor. Swearing mightily at Nick, Rani tried to get to her paws, but Raja, Nick’s attack giving him a split second to assess the situation, piled in on top of Rani, pinning her down.
“Get off me!” Rani yelled, battering at Raja with her forepaws and trying to bite him. Suddenly there was a screaming roar like an express train coming into the station and Rani’s forepaws were grabbed in the huge paws of a large and anxious male tiger. Rani howled with pain, for the tiger had her paws clamped in his.
“Hop Along!” Rani yelled, “Let go of me! Get off! Let go of my paws, you’re crushing my paws!” Hop along, having heard of the problems between Ahanu and Rani from Snowy, who’d seen everything from her control room, had determined that he would play some part in rescuing the cross bred cub. Hop along was sick of being the tiger everyone seemed to pity, and wanted some part of the action. So he watched and waited. He’d been moved to tears by Ahanu’s acceptance of the white cub and their growing friendship, then he’d been angered by Rani busting in, and finally horrified when he saw what she was about to do to Ahanu and the white cub. Hop along wasn’t fast enough to do anything about her initial charge, he thanked Eohippus Nick and Raja were there to stop her, but Hop along could do something, even if it was just securing Rani’s paws. While Raja pinned Rani’s mouth shut, Hop along took her forepaws in his and curled the toes of his hind around Rani’s, holding all four of her paws tightly. He didn’t care if he crushed her toes, the white tiger cub’s safety was all that mattered.
“Ahanu!” Hop along yelled, “Get that cub to somewhere safe! Take her to Allie and Sam, in the cubbing den! Now Ahanu, Go!” Ahanu dragged himself to his feet, then remembered the cub couldn’t yet walk.
“Do you trust me little one?” Ahanu asked.
“Never mind that!” Raja yelled, “Just get her out of here!” Ahanu grabbed the scruff of the tiny cub’s neck and lifted her off the carpet. Then he ran with her towards the cubbing den.
“What’s going on!” The cub mewed, now terrified.
“Your mum went for you little one,” Ahanu said around the fur in his mouth, “no time to explain, must run!” He burst into the cubbing den, Allie slamming the door behind him. Ahanu dropped the cub unceremoniously onto the rug, the cub’s legs collapsing beneath her and leaving her lying in a trembling heap.
“Rani, she, she went for her own cub!” Ahanu panted, his paws hot and damp from the sweat of fear.
“She’ll be safe here,” someone said. Ahanu looked round to see Petra and Theo watching the little cub and him in turns.
“You threw yourself on top of the cub to protect her didn’t you Ahanu,” Petra mewed. Ahanu nodded:
“Rani was coming for the cub, I couldn’t do anything else but that! I wanted, I mean, she would have been hurt, or worse, if I hadn’t done what I did.”
“You didn’t think about it? You just threw yourself on top of a cub whom you’d met only half an hour ago?” Theo asked, though he knew the answers to all the questions he and Petra were posing.
“Yes, Theo, Petra, I, I don’t know why I did it, but, well, oh I don’t know!”
“Do you love that cub?” Petra asked. Ahanu looked down at his paws, his face bright red.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“Tell me the truth Ahanu,” Petra said, motioning him to lie down, before taking hold of his left forepaw in hers, “tell me, do you love that white tiger cub?” Ahanu looked into Petra’s face.
“I do,” he replied, “I love her with all I have, my head, my paws, my heart, and more, much more.” He looked embarrassed at his own words.
“I thought you did,” Petra mewed, “for I can read your mind, and I can read hers too, and I know she loves you with everything she has.”
“I know she does,” Ahanu mewed, “but she’s a cub, only four hours old, and I’m nine months old! We have nothing in common!”
“Nothing you would like to admit to,” Theo mewed, “Ahanu, you and the white tiger cub like the same things, you love each other, accept it!”
“I do, I do!” Ahanu mewed, now forced to admit openly what he’d decided the minute he’d instinctively thrown himself on top of the white cub to protect her and prepared himself for death at Rani’s paws.
“You were prepared to put your life on the line for that cub,” Petra mewed, “I know it, and though she’s too young to realise it now, so does the tiny cub you helped save the life of. Yes Nick, Hop along and Raja did a lot of work, but it was you Ahanu, you who instinctively moved to give your life for the cub that crawled to you only half an hour before.” Ahanu looked at the tiger cub, she was still crumpled in a heap on the rug. His paws and whole being longed to hold her, to hug and comfort her.
“Go and take the white cub in your paws Ahanu,” Theo mewed. Ahanu lay down beside the cub and did so, the tiny creature snuggled up to him, burying her face in his fur.
“Hold me!” The cub begged.
“But I am,” Ahanu mewed, his paws gently embracing the cub.
“Tighter, please,” the white tiger cub begged, “I’ll tell you when it’s uncomfortable.” Ahanu held her Tightly, and she pressed herself hard into his hug, trying to bury herself completely in his fur.
“You’re safe little one!” Ahanu sobbed.
“I am now, I am now,” she mewed, kissing his nose and whiskers. Ahanu cried with fear and relief.
“I want to be with you forever,” the tiger cub mewed. Ahanu kissed her nose, then stroked the pads of all four tiny paws, the cub laughing merrily.
“I love your paws Ahanu,” the cub mewed, “they’re so soft and warm, and gentle, and lovable, and I want you to hug me with them forever!” Ahanu knew he’d always let the cub take his paws in hers whenever she wanted, day or night.
“My paws are yours little one,” he mewed. Ahanu smiled at the cub as she massaged the pads and toes of all four of his paws in turn. The female tiger cub purred as she worked, enjoying herself hugely. Ahanu looked at the cub as she stroked his paws.
“We’d better name you I think little one,” he said “but I don’t know if ether Raja or Rani would really like me to name their cub.”
“Is my cub all right?” Raja asked, bursting into the cubbing den. Ahanu looked up.
“Is Rani secure?” He asked. Raja looked at his cub, now stroking Ahanu’s left hind paw.
“She is,” he mewed, “Leo and Hop along have got her, and thrown her in the place where she had her cub they have.”
I love Ahanu raja,” the white tiger cub mewed. Raja smiled.
“That’s lovely to hear,” Raja mewed.
“I was wondering what to name your white cub,” Ahanu mewed, purring as the white tiger cub massaged the pads of his left forepaw.
“I don’t know,” Raja replied, “I haven’t thought of naming either of my cubs yet.”
“If I may suggest a name for your white female cub,” Ahanu mewed, “I would like her name to be Haimati; it’s Indian and means snow queen.” Raja was delighted!
“Haimati? What a lovely name!”
“A lovely name for a lovely cub,” Ahanu mewed, kissing the cub on her nose, making her purr with pleasure. Raja grinned at Ahanu, feeling an inkling of the love the cross bred cat felt for his seven hour old cub.
“Haimati,” the white tiger cub purred, “I like that. Haimati and Ahanu, what a pair.” Ahanu laughed delightedly at her words.
“Promise me you won’t leave me Ahanu!” Haimati pleaded. Ahanu took both her tiny forepaws in his larger ones.
“I won’t leave you Haimati, I promise,” he mewed, kissing the toes of her right forepaw.
“I won’t leave you Ahanu,” she purred, returning his kiss to his left forepaw. Raja watched his cub and Ahanu’s interaction, feeling more confident of the white tiger cub’s future.
Meanwhile, Rani was getting the worst of it from Hop along and Nick. Hop along; incensed Rani could ever turn on one of her own cubs, battered at her with his forepaws, Rani screaming obscenities at him. Isaac suddenly barrelled in, saw what was going on, and decided to assist the big cats, by dragging Rani from the room and dumping her back in the room where she had given birth to her cubs. Nick gasped for breath, exhausted by the fight with Rani. Hop along stood with all four legs splayed as he tried to support his own weight without collapsing from exhaustion.
“Where’s the cub!” Nick demanded of Hop along. Hop along shook his head.
“Don’t, don’t know,” he gasped, panting hard. Nick ran from the room, tracking Ahanu’s scent to the cubbing den, Hop along following more slowly. The two cats found Ahanu and the white tiger cub curled up together in the cubbing den, guarded expertly by Allie and Sam, with the help of two tiny polar bear cubs. Orsa and Bjorn taking their roles seriously. They challenged Nick and Hop along as they approached.
“Stop!” Orsa commanded; nick grinning at the polar bear cub. He knew he could eat her as a snack, but he played along with her game, but to her it wasn’t a game, he knew she was serious. Nick and Hop along grinned at each other, and submitted themselves to thorough checks by the two polar bears, while they examined them thoroughly from noses to tails, ears to paw pads. Allie laughed helplessly as Orsa and Bjorn commanded first Nick, then Hop along to roll onto their backs so they could examine bellies and paw pads for anything they might be carrying that could hurt the white tiger cub. While Nick was getting the once over from Orsa, being commanded to lift each paw, then roll onto his back and flex his toes so she could see if he concealed anything in his paws before she ran her paws over his body from nose to tail, Hop along stood apart, his left forepaw held in Bjorn’s paws. Of course, either of the large cats could have forced the bear cubs to give way to them, but they played along, conscious of the gravity of the situation as far as the white tiger cub was concerned. The bears had assessed the situation, and were doing the best they could for the endangered white cub. The examinations of the two newcomer’s fur and paws over, Orsa and Bjorn let Nick and Hop along through their cordon to the cubbing den. Grinning at Ahanu, Nick lay down and took his paw.
“You did the bravest thing anyone can do Ahanu,” Nick whispered, almost weeping. Ahanu looked at him.
“Meet Haimati,” Ahanu said, waving his free paw at the white bundle of fur nestled in the curve of his body. Nick looked at the tiger cub.
“Haimati?” He asked, “What does that mean?”
“Haimati means snow queen,” Ahanu mewed. Nick smiled and hugged his cub. Haimati raised her head when she heard her name.
“Haimati, this is Nick, my sire,” Ahanu mewed.
“I’m safe here,” she mewed. Nick took Haimati’s paw in his, the white tiger cub surprised at how big his paws were.
“I thought Ahanu’s paws were huge!” She mewed, “yours, Um, Nick is it? Are massive!” Nick smiled, kissing the tiger cub’s nose.
“You’re as gentle as your cub is,” Haimati purred. Nick took Haimati in his paws, hugging her tenderly.
“You are safe here Haimati, we will look after you little one. Ahanu, myself, Hop along, Isaac, everyone, including Orsa and Bjorn, who efficiently searched me and hop along from noses to paw pads before we got here.
“Those polar bear cubs have taken their honorary roles seriously,” Ahanu laughed, “Allie told them they could guard the door, thinking they’d just stand there, but no, they readily turn two big cats inside out before five minutes is out! What a hoot!” Orsa and Bjorn looked sternly at Nick and Hop along, each bear keeping their eyes on one visitor.
“I’m no threat!” Hop along mewed, rolling onto his back and waving his paws in the air. Orsa, his minder, laughed helplessly and joined the tiger in rolling on the carpet. Bjorn, now released from his duties, tickled his sister’s paws and, when she was weak from laughing, set upon Hop along’s huge paws with enthusiasm, the tiger roaring with laughter and curling the toes of the paws Bjorn was tickling. Bjorn turned tickling to stroking of pads, and Hop along sighed with pleasure. Haimati crawled over to Orsa and began tickling her paws, the female polar bear surprised at the white tiger cub’s actions, but soon loving her attention. Haimati and Orsa played together, Allie and Nick watching them with shining eyes.
Meanwhile, Rani lay in the room where she’d had her cubs, her youngest cub; the male ordinarily coloured cub snuggled up to her. She looked at her cub, grooming him from nose to tail. The cub looked unwell, and was weak and listless. Rani finished grooming him, and then touched him with her paw, feeling how cold he was. Rani knew her cub was desperately ill. She carried him to fleur in her bathroom workplace, who looked at the cub. While she was at this, the cub stretched out and lay still. Rani and fleur knew the cub was dead. Rani looked at her dead cub.
“Why did he die!” Rani shrieked. Fleur didn’t know, but she did the best she could for Rani, touching her paw and then holding her close while she cried.
“He was my only cub!” Rani sobbed. Fleur shook her head.
“Didn’t you have another cub? A white cub?” She asked. Rani spat with Anger!
“Yes I did,” Rani spat, “but that’s not my cub, I don’t have white cubs!” Fleur sighed heavily.
“Any animal can have white offspring,” she purred, “but it’s a shock when it happens. She’s still your cub though. I’m sorry you lost your Bengal coloured cub.”
“I hate that white cub!” Rani yelled, “I tried, tried to kill it, but Ahanu protected it, as did Nick and Hop along! Why did Hop along have to get his paws in the way! He’s an old, fat, lumbering cretin!” Fleur snarled with anger.
“Don’t ever let me hear you refer to hop along in those terms ever again!” She yelled. Rani cuffed fleur across her nose, the cross bred cat so surprised by the sudden attack she didn’t retaliate.
“Go on!” Rani mocked, “Fight me bitch!” Fleur looked down at her paws, her face stinging horribly.
“You are too weak to fight me, that’s it isn’t it fleur,” Rani scoffed. Fleur couldn’t raise a paw to Rani, it wasn’t in her nature.
“I’m leaving, this is boring,” Rani Spat, stamping on Fleur’s paw as she walked away. Picking up her dead cub, she walked away towards the garden to bury it. This done, Rani returned to the house, fleur watching her.
“If you harm that white cub,” Fleur said, “the whole community will come down on you Rani.” Rani spat at the cross bred cat.
“Ahanu’s taken the horrid scrap under his paw, do you know that?” Rani yowled, “It’s disgusting! How can he love that horrid animal?”
“Ahanu’s a good and kind creature, so what he’s done doesn’t surprise me,” fleur replied. Petra padded near, saw fleur and Rani and approached the former.
“Fleur,” she said, “can we talk? I, I’ve just heard tell of something, something, well,” fleur could see Petra was close to tears, “Ahanu, he, well, I didn’t see him do this, but Theo did, sort of. He saw everything, the fight, the way Ahanu was ready to give up his life for that tiger cub, everything. He relayed it to me after the event, and when Ahanu came in with the cub, we questioned him about it. Now, well, Ahanu loves the cub, he’s named her Haimati.”
“What tiger cub?” Fleur asked. Petra watched Rani pause as the conversation continued.
Rani’s white cub of course,” Petra replied, “Ahanu loves her.””
“How did they meet?” Fleur asked. For answer fleur heard scuffing paws, and then saw Ahanu coming round the corner from the main passage and down the short passage which led to the bathroom where fleur and Petra stood. Brushing past Rani, Ahanu approached fleur, carrying Haimati in his mouth like a tigress would her cub. Haimati waved all four paws at Petra and fleur as she was carried by her friend.
“Ah, here they are now,” Petra mewed, waving to Haimati, the cub not seeing her. Ahanu did however, and raised a forepaw in acknowledgement of the wave.
Meanwhile, Theo and Rani were talking, Theo telling the tigress she was going to be imprisoned for attacking her cub with intent to murder. Rani knew Theo’s power, and admitted out right she’d tried to kill Haimati.
“Ahanu saved her life,” Theo said, “and would have given his own life for that cub, do you realise that Rani?” Rani looked down at her paws, suddenly ashamed of her actions. She felt bereft of cubs now her Bengal tiger cub was dead and she’d disowned her white cub. She was rapidly regretting doing and saying everything that she’d said to Ahanu and about her white cub. Rani liked Ahanu, though her liking of him had been clouded by her hatred for her white cub, and his instant love for the cub she’d hated. Rani knew communicating her revised views to the community leader wouldn’t change anything, so she kept her mouth shut and accepted her punishment.
“How long for?” Rani asked.
“For as long as it takes Haimati to grow strong and able enough to defend herself against a tigress who hates the sight of her,” Theo replied, “maybe a year, maybe sooner or longer than that, I don’t know.” Rani burst into tears. She knew Raja wouldn’t be able to visit her in the prison as much as she’d like, if he wanted to visit her at all after this. Rani knew her irrational behaviour had busted everything for her.
“Who will feed the cub?” Rani asked.
“Petra will, for she can you know,” Theo replied, “so can snowy. Just the thought of caring for abandoned cubs makes her lactate. She’ll want to help feed Haimati as soon as she can.” Rani saw this trait of snowy amused the lion greatly.
“A real Gem is our Snowy half tail,” Theo mewed. Rani was shepherded away by salty and Leo towards her prison cell.
Meanwhile, Jinghua sat in the prison cell where Rani was about to join her, fuming about the world in general. She hated the community, and had just got the news of Rani’s impending arrival. The panda knew the tigress was one of those who liked paw massage and thrived on it.
Rani padded into the cell, Jinghua ignoring her.
“Hi Jinghua,” Rani said pleasantly. Jinghua refused to speak to the tigress.
“So you won’t speak to me?” Rani asked aggrievedly. Jinghua spat at the tigress’s feet.
“You’re one of them!” She yelled, “one of those paw stroking idiots! You like your paws stroked and tickled, like, like a cub!”
“yes, I like it,” Rani mewed, “but it’s got more power to it than just a good method of play” she said.
“Don’t go on about it, please!” Jinghua yelled, “I don’t want to hear it.” Rani knew she would hate her time in the prison. She knew Jinghua was there until Weici was weaned, which couldn’t be far off now. Rani threw herself down on the concrete floor and thought about her cub, her white cub, her name was Haimati wasn’t it?” Rani suddenly wanted to play with her cub, not kill it. she began to cry as her real instincts, her maternal concern for a white cub overcame her. Theo listened and watched from the control room, knowing he would release Rani as soon as he could.
“You need to talk to Ahanu Rani,” Theo said into the microphone, Rani able to hear him through a speaker in the cell, “will you talk to Ahanu?” Rani nodded, and she meant it too.
“yes, Yes Theo I will, I will!” she mewed, hoping the lion could hear her. Theo padded from the room, knowing that Rani’s brief meeting with Jinghua had made her reconsider her own actions and words towards Ahanu, Haimati and fleur.
Heading downstairs, Theo approached the concrete prison where Rani stood on her hind legs, with her forepaws resting on the metal door. Unable to see her there, Theo opened the door, Rani falling out into the open air with a cry of surprise and pain as she hit the floor. Jinghua tried to scramble over Rani’s prostrate form, but Theo brought his paw smashing down on her nose, the panda sent flying backwards, screaming hysterically.
“You dare to try and escape?” Theo asked conversationally, “I don’t think you’d get very far, do you?” Jinghua lay on the concrete floor massaging her nose with both forepaws.
“you’ve broken my nose!” Jinghua complained.
“Well you shouldn’t have attempted to escape should you now,” Theo mewed, helping Rani to her paws. Rani, now close to begging for a chance to make amends with her abandoned cub, trailed behind Theo, her head lowered so her nose nearly brushed her paws. Rani padded into the passage leading to the bathroom, where Ahanu saw her.
“I want to go home!” Rani mewed. Haimati crawled towards her mother, Rani seeing the cub coming towards her.
“You must apologise to fleur and Ahanu for what you said and did to them,” Haimati said, “they are upset, as am I.” Rani looked at the tiny white tiger cub she’d given birth to only a day and a half previously. Haimati was well fed, who’d fed her was a mystery to Rani, but she had a full belly, and also looked as happy as a cub her age should do if well looked after.
“who fed and cares for you?” Rani asked. Haimati smiled.
“Petra has been feeding me, while Ahanu has been playing with me, stroking my paws, tickling them too! Also, I’ve been playing with Orsa and Bjorn, they’re two polar bear cubs, do you know them? Rani had met Orsa and Bjorn.
“Yes I do know those two,” she mewed. Rani looked up from her white cub into Ahanu and Fleur’s eyes.
“I treated and spoke to you disgracefully,” Rani said, “Fleur, Ahanu, I’m more sorry than I can say. Why I did what I did to my white cub I’ll never know, but she doesn’t belong to me now. She’s Petra’s cub, Ahanu’s friend, and of course Raja’s cub. Haimati has taken to all of you, I can see this.” Fleur nodded at Rani, acknowledging her attempt at apologising. Ahanu couldn’t accept her apology though, not after the murderous intent he’d seen in Rani’s eyes as she went to attack her cub for just being with him.
“No Rani,” he said, “I can’t accept your apology, sorry isn’t good enough to atone for what you wanted to do to your cub. I will take her away now, and you will never play with her, never tickle her paws, never cuddle up with her, for you don’t deserve her.” Rani knew she’d intended to kill her own cub if she could, and this couldn’t be undone. With that Haimati turned and crawled back to Ahanu as quickly as she could drag herself over the tiles. Ahanu picked her up by the scruff of her neck and carried her away, Haimati’s paws pedalling the air furiously as if Ahanu needed her help to get himself moving. He pretended he was powered by her pedalling paws, coming to a halt when she tired of pedalling and moving on again when she recovered. Haimati liked the game, but grew tired as her energy was used up trying to keep Ahanu moving. Soon she dangled limply from his mouth, exhausted. Ahanu took pity on her and carried her back to the cubbing den. Ahanu gently lay Haimati down on the rug, the cub all but asleep. Curling up beside her, he drew her close, taking one of the forepaws which had been pedalling the air in his and massaging it tenderly. Haimati snuggled up to Ahanu, enjoying the warmth of his fur. the white tiger cub slept, crying out from time to time in her dreams and lashing out with her paws. when this happened, Ahanu gathered her to him, stroking and whispering to her until she settled. Ahanu examined Haimati from nose to tail, taking in everything from tightly closed eyes to pinkie black paw pads and black claws. He loved this cub very much. Holding her tenderly in his paws, Ahanu looked down at Haimati with gentle eyes, his love for the cub plain for all to see.
Raja watched Ahanu, glad Haimati had found him. Raja knew Ahanu had saved his white cub, for he was sure Rani had never liked Haimati, let alone loved the white cub. Raja loved his white cub, but didn’t feel close to her. Maybe that would come in time. Now though, he was glad Ahanu had grown close to Haimati. Maybe this was the beginning of a long and deep friendship between Haimati and Ahanu?
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Martin Wilsher © 2010
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