Deadly plots and a late arrival.
Months passed where Baingana and Pip settled down to quiet lives in the protective embrace of their new community. Baingana rarely spoke of his former existence; he wouldn’t term it a life, for it wasn’t. Even so, many community members noticed Baingana was still watchful, suspicious of any newcomers, and reserved with those he didn’t know. To those he felt comfortable with, Baingana would open up, telling them they aught to get ready for an attack by the safari park lions on their community, whom he was sure would come and try to finish him off. To this end, some of the community started training secretly with weapons they had to paw. Knives, hammers, anything they could use with ease.
In a safari park not far from the nearest town to the house where the community dwelt, a pride of lions prowled and scrapped over meat. They were Baingana’s old pride, a lion, his two lionesses and their cubs. Baingana had been the only cub born to Nala, a pale lioness. She’d tried to shelter Baingana from the teeth and claws of HIS SIRE and the other cubs, but could not protect him well enough. Now Nala was of low status in the pride, having given birth to a white cub. Nala had secretly named her lost cub Bianco, after she’d seen the name written on a bottle of wine dropped by the occupants of one of the tourist cars which drove through the lion enclosure in the park. She dared not tell the pride male about her secret name for the now lost white cub in case he ripped her throat out. The male, named Nuru, according to Nala, had a heart as dark as the night he was born. She hated him, but was too scared to do anything about his tyranny. The second lioness, Nuru’s favourite, was named Ajia, on account of her fleetness of paw, Ajia being a female name in Swahili, the English translation being fast or quick. As far as Nuru was concerned, Nala was a sour gift, as she’d born him a disgusting white cub. Ajia’s two older and stronger cubs had persecuted the white cub until he’d escaped, bitten and bleeding from the safari park. Nala thought often of her white cub, her grief at his loss carefully hidden from Nuru. It was said among the human keepers that Nuru was indeed responsible for Nala’s white cub, for it was Nuru’s genes, not Nala’s which caused the cub’s strange colouration. Nala heard this often, but Ajia dismissed it, and Nuru, while secretly knowing of the truth of the human words, refused to acknowledge his white cub, blaming Nala for his birth. Ajia and her cub Afua, who wasn’t in the least merciful or protective as his name in Swahili suggested, hated Nala as much as they did her bastard cub. For in their eyes, Nuru couldn’t ever have sired such a horrid cub as Nala’s. The gossip was that Nala had escaped and mated with another lion. This was spread by Nuru, who said he’d seen her slip away, but this in reality was to cover his own disgust at what he’d sired.
One thing the pride, excepting Nala was agreed on was the need to venture out and recapture Nala’s cub so they could kill him. To that end, the lions plotted secretly and about a month later broke out of their enclosure one night and roamed the countryside. Nuru left it to the lionesses to track the white cub’s scent, while he and Afua trailed behind, plotting the deaths of Nala and her cub. Nala pretended to track, but tried to lead the pride off on a different track so that her cub was not found. She knew where he was, for a bird had told her in secret. Nuru knew his lioness was falsifying the scent trail, and vowed he’d finish her off himself when the time was right. First of all, he wanted her to see her cub torn to bits in front of her. Nala, knowing the pride would soon reach the place where her cub now lived, became more and more irritable as they found their way closer to the place. Approaching the wood, Nuru commented to Ajia that they’d not been challenged by any hostile creatures, when a low growl stopped them.
“Stop right there,” the voice said calmly. Nuru whipped round, for the voice had come from behind him.
“Who’s there?” He asked, “Show yourself. If you don’t I’ve got a pride here, and they’ll seek you out!”
“I know what you have,” the voice said, “We’ve been tracking you for a long time. We know who you are, and know your plans for Nala and her cub. We can see and hear you very well. I am a tiger, my name is Hop Along, and I’m part of the security team on duty here. You can turn, but you will not see me, for I am with you, but not with you. I can see and hear you very well, but you cannot see me.”
“I’ll rip you to shreds!” Nuru yelled.
“That’s impossible when you cannot see me,” the voice said. Nuru whipped round and stared into the bush where the voice came from. Angrily he tore at the bush, uncovering the camera and speaker grill. Staring at the apparatus, the lion stopped tearing at the bush.
“Now you know how we track you,” the voice said. You will not harm Nala, you will let her proceed to the edge of the garden, there we will meet her and take her to her cub. You will not follow. If you do, you will meet resistance the like of which you will not even guess at.”
“What resistance can you offer?” Nuru Blustered, “we’re lions, kings and queens of the jungle!” Nuru suddenly jumped back, for a heavy knife thudded into the tree beside his head.
“What kind of creatures do you have here!” He yelled.
“A bear who has trained to use the food preparation tools as weapons,” the voice said, “we have other surprises too. Now take Nala to the edge of the garden as I suggested and leave her.” Nuru snarled his anger and padded away. When he was well out of sight, Brunetta padded to the tree, looked at the knife she’d thrown and then pulled it out of the trunk of the tree.
“Good shot,” Hop along commented, the bear smiling and padding away, the handle of the knife in her mouth.
Nuru was furious with fear, though he dared not show it. He understood knives and what they could do. It was also clear to him that whoever had thrown the knife was good at their work. The wind of its passing had whistled through his whiskers, the blade sticking into the trunk of the small tree by his nose. Nuru felt his paws becoming damp with sweat.
Reaching the garden gate, the pride stopped at a barked command from yet another speaking tree.
“Now Nala, you, and you alone put out your left forepaw and open the gate. Walk in and close it behind you. Nala, surprised the voice knew her name, did as it commanded. When the gate was open however, Nuru and Afua leapt upon Nala’s back! Clawing and biting, they tried to kill the lioness! Nala rolled on the grass, taking the fight into the main garden.
Seeing the commotion from the window in the kitchen where she worked preparing vegetables, Brunetta picked up a heavy handled, thick bladed chef’s knife from the block and, dropping to all fours, ran with the handle in her mouth into the garden. Knowing she hadn’t got time to stand on her hind legs, Brunetta jerked her head sideways, the knife flying from her teeth and slashing Afua across his face! The wounded lion turned on Brunetta, leaving the struggle on the grass, seeing what he thought to be an easy target! Launching himself at her, blood streaming from the gash in his face, the lion extended his claws for the kill! Brunetta skipped backwards, picked up a plant pot and threw it at Afua, the pot breaking over the lion’s head! Afua was expecting none of this. This became clear to Brunetta when he ran back to his mother Ajia. The lioness angry with her Son cub.
“Now I will show you how!” Ajia roared, launching herself at Brunetta. Brunetta dodged quickly into the house, slamming the door in Ajia’s face!
Meanwhile, Nala and Nuru fought madly, the lion trying to kill the lioness. Nala was fighting with everything she had, feeling her cub was very near and wanting to be with him. Nuru wasn’t going to let that happen.
“Surprise!” Someone yelled. Nuru looked up. The next thing he knew he was sprawling, something having hit him hard around the head. It was like being hit with a sledgehammer!
“Stupid lions,” someone remarked. Nuru laid, his paws sticking straight up in the air, with a huge white bear standing over him, pinning him down with huge paws.
“Come Nala, “let’s get you indoors,” another voice said:
“Ajia, Afua, they’re still dangerous!” Nala whimpered.
“No,” the voice replied, “we’ve tied them in knots. They did not think that we might be ready for them.” Nala looked up into the eyes of a white lioness.
“How, how did you know what they were planning?” She asked.
“Thanks to a nervous white lion and a flock of birds,” the lioness replied, “now Nala let me take you to your cub.”
Meanwhile, Nuru, Ajia and Afua lay in the grass, their paws bound. Arki, watching over Nuru hefted the two pound ball hammer which she’d thrown at the lion.
“Bears weren’t meant to learn how to throw knives or hammers,” she thought, dropping the weapon on the grass. Nuru was concussed and angry.
“What kind of place is this!” He moaned, “A bloody circus?” Nanuq and Kodiak, guarding Afua and Ajia, who’d been overpowered by Samson and Simba, grinned at each other.
“The boss took us seriously,” Kodiak said, “he doesn’t usually let us near hammers, he’s only just let us use knives to prepare vegetables.”
Meanwhile, Nala and
When Nala saw her cub, now grown, she almost ran to him,
“His name is Baingana, not Bianco. Though, Bianco might be a good suffix to his given name.”
“Baingana,” Nala whispered. When Baingana saw Nala, he stopped dead in his massage of Rowena’s right hind paw.
“Baingana?” Nala asked, the words surprising her, “Do you remember me?” Baingana looked at the pale lioness. He could see she’d been in a fight, one ear was torn and her left forepaw was injured.
“How, how did you get here?” Baingana asked, “If, if you’re here, then the whole community’s in danger! The others will have followed you mum!”
“They did,” Nala replied, “they made me show them where the place was. They were going to kill me too Baingana. But thanks to brave creatures, the names and like of which I’ve never heard of or seen before, I am here, and the pride are defeated. No doubt the humans will come looking for us, but before they do, I want to talk with and hug my cub.” With that Nala approached Baingana and lying down, beckoned him over to her.
“Come Baingana,” and you too Rowena, for you found my cub. I must thank you.” Rowena scrambled to her paws and followed Baingana to Nala. One by one the lion and little lioness were embraced by Nala who kissed each on their noses.
“Now,” Nala said,
“Baingana’s too I think,” Nala said.
“I know,” Nala replied, “for the birds told me all about everyone in the community. They did not tell everything, not much at all really, but what they did say described the main leaders in the house, told me where my cub was, told me that he was safe and well loved and well looked after. Now, now I’m here with my cub and those who cared for and still care for him.”
Meanwhile, Ajia and Nuru were getting the worst of it from Samson and Simba, the two lion leaders angry and upset. Afua had been carted away to be tended to.
“You wanted to kill Nala and her cub?” Samson roared.
“Yes!” Nuru snarled, “They are a disgrace to leonine kind!”
“No,” Samson replied, “you are a disgrace to leonine kind. We do not take kindly to those who persecute others for how they look. It’s not Baingana’s fault he’s white. Nuru, for that is your name I think, do you know it’s your genes and not Nala’s which cause the white fur?” Nuru kept silent.
“You do know it Nuru,” Ajia whimpered.
“Yes, yes I know it,” Nuru admitted grudgingly.
“So your crimes are worse still!” Simba said, ready to tear Nuru’s paws off.
“If I left now,” Samson said conversationally, “Simba would rip your ears off Nuru! He would make your death long and painful, just as was Baingana’s life until he was shown true love by two white lionesses. You did not only damage Baingana’s life, you damaged that of his mother too. For poor Nala was unable to love her cub. She named him Bianco in her mind, hoping he was safe. When the birds told her about this place she tried to keep it secret, but someone found out. Nala is now safe, her cub is too. You though, you two, or maybe you three if we let Afua go, for we’re treating a gash in his face at the moment where a knife thrown by one of our bears cut him. I don’t know if we’ll let him go you know. Afua is not protective or merciful as his name suggests. He’s a dreadful creature. Now what are you going to do, will you leave here and never return? Or will you fight us. We’ll kill you all.”
“We’ll leave here, leaving Nala with you,” Ajia said quickly, “just, just let Afua go!”
“Afua is getting the best of treatment from fleur, who’s affectionately known as the medical moggie.” This name for fleur was never spoken when she was about, and really was a term of endearment by the other cats and non feline, but it was doubtful if she would think likewise.
“Afua was a stupid cub to take on that bear,” Ajia snarled, “he deserved to die!”
“You make me sick!” Simba roared.
“Nature is not all paw massage and cups of tea Simba!” Nuru jeered.
“Afua did not deserve to die, he’s a cub! He can learn to take another path, to follow his paws rather than the teachings of a messed up pride leadership! Afua will stay here, you will go, now!”
“Nala will stay too,” Theo mewed, padding up to the group, “as for Afua, he is emotional, depressed too I think.”
“You two will leave here,” Samson said to Nuru and Ajia, “Afua will remain so we can talk with him a while. He may wish to see the other side, feel warm paws embracing him, make up his own mind rather than have it made up for him.”
“You can’t decide what happens to our cub!” Nuru yelled.
“We can if he makes a choice to stay a while and see what we’re all about,” fleur mewed. Ajia turned her head and stared at fleur.
“How disgusting!” Ajia yowled.
“Ah, fleur,” Simba said, his eyes showing respect, even love for the funny furred cat.
“You can’t keep Afua here!” Nuru yelled.
“If he wants to stay, we can’t stop him Nuru,” Ajia said, “what I hate about all this though is that one of our own will have the paw prints of this community all over them!”
“You attacked us,” fleur mewed, “and we have been good enough to treat your wounded cub. I could have killed Afua, but I didn’t. He pleaded for mercy, and we gave it to him. He’s a cub, you are not. He’s barely older than Baingana himself.”
Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Afua was being dried off by Theo, the cub ashamed of his part in the attack on the house. As soon as Brunetta had thrown the knife at him he knew the pride was wrong to attack this place.
“I wanted Nala and her cub dead! Afua admitted, but, but, now, well, now I don’t. Now I see that we were wrong to attack you. When I was injured, I was taken by the funny furred cat and had my wounds bathed. I’m sorry for my part in the whole thing, and humbled by the treatment I have received from those whom I sort to overpower.”
“We will see if you truly are when you meet the lion whom you wanted to kill.” Theo mewed. Afua looked into the lion’s eyes.
“I don’t wish to
kill Baingana now,” Afua mewed. Theo led
Afua to his lie up, where Hop along guarded Baingana, who’d come reluctantly
“I think you two have things to talk about,” Theo said, “hop along will see order is kept.” With that he walked away. Baingana and Afua stood flat pawed on the rugs.
“You made my life hell!” Baingana snarled. Afua looked at his paws.
“I can’t change what I did,” Afua mewed, “but I regret it now.”
“You regret it because you now realise I won and you lost. I escaped from the hell of the pride; unfortunately I couldn’t take my mum with me. My poor mother had to disown me on pain of death if she did not. Now, now she’s here, safe and able to love me. Did you know she had a secret name for me?? She called me Bianco.” Afua felt like crying.
“I did horrid things to you,” he said, “biting your paws and slapping you.” Baingana. Now, now I’m feeling wretched about all of that. Nala threw you over the fence when you were just about large enough to fend for yourself, and we didn’t see you for near on a year. You got the best of things though, and I’m glad of it. You might have roamed for ages, but now your paws are on soft rugs and are held by other paws, nice gentle paws.” Baingana knew Afua would have a job convincing anyone to let him stay after what he’d done to him.
“Apologising isn’t enough,” Baingana replied, “to stay here for good, you must do certain things. I want you to send your mother and sire away. Tell them to leave and never return.”
“Nuru’s your sire too Baingana,” Afua reminded the white lion.
“No he’s not,” Baingana replied, “my sire would never have bitten me or scratched my face so badly that my sight was damaged. Nuru isn’t my sire. Tell Ajia that I hate her too. I will not set paw outside until those two disgusting animals have left.”
Afua left the house and padded across the grass to where Ajia and Nuru still lay on the grass.
“Baingana told me to tell you to leave and never return,” he said to his parents. Nuru laughed harshly and cuffed Afua across his face.
“You insolent little bugger!” He snarled, lashing out at him with extended claws. Afua dodged the deadly paw, running away. Nuru pounded after his cub, wrestling him to the grass!
“Now, now, I will kill you as I wanted to do to Nala’s cub!” Nuru yelled.
“Leave him alone!” Samson yelled, running to Nuru and engulfing him in long mane and slapping paws! Nuru was torn off of Afua, the frightened cub running into the house and slamming the door!
“Now you know what your cub thinks of you,” Samson panted, “get out of here Nuru, and take your horrid lioness with you!”
“Let’s go Nuru!” Ajia yelled, “Who knows what these animals can do? We already know we have a hammer throwing polar bear!” Ajia ran for the gate, disappearing through it. Nuru turned to Samson, spat at him and followed his mate out of the garden.
Afua crept from the house and padded across the grass to Samson.
“Baingana put you up to this didn’t he,” Samson mewed.
“Yes,” Afua replied, “he said that he’d not come out here if those two were about, so I got rid of them. I didn’t want to fight your people! My mum told me that I had to. She told me Baingana was dreadful. One day, a long time ago, he and I were playing together when my mother found us. She beat me with her paws and bit Baingana. After that, we didn’t play any more. My mum filled my mind with dreadful tales of the white lions and how horrid they were, leading to this, this horror! While fleur bathed my wounds and washed me, she told me about the community, how you take in lost animals. Well I was lost. I didn’t know what to think, me having threatened your family and you responding by treating my wounds. I felt a proper low life. But it wasn’t just that, I could feel love coming out of Fleur’s paws! It was warm and cuddly, soft gentle feelings that I’d never really known. It was a real curl up and sleep moment, though I dared not.” Samson smiled, remembering his own first bath. He’d wanted to curl up too.
“It’s great isn’t it,” he purred.
“It is,” Afua mewed, its wonderful Samson! I, I, I’m so sorry for my part in all this. I feel so awful!”
“Fleur knew you did, that was why she suggested we give you another chance,” Samson purred, “Fleur’s got sensitive paws.”
“I know she has,” Afua mewed.
“Come,” Samson said, “let’s go indoors.” Samson and Afua went indoors, Simba following.
Meanwhile, Allie and Sam lay in their lie up, Allie due to have cubs any day now. Sam had watched the video of the births of Allie’s first cubs over and over until he was used to the sight and sound of a female bear in labour. Sam had even gone so far as to let Allie squeeze his paws with hers, Allie doing her best to imagine horrendous labour pain and put all her strength into crushing the toes of Sam’s fore and hind paws with hers. Sam was as ready to help Allie have her cubs as he could be. Allie had even invited Sam to play rough and tumble games with her until she was drenched in sweat like she’d be when she’d been in labour for hours. Sam then took hold of each of Allie’s paws, feeling how hot they were, so he’d have some idea how her paws would feel when the time came. Allie wanted Sam there throughout, and he wanted to be with Allie through it all. Sam remembered Brunetta’s cubbing, indeed, Allie and he spoke of both the births of Brunetta’s cubs and Allie’s first cubs often. Allie never tired of telling the story of her first cubbing. Allie now lay on the rug, feeling heavy and lethargic.
“If I could start labour now I would,” she said, “I’m feeling all hot and uncomfortable, and I don’t want this any more!” Sam felt dreadful.
“I know I shouldn’t have asked you to play earlier today,” he said.
“No,” Allie replied, “rough play like that might trigger labour. Maybe if I talk to Theo he can do for me what he did for Sarafina. If my cubs are ready to be born, he can then induce labour for me.”
“Let’s try other things first,” Sam suggested.
“What other things?” Allie asked.
“Paw and belly massage,” Sam replied, “I could even try tickling your paws, something to get your heart rate going and get you breathing deeply. It worked for Sarafina.” Allie reached down with both forepaws and touched her belly. Feeling her touch, the cubs kicked and wriggled, Allie fancying she could distinguish the paws of individual cubs.
“Sam,” Allie said, “put your paw where mine is now.” Sam did so, and felt the cubs kick out at his pads too. Sam gasped with surprise.
“They’re active today,” he remarked.
“Labour isn’t going to happen yet,” Allie said sighing deeply, “I wish it would.” Sam gently ran his paws all over Allie’s body, from her nose, right to the end of her short tail, paying particular attention to her paws and belly. Allie loved having her paws stroked and played with, Sam tracing her pads and playing with her toes. Allie found herself breathing deeply, focusing her mind on where Sam’s paws were touching her body. Allie then asked Sam to do something neither of them had tried before.
“How about if I pretend all four of my paws are stuck, or that I’m trapped in a rug,” Allie suggested, “I can then try to struggle free. That would take time, and might induce labour.”
“You’ll tire yourself too much,” Sam replied, “but I suppose, if you want a challenge. Don’t roll yourself up too tightly in the rug though.” Allie promised she wouldn’t.
“Right,” Sam said, “want me to help you?” Allie lay down on a rug and Sam wrapped her up loosely in it, making sure he left her head free, but the rest of her was wound in the rug, finishing off by tucking the end beneath her hind paws, so that her toes were pressing against the tucked in end of the rug. That way, if Allie’s labour started, she only had to roll over once or twice, wriggle a bit and she’d be free. Allie began to fight the rug she was trapped in, wriggling and squirming to free her forepaws. Panting and snarling, Allie fought herself as much as the rug, imagining that her paws were tightly bound, where in reality she could move them. Sam watched Allie’s struggles, hearing her panting and snarling. He saw one forepaw come free, and then the other, then Allie was wriggling and kicking with a new urgency, panting and blowing. Whimpering with real pain, Allie kicked furiously at the now clawing rug which held her hind paws, Sam going forward to help her.
“No, let me do it, let me!” Allie gasped, tearing at the rug holding her hind paws with her fore. Once she was free, Allie curled the toes of both hind paws, covered her mouth with her forepaws and screamed with pain!
“The cubs are on their way, things are happening!” Allie whimpered. Sam went to Allie, who clung to him with desperate paws!
“Do what you feel like doing,” Sam encouraged, “rock back and fourth, squeeze me, clamber over me if you want. Use me as an aid to the birth of the cubs. Squeeze my paws, cling to me, do what you feel you need to. Oh, and next time you want to scream, don’t cover your mouth with your paw, I know you’re in pain, you don’t need to hide it.” Allie hugged Sam tenderly, panting as another contraction built in her.
“Another one Sam,” she gasped, “must, must give up to it!” Allie panted, snarled, and then shrieked as she was taken over by her cub’s urge to be born.
“That’s it Allie!” Sam encouraged. Allie panted and growled with anger at herself.
“Get a grip stupid!” She told herself, “Arki told you all the ways to cope and here you are in pain!” Allie forced herself to sit down and take her left hind paw in both her forepaws, Sam following her example.
“That’s it Allie,” he encouraged, sensing she was committed.
“Must play with my paws Sam, I must do this!” Allie whimpered, “That was stupid back there.”
“I’ll help,” Sam replied, “want me to massage your paws?”
“No, not yet,” Allie gasped, “Just, just show me what to do, and I will do it!” Sam did so, first playing with his left hind paw, then his right, as Allie played with her paws. She didn’t realise it, but Sam was following her lead, not the other way around. When she looked as if she was squeezing her pads and toes, Sam squeezed his, and when she relaxed, so did he. Sam and Allie played with their paws for hours, sometimes playing with each other’s paws, Allie squeezing Sam’s paws during contractions, the male bear encouraging her to do her worst, Allie scared she was hurting him. Then he would hold one or both of either her fore or hind paws while she bore a contraction, Allie panting or pressing her pads and toes into his. Allie tried bearing a contraction silently and while keeping as still as she could, and then one making as much noise and thrashing about as much as she liked. After about the fifth hour, Allie suddenly clung to Sam with her forepaws, wriggled and hugged him tight, screaming into his ear from point blank range. Sam bore the sound, pressing himself hard into his mate’s hug, remembering that a little ear pain was nothing to what she was going through. Sam rocked with Allie, Allie now soaked with sweat and tears of pain. Groaning and screaming, Allie rocked back and fourth and rolled from side to side, her paw play routine forgotten. Sam held Allie tightly while she kicked with her hind legs, her toes curled and groping at the air.
“Can I give birth sitting down?” Allie asked.
“You might have to squat rather than sit,” Sam said. Allie shook her head.
“I can’t squat; it’s too uncomfortable, not this time,” she said, “how about in a crawling position, like I was when I was a cub?” Sam nodded.
“Try that,” he said, “I’ll be watching you.”
“Don’t just watch, please,” Allie begged, “help me by stroking my hind paws; you’ll have access to the soles of those. My forepaws will be supporting my weight, but my hind will be redundant.”
“But, but I’ll be close to the action,” Sam protested, “how about your dignity?”
“Sam,” Allie said laughing, “you are so funny!” Sam agreed to stroke Allie’s hind paws while she birthed her first cub. Allie slowly got into a crawling posture and began crawling round the room during lulls in contractions, and sometimes even during them. When she felt a contraction start, Allie would wait for Sam’s forepaws to encounter her hind, then she’d count to three, Sam then pushing with his forepaws as hard as he could while Allie pushed against her cub. When she relaxed, so did he, stroking her pads and toes with his toes, Allie looking round and smiling at him.
“This feels great!” She panted, “I’ve got a good fire base!” Sam laughed. Sometimes Allie sat back on her heels, her forepaws in front of her. Then, when she felt a contraction, she’d rock forwards and backwards, making sure her backside always touched the fur at the back of her heel pads on both hind paws. Allie’s rocking made the pads of her hind paws bunch and relax, and Sam watched them and her. Allie found crawling about and rocking eased things, and made her forget her fear. When the cub was close to being born, Allie settled her forepaws, waited for the touch of Sam’s fore on her hind, then, closing her eyes and breathing deeply, she bore down strongly. Sam saw the cub’s forepaws emerging, then its head. Allie panted hard as her cub’s head was delivered, for the cub was a big one. Allie then bounced a bit on her forepaws, settled and strained again, the cub’s shoulders and body emerging into the world, Allie moaning and screaming throughout.
“It’s going well Allie, you’re doing fabulously!” Sam said excitedly, rubbing her pads and toes in an attempt to soothe her. Allie whimpered and panted.
“It’s sliding free!” Allie gasped, “I can feel it Sam! The cub’s coming!”
“Yes Allie,” Sam said gently, “I’m catching the cub. Now can you push one more time? Make it a big one, suck air into the soles of your paws and push really steadily but for a long time, can you do that?” Allie wiggled her toes to indicate her assent, too busy getting ready to make her final effort to speak.
“Okay Allie, when you’re ready,” Sam said. Allie set her teeth and bore down steadily and strongly, feeling the cub sliding into the world, its body, then hind legs, then huge paws slid slowly into the outside air. Allie gasped and pushed hard again, and again, feeling victory was near. When she knew her final effort would surely bring the cub into the world, Allie yelled with triumph as her cub’s toes slipped free. Sam caught the cub and held it, and what a big cub it was! The cub had taken an hour to be born from the time Sam saw the toes of its forepaws emerging into the world, to the time its hind paws slipped free. It was no wonder to Sam the cub was a long time being born. This cub was enormous! No wonder Allie could feel individual paws when she touched her belly, this cub’s paws were gigantic! Normal polar bear cubs weigh about eighty grams each when born; this one weighed at least half a kilogram!
“One huge healthy cub Allie!” Sam whooped. Allie, exhausted, turned to look at her cub. She was white from her nose to her tail, with a black tip to her nose and black pads on the soles of all four huge paws. Allie remembered the struggle she’d had to give birth to the cub, much of which she’d kept from describing to Sam for fear of scaring him, but the birth had been difficult for Allie, and now she saw why.
“One great cub,” she said happily. Sam held the cub, still wet from her birth, though he had cleared the mucus from the cub’s nose and mouth.
“My paws are all slippery!” The cub spat, flexing her toes, “how disgusting!” Allie laughed helplessly.
“Let’s clean you up little one,” she said, but then rethought her term of address. This cub wasn’t little, it was massive! The cub crawled to its mother’s side, Allie now lying on her side, exhausted from her labour. The cub touched one of Allie’s paws, the pads of the newborn cub’s paw touching those of the older female bear.
“Your paws are as wet as mine!” The cub said. Allie knew why, but didn’t tell the cub.
“We’ll both wash,” she said, but first, let me look at you my dear. The cub submitted happily to Allie’s probing exploration with her paws. Once that was done, Allie settled down, letting Sam take a look at the newborn female polar bear cub.
“She’s beautiful,” Sam purred.
“With all this muck on my fur, I don’t think so!” The cub protested. Sam and Allie literally rolled about laughing.
“We’ll clean you up soon,” Allie said, “first though, we must name you.”
“What name did you have in mind?” Sam asked. Before Allie could answer, Arki came busting in.
“Someone said you were in labour Allie!” She panted; forgetting privacy was the first rule of her trade.
“I was,” Allie replied smiling, “but I’m not now. You’re about seven hours late!” Arki looked crestfallen.
“Since the fight n’all, we’ve been manning the outdoor cameras,” she whimpered, much distressed and anxious, “noone saw you were in labour! I’m so sorry!” Allie grinned:
“Sam did a wonderful job,” she said, “watch the video; the cameras would have witnessed the birth, even if no living eyes did. Now Sam, how about naming this cub?”
“How about naming her Arki,” Sam suggested.
“Why Arki?” Allie asked.
“Mostly in honour of the bear that showed you so you could show me how to show you how to cope with the birth of your third cub,” Sam replied, then, grinning mischievously, “because this cub was well overdue, about three weeks by my guess.” Adult Arki looked shocked and pleased all at the same time.
“You cruel bugger!” Allie laughed, “But yes, Arki would be a good name for our cub. She’s got huge paws just like the bear that helped me learn how to play with my paws that first time.”
“My paws aren’t as big as yours though Allie,” Adult Arki said, still unable to find the funny side of Sam’s comment.
“They nearly are,” Allie said. The newborn cub suddenly crawled to elder Arki and took her paw.
“I think you were a big cub and late arriving too,” she said suddenly. Arki nodded, for she had been just as young Arki said.
“Most of all we name our cub Arki because Sam and I love her and you my dear,” Allie said kissing adult Arki’s nose. Arki felt tears pricking the backs of her eyes.
“Thank you,” Arki sobbed. Allie and Sam’s newborn cub then did a very strange thing. Crawling quickly to the older Arki, who was crying openly now, the newborn cub struggled to stand on her hind legs so she could embrace the older female polar bear. Arki elder lay down to let her younger namesake hug her.
“From one Arki to another,” the cub said, her warm, but now dry paws trying to embrace Arki. Older Arki looked down at the hour old cub.
“Welcome to the world little Arki,” she whispered before losing it completely.
Little Arki drank her fill of Allie’s milk, and then slept a while. While she was sleeping, Allie examined her from her nose to the soles of her huge paws. Allie gently stroked her cub, running her paws from her ears to her toes, the cub responding unconsciously to her touch by curling up and pressing herself hard against her body.
“Sleep well little Arki,” Allie said, kissing the cub on her nose.
Little Arki woke after an hour of sleep, stretching her paws and yawning expansively.
“That was so good!” She yawned. Allie hugged little Arki, the cub laughing and cuddling close. Sam watched, not interfering, but wishing he could get paws on with the cub. Sensing his unspoken wish, little Arki left her mother and crawled towards Sam. Sam let the cub come up to him, before enfolding her in his paws, embracing her tightly. Little Arki snuggled into his hug.
“You’re as warm as mum,” she yawned, tucking in her paws in preparation for more sleep. Before Sam knew it, his cub was sleeping in the curve of his curled body. Sam hugged his cub, feeling her warm body beneath his paw pads. Sam gently rocked the cub, Little Arki burying her large paws in his fur and cuddling hard up to him. Still to tired to walk, Allie crawled over to Sam and lay down on the other side of their cub, curling round so the cub was cocooned between her and Sam’s bodies.
“Now we can both keep her warm,” she said, touching Sam’s paw with hers. Sam looked down at the newborn cub.
“Well done Allie,” he whispered, “you did so well!” Allie smiled broadly.
“The birth was exciting,” she said, “if a little stressful at the end.” Sam kissed Allie’s nose.
“You were brilliant,” he whispered.
Little Arki woke in the early morning of the next day. Feeling herself embraced by her parents, she lay back and basked in the warmth of their body heat. The cub realised the larger bear named Arki had vanished.
“Where did she go?” The cub asked herself, gently extricating herself from the warm embrace of two sets of large polar paws. The cub crawled towards the doorway and ventured outside the room that, until then, had been her whole world. Little Arki crawled left along the passage, hearing and seeing everything, as her eyes had opened normally, even though she’d not been born to the world. Now she crawled with her eyes open, and ears pricked. Little Arki heard a shriek of terror and wondered what was happening. Thinking she didn’t want to be anywhere near the commotion, she kept crawling. Feeling the wall with her left forepaw, Little Arki felt the wall disappear. Putting her head round the corner, she saw into a large room with a white four pawed thing in it. Crawling forward, she heard running paws coming up fast behind her! Squealing with fear, little Arki threw herself at the white animal in the new room!
Allie, spotting her cub crawling away from the lie up, had pounded after her, only to see her throwing herself at Petra! Allie launched herself forward!
“You’ve got my cub!” She snapped.
“It would seem
“Why were you in the passageway?” Allie asked.
“What’s a passageway?” Little Arki asked.
“Answer me!” Allie yelled.
“Mum, I left your side because I wondered where big Arki had gone to. I wanted to find her, to talk to her. You two were asleep and I was bored!”
“So you crawled out of the room and went exploring!” Allie yelled, “Great when you can’t see where you’re going!”
“But I can!” Little Arki said, “I can see, I was able to see Sam as I was born.”
one’s three weeks overdue,”
“You mean, mean my cub was ready to be born three weeks ago, but because my body wouldn’t birth her, eohippus kept her alive and growing until the last possible moment?” Allie asked.
“Seems that way,”
“The labour was
long and strenuous, but I felt secure,” Allie said, “that’s Eohippus’s doing I
“I watched the video of your cub’s birth. It was an hour from her forepaws emerging to when her hind appeared, did you realise that?” Allie hadn’t realised.
“Even so,” she said, “Little Arki’s birth was a wonderful experience.”
“I remember being squeezed and feeling all slippery and hot,” little Arki said, “It was horrible!”
was the way to go,”
“But I was really pushing, giving everything! Allie said.
“And so you
“I remember that,” Allie replied.
“I’m not surprised
you do!” Sam said padding in, “little
Arki’s paws are huge!” Little Arki
“Arki, let go of
“Oh, yes, I forgot,” she mumbled.
certainly not Arki,” little Arki said to
“You know my
name!” The cub said, “It’s Arki. Mum said another polar bear, the one I was
looking for when I found you, was a good friend of hers. She called me Arki after that polar
bear. There was another reason too,
something about me being late, just like the older Arki. I don’t understand what she means
“That made me
feel strange,” she said when she’d composed herself, “not wrong, just strange,
as if you love me as much as my mum or Sam do
“I think she
does,” Allie said, “
“I wanted to say yes,” little Arki admitted, “but yes to what.”
“Yes to me
embracing you in my paws and loving you little Arki,”
“Settle down for a bit here while Sam and I get some food,” Allie said to her cub. Little Arki curled up, her nose and paws warmed by the lioness’s fur.
“You are safe
here little Arki,”
“Thank you,” the cub yawned, rapidly falling asleep.
Snowy heard of the birth of Allie’s cub, and could hardly wait to meet little Arki. Later that day, when the cub was being washed by fleur and Allie, snowy padded into the bathroom and spotted the newborn cub.
“Ah, you must be Arki,” snowy mewed. The cub looked up into the eyes of a white tigress.
“I am,” she replied, “but I don’t know your name, or what you are.”
“My name’s snowy, and I’m a white tigress,” snowy purred. Allie playfully splashed the tigress, snowy grinning and plunging into the bath pool. Arki looked at the tigress, which was rapidly swimming towards her. Arki stretched out her paws to the large cat, Snowy’s paws grasping her own.
“You’ve got big paws snowy!” Arki exclaimed, “and, and, I feel, I feel you like me too! I must say, this is great! I’m meeting animals who are not like me, but take me as they find me. Snowy hugged Arki tightly.
“I love having my paws stroked, just like my mum does,” Arki said. Allie smiled, remembering how Sam had rubbed her pads and toes during little Arki’s birth.
“Did you see the birth of my cub?” Allie asked.
“I watched the video of her birth,” Snowy replied, “and it was wonderful!”
“I like you snowy,” Arki said, pressing the pads of her left forepaw hard into Snowy’s. Snowy leant over and kissed the cub on her nose.
“We will protect you Arki dear,” snowy mewed. Arki shook her paw free of Snowy’s and wrapped her paws round the tigress’s neck in as bigger hug as she could manage. Snowy let Arki hug her, wanting to curl up with the cub and embrace her in her huge white paws. Allie and fleur quickly washed Arki, and then dried her with towels. Arki crawled away, snowy crawling with her.
“Would you and mum play with me?” Arki asked. Snowy smiled and touched Arki’s left forepaw with her right.
“I will,” she mewed, “I will dear little Arki.
Back in Allie and Sam’s lie up, snowy and little Arki set to playing, tickling and stroking each other’s paws, to the delight of Allie, Sam and of course themselves.
“Shall we tickle Allie and Sam’s paws now?” Arki asked. Snowy smiled:
“Let’s do that,” she mewed.
While Allie and Sam submitted themselves happily to the combined feline and ursine assault on their paws, a dreadful caterwauling sound started up nearby. Breaking off tickling the pads of Allie’s left hind paw, Arki turned her head towards the dreadful racket.
“What on earth is that!” She demanded. Allie got to her paws, shook herself and padded out of the room, followed quickly by Sam and their cub, Snowy padding at the rear. Entering the passage, the startled group followed the dreadful sound to a hidden door, the door that led to the shower room. The dreadful sound issued from behind it.
“Simba!” Snowy yelled, “Shut up!” She banged on the door with her paw. The sound switched itself off.
“Ay what?” A familiar voice called.
“What the hell are you doing in there?” Allie asked.
“Singing, don’t you like it?” Simba asked.
“You sound like a strangled cat!” Snowy yelled. Arki fell about laughing at her words.
“Did I say that?” Snowy asked. Arki covered her mouth with her paw.
“You silly tigress,” the polar bear cub said indistinctly.
“I thought I was in tune!” Simba said, padding to the door and opening it. Little Arki saw a large white lion with bedraggled paws and flattened mane. She thought he looked sweet and rather vulnerable. Arki padded forward, curiosity overwhelming her.
“Hi,” she said, reaching out with a fat forepaw and touching Simba’s soaked right forepaw.
“Who are you?” She asked. Simba smiled, water dripping from his fur.
“My name’s Simba, I’m second in command here,” the lion replied. He looked closely at little Arki.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“My name’s Arki or little Arki. I’m, well, I’ve only been here for a short time. I was born yesterday.” Simba gasped with surprise.
“Allie’s cub!” He whispered.
“Yes,” Arki replied. Simba turned his head away, covering his eyes with his free forepaw and gulping hard.
“What’s the matter?” Arki asked, sensing the large white lion’s distress.
“I dreamt about you,” he sobbed, “it was a nice dream for once. Your birth was slow, but went well. Allie had to make an effort to have her cub, but all was fine. The dream was yesterday, probably while you were in labour Allie.” Allie smiled.
“Do you want to see the video?” She asked. Simba nodded.
“Once I’ve had a shower,” he said.
“Can I have a shower too?” Arki asked. Allie nodded.
So Simba, Allie, Sam and snowy took turns to bathe little Arki, the polar bear cub’s fur and paws shampooed, rinsed and massaged four times over. Arki wasn’t about to complain, indeed, she enjoyed every minute.
“This is lovely,” the cub said softly. Little Arki made sure her paws got a good massage. When she was thoroughly clean, including having cleaned her teeth, little Arki padded into the drying room. Looking round the shower room before he joined her, Simba saw a human cleaning the tiny cubical where the hole was. He had a long stick with a floppy thing on the end. Simba felt a thrill of fear, his last encounter with humans having been an unpleasant one. The human turned and, leaving his mop behind, washed his hands and approached Simba. Simba knew who this man was, the Boss. Usually the boss would clean the house late at night when the animals were all sleeping; some of the night patrols the only non human creatures to see him. Now he was cleaning in the daytime, and Simba had attracted his attention. Simba felt his paws becoming damp with the sweat of fear.
“I know you Simba Kizungu,” the man said, “I won’t hurt you.” Simba shook with fear as the human knelt in front of him and put his arms round his neck, hugging him. Simba whimpered with fear, but hung on desperately to his self control. The human didn’t feel like he posed a threat, but Simba’s mind remembered the humans who’d stuck needles in him and this was the image the lion could not banish.
“I want to get away!” Simba thought miserably, “but my paws are glued to the floor! I can’t move!” He dared not speak, in case the human should understand him.
“Talk to me
Simba,” the human encouraged, gently stroking the lion’s neck. Simba clenched his teeth and refused to
respond, though his body felt as if it would collapse. The human ran his hand down Simba’s left
foreleg and the lion felt gentle fingers stroking the top of his paw. Simba fought the urge to give the human his
paw, but the unconscious reaction was too deeply conditioned. With horror, Simba saw his paw leave the
tiles and land in the human’s hand.
“Damp pads Simba,” the human remarked, “you’re one scared lion. Simba felt like crying, he could feel tears pricking his eyes, and for a few seconds was selfishly glad the human was as blind as Whitie, for he didn’t’ want him to see his state of mind. Even though Simba was sure the human knew only too well. Simba’s shame at the dreadful thought he’d had, plus his fear conspired to break his control. Simba knew it was thanks to this human he’d been rescued at all, and he’d made the mistake of forgetting it. Simba began to cry, tears rolling down his nose and splashing onto the tiles.
“What do you want from me?” Simba whispered.
“I just wanted to say hi,” The human replied, “for we haven’t met properly yet. You’ve been living here a year and I met Rowena a few days ago. She’s been here less time than you have. She told me you were scared of humans, and this I knew. Rowena wished you not to be scared of me, and told me how to bring you round. She said you would never come to a meeting where I was present, so I’d have to catch you off guard. I want to see the Simba I know from the things I’ve heard about you, not the scared and abused lion. I know you are kind, considerate and love Rowena with all your heart. I know what goes on here. You might not see me much here Simba, but even though I cannot physically see you, I know everything. I can understand your language. I don’t even hold your conduct in the drum room against you, rude though it was. Now Simba Kizungu, can you find it within yourself to relax?” Simba took a deep breath and tried to relax.
“I will try,” Simba found himself saying.
“You enter my domain without fear, but you fear to see me there,” the human replied, “Simba, shall I show you what I know?” Simba swallowed hard.
“What do you know?” He asked.
“Lie down on your side and I will show you,” was the reply. Simba shook his head.
“No, no I can’t!” He whimpered.
“He only wants
you to feel comfortable here,”
“Follow your paws Simba Kizungu,” the boss said gently, stroking the pads and toes of the white lion’s right forepaw. Simba suddenly sat up, a reckless look in his eyes.
“If you want to kill me, do it now!” Simba screamed. The human leant forward and planted a leonine kiss on Simba’s nose, the lion choking back tears.
anxiety go Simba,” the human’s touch on his right forepaw said. Simba suddenly found himself embracing the
human with desperate paws,
“Careful Simba,” she said gently, “he’s not a lion, despite his mastery of our language.” Simba wanted to do for the Boss what he’d do for another lion that he felt comfortable with, but realised just in time that humans and lions were vastly different and that he could not really massage the human from nose to paws. He settled the matter by patting the human’ with his paws.
“I know what you were thinking,” the Boss said. Simba smiled.
Allie, Arki, Sam and snowy watched all this. They knew very well what had taken place. Allie led a now shy Arki up to the Boss and introduced her to him. The boss hugged the newborn cub.
“I know about the birth of this cub,” he said, “Tigger told me of the video and I watched it with elder Arki narrating for me. I must say, Sam and you did very well Allie. Allie smiled.
“Thanks,” she said. Little Arki prevailed upon the boss to stroke all four of her paws.
“Did you hear Simba singing?” Arki asked. The boss smiled and said nothing, concentrating on stroking little Arki’s paws.
“We won’t discuss that,” Simba grumbled.
“Time for me to
finish cleaning this place,” the Boss said.
Little Arki reluctantly left her place on the boss’s lap and followed
her mum and sire out into the passageway.
“I love you
Arki!” Rowena said, kissing the polar
bear’s nose. Little Arki and Rowena
rolled on the rugs, tickling and stroking each other’s paws. Simba and
“You’ve got such big paws Arki!” Rowena exclaimed. Arki smiled and hugged Rowena tightly.
“I like you Rowena!” Arki laughed.
“We’re all agreed on that then,” Simba said.
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