Two tigers cowered beneath a bush in the wood behind the house. The weather was dreadful, strong winds and heavy rain stinging the tiger’s faces as they crouched, shivering with cold while coughing and sneezing violently. One tiger, a male, was white, the other, a female and sister to the male white tiger, was of standard colouration. These two tigers were escapees from the same circus Rani and her cubs had escaped from over a year previously. Even so, all the tricks they knew, from playing football to play fighting, making a play at being fierce when, if they even thought of really letting go, they’d be whipped and beaten, could not help them now. Duke, the white tiger, and his sister daisy, had been on the run for weeks, raiding bins and keeping out of the way of humans, as much as two tigers can. Now they were cold, unwell, and close to the end of what they could take. Daisy looked over at her brother, Duke taking the hardships worse than she.
“We need to get into somewhere warm soon,” Duke gasped, coughing explosively, the effort racking his whole body, “I’m gonna die if I don’t get into somewhere dry soon!” Daisy knew she wasn’t fairing too well herself, but didn’t want to tell her brother of her own weakness. The two tigers cuddled closer for warmth, no longer caring that they were plastered in mud from ears to paws. Daisy looked into duke’s eyes, and saw something in them which scared her; she knew then that they really had to get into somewhere dry soon.
“Come on,” Daisy said, working her paws from the mud in which they’d sunk, wiggling her freezing toes to get the mud from between them as best she could, “let’s go Duke, you’re looking dreadful.” It was then that they heard something, the slow heavy pad, pad, pad of paws on the track. Daisy saw then how far gone her brother really was, his eyes didn’t register any fear of the approaching animal, whereas she was terrified!
“What’s the use of being scared?” Duke’s eyes seemed to say, “Maybe dying at the paws of the newcomer wouldn’t be such a bad thing.” Daisy looked out into the rain, and saw another tiger coming down the track. This tiger was huge!
Since fleur had affected a cure for the pain in his injured paw, Hop Along had taken his turn at patrolling. This night, he, along with Raja and Allie, patrolled the perimeter of the wood. Hazel and Conker, the two albino squirrels patrolled the trees, looking out for danger ahead of the three larger creatures and reporting back anything they found. Of course, the two squirrels missed the tigers huddled in miserable surroundings under the bush. Hop Along found them though, and pulling aside a bit of bush, stared straight into the streaming eyes of the two tigers.
“You two look the worse for it,” he remarked. Forgetting how muddy her paws were, Daisy raised a paw to wipe her face, making virtually no difference to her appearance.
“Hey, Allie! Raja!” Hop Along yelled, “come here and see what I’ve found!” Despite his resignation to imminent death, duke began to whimper with terror.
“You’re safe here,” Hop Along mewed, touching the forepaws of the terrified tigers, “we’ll look after you.” Daisy looked the huge tiger over. His fur was clean, he was well fed, well groomed, and smelt pleasantly of some kind of herb, and as if he’d recently bathed himself in oils. Indeed, Hop Along had done just that only that morning. Allie, Raja and the two squirrels arrived and looked at the two bedraggled tigers, now out on the track.
“Where on earth did these two come from?” Allie asked, shaking herself to get rid of the rain in her fur.
“I don’t know yet,” Hop Along mewed, “but I think they’re in need of some assistance, if they’ll accept it.” Raja inspected the two tigers, though in truth, he wasn’t sure what they were by sight, even so, Hop Along knew what they were by their scent, the scent strong in his nostrils.
“Would you like to come home with us?” He asked gently, “there we can clean you up, feed you and make you comfortable.” Daisy looked at her brother.
“I don’t think Duke’s going to make the night sir,” she mewed, “we, we will come, and thank you.” So Raja and Hop Along shepherded the two tigers back to the house, Allie and the squirrels following them. Once indoors, fleur met them, taking a second stunned look as she took in the sorry sight Daisy and Duke presented.
“We’ve got to get you warm and dry,” she mewed, leading the two tigers into the bathroom, the situation taking on dream like qualities for Daisy, who’d never seen anything like this before. Steam rose from the bathtub, and the cat whose domain this obviously was, didn’t seem to mind the muddy paw prints Daisy and her brother left on the tiles.
“Come,” fleur invited, steam rising around her, “both of you get in here.” Duke stared at fleur as if at a gorgeous apparition, indeed, daisy couldn’t say for sure if she’d not been gazing at her in the same manner.
“We’d better do as she says Duke,” Daisy mewed, almost pushing her brother towards the bathtub. Duke nearly fell into the water, Daisy following him, the huge cat following her.
“Lie down,” fleur invited, “full length now, don’t worry.” Daisy did as the cat asked, and the water massaged her whole body, from nose to tail, the mud washed from her fur, and paws. She didn’t have to wash herself, for the water did it perfectly. Even so, the strange cat laid her huge paws on her and massaged her from ears to paw pads, something Daisy hadn’t experienced before, but found pleasurable and addictive. Duke lay there in the water, watching his sister getting her treatment. He was content to let things drift along, now he was warm. When the cat turned her attention to him, duke, like Daisy, let her do her thing, and he wasn’t sorry he did. Daisy watched her brother turning from a muddy cat, into a clean white tiger, if a little underweight. The water around them seemed never to get dirty; indeed, it was filtered and reused, Fleur using slow dissolving herbal tablets. The scent made breathing easier, and soothed the symptoms of impending flu which both Daisy and Duke were exhibiting. Once the two tigers were cleaned from their noses to their toes, fleur led them to a place where they got towelled dry by Raja and Hop Along. Noone formally knew the names of the two tigers yet, though fleur had learned them in passing.
Settling down with a good meal of warm fish and vegetable mix, daisy and duke began to feel whole again. The inhabitants of the house let them eat and drink their fill, and then once both were lying down comfortably on a rug, yet another creature entered the room. A middle size lion, whom the other creatures treated with respect, though the cat that’d washed them, hugged the lion tenderly.
“Who do we have here?” Theo asked. Fleur told him as much as she knew, Hop Along and his patrol filling in the rest.
“I think we’d better get to our paws Duke,” Daisy whispered to her brother, nudging him urgently, “I think this lion’s their leader!” The lion looked at Daisy and her brother.
“No need to get to your paws my friends,” Theo said softly, “you are welcome here. Now, please, tell me your names.” Daisy and Duke did as the lion asked, their forepaws shaking with fear.
“Let me take your paws in mine,” Theo mewed, “for they’re shaking I see.” Daisy tucked her forepaws beneath her chin to stop them shaking.
“I think we’d better Daisy,” Duke mewed, “this lion’s got the power to chuck us out in the rain again.” Hesitantly, Daisy and duke gave Theo each of their forepaws in turn, the lion gently holding them in his.
“Now do you feel my intentions?” Theo purred, “Trust your paws my friends.” Daisy felt Theo’s warm soft paws enveloping her own and they felt wonderful.
“I think we might be safe here Duke,” Daisy mewed. Theo smiled at her, the tigress warming to the lion despite her inbred distrust of his kind.
“I’m looking for a place to sleep,” duke mewed, curling up where he lay and falling asleep instantly. Daisy looked at her brother, then at Theo for his reaction to duke falling asleep during an audience with him. Daisy was surprised to see Theo was not in the least angered by, what Daisy had been led to believe by previous leaders of communities, namely the tyrant tiger who ran the circus den that falling asleep in his presence was an affront to the respect due to a leader.
“I’m sorry,” Daisy said, despite the evidence of her eyes, “duke’s tired, he doesn’t mean,”
“Sorry for what?” Theo mewed, “if you mean you’re sorry your brother fell asleep while I was still here, then don’t be, and neither should he be. You both are tired, duke’s just given into his urge to sleep before you have Daisy, now, please settle down my dear, and sleep if you want to.” Daisy felt her body curling up, her body telling her mind it needed to sleep, despite everything. Daisy was soon sleeping peacefully.
Rupert and Sally, hearing the commotion caused by daisy and
duke’s arrival, padded into the room where they were sleeping. Seeing the white male tiger and the
“You know these two?” Sally motioned for him to follow her, and she dragged Rupert after her into the passage.
“We know Daisy and duke well,” Rupert whispered, his excitement threatening to turn his whisper into a shout of joy, for he’d missed the two cubs greatly.
“They were about three months old when we were born,” Sally mewed, “and they took us to their hearts, played with us, and helped us to avoid Simba, the horrid tiger who ruled the den. He was the one whose cubs we all were, if you see what I mean.” Rupert’s toes dug into the floor at the name of his father, he hated him.
“Why name a tiger Simba? That’s Swahili for lion,” Theo asked.
“He named himself Simba, he thought it made him grand, the king of all he surveyed and all that. What a load of rubbish!” Rupert then got excited, and forgot about the sleeping tigers in the next room, “Simba was a bully, a thorough bully who forced himself upon whichever tigress he wanted! Can you imagine that? We saw him do it once, and it was dreadful! I hate that tiger!” Rupert’s shouting made Sally anxious, and she leapt upon her brother, clamping her paw over his mouth.
“Daisy and duke are trying to sleep you inconsiderate bag of fur!” She hissed.
“Okay, okay!” Rupert mewed, now deflated, “but I still say Simba, the tiger was the worst thing to happen to tiger kind!”
“I’ll bet he was furious when Bella bore a white cub,” Sally mewed. Rupert spat on the floor in disgust.
“Of course, we never got to hear about that,” he said, “but Duke’s still here, so Simba can’t have been that upset.”
“He was upset,” Rani said, padding round the corner from the living room, “Simba hated Duke, though Bella did her best to shield the cub from his irate father. Why all this talk of duke anyway? He’s probably long dead, that circus was driving his mother mad. She’d most likely have killed her cubs soon after we escaped to save them from a dreadful life. Bella wasn’t courageous enough to attempt an escape, like we did.”
“Duke and Daisy are both here, in this house,” Rupert mewed. Rani stared at her cub.
“You’re joking, you must be! How the hell would duke and Daisy get here?”
“The same way we did, walk,” Sally replied.
“I must see them!” Rani exclaimed.
“They’re asleep,” Haimati said, crawling up close behind Rani. Rani whirled round on her newborn cub.
“How on earth would you know!” She snarled, “You’re, you’re,” Rani’s words trailed away, for she couldn’t think of a word strong enough to use when insulting her white cub.
“You never changed your mind on Haimati then Rani,” Theo mewed. Rani spat at the white cub.
“No!” She snapped. Rupert looked with disgust at his mother.
“Why can’t you just leave Haimati alone?” He asked, “she’s done you no wrong, no injustice, and for the moment, you have not incurred the anger of the community. Now, you could change that very quickly, indeed, the ones you may anger first might be your own cubs.” Rani stared at her eldest cub.
“My own cubs?” She asked, “You mean you and sally? Don’t tell me you like Haimati? Surely not!”
“Oh dear,” Sally mewed, “you really are expecting us to follow your line on this one aren’t you mum, Well, we won’t! You touch a hair on Haimati’s head, and we will be all over you to fight and die for her if needed!” Rani, now confused, looked into the eyes of her two eldest cubs and saw their resolve.
“Count me in on that too!” Someone yelled. Rani looked round, to see snowy coming fast down the passage. Rani had seldom seen Snowy, and suddenly realised the tigress was huge! Snowy’s paws were larger than her own, and she was intent on protecting Haimati, if the stance she took over the whimpering white cub was anything to go by.
“Oh, ah, yes, you can protect Haimati snowy,” Rani mewed. Snowy picked Haimati up in her mouth and ran back with her to Ahanu, who was none the wiser about what had just taken place. When snowy told him what happened in the passage, Ahanu was angry with Haimati for leaving his side, and grateful to Snowy for saving her. In the end he did nothing, so confused was he by his emotions.
Meanwhile, duke was having a strange dream about a white lioness. He saw a beautiful lioness in front of him, all white apart from her nose and her eyes, which were black and brown respectively. Her paws too had black pads on them, as he found out when he caught a fleeting glimpse of the sole of one forepaw as she raised it to scratch her nose. This lioness was so lovely a sight that duke thought he’d died and this was some angel or other who was about to take him to another place. Duke forgot his fear of lions, for this one seemed not just friendly, but motherly too, as if she would take him in her paws and hug him like he were her own cub.
“Let me come with you, please!” Duke pleaded with the lioness, “take me in your paws and hug me, for I know that’s what you want to do, and I want it so much too!” The lioness touched his paw with hers, but wouldn’t take him in her paws.
“Please don’t leave me!” Duke wailed. Duke woke to find Daisy holding him down.
“What on earth is going on!” Daisy demanded. Duke began to cry.
“I saw a white lioness, and she was so beautiful, |I wanted her to take me in her paws, but she would only touch my paw. Now, now she’s gone!”
“The white lioness, I’ve heard of her!” Daisy whispered.
“The white lioness is here,” someone said softly. Duke looked round, and the sight of the lioness brought tears to his eyes.
“It’s her, “it’s
the lioness in my dream!” He
“I am the lioness in your dream,” she purred, “You two do know me, though you might know my equine friend better.”
“Eohippus,” Daisy breathed, “the white lioness was said to be her earthly incarnation. Either a white mare with white hooves or a white lioness with black nose and paw pads!”
“Why did you refuse to take my brother in your paws when he asked it of you?” She asked.
“Duke asked me to take him in my paws and hug him. I will do so, but he needs to come closer to me, so that our noses touch.” Daisy looked at her brother.
“Will you do
that duke? Can you bring yourself to give yourself to this lioness?” Duke padded up to
“I’m here,” he
“Duke, I will protect both you and your sister Daisy, but you must believe I will. I am no threat, nor are any of the creatures here. I believe you also have friends from your past here, though you don’t know it yet.”
“Friends from our past?” Daisy mewed, “the only friends we had were Rupert and Sally, and I heard they’d been killed along with Rani, their mother.”
“Look round to
“How did you find your way here Duke?” Rupert asked. Duke frowned:
“After you and sally left with Rani, Daisy and I wanted to follow, but Bella, that’s our mother, and that dreadful Simba, remember him? Well, they wouldn’t let us go Bella through fear and Simba through spite. He knew we were destined for dreadful lives in the circus, but he wanted us to suffer like he and his lot were. So we watched for the day when the circus would be returning to this part of the country, where you and your mum escaped. Daisy and I counted the days, summer merged into autumn, and autumn into winter before we got our chance. Then one night, we crept out of our cage and leapt the wall like you’d done, running away. We walked for days, and here I must confess I wasn’t the best of walkers. I faired badly, suffering sore paws, cold and miserable was I before three days were out. Daisy kept me going, bullying me to my paws some days, until she began to suffer too. I know she never let on, but I knew how she suffered, what she felt. I could see it in the way she walked, sore pads were hers also. Then, to cut a long and rather miserable story short, where we raided rubbish bins to survive, we entered the wood behind this house and hid beneath a bush to get out of the rain.” Duke laughed, “That was not a wise thing to do, for we would have been just as wet outside as under the bush I think. Anyway, then daisy saw the largest tiger she’d ever seen coming down the track towards where we were.”
“Hop Along I think,” Rupert mewed.
“Yes,” duke replied, “well, he brought us here. I believe he had a bear and another tiger with him, and some squirrels too. Anyway, we got washed from ears to paws by a cat with the strangest markings I’ve ever seen! Then we got dried, and fed, and we slept a bit, and met your leader, not in that order I don’t think, but we did all this. Now you are here, and things will be better than ever now.”
Meanwhile, Daisy and Sally were having much the same conversation.
The introductions over, Daisy and duke curled up again to sleep.
Duke looked down at himself. He had tiny paws, and was a cub again. He saw a tigress coming towards him, and she had angry eyes. Duke recognised the tigress. Mewing with fear, he withdrew to the back of the place he was in, the tigress leaping at him and pinning him down under her paws. Duke screamed and bit the tigress’s paw, sinking his tiny teeth into the paw as far as he could. The tigress screamed with pain and tried to withdraw her paw, but duke hung on, knowing if he did as much damage as he could this horrid animal wouldn’t come back! Duke’s defence was halted when the tigress belted him across his head. Duke woke suddenly, staring round him. Daisy lay beside him, mewing pitifully and licking her left forepaw, which was injured.
“You bit me duke!” She mewed.
“No, no, I couldn’t have,” he protested.
“You did!” Daisy whimpered, “You nearly tore my paw off! What the hell were you doing?”
“It wasn’t, wasn’t you, not you,” duke mewed, his eyes filling with tears, “I wouldn’t bite you Daisy!”
“Who were you biting if it wasn’t me!” Daisy mewed. Duke shook his head, unable to articulate his dream.
“Don’t ask me to go there,” duke pleaded.
“I want to know!” Daisy yelled. The look in duke’s eyes made Daisy fear for him, he was close to the edge, and Daisy didn’t know why.
“Tell me what’s wrong duke, please,” Daisy mewed.
“I can’t, I’m sorry daisy, for biting you, but I can’t tell you what’s wrong!”
“Why not!” Daisy screamed.
“Because, it’s too dreadful,” Haimati said, crawling into daisy’s line of sight.
“What’s too awful? Another thing, who are you?” Daisy asked the tiny white tiger cub.
“I’m someone who understands duke better than most, because of one thing we have in common, one thing that most cubs do not have,” Haimati said. Daisy stared at the white cub as she crawled towards duke and took his paw in both her tiny ones.
“You know don’t you little one,” duke sobbed, “You know everything!” Haimati kissed Duke on his nose, the male white tiger embracing her tightly.
“She knows what?” Daisy asked, “Noone knows you better than me Duke! How can she know something about you that I don’t?”
“Because you wouldn’t believe it if he told you,” Haimati mewed.
“Go on! Try me!” Daisy screeched, now angrier than ever.
“Duke’s mother tried to kill him,” Haimati said gently, her words making Duke Collapse in a heap, his grip on Haimati fiercer than ever.
“No, that’s not true!” Daisy yelled, “Bella might not have wanted cubs, but she wouldn’t kill them once she had them!”
“She might not
“Oh no!” Daisy wept, “I didn’t know, I didn’t know!”
“I’ll bet when you heard Duke whimpering with fear, you went over to him to comfort him Daisy, and when he felt your paw on his, he panicked, thinking you were the tigress in his dream. He defended himself with everything he could muster, his fear acute.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this!” Daisy demanded of her brother.
“I couldn’t! You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!” Duke wailed.
“How come you know all this little white one?” Daisy asked.
“My name’s Haimati and how I know what happened to duke is not easily explained. It was a feeling, a sense that we’d been through the same things. For my mother had tried to kill me also. She hated me, but, unlike duke, I had protectors. You see, your tiger den was no community, even though there were several tigers there. When I was born, there were others in my community who were willing to protect me, to literally give their lives to protect me. I haven’t the words to describe how I feel about that. My protectors include Ahanu, a lynx lion cross bred cat, and two polar bear cubs named Orsa and Bjorn, and one cross bred polar Kodiak bear named Bramble. They are wonderful, and only a few of those who are willing to protect me. Of course, there are other white tigers here, we have one in particular, snowy, who’s large, but gentle too. Maybe these fine members of the community will protect Duke too.” Daisy hadn’t seen any polar bear cubs, let alone the tigress named snowy. Haimati crawled away from duke, the tiger sad to see her go. The next person they saw was Hop Along, the huge tiger coming into the room from the passage. He threw himself down in front of the radiator, his fur steaming from another spell out in the wood. Duke looked at the huge tiger, at his massive head and body, rather short legs, and huge paws. Duke clearly wanted to be everything Hop Along was. Hop Along no longer looked the picture of despair he once was, he was now a sleek, if rather large tiger. He still bore his bald patches from his previous life, but noone noticed them any more. Duke found he couldn’t take his eyes off Hop Along’s, they were gentle, but not just that, there was something else, it wasn’t gentility just because he felt well disposed to everyone, it was gentility born from hardship and a resolve not to end up like those who’d mistreated him. Hop Along’s eyes fell on Duke, and when their eyes met, Duke found he could no longer meet the tiger’s gaze. Dropping his gaze, he stared at his paws.
“I didn’t mean to intimidate you duke,” Hop Along mewed.
“No, you haven’t, it’s, it’s something else,” Duke replied, “something in your eyes, and I can’t put my paw on it.”
“Okay,” Hop Along said, “but I am no threat to you.” Daisy looked into Hop Along’s face, and recognised the look in his eyes. A deep sadness for the time he’d lost, but well covered by a natural gentleness which at first startled those who met him. Daisy was about to thank Hop Along for rescuing her and duke when the cat with the strange markings came into the room, Hop Along waving a paw at her to come and lie down beside him. When she was comfortable, the huge tiger embraced her in his huge paws.
“I think we’ve met before,” Daisy said to the cat with the funny markings.
“We have, and you were a very different looking pair when I met you both,” the cat mewed, “oh, by the way, I’m fleur, and this is Hop Along.”
“How did you get a name like Hop Along?” Duke asked without a trace of embarrassment.
“Ah, there’s a thing,” Hop Along mewed, “let me just say that before fleur here stroked my paws completely without my permission, I used to be in pain all the time from an old injury. Now though, she’s cured me, so the name, while having stuck, is not truly accurate now. I don’t mind the name, so I keep it.” Daisy smiled at Hop Along.
“You certainly don’t hop any more,” she mewed. Hop along smiled:
“No,” he replied, “On the day fleur stroked my paws, my former mate Tinka came back to me, and months later we had a cub. Pakshalika is mine and Tinka’s cub, and she’s a beautiful cub. Tinka is a beautiful tigress too, and I love them both.” Daisy saw the look in Hop Along’s eyes, and could almost feel the love he felt for his mate and cub.
“So what do you do for recreation? Play?” Daisy asked.
“We stroke and play with each other and use the pool complex. You will see this sometime soon,” Fleur said.
“I’ve heard the cubs tickle each other’s paws,” Duke mewed, “I never tickled Daisy’s paws when she was a cub, and neither did she tickle mine, let alone stroke them. What’s it like?” Fleur grinned at duke, walked over to him, lay down and tickled his left hind paw. Duke laughed until he cried, wriggling and waving his paws in the air.
“I want some of that!” Daisy mewed. Hop along padded over to her and tickled her paws with enthusiasm, Daisy laughing merrily.
“So this is what having one’s paws tickled is like!” Duke whooped, “This is wonderful!” Daisy curled her toes round Hop along’s, feeling his huge toes caught in hers, loving his attention.
“You have lovely paws Hop along,” she mewed, “they are soft and warm!” Hop Along smiled at the tigress.
“I could play with you like you were a cub,” he mewed. Daisy mewed like a cub, and Hop along tickled her belly and paws like she was his cub, Daisy laughing and squirming with pleasure.
“You can’t do that!” Duke mewed, appalled at his sister’s antics, “We’re adult tigers now, not cubs!”
“I believe you didn’t have much of a cubhood duke,” Hop along mewed, “so why not have now what you couldn’t have then?” Duke couldn’t argue with the tiger’s logic.
“You were laughing helplessly a minute ago,” Daisy reminded her brother. Duke seemed to have forgotten that.
“Give me your paws!” Fleur mewed; grabbing hold of Duke’s left forepaw and tickling his pads and toes. Duke laughed merrily, and then purred with pleasure when fleur embraced him.
“How would it be if you two followed me to the bathroom, and there I could introduce you to the delights of massage with oils?” Fleur purred. Daisy looked at her brother, who was still feeling the affects of Fleur’s paw massage.
“Yeah, okay,” he mewed, completely spaced out. Fleur helped duke to his feet, duke walking as if he couldn’t feel the ground beneath his paws.
“Are you all right Duke?” Daisy asked, very concerned about her brother.
“Fine, just fine,” he mewed, “paw massage, must have more paw massage.” Daisy looked shocked!
“He’s, um, away with the fairies!” She mewed.
“Let’s get both of you to the bathtub,” Fleur mewed. She led Duke to the bathtub by taking his paw and guiding him, Daisy following. Once Duke was in the tub, Fleur and Daisy rubbed him down, their paws working from his nose to his toes.
“This is lovely, just lovely!” Duke purred, his mind focusing on his paws, which Fleur and Daisy were stroking.
“I know how he feels,” Bramble said softly, gently stepping into the water, her huge paws hardly making a splash.
“I can see a bear, a bear with, with socks on her hind paws!” Duke mewed, fascinated by the sight of bramble.
“She’s got white hind paws!” Fleur laughed, “Bramble’s not wearing socks!”
“How would a tiger know what socks are anyway?” Bramble asked.
“You wouldn’t believe what we tigers had to do when we worked in the circus,” Daisy replied, hoping Bramble wouldn’t ask.
“Right,” Bramble said, taking the look in Daisy’s eyes seriously.
“We had to wear socks on our paws!” Duke snarled, “It was horrid!”
“It’s not too nice,” Bjorn said, padding into the room. Duke looked at the polar bear.
“A cub, a polar bear cub!” Duke mewed, waving his paw at Bjorn.
“Don’t mind him,” Daisy laughed, “duke loves polar bears.” Bjorn plunged into the water and paddled towards duke, the white tiger watching him with interest.
“Can I touch your paw?” Duke asked. Bjorn gave him his left forepaw, the toes of duke’s right forepaw curling round those of Bjorn’s left.
“While we’re here, we might as well indulge our liking for paw massage with oils,” Bjorn said to Bramble, the female polar bear smiling at him. Duke released Bjorn’s paw and the bear settled back in the water. Bramble poured some of the oil fleur was using into her paw and began to stroke and massage Bjorn’s paws with it. Bjorn relaxed in the water, Bramble’s massage working over his paws and lulling him into a dreamy state.
At the sound of heavy paws coming near, Duke looked up from where he was lying. He saw a huge white tigress coming towards him with a three quarter grown tigress beside her. Duke guessed the first was the mother of the second, and what a cub the white tigress had! Seeing Bianca brought tears to duke’s eyes. Bianca’s fur had lightened as she’d grown up, and now was as white as Snowy’s. Duke rubbed his eyes with one oiled paw, making them stream and sting. Duke didn’t care about his stinging eyes; at least the younger white tigress couldn’t see he’d been close to tears now his eyes were red from irritation.
“Any more room in there?” The younger white tigress asked. Bramble, her massage of Bjorn’s paws long over, nodded and smiled at Bianca.
“Bjorn and I are leaving,” she said, Bjorn looking surprised for a minute, but catching on fast when Bramble nudged him.
“Oh, yes, we’ve, um, decided not to stay, we’re hungry, need food,” he babbled. Duke didn’t seem to notice what was happening. Before he knew it, only he and the young tigress that had filled his eyes with tears were standing in the room. Even the large tigress had vanished, how she managed it without drawing his attention, Duke couldn’t guess. Duke looked round for Daisy, but even she’d left! Now here he was, alone and nervous with a tigress towards whom he’d made his feelings plain to all, including her no doubt. Bianca grinned at Duke:
“Why are you smiling at me?” Duke asked. Bianca stepped into the water.
“I saw the way you reacted when you saw me. Do you usually come close to tears when you see a young tigress?”
“No, no I don’t,” duke replied, “you though, you, you were, are, so beautiful, so beautiful, from your nose to your paw pads!”
“How did you see my paw pads?” Bianca asked, knowing she’d given him a glimpse of the pads of one of her forepaws.
“I saw the pads of your left forepaw,” duke mewed, “and they were beautiful, like the rest of you!” Bianca swam up to duke and took his paw, her touch bringing fresh tears to his eyes.
“What’s the matter?” Bianca asked, “you look at me, or I touch your paw, and you look like you’re about to cry.”
“It’s, it’s just, just that, well, I think you’re so beautiful, so very beautiful!” Duke blurted, “So beautiful, that, well, it moves me to tears.”
“You silly thing,” Bianca mewed, kissing Duke on his nose.
“You’re making it worse!” Duke sniffed, “don’t do this to me!”
“Making what worse?” Bianca asked.
“I want to, to be with you, but I’m not sure if you want to be with me!” Duke replied, embarrassed by his frankness.
“You like me?” She asked.
“Like you? I love you!” Duke blurted. Bianca looked at duke, the white tiger’s feelings clear, even before he spoke to her for the first time.
“You are so transparent duke, it’s sweet,” Bianca said.
“What’s your name?” Duke asked tentatively.
“Bianca,” Bianca replied.
“Bianca,” duke mewed, “a lovely name that, and so fitting too.”
“Yes Duke it is,” she mewed, “do you know why it’s so fitting?” Duke stared at her, astonished at her question.
“Um, no,” he mewed.
“You just think it’s fitting because you like me? Or is it that I fit the name Bianca?” Bianca enquired, stroking Duke’s paw in that seductive way she had. Duke realised she was playing with him and that he was beginning to sound stupid.
“I’m sorry,” he mewed, covering his mouth with his paw, as if this would stem the flow of words. Bianca kissed the paw covering his mouth, Duke gulping hard.
“Don’t, don’t!” He whimpered, “It’s too, too much, too much for me! I want to be with you, but you wouldn’t want a tiger that was as bowled over by you as I am. I must sound so stupid to you, gabbling at you about you being beautiful. I’m sorry Bianca.” Bianca smiled, taking hold of the paw covering duke’s mouth and holding it in hers.
“You are handsome duke, if a little silly sometimes,” Bianca purred. Duke didn’t mind hearing Bianca’s honest opinion about him; he wanted to be with her always and forever.
“Bianca,” he mewed, “I, I want, want to stroke your fur, kiss your nose, tickle your belly and paws, and much more! I’m crazy about you, though I’ve hardly met you, I don’t know you well, but, but, oh dear, oh dear! I’m sounding silly again!”
“You can stroke my paws, tickle my belly and kiss my nose,” Bianca mewed, “I’d like that.”
Duke and Bianca’s peace was shattered by an angry snarl from the doorway. Duke looked up, and shrieked with fear!
Simba!” He screamed. The tiger, a huge
“So this is where you’ve got to!” The tiger roared, “nice place this! Now, now you’re going to die! I don’t like deserters! The circus is over, we were thrown out, but I want my tigresses and their cubs, I might be a tiger, but I want to be a lion, so I will act like I want to act! I want you dead duke!” Bianca turned fiercely on the newcomer, her fur on end and claws extended.
“Get out of here!” She snarled, “Leave, and do it now! You know nothing of our community, nothing of how we do things here. We will kill you if you don’t leave now!” The huge tiger looked with disgust at the young tigress.
“I could have you, have you for my mate,” Simba purred, seeming to soften his manner.
“He wants you to give birth to his cubs, don’t submit to him!” Duke screeched.
“He won’t get the chance to make her have his cubs!” Someone yelled. Bianca stared at Simba as the tiger collapsed onto the tiles, seemingly crushed beneath the falling weight of a huge white lioness! This lioness was huge, bigger than Hop along, and much larger than the largest tiger she’d ever seen!!
“Let him go!” Theo commanded.
“No Theo, I won’t,” Petra said softly, “I have been waiting for this tiger for so long, waiting to do to him what he’s been doing to so many of his kind! I will terrorise him, I will make him suffer through a hellish labour like his tigresses did, and he will want to die before I’ve finished with him!”
“This isn’t the
“No Theo my
dear sire, “
“No! No, no no!” Simba pleaded.
“You admit you
planned Bella’s death?”
“Oh, oh, oh no, this is worse!” He wailed, “Eohippus, its Eohippus! It’s my worst nightmare! You are my worst nightmare! Go away evil spirit!”
merciful to those who confess and repent of their crimes, but no mercy is due
to those who do not confess and repent.
You killed Bella and her unborn cub; you knew the results of your plan,
and of that tiger’s actions. You wanted
Bella dead because you couldn’t get at her cubs, which had done the same thing
as Rani and her cubs had done before, escaped from the circus and from your
tyranny. Now you will die, quickly, or
slowly, it’s up to you.” Simba shook
“I believe you could kill me,” he mewed, “but I will never surrender to you, evil fiend that you are!”
“I am only your
worst nightmare because you are an evil creature,”
“He never will,
he never will!
“How did this tiger get in here in the first place?” Theo asked, “I thought our patrols were better than that.”
“He tricked me,” Raja mewed, much ashamed, “he told me he was lost and frightened; it was only when he got into the house I realised he wasn’t what he said he was. Now I am feeling awful about letting him in! I’m sorry Theo!”
“You didn’t let
“You will die
like Bella died!”
“We will have no
drawing of lots to take the life of this tiger,” Theo mewed softly, “it is not
your duty to take the life of this tiger Rani.
“He forced himself upon me!” She snarled, “I want him to suffer for that!”
“Not like Bella, please!” He yelled, now begging for mercy.
“A minute of
“I hate you
all!” He yelled, “I want Rani back with
me, I want to kill duke because he is weak and unimportant!” At these words Bianca felt a rush of rage
that confirmed for her the love she felt for Duke. Screaming with rage, she flew at Simba tiger,
despite the fact
creature!” Bianca yelled, almost
frothing at the mouth with rage. Her paw
raked down Simba’s face, her claws gouging deep furrows in cheek and nose. Simba screeched like a cub, his pride wounded
more by Bianca than by anything
“I think it
would be right for Daisy and Duke to kill you!”
Bianca yelled, “But as the wrong has not just been done to them, or to
Rani as individuals, and Bella is no longer here to exact justice on you Simba,
I think it should be
“Wise and well thought words,” she said, “now, when shall we do this?” Simba wanted it over with, and tried to accelerate the process by attempting to bite Theo.
“We will have
“Blood for blood,” Theo mewed, understanding now.
“Bella’s spirit came back to exact her revenge on him!” Simba screamed.
tiger, she did!”
“he won’t harm you Duke,” Bianca said gently, “Petra’s got him now, she’s able to cope with him, I promise he won’t get anywhere near you or your sister.”
“I hope this will be the end of it,” Duke mewed, “I really hope this will be the end of my fear.”
“Fear no more duke my dear, for you are safe, I promise,” Theo said, slipping into the water and taking duke’s paw. Duke looked into the lion’s golden eyes.
“I don’t understand all you understand so well,” he mewed, “but I thank you and your community Theo.” Theo smiled at the white tiger.
“We are gentle,” Theo said, “but cross us, and we become dangerous. Protect your own family, even if they have only been part of it for three days.” Duke almost choked on his tears as Theo embraced him in a lion sized hug, a hug that was bigger than Theo’s stature, that seemed to embrace not only duke himself, but also Bianca, Petra, Rani, and everyone, right down to the smallest cub.”
“I love you duke,” Theo mewed softly. Duke cried into Theo’s mane, for noone before, apart from Daisy, had told him they loved him, and meant it as much as this lion did. Duke, usually ashamed of his tears, no longer felt ashamed of them. He felt sure Theo would understand.
“What happened to you was a terrible thing,” Theo mewed, “now though, you are here, safe and warm. I promise you duke.” Duke and Bianca stayed in the bathtub long after Theo and Raja had taken Simba away.
That night, at ,
Daisy and duke, along with Rani and her cubs, stood in the garden with
“I have asked Rani and her cubs to think of something to say, but they said they could only witness this and would say nothing, for they cannot express their anger, the same goes for Daisy and duke. Let’s get this over with.”
Fleur watched from her bathroom window, not comprehending what was going on. When she finally worked it out, she ran from the bathroom and out into the garden.
“It’s not right, not right!” Fleur yelled, “To take the life of another creature for no reason!”
“You don’t know
the reasons,” Theo mewed, “we kept them from the community; they need not know
why we do this. It’s not their fight,
not their battle. This is outside work
that has come in to us. It’s not of our
making, though because of who we love, we have to deal with it fleur. Please, let this go ahead, and
Simba’s body was buried in the wood in an unmarked
grave. Once this was done,
“Why am I
doing this!” Fleur thought. She looked at
“there’s more to this,” fleur said, hanging her head in shame and grief at what she had been so close to doing, “I’m sorry Petra!” Fleur sobbed.
“Was not what I
did as much an act of love in its own way as saving a life is?”
“Taking a life cannot be deemed an act of love,” fleur mewed, “its wrong! That’s why we deplore it!”
“Do you think I
wanted to take his life?”
“I don’t know, you did take it though, and you had time to think about it too, you could have spared Simba!” Fleur yelled.
“You did it, not out of spite, but out of love for those cubs and tigresses still here,” fleur sniffed, “to make sure they no longer had to fear the tyrannical rule of this tiger. It was the only way to stop him!”
“Come, let’s go inside the house,” she mewed, extending her right forepaw to fleur for her to take. Fleur shook her head.
“I can’t,” she
mewed, “I don’t deserve to hold your paw Petra Not, not after what I nearly did
to you. I am a cub in your presence
“I protect all
nightmare,” duke mewed, “you spoke to him in his dreams like you spoke to me
“I tried,” she mewed, looking down at her paws and beginning to cry, her fur wet with her tears.
“I didn’t want to end his life,” the white lioness wept.
want to accept your advice,” fleur mewed, “now he is dead, and it wasn’t your
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