The tigress and the Maharaja

The tigress and the Maharaja

Tigress Rani

In the outskirts of the hot and humid plains of central India, in a forest named Kuna, lived a handsome tigress, Rani. She was born in this forest and came from a family of royal tigers. Rani had gained fame among the hunters for her lustrous coat. There was a special quality about it. It shimmered in the sunlight and glowed warmly when the moon appeared bright in the night sky. It was the smoothest of velvet and the dark stripes stood out against a rich orange skin. A hunter's fame would reach far and wide if he possessed it; it would be the pride of all his collection and he would be the envy of the hunting community for generations to come.

The news of Rani's lustrous coat had reached far and wide in the hunting community and many a hunter had tried to track her down, but she was far too clever for them. It also fell upon the ears of the Maharaja of Kunapur. Ever since the Maharaja heard about this beautiful tigress, he had not slept a single night without dreaming of her. He knew that if he could add her lustrous tiger skin to his collection, which was already impressive, no king or prince would ever dare to doubt his hunting skills or his bravery.

One day, the minister approached the Maharaja with some news on the tigress, which was passed on to him by some villagers. He said, "Rani has been seen near the ruins of the old fortress; she has a litter of cubs. It might be a good idea to capture her now because…"

"Because she would go to any extent to protect her cubs," completed the Maharaja, nodding his head slowly.

The Maharaja offered a handsome reward to the villagers who had brought him the good news and began to make elaborate plans and preparations for capturing the tigress. The rifles were polished till they glimmered and squeaked, the elephants and the hunting dogs were lined up, and the fittest were selected, the list of the hunting party and the drum beaters were drawn. The Maharaja also consulted with astrologers who drew detailed charts and made complex calculations to get a favorable date for the hunt.
All was set. On the night before the hunt, the Maharaja could barely sleep and when he did, he dreamt of Rani - her stuffed body, the star attraction in his beautiful palace, and his fame and stories of bravery flung far and wide.  
At the crack of dawn, the Maharaja sprang out of bed, ready for the surprises and the rewards the day would bring him.
By late afternoon, Rani watched over her cubs as they slept peacefully in a cleverly concealed nook of the ruined old fortress. A little later, she would have to go to the nearby river to drink water and hunt for some game before the cubs got hungry again.
Suddenly, birds fluttered, deer darted nervously into bushes and monkeys let out a shrill cry that echoed in the forest. Rani pricked her ears and slowly but surely, she could hear the dreaded drums of the hunter. She stood up and paced nervously near her cubs, who were still undisturbed by the commotion and the intruders in the forest.

The beat of the drums grew louder and louder, until it reached a deafening pitch. When the hunting party had almost surrounded the old fortress, Rani let out a mighty roar, and four other tigers sprang up from nowhere, roaring along with her. This surprised the hunting party, which began to run helter-skelter in fear, while the terrified elephant swerved. The Maharaja fell down, just as his rifle slid away. He was armless now.

Rani stood on the rock above him. She was indeed the most magnificent creature he had ever set eyes upon -- savage, noble and fearful.

Her eyes shone like bright coal embers and her coat glistened in the evening sunlight. She could have easily pounced on him and killed him in an instant. Instead, she pierced him with a chilling stare. And suddenly, just like that Rani turned and vanished into the ruins of the fortress and to her yelping cubs. 

The Maharaja was shivering uncontrollably; his minister was at his side, trying to get him onto the elephant quickly, which had calmed down a little bit. The hunting party lay defeated.

For years to come, the Maharaja wondered why Rani had spared him. Was it because her cubs were calling her? Or was it because she could now haunt him for the rest of his life with her chilling stare? The Maharaja would never know. But one thing was certain, his respect for her grew with each passing day, and he would never allow anyone to hunt in the jungles of Kuna again.

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