Date: 2nd October 2020, Posted by mollie
“Are you trying to kill her?” Tariq na Hassir, the formidable ruler of the Kingdom of Avana, seized the animal handler’s arm, forcing him to release the rope laced around the baby giraﬀe’s neck.
“She has suﬀered enough trauma.” Tariq dismissed the man with a fierce scowl that struck fear into enemies.
A slither of panic crept into the young man’s hushed apology. “I am sorry your Excellency.”
“Release the others from their cages,” Tariq growled.
The man did not have to be asked twice. He knew from experience that the Sheikh’s retribution for disobedience would be swift and merciless.
“You are safe from harm,” Tariq said softly, stroking the baby giraﬀe’s long neck with a gentleness that belied his strength.
“No one will ever hurt you again, Noor,” he said softly, impulsively naming her as his fingertips swept through the calf’s fur. He let his long supple fingers linger a moment upon her tail. Thankfully they had saved her in time, he thought as he reached for the reins, clenching his powerful hands around the soft leather.
The rage he had first felt on hearing about the ruthless murder of the new born’s mother still roared through him. Had she been executed to pay a tail dowry to the father of some money-mongering bride, he wondered? Or did some heinous person pay thousands of dollars for a wretched fly swatter?
Noor looked up and met Tariq’s dark gaze. In her innocent eyes, he saw her despair, her disillusionment, her disgust with humanity. He recognised her trauma as though it was his own. Because it was.
“Humans,” he said, his voice marinated with contempt. “The people you should be able to trust, the people who say they care, the people whose actions should be driven by love—the majority are driven by nothing but selfishness, deception, and lies.”
Taking a bottle of milk, Tariq placed the teat to Noor’s lips. The calf ’s silky black lashes grazed her cheeks as she gazed down at the foreign object then looked back at Tariq. She stared silently up at him, her eyes moist and bewildered.
Tariq had trained himself to shut down his emotions but that skill suddenly failed him. His chest trembled with suppressed rage knowing the orphaned baby would never again taste her mother’s milk.
“What passes for love among some people is abhorrent,” he said in a low, strained voice. “On behalf of humanity, I apologise.”
The killing of the calf ’s mother and three other rare Kordofan giraﬀes by trophy hunters seeking their tails further motivated the Sheikh’s commitment to transform his anger into action.
“Do you really think you can save her?”
Tariq looked at Anwar, his younger brother by 11 months. His head was slightly bowed but he could see his eyes were fixed in sadness and longing.
Tension ripped down Tariq’s spine. “Our father’s reign of terror and tyranny have robbed Avana of prosperity and peace. I will make it my personal mission to right the injustices of the past. War and hostility must end. And it starts with how we treat those most vulnerable.”
His fingers shook as he gripped the bottle of milk as Noor, at last, began to suckle.
An eerie silence swept across the precipitous landscape of Avana’s Tiwa oasis. Tariq lifted his gaze to the horizon. The only movement visible to his naked eye was the wind etching a delicate furrow as it crawled over the golden dunes.
“Not only will I provide a sanctuary for hunted wildlife and orphans like Noor, but I will liberate God’s most precious creatures from the many closing zoos and other inhumane habitats around the world,” he said as he glanced over at the other animals being unloaded from the custom-built crates.
“I will create a world-acclaimed sanctuary, impenetrable by those with impure and malicious hearts. It will be the most magical, marvellous, mesmerisingly unique place, the number one eco-tourism destination in the world. I will create meaningful employment for our people, restoring their dignity, attracting millions of visitors annually and contributing billions to the economy. But more importantly, I will show the world how kindness and compassion can be turned into plutonium and change the world.”
Anwar glanced at the now lush landscape and recalled how barren it had once been. With no sign of life in sight, others had found it impossible to fathom his brother’s vision to transform the punishing and unforgiving conditions into a haven for so many endangered species. Yet, as with everything Tariq turned his formidable will and mind-blowing wealth to, he had succeeded where mere mortals were destined to fail.
Anwar’s heart swelled with pride as he thought of all his brother’s achievements. “It’s an audacious and admirable plan. And if anyone can pull it oﬀ it’s you, brother. Your passion, your drive, your unrelenting ambition and pursuit of goals exceeds mere mortals. And you have the endurance and power of 13,000 Arabian horses, but aren’t you setting yourself up for too much hard work? Why don’t you relax? Kick back. Enjoy the fruits of your reign?” Anwar said, tossing his head in the direction of the harem. “Other men would.”
“Women were our father’s weakness,” bitterness bled from Tariq’s words. “I too once made the same mistake. I too paid the price.”
There was a tense silence while Tariq lifted his gaze to the sky and studied the giant falcon circling above.
“Was it not you who once taught that your greatest weakness can also be your greatest strength?” Anwar asked.
Tariq shook his head, biting down a terse retort. “I was misled,” he said. He nodded his command to the animal handler lingering at a respectful distance and petted Noor as she was led away.
“All kinds of atrocities are committed in the name of love, which is why it is the most dangerous of emotions, and why I am forever turned oﬀ to women.”
Claimed by The Sheikh
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