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The Royal Hunt

By lackingwit

Adventure / Drama

The Royal Hunt

This is two or three years before Jasmine met Aladdin.

:: ::

Jasmine adjusted the bow and quiver on her back, pushing back a curl that had escaped from the tightly braided bun at the base of her neck. "Razoul," she called, hearing the agonized chuff to resound to the air. Her brown eyes narrowed slightly at the sound of the tiger. The black charcoal around her eyes darkened her wary expression. She nodded at the guard who always looked so terribly angry, motioning him to go before her in the direction of the unhealthy sound. The guard glared at her, as if she were insane, but the Princess Jasmine glared back, the fierce look in her eyes made the rather cowardice guard race forward.

There was nothing to hide behind in the acrid desert, but stealth wouldn't hurt anyone anyway. They were hunting, after all. Jasmine almost loosed an arrow at the guard for his lack of seclusion. Docility was expected of her, as a princess—as the Princess—but the desert was no place for docility. If the animal was scared off, she might not be able to help it yet. Jasmine bit the inside of her bottom lip to keep from chastising him. The man had been part of the royal guard since before her mother died, since before she had even been born, and yet he couldn't figure out what to do in the middle of a princess-led Royal Hunt.

The quiver on her back jostled, and Jasmine winced, fearing scaring the animal. She shuffled forward, pulling the bow from her back, trying her hardest to make no noise. She eyed the rest of the guard, pleased when they followed suit and became as silent as a midnight wind. Razoul beckoned them forward, and Jasmine shuffled her sandy pointed shoes on closer, until she could see the animal that made the pained chuffing sound. It was a large orange animal with a bloody white underbelly, stripped with black. Jasmine stifled a gasp. The poor animal was so bloody she could hardly tell there was white on it. It looked akin to a giant cat. It looked too sick to fight. Its neck looked the cause of its blood.

Jasmine swallowed. She'd never seen so much blood, and she'd manned the last ten semi-annual Royal Hunts, since she was nine. Royal hunts provided half of the food in the Palace; they ate well because they hunted for their foods. Meerkats and jackrabbits didn't offer themselves up at the door. None of those hunted animals had bled as much as this new one did; Jasmine had forced the bloodthirsty brutes of the Sovereign Watch to make the animals' deaths as quick and painless as possible. A quick arrow to the eye, a fatal blow to the jugular. Death in the quickest, bloodless ways.

But this... This was horrible.

The princess lowered her armed bow. Her lips formed a soundless no. This animal could not go like this. No. She raced forward, her feet digging the sand up as she ran to the poor tortured cat. The animal chuffed in warning. It bared its killer jaws. The warning was useless; Jasmine walked forward, raising her arms above her head in surrender. She wasn't sure it worked, or if it made her look more of a threat. Either way, the animal resigned itself to death; it dropped its head and let a little chuff roll through its chest.

It broke Jasmine's heart. "Oh," she said softly, pulling her armor off and dropping her weapon. Her breastplate dropped with a dulled thud that made the animal wince and curl in response. She winced herself, a heartbroken sob falling through her little pert lips. She crawled closer, and the animal chuffed and imitated a growl, but then tossed his head back down on the sand.

Razoul grabbed the princess's shoulder. "No, princess," he demanded, in his unwaveringly rude voice.

Jasmine's eyes turned from chocolate to stone as she looked at the guard. "Oh, shush," she ordered. She climbed closer to the animal, which had long since given up on any hope of protecting itself. There was an arrow protruding from its neck, and another from its chest, right where she guessed its heart should be. Who would leave this animal on its own like this after having shot it? Who would shoot it into this much pain in the first place? It was horrible. Jasmine ripped off a piece of cloth from the layers that currently covered her. She didn't know how to take care of this type of animal, but, damn it, she would try. She couldn't decide which wound was more dangerous. "Anis," Jasmine called to the older guard that was the closest to her. "I want you to pull the arrow in his heart as fast and as painlessly as possible when I tell you to. Okay?"

Jasmine bunched up the long stretch of cloth she'd torn and ordered the removal of the arrow. The huge cat huffed and made a sound resembling an angry purr, then curled itself inward, making reaching the arrow harder. That was the most it did. The princess's heart ached at the resignation in the animal's gold eyes. "I'm sorry," she begged forgiveness. The bunched cloth bled through with red. It didn't seem to slow the running stream of blood. Tears stung at the back of her eyes. "I'm so sorry. I know it hurts, I know."

The animal chuffed. A tear ran down the tan of her cheek. The sound was so painful; Jasmine couldn't bear it.

"Someone, please," the princess desperately said, looked around the hunting party, "get help."

Anis, the older guard with graying hair, looked up at his young princess with a desperate look matching hers. This girl was heartbroken at the sight, and he felt his own heart responding, aching for the animal. Pity was contagious. "This animal is not from here," he told her. "It is a tiger. No one in all of Arabia would know how to treat it."

Jasmine looked at the man who had been the closest thing to a friend she'd ever had. She knew he was right. Still her eyes glistened with tears. "Please," she begged him. Her eyes darted back to the bleeding wound. She pressed harder onto the wound.

"This is just an animal," the heartless Razoul huffed. "The Sultan will get you a new one if you want it so desperately."

"Razoul!" Anis snapped at him, looking over to the poor fourteen-year-old. A black curl escaped the back of her ear, sticking to the sweat on her forehead. Her brown eyes were glazed with tears. The older general struck sense into the stubborn, idiotic solider.

Another tear slid from Jasmine's eyes. "She can't die," she sobbed, looking at the dying light in the tiger's eyes. Something told her the animal was female, something about the way she curled inward, as if protecting something. One of Jasmine's eyes twitched. Her lip quivered. "Anis, check if she's protecting something," she ordered. Her voice ached with the uncontainable sadness of an oncoming sob. She eyed the tigress as life drained away from the animal's eyes.

Something mewled. Anis gently unraveled the dead animal. Curled within the protective shield of the tiger's body was a cub, mewling and chuffing, its soft fur the brightest orange. Its eyes were still closed. Anis lifted the unknowing thing from its dead mother, presenting it to the princess.

Jasmine pulled away her hands, releasing the pressure from the gaping wound of the dead animal's body. Her hands were bloody, the clustered cloth having not held. She reached for the little animal, noticing briefly that it was a boy. And that he was thin, incredibly, unhealthily thin. His ribs were visible. She pressed him to her chest, holding the cub like a baby. His eyes fluttered open and he mewled again. He had the same golden eyes whose light had just gone out. Her handprints were stained red on his orange skin. And still he looked optimistic and gleeful, unknowing of what had just happened to his mother, probably having not even seen his mother at all, now having the face of the princess before even his mother's.

Jasmine rubbed the cub's head, leaving a bloodied print. It playfully mewled and pawed at her hand. Despite the horror of trying to save the cub's mother, it made her giggle. "Rajah," she said, feeling the soft paw as it landed on her forearm. Yes, that would be his name. Rajah. He would be her little prince, just as he would have been his mother's.

"Is that his name, Your Highness?" one of the guards asked.

Jasmine swallowed. She petted the dead tiger's forehead, then Rajah's. "Yes. This is Rajah." She stood, looking down at the majestic animal she'd tried to save. In death it looked beautiful, in a morbid, twisted way. "Let's take his mother home."

Another guard in the back whooped. "This 'ne will feed the Palace and Agrabah for months!"

Jasmine's heart ached at the thought of this animal being eaten. It would be cruel to eat this animal that she'd tried so desperately to save. But people were starving in the city. There were always people starving in the city, no matter how much help was given. Because regardless, people were people and people stole and were selfish. Those who had were greedy; those who didn't were giving. She kneeled down to ghost her fingers over the forehead of the fallen animal. She held back a sob, but nodded. At least this death would help some people.

The princess walked over to where she'd dropped her weapons and donned them, maneuvering her arms as to not put down Rajah. The tiger cub mewled playfully. She turned away when the members of the Hunt started packing the bloody mother tigress to cut and separate later. She hugged Raja to herself and started to walk away in the direction of the Palace, visible in the distance because of its size.

:: ::

I've been reading a lot of Disney fanfiction nowadays. This is the product of that.

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