Have you ever had the feeling that your life would end at an early age?
If you did; would you live your life to the fullest, making every moment count?
What if you were convinced that your death would be at the mouth of a lion?
Would you run or would you accept your fate?
Raja, the puggle of the house, is about to embark on his first family holiday. The destination has regrettably been confirmed as a national park. The recurring fear of his untimely death haunted his dreams and appeared to be coming true.
A freak accident leaves Raja stranded in this hostile environment where he miraculously befriends the likes of an elephant, wild dog and amazingly, a lion. Together, this unlikely group of animals confront internal demons as they stumble upon conspiracies of the power hungry and a threat promising to unleash chaos on all.
Are you ready to join Raja and brave the national park?
Here’s a book extract
Dhinoo stepped slowly out of his family shelter, tilting his head as a slight breeze caused the leafy wreath around his neck to rustle. The wreath had been given to him by his niece, Josie, the day before, for good luck.
He looked back at the shelter and then at the surrounding bush. The spacious abode had been in his family for over five generations and he clearly remembered his younger years here. Growing up with his four siblings; the mischief caused by his younger brother, Semo… and, of course, the birth of his children.
I’ve been truly blessed, thought Dhinoo. He slowly scanned the front of his home as the breeze strengthened and brushed up the large horn dominating his face, telling him it would be a cold winter. Dhinoo closed his eyes, remembering the green fields of spring and the warmth of the African sun on his body. The thought now of hiking the generally flat lands of the park and spending more time with his family filled his rhino heart with great joy.
Yes, it’s been a long, but fulfilling, life. He snorted.
Dhinoo had spent many years building up an area that was not only suitable for his children to live in, but that was worthy of all of nature’s children. He would leave a legacy worthy of any tribe.
Life is still far from over. He chuckled softly to himself. The thought of spending precious time with his children and the soon-to-be first grandchild added further excitement. This would be his last walk out into the park alone. He had represented and led the animals of the region known as Umzantsi for many years. They had been aware of Dhinoo’s strong moral and ethical strength, and had been happy to allow him to be the youngest member of council. The politics of the other animals had always been vigorous, but he had learnt to build his voice and stand for the truth and the best interests of his fellow animals. The fire in him still burnt strongly, and he knew that he would always stand up for those weaker than himself. The rhinos were a proud breed that took their duties very seriously.
Dhinoo understood this, and so did the rest of the park. The rhino clan in Umzantsi, and the rest of the park, had always been known as the enforcers of justice, their decisions based upon a deep introspection that resulted in a firm judgment that was rarely, if ever, altered. Dhinoo was a true embodiment of the ideals of the rhino heritage.
His father’s words echoed through his mind.
Your life should always be a reflection of the ideals of the rhino clan. Your legacy should be that of truth, justice and honour. There are many animals in this park that cannot stand for themselves, but there are also those that will take advantage of any weakness. We live in a very competitive and destructive environment, but we survive; the strongest, the weakest, those in the middle and those who just don’t know where they belong. The founding fathers of the rhino clan have played a crucial role in defining this environment where we can all co-exist, and it should always be defended from all forms of arrogance, tyranny and extreme ambition. The rhino life should be the embodiment of this promise.
Dhinoo had adopted these ideals and applied them during the formation of the council, the highest governing body of this park. He would continue to do so as long as he lived. He had fought for the Umzantsi region and ensured its continued prosperity; he had ensured that all voices were heard. But he had also realised that, with the growth of the park, many more animals had come to co-exist here, and this had brought about much complexity. The governing structure as set out by the founding members needed revision and this idea of change had not been taken well by the rest of the council members.
Dhinoo slowly opened his eyes, and lumbered to his feet as his aching joints screamed with pain. It was time to start his journey to the third council meeting of the year. The council meeting always rotated through the different regions of the park, and today’s was in Umzantsi, Dhinoo’s region. The journey would not be tiring, but the thought of the discussions that lay ahead added weight to his already sagging shoulders.
“Research suggests that excessive and continuous stress materialises as bodily ailments.”
Dhinoo grinned at the extremely short and plump giraffe. Busi’s appearance always startled him, as he knew giraffes were supposed to be tall and lean. She was much younger than him, but he was sure her soul was older than his own; Busi was a free-spirited animal with a perspective of the environment that was truly beyond her years. Somehow, the uniqueness of the giraffes always caused discomfort with the other animals and Busi was very aware of this; she would often provoke debate just to make a point.
“And will continuous and excessive joy cause my horn to grow?” Dhinoo responded dryly.
Busi’s long eyelashes closed over her large eyes as she burst out laughing, her short horns twitching. “You should not make jokes like that at your age. On a more serious note, however, I thought I would just wish you luck with the council meeting. I know you have been taking strain, but just remember that, whichever way the discussions go, the animals of Umzantsi and the park will always respect the outcome. You only have two more council meetings to attend before retiring and should not kill yourself with stress before that!” she scolded.
Dhinoo always enjoyed listening to Busi. Her calming approach was extremely contagious. He was glad that she had stopped for the quick chat.
“Don’t you worry yourself, B; I plan on living until the next Ice Age! Thank you for those words, though. Let me be on my way now. I would like to be back early, as I’ve got some humans to entertain tomorrow.”
With a delicate incline of her neck, Busi trotted away and Dhinoo continued his journey in the opposite direction, through the dark bushes of the park.
At the far end of Umzantsi lay the council meeting venue; a circular flat piece of land, with five large elongated oval rocks lying flat on the barren ground. Each rock represented a council member, one of the Big Five, namely the lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. The largest rock, the base rock, was maintained for the chairperson of the council. From high up, it would be possible to see that the rocks had been carefully arranged to form the shape of a pentagon. Those animals who had noticed the unusual shape did not know the reason for it, or that the pentagon was present at the other four council venues across the land. Dhinoo had always been awed by the rationale of the shape and would take any opportunity to explain, but today, his mind was focussed on the discussions to follow.
As Dhinoo approached the outer edge of the circle, he saw that he was not the first member to arrive; Lenoh, a lion from the Umntla region, was lying patiently in front of the rock marked for the rhino clan member. Dhinoo shook his large head in irritation. He had purposely arrived early so as to meditate and gather his thoughts before the meeting.
Lenoh raised his untidy, shaggy head and smirked at the old rhino’s displeasure.
“Welcome, fellow council member,” he sneered sarcastically. “I welcome you to your own venue.”
Dhinoo forced a grimacing smile to his face.
“A warm welcome to you too, Lenoh. I see you have made yourself at home already. Do you plan on attempting similar tactics to get the council’s vote?”
Lenoh sprang to his feet, his muscles rippling.
“Don’t you dare attempt your law enforcement bullshit with me! I am a council member, and I am not a subordinate to you! Why, I could easily rip-”
“Watch your words, council member!” a loud voice trumpeted from behind them.
Lenoh and Dhinoo spun around to face Hhati, the wise and powerful elephant, the chairman of the council, who came from the Empuma region.
“What are you trying to show us, Lenoh? Remember that, as a council member, you have a duty to set an example!”
Lenoh narrowed his eyes to a thin yellow glint, then slowly moved towards the lion clan rock. “I understand my duty, Hhati, but, as a lion, you should know that I can be overly expressive of my emotions. No harm was intended.”
“That is understandable, but you must learn self-control in these instances, as we do not want our decisions to be purely based upon emotion. We must learn-”
Hhati’s lecture was cut short by the sudden shrill scream in the distance. This was no ordinary scream, nor was it unfamiliar. Dhinoo, Lenoh and Hhati froze momentarily as they recognised the buffalo council member, Bheki, from the Entshona region. Who would attack a council member?
Dhinoo was the first to regain his composure and he lumbered in the direction of that terrifying scream. Lenoh and Hhati followed, then ran ahead as Dhinoo’s old body cried for him to slow down. But his need to help his friend pushed him on, even harder. As the three members got close, Arya, the leopard council member of the Phandle region, rushed out of the low bush.
“Come, help! Quickly! Bheki has got his leg caught in one of those damn human hunting traps! He appears to have hurt himself quite badly. He’s just over this hill! Follow me!”
In a split second, Arya twisted her lithe body and was a blur of spots as she darted over the hill, with Lenoh and Hhati not too far behind. Dhinoo could feel his body giving up, and he slowed down to catch his breath.
“Carry on…” he wheezed. “I… I… I’ll catch up.”
Arya, Lenoh and Hhati reached Bheki, who was sprawled on the ground, his left leg severely caught in the trap. There was a pool of blood seeping into the dust. “Not… bad… can’t… believe… stop… why,” Bheki mumbled, only semi-conscious.
“Shhh… save your energy, Bheki. You are going to be fine. We are-”
For the second time, Hhati’s sentence was cut short as another blood-curdling scream echoed down into the valley. It came from the other side of the hill they had just climbed! All those who heard it broke into a sweat, shock on everyone’s faces.
They all knew the voice, but could not believe it.
It was Dhinoo, without a doubt!