Kgatwe, however, found this all very interesting and had hopped out of Lesedi’s pocket onto Lorato’s shoulder so that he could be closer to the old man.
“So what are these new creatures you were talking about?” he asked.
The old man didn’t even glance up. A talking gecko was obviously not something that bothered him.
“I think Bosula is happy with what has been created this time. There are huge nests of eggs in all the pans around The Hills and the Marabous have been given the task of watching over them.”
“What are they?” Kgatwe asked nervously.
Lesedi had the tea going and had found some marula jam and bread. He handed out the food while the old man continued.
“They are half human and half chameleon.”
There was silence, each one trying to imagine what a creature like this could look like.
“I do not know what they look like,” said the old man, reading their thoughts. “I think Bosula has put part of himself into these creatures. This will weaken his powers but if he creates a large enough army that is loyal to him it will not matter.”
“What needs to be done?” said Lorato, feeling a bit helpless.
“First you must get The Stone back. Now is probably the best time. His power is weakened and the creatures are not yet out of their shells. He must not be allowed to get his hands on the stone. Even though he cannot use it himself he will use it as a bargaining tool against you.”
Lesedi listened. The stone, what did the Mokaedi mean by “The Stone”? As far as he knew they were going to find a rather important ivory palm nut, not a stone; then he realised that whatever it was it was his fault that all this had happened and hung his head, looking into his mug.
“You are not responsible for evil, young man,” said the Mokaedi, reading Lesedi’s thoughts. “But because of your birthright you are needed to help create a balance between the forces of good and evil so that all is not lost.”
“We have difficult times ahead. I think we should try and get some sleep,” said Lorato, getting up. Kgatwe hopped back into Lesedi’s pocket and snuggled down. “We shall need your help with directions in the morning.”
The Mokaedi nodded. The sky had taken on a dull orange-red glow in the direction of The Hills and every now and again a green flame shot skywards.
“That’s Tsenwa’s blow pipe,” said the Mokaedi as they prepared to bed down for the night around the fire.
Lesedi shut his eyes and all he could see were donkeys’ ears and crocodiles’ tails falling all around him. He opened his eyes again and stared into the fire until he was too tired to keep them open any longer and fell into a disturbed sleep. He dreamt they were deep in The Hills in one of Bosula’s caves. He had Kgatwe on his shoulder and neither of them could see a thing. Suddenly there was a glow in front of them and they saw the ivory palm nut. Lesedi ran towards it with his hand outstretched. As he did so it turned into a stone, a stone that gave off light, amazing coloured light that seemed to flash and whirl up into the sky. Then he heard a strange hissing, cackling noise and the stone moved upwards and away from him. He stretched up trying to reach it and then pulled his hand back quickly. The stone was in the mouth of the snake and the snake was now above him and all around him. The noise he had heard was the snake laughing. It balanced the stone on its tongue and waved it to and fro in front of him. Lesedi tried to grab it again and the snake drew it back into its mouth and swallowed it. They could see the rays of the stone penetrating the snake’s skin, and then a very strange thing happened. The snake split open the length of its body and seemed to turn inside out. It was now luminous green. It wrapped its tail around Lesedi’s legs and started to encircle him. At this point Kgatwe leapt off Lesedi’s shoulder and into the snake’s wide open laughing mouth. Lesedi screamed, trying to grab at the gecko. He felt the snake’s fangs close on his hand. He opened his eyes. Kgatwe was biting his finger. He had the gecko clutched firmly in his hand, causing him some discomfort.
“Let go!” shouted Kgatwe between bites.
“I was just trying to save you,” said Lesedi, loosening his grip.
“From what?” said Kgatwe, taking a deep breath.
“The snake? No snakes here. You weren’t doing a bad python impression, though.”
Lesedi rubbed his eyes and looked around. They weren’t in the cave; they were next to the Mokaedi’s fire, and dawn was breaking. It was a strange dawn, purplish orange and green with a murky feel about it. Not at all like the crisp, clear mornings at home where he would leap out of bed with a million fun things to look forward to. As he looked up into the sky the Marabous flew over, circled a few times, and then flew off again. “Just keeping an eye,” said the Mokaedi.
They had some tea and bread and then Lorato started preparing the cart. Mary and James had been fed and watered and were waiting patiently to be harnessed. They didn’t seem too perturbed by all this murk and gloom. When all was ready they sat down to listen to the Mokaedi.
“Do not use the powers of the cart,” he said. “Go at normal pace as if you were just an old farmer out with his grandson. You will be noticed the minute you do anything out of the ordinary. Follow the north road and you will find a band of mopane trees that will give you cover, but be very careful in these trees.” The Mokaedi paused.
“Why?” demanded Kgatwe, now out of Lesedi’s pocket and on top of his head.
“There are Kgoa in these trees that are capable of sucking all the blood out of the donkeys.”
“Then why are we going there? What are Kgoa?” babbled Kgatwe.
“Quiet and stop interrupting!” snapped Lorato. He wanted to get on with this business now.
“These Kgoa are tick-like creatures that are found in huge numbers in the trees. They are quite capable of sucking all the blood out of a cow in a couple of hours.”
Lesedi shuddered. He knew what ticks were. He had had to pull a few off himself from time to time but he had never heard of them sucking all the blood out of something.
“The one thing about these ticks is that they will not come out into the light, so if you stay on the road that runs through the trees you will be safe. Do not spend the night there.”
Lorato looked at the sun. Time was passing. They must get going if they wanted to be through the trees by nightfall.
“On the way to the mopane trees you will pass the pans where the eggs are. I would predict that the creatures will hatch in the next few days, so if you can be in and out before this happens it will make things a lot easier. When you come out of the trees you will be able to see the northern entrance to the caves. This is not used much so might be easier to access. There is an open stretch between the trees and The Hills and I would suggest that you cross this at night. Legodu lives high up in the rocks at the top of The Hills and has very good eyesight so you must be wary. The child will know if he is near.”
Lesedi looked at his grandfather. How would he know? He was beginning to realise that he could sense things. He didn’t like it very much because all he could feel now was evil and a heaviness that dragged him down.
“There is one other thing you must know,” said the old man as they prepared to board the cart. “The open area between the trees and The Hills is the home of the Gorf.”
“Gorf?!” exclaimed Lesedi and Kgatwe together. They had never heard of such creatures. What were they going to be up against now?
“Gorfs,” explained the Mokaedi, “are large, very ugly toad-like creatures that live deep underground. They come out when they feel vibrations above them, so you will need to go softly. They are more of a nuisance factor than anything else, big and brawny without too many brains. One can normally scare them off with simple tricks.”
Lorato thanked the Mokaedi and they set off towards the north, going slowly as advised. Kgatwe burrowed down into Lesedi’s pocket, not too happy about this last bit of information. Toads were rather fond of eating geckos and he wasn’t sure he could convince them otherwise no matter how stupid they were.
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