They awoke cold and cramped as light started to spread over the sky.
“The eggs are hatching,” said Lesedi as he rubbed his eyes.
“Yes,” said Lorato. “We had better get moving.”
Lorato went over and talked quietly to Mary and James. They were going to leave them there and if things went wrong Lorato would send them a signal and they should fly over the trees to fetch them. Mary and James looked down sadly and huddled closer together. They didn’t like it here and desperately wanted to go home. Lorato took a few supplies out of the cart. He had brought herbs and roots that could satisfy hunger and thirst for many days and were light to carry.
The sun was already getting very hot, the sand deep and difficult to move in, as they started their trek towards the trees and the narrow path through them. The more they moved into the trees the more Kgoa appeared. They swarmed around on the sides of the path, keeping to the shadows. They were flat and dark gray with two nippers that must be for blood sucking. The thought of it made Lesedi feel slightly ill and he was very careful to stick to the middle of the path, placing one foot carefully in front of the other. Kgatwe was fine. Having decided that staying small was definitely his best bet, he rode along happily in Lesedi’s pocket or on top of his head. He kept making dumb remarks about the ticks, presuming they wouldn’t bother him.
As the day wore on the sun and sand became hotter and hotter. Lesedi was starting to feel very tired and slightly irritable but there was no stopping on this path and defiantly no resting in the shade. Kgatwe was starting to annoy him with his continuous chatter.
“Shut up,” he snapped.
Kgatwe sulked for a while and then got bored. He started doing a little dance on Lesedi’s head and singing a song.
“Kgoa, Kgoa, you can’t get me,
I’m the king of the castle
And you’re the dirty rascals…”
Lesedi had had enough. Putting his hand on top of his head, he grabbed Kgatwe and flung him off to the side. Kgatwe landed in the middle of the Kgoa, who immediately swarmed all over him. Lesedi immediately regretted his action, feeling the panic rise up inside him. What should he do now? He shouted for Lorato but he was already around a corner and out of earshot. There was only one thing for it. He leapt off the safety of the sun-filled path and into the gloom of the trees where he frantically tried to push the Kgoa off Kgatwe. The Kgoa were delighted; this was going to be a much tastier meal. They latched onto Lesedi and started gorging themselves. They seemed to lose interest in Kgatwe, who now also became frantic trying to remove the ticks from Lesedi. Enlarging himself he tried to pull Lesedi back onto the sunlit path. Lesedi was becoming weaker and weaker. Things seemed faint and far away; everything was going misty in front of him. Through this mist he could see Kgatwe’s now large face. He seemed to be shouting something at him.
Concentrate…he must concentrate. It was becoming very difficult but somewhere at the back of his head he knew he must do it. He must find Ledimo. It was his only hope of survival. He felt himself being pulled along that long, dark tunnel with the strange light at the far end. Suddenly there was a flurry in the trees and a flock of little brown birds appeared. They had bright yellow and red bills and immediately started pulling the ticks off Lesedi. The kgoa that were not attached to Lesedi sensed that their archenemy, the ox pecker, was upon them and started moving off. Kgatwe managed to get Lesedi back onto the pathway and the birds swarmed all over him, pulling off every last tick and making short work of them.
Kgatwe and Lesedi were both lying there exhausted when Lorato came running up. Sensing that there was something amiss he had come back to check on them.
“What on earth…” came his shocked voice as he saw Lesedi lying there looking weak and exhausted. “What is going on here…? Why were you straying off the path?”
“It’s a long story,” said Kgatwe. Both he and Lesedi looked and felt very guilty, Kgatwe because he had been acting so annoyingly, Lesedi because he had allowed his temper to get the better of him.
Lorato knelt down beside Lesedi, looking into his eyes and feeling his pulse. He realised that he had lost a lot of blood and wouldn’t be able to move very far or fast in this state.
“You will have to carry him,” he said to Kgatwe, who nodded without any comment. He was now large enough to do this. Lorato helped Lesedi onto his back and strapped him down with some twine from his bag. Before setting off he made Lesedi drink some really awful stuff.
“This will put you to sleep and help your body make up the blood you have lost.”
It wasn’t very comfortable bumping along on Kgatwe’s back but Lesedi soon felt drowsy and slipped into an uneasy sleep. He dreamt a huge tick swallowed him whole and once inside its tummy he started to drown in a pool of blood.
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