Wednesday 5 November 2014
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An African Tale Chapter 2

So things continued at a slow pace. A few hardy people and animals had survived the great spinning cloud. They had to be hardy as there was nothing much left to survive on, a flat white pan with a few scrubby bushes and no visible signs of water. The animals that survived were very weary and kept well hidden. Because resources were scarce man learned not to be wasteful and took great care on how he utilised these. They found underground streams but were careful to use only what they needed to survive. They also learned to use the plants for medicine, food, and water. They were not wasteful with these plants either, never taking the whole plant so that it could continue to grow and be there next time it was needed.

Time passed and people formed themselves into groups, sharing their skills and resources. In each group there was usually one person who was better at finding water than the others. Because without water there was no survival, this person normally enjoyed a high status within the group. One such person was Ledimo. He was a young man, strong and handsome, and even as a young child had shown a great knack for finding underground streams. His father, Moaki, was a bit of a rogue and had recognised Ledimo’s skills early on, using them to get himself into a position of power. He pretended that it was he, Moaki, who was finding the water and not Ledimo, his son.

As Ledimo grew older he realised what was going on and started to become dissatisfied with his position as his father’s lackey; he wanted all the power for himself. There was at this time a very beautiful young girl by the name of Bontle, the daughter of a waterfinder from another group. Ledimo wanted Bontle to be his wife but he knew that unless he could prove he was the one finding the water and not his father, her father would not agree to the marriage. Ledimo’s mother had died when he was born and his father had not remarried. Now his father was talking of taking Bontle for his wife. This enraged Ledimo, who could not see how such a beautiful young girl could be wasted on a grumpy old man like his father. Although Ledimo was handsome and very charming he also had a dark side to his nature and could get angry and be rather nasty.

One day when Moaki and Ledimo were out finding water an argument developed between the two of them.

“You are becoming old,” said Ledimo. “It is time you retired and declared me as the finder of water so that I may marry Bontle.”

“Marry Bontle!” Moaki laughed. “You will never marry Bontle! She is to be my wife. I have already made the arrangements with her father and we are to be married at the next full moon.”

The thought of his father with Bontle sent Ledimo into a rage. He grabbed his hunting knife and stabbed him through the heart, killing him instantly. Ledimo sat there fuming, the body of his father lying in the sand. As his rage gradually subsided it was replaced by fear. He knew that he could not return to the village with his father’s body; everyone would see the stab wound and would know what had happened. The punishment for murder in the village was to be pinned down naked on a red ant nest and be left for the ants to eat all the flesh off you. Somehow this idea did not appeal to him.

Ledimo sat there all day trying to decide what to do. As the sun set the night sounds started up around him. In amongst those sounds came the eerie giggle and yelp of the hyena. Ledimo felt a shiver run through his body—not his favourite animal. He should get a fire going and wash the blood from his hands and knife. As he was doing this it suddenly came to him! The hyenas! They would destroy the evidence for him. He could hear them all around now and see their skulking silhouettes in the moonlight. They had obviously smelt the blood and were moving in. He moved away from the body onto a slightly raised area where he had a good view all around him and started a fire. It was full moon and Ledimo could see quite clearly. Slowly the hyenas moved in, circling the body, now not making a sound. Then one lunged forward, sinking its vise-like teeth into an arm. Tearing it from the body it ran off. Then a hysterical cackling started and they all rushed forward, tearing at the body. Fights broke out as they snatched bits from each other. Ledimo sat staring at the macabre scene, not moving. He should be pleased that his father was now gone but he felt only emptiness.

He did not sleep that night, fearing that if he did the hyenas would turn on him. They were known to take bites out of people as they slept in the open next to a fire.

The next day he found a thorn bush and ripped his clothes and skin, making himself bleed so that it looked as if he had been attacked by wild animals. He then ran back to the village and as he entered shouted wildly, running to the central meeting place where he collapsed in apparent exhaustion. Everyone crowded around. He told them that he and his father had stayed out late looking for water and had been attacked by hyenas. He had just managed to escape but was not sure what had happened to his father, as he could not find him in the morning. The men of the village grabbed their hunting knives and spears and ran off to see if they could find Moaki, leaving him to be cared for by the women. This cheered him up considerably and he had to concentrate hard on looking grief-stricken when the men returned late that day with a few bits of cloth and some bones. Ledimo had a sneaking suspicion that some of the elders were not convinced by his story but it was a difficult one to disprove.

An elaborate funeral was planned and held in his father’s honour. Once all the ceremonies were over the realization that they no longer had a waterfinder started to set in and the people of the village began to worry. They needed water to survive and their supplies were getting low. Ledimo didn’t want to come right out and announce that he was the real waterfinder; he was sure that this would make the elders very suspicious and that they would then look deeper into the causes of his father’s death. They were clever and had ways of drawing the truth out of people. Instead he went along to see them, suggesting politely that there was a possibility he could have inherited his father’s talents. He told them that he had learned a great deal from his father on their water-finding expeditions together and was willing to give it a try. While he was there he popped in the fact that he would very much like to marry Bontle. The elders gave it some thought and then said that they would give him a month to prove himself. If he were successful they would consider consulting with Bontle’s father to see if he would be willing to let Ledimo marry her. Ledimo walked away from the meeting a very happy young man; things were starting to happen exactly the way he wanted them to.

Needles to say in a month he proved that he was a waterfinder of note, far exceeding everyone’s expectations. The elders put aside their doubts, accepting him as the new waterfinder, and Bontle’s father was only too happy to hand his daughter over to Ledimo, knowing she would be well cared for.

To be continued………..

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