They were halfway there when there was an enormous explosion. Everyone jumped, including the donkeys, and they had to hang on tight as the cart swerved and nearly tipped over. They looked back and saw a huge blue flame come bursting out of the hole they had just left and with it hundreds of scorpion bodies.
“I think Bosula is a little angry,” commented Kgatwe, popping his head out of Lesedi’s pocket.
“Snake!” wailed Lesedi, tears now pouring down his face. He couldn’t bear to think of his friend lying out there all bits and pieces.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” comforted Lorato. “I didn’t see it come flying out. Go!” he shouted at the donkeys. “I don’t feel like doing battle with all the other creatures he has on call!” Lesedi couldn’t see how Lorato could know for sure that the snake hadn’t suffered the same fate as the scorpions but he tried to believe him and not give up hope that he would see his friend again.
They were nearing the mophanes. Lorato knew that after that they would have to be careful as there might be people around and he didn’t want to come crashing down and damage the cart. They still had a way to go and he wasn’t sure how far Bosula would send his corn cricket army or his chameleon men after them.
Soon they were over the mophanes and feeling a lot better that they had made it this far without incident. The dawn was starting to break, with the sun not as yet making its appearance. Suddenly they saw them! A seething mass of chameleon-like creatures and they were all around the mophanes. Lorato pulled the cart up, hovering. He didn’t want to go over them. He wasn’t sure how their human side would affect the cart. What to do? They couldn’t hover here all day or something else would arrive to pick them off.
“What to do now?” he muttered to himself.
“There’s only a few over there,” said Lesedi, pointing in the direction of the Delta, “and that’s the way we need to go.”
“Okay. Let’s do it!” said Lorato, shaking the reins and aiming the cart. “We don’t have much option!”
As they got to the edge of the mophanes the seething mass moved across and spread out in front of them. It was too late to turn back now and Lorato kept going, bringing the cart down low so that if they did fall it wouldn’t be too far. And whap! Down they went straight into the middle of the chameleon creatures. Well, now they knew there was definitely some human in them, not that that knowledge would help any in their present situation. They plowed through the creatures, Lesedi with his eyes closed tight and Kgatwe tucked well down in his pocket.
Lorato was the only one watching and he suddenly exclaimed, “They’re still babies!”
Lesedi opened his eyes and Kgatwe popped his head out. True enough. The creatures were no bigger than a two-year-old human and the cart was plowing through them, scattering them in all directions. Some of them were trying to grab onto the donkeys as they went past and then a couple of them managed to get into the cart. They bit and scratched and were extremely fierce for their size. Lorato and Lesedi grabbed at them and threw them off but more kept coming. Just as they thought they were losing the battle a shadow passed overhead and the creatures froze like statues, not moving a muscle! Lesedi tipped them off with ease and the cart drove over the ones in front without a problem. It was an eerie sight with all these weird little creatures completely motionless with one strange eye staring up at the sky.
Then they were away from them, the cart speeding through the sand and bush unhindered. Nobody said a word and the donkeys didn’t stop going until they reached the hut of the Mokaedi, where they pulled up, all of them totally exhausted. Lesedi was the first to speak.
“Why did they do that? Go all frozen?”
“Didn’t you see Legodu?” replied Lorato. “He’s a raptor and the chameleon instinct is to stay as still as possible in the presence of such creatures in the hope that they won’t be seen and turned into a meal.”
“Wouldn’t they be a bit large for him, especially as they get older?” asked Kgatwe.
“I’m sure they would but the instinct is still there. Tsenwa will have to do a bit of modifying if they want these creatures to be effective.”
“I wonder why Legodu didn’t come after us,” said Lesedi.
“Probably went back to report to Bosula,” said Lorato, getting out of the truck.
“We’ll be safe here. Bosula doesn’t have much influence over the Mokaedi.”
The Mokaedi was sitting exactly where they had left him, the fire still burning. Lorato walked quietly over and sat down next to him, nodding a greeting but not saying anything. Lesedi ran over desperately wanting to blurt out all their adventures but as he got next to the Mokaedi he suddenly felt incredibly tired. He sat down quietly, another sensation coming over him. He knew that the Mokaedi knew exactly what had happened to them. There was no need to tell him.
“So you have the stone,” the Mokaedi stated. “This is good but Bosula will come looking for it. You must return and ready yourselves.”
Lorato nodded. The Mokaedi had made tea for them. Lesedi took his mug gratefully and as he drank he felt his strength returning.
“You will sleep now,” said the Mokaedi, “and in the morning you must be gone at first light. The sooner you are home the better.”
Lesedi lay down next to the fire, and Kgatwe stayed curled up in his pocket, not wishing to expose himself in this strange place, and fell asleep immediately. That night he dreamt of home, sitting in his mokoro with the cool, clear water of the Delta running underneath him. Suddenly, without warning, all the water was gone and his mokoro hit the bottom of the riverbed with a thunk. There were fish all around him flapping and jumping in panic. They started to jump into his tiny mokoro. Desperately he tried to get out and run but he couldn’t. Something was holding him down. Just as he thought he was going to suffocate with all these fish on top of him, he woke up. Lorato was shaking him. It was just beginning to get light.
He looked around. There was no hut, no fire, and no Mokaedi. He looked at Lorato, who was talking softly to the donkeys, preparing them for the journey. He opened his mouth to ask what had happened and then shut it again. The Mokaedi would appear when needed and then disappear again. There were strange things happening, things he only half understood. He got into the cart and it started off, Kgatwe still asleep in his pocket. Lesedi sat quietly. Somehow he knew that his life was changing and things were not going to be the same anymore. He was needed to play an important role in the coming years and it looked as if Bosenyi’s son Lotobo was also part of things. This wasn’t a pleasant thought at all and he vaguely wondered if he shouldn’t toss the Palm Nut into the Delta and rid himself of all this responsibility
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