Suddenly one of the chameleon creatures started moving. He scrambled up the stalagmites and stalactites with amazing agility, using his tail and chameleon claws. He was heading towards the tiny gap way up in the ceiling through which Lesedi was peering at the goings on below. Lesedi froze. He had been trying to work out how to get down without being seen so he could position himself near the snake in case it coughed up the Palm Nut. Chameleons, however, are very good at spotting even the slightest movement and he had been spotted. He was about to hurl himself back down the passage but he waited a split second too long. The chameleon creature had come level with the opening and was hanging off a stalactite. Suddenly its tongue come out and wound around Lesedi’s arm, pulling him from the hole. He felt himself fly through the air and landed with a thud that knocked the wind out of him once more on the ice platform in front of Bosula. He lay there watching the cave spin around him, feeling Kgatwe clutching onto the inside of his pocket and hoping that one of the stalactites would not come crashing down on him. Slowly everything stopped spinning and then something more frightening filled his vision. Bosula was peering at him and close up he was a lot more sinister. Lesedi looked into the cold blue eye and then the dark black one and he felt his blood run cold. These eyes might look human but there was no humanity there at all, only coldness, power, and cruelty. His lips grinned independently of his eyes, showing sharp, pointed white teeth.
“So what have we here?” came the raspy voice. “A little present from the gods?” He let out an evil chuckle.
Out of the corner of his eye Lesedi became aware of two other faces peering down at him. Kilo and Bosenyi had been startled by his sudden appearance but Kilo soon tried to turn the situation to his advantage.
“So that potion we brewed worked!” he said, giving Bosenyi a sideways glance.
“I think his appearance here has very little to do with either you or any silly potion,” said Bosula scornfully. “But I would be interested to know why and how he got to be snooping around here. Also how he got this far without detection.” He prodded one of the chameleons with a stalagmite that was lying next to him.
“Seal all the entrances and make sure there is no one else hanging around!” he commanded. The chameleon scuttled off and Bosula turned his attention back to Lesedi, prodding him with the pointed end of the stalagmite.
“Is there anyone else up there, my little friend?? Your pathetic grandfather, maybe?”
Lesedi shook his head, hoping against hope that Lorato was well away.
“So you came all this way, all by your little self?” mocked Bosula. He stuck the end of the stalagmite into Lesedi’s shirt collar and pulled him upright. Lesedi still couldn’t trust himself to talk and just nodded.
“Lost your tongue, have you?” Bosula laughed. “Well, we’ll soon see if there are any unwanted visitors in here.”
With that he stamped his brown boot three times on the ice platform. Immediately hundreds of scorpions started to emerge from the slits in the ground below the platform. Kilo and Bosenyi leapt up onto the ice in fright. They were immediately pushed off by the chameleons and proceeded to hop around wildly, trying to avoid the scorpions. If he hadn’t been so nervous and scared that the chameleons might push him off as well, Lesedi would have found the whole thing very funny.
Bosula addressed the scorpions, who, on hearing his voice, stopped trying to frighten Kilo and Bosenyi and stood with their tails erect facing in his direction.
“You have left the passage unguarded! This boy has come through!” he shouted, poking Lesedi with the stalagmite again. Lesedi winced; that thing was sharp. “There should be another old one up there. See that he doesn’t leave alive if you do not wish to be fed to the marabous!”
The scorpions immediately disappeared back down their holes. Lesedi could only hope that Lorato had not come back down the tunnel yet. Kilo and Bosenyi sat down on their rocks exhausted, all the smugness drained out of them.
“Right, now let us deal with this young man!” said Bosula, turning his attention to Lesedi once more. “Where is the stone?”
Lesedi stared at him with big eyes, shrugging his shoulders and trying as hard as he could to make his face say he didn’t know what Bosula was talking about, which was in some ways true. He still wasn’t too sure about this stone—he was here for the palm Nut.
“WHERE…IS…THE…STONE?” repeated Bosula, this time very slowly and deliberately. “I have ways of making you find that voice you seem to have lost,” he carried on menacingly.
Without thinking Lesedi glanced over at the snake. It was stretching its neck out, still trying to get rid of the nut as quietly as possible.
“Scared of the snake, are we?” said Bosula, interpreting the glance incorrectly. Lesedi nodded frantically, realising he had nearly made a big mistake.
Bosula grinned his cold-eyed grin. “Well, then I think a little stopover in the scorpion pit with Mr. Snake here might loosen up that rather paralysed tongue of yours!” He laughed his dry, crackly laugh.
Lesedi looked over at the snake again. “NO! NO!” he cried. “not that!” His mind was spinning. This could be his chance to get the Palm Nut back, but he must make Bosula think that the last thing he wanted to do was to be with the snake. How he was going to get out of the pit afterwards was not on the agenda at the moment. “PLEASE NOT THAT!” he shouted out again, trying to sound as terrified as possible, which wasn’t too much of an act.
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