Thursday 9 June 2016
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An African Tale chapter thirteen continued

“Ahh! So the little rat has found his tongue! Tell me where the stone is and I might…might…just reconsider!” Bosula was now bending over Lesedi and had his face close to his. He had the foulest breath Lesedi had ever smelt. What did this creature eat? Rotten toads? Or maybe he never cleaned his teeth.

“I…I…don’t know what you are talking about,” said Lesedi, trying to make his voice shake, which wasn’t too difficult under the circumstances.

“YOU ARE THE KEEPER OF THE STONE!” Bosula boomed in a loud voice that made everyone jump except the chameleon guards, who stood there with their eyes roaming around the cave.

“I’m not!” said Lesedi truthfully. He wasn’t aware that he was the keeper of anything. He had been told to hide the palm Nut and that was all.

“THAT’S A LIE!” yelled Bosula, his voice echoing around the cave. Lesedi tried not to breathe in too deeply, Bosula’s smelly breath was starting to make him feel sick. “You are trying my patience! SCORPION PIT!” He waved his arms at Lesedi and the snake. One chameleon creature grabbed the snake by the tail and another grabbed Lesedi around the waist. Lesedi put up an impressive struggle as he was dragged along, all the time trying to work out how he was going to get the stone out of the snake. He had completely forgotten about the scorpions. Kgatwe hadn’t, though, and he was hoping that the walls of the pit wouldn’t be too sandy so that he could scramble up them. They were marched to a slit in the side of the cave. It looked like a laundry shoot and was just big enough to fit a person through. The snake was pushed through first and Lesedi could hear it slithering away and then a large plop as it hit the bottom. He couldn’t be sure but he thought he heard a second plop as well. Then it was his turn. He was stuffed unceremoniously into the hole. It was very slippery and seemed to spiral as he went flying down, knocking against the sides. He landed with a thunk in the dark, his breath knocked out of him once again. He was starting to feel like a sack of mealie meal being thrown around like this.

Lesedi lay on his back on the ground trying to get his breath back and at the same time trying to locate the whereabouts of the snake. His eyes gradually started getting used to the dark and he realised that there must be a source of light coming from somewhere.

“Kgatwe!” he whispered. “Come out and see where we are. Your eyes work better in the dark than mine.”

Kgatwe didn’t move. “Where are the scorpions?” he whispered back nervously.

“Oh for goodness sake!” said Lesedi. “They’re up looking for Lorato in the tunnel. Don’t you pay attention?”

Kgatwe slowly poked his head out of Lesedi’s pocket. If this was a scorpion pit there were bound to be a few hanging around. He looked around, his eyes falling on the snake lying prone nearby. “Well, looks like snake’s had the wind and the nut knocked out of him,” he said casually.

“The what?!” said Lesedi, sitting bolt upright and forgetting about his aches and bruises.

“The Nut,” repeated Kgatwe, venturing a bit further out of Lesedi’s pocket and peering around.

“Where is it?” Lesedi could just make out a shape that looked like the snake nearby.

“Snake’s right here,” said Kgatwe.

“Not the snake! The Nut!” snapped Lesedi. This gecko could be very annoying at times.

“I don’t know,” said Kgatwe very deliberately. “But there is no bulge in snake so it must be out of snake.”

Lesedi could make out the snake a bit clearer now. He looked somewhat dazed and confused and there didn’t seem to be any lump in his throat anymore. He got on his hands and knees and started feeling frantically around the floor of the pit.

“Careful of scorpions,” said Kgatwe, climbing onto Lesedi’s head.

“Stop worrying about scorpions. See if you can see the nut.” Lesedi continued sweeping his hands across the floor. He could feel the slits in the ground that he knew were scorpion holes but at this point he didn’t allow himself to dwell on this. He must find the Nut. Suddenly his hand closed around something round. Sitting down he clasped it to his chest, feeling it carefully. It was the Nut!

“I’ve found it!” he said excitedly to Kgatwe. He felt like leaping up and down with happiness.

“Good,” said Kgatwe, sounding unimpressed. “Now how do we get out of here?”

“Ummm…” said Lesedi, feeling his initial jubilation disappear. He sat still trying to think, holding the nut very tightly in both hands. Then he started to feel around the Nut, wondering if there was something inside. If there was there must be a way to get inside. He couldn’t feel any openings or cracks; then his fingers felt a very tiny little bump on the side, which he pushed and fell back in amazement at what happened next, catching his breath. The top popped open and a brilliant light filled the pit. It was the same light he saw in his head when he managed to contact Ledimo. It spiraled up red and green and silver.

“Close it!” said Kgatwe urgently, pulling at his hair. “This must be the stone they keep talking about. If anyone sees that light they will know we have it.”

Lesedi fumbled frantically with The Nut, at last managing to close it. Feeling himself shaking all over he carefully put it into his pocket. This was all becoming a bit much for him; however, the bright light had given him a quick chance to glance around the pit. There were definitely no scorpions but there were hundreds of slits around the edge of the pit and up the walls. They would no doubt be back as soon as they had made sure the upper passage was clear. There was a grid over a small window on one side, which was probably where Bosula’s strange creatures kept an eye on proceedings inside the pit. He noticed with relief that there was nothing peering in at them. As his eyes got used to the dark again he could see that there was a dim light coming from somewhere high above them. It wasn’t coming from the shoot they had come down, so this might be a way out.

“Kgatwe, where are you?” The little gecko had hopped off his head when he saw that there were no scorpions and was scrambling around the edge of the pit.

“Trying to find a way out” came the reply from the far corner.

“It’s up there where the light is coming from,” said Lesedi, pointing upwards.

“You’re right,” said Kgatwe, looking up. “I think I can climb up this wall over here, it seems to be mainly rock and not sand. I’ll go and take a look.” With that he started scrambling up the side of the pit.

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