Lesedi and Lorato waited. Lesedi desperately wanted to know more about the stone and his role in all this but he knew he would have to wait until they had somewhere more private to talk. Instead he started telling Lorato what had happened to them while he had been away and that Kilo and Bosenyi were there as well. Lorato didn’t seem surprised.
“I thought they might be,” he said. “I think Bosenyi is trying to make a business deal with Bosula, something to do with the dam at the top of the Delta. Bosula also needs Lotobo to be on his side, so there are many connections there.”
Lotobo, Kilo’s grandson, the one who had been born at exactly the same time as Lesedi. Both their mothers had died. Was this coincidence, or was it all tied up with this stone Lesedi now had in his possession? Lesedi didn’t like Lotobo very much. He went to a smart school in Gaborone and was very scornful of Lesedi, regarding him as backward and a country bumpkin. Lesedi didn’t have a cell phone and there was no electricity where he lived so he couldn’t discuss the latest TV programs. Lorato told him not to worry about this as he, Lesedi, knew far more important things about animals and surviving in the bush and one day when things went wrong with all the manmade stuff Lotobo would have to rely on Lesedi. All this sounded great but it didn’t stop him feeling intimidated when Lotobo was around.
“Bosula said something about the dam. He said it would make the Delta dry up and then we would all have to listen to him,” said Lesedi.
“That sounds like him,” said Lorato, rubbing his legs, which were starting to feel a bit sore from all the rough treatment.
“What have Lotobo and I got to do with…?” Lesedi started to ask but just then two things happened that made them both freeze. The twine ladder started to snake its way down the wall and they heard the thump, thump of Bosula and the scuttle of the chameleons coming down the passage.
“Quick, move close to the grid so they don’t notice the ladder!” whispered Lorato.
They moved towards the grid. The footsteps came closer, echoing eerily in the hollow passage. It sounded as if there were more than last time and then Lesedi realised why. His uncle Kilo had come along.
“Ahhh! So now we have the old man, your dear brother, as well!” Bosula grinned, the flickering light from the flares accentuating his evilness. Lesedi gave a shiver—he always felt extremely cold near Bosula. “Tough old bird, surviving the scorpions. What trick did you play on them this time, you old crow?” Bosula didn’t wait for a reply. He turned to Kilo, pushing him forward. “So here he is! You told me he is the one who knows where the stone is! Get it out of him!”
Kilo looked nervous. He didn’t greet his brother even though they had not seen each other in many years. “You must hand over the stone!” he blurted out, not looking Lorato in the eyes.
“Why? And what makes you think I have the stone?” Lorato said, somewhat amused realising how scared Kilo was.
“You have it or you know where it is, and if you don’t hand it over you will suffer greatly.” Kilo sounded as if he was reciting a well-learned text.
“I do not have the stone,” Lorato said truthfully. “You know that you and I were never to be the keepers of the stone.”
“You know where it is,” repeated Kilo. “Then Lesedi must have it.”
“Lesedi is here.” Lorato laughed. “You have had him in your hands. I am sure the great Bosula would have made sure that he did not have the stone!”
The Palm Nut felt huge in Lesedi’s pocket, and he was sure everyone could see it bulging out.
“So unless it was in here and he picked it up,” continued Lorato, “I somehow doubt he is the one who has it.” He said all this in a very sarcastic voice, which annoyed Bosula intensely. He pushed Kilo aside, sending him crashing into Bosenyi, who was trying to peer gloatingly over his shoulder at his somewhat unfortunate relatives.
“I don’t need to stand here and listen to a couple of old men bantering with each other,” he boomed at them. “This is getting nowhere. We will leave you for five minutes to discuss this matter and reconsider and then you will tell us where to find the stone. If you do not do this the scorpions will be back. They have recovered from your potions and are out for revenge… What’s that?!” Bosula peered through the grate past them. Lorato and Lesedi froze. He had seen the ladder!
“Oh, the snake,” he said, turning away. “I had forgotten about that.” He marched off, the others scuttling along behind him.
Lorato and Lesedi breathed a quiet sigh of relief and turned around to look. They saw the snake standing on its tail waving from side to side in front of the ladder. Lesedi wanted to hug it but he wasn’t too sure that the snake would understand what a hug meant.
“Hey! What’s going on down there?” came a rather anxious gecko voice from above.
“Shhhh. We’re coming,” said Lorato in a loud whisper. He could still hear the retreating footsteps and wasn’t too sure how much they could hear. “Come, Lesedi, you go first.” He pushed Lesedi towards the ladder.
“What about snake?” Lesedi said anxiously as he started up the ladder. He had become very fond of the creature and didn’t want it to be left behind to be mistreated by Bosula and Legodu.
“I’m sure it will come if it wants to,” said Lorato behind him. “Hurry now. We don’t have much time!”
Lesedi scrambled up as fast as he could. He definitely didn’t want to spend any more time in that dreadful place. He got to the top and rolled over onto the sand, taking a huge gulp of fresh air. Lorato came up straight after him. Quickly rolling up the ladder he ran to the cart. Kgatwe was already inside with the sixth drawer open and they stuffed the ladder inside.
“Come quickly, Lesedi. What are you doing?” shouted Lorato.
Lesedi was holding back, peering anxiously down the hole. “Snake!” he said, the tears staring to well up.
“He’ll be all right,” said Lorato, taking up the reins. “Scorpions are scared of snakes and Bosula still thinks it is on his side. It’s always good to have an ally in enemy territory.”
Lesedi climbed reluctantly onto the cart, a tear sliding down his cheek. Kgatwe jumped into his pocket. He wasn’t too keen on having snake along, even though he had proved to be quite useful. He was also a teensy weensy bit jealous of Lesedi’s newfound affection for it.
“Right, let’s go!” said Lorato, pulling on the reins. There was no point in being cautious now; they had to get as far as possible before Bosula found out they were gone. He set a course for the mophanes. If they could get beyond them they would be out of the most dangerous area.
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