The going was not easy. The slithers of rock were sharp and slippery. Every time you put your foot down they seemed to move. The sky was clear and there was a half moon up, which made the landscape look very eerie. Kgatwe was casting an enormous shadow, so Lesedi and Lorato came out from underneath him and walked along in this, which made the going a bit easier. The shrieking and cracking they had heard the night before started up again, only this time it sounded a lot closer and there was a lot more of it.
“The egg creatures!” whispered Lesedi and Lorato nodded.
“This is not a good sign. Even if we get the stone out of there we might still have to deal with these creatures.”
“The stone? What…” Lesedi started to ask and then stopped as a shadow crossed over the moon. Looking up they could see Legodu’s silhouette circling above them. Lorato and Lesedi scuttled underneath Kgatwe again and lay still. Kgatwe braced himself, trying to look as big and swaggery as possible. He flicked his tongue in and out of his mouth like a real rock monitor. Legodu had never seen such a large lizard-like creature and as Lorato had suspected he thought it was the work of Tsenwa and decided not to investigate any further. He had only recently got all his feathers back and didn’t need to go through all that humiliation again. Turning he flew up and off in the direction of the pans. Right now he was hungry and needed to find something to eat. Food had become scarce of late and he was going to see if he couldn’t sneak one of those eggs when the marabous weren’t looking. The trio on the ground let out a sigh of relief and slowly started to move again.
They carried on uneventfully for another hour or so, The Hills looming closer and closer. Lesedi had almost forgotten about the Gorfs and was starting to worry about what was inside The Hills when suddenly Kgatwe, who had been going along very smoothly, lost his footing on a rather large, loose boulder, sending it flying, which in turn set off a chain reaction with rocks thumping and crashing all over the place. They all froze. As the last rumble subsided there was a deathly silence.
“Sorry about that,” whispered Kgatwe. “I…” He didn’t get to finish his sentence. The whole place erupted and they felt the ground heave underneath them. Lorato and Lesedi were thrown into the air and Kgatwe was tipped over onto his side. Huge, ugly, toad-like creatures emerged from the ground. They were greenish yellow with large mouths and two very obvious sharp teeth on the bottom jaw. They began snapping wildly at whatever was in front of them, not too fussy if it was another Gorf or one of them. Kgatwe regained his balance and started swatting at them with his now powerful tail. He managed to send a couple of them flying, splattering them on the rocks. Lorato and Lesedi ran to Kgatwe for protection. He curled around them, swatting away with his tail to keep the Gorfs off.
“I can manage for a while,” he puffed, “but you’ll have to come up with something. There are just too many.”
They had all been so absorbed by what was going on around them that they hadn’t noticed a black cloud approaching from The Hills. The moon disappeared and a flapping, hoarse, cackling noise was heard above the din of the Gorfs. Suddenly the Gorfs stopped their snapping and hopping about and stared up at the sky as one. Then they all started to frantically burrow down into the ground again.
“What the…?” exclaimed Kgatwe, looking up. “It’s the marabous! Now what?”
Lesedi and Lorato cowered beneath him, peering out cautiously, but the marabous didn’t seem at all interested in them. They swooped down and grabbed at the Gorfs as they tried to bury themselves. When they got hold of one they flew high into the air with it, dropping it on the rocks below and smashing it to a pulp. Greenish yellowish stuff oozed out of them. The marabous then picked up this pulpy mess and flew off with it in the direction of the pans. Lorato Lesedi and Kgatwe now had to start dodging Gorfs from the air. It was a bit like being in some dumb war with landmines and bombs. After about half an hour of carnage everything became still again. The marabous had picked up the last splattered Gorf and flown off and the lucky ones had escaped back underground.
Kgatwe let himself sink onto the ground and Lorato and Lesedi sat down and leaned against him, weak at the knees.
“They didn’t seem to be bothered about us,” said Lesedi incredulously.
“They were hungry,” said Lorato. “Gorfs are one of their favourite dinners. They’ve been looking after those egg creatures for a while now and probably cleared all the food around that area, so this was a nice treat for them.”
“Do you think they noticed us and will report our presence?” said Lesedi, still worried.
“No, I think we’re fine,” said Lorato. “Those marabous aren’t very bright. They do the job they are told to do and nothing more. They have been told to guard the eggs and see that nothing interferes with them and that’s what they are doing. We’re too far away from the eggs at the moment to be of any threat.”
“Well, let’s get going,” said Kgatwe, getting up. “While those Gorfs are still in scared mode and before something else notices us.”
They started off again. It was heavy going and they were all very tired when they finally got off the rocks and onto normal ground again at the edge of The Hills. It was heavy sand but a lot more pleasant than those sharp-edged rocks. Dawn was breaking and they could see a large dark section on the side of the main hill. Lorato surmised that this must be an entrance. He knew that there were several but the one on the north side was the least guarded as the rocks normally discouraged anyone from entering from that direction. They found a small clump of bushes and sat down to rest for a while.
“I think you had better go back to normal size now, Kgatwe,” said Lorato. “We don’t want to draw too much attention.”
“I’m far too tired,” said Kgatwe, closing his eyes.
Lorato sighed. “Here, swallow this,” he said, pulling a small bottle out of his bag.
Kgatwe opened one eye. “Yuk! I don’t like that stuff.” He closed the eye again and put a large gecko foot over his mouth.
“Stop being such a baby, drink it, and get yourself back to normal,” said Lorato irritably. “This is not the time or the place to have a fuss!”
Kgatwe took his foot away from his mouth and took the bottle rather sheepishly. Lorato was right—this was not the time to be picky. There were far more important things happening. He swallowed the liquid as quickly as he could, trying hard not to taste it. He knew this mooty; Lorato had given it to him before. It tasted absolutely dreadful but brought your strength back almost immediately. He was starting to feel clear-headed already and gradually he brought himself back to normal size. In the meantime Lorato had given himself and Lesedi some of the liquid as well and as soon as Kgatwe was back to size they were ready to move on, all three feeling as if they had had a good eight hours’ sleep. Lesedi marveled at his grandfather’s abilities. Hopefully one day, if they all survived this ordeal, he would be able to produce these amazing concoctions himself.
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