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'The Elephant Warriors' Part 1 'Small Branches' by Sarah Francis

© Sarah Francis

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‘The Elephant Warriors’ An African Conservation Story in 2 parts
Part 1 ‘Small Branches’ (Revised)

**‘As parents we believe it is our duty to empower our children with values and the wisdom of understanding. It is this that ensures their position in society. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is their sense of wonder, enthusiasm and reasoning that can teach us important lessons in life.’

(Baba’s words.)**

Chapter 1

Aisha stood in the playground. Watching the children’s carefree play, she sighed to herself. Her classmates were grouped together chatting, gossiping, laughing in the tropical sun, whilst the boys, in two teams, kicked the last un-punctured football around the sun-baked, rocky playground. She spied a small group of girls in the shadow of the Headmaster’s office. Fixing her smile, she moved towards them, feeling the need for companionship rather than the thoughts that troubled her.
Malaika immediately swivelled round. “Oh.” A pause. “Hello.” Her second word sounded like an after thought. Aisha ignored the slight as Malaika turned her back and moved closer into the circle of girls. Ada, whose shaved head glistened with sweat, stared at Aisha. With a
lisping murmur, she mouthed, “Why don’t you athk her?”
Malaika turned back. “Why not? We’re playing a game of ‘What’s the animal?’ I give you the description and you tell me what it is. Are you game?”
Ada tittered.
“Sure.” Aisha held her head high. She knew this was a test but she had had seen the collage in the classroom of elephants, giraffes and stick-like impala careering across the wall, an experience of an older class’ field trip to Samburu National Reserve.
“What has a long neck, furry ears and stands on two legs to eat?” Malaika looked at the other girls and winked.
Aisha looked at the expectant faces. So, it was a trick question. She considered for a moment. Malaika’s sneer, distorted her face so that her eyes became slits.
“Well, I would expect the answer to be an animal like a giraffe.” Ada snorted. “But,” continued Aisha, “as they have long, slender necks, they don’t need to stand on two legs to reach their food. So,” Expectancy hovered above the heads of the group, “my answer would
be. . . a gerenuk.”
Only the other day with Kade, her twin brother, had they stopped to watch the ridiculous antics of a hoofed animal walking on two legs trying to reach the sweetest sprigs of the acacia tree.
Malaika’s sullen expression was priceless but Aisha hid her triumph. Susan nodded her head.
“Hey, that was a great answer.” She smiled at Aisha. “We saw other animals on our trip. Elephants are the best. They seem to care for each other. The calves are so cute with funny little trunks that they can’t control!”
“Did you see the mother elephant feeding the baby?” Malaika didn’t like the focus being taken away from her.
“The baby is called a calf and the mother is a cow,” prompted Susan looking squarely at Malaika. The heavy emphasis on the last word together with Susan’s unwavering look at her was not lost on Aisha. Malaika either hadn’t noticed or dismissed it. She sniffed,
“I know. I know.”
“The knowth,” reiterated Ada.
“Our trip was the best thing yet. Don’t worry, Aisha, you’ll be going on one next year. . .” Susan placed a reassuring hand on Aisha’s shoulder.
“. . if you’re lucky,” said Malaika. With a flick of her head, she gathered her group and took them to a different part of the playground.

Retreating to the veranda of an outhouse, Aisha took hold of the pillar that supported the roof. She swung round faster and faster until the dizziness drowned out the burning anger she could no longer control. Knuckles white, she steadied herself and focused on a football
rolling towards her. She looked up to see Kade, on the other side of the playground, smiling sympathetically. Drawing back her foot, she kicked the ball as hard as she could; it arced into the air, sailing across the dusty, red ochre ground to Kade’s foot from where he booted it into the goal. A roar from the boys filled the air making Aisha feel just a tiny bit better.

At the start of their journey home, Aisha was silent.
“What’s wrong, Sis? You seem so angry these days. Why don’t we talk about it?” Kade stopped and tilted his sister’s face gently so he could look into her eyes. Aisha attempted half-heartedly to pull away but he persisted in trying to make eye contact with her. The deep rooted connection of their fourteen years together meant that very little sneaked past Kade.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.” A cloud of dust puffed into the air as Aisha absently kicked out her foot.
“I can see that but why does it make you angry? Is it the girls? That Malaika seems a bit of a bully.”
Aisha snorted. “A bully is someone who homes in on a person’s weakness and works away at it like a jigger under the skin. She couldn’t find my weakness if it was written on a note and stuck to my forehead.”
“Wow! That was harsh.” Kade stepped back.
Chastened, Aisha pulled herself together. “Sorry. No, there is something deeply sad about her. I can’t put my finger on it. But I find her totally predictable in her spitefulness, her small mindedness.”
“Then what is wrong?”
Aisha considered a moment before answering. “Haven’t you noticed how difficult it’s become at home? There’s an atmosphere of gloom. Baba seems permanently angry.”
Kade fell silent.
“You have, haven’t you?”
It was Kade’s turn to sigh. “What goes on in Baba’s mind is difficult to fathom. He has his reasons. Life can be unpredictable, plans pointless.”
“My, we are being philosophical. But your vagueness tells me that you may have some idea why he is so anti elephants.”
“Possibly. Speak to Baba - and be patient. He sometimes finds it difficult to relate to us. . .” He shrugged and turned towards the village, his abandoned sentence, hanging in the air.

Chapter 2

Despite the cocoon of darkness in the room, Aisha was aware of movement. Curled in a foetal position facing the wall of the hut, she felt secure and warm. Not ready to wake, she sighed and snuggled deeper into her bed. A finger poked her. She ignored it. A hand shook her. She ignored it. Kade’s voice broke into the contentment. She couldn’t ignore this.
“Get up sleepy head! The fire won’t burn on ashes. And it’s your job to fetch more wood so we have plenty of hot water for chai.”
“In a moment.” But before Kade had left to milk the goats, she had drifted back into her swaddling dreams.

An angry voice wrenched her from sleep. The morning sun had already risen, shaming Aisha’s laziness. Dressing hurriedly, she quietly edged into the kitchen area. Baba was pacing up and down whilst Mama was trying to calm him cooking the breakfast at the same time.
“How many times must I dig out the well?"
A strange grinding noise filled the room. Aisha watched mesmerised as her father's jaw sawed backwards and forwards.
"They crush the thorn battlements as though they are milling seeds.”
Mama murmured reassuring sounds whilst stirring the Sukuma Wiki. “Like our goats, they need water too.”
Ignoring her, he continued, “They trample the earth so that the soil falls in and chokes the source of our spring.” Baba flung his arms into the air in desperation. “They’re destructive and they’ve been sent by Ngai to drive me to insanity.”
“What are?” asked Aisha.
The wooden spoon paused on its circuit round the pan. Mama watched the erupting bubbles of the braised greens. She exhaled. “Your father is upset. Last night the elephants destroyed the well. . . again.”
“Yes, I'm upset.” His voice had dropped to a lower register, always a bad sign thought Aisha. "What is more, there seems to be no chai for our breakfast.” His eyes smouldered as he turned to his daughter.
She quickly walked towards the door of the hut and stepped outside to gather firewood. This morning was not the moment to try to talk to her father.

The walk to school was far. The sun had already announced its presence by its wavering light that played through the doum palms lining the sandy banks of the wide Ewaso Nyiro River. Aisha loved this time of the day: the early sun that had yet to bleach the colours of ochre and amber; the river in full spate, its voice harmonising with the chorus of the lilac breasted roller. Peace filled her, banishing the frustrations of life. She breathed deeply and closed her eyes.

Kade's exclamation broke her meditation. He pointed to the bank on the opposite side of the river. The swirling, tumbling, muddy water was tossing like a playfellow, something that looked like a log.
“What's that in the water, Aisha? Can you see it? By the bank?”
Screwing up her eyes to reduce the glare of the sun, all Aisha could see was dinosaur-like armour snaking across the river.
“Yes, it’s a crocodile." She shivered despite the warmth of the morning. She pulled on her brother’s arm but he stubbornly resisted her invitation to leave.
“No, closer to the bank. The crocodile is swimming towards it.”
As if on cue, the log waved in desperation.
“But, it’s . . . it’s a trunk, a baby elephant’s trunk,” she whispered.
Its waving snorkel was the only thing that was saving it from drowning. With no thought for her own safety, she picked up a rock, sprinted towards the bank and, with a practiced arm, threw the rock like a javelin aiming at the crocodile. Sadly, it fell short of its target but the
splash had the desired effect. Diverted, the crocodile turned towards Aisha at the water’s edge where she shouted and waved her arms, making as much noise as possible.

The rushing water drowned out the sound of distant splashing; Aisha’s focus was on the mesmeric movement of the prehistoric lizard snaking towards her. A shout of triumph from her brother briefly broke her concentration. As she looked to the opposite bank, a lone cow elephant with a chewed right ear was standing in the river, a barrier against the treacherous current. With a motherly nudge of her trunk, the elephant encouraged the calf towards the bank. Waggling and waving its trunk, the calf tooted.

All sounds retreated into the distance as Aisha now realized how close the crocodile had come. In a trance, she watched the unblinking eye of the crocodile measuring her, as the momentum of the creature slowed towards the bank. Lifting its head above the surface of the water, it seemed to smile at her. A waft of rancid, reeking, rotten breath filled her nostrils as the gaping jaws presented a row of keen-edged teeth that could twist and rip apart an unsuspecting water buffalo within minutes. With a flick of its monstrous armoured tail, the primordial mass of muscle lunged at her. But Kade was there. Arms around her body, he pulled her back out of reach, stumbling on the sandy bank somehow managing to keep both of them upright. A hiss and the five-meter long plated body submerged into the the thrashing waters.
“What the hell do you think you were doing?” Kade had spun her round so that his face was inches from her own. He shook her roughly. “Do you have a death wish? Hasn’t Baba told you enough times that the nature of wild animals is that - they are unpredictable?”
“I. . I didn’t think. There was no time to think. Wouldn’t you try to help an animal in distress? Or are you like Baba, a hater of elephants?” she accused.
Kade felt as though his face had been slapped. “Not if it meant I was putting my life in danger,” he reasoned quietly.
“Well perhaps that’s the difference between you and me. We may have been born on the same day, within five minutes of each other but it doesn’t necessarily mean we're alike.” She stormed off, leaving Kade watching her back. He shook his head, struggling to understand her moodiness. But of one thing he was sure, the answer to her troubles lay with Baba.

Chapter 3

By the time they had reached the school, the line up for assembly outside the Head Teacher’s room had already begun. Brother and sister silently slipped into their respective lines with only a frown from a member of staff standing, watching, from the shade of the building. Waiting for the Head to appear, Aisha scanned the rows in front of her. The small ones, some as young as five, were restless rocking from one foot to another as the already scorched earth heated the soles of their bare feet. But all were in clean uniform for it was Monday morning and the weekend wash had ensured that the sun-bleached clothing was fresh and ready.

There was a respectful silence as the Head Teacher, Mr Munguti stepped from his office accompanied by a grey bearded gentleman whose spectacles winked in the sun. Over two hundred pairs of eyes focused on the man who stood in front of them, his hands behind his back, bent forward as he scanned his audience. A smile danced across his lips.
“Good morning, children. We have a distinguished visitor today. He wishes to speak to you about a very important meeting.”
“Perhaps they could all sit down whilst I tell them what this important meeting is.” His voice was gentle yet clear. A shuffling of bodies and his audience was ready.
“My name is Berni Anderson but I am known as Grey Beard.” Laughter bubbled for a brief moment before a breeze whisked it away. “The name was given to me by my team not because of my ability to grow this,” he stroked his beard, “but because I have been closely monitoring elephants for almost as long as I can remember. ‘Grey Beard’ is another word for ‘Patriarch’ meaning the male head of a family. And my family is the remarkable group of pachyderms.”
Aisha held her breath. His words took her back to the earlier incident with the calf. She looked for Kade and felt ashamed at her sharp words that must have stung him, for they had continued their walk in icy silence. She smiled to herself as she watched his attentiveness; he seemed to be absorbing every word. A pachyderm. This was a new word. She made a note to remember it. And to apologise to the most important boy in her life, her only brother.
“I would like to talk to your parents, to discuss how their land, crops and wells can be protected without harm to the elephants. Like us, they have three simple needs that drive their quest for survival: food, water and reproduction.” A titter from the back row was quickly shushed. “I would like you to speak to your parents about being part of an important group that will show them how this can be achieved.”
Mr Munguti who had stood silently, now turned to Grey beard. “I believe the children could help further.” He turned to them. “Many of you walk a fair distance to school, some as far as ten kilometers. Have any of you seen elephants on your journey?” A waving of hands. “Then I believe you would make excellent trackers.”
“What does a tracker do?” Grey Beard looked for the owner of the voice. Kade raised his hand.
“A tracker has an important role. He measures footprints, looks for fresh spoor or any other telltale sign like fallen trees that might indicate the direction in which a family of elephants could be moving. He then conveys this information to me - and I take this to the meeting with your parents.” The children turned to each other eagerly considering this idea. The Head raised his hand; silence was regained.
“I believe we have an exciting new project to organise.” A nodding of heads. “Thank you, Mr Anderson. This is a marvelous opportunity to bring our community together.”
After a short speech from the Head thanking their guest speaker, the assembly was dismissed. Aisha noticed her brother move towards the visitor before she was swept away into the long brick building which housed the five classrooms. In her classroom, the blackboard in clear chalk writing announced the title ‘Living with Elephants’. Around it were random words like ‘stewardship’, ‘data’, ‘collaboration’, waiting to be connected by the young teacher who in turn stood waiting for their focus. The pupils were eager to start their morning session.

Chapter 4

By the end of school, Aisha was brimming with enthusiasm. She felt alive with all the information that had been conveyed to her and she was eager for her brother to join her for the walk home. This had been a special day and she wanted to share it all with Kade. She did not have long to wait.

His indifferent walk towards her took her by surprise. Strolling nonchalantly across the play area, he didn’t break stride as he passed her.
“Hey!” she shouted to his back, in the hope that he would stop to acknowledge her. “Are you still mad for what I said this morning? I’m sorry. I’m just finding it hard to deal with Baba’s constant anger which seems to be directed at me.”
“No, it’s directed at life.” Kade murmured to himself. “Look, forget all that. I’ve thought of a way we might be able to change his attitude towards the elephant.”
“Really? You think so?”
“Okay, so you’re not convinced. Let’s get home and I’ll tell you what I think we should do. But first, we need to think of an excuse for both of us to be out this evening.”

Mama Aisha peered myopically at her daughter. She knew only too well that the excuse was just that; she could see Aisha was struggling to conceal something. The surreptitious looks at her brother meant he was in on the ruse too. Perhaps there was no harm in this. After all, they would be together. Of course, Aisha could gather the firewood while out with her brother. And a new grazing area always meant a good yield of milk from the nanny goat.

Kade pulled back the enclosure’s make shift gate as the goats bleated their welcome to the children. Normally their father would have looked after the goats during school time but today he had to take the valuable manure to the market in the next village to sell as fertiliser for the villagers’ crops. A blur of brown, white and black muzzles pushed past in a disorderly fashion, chasing each other like children playing a game of Tag but both Aisha and Kade were ready with their acacia sticks to keep the seventeen unruly goats from veering off in different directions. The nanny goat waited patiently as Kade placed the rope around her neck and led her along the track to the new grazing area, a couple of hour’s walk from the village. They would cross the Ewaso River by the bridge before the sun had lost its strength.

Chapter 5

It was Aisha, who first spotted evidence of an elephant herd. Whilst picking up firewood, she noticed new spoor. Kneeling down, she called to her brother. Kade, closely scrutinizing the ground, took a sample with a stick and sniffed it whilst staring at his sister.
“Did I just see you stick that up your nose? Are you sick?”
Kade laughed, adding innocently, “No. You smell it.” He held the stick threateningly close to her nose. Aisha grimaced, quickly taking the proffered stick, looked at Kade as if to challenge him then inhaled deeply. “Strange. It doesn’t really smell of anything much just an earthy smell. It’s not strong at all.” She sounded surprised.
“Mmm. And it’s recent.” He looked into the distance. “Did you know elephant dung can be made into paper?” he sad absently.
“Come on. Who in their right mind would want to write on something that’s come out of an elephant’s arse!”
Laughing, they scoured the ground for more evidence. Within minutes, the sandy scrubland yielded its secret: tracks in a northerly direction towards Ololokwe Mountain. It seemed as though there was a group not a single elephant with a calf, walking in a very orderly line. Kade pulled up the wooden peg to free the nanny goat and called to his sister to gather the rest. Whipping the stick on the ground focused the goats in the direction of their matriarch and together children and animals followed the tracks.

Aisha noticed there was a particular elephant that dragged its back left foot. When she was able to get a clear print, she called Kade to stop. She placed the armful of twigs she had been collecting on the ground and choosing a straight stick for her ruler, she knelt to measure the cratered surface of the sand.
“It must be nearly as long as my shortest stick,” she murmured.
“That means it must be somewhere between 40-50 centimetres. It must be an adult. Apparently birds sleep in deep elephant footprints at night to shelter from the wind.”
“How do you know this?” asked Aisha. She took out paper, held it up to the sun to see if there was any evidence of its source being remotely elephant based, sniffed it, winked at Kade before writing down notes of the length, the direction of the tracks.
“I asked Grey Beard before he left to explain what more the elephant tracks could tell us. He seemed pleased that I had asked him and he said it showed an enquiring mind that’s good for learning about conservation.”
The pride in Kade’s voice made his sister smile. So he had been excited about all the new information they had learned that morning at school. And, what was more, they would soon be adding their newly acquired facts to the classroom display. Once the ‘data’ (she smiled at the easy recollection of the new word) had been collected, it would be handed to the community to discuss how to manage the elephants. As her father was a village elder, he would have to listen to the suggested deterrents that could be used to protect the village’s crops and wells and perhaps, just perhaps that would make him see sense.

By the time they turned back to retrace their steps home, the sun was below the horizon and the birds had changed their songs. The sky had been painted by brush strokes from a palate of blues with a faint blush of pink that was slowly leeching towards the horizon. Stars were beginning to peer from the darkening sky as the silhouettes of Kade, Aisha and the goats crossed the bridge over the rolling Ewaso River. Mama would have one or two words to say about the lateness of the firewood for boiling the water but this would not dampen Aisha’s spirits.

Chapter 6

Torrential rain shook Aisha into wakefulness. She stretched, delighting in the thought that today both she and her brother would have the freedom to track the elephants for it was the weekend. But oh, that thought quickly turned to disappointment. The short rains had arrived; the earth would be wiped clear of any tracks; elephant activity would be washed away. Turning to her brother’s side of the room, she saw an empty bed. Of course, he would be out with his father and the goats. Aisha dressed hurriedly. Her movement to the door was in time to the rhythmic tattoo of the rain on the roof. Before pushing it open, she became aware of her mother’s voice in the adjoining room, how its familiar, soothing cadence had lost its lilting register and was replaced by an anxious, clipped tone.

Easing the door open, the conversation stopped. Again the thrumming of the rain was the sound that invaded the silence of the room. Stepping towards her mother, Aisha noted that the normally smooth, tight skin across her forehead, was furrowed by a deep crease. She seemed to be playing with the kanga that was draped round her thin shoulders to keep out the damp.She turned from her mother to see with whom she had been talking. It was her father. And he didn't look pleased.
“Where’s Kade?” His voice had an edge to it.
“I’m not sure. We went to bed, admittedly later than we should have done but. . ."
"What kept you out so late last night?" His clipped words alarmed Aisha.

She struggled to meet her father’s gaze. She knew how important the school project was. But both Kade and she had agreed to keep this as a surprise, to present their research, in order to convince her father that he was wrong in his opinion of the elephants. Holding back the truth was going to be difficult; perhaps the partial truth? With an intake of breath, Aisha looked up into her father’s penetrating brown eyes.
“We had a visitor at school yesterday called Grey Beard.” Baba’s left eyebrow arched at this apparent lack of respect. “I, I mean Mr Anderson. He told us about the elephants and how we could guard our wells and crops from them. Perhaps Kade is there.”
Mama’s hands flew to her mouth. Her knees gave way. Crumpling to the floor, she began to wail, gently at first, then as she rocked her body backwards and forwards, the wail became more intense. Aisha had heard nothing like this unearthly sound. She reached out desperate to touch her, to reassure her - of what she was unsure.
“Mama, Mama what’s wrong? What have I said? Look at me, Mama.”
Mama shook her head from side to side, still rocking with her arms closely wrapped round her body. Words tumbled from her mouth but to Aisha, they seemed unformed. She struggled to lift her but despite her mother’s fragile frame, the dead weight of her body made it impossible.
“Help me Baba, help me. What is wrong with Mama? Is she ill?”
Baba stepped in, took Mama in his arms and lifted her, gently. The contact seemed to have a steadying effect. Her eyes refocused. Head on his shoulder, she whispered, “Lord, look on us kindly. Don’t let it happen again.”
Aisha looked from one parent to another. “What does she mean, Baba? What can’t happen again?”
Guiding her to a chair, Baba maneuvered her into the seat where she sat with her head in her hands.
“Perhaps we should give Mama some space to collect herself.” His soulful eyes were wet with tears.
“No, you can’t leave her like this. And don’t give me excuses. I know something is not right. All I said is that Kade could be protecting our well. Why is this such a dreadful thing? I have a right to know. Tell me.”
Mama raised her head. “Perhaps we have been wrong in keeping this to ourselves, Baba. It is time. Aisha must be told.”

By the time Aisha stepped outside, the torrential downpour had stopped; the sun’s effect on the sodden soil was already producing shimmering heatwaves. The smell of the drenched earth lingered around her, lacing its damp fingers through her hair. The mugginess made it difficult to breathe or perhaps it was the tale that Baba had told. That such an anniversary should be today. It was heartbreaking. She had to find Kade. It could not happen again.

Chapter 7

Kade crouched beneath a bush. The early rise had given him a head start on the tracking of an elephant group but within an hour of starting out, the deluge had obliterated most of the tracks and had soaked him to the skin. Desperate for warmth, he had taken shelter, crouching under a thorny bush and wrapping his arms around his legs to keep in what little heat his body could produce. Laying his head on his knees he sighed heavily.
“Patience, man,” he murmured to himself. “This is no different to watching goats grazing. The rain will pass.” He noticed a beetle that had joined him. “And anyway, it’s an opportunity to prove to Baba that we can live side by side with the wildlife,” he reasoned. Scooping up his temporary companion, he gently blew it on its way.
As the rain eased, the environment around him was changing. But Kade was more focused on moving on to notice the earthy aroma emerging around him, the song of the birds, the sound of the insects drying and warming themselves in the sun. Their well was not far and he was eager to see if the elephants had visited it overnight.

In this region of erratic rainfall, it was here that his great grandfather and sons had dug a water hole in the dry riverbed, understanding that deep beneath the ground was a natural spring that could be tapped in the dry season. He had called it a ‘singing well’, owing to the ancient Samburu tradition of family members singing whilst helping each other to pass up water from the depths. Great Grandfather believed that the cattle recognised the family song that had a mantra-like effect, and knew which well and trough to make for. Approaching, Kade looked around, listening for any sound that might alert him to wildlife in the vicinity. All that could be heard was the buzzing of insects in the acacias which stretched out like open umbrellas protecting dangling nests of weaver birds. He did not expect to see any footprints but his sharp eyes picked out a breach in the thorny fence around the well. Had the elephants or elements pounded the battlements into submission? Drawing closer, he peered down into the well. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Turning back, he noticed bark of trees had been stripped and further along the riverbed, another tree had recently been uprooted - both signs of elephant activity according to Grey Beard. Smiling to himself, he picked up the trail and retraced his steps. The elephants were moving back to the plains.

The sun had climbed high in the sky, when, in the distance, Kade saw a family of elephants that had taken refuge in the shade of some acacia trees. Silently, he crept closer, keeping down wind so as not to disturb them. This was his opportunity to gather more information about these goliaths. Suddenly, with a low rumbling sound and shaking of head, the large bull pulled back and the rest of the herd, including a young calf, retreated swiftly as though fleeing from an invisible enemy. Puzzled, Kade watched.
“That’s strange. What’s upset them?” He scoured the area; there seemed to be nothing unusual. “Perhaps if I get closer I’ll be able to see…”
Moving towards the trees, he became aware of a monotonous sound emanating from a hollow stump. He hesitated, feeling uneasy. What was it? As he inched closer, the pitch grew higher until he could hear a piping sound. Now he understood.

A rustling of nearby bushes interrupted Kade’s thoughts. He eased closer to the trees in the hope that the scrub might help to camouflage him. An occasional lion had been known to roam this area and he had nothing to protect himself except his ability to scale a tree instantly if forced to take evasive action.

But it was Aisha who stepped out.

Kade smiled. “Hey, Sis! You should have seen it. If only you had been here, you would have split your sides at such a ridiculous. . .What’s wrong?”
“Baba and Mama thought you were in danger. But it’s not that.” She shook her head. “It’s what today is.”
“I don’t understand. What is so significant about today?”
“Oh Kade." She choked out the words. "We had a brother, a brother.” She was speaking so quietly that Kade strained forward to hear. “Today is the anniversary of his death.” She sobbed. “Gored by an elephant.”

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