There was a trail of ants in a line, one perfectly behind the other, and though they meandered here and there, they always kept heading east in a line, towards the rising sun.
Ronny watched them intermittently with the sunrise. It was a gorgeous sunrise, with pinks, peaches and a few spectacular spots of red splashed across the sky vividly to one side and a pale blue that gradually darkened, still dotted with a few stars, on the other.
Slowly, the world was waking up. Ronny stared as the sky changed colours, losing herself in the stillness of it all until a rooster crowing in the distance roused her.
“The water!” She gasped as she jumped to her feet, narrowly avoiding what would have been a sad situation with the line of ants.
Veronica, or Ronny as she was always called, took to her heels in the direction of the noisy rooster. She was quick, her feet pounding the dry earth leaving faint imprints and kicking up little puffs of dust.
Veering sharply to the right when she came upon a wall of trees that surrounded her little village, she darted through the bushes nimbly until she came to a narrow but deep stream that wove through the tree-line. Retrieving her two gourds where she had hid them, Ronny made quick work of fetching water and was off again.
“Phew,” she exhaled as she made it back to the village just as the early risers were heading into the farms beyond.
Ronny softly deposited the water outside the hut she shared with her mother and tiptoed in, hoping to find her still asleep.
“I always know when you are gone,” her mother looked up from the pot she was stirring, “Did you fetch water?”
“Yes ma, do you want me to bring it in?”
“No, no, you just come and start on your porridge… You know it’s not safe beyond the trees Ronny, how many times do I have to tell you?”
“You can’t see the sunrise from here because of the trees, ma… And I never go far anyway.”
“Well, no good can come of it anyway, and I’m warning you not to disobey me again. Here,” her mother angrily put down her bowl which sloshed some porridge over the side and marched out of the hut.
It was another stunning morning. This time the sunlight came unhindered by clouds, a perfect morning with clear skies, a moving painting that evolved before your eyes. Ronny sat staring, mesmerised. She had long lost the fear and worry at being caught, since the sun had risen her mind had been filled with nothing else.
“Wow", she exhaled heavily, as if releasing bottled up tension, then giggled as she saw a plume of her breath rise in front of her. Was it that cold? Pursing her lips to do it again, she realised the plume was hanging steadily in the air in front of her, not dissipating but growing clearer.
Blinking her eyes against the sunlight, Ronny got up with a start. Something large was coming from the East, raising up a large cloud of dust that was dimming the brilliant sun into a hazy, dull golden ball. She stood frozen for several seconds, not trusting her eyes or her mind for that matter, then all of a sudden she turned and raced back in the direction of her village, adrenaline and pure fear coursing through her.
The flat plains swept passed her as she ran and the trees surrounding her village were soon in view. "What do I do when I get there?" She thought as she burst into the tree line and ducked under a low hanging branch that forced her to slow and realise she didn’t know her next move.
As she navigated the close growing trees that had always formed a natural defence around her people, Ronny racked her brain for a plan. Fear was demanding she ran home, but no… She couldn’t do nothing… Ran to the chief? No, No… The chief warrior.
That was it! She had ran to him and tell him… Ronny immediately deflated at the thought of waking up the fearsome warrior and then having to explain a situation that felt dire to her. That meant… She faltered as the thought drifted into her mind, she had to beat the war drum.
There were a few roosters pecking at the dry earth and an old, fat grey cat sitting at the entrance to the sentry’s house, but otherwise, the entire village was still asleep. The roosters paid her no mind and the cat lazily watched her as she rushed like a fiend into the village and made right for the square where high on a dais, the hallowed war drum sat. Breathing hard, Ronny scrambled onto the dais, grabbed the heavily decorated drumsticks and collected herself.
“You have to Ronny,” she inhaled deeply and closed her eyes, “Be brave, you have to…”
Then, in the loudest voice she had ever dared to use, she launched into the village war cry, pounding with all her might on the drum. “Warriors of the village! Arise and arm! Warriors! Warriors! Your time has come! Arise! Arise! And we will soon tell the stories of the brave warriors who brought us victory!”
The first out into the village square were the chief and the chief warrior, the former tugging at his headdress and looking thoroughly confused, and the latter just plain mad. No one but him beat the war drum. The chief warrior stared incredulously for a minute at the little girl up on the dais screaming her lungs out, then decided if it was a prank she had pay dearly for it later. Bellowing for his fellow men to take up their weapons, he ran to take up his position.
It was a fierce battle. But the raiders had not counted on finding the village awake, their main strength had been the element of surprise and so one by one, they fell; while the remaining few, realising they had lost, turned and ran for their lives.
“Can I go out tomorrow ma?” Ronny smirked behind her bowl of porridge.
Her mother turned her back on her feisty daughter to hide her smile, though it didn’t disguise the warmth in her tone as she replied in the negative. No need encouraging her, Ronny would find a way to, she always did.