Nothing stirred on the African plains. The sun glared down and Hare crept inside the cool hollow of a baobab tree for his afternoon nap.
Suddenly he was wide awake. There was a boom, boom, booming in his ears. And it was getting closer. Hare peeped out from the tree nervously. Across the clearing the bushes snapped and parted, and out loomed a huge Gray shape.
“Oh it’s you!” said Hare irritably. “How can a fellow sleep with your entire racket?” The rhinoceros squinted down at him short-sightedly.
Greetings!” he bellowed in his slow way. “Tembo the elephant has sent me to fetch you to the waterhole. He’s going to tell us who our new king will be. All the animals have voted.”
Oh fiddlesticks!” cried Hare rudely. “What do I want with a new king? He’ll bully us from morning till night and make our lives miserable.”
“Don’t you want to see who’s been chosen? asked Rhino. “I know already,” snapped Hare.
“It will be that sly old lion, Kali. He has bribed all the other animals and promised not to eat their children if only they will vote for him.”
Rhino didn’t seem to believe Hare, and in the end Hare said, “Oh very well, I’ll come. But you’ll see I’m right.”
The sun was setting as Hare and Rhino reached the water-hole. All the animals had gathered there: giraffes, hippos, antelope, buffalo, warthogs, zebras, aardvarks, hyenas, mongooses, storks and weaver birds.
When Tembo the elephant saw that everyone was there, he threw up his trunk and trumpeted. “Animals of the plains, I am proud to tell you that Kali the lion will be our new king. It is a wise choice, my friends.” The animals cheered. But Hare only sighed.
“They’ll soon see what a horrible mistake they’ve made.” Out on a rocky ledge above the water-hole strode Kali. He stared down at all his subjects and there was a wicked glint in his eye.
“You’ve made me your king,” he growled, “and so now you’ll serve me!” And then he roared until the animals trembled.
“My first decree is that you must build a palace to shade my royal fur from the hot sun,” said Kali.
“I want it here beside the water-hole and I want it by sunset tomorrow. “My second decree is that every day you must bring me an animal for my supper. A king can’t do his own hunting.” The animals nodded gloomily.
“And my third decree is if you don’t do as I say, I’ll eat the lot of you!”
The animals now turned to one another in horror. They had thought a king would be wise and protect them. But Kali only wanted to bully and eat them. As darkness fell, the unhappy animals slunk away into the bush.
But at dawn they were back at the waterhole, hurrying to build Kale’s palace. There was much to do and little time. All through the heat of the day the animals lugged and labored.
Elephants lifted tree trunks for the pillars, crocodiles brought mud for the walls, and giraffes collected grasses that weaver birds wove for the roof.
None dared stop for a moment. Only hare did nothing. He hid inside a tussock of oat grass and watched as the fine thatched house rose up beside the water-hole.
To be continued...