The Last Savanna by Mike Bond
Publication Date: January 15, 2014 by Mandevilla Press
Description from Goodreads:
With Africa's last elephants dying under the poachers' guns, Kenya rancher and former SAS officer Ian MacAdam leads a commando squad against them. Pursuing the poachers through jungled mountains and searing deserts he battles thirst, solitude, terror and lethal animals, only to find that the poachers have kidnapped a young archaeologist, Rebecca Hecht, whom he once loved and bitterly lost.
McAdam embarks upon a desperate trek to save not only Rebecca but his own soul in an Africa torn apart by wars, overpopulation, and the slaughter of its last wildlife. Based on the author's experiences pursuing elephant poachers in the wilds of East Africa
Excerpted from the book THE LAST SAVANNA by Mike Bond. Copyright © 2013 by Mike Bond. Reprinted with permission of Mandevilla Press. All rights reserved
THE ELAND DESCENDED four steps down the grassy hillside and halted. He glanced all the way round the rolling golden hills, then closer, inspecting the long grass rippling in the wind, behind him, on both sides, and down to the sinuous green traverse of acacia, doum palms and strangler trees where the stream ran. The wind from the east over his shoulder carried the tang of drying murram grass and the scents of bitter pungent shrubs, of dusty, discarded feathers and glaucous lizard skins, of red earth and brown earth, of old scat and stones heating in the midafternoon sun. He switched at flies with his tail, twitched his ears, descended five more steps, and stopped again.
Thirst had dried his lips and eyes, tightened his throat, hardened his skin. Already the rain was drying out of the grass and soil pockets; here only the stream remained, purling between volcanic stones, rimmed by trees and tall, sharp weeds. He circled a thorn bush and moved closer several steps, his spiral gray horns glinting as he looked up and down the valley from north to west, then south, then up the slope behind him.
The shoulder-high thorn bushes grew thicker near the stream. The downslope breeze twirled their strong, dusty scents among their gnarled trunks; the sour smell of siafu, warrior ants, prickled his nose. He waited for the comforting twitter of sunbirds in the streamside acacias, the muffled snuffling of warthogs, or the swish of vervet monkeys in the branches, but there were none.
Licking his dry nose with a black tongue he raised his head and again sniffed round the wind, batting at flies with his ears, dropped his jaw and panted. There was truly no bad smell, no danger smell, but the wind was coming down the valley behind him and to get upwind he’d have to cross the stream and there was no way except through the thorn and commiphora scrub, which was where the greatest danger lay. He glanced back over his shoulder, gauging the climb necessary to regain the ridge and travel into the wind till he could descend the slope at a curve in the stream and keep the wind in his face. The sun glinting on the bleached grass, bright stones and red earth hurt his eyes; he sniffed once more, inhaled deeply, expanding the drum of thin flesh over his ribs, and shoved into the thorn scrub.
A widowbird exploded into flight from a branch on the far side of the stream and the eland jumped back, trembling. The sound of the stream pealing and chuckling coolly over its rocks made his throat ache. The heat seemed to buzz like cicadas, dimming his eyes. Shaking flies from his muzzle, he trotted through the scrub and bent his head to suck the water flashing and bubbling over the black stones.
The old lioness switched her tail, rose from her crouch and surveyed the eland’s back over the top of the thorn scrub. She had lain motionless watching his approach and now her body ached to move; the eland’s rutty smell made her stomach clench and legs quiver. She ducked her head below the scrub and padded silently to the stream, picked her way across its rocks without wetting her paws and, slower now, slipped a step at a time through the bush and crouched behind a fallen doum palm part way up the slope behind the eland, only her ears visible above it.
Far overhead a bearded vulture wavered in its flight, tipping on one wing, and turned in a wide circle. The eland raised his head, swallowing, glanced round; water dripping from his lips spattered into the stream. He shivered the flies from his back, bent to drink, raised his head, water rumbling in his belly. He turned and scanned the slope behind and above him; this was where he’d descended and now the wind was in his face and there was still no danger smell. His legs felt stronger; he licked his lower lip that already seemed less rough from the water filling his body. He trotted back through the thorn scrub past the fallen doum palm, bolting at the sudden yellow flash of terror that impaled him on its fierce claws, the lioness’ wide jaws crushing his neck as he screamed crashing through the bush. With one paw the lioness slapped him to the ground but he lurched up and she smashed him down again, her fangs ripping his throat, choking off the air as his hooves slashed wildly, and the horror of it he knew now and understood, dust clouding his eye, the other torn by thorns; the flailing of his feet slackened as the sky went red, the lioness’ hard body embracing him, the world and all he had ever known sliding into darkness.
The lioness sighed and dropped her head, the stony soil hurting her jaw. After a few moments she began to lick the blood seeping from the eland’s throat and mouth and the shoulder where her claws had torn it, then turned and licked her left rear leg where one of the eland’s hooves had made a deep gash. Settling herself more comfortably among the thorn bushes, she stripped back the skin along the eland’s shoulder, licking and gnawing at the blood and warm flesh beneath.
Crackling in the brush made her lay back her ears; she rumbled softly, deep in her throat. Heavy footsteps splashed through the stream and she growled louder, her rope tail switching. The male lion came up to the eland, lifted his lip and snarled.
Still growling she backed away slightly, lowering her head to grip the eland’s foreleg. The male sniffed the eland’s shoulder, crouched, ears back, and began to chew it. Then, gripping the shoulder in his jaw, he dragged the animal sideways, the lioness crawling after it, still holding the leg. Baring his teeth, the male leaned across the eland’s shoulder, bit down on the foreleg and pulled the eland over to get at its belly and flanks. Carefully the lioness edged round the carcass, reaching tentatively for a rear leg. With a roar the male flicked out a huge, flat paw that caught the side of her head. Her neck snapped loudly and the lioness tumbled back into the thorn brush, one rear paw trembling briefly.
The Samburu warrior rose from his hiding place among the rocks high up the slope, stretched his stiff legs and picked up his spear. From the shade he watched the lion’s thick black-maned head burrow into the eland’s belly. Since dawn, when the Samburu had begun watching the two lions, the young male and old female, they had mated nearly three times ten, but now he had killed her, giving the Samburu a possible solution to the problem that had been bothering him all day.