Excerpt for Thunder III: Hope Haven by
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Thunder III

Hope Haven

By

Erik Daniel Shein

Melissa Davis

Though inspired by true events, this book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © 2017 Arkwatch Holdings, LLC, and Erik Daniel Shein

Co-Author: Melissa Davis

Smashwords Edition

Hardback ISBN: 9781629898049

Hardback Special Edition ISBN: 9781629896298

Paperback ISBN: 9781629896304

eBook ISBN: 9781629896311

LCN: 2017932567

First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC, September 5, 2017

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Smashwords Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. Thunder, the Pigmy Elephant™ and friends are Trademarks of Arkwatch Holdings, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, Digital, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for the author or third party’s web sites and their content.

Requests for information should be addressed to:

Arkwatch Holdings, LLC

4766 East Eden drive

Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Cover: Arkwatch Holdings, LLC and Karen Fuller

Animated Cover Art: Lenord Robinson

Illustrator: Paul Barton, II

Editor: Maxine Bringenberg



Table of Contents


Chapter 1—New Beginnings

Chapter 2—Measuring Up

Chapter 3—Surf’s Up

Chapter 4—Devious Clan

Chapter 5—Traveling Companions

Chapter 6—Princess Gabriella

Chapter 7—Crocodile Rocks

Chapter 8—The Crystal Lagoon

Chapter 9—Hope Haven

Chapter 10—Wild Race

Chapter 11—Graduation

Chapter 12—A New Herd

Chapter 13—First Blush

Chapter 14—Change of Heart

Chapter 15—Seeking Help

Chapter 16—The Camp

Chapter 17—Missing Animals

Chapter 18—Man Vs. Beast

Chapter 19—Recovery

Chapter 20—Two Years Later



Dedication


To my late Aunt Bessie Leutenberg. She is always looking down on me.



Chapter 1

New Beginnings


As the early morning light filtered through the dense canopy of the Central African rainforest, a chattering chorus of voices came alive. Birds of all kinds were singing their morning salutations, waking the world around them to a new day. The sunlight wove its rays through the canopy of trees above and trickled over the beautiful flowers, bringing out their vivid colors.

The leaves above trembled slightly and a small screech sounded. A flash of fur raced along a branch and was soon followed by another, as two young talapoin monkeys chased each other through the leaves.

A tiny talapoin monkey taunted her brother. “Catch me if you can, loser!”

“Stop! No fair! You run too fast!” He was becoming quite frustrated with his sister. He continued to leap with his tiny legs, but she was still much faster.

“It’s not my fault that you’re too slow!” She turned around to stick her tongue out at her brother and was almost knocked out of the tree as he collided into her.

“Gotcha!!” Her brother grasped her fur and stuck his tongue out at her.

The pair of them broke into a series of giggles before they reversed roles.

Their mother, in a branch just above them, sighed as she watched them zip across another branch. The mother talapoin turned to her friend in the branch across from her. “At this rate, they’ll need a nap by breakfast.”

“Hey, don’t knock mobility. They could still be stuck to your side.” The other female talapoin spoke from experience. At this moment, she had one baby hanging latched onto her furry back.

“Isn’t that the truth! Did you hear a screech? Goodness, I wonder what they got into now.” The talapoin raced along the branches to find out what calamity had fallen on her children.

“Probably just fell out of the tree again, Lula. I’ll come along too.” The second talapoin followed her friend with her youngster firmly clutching her back.

Thunder, an African pygmy elephant, watched the two mothers and sighed. Everyone seemed to have happy families, and that element was missing from his life. He had his friends, sure, but it wasn’t the same. Thunder yearned for a mate to complete his life, yet he seemed, instead, to journey from one adventure to the next.

When he was still a young calf, Thunder had been separated from his herd by poachers and had traveled across Central Africa to find his way home. While it had not started off as a grand adventure, Thunder had found himself traveling with four feathered friends and a cantankerous rhino. They had helped him reunite with his herd and his mother.

Then when he was a little older, another quest came out of the most tragic of circumstances. When his mother became a casualty to a frenzied stampede, Thunder found himself at an unfortunate crossroads. As he had mourned her loss, his despair was so great that he had left everything and everyone he had ever known behind. Thankfully, his friends had not given up on him, and he had been fortunate to make even more friends along the way.

He might have left the herd a little younger than other elephants, but he was not alone. His friends were always happy to keep him company. Today, Thunder was checking to see if any of the birds wanted to go for a small adventure to the beach. It had been some time since they had been there and Thunder was hankering for adventure, as he often did.

Thunder took a few steps and walked closer to Sydney’s nest. He heard a few voices, none that sounded anything like Sydney.

“Hey! Ouch! Idi!!” came Lumo’s tiny voice.

“Watch it, will ya?” Awiti complained.

“I can’t help it if I need more room.” Idi shuffled against his siblings.

“Knock it off!” Lumo attempted to move away from his brother. His quick movements caused Idi to bump into his sister.

Awiti tumbled over the side of the nest, screaming, “AAAHHHHH!!!”

She had not learned how to fly yet. Her wings moved in frenzied flaps. Thunder reached out and caught her with his trunk before she hit the ground. Awiti snuggled close against him, her heart racing. “Thunder! Oh my gosh, thank you!”

“No problem, Awiti.” Thunder lifted her up and gently placed her in the nest. “Idi! What would your mama say?”

“B-b-but Uncle Thunder, I didn’t mean to.” His beak seemed to tremble at the thought of his mother’s reactions when she found out.

“That may be, but you could have really hurt your sister.” Thunder put his trunk up and ruffled Idi’s feathers. The tiny egrets were enough to melt his heart. Their bodies were still more fluff than feathers. Thunder imagined that they would look a lot like Sydney when their feathers came in. Sydney was one of three egrets who had befriended Thunder when he was much younger. This was Sydney’s third brood, and while she loved motherhood, she let her mate do the majority of the work.

“Where is your mama?” Thunder asked them.

Awiti scratched her neck with her foot. “She went out.”

“For food?” Thunder should not have mentioned that word, for as soon as he did, Lumo started to hop up and down excitedly.

“Fooooooooooddd!” Lumo’s mouth opened and closed as if he were imagining the tasty bugs Sydney would bring back.

Awiti sniffed in irritation. “Is that all you think about?”

“Well…yes!” Lumo stuck his beak up at her.

Thunder chuckled. These three birds were so much like the other egrets Sydney, Persius, and Cedric. Sydney and Persius had several offspring, but Cedric had never been able to find a mate. Thunder could certainly relate. Finding the right mate was hard. The fates had to align perfectly to make the right match. Cedric had become the goofy uncle to his siblings’ kids. He seemed to like that, as did Thunder, for while he was not an egret he was an honorary member of their family.

Thunder enjoyed spending time with the youngsters, but today he was on a mission. “Well, if you see your mama, let her know I am heading to the beach. She knows where to find me.”

“Okay, Uncle Thunder.” Idi moved closer to the edge of the nest so that he could run his beak along Thunder’s trunk.

Thunder smiled and lifted his trunk back up. Before he knew it, all three of them were hugging him tight in adoration. His heart felt light, filled to the brink with their innocent love. “Okay. Bye now.”

The three hatchlings moved back away from him and settled back into their nest. Thunder made sure they were safe before he moved away. He moved through the next line of trees and shook the branch above him. A large nest was perched on top.

A loud squawk sounded. “What?!”

Thunder snorted slightly. “Wake up, Cedric.”

The egret peered over his nest and rolled his eyes. “Did you have to wake me up? I was having the best dream ever. Something about flamingos in tutus, and some lovely egrets doing the hula in leafy skirts.”

“O—kay…,” Thunder chuckled at his friend. “That does sound like quite a dream. Sounds like something Frederick would come up with.”

“No doubt. Why are you waking me up at the crack of dawn?” Cedric’s white plumage was quite tousled from his sleep. He slid his wing over it to smooth it down slightly.

“I thought we should take a trip.” Thunder was not sure Cedric would want to go. From here it looked like he had woken up on the wrong side of the nest.

Cedric started to preen his feathers with his beak. He smoothed down a few and spoke through his feathers. “Oh? Where to? Does it involve any bachelorettes?”

Thunder rolled his eyes. Sometimes Cedric had a one-track mind. While Thunder wanted a mate to share his life with too, he did not think about it every second of the day. “Highly unlikely, unless egrets have started to hang out at the beach.”

“Hmmm….” Cedric looked around him as if he were checking out his prospects. “Well, there aren’t any here either. Can I catch a ride?”

“Sure. I tried to get Sydney, but she was away from her nest. Do you know if Persius is around?”

“Nah. He flew to the opposite end of the rainforest. He’s on egg duty right now. Last I heard, they could hatch at any moment.” Cedric flew down from his nest and landed on top of Thunder’s back.

“Well, the others said they would meet us at the trail. Ready to go?” Thunder turned his head as he addressed Cedric.

“Lead on, fearless leader.” Cedric moved closer to Thunder’s head, turned around, and lay his head down. He crossed his long spindly legs out in front of him and put his wings under his head. “Ah…this is the life.”



Chapter 2

Measuring Up


By the time Thunder reached the trail where they were going to meet the others, it was nearing lunch time. His stomach was rumbling loudly. A loud gurgle shook his mid-section, waking the egret on his back. “Sorry, Cedric. I guess I’m hungrier than I thought.”

“I’ll say. Maybe we should stop for a bite,” suggested Cedric. He was looking at the trees around them.

Thunder noticed Cedric appeared to be looking for more than food and smirked. “Right…on the prowl again, Cedric?”

Cedric’s beak spread into a huge grin. “Well…I thought I saw a few white feathers over that way.” He shrugged innocently. “I think it might be worth a look.”

“Fine,” Thunder chuckled. “Whatever. The others should be here soon anyway, so don’t go too far. I think I’ll scrounge up something while we’re waiting.” Thunder watched as Cedric flew into the trees. He turned to the nearest tree and started to pick the bark off it. He used his left tusk to scrape as much off as he could. The tree shook slightly as he rubbed up against it.

“Hey! Do you mind?”

Startled, Thunder looked up to see a white-throated blue swallow sticking his head over its nest with his wing raised threateningly. His blue head glistening where the sun hit it.

“Sorry!” Thunder moved away from the tree apologetically.

“You do know that we need these trees too, right? Take too much bark and you might as well put a rest in peace sign on the tree,” he grumbled at Thunder.

“I never take more than I need,” Thunder tried to explain, but it was clear that the bird simply wanted to complain. Thunder stepped back and raised his trunk up in salutation. “Have a nice day, sir.”

More muffled complaints came, but at this point Thunder had tuned them out. He was still hungry and decided to dig for tubers instead. By the time he had eaten his fair share, his friends had started to arrive.

Razor padded up next to him. The lion shook out his mane before he greeted him. “Afternoon.”

Thunder grinned. “About time!” He moved his trunk over to Razor’s ears and blew out a hot breath of air. His mane flew in several different directions. Thunder considered trumpeting, but did not want to hurt Razor’s ears.

Razor tackled his trunk and tried to roll Thunder to the ground, but he was quite outsized. The lion ended up falling to the ground with a thud. Razor rubbed his hip with his paw. “Ouch.”

“Well that was close.” A tiny head popped out of Razor’s mane. Archie crossed his arms over his chest. “A little warning next time?”

Thunder lowered his trunk to the black banded lizard. “Sorry. Archie. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“I’m incognito. I think I saw Rita hanging in the trees back there. That’s one crazy dame. I swear, you go on one date and suddenly she’s talking children.” Archie made a disgusted look.

“Good. We already have enough Archie juniors running around this jungle,” teased Razor.

A genet darted through the nearest bush. His cat-like body was covered in soft gray fur that was dotted with black spots along the spine. Two little furballs rolled through the brush and landed in a clumsy heap at Thunder’s feet. “Sorry I took so long. The missus requested I bring the children this time. Something about needing some me time.”

“No problem, Dash.”

Thunder scooped up one of the kits with his trunk and inspected her. The young genet attempted to box his trunk with her paws. Thunder tossed her up into the air and her legs sprawled out around her as she tried to prepare herself for landing.

“Hey, watch it! Will ya!”

Thunder caught her and tossed her up in the air again. This time her little brother pounced on his foot. “Let her go!”

Thunder giggled as the kit’s teeth tickled his skin. He put the other kit down safely next to him. “They’re still quite young, aren’t they? Will they be able to make the journey with us okay?”

“We are not! Tell him, Papa.”

“Hush, Khari. No one doubts your courage, lad.” Dash ruffled his son’s fur.

“Papa, I’m brave too. Did you see! I flew through the air.” Ayo puffed out her chest.

“Yes, dear girl. I saw,” Dash chuckled. Before Dash could say more, Khari tackled Ayo and the two went tumbling through the air. They rolled all over the place before they smashed into the tree nearby.

“How do you sleep?” asked Archie. The lizard appeared a little leery of the children.

“Like the dead….” Dash snickered. “The missus usually wakes up with them.”

“No wonder she needs me time.”

At this point the two genets were rolling a small ball of something around the ground, passing it back and forth.

Thunder sniffed the air. “What is that smell?”

“Please tell me they aren’t playing with poop again.” Dash hung his head in frustration.

“Poop! Please tell me you’re joking!” Archie put a finger over his nose and held his nostrils shut.

At this point, Thunder could not help the laughter that was building inside him. The very thought of anyone playing with their poop had turned Archie nearly a shade of green. “That’s hilarious.”

Razor joined in. He was laughing so hard he collapsed on the ground. His large paws beat on the ground in emphasis. “You should see your face! Ah-ha-ha-ha! Cedric, you can come down now.”

Cedric flew down from the tree above him. He whistled slightly as he landed. “Morning.”

“Man, Cedric! What did you eat?” Razor put a paw to his face and waved the smelly fumes away from his face.

“Oh, I didn’t break wind. This is my new cologne.” Cedric sat up on Thunder’s back with a proud look on his face.

“What did you do, squeeze stink bugs all over yourself?” Archie looked like he was about to barf.

“Well, I figured it couldn’t hurt.” Cedric shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, it sure can’t help either.” Dash shook his head.

“How many attempts does this make?” Archie asked curiously.

“I dunno. I gave up after the first hundred.” Dash wrinkled his nose.

“It’s only been thirty-seven. Give me some credit, will ya?” Cedric shook his head at his friends.

“You’ll find someone, Cedric.” Thunder wanted to tell them to stop talking, but he did not have the heart to do so. Cedric was not the only animal here who did not have a mate, after all. They may not realize how difficult it was for their friends to find mates of their own. This was a sore subject for both of them.

Razor looked at Thunder perceptively. He rolled his eyes at the other two and quickly changed the topic. “So, who’s surfing today?”

“Not me…,” Cedric gestured to himself. “It would be a waste of cologne to get in the water.”

Razor got closer to Thunder and whispered to him, “Please tell me you can spray him down.”

Thunder chuckled softly and whispered back, “I can if I can catch him by surprise. He hides every time I get close to water.”

Razor chuckled with him, remembering the last time Thunder sprayed Cedric down. Cedric’s feathers were sticking up in every direction. The more he thought about it, the harder he laughed.

Thunder held his breath as he patted Cedric on the head with his trunk. “Stranger things have been known to happen, Cedric.” Thunder tried to encourage Cedric.

“Right….” Cedric smiled and tapped Thunder’s back. “I met this amazing egret just now. She would have been mine, but some Don Juan stepped in at the last moment.”

“Sorry, pal. Next time?” Dash gave Cedric a half-smile.

Cedric shrugged. “One day I’ll have to get it right. For now though, off to another grand adventure!” Cedric put a wing up into the charge position.

“If you call a day sitting at the beach an adventure,” Archie snickered.

“Papa, did he say beach?” Ayo jumped up and down. “I’ve always wanted to see the beach.”

“Right. Thunder, do you mind?” Dash gestured to his offspring.

“Of course not.” Thunder lowered his trunk and gathered the two genets, then tossed them up into the air.

“Wheeeee!” the two of them cried, and both looked disappointed when they landed with a dull thud on Thunder’s back.

“Off to the beach,” Thunder declared.

“Hey, it beats weaving more sticks into one of my nests. I’m up to six now. Maybe I need to mix some bling into them like Frederick suggested. But, alas…that is neither here nor there.”

Thunder let out a soft sigh. The more they talked about Cedric’s woes, the more it made Thunder want to stomp his feet on the ground. He decided to keep quiet though. Thankfully, as soon as they started moving, the banter stopped. The trees opened wider and the trail to the beach was now exposed. The sandy shores were the closest thing to snow any of them had ever seen. The white granules sparkled in the sun’s rays.

Thunder turned around to find Dash wrapping small leaves around his paws. “What are you doing?”

Dash gestured to his legs. “Protecting my paws. One of the gorillas told me the uprights sometimes wear things on their feet to protect their skin. I thought it might work for my paws.”

“I never have a problem,” Razor declared.

“Well, you have more fur on your feet than I do.” Dash took a few tentative steps on the sand. When the leaves held onto his feet, he seemed content. “Ahhh!! So much better. Children, come down so I can wrap your paws too.

Ayo and Khari slid down Thunder’s trunk and landed in a heap at their father’s feet. He quickly fashioned small shoes for them. The two of them followed right behind him. Their eyes were wide with wonder.

As they walked down the beach, as always, Thunder was reminded of his mother, Serenity. The last adventure they had together had been right here at this beach. One of the hippos had asked to measure their feet. To this day, the large circle remained in the garden of feet the hippo kept farther up the banks.

“You guys go ahead. I’ll be right there.” Thunder left the group and headed to the garden of feet that had grown over the years. Shapes made with rocks, shells, sticks and other debris lined the garden from top to bottom. In a way, this was like a grave marker for Serenity. It was far easier to remember her during her life than the tragic way she had died.

Thunder pulled a flower from the edge of the rainforest and brought it back to the foot garden. He placed it on Serenity’s print and let out a soft sigh. “I miss you, Mother. I think I always will.”

There was so much he felt he had missed out on when she passed away. The gentle nudging into young adulthood might have prepared him a little better for the loneliness he might feel when he was estranged from his herd. When male elephants reached a certain age, they had to head out to find their own lives, while the females were able to stay within their herds. Some of the male elephants would run around in small bachelor herds and some would stay alone. Thunder fell into the second category, except for the fact he had enough friends to keep loneliness at bay.

Thunder lifted his foot and let it hover over Serenity’s. His had now surpassed hers by a few inches. He had always thought following in her footsteps would be a difficult task. While she was physically gone, he did often feel her presence near him. Thunder had actually heard her voice when he visited the caves, but that had only happened once. Her last words were for him to find Hope Haven and his destiny.

Hope Haven was still a mystery to Thunder. He had searched for it, but had no idea what to look for. None of the animals knew what Hope Haven was. Thunder had tried returning to the caves to see if he would get any clues from his mother’s spirit, but she had not come back to him.

Thunder let his trunk touch the sand inside the footprint. “Someday I will find Hope Haven, Mother. I won’t give up until I do.”

As Thunder walked down the beach, he heard a commotion from the ocean. An unusual cry echoed across the winds. He turned to see a large orca whale in the distance. A thick gush of water spouted from it and shot high into the air. Thunder had never seen a whale before. The orca whale dove under the water. In moments, his body jumped through the air and he landed on his back. Thunder watched the water shake around him. For some reason, the sight of such a magnificent creature lifted his spirits. Perhaps, it was a sign that he was finally going to head in the right direction.



Chapter 3

Surf’s Up!


As Thunder walked across the beach, he could see that the hippos were up to something again. His friends were watching from a few feet away. Thunder moved closer to them. “What are they doing?”

“I don’t know exactly. I think I heard one of them say mancala.” Razor gestured to the hippo on the end.

“What is mancala?” Thunder had never heard that word before.

“It’s a game the uprights play,” Dash answered.

“What’s an upright?” Ayo asked her father curiously.

“Uhm…well...an upright is like an animal who walks on two feet,” Dash tried to explain.

“Like Cedric? Are you an upright?” Khari tilted his head as he stared closely at the egret.

“Me? Good heavens, no.” Cedric blustered before them.

“Uprights do not have wings, or much fur for that matter. They build their nests above the ground.” At this point, the children had lost interest.

“All right, so back to this mala fala thing.” Archie pointed to the hippos.

“Man-cala, Archie,” Dash chuckled slightly.

“How in the world do you know that?” Archie slid down Razor’s back, climbed down his tail, and landed on the small boulder next to him.

“Well, the missus listens to all the gossip. Apparently, some of the gorillas know how to play. Maybe they taught the hippos,” suggested Dash.

“That’s always possible. I bet it was Harold and Neville. They always seem to know how humans do things. Maybe they feel a kinship with them, being able to walk on two feet sometimes.” Thunder’s ears flapped gently against his sides and his tail flicked away a few sand fleas.

Thunder watched the two hippos standing near a long log. On the log were twelve large shells placed by twos. There were two long oval indentations on the top and bottom of the log. The shells were filled with tiny pebbles that tiny bonobos chimps were moving around for the hippos.

“All right there, move my marbles, will ya, Taz?” Rudy gestured to the marbles in the closest shell. When the bonobos had moved each of his marbles, the hippo smiled. “Thanks, Taz. I think we’ll win yet!”

Jemma, the hippo standing at the opposite side of the board, was clearly not ready to concede. “Bah. So you say, old timer! Max, give them a toss.”

The tiny bonobos turned to the hippo and saluted. “Aye! Aye!”

Another group of hippos was standing nearby, and they seemed a little disgruntled. “Do you mind? You’re hogging the board!”

“Well, it wouldn’t be a problem if we had another one,” the oldest hippo answered.

Inspiration struck Thunder instantly. He called to the hippos from where he stood. “I have an idea. If I can find another log, we could make another board together.”

“Thunder!” Dale was an adolescent hippo that Thunder had seen here a few times. He was happy to see Thunder. He raced over to where Thunder stood.

“Hello, Dale.” Thunder smiled warmly at him.

“Hi! And hello to all of you. Did you mean what you just said?” Dale’s eyes were wide with excitement.

“Yeah. All I have to do is find a falling tree or some large debris. There’s always plenty on the beach around here.” Thunder pointed up and down the stretch of beach with his trunk.

“Great!” Dale was clearly excited.

“Razor, you come with me. Dash and Archie, you are on shell duty. Maybe you can convince Cedric to go find some small rocks for us.” Thunder nodded to where the bird was lounging in a tree.

“Sounds like a plan,” agreed Dash. “Come along, children.”

Thunder and Razor made their way up and down the shore line. They were not having much luck finding a piece of bark, so Thunder decided to go a little further into the trees. Razor had stayed on the beach to keep checking. Before long, Thunder found a dead tree that was close to falling completely over. He pushed against it a few times and stepped back as it crashed.

He used his tusk to sever the last few splinters that kept it attached to the stump. Then he wrapped his trunk around the base and carried it carefully through the trees. The log was easy for him to manage; even though it was pretty wide, the insides were hollow.

Thunder made his way to where Dale was standing. “Okay. Now, all we gotta do is split it. Stand back!” The others moved back as he dropped the log on the ground. He raised his front legs and stomped on the log as hard as he could. The log splintered and cracked before splitting right open. “There!”

“Good job, Thunder!” Dale was visibly excited. “Okay, let’s put the shells down here. Looks like we have enough for two extra boards. That’s so awesome!”

Thankfully, the animals had gathered more than enough materials to make the boards. They used some of the tree sap inside the log to attach the shells. Instead of long grooves inside the log, they improvised and used a few shells to create the longer indentation. Once this was accomplished, the new mancala games were good to go.

Thunder watched them for a bit, but did not really want to play. Dash and Archie were having a blast using the extra board. The young genets were chucking marbles into the trees, trying to knock Cedric from his perch. As Thunder started to walk away he heard a loud squawk. He turned to find a very red-faced egret fuming from the tree tops.

“Ouch!” Cedric turned around and shook his wingtip at them. “Knock it off!”

“We were trying to, but we missed you,” Khari called up at him.

Cedric tore a branch from the tree and waved it in the air. “If you know what’s good for you—”

“What? You’ll build us a nest?” Ayo giggled uncontrollably.

Cedric rolled his eyes and dropped the stick. “I think I’ll try my luck further up the beach.”

Then he heard the squabbling voices of Dash and Archie as they fought over their rocks. Razor seemed to have it under control though.

“Hey, hey. No cheating!” Razor was keeping the pair of them in line. He pulled Archie up by the tail and set him away from Dash. Archie was trying to lunge at the genet. Razor shook his head. “And I thought I’d have to babysit the children.”

From across the shore, Thunder saw the faint outline of a large shape followed by a smaller one. He was pretty sure he knew who the larger shape was. “Riley!”

“Hello, little man. How are the waves, Thunder?” the hippo called to him.

Thunder left his friends to their game and made his way over to Riley. The shape following behind him was actually a young hippo. “I haven’t been in the water yet. Who is this little guy?”

“This is my progeny, Hai. Hai, this is Thunder.” Riley nodded from his son to Thunder.

“Thunder? The Thunder? Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to tell my friends. They are so not going to believe this. I get to surf with Thunder. Oh, they are going to be sooooo jealous.” Hai was very excited. His tiny ears twisted a few times and his mouth opened to show a toothy smile that spread from one end of his face to another.

“Nice to meet you too, Hai.” Thunder put his trunk on Hai’s head and ruffled his skin lightly. “You’re very lucky to have a father like Riley.”

“Oh, I knos! He’s the best!” Hai agreed.

“That’s awfully kind of you, Thunder.” Riley walked to where the tide was ripping across the sand. “Now, the first part is tricky, Hai. You have to get used to the rhythm of the waves.”

Hai followed his father into the frothy white water. He giggled as the waves ran across his legs. “That tickles!”

Thunder had to agree. The water did tickle when it first hit the legs. “Yes. It does.”

“All right, Thunder. Can you stay in front of Hai, and I’ll go behind him?” Riley asked him.

“Sure.”

The pair of them guided the young hippo safely into the ocean. When they got a little farther out in the water, Hai’s face became filled with fear.

“What is that!!” He nodded to the small shape that was coming closer to them.

The closer it got, the larger the shape became. For a moment, Thunder thought it might be a shark or manatee, but then it burst from the water and arced over their heads. Thunder watched in awe. “What is that?”


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