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From Chapter Five of the third book in the "Hannibal's Elephant Girl" series

Calogo wandered along Elephant Row, watching the activity.

His sister had sent him to the tanner for cow hide, which he carried in a bundle on his back.

Since moving from Carthage to the elephant training camp, Tapaz and her father had more work than they could keep up with. They turned away jobs for cookware to work on the more lucrative military business.

Geodia had set up his shop on a hillside just above Elephant Row. Several men worked under his wife’s supervision, building a house behind the shop.

Calogo stopped to watch a young man coming toward him. He guided a small elephant by using a short stick to tap the animal’s leg, turning him left or right.

At an empty place between two towering carob trees, the man backed the elephant in. There he chained the animal’s right front foot to a metal post driven into the ground.

The young elephant extended his trunk to a muddy pool of water to his side. Sucking up the water, he squirted it over his shoulder and side.

Calogo laughed at such a sight.

The young man glared at him. “You think that’s funny?”

He spoke in Carthaginian.

“Oh, yes. I love how he bathes himself,” Calogo said in the same language.

“He does it to cool off.”

“How did you learn about elephants?”

“Have you never heard of India?”

“No.”

“It’s a land far to the east, my homeland. I was brought here with Toria.” He patted the elephant’s shoulder.

“And four other Indian elephants.”

“How can you know an elephant comes from India?” Calogo asked.

“They’re smaller than the African elephants, and see her ears? They are quite little compared to the Africans.” He pointed his stick to an elephant across from them.

Calogo looked that way. “Ah, yes, I see that. But why do they bring Indian elephants so far?”

“Because they have a quiet temperament and are easy to train. Bring one of those food bricks to me.” He pointed his stick toward a neatly piled stack of the bricks.

Calogo picked up one of the bricks to examine it.

“Carrots, cabbage leaves, sliced turnips…does she like this stuff?”

“Hold it toward her, and you’ll see.”

Calogo stepped closer to the animal, with his hand outstretched.

Toria extended her trunk, sniffed the food brick, then wrapped her trunk around it, snatching it from his hand.

He laughed and patted her cheek as she chewed.

Her trunk examined his load of cow hide, then she laid her trunk across his shoulders.

“You’ve made a friend for life,” the young man said.

“Will she remember me when next I come this way?”

“If you wait ten summers before you return, she’ll still remember you.”

“I’m called ‘Calogo’.”

“I know. I’m ‘Yatan’.”

“How do you know me?”

“Your sister is Tapaz, the silversmith.”

“Ah, yes, she is.”

“All the boys know of Tapaz. But none can get anything more than ‘Go away’ from her.”

Calogo laughed. “I’ve watched many turned away.”

“Does she not care for boys at all?”

“The only way to talk to my sister is through the art and craft of silver.”

“Oh. All I know is about the elephants.”

Calogo turned at the sound of a heavy thump. “Was that a tree falling?”

“No. Hold on.” Yatan held his hand up in a wait motion.

Soon, a second thump came from farther down Elephant Row.

“Another one,” Calogo said.

“That was an elephant lifting his foot and letting it drop.”

“Why?”

“Their way of talking.”

“What are they saying?” Calogo asked.

“Nothing. Just ‘I’m here. Where are you?’”

“How many elephants are here?” Calogo asked.

“A hundred and more.”

“Elephants are so interesting.”

“Your sister is also interesting.”

Calogo glanced from the elephant Toria to the other elephants nearby. Several boys and men were tending to them. One of the boys carried an armload of leafy tree limbs, dumping them before a large-eared elephant.

“That one’s African.” Calogo pointed toward the one picking up a tree limb and stripping off the branches to eat them.

“Yes. He’s Obolus, our biggest animal. He came from Valdacia.”

“He likes tree branches.”

“He’ll strip the bark and eat that, too.”

“My father is in need of an apprentice,” Calogo said.

“What?”

“He wants a boy he can train in the silversmith trade.”

“He has Tapaz.”

“Yes, but they both have more work than they can keep up with.”

“I know nothing about being a silversmith.”

“Every boy my father has tried to train, only wants to sit and stare at my sister.”

“I can understand that.”

“But Father soon kicks them out, or she does. He wants a worker, or at least one who’s eager to learn the trade.”

“Hmm.”

“If you’ll teach me how to care for the elephants, I’ll teach you what I know of making silver,” Calogo said.

“Would that be enough for me to get the apprentice job?”

“I know about smelting the metal, building the molds, pouring the plates…that sort of thing. If you can do that and show great interest in working the metal into useful items while ignoring my pretty sister, I think you could become an apprentice.”

“Why don’t you become your father’s apprentice?”

“Some boys are born to become soldiers, some to be teachers, others to be smiths. I think I love animals more than cold metal objects.”

“When do we start?”