Read an Excerpt
THE DELHI LLAMA
The streets of Old Delhi can be a confusing place for newcomers. They are noisy, dusty, and jam-packed with cars, vans, rickshaws, bicycles, street sellers, tourists, and cows, which are allowed to wander anywhere they wish, getting in everyone’s way. This can also be said of the tourists, although the cows tend to take fewer photos.
On this particular morning, there were also four meerkats who were enjoying the hustle and bustle because it allowed them to walk unnoticed through the streets.
“I still don’t understand where we’re going,” said Bruce.
“We’ve been through this,” said Donnie, who was wearing a hefty backpack full of gadgets, disguises, and inventions. “We have come to see Smo Ka, the Delhi Llama.”
“Smo who the what?” said Bruce.
“Smo Ka, the Delhi Llama. He’s a kung fu legend,” said Jet. “He invented the Lightning Spin Kick, a kick so fast if you blink, you’ll miss it. I’ve never managed it, but I’m hoping he’ll give me some tips. He also wrote The Four Elements of Kung Fu. I’ve brought along my copy to have it signed.” Jet held up a well-thumbed book from his collection of martial arts manuals.
“Many years ago, Smo Ka trained with our own Grandmaster One-Eye,” said Chuck. “That is how he came to hear of us and why he requested our help.”
“But what does he need our help with?” asked Bruce.
“That we do not know,” Chuck replied. “All we’ve been given is his address. He will explain when we see him.”
The Clan passed a street vendor with a large stack of samosas.
Bruce’s stomach rumbled. “Can we stop for a quick bite?” he asked.
“No, Smo is expecting us,” replied Chuck.
“But what about breakfast? All I’ve eaten since we left the Red Desert were those sugar-coated ants’ antennae,” moaned Bruce. “And doesn’t my mom always says it’s important to try the local food?”
“Your mom has never left her burrow in her whole life,” said Jet.
“Exactly. She always eats locally,” replied Bruce.
Donnie rolled his eyes. “All right, I’ll get you one of those samosas.” From his backpack, he pulled out a device made from a fishing rod and a pair of tweezers. He cast the line, sending the tweezers flying into the air. They latched onto a samosa on top of the pile.
“Nice one, Donnie,” Bruce cheered.
But the flying snack did not go unnoticed by the street vendor. “My samosa has sprouted wings,” he cried.
“Donnie, like the elephant who puts on a bikini and enters a beauty contest, you are drawing too much attention to yourself,” said Chuck sternly. “Release the samosa.”
“Sorry,” said Donnie. He reeled in the line and dropped Bruce’s snack on the ground.
Bruce reached for the samosa, but Chuck grabbed his arm. “No, Bruce. Quickly, everyone. Down this alley.” As the meerkats hurried down the quiet side street, Chuck turned to Donnie. “We are all grateful for your gadgets, but please remember—a ninja meerkat moves like a shadow through the streets. He does not steal samosas with a fishing rod.”
Suddenly, Chuck stopped outside a ramshackle shed that looked like it was two gusts of wind away from being a pile of firewood. “We’re here,” he said.
“This can’t be right,” said Jet. “A legend like the Delhi Llama should live in a palace, not a shed. We must have the wrong address.”
“A legend like the Delhi Llama would not care for things such as palaces,” Chuck replied.
“Why’s he called the Delhi Llama anyway?” asked Bruce.
“I’ll give you a clue,” said Donnie. “He lives here in Delhi and…” He paused and looked at his friend.
“And what?” asked Bruce.
“Honestly, Bruce,” said Donnie. “You are a brave, strong, and skillful ninja, but sometimes I wonder how you even manage to get dressed in the morning.”
Chuck banged on the door three times.
“Please enter,” spoke a voice from within.
Bruce pushed open the door and they stepped inside. The interior of the shed was even more rundown than the outside, with little more for comfort than a bed of straw and a bowl of water. A battered notebook and a pot of ink lay next to the bed, but there was no sign of the kung fu legend himself.
“Hello? Smo Ka, sir?” said Jet.
“You may call me Smo.” The voice made all four meerkats jump. It seemed to come from right in front of them.
“He’s invisible,” gasped Bruce.
“Not at all,” said the voice. “I am merely standing behind you.”
The meerkats turned to find a llama with dreadlocks standing in the doorway.
“How did you do that?” Jet asked.
“Years of practice. The ability to throw one’s voice can be useful. It can convince an enemy he is surrounded, when in fact he only faces one llama,” Smo replied.
“Oh! He’s a llama that lives in Delhi. That’s why he’s called the Delhi Llama!” Bruce exclaimed.
“Very perceptive, Master Willowhammer,” said Smo.
“How do you know my name?” asked Bruce.
“Grandmaster One-Eye has told me all about you. You are the legendary Clan of the Scorpion: Bruce “the muscle” Willowhammer, with the strength of eleven lions; Donnie Dragonjab—inventor, engineer, innovator; Chuck Cobracrusher, a wise and noble leader; and, of course, Jet Flashfeet, one of the most talented ninjas of his generation.”
“I am thrilled to meet you, sir,” said Jet. “I have read The Four Elements of Kung Fu many times. Would you do me the honor of signing my copy?”
“How kind of you, Master Flashfeet,” said Smo. “Of course I will.”
The llama took the book in his mouth and crossed the room, moving with a limp in his left hind leg. He lifted his front right hoof, dipped it in the pot of ink and carefully scribbled his name inside the book.
“Mr. Ka, sir, what is it that you need our assistance with?” asked Chuck.
“Please, call me Smo. Have you ever heard of the Eye of the Monkey?”
Chuck nodded. “It is an emerald which is said to give whoever possesses it the power of Infinite Protection.”
“What does that mean?” asked Donnie.
“It means whoever has the jewel cannot be harmed,” said Chuck. “The sharpest blade aimed at them will snap like a twig; the fastest bullet will bounce off their skin; even a bomb would be as harmless as a petal landing on their head.”
“Sounds amazing!” said Jet.
“Indeed. And I believe it may be about to fall into the wrong hands,” Smo replied.
“But its whereabouts have been kept secret for centuries,” said Chuck, frowning.
Smo nodded. “This is true. But a contact of mine has heard that someone has learned of its hiding place and is looking for a thief to steal it. My contact also revealed that the person we seek wears a top hat and travels with a circus.”
“The Ringmaster,” Donnie said with a scowl.
“Precisely,” said Smo.
“Then, we have no time to lose,” said Chuck. “We must get to the emerald ahead of the thief. Smo, where is the Eye of the Monkey hidden?”
“Tell no one, but the jewel is in a secret temple near the city of Agra,” the llama replied. “I shall take you there.”
“But why do you need us at all?” asked Jet. “Are you not the kung fu legend who single-hoofedly defeated the five vipers of Varanasi?”
Smo chuckled. “Yes, but I had four fully working limbs back then, while the vipers didn’t have a leg to stand on.”
“But you invented the Lightning Spin Kick!” protested Jet.
“So I did,” said Smo sadly. “Yet I’ve not performed it since I injured my leg. No, for this mission, I need the assistance of a brilliant leader, an inventive genius, an unstoppable force, and a dynamic fighter.”
“Then look no further. The Clan of the Scorpion is at your service,” said Chuck. “We will set off immediately.”
“Ninja-boom!” cried Jet.
Text copyright © 2011 by Gareth P. Jones
Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Luke Finlayson
Cover illustration copyright © 2011 by Domingos de Aquino