The House of Ibn Kathir: Year Captain…

Looking past the boys, Yusif’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully as they searched along the far distant horizon, as though the answer lay hidden along the fringe of trees that obscured the skyline. 

'Ya Allah, what should I do?' he wondered to himself, as he mulled over the problem again and again, chewing his lower lip until at last, his irresolute mind was forced to make a decision.

Suddenly a nearby flutter of wings and the squawking cry of a moorhen fleeing from its place of roost brought Yusif out of his thoughts. Just a few feet away there arose several curious disturbances in a nearby thicket, following in very quick succession, interrupting the peace.

Leaves jostled, and the branches of the thicket began to shudder wildly. A sharp, whipping fracture of twigs pierced the air. A hornet and a pair of dragonflies that had been hovering hitherto harmoniously with nature suddenly scattered away in fright. It looked like something ominous was about to emerge from the undergrowth. Warsoma reeled with shock, trembling. Suspicion resurrected in his mind.

“I-Is it ... a wolf?” faltered Warsoma, pointing towards the thicket in panic.

“No, it can’t be, I thought you said wolves are extinct ... aren't they akhi?” gulped Azmi uneasily, not daring to move a muscle. Azmi knew about all manner of dangerous creatures that lurked in the jungles of Malaysia but what about the English countryside?

“W-Wolves are extinct … my grandfather says the worst you can find in the woods is an adder,” stammered Daud with a growing feeling of dread.

The disturbance in the bushes grew louder. Branches snapped and shuddered now more vehemently than before. Scared of snakes, Daud took a step back along with the other boys.

“That's one big snake, if that's what it is!” retorted Reda doubtfully, the only one bold (and crazy) enough to edge forward for a closer inspection.

Suddenly, two crooked branches flew portentously aside, as they parted beneath a canopy of leaves. Through the darkness of the bushes and foliage stepped out a lithe, shadowy figure.