Cpl. Kit Thunder of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
returns in...

Secrets of the Forgotten Valley

A 10-Chapter Adventure of the Canadian Bush!

by "Drooling" D.K. Latta
About the author

Episode 1: Death From the Trees

THE MAN PLUNGED THROUGH THE SNOW-HEAVY GROUND, his snowshoes keeping him from sinking too far into the chilly white. Bounding at his side, leaping from one self-made impression to another, was a large wolf-dog. The air was cool, and the strenuous exertions from both man and dog sent steam cascading from between their lips reminiscent of a steam locomotive.

The man was dressed in a heavy black overcoat, a fur hat upon his head. His legs were sheathed in dark blue with yellow piping up the sides, betraying the fact that these were more than just clothes, but a uniform. The uniform, in fact, of the world famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police. But if his wardrobe was known throughout much of the world, this particular Mountie had his own reputation in this vast, and savage, corner of it. For he was no ordinary police officer. His skin was ivory pale -- a paleness that might, at first glance, be attributed to the cold, perhaps even frostbite. But only at first glance. Then it would be realized that the pallor was in the very pigment of his flesh. The hair that peeked from beneath his cap was also unusually pale -- almost white, though he was too young a man to be sporting hoary locks. It fell to his eyes to tell the full tale. His eyes were like pale rubies in his chalk white face. He was an albino.

His name was Kit Thunder, and he was on a trail. Popular writers had it that the motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was that they always get their man -- in reality, the official motto was "maintain the right" -- but the albino corporal aimed to live up to the former as well as the latter.

Kit stopped, sucking in ragged gasps of brittle air, and the wolf-dog -- impulsively named Kevin in a facetious moment -- halted at his side, its tongue lolling out of its mouth in an attempt to regulate and cool its body temperature, despite the exterior cold. Kit put a gloved hand on the dog's shoulder, patting it affectionately.

He shrugged out of his back pack, and crouched down. Dragging free his canteen, he sipped a few drops, then poured some into his cupped hand and allowed Kevin to slake his canine thirst. Of course, there was water all around them in the form of the frozen snow, but it was always a good idea to drink pre-melted water when possible. Letting the snow melt in your mouth expended your own body warmth in the doing, and that was never a good idea when deadly frostbite and hypothermia was constantly yapping at your heels, like invisible wolves seeking to wear you down.

The rest break done, Kip reshouldered his pack and the two of them started off again.

As it stood, he had no idea if his mission would prove to be a false alarm...or if, even now, he could be walking into an ambush. A local guide, drunk out of his mind at a local tavern in Fort McMurray, had started spouting off, saying more, presumably, than he had ever intended. Telling anyone who would listen about how he had been hired by some men to lead them out to the area along the Yellowknife where a government geologist up from Ottawa was supposed to be camped. Kit had not met the geologist and his daughter when they had passed through the area some months before, but he knew that the rumour was that the scientist was doing tests, some even speculating that he would soon be announcing a gold rush the likes of which hadn't been seen since the Klondike Gold Rush almost forty years earlier.

When wind of the guide's tale got back to the R.C.M.P. detachment, the obvious conclusion was that the men were looking for the geologist, hoping to get a jump on anything he discovered...and, once they did, the geologist's life wouln't be worth the proverbial plugged nickel.

Of course, it could also just be something else, something more benign. But it was Kit's job to locate the geologist and his daughter, and make sure they were all right.

Snowshoes squeaking across the snow, Kevin bounding tirelessly at his side, the Mountie pushed through some interlocked branches and spotted Old George Manyriver's cabin nestled in a little clearing, surrounded and protected from the winds by hoar-dressed pine trees. George, a local guide and trapper, had moved on to the Happy Hunting Grounds in the sky a few years before, and his cabin had kind of become community property, used by whoever happened to need it at any given time -- just as the old Indian would've wanted. The first place the geologist would've stayed -- even if his work took him farther eventually -- would've been George Manyriver's cabin. It seemed to Kit as he approached the place that it was a good place to look for clues.

Leaving his snowshoes leaning against the cabin wall by the heavy door, Kit entered, dutifully kicking off the snow from his boots on the threshold. Inside was evidence of recent habitation. But not too recent. The geologist and his daughter had, indeed, been through here. And someone else, as well. The place looked dishevelled. Belongings that the geologist had left, presumably for his return trip -- some clothes, a few papers -- were scattered about, some strewn across the cabin floor. At first Kit wondered if a bear or wolverine had been inside, foraging for food scraps, but then he glanced over his shoulder at the door through which he had entered. Wild animals didn't generally close and latch doors when they left.

No. Human beings had definitely been here, definitely searching for the geologist. There seemed no obvious indications of a struggle, though, so Kit guessed the searchers had found the cabin just as empty as had he.

Pulling off his fur cap, Kit wiped the sweat and melted snow from his pale white brow thoughtfully. Crouching down, he picked up some of the discarded papers. He leafed through them for any indications of which direction it was that the geologist might have headed, to continue his research. Kit frowned. On one paper he noticed a largely indecipherable hand, but a few words stood out: The Valley of the Many Moons. He read it again, just to be sure, then returned the papers to the floor so as to leave the scene undisturbed, just in case he should have to do a more thorough study of it later.

Rising, he thought: The Valley of the Many Moons? What interest did a government gold surveyor have in that place? It was considered a myth by most of the local white inhabitants of the area, and many younger local Indians...and a source of fear and dread by many of the older Indians. Kit himself had never come upon it, nor had he met anyone -- white or Indian -- who had actually been there. He did not really believe it existed.

It was a puzzle, he mused.

As he stepped outside, back onto the porch, it very nearly became a fatal puzzle as well. His sharp, blood-hued eyes spotted a puff of smoke between the branches of the trees, and he felt wood splinter by his head a fraction of an instant before he heard the rifle report. Then he was diving back into the cabin as another shot chewed up the cabin wall just behind where his head had been. Slamming himself up against the inside wall, praying that Old George had built his cabin strong enough to ward off bullets, Kit pulled his Enfield revolver from its holster at his belt, the loose lariat that kept it anchored around his neck slithering like a snake as he shifted the pistol from hand to hand, letting the butt warm up in his palms.

"The is Corporal Kit Thunder of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police!" shouted Kit. "Drop your weapon and surrender!"

"I don't care who yew are!" shrilled a voice from somewhere in the woods. The accent sounded American. "I done figgered on someone like yew! Well, now yew just throw out yer fancy six shooter and we'll see if'n we can settle this all peaceable like."

"Don't be a fool!" shouted Kit, one eye peering around the frame of the door, surveying the unmoving, anonymous phalanx of green pines. "You shoot a Mountie and they'll track you from now to doomsday!" Just keep him talking, Kit assured himself. His unseen opponent seemed loquacious enough, and overly confident. If he was an American, and a Southerner from the sounds of it, he might not be fully cognizant of certain peculiarities of the Northern environment.

"I reckon I done heard tell of that, yessir! Mind, they got to find yer body first, I reckon! Uh..." He paused, clearly recognizing that wasn't the best thing to say by way of enticing Kit out into the open. "What I mean t'say is, I figger it don't have to come to thet if yew just act all reasonable!"

Kit gently slid the barrel of his Enfield against the clay lintel of the door, nothing too sudden to draw the other man's attention.

"Y'see, the way I gone an' figger it, yer trapped in them thar cabin, while I, on the other paw, am out here where'n yew can't see me nor even-"

Kit gently squeezed the trigger, firing at an area between the branches where a little cloud of condensation hung, expelled from the lungs of his would be assailant every time he shouted.

There was a little screech from the trees, followed by an indignant, "Dagnabit!", and the branches started rustling as the man broke and ran behind them. Kit was hoping his shot would either have incapacitated the man, or caused him to surrender. As it was, in moments the man could find himself another hiding place, and Kit would be right back to square one. Worse even, if the man figured out how it was that Kit had located him, and kept his mouth shut this time.

Figuring no one is much of a shot while on the run, Kit took advantage of his opponent's flight to leap out the door and into the snow outside. Rising and pounding through the drifts, he threw himself into the surrounding brush. Two could play the hiding in the woods game, he thought.

Through the branches across the way, Kit caught a glimpse of a decidedly unimposing figure racing by. His attacker was an older man, small and weather beaten, with grizzled hair and a beard that stuck out at all angles. Then the figure was gone, swallowed up by the verdant, white-flecked fingers of the trees.

Staying low, Kit started moving through the circle of trees surrounding the old cabin, his pistol held tightly in hand. The old man's momentary advantage was gone, levelling the field considerably, but it still didn't mean things were settled -- not by a long shot. It would be hard for the old man to elude him -- the churned up fresh, white snow left indelible traces of his passage -- but it would be equally hard for Kit to sneak up on him through the snow without the covering noise of a good wind or anything.

Kit's main tactic was speed -- press his advantage and take the man while he was still on the defensive. He kept his ruby eyes on the tracks torn through the breast of snow, then glanced ahead and started. The tracks abruptly stopped some yards ahead, as though the old man had simply vanished into the very air!

On to Episode 2: The Lost Valley

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Secrets of the Forgotten Valley is copyright 2003 by D.K. Latta.  It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews.  (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)