Cpl. Kit Thunder of the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
A 10-Chapter Adventure of the Canadian Bush!
by "Drooling" D.K. Latta
About the author
STARED AHEAD OF HIM, at where the tracks of the old man abruptly vanished
into thin air. Then he whirled, almost instantly realizing the old man
must have been canny enough to double back on his own tracks. Too late!
A figure came bursting out of the trees next to him and the butt of a rifle
thudded against his head. The blow, combined with his own momentum, and
the cumbersomeness of his snowshoes, sent Kit tumbling over. The snow softened
the impact of his landing, but it did not lessen the danger.
Clutching his rifle, the old man did a little jig. "Heeyah!
I gotcha, yew varmint, I shorely did!" he jeered in his idiosyncratic American
accent. "Y'all thought to get the better of ol' Chester, but I done showed
Kit surreptitiously curled his fingers in the snow, then
flung his hand forward, taking the old man in the face with a snowball.
"Ack!" choked the old man as he stumbled back. Kit was on his feet in and
instant, but the muzzle of the rifle swung about to face him, the old man
brushing the snow from his eyes with a sleeve. "Thet sinks it! I'm a gonna
fill yew so full o' led, they gonna be making pencils outta yer bones!"
Suddenly a savage snarl erupted from the surrounding woods,
as though the Devil's own hound had found them, and Kevin -- Kit's wolf-dog
-- came leaping from between the branches. Iron hard jaws clamped about
the old man's arm, twisting his aim, and causing him to scream more from
start and fright than pain, Kevin's jaws not quite penetrating his coat.
Although, give him a minute or two, and there wouldn't be much left of
the would-be killer. And Kit very much wanted him alive.
"Down, boy. Down," Kit ordered, rushing in to pull off
his loyal four- footed friend. Barely had he got the dog separated then
another blow to the back of his head sent him plunging onto the whiteness...followed
by absolute black.
Clutching his rifle, the old man did a little jig. "Heeyah! I gotcha, yew varmint, I shorely did!" he jeered in his idiosyncratic American accent. "Y'all thought to get the better of ol' Chester, but I done showed yew."
Kit surreptitiously curled his fingers in the snow, then flung his hand forward, taking the old man in the face with a snowball. "Ack!" choked the old man as he stumbled back. Kit was on his feet in and instant, but the muzzle of the rifle swung about to face him, the old man brushing the snow from his eyes with a sleeve. "Thet sinks it! I'm a gonna fill yew so full o' led, they gonna be making pencils outta yer bones!"
Suddenly a savage snarl erupted from the surrounding woods, as though the Devil's own hound had found them, and Kevin -- Kit's wolf-dog -- came leaping from between the branches. Iron hard jaws clamped about the old man's arm, twisting his aim, and causing him to scream more from start and fright than pain, Kevin's jaws not quite penetrating his coat. Although, give him a minute or two, and there wouldn't be much left of the would-be killer. And Kit very much wanted him alive.
"Down, boy. Down," Kit ordered, rushing in to pull off his loyal four- footed friend. Barely had he got the dog separated then another blow to the back of his head sent him plunging onto the whiteness...followed by absolute black.
Kit woke -- how much later, he couldn't be sure. Judging by the light, he did not figure it could be more than an hour. He groaned and sat up, only to have a wet, coarse tongue across his face greet him happily. "Easy, boy. Good, boy," he said, clutching Kevin around the neck. He looked around, but they were alone. Obviously the old man had fled the moment he hit him, knowing he would have to contend with Kevin if he tried to finish the job. Just as obviously, once his master had fallen, Kevin's instinct was to remain protectively by his side, rather than pursue the matter with the sniper.
Kit scratched his head thoughtfully, careful to avoid the bruised part. He had concluded earlier that the geologist and his daughter had left their cabin of their own free will, and that the men who had come looking for them had arrived late. But that may have been a false conclusion. Did the man who tried to shoot him have something to do with the geologist's disappearance? There was only one way to find out.
Kit rose, a bit unsteadily. Securing the straps of his snowshoes, he and Kevin set off, once more following the tracks of the old man.
It was night as Kit and Kevin continued trekking through the snow-draped forest, Kit's easy, league-consuming pace having swallowed many miles. The moon was full behind them, filling the dips between trees with brittle shadows that could conceal anything. Man or beast. But Kit did not slow his pace, nor did Kevin waver at his side. He did not want to risk losing the trail. Even a light snowfall could cover the tracks and slow their progress as he would have to map their foe's path through less obvious clues -- a broken twig, or a displaced branch. No, better to maintain this punishing pace. Although, in truth, he was not quite sure how far they had travelled, nor even entirely where.
Up ahead, the coniferous trees squeezed together like spectators at an accident, jostling together, branches interwoven with branches, forming a thick wall of prickly pines. Yet the tracks they were following clearly led to the trees...and beyond. Kit glanced up, and in the moonlight noted that the tops of the trees seemed not to be gilded with the icy frosting of the north. He supposed that their angle maybe meant they took the sun more fully than some, burning away any snow before it could accumulate. He crouched down and ducked his head, Kevin yapping eagerly at his side. The pine trees' lower boughs hung almost to the ground but, sure enough, there appeared to be a narrow passage through which a man could crawl.
Kit stared thoughtfully. It would be a good place for an ambush, he thought. Should he try going around? Find another way through? He glanced about him, noting how the unusual thickness of the trees here abouts seemed to continue on for quite a ways. As he considered his best options, Kevin impetuously took the decision from him. With an eager bark, Kevin squeezed past him and, his furry body pressed to the ground, he slithered into the opening. Kit made to grab at his big, wagging tail, but missed. "Kevin!" he hissed under his breath, but to no avail.
He waited, dreading to hear a shot from a concealed sniper, firing at the first moving object through the little passage. But there was nothing. Nothing, until Kevin started yapping excitedly from the other side, his voice muted. Kit frowned. It did not sound like a painful cry, as though he had been attacked. More like an excited, or confused noised. There was nothing for it, Kit knew. He would have to follow. Dragging off his snow shoes and affixing them to his back pack, Kit dropped to his stomach and began crawling after his dog.
There was something eerie about the narrow, dark tunnel -- the way the walls formed of pine branchees looked ragged and torn in silhouette, as though the aperture was formed by someone tearing a ragged wound that might heal at any moment. Moonlight shone through the exit, and something fluttered back and forth, eclipsing the wan light momentarily. Kit recognized the nervous movement of Kevin, bounding back and forth impatiently.
Dragging himself forward, Kit finally pulled himself out into the area beyond and staggered to his feet, his attention momentarily focused on his dog, verifying that he was all right. Kevin bounded up to him, licking his face. Chuckling, Kit pushed him away and looked around.
The chuckle caught in his throat.
The balustrade formed by the all-but impenetrable wall of pine trees had hid the way the earth dropped suddenly, beginning a vast valley that spread away before him in the moonlight. But that was not the most unbelievable aspect ofthe vision that he beheld.
It was the fact that it was a valley entirely devoid of snow. In fact, even standing at its edge, Kit was becoming aware of the warmth of the air, a warmth that was making his heavy coat rather oppressive. Kit knew about such phenomenon -- how warm currents could carve out little niches, or hot springs would make little oasises of summer in otherwise freezing climes. But he'd never seen nor heard tell of it on such a grand scale. An entire -- and sizeable -- valley that seemed protected from the harsh winter that otherwise claimed the lands around it. It boggled the mind.
But only momentarily. Kit was still a Mountie, and he still knew his duty. Hesitating but a moment, he started unbuttoning his heavy coat, feeling somehow self-conscious about doffing the garment in the middle of winter. Beneath he wore the bright red serge jacket of his dress uniform -- his other, regular jacket had been soiled from his previous assignment and the red serge was all that he had to wear.
He made his way down the sharp declivity toward the valley floor below, Kevin scrabbling behind him. They reached the bottom without mishap, then Kit tried to get his bearings. The forest in the valley was dense, and comprised of considerably more varied flora forms than the land above their heads. He frowned, seeing the moon just to his left above their heads. Had he become turned around or something? When approaching the lost valley, he seemed to recall the moon being behind him.
Lost valley? he repeated in his head, amused at the way the words came to him so easily. Then he suddenly remembered the notes he had found in the deserted cabin, and the reference to the Valley of the Many Moons? Was this it, then? Had he found the place the Indians spoke of only in whispers? Was it not a myth after all? And if this was the lost valley, then it stood to reason that the geologist and his daughter were somewhere here abouts. As well as the old eccentric with the rifle. Plus a few others, since the story told by the guide that had sent him on this assignmet had told of "men" -- plural -- he had guided to this area.
Danger was about, and not just from men with guns. After all, the Indians feared this valley for some reason.
"Come on, Kevin," Kit said quietly. Together, man and dog strode forward into the forest, for the moment following a crude path that looked as though it had been carved naturally over the years by the traffic of wild beasts. Somewhere in the distance, Kit heard the coughing-grunt of a great beast, though he couldn't make out what it was. A moose, or maybe a bear. A nightbird cawed somewhere over head. Otherwise, all was still.
Then a woman's scream shattered the night. Moments later, it was followed by shots and men's voices. Kit broke into a run, his pistol instantly to hand. Silent as a shark, Kevin shadowed him at his heels. It was difficult to make out the exact location from which the sounds had come, but Kit could aim himself in the general direction and hope for the best.
Suddenly the branches before him started rustling, and Kit fell back on his heels, ready for anything. Anything except what emerged.
A beautiful young woman burst from the trees, dressed primitively in a ragged loin cloth and skin brassiere. As incongruous as the sight would've been at the best of times, given that the temperature in the area above was well below freezing, was that he made out a mane of blonde hair. She was a white woman. She almost collided with him before her eyes came around from where they had been watching behind her. She stopped, giving a little "oh" as she saw him, clearly startled -- but there was something else, too, an expression he couldn't quite make out.
He held up a hand, hoping to calm her. "Friend," he said. "Me friend. No frighten you."
She stared at him, her teeth working into her soft lower lip nervously, then she shook her head, her blonde tresses rippling in the moonlight. "I'm sorry, but I only speak English. I don't understand-"
Kit frowned. "Are you all right?" he asked. "I'm here to help. Who are you?"
She looked him over, clearly a little perturbed by his eerie, albino features that made him appear not unlike a ghost. Then she glanced over her shoulder. Coming to a decision, she brushed passed him. "Hurry. They're coming."
As she raced by, Kit glanced back the way she had come. "Who's coming?" But she was already hurrying on. With Kevin at his side, Kit followed behind her as she raced daintily through the forest as though bred to it.
Suddenly she stopped and slender fingers grabbed his bicep and pulled him into the bushes. "Hide!" she hissed.
Falling with her into concealment, Kit frowned. "I thought they were behind you?" he whispered.
"That's not them," she said, pointing forward.
Across the well worn animal path, the brush began to shake as though something was blundering its way through the undergrowth. Through breaks in the branches, Kit could glimpse momentary shadows of something approaching.
Something bigger than any animal Kit had heard tell of. Something huge...
Back to Episode 1: Death From the Trees
On to Episode 3: Hunters in the Night
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.)