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

******

Previously: Following a man who attacked him without provocation, Cpl. Kit Thunder stumbles upon the lost, mythical Valley of the Many Moons. There he encounters a mysterious forest beauty on the run from armed men. But their flight from her pursuers is cut short by something moving across their path. Something huge...
 
 

Episode 3: Hunters in the Night


KIT CROUCHED NEXT TO THE HALF-NAKED WOMAN dressed in jungle garb, staring through the fronds of a bush and out across the well worn forest trail. The thick rampart of the forest across the way rustled with the passage of something big, but in the thin moonlight Kit could glimpse nothing but a looming darkness between the branches.

What was it? he wondered. A moose? A bear? It appeared far larger than that -- enormous even. But it was impossiblee to believe that there could be anything living that was that big. Maybe an elephant, but northern Canada was not exactly the natural habitat of elephants. He shook his head. No, it must be some sort of object. A wagon or truck.

Yet he heard no engine accompanying the sound of whatever it was that was crashing through the trees. He leaned closer to the woman, placing his lips to her waterfall of golden locks. "What is it?" he whispered.

She shushed him, her eyes wide and lambent in the moonlight, clearly terrified. So Kit waited, his hand reaching for his Enfield service revolver. She glimpsed the surreptitious action out of the corner of her eye and shook her head. "That won't do much good," she whispered.

He frowned.

They continued to crouch rock still for a minute as the thing trampled about, then Kit could feel the svelte body next to him relax slightly as the rustling and crashing began to recede, as whatever it was moved on. After another few seconds, cautiously waiting to make sure the thing was not going to return, the woman rose. Kit followed her lead.

"What the devil was-?" he began.

She ignored him, looking about her again expectantly. Suddenly Kit remembered that she had been running from something -- gunfire -- which originated in the opposite direction from the thing that rustled through the woods. That danger may have passed, but only so that they could return their attention to the original menace. And yet, for Kit, both menaces were merely sounds in the night, shadows in this dark and unexplainable warm valley oasis surrounded, on the outside, by the depths of a northern winter.

"Tell me what's going on here," Kit demanded.

She turned to look at him, momentary impatience crinkling her beautiful features, then she looked into his pink albino eyes and recognized the confusion there. She seemed to relax, just a little. Then her eyes looked him up and down in a quick, efficient glance, like someone used to only getting one look at something and needing to make that look count. She bit her lower lip fetchingly. "You're a...a Mountie, right? The uniform?"

Kit nodded. "Corporal Kit Thunder, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. If you're in danger, I'm here to help."

She laughed rather obliquely, and Kit thought of the huge shadow that had rustled through the brush. "What brings you here?"

"I'm on the trail of a geologist named Henry Parding."

Her eyes lit up and a smile opened her mouth. "That's my father. I'm Ilana Parding."

Kit's jaw momentarily set at her words, but he hoped she did not notice. And a spilt-second later, he was back in control of himself. "Well that's, uh, great, Miss Parding. Maybe you can take me to him, so I can see that he's all right. There were concerns that there were some men after him."

Suddenly Kit heard the sound of footsteps behind them, branches snapping, as figures trampled violently through the woods.

"I think we figured that part out ourselves," she said wryly. "Come on. We can go this way." She started to turn, but Kit stayed where he was.

"Kevin," he hissed. "Here boy!"

Suddenly a wolf-dog came bounding out of the brush, called away from doing who knew what. Kit grabbed the dog affectionately around the neck. "You missed all the excitement, boy," he said. Then he rose and, with Kevin at his heels, followed Ilana Parding into the woods.

They moved in silence for a few minutes, the sounds of pursuit like the sound of an evening tide, swelling closer, then receding, then louder again. It was difficult for them to make too much headway, too quickly, through the dense brush. Even for Kit, an experienced Mountie used to foraging through the untamed wilderness.

As they blundered their way ahead of their unseen hunters, Kit studied the woman through his narrowed, rose-hued eyes. The way her smooth skin rolled over sculpted muscles, concealed only slightly by her loin-cloth and the back strap of her animal skin brassiere, was alluring in a primal way. And the way she had flung herself into his life, vulnerable, pursued, had certainly succeeded in making him accept her quickly, eager to protect her, both as a Mountie, and as a man. But time had allowed him to re-examine recent events, and he regarded his seductive companion with skepticism.

He had not encountered Henry Parding and his daughter when they had first come to this area some months before, but he had been briefed on them when he was sent out to find them and make sure they were safe. That was obviously something the girl with him had not counted on. For he knew that she could not be Ilana Parding...because Ilana Parding was only seven years old.

But even if he had not known that, her story would still have raised questions. After all, why would the geologist's daughter be running about in the woods, dressed like a cavegirl out of some Argosy Magazine scientific romance? It was a curious costume choice for the role. Then he pursed his lips, seeing the way the moonlight rolled and glistened like mercury over her naked waist. Or maybe it was the perfect costume to addle and misdirect a Mountie, he mused.

So was she leading him into a trap? Or was the threat from their pursuers genuine? Perhaps she had had a falling out with her compatriots and was truly running for her life. If he stayed with her, would she lead him to Parding and his daughter, or was she even now leading him away from the geologist? Instinctively he looked up and saw the moon to the right of him. It had been to his left before. She had turned them around.

Suddenly a tree branch sheared off just beside his head and the crack of a rifle shattered the night. He instinctively threw himself against the woman, knocking her to the ground. That settled it, he decided. Her life was in just as much danger as his. No one could fire at them in the dark and with the obscuring branches, and be sure they would not hit the girl by mistake.

She lay on the ground beneath him, panting hard, her face half turned toward the sky, eyes wide. He had expected her to squirm or struggle beneath him, but she had animal instincts, he realized. When danger struck, she froze, knowing a moving body was more likely to attract attention to itself. It was a tactic that might work against a predatorial animal, but as he heard the footsteps crunch closer and closer, he knew that men would simply beat the bushes until they were found.

Still, even men reacted to movement. He kicked a sapling next to them, causing the leaves to rustle overhead. A flash of muzzle fire in the darkness gave Kit a target and he fired off a couple of return shots. A man cried out. This was followed by muffled cursing from at least two other locations. Kit leaned close to her and muttered, "We have to move...slowly."

Almost imperceptibly, he felt her hair brush against his cheek as she silently nodded. He slid off of her, staying low to the ground. She sat up, but just as she was about to crawl away, she looked around them. She mouthed something to Kit, but he shook his head, unable to understand. With her hands, she pantomimed a four-legged creature. Kit looked around, eyes hard. Kevin had disappeared again.

Suddenly he heard a man cry out, and a dog snarling viciously. Kevin had clearly decided to take the attack to the attackers. "Stay down," he told her as he rose and ran in the direction of the commotion, unwilling to leave Kevin alone to face armed killers. He emerged into a slight clear area to find Kevin clamped to the arm of a man, blood coarsing from the bite, the man screaming as he attempted to shake the beast loose. Two other men burst through the brush, one clutching a bloody shoulder -- obviously the man Kit had shot in the darkness.

The uninjured man looked over, espied Kit -- and gave a little shriek. Kit smiled grimly, realizing that with his pale albino pallour, he must almost resemble a ghost emerging from the surrounding darkness. The shock would only last a moment as reason would reassert itself and the thug would realize Kit was just a man -- but it was a momentary advantage. Kit plowed into him, taking the uninjured man as the most pressing threat. He whaled into him with both fists, sending him reeling back into the trees. Then Kit ducked as the man with the wounded shoulder swung a rifle at his head and Kit kicked out, catching the man in the midrift.

"Get out of here!" shouted one of them to his companions. Kevin had released his grip on the other one, to come to Kit's aide, and Kit grabbed the dog around the scruff before he could set off in pursuit as the three men ran, stumbling and flailing, back into the jungle.

"They still out number me three to one, boy," he said. Then scratched the dog affectionately behind the ears. "Well, three to two. But I think we'd be best to pick our battles. We still don't know what's going on...yet."

Picking their way back through the forest, Kit half-expected the mysterious woman to be gone. But, instead, she was waiting for him. "What happened?" she asked, breathless.

"They'll be back," he said. "But not right away."

She nodded and then took the lead again, as if there was nothing more to be said. After a few more minutes of this determined pace, they emerged onto a large clearing, a stream running through the middle of it like a river of languid mercury in the moonlight. Kevin immediately went to drink his fill.

How nice it would be to be a dog, mused Kit. Kevin took everything in stride: going from sub-zero cold to this warm valley, facing mysterious adversaries in the night. None of it made any impression on his canine mind. Then they were attacked, now they weren't, so now, he drank. What was, was. But to Kit, everything needed to be sorted out and explained. He turned to the girl, ready to press her for some explanations, when suddenly Kevin growled behind him. He whirled, seeing the dog with its legs spread, its head low, its thick hair bristling, as it stared at the dark forest fringes on the other side of the stream. The girl at his side tensed, he could sense her shift her weight, prepatory to fleeing back into the forest.

Branches cracked, leaves shook. Was this what had passed them before? Would it move on again?

No. The edge of the clearing shuddered, as though rocked by a wind on this otherwise breathless night. Suddenly something tore through the brush, a huge monstrous snout, horned and armoured. A lumbering body followed -- but what a body! The creature was almost as large as a cabin.

"What -- what in Heaven is that?"

"I believe it's called a Triceratops," said the girl.


Back to Episode 2: The Lost Valley

On to Episode 4: Danger From the Treetops


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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.)