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: Kit flees through the forest with a mysterious jungle girl, Ilana. After he fights off some armed men pursuing her, they are stopped by the appearance of the impossible -- a creature out of pre-history...
 
 

Episode 4: Danger From the Treetops


KIT STARED, MOUTH OPEN, his pale albino skin growing, if possible, even paler. On the opposite side of the little stream lumbered an enormous monster, like a dragon out of a fairytale book. It moved about on all fours, a large tail dragging lazily behind it, bone spikes at its tip. Its face was covered by a boney shield that rose up into a protective fan over the back of its neck. Three horns grew from its face -- one over each eye, and one from the nose. Which made sense, he thought numbly. Ilana had called it a trisare- a triser-

"What-what did you call it?" he whispered.

"A triceratops -- it's a dinosaur," she said with something akin to nonchalance. She seemed to be making no move to run to the concealment of the woods, though Kit could not imagine why, but he thought it best to follow her example. At least for the moment.

Instead, he stared at the enormous creature, big as a log cabin as it lowered its massive head and began to drink from the little stream. "Shouldn't we be running?" Kit asked, fingering the butt of his pistol at his side.

"It's a herbivore," she said. "It's not interested in us." She laid a hand on his, keeping the gun in its holster. "That would be a really bad idea."

Kit knew that. It would just rile the beast. His touching of his gun was more instinct than anything else. But instinct was all he had as his mind was whirling around dizzily. A dinosaur? But they had been extinct for millions of years. How did this one survive? Then he realized, it was not just this one, obviously. Whatever the creature may be, he did not believe it could have lived millions of years. Its presence implied parents, and grandparents, and so on. And Ilana's calm demeanor while facing it was in contrast to her fear when something big had moved through the brush earlier. Clearly there were other things in the forest as well. Things more frightening. He was shaken from his reverie by the yapping of a dog.

Kevin, the wolf-dog, seeing in the creature's passivity a weakness, sought to prove his dominance. He had bounded across the stream and was barking at the prehistoric creature whose ancestors had strode a still forming earth long before wolves or dogs had even been imagined by whatever forces guide the universe. He darted in close, snarling and growling, then darted out again, attempting to cow the enormous beast. For its part, the triceratops tilted its head slightly, letting one piggy eye take in the tiny little animal...and then it went back to its drinking, unimpressed.

"Kevin!" hissed Kit. "Come here. Get away from it, you damn fool!"

Kevin looked at his master beckoning him in the moonlight, then looked back at the lumbering, imperturbable presence that challenged his place as king of the forest. Then he let loose with one final barrage of canine chastisements and, satisfied he had made his point, bounded back to Kit's side, splashing through the little stream.

Its thirst satiated, the enormous anachronism lumbered lazily about and pushed its way back into the surrounding brush, the sound of branches scraping in protestation against its thick hide reaching them across the water. Its tail dragged slowly behind it until it, too, vanished into the night.

Kit just stared, Kevin panting at his side. "I'm beginning to understand why the Valley of the Many Moons has such a fearful reputation among the Indians."

"There are other reasons," the woman who called herself Ilana said quietly.

Kit looked at her questioningly, but she turned away. "I'm looking forward to meeting your father," Kt said, as if acquiescing to her desire to change the topic. "I understand he went to McGill University. My brother went there. Perhaps they hung out at the same pubs."

She glanced back him, her brow crinkled. "I'm pretty sure my father went to Concordia," she said.

"Oh," Kit said. "Is that where he met your mother?"

"No, they were childhood sweethearts. They grew up together in Kaladar -- that's in Ontario."

Kit nodded. "Your mother -- she didn't accompany you two here?"

She looked away again. "She died."

Kit frowned, more puzzled than he had been a moment before. Although the conversation might have seemed innocuous on the surface, it had a very real point. Kit knew that the woman with him, the woman who had identified herself as Ilana Parding, daughter of the geologist, Henry Parding -- the people he had come looking for -- was an imposter. Ilana -- the real Ilana -- was a little girl of only about seven. Obviously the job of this pseudo-Ilana was to somehow mislead him. Though whether it was to find out what he knew, or to simply lead him off on a wild goose chase, Kit could only guess. His questions had simply been a way of verifying what he already knew -- that he was with an imposter. Which was why he was now even more puzzled. Because his questions, subtly intended to trip her up in spurious lines of her own weaving, had failed. She had answered everything correctly.

And that troubled him.

He had journeyed into the wilderness because a government surveyor was in the area, and word had come to him that a group of local thugs had set off in pursuit. It didn't take much imagination to suspect that the thugs assumed the geologist was soon going to declare a renewed gold rush -- and the thugs had decided to get in on it, staking claims on whatever the geologist discovered, before he could inform his superiors in Ottawa. But that all seemed spontaneous, a plan hastily hatched by some of the local miscreants and drifters that marred the northern landscape. But the girl with him was fully informed about Harding and his history. That implied research, preparation, planning.

Why?

Glancing around him at the pre-historic forest, he could imagine some of it. "Your, uh, father -- he didn't come here looking for gold, for the mother lode, did he?"

"Gold?" she repeated with a low laugh. "No. Samples of some strange, pre- historic rocks had found its way to his office in Ottawa, and his superiors thought it worth looking into." She was silent for a moment, then said, "Though I suppose you could say he hit the mother lode after all."

Kit couldn't exactly argue with that.

Suddenly Kevin, his wolf-dog, started barking, black lips pulled back from canines. Kit looked over and was surprised to see the dog snarling, not at the surrounding bushes, but up into the trees.

Ilana pressed close to him. "What is it?" she asked.

Kit was very aware of her warm, nearly naked body. Distractingly so. But as much as he knew she was not being forthcoming, and was involved in some plot or another, he also knew that her fear was genuine. There were dangers in this forest -- primordial threats that took no sides in her machinations. And even the men he had encountered, who he assumed were the men he had heard were looking for the geologist, had shot at them both. Perhaps she had had a falling out with them. Whatever the reason, for the moment, she and he were allies. "There's something in the trees," Kit said. "Don't tell me one of those dinosaurs can climb." The vision of a gargantuan creature prancing nimbly through the branches was amost amusing.

She clutched his arm. "There are other dangers besides dinosaurs," she said. "Keep your gun ready, but let's get out of here." She turned and sprinted away. Kit hesitated, then signalled Kevin and the two of them hurried after her.

Watching her lithe body flitter easily through the moonlight, Kit was struck by another thought. She seemed very much at home in this forest. More at home than was he, and he fancied himself well versed in the ways of the forest. It just begged more questions. It was as if she had lived in this untamed anachronism most of her life. But then how did she get mixed up in a plan against a visiting geologist from hundreds of miles to the south and east?

He heard a branch crack somewhere behind and above. He glanced up and thought for just a moment that he espied the shadow of a man shape darting through the trees. He blinked, but it was gone. Had it been one of the men who had shot at them earlier? He found it hard to credit that those clumsy thugs could be scampering nimbly through the trees -- at night, yet. Then who? What did they want?

Clearly, they frightened the woman claiming to be Ilana Parding.

Suddenly the dark forest broke open ahead of them and Ilana raced out into a wide, moon bathed clearing. Kit and Kevin were close on her heels. On one hand, Kit thought, a clearing would clearly arrest any arboreal pursuit. On the other, it might just push their unseen hunters into staging an immediate attack before they could escape. Kit would not mind getting it over with, forcing a showdown, but he didn't like their odds. A clearing was not a good place in which to make a stand...


Back to Episode 3: Hunters in the Night

On to Episode 5: Men Who Are Not Men


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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.)