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: Attacked by cavemen, Kit survives, but the jungle girl, Ilana, is kidnapped...perhaps as part of some primitive ritual. Kit re-encounters the old man, Chester, who shot at him before he even came to the lost valley. But Chester explains he was just trying to protect Professor Harding. Kit and Chester team up to find the stolen jungle girl...but Kit makes a bizarre discovery when he stumbles upon Chester's own grave. And Chester, by way of explanation, tells him to look skyward...
 
 

Episode 8: The Mystery of the Many Moons


THE VALLEY OF THE MANY MOONS was not so named by the local Indians out of any symbolism, or as a measurement of the passage of time. It was, quite literally, a valley of many moons.

Kit stood in the middle of the clearing, staring up at the sky that was dotted with various moons like a black beach marked with shells. Some were full moons, some quarters; some were almost at their zenith, others low in the sky. When he had first arrived in this strange valley, he had looked to the moon for guidance as to his direction, noting how he seemed to keep getting turned around because the moon constantly seemed to be in different places. Now he realized, he hadn't been turned around. It's just that where ever he happened to look he saw a moon -- and it never occurred to him to look for another. Why would it? But now that he was in a clearing, with an unobstructed view of the night sky, slowly turning his head this way and that, the nature of the heavens was revealed.

He felt weak in the knees. He really should sit down, he thought. Then, as hard earth struck his buttocks, he realized that he was. He knew he was on the verge of passing out, or being sick, or both. What in God's name was going on? He could understand a lost valley where prehistoric creatures still roamed. It was not too far outside the realm of plausibility. After all, many people had speculated about such a phenomenon being possible. But that sky? It was a sky unlike any seen over the fields of earth.

"Are...are we...?" Kit took a deep breath. "Are we on earth?"

"'Course we are," said the wiry old American prospector, Chester P. Greenberg. "Least ways, I done reckon so. Don't cotton much to this being the moon or nuthin'." He clamped his teeth down on his corncob pipe, his bristly white beard sticking out wildly from his chin, and he grinned down at the albino Mountie. "Takes a mite gettin' used to, don't it?"

"But how? How is any of this possible? How can there be more than one moon in the sky? And that grave...?" He gestured at the lonely little grave marked by a cross that said 'Chester P. Greenberg'.

Chester patted the Christian cross protruding from the ground. "Nice to know when I go, there's a someone around who cares enuff to see me buried proper like. 'Course I'm a Jew, but I suppose it's the thought thet counts." Seeing Kit was still confused, Chester squatted beside him on wiry little legs. "The way I done figger it, this ain't a valley where, say, dinosauri done lived past when all their fella dinos went an ' died. I figure this really is still their time, just as it is the time of them cavemen fellers, and it's yers an' my time, too. This ain't a valley cut off from time...if'n anythin', this is a valley what's got too much time, where time jest got itself all squished up together like too many passengers on a train, all shoulder to shoulder, breathing each other's air. Every step we take, we might be crossing over from one age to another. I'm alive," he thumbed himself in his chest, "an' I'm also dead an' gone from the looks of it," he said, glancing forlornly at the grave. Then his eyes lit up. "Hey, wanna dig me up an' see what I done died o'?" He looked at Kit like a child with a new toy.

"God, no," Kit said.

Chester frowned. "Guess it would be a mite morbid," he conceded.

Kit's mind was still reeling as he looked blankly around them, then his gaze settled on Kevin, his wolf-dog. Kevin sat on his haunches, staring at him expectantly, clearly eager to resume the hunt. Kevin could see the freakishness of the sky as well as he, but the dog was more adaptable than a man. To Kevin, if there were many moons in the sky, so what? All that mattered was the here and now. All that mattered was the hunt.

Kit stared at his four-legged companion, and slowly smiled. Kevin was right. It was no use getting caught up in existential crisises. He knew his duty, and his duty was all. A Mountie would track his quarry through blizzard and ice storm, through muskeg and over lake. A time-tossed valley might be unusual, but it didn't change who he was, or what he had to do. He rose, his nerves steady, his step firm. "Let's go."

"Hot doggity," exclaimed Chester leaping up. Kevin bounded off, resuming his tracking of the scent of the cavemen while the two men hurried after him.

Kit began to understand why the valley seemed so large -- larger than it could possibly be. If it really did represent various times overlapping, presumably the actual acreage was hard to quantify. A plot of land occupies only so many square yards; but build a three story building on the same plot and you effectively triple the area, while still occupying the same original measurement of yards. Build a five story building and you quadruple it.

It would make navigating difficult, but not impossible. Clearly Chester could find his way around readily enough. And Kit suspected Kevin could too, as long as he kept his nose to the ground.

Following Kevin's lead, they were led into the tangled forest on the other side of the clearing as the dog zigged zagged along, seeming almost to be backtracking at times. And perhaps he was. Now that Kit was aware of the valley's unusual nature, for all he knew the forest they were now traversing was in the same area as the field in which they had found Chester's future grave, but a thousand years in its future -- was on top of it, to use the multi-story building analogy that he had formed to better visualize the situation. He glanced at the sky and glimpsed a moon through the black fingers of the interlocked boughs of the towering forest trees. He smiled humourlessly. Here, navigating by moon was a useless exercise, as the next break in the leafy canopy might reveal an entirely different moon in a different quarter of the welkin.

At one point, man and beast alike ducked under some fronds as the earth shuddered and the sounds of branches rustling against something big moved past them, too close by far for comfort. But the sounds diminished, and the beast, whether predatorial or not, moved on its way. In a sense, Kit almost found it more unnerving to not see what it was. Convinced they had been left undetected, they resumed the trail.

After a time, Kevin, who had originally punctuated his pursuit with occasional yaps and barks, had fallen silent. Now he slipped soundlessly through the underbrush like a white shark prowling for seals. Clearly he believed them to be nearing their quarry. Kit and Chester exchanged glances and, likewise, adopted a more stealthy tred.

Eventually they came to a natural barricade of thorny brush and Kevin stopped, turning about to look at Kit, racing soundlessly about his legs, butting him gently with his head. Clearly he was saying that they had arrived. Kit patted Kevin's head, and put a finger across his lips, cautioning Chester to silence -- not that the wiley old prospector needed to be reminded of their situation. Sizing up the surrounding trees, Kit picked one with low hanging branches, and pulled himself up into the lower boughs of the tree. For just a moment he felt his muscles tremble, threatening to give. He realized that he had been on his feet steadily for a day and most of this night. Then he gritted his teeth and forced his mind away from such temporal concerns.

He had his duty.

Straining, he clambered up into the middle branches, then worked his way along the thickest branch he could, one that permitted vantage into the area beyond the thorn bush.

He realized he had been wrong to characterize the primitive beings as "cave men". They were forest dwellers. The little village -- for lack of a less pretentious word -- seemed comprised of maybe fifty men, women, and children. The creatures did not yet seem to have evolved to the stage of actually erecting homes -- huts or teepees or anything that would signify mankind. Instead, they seemed to make their beds in grassy nests, large fronds at the sides that Kit imagined they pulled over themselves when it rained. Even the barricade that protected them from predators appeared entirely natural and organic, as though they had settled here because of it, rather than erecting it once they were settled. Their chief tools were the crude spears he had seen earlier. They seemed not to even have an understanding of fire as there was no evidence of cooking pits.

Religion, though, appeared to be something else entirely. Religion and blood sacrifices...

His eyes burned an even darker red as he took in the young, loin-clothed woman hemmed in by a cage made of crisscrossed spears. Ilana, who had befriended him, though he was still unsure of her place in all this -- where she had come from, and why she dwelled in this strange, time lost valley. And why she had lied to him. Still, all that was moot. Her rescue was the only thing he should be concentrating on. Though he allowed himself one final wry thought, looking at the crude nests of the primitives, and then the hastily thrown together cage. Was he seeing the origin of mankind? The beginnings of genius that would lead to trains and aeroplanes? Was the genesis spears and cages, not hoes and homes? It was a disturbing thought, but one best left for the philosophers. Instead, Kit gently moved back to the trunk of the tree, careful not to disturb the leaves too much and draw attention to himself.

This accomplished, he climbed swiftly down to the forest floor.

He looked around, intending to signal Chester to retreat with him a few yards so that they could strategize without fear of being heard. He need not have bothered. Both Chester and Kevin were gone.

For a moment he wondered if they had hidden themselves, just in case one of the primitives should happen by. Or maybe a dinosaur had lumbered through this area and they had taken shelter. But as Kit waited, they did not reappear. He ducked his head and peered through the branches around him, but no eyes glinted back at him.

Then he scowled. He had allowed himself to believe in Chester's sincerity, even though at his very first encounter with the man, Chester had tried to kill him. Had he misjudged him?

Then Kit dropped to one knee and looked about. The earth and tuffs of grass looked trampled, in disarray. His well-honed tracking instincts flared up as he realized this had been no voluntary departure. There had been a struggle. With the primitives? Kit glanced at the thorny barricade. No, the village would be a hive of activity if that were the case.

No. Someone else had snatched Chester and Kevin.

Kit stared grimly around, his albino eyes burning a dark, scarlet red. He had spent the last few hours -- the last day and a half, if the truth was being told -- being shot at, snapped at, or otherwise pursued. His actions had been largely defensive. Slowly, he pulled out his Enfield pistol and coldly, efficiently, reloaded it, then gave the barrel a quick, easy spin.

No more, he thought grimly. The Law had come to the Valley of the Many Moons...


Back to Episode 7: Lost and Found

On to Episode 9: The Fire God


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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.)