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: After scouting out the caveman camp where Ilana is being held prisoner, Kit returns to his companions -- the old prospector Chester, and Kit's wolf-dog, Kevin -- only to find them vanished as well, and signs of a struggle...
 
 

Episode 9: The Fire God


KIT STOOD STILLY in the middle of the dark forest, a light breath of a breeze rustling a few leaves. Somewhere in the distance, a great, prehistoric beast trumpeted. He stood before a thorn barricade, on the other side of which was a tribe of prehistoric cavemen, and their captive, the enigmatic woman who had misrepresented herself as Ilana Parding.

Kit waited, waited for those who had snatched his companions -- the eccentric old American prospector, Chester P. Greenberg, and Kit's wolf-dog, Kevin -- to strike at him. But no such attack came. Those who had snatched the others were long gone. Clearly they had struck, unaware that Kit was up in the tree, spying on the primitive village on the other side of the barricade. That gave him at least a modicum of the element of surprise.

Kit's well-honed forest instincts came into play as he moved gracefully, like a phantom, about the area where the attack had transpired. Despite the weak light of the moon -- or moons -- and the thick, omnipresent shadows, within moments he had identified the direction in which they had gone. He knew where to go, now he just needed to decide if he should go. That is, which should he pursue: Chester and Kevin, or press his rescue of Ilana? In either case, it would be helpful to have assistance, but in order to gain assistance in one mission, he would have to secure the freedom of one of them on his own.

The cavemen were strong, and he had had previous encounters with them...but they were also superstitious. With his chalk white, albino features, he had a hope of using that superstition to his advantage. He felt in his pockets until he retrieved a set of matches carefully wrapped in water-resistant oil skin. He looked at the barricade. A distraction would be in order. Then he frowned, glacing at the forest around him. Clearly the barricade served to protect them from the dinosaurs that roamed this valley. If he destroyed it, would he not be dooming the entire village?

Maintain the right, the R.C.M.P.'s official motto, wasn't always easy to enact when you weren't sure what right was.

Despite having gleeful visions of the effect a burning barricade would have on the villagers, Kit reluctantly vetoed that plan. But he still felt fire was the way to go. He had seen no evidence of fire-making when he had spied on the cavemen -- it was beyond their ken. He no longer had his bright red jacket, nor his faithful dog, both of which had frightened them before. But he still had his white skin, and he had fire. That would have to be enough.

***

The primitive ape-men moved about the clearing that passed for a village, loping about on their bow-legs. There was a tangible feel of excitement in the air, almost of electricity, though their grunting, coughing tongue was unintelligible to any ear born in the last ten thousand years. They were excited because of the coming sacrifice, because they had caught the forest fairy, she of the strange, yellow hair, and the slender, lithe limbs (so unlike any woman of the tribe). Killing her and drinking of her blood would bestow upon the tribe her fairy powers -- whatever they might be.

And it was this very excitement, this very air of energy, where even the children and the very old were keyed up with anticipation, that made them so susceptible to what came next.

A flaming branch came sailing out of one of the trees to bounce across the ground, casting yellow sparks, before it fizzled and died.

A stunned silence gripped the little community. Glances were exchanged. A couple of the bravest, fiercest of the warriors approached the smouldering stick with trepidation. They had seen fire before. Usually after a lightning storm. But they had never seen fire fall from the sky.

Suddenly another flaming branch sailed out of the tree, this time to land in a sleeping nest made of dry grass. The grass instantly ignited and flickering, yellow light cast weird shadows over the faces of the primitives. Nervous grunts, excited coughs, answered the bizarre occurence. A third branch sent another nest up in a paroxysm of licking fire. The grunts and coughs became screams and shrieks, villagers bounding back and forth, unsure if the sky itself was raining fire on them.

And then something else dropped out of the tree -- a man. But like no man they had seen before. He was tall and skinny, like the blonde fairy, but with skin as white as a bleached skull, and eyes as red -- as red as the flames that sputtered in the nests. They had heard tell of this being, how he had frightened the hunters at first, but they said they had bested him. Yet he was here again, the blonde fairy's mate, no doubt. And he brought fire!

No, was the thought that raced through primitive brains as his red eyes scintillated -- no, he was fire. The God of fire! He raised a hand, and thunder boomed from a little stick he held.

It was enough to send the primitives scrambling for the trees, women grabbing their children, as all fled before the wrath of a god that they had not imagined before this night.

***

Seeing the panic he sowed, Kit was more than satisfied -- though he also knew that, like before, their panic would only be temporary. But temporary was good enough. As the primitives broke and ran before him, Kit raced to the hastily erected cage that held Ilana.

She looked at him, a weariness brought on by fear falling from her eyes like a dropped coat, and her mouth smiled. "You came for me! You found me!"

His mouth canted wryly. "Don't you know? I always get my man -- or woman," the Mountie quipped. The cage was made of heavy spears driven into the ground and interlocked, but it worked more as a general impediment to escape -- in a village surrounded by fifty potential guards -- than as a truly immovable obstacle. With him on the outside, and Ilana struggling on the inside, together they were able to work free a couple of spears, enough for her to squeeze out.

He took her hand, to race back for the trees, but she stopped. "What about the fires? If they get out of control, they could destroy half this valley."

He looked around. Fortunately, the nests that were ablaze seemed to be surrounded by nothing but dry dirt, without anything to feed the flames. The fires were already dwindling into nothing but coiling smoke and glowing embers. "They'll be all right," he said. And together, they raced for the sanctuary of the trees.

Kit clambered up into the lower branches, then reached back to help Ilana. But she was already by his side, nimbly moving up ahead of him. She really was a creature of this strange, unprecedented valley, he realized, as much at home in it as Kit was in the forests he knew, or a city man would be in downtown Toronto or Montreal. He was duly impressed.

As they dropped down on the other side of the thorny barrier, Kit immediately set to work relocating the trail of those who had taken the others. Ilana, ignorant of what had transpired, said, breathlessly, "We should keep moving. Those primitives won't stay frightened for long -- though, I daresay, they might think twice about bothering us ever again. But it's best if we're away from here. Removing the temptation, as it were."

"Just a minute," Kit said. "I was with two companions. My dog and an old man -- they were grabbed while I was scouting out the best way to rescue you."

"An old--? Chester?"

Kit nodded. "He said he knew you, too."

"He's an old dear. A bit eccentric, but a good heart."

"Yeah, when he's not shooting at you," Kit mumbled.

"What?"

"Nothing." He rose. "They went this way. Are you up to helping me? Two heads and all that."

She nodded, though Kit could tell she was as exhausted as he.

"Judging by the footprints, I'd say they were taken by men in boots. Presumably the guys who shot at us before, and the very men who I was sent out after in the first place. And, I'm guessing, when we find them, we'll find Professor Parding and his daughter. Since I haven't seen hide nor hair of them yet, I'm guessing they've been held all along. I can only pray they're still alive." And then, thinking about it, he turned on the woman in the loin-cloth. "And maybe you might tell me what your connection to all this is. I thought you were part of their gang, but Chester acted like he'd known you for a while, and you clearly seem at home here. So what's a woman like you doing making like Tarzan, and why did you tell me your name was Ilana Parding? What are you trying to hide?"

She stared at him for the longest moment, then she proudly brushed back her mane of blonde hair. "I am Ilana Parding."

"Don't try that again. I know--" Kit stopped, his jaw going slack. Slowly, like dawn creeping up into the morning sky, he began to understand. It all made sense, in a nonsensical, Alice in Wonderland sort of way. They were in a valley where various times co-existed, all "squished together" as Chester had characterized it. The Ilana Parding he knew about was seven years old. But that did not preclude this twentysomething woman from being Ilana as well, not here at any rate.

And then a new thought occurred to him. "But if you're Ilana Parding, as an adult, then...you must know what's going to happen next."

***

Kit bellied up to the top of a slight rise, and peered down into a little hollow where the men he was looking for had made camp. About them, towering trees formed a natural fence around the little enclave of villainy. He counted four men walking about. Two were bandaged up, no doubt a result of their previous encounter with the albino Mountie. He felt a warm body rustle up beside him, but he did not bother glancing at Ilana Parding. Instead he stayed focused on the area before him. But it was Ilana who spotted something first and nudged him, pointing with a slender arm.

Over in one corner there was one of the tents, and outside of it was the wolf-dog, Kevin, leashed to a stake driven into the ground. Kevin snarled and lunged at one or another of the men as they sauntered by, usually startling them just enough that he was rewarded with a quickened step, or a startled jump. But that was all. His tether kept him from acting upon his belligerence. One of the men threw a stick at the dog as he went by. Kit scowled, wanting to attack now. But knowing that to do so impulsively would help neither Kevin, nor the others.

Movement to one side caught his eye, and he saw Chester being dragged along, hands bound behind him.

Kit leaned toward Ilana and whispered, "I'm guessing your father and...and the little girl are in the tent my dog's tied in front of. You sneak around and free them, while I try and get to Chester."

She shook her head. "That's not how I remember it."

Kit frowned. This valley could drive a man crazy as he reminded himself that the woman next to him was the same as the little girl hidden in the tent. "On the way here, you told me you couldn't remember anything?"

"Not much. I was seven after all, and frightened out of my wits. But I think I'd remember me. I remembered you -- that's why I was surprised when I first encountered you (back in chapter 2 ~ the ed.). Because I recognized you from my childhood. But the specifics are all muddled. I don't even remember if you survive, or Chester."

Kit rubbed his jaw, trying to formulate a plan. Although there were only four of the kidnappers, they were all armed. Whereas he was the only one with a gun. Even with Ilana at his side, even if he could free Chester, the odds were still against them. He heard something roar in the forest, something not too distant. Something familiar. He looked at Ilana. "That's a Tyrannosaurus Rex, right?"

She nodded. "Whatever we do, we must do it quick. Those fools are making too much noise, and the growth around here isn't thick enough to discourage it if it comes hunting."

Great, he thought. Four armed goons below, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex fast on its way. Talk about being caught between the rock and the hard place. Kit shrugged and sighed. "Time to wing it, I guess."


Back to Episode 8: The Mystery of the Many Moons

On to Conclusion: Showdown


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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.)