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A New Story Whale Installment: The Beast of the Forest
The story of The Beast of the Forest continues as a big clash approaches...
The Beast of the Forest is back! It’s time for Part 22.
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Without further ado, please enjoy Part 22: The Beast of the Forest!
That first night in the forest was long and sleepless. The townsfolk spread themselves out across the opening they had found in the forest and tried to sleep. Some pretended to sleep, some sat silently around the fire, and some just stared into the darkness of the trees, on lookout, too afraid to look away.
At dawn, they gathered up their things and started back towards the guiding path of the water. They made their way upstream. According to Jimmy, they would be reaching the bandits before the day was over.
They were in their more formal formation now. The kids walked in the centre of the party while the adults acted as a barricade and protected the front, rear, and flanks.
Jimmy hadn’t noticed it before, but the stream seemed to be getting stronger and wider as they travelled further upstream.
They walked on through noon and into the early afternoon. They were getting close now. Jimmy could feel it. He had to focus. They were going to need to turn inland soon.
Jimmy shuffled through the group to the front and walked alongside his dad.
“We’re getting close,” Jimmy told him.
Jimmy’s dad squeezed Jimmy’s shoulder reassuringly. “Good. Stay up here with me. When it’s time to turn into the forest, just say the word.”
The convoy carried on a while longer. The mountains in the distance weren’t so far away now. They were getting closer to the bandits. They were getting closer to the beasts of the forest.
Finally, they reached a part in the stream that made Jimmy stop in his tracks.
Everyone around him slowed and staggered to a stop as well. They then waited silently while Jimmy took in the surroundings.
He looked at the stream and the trees across it. He then turned his attention to the shore on his own side and the face of the forest beside him. Something clicked in his brain. This was the spot.
He raised his hand and pointed.
“They’re in there,” he said.
It was time for another huddle. The adults broke away from the children, forming two groups. The kids weren’t playing in the water this time. They were just as focused as the adults.
“What’s going to happen now?” asked one of the kids in the younger huddle.
All eyes turned to Jimmy. He had become the default leader of the pack.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess we’ll go inland until we reach the bandits. We’ll see what the adults say.”
Soon enough, the adults wrapped up their huddle and walked back over to the young ones.
It was clear from Jimmy’s father’s expression that he was coming over with bad news.
“Here’s the plan,” he said simply. “We’re going into the forest and you guys are all staying here.”
Moans and groans broke out among the kids, led by Jimmy.
“There’s five bandits!” said Jimmy, outraged. “You need us. That’s why we’re here. And the beasts. What if they’re there too? You need all of the help you can get.”
“And we’ll call if we need you,” said Jimmy’s dad, trying to settle things back down.
Jimmy recognised the apologetic look in his dad’s eyes and briefly turned down the temperature on the outrage he was feeling.
“Put yourself in our shoes,” his dad went on. “Imagine you have your own children to protect. Would you want them to come charging in with you into a forest full of bandits and beasts?”
All of the kids went quiet. There was nothing for them to say.
Jimmy’s dad’s voice became gentle.
“Stay here,” he said. “If we need you, we’ll sound the horn.”
Just like that, the whole situation had changed. There would be no negotiations. The new plan was already set.
The adults who would be going off into the forest prepared and readied themselves for what might lie ahead, setting down anything and everything that wasn’t absolutely essential for the task at hand.
Then it was time…
A few adults stayed back to look after the young ones by the river. The rest got ready to set off.
For the families that were going to be splitting up, the kids and adults said their goodbyes and exchanged hugs and messages of “I love you” and, most importantly, “see you soon”.
Finally, the departing adults picked up their things and set off into the forest.
The group was now split. For Jimmy, he felt completely helpless. Everything was out of his hands. He hated it.
Inside the forest, Jimmy’s dad led the way. Jimmy had given him a detailed rundown of where the bandits were. According to Jimmy’s directions, it would be a relatively straightforward journey. It was a straight line track, no more than a half a mile.
The adults marched quietly, dodging the crackly twigs and dry crunchy leaves of the forest floor. They were on high alert, they themselves feeling like children simply playing the role of warriors on their way to battle.
The opening in the forest would be close. They didn’t want to find themselves accidentally stumbling into an open ambush from all sides.
Eventually, Jimmy’s dad spotted an opening ahead and instantly knew that it was the spot they were looking for. He signalled for the others to slow down and prepare themselves.
They snuck up like tigers to the trees at the edge of the opening, hiding behind the trunks. Jimmy’s dad looked around the tree he was behind and scanned the area. He eyed off the centre of the opening, searching for signs of a trap. Sure enough, he spotted a subtle bunching of leaves that he knew instantly was the mark of a drop trap.
Knowing he was in the right spot, he then turned his attention to the trees that surrounded the open area. They would be up there somewhere, hiding. He searched for signs of the bandits, going from tree to tree. Finally, he caught a glimpse of someone up in one of the trees – a half-turned head, someone mid-conversation, completely oblivious.