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Part 13: The Beast of the Forest
It's time for a new plan to catch the Beast of the Forest...
Happy New Year!
I hope reading some more bedtime stories has snuck its way onto your list of New Year resolutions!
Here on Story Whale, 2023 kicks off with a new part in The Beast of the Forest.
Jimmy, Leo, and the bandits have just slimly escaped the clutches of the beasts. But what’s their plan now?
Here is a link to the previous part in The Beast of the Forest:
And here is a link to the very first part in The Beast of the Forest:
As the Forest went quiet, the trio of Jimmy, Leo, and Henry didn’t have any time to hang around and catch their breath. The two young beasts were gone for now, but there was every chance that they were just briefly retreating, perhaps to go and get their mum or dad. The enormous adult beast from across the creek could come barrelling through the forest at any moment.
Jimmy, Leo, and Henry marched along at a speedy but measured stomping pace. There was a specific tree with enormous weaving roots which they had set as their rendezvous point in case of an emergency such as this. All they had to do was retrace their steps.
Henry led the way while Leo stayed at the back of the group, constantly checking over his shoulder.
Jimmy thought that he had believed Leo when he first talked about the true Beast of the Forest. He thought he had accepted the reality that the Beast was real. Except there must have apparently still been some shred of doubt within him, or a severe underestimation of what it would be like to actually witness the Beast in person. Seeing the Beast in the flesh was a whole new experience and it left his face locked in a perpetual daze of blank emotionless shock.
It took about half-an-hour for them to reach the rendezvous spot. Before they could see the tree, though, they could hear shouting.
Once they reached the opening, they found one of the bandit twins confronting the bandit leader, Arthur.
“Didn’t you see the size of it?” the twin was saying. “And who knows how many more of them there are!”
Arthur was sitting on one of the tree’s giant roots. His face was relatively passive, as if there wasn’t someone standing right in front of him shouting at him.
The last two bandits were spread out across the tree roots which spread out across the ground like a spider’s web.
When Arthur spotted Henry he woke up from his stupor and brushed the upset twin bandit aside.
“You survived,” said Arthur, pleasantly surprised… until he saw Leo. “And you!”
He stomped towards Leo.
“You never mentioned there was a happy little family of them,” spat Arthur.
“I didn’t know,” said Leo. “I spend my life avoiding the beast. How am I supposed to know the details of its family tree?”
Arthur was about to throw a snappy response back at Leo but there was nothing for him to say. He just scowled and then turned away.
The bandit twin who had been getting in Arthur’s face started up again.
“We’re not going anywhere near those things again,” said the twin.
“Oh give it a rest,” said Arthur. “You’re going to give me a headache.”
The frustrated twin went and sat with his brother.
“Arthur,” said Henry.
Jimmy and Leo took a seat on the tree roots while Henry went over to talk with Arthur.
Jimmy was looking down at the ground between his feet, dazed.
“Are you ok?” asked Leo.
“Not really,” said Jimmy.
The confession slipped out of his mouth before he could stop it. He wasn’t ok.
It was the answer Leo had known was the case but just didn’t want to believe. He didn’t know what to say to the kid. He just put his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder.
Arthur and Henry were off talking about what to do next.
“That wasn’t what I had in mind,” said Henry.
“No kidding,” said Arthur.
“This isn’t going to work,” said Henry. “Who knows how many of them there are out here.”
Arthur shook his head. “It was an awkward situation. We’ll be more ready next time.”
“Did you not see the size of the adult beast across the river?” asked Henry in shock. “How do you suppose we take a beast like that down? With a catapult?”
“I have a plan,” said Arthur.
Sun setting, Arthur gathered everyone together for a meeting. They were all exhausted.
Arthur’s voice was stern. “This is a message for everyone… from now on there will be no more whinging or complaining. Consider this forest a battleground and consider yourselves soldiers. It starts at dawn and I don’t care how long it lasts. We’re going to build a trap and we’re going to build a fort and then we’re going to wait. We’ll wait and wait and wait. It could take days. Weeks. Months! It doesn’t matter. We will be as patient as the trees.”
There was silence in the air. Despair had come over the face of the twin who had been protesting. Jimmy dropped his chin in hopelessness.
There was no fire or food that night. Each of them was too busy reckoning with what lay ahead.
The group spread themselves out across the forest floor and slept among the giant tree roots. Jimmy lay on his back on a bed of leaves, tucked in between two tree roots.
He wasn’t sleeping. He wasn’t even trying to sleep. He was too alert for that. His eye lids refused to shut; his mind was a raging fire of activity.
He thought of his mother crying and felt sick with guilt. He twitched with frustration. You idiot! What was I thinking? Why am I here? Why! I want to go home. I want my bed. I’m sorry, mum and dad. I’m so sorry.
Every slight gust of wind and flutter of leaves would make his heartbeat spike and his face go hot with fear.
A hushed voice then called his name: “Jimmy.”
He sat up and looked over the low walls of his tree root bed.
It was Leo who was lying down just nearby.
“Do you know your way home from here?” asked Leo.
“I’m not sure,” said Jimmy.
“Go to the river,” said Leo, “but not where we were today – farther down. Follow it downstream until the Red Tree. You know your way from there?”
“Good,” said Leo. “I’m going to get you out of here, ok? Tomorrow. I promise. Tomorrow.”
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