Part 25: The Beast of the Forest
There's a stand-off in the forest... There's danger behind every tree...
Welcome back for Part 25!
There’s not long left now in The Beast of the Forest. I hope you’ve been enjoying the series so far and I hope you’re having a wonderful December. 2024 is just around the corner!
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Now, it’s time for Part 25.
I hope you enjoy!
A few minutes earlier…
Leo and Henry made their way in silence through the trees. Leo was trying to sneakily scan the forest around them, just in case his bird call had been heard and recognised. He knew Jimmy was a smart kid, but it was still a long shot. In any case, it was out of his hands now.
Soon enough, Leo began to hear the water on the rocks. Ahead of him, he saw the parting of the trees and some shimmering light.
They paused briefly at the edge of the treeline and checked that the coast was clear. With no beasts in sight, they made their way down the shore to the water.
Henry stood back and scanned the trees for movement while Leo started to fill up the empty water skins one by one. The crystal water was icy on his hands as he dipped the water skins.
Leo had only filled a couple of the water skins when he suddenly felt Henry’s hand on his shoulder. He looked up to find the adult beast and one of its younglings standing just across the other side of the stream, both staring them down…
It was around then that Jimmy had entered the picture, along with the missing beast, the two of them in a stand-off just outside of the main action of the stream.
And so Jimmy and the beast were face to face, each unflinching. Their stand-off went unnoticed by Leo and Henry and the other beasts down by the water.
The young beast gnawed its vicious teeth at Jimmy, releasing the slow burble of a growl beneath its breath. Jimmy stared into its eyes and found a world of complex emotion. He saw the fear behind the beast’s forced snarl – a certain uncertainty in its eyes, somewhere in there was the look of a child that was way out of their depth.
The moment Jimmy moved his hands, the beast tensed up like it was about to jump at him. It stabbed out its blue tongue and made a deadly hiss. Jimmy took the warning and briefly paused. Moving even slower now, he continued to raise his to two hands up into the air – the human signal for “I come in peace”. He backed it up with an attempt at a smile.
It seemed as if his message of peace was being received. Although the beast’s expression did not shift, it was, at the very least, not escalating into more rage. Gradually, it almost seemed to be quietening down and settling.
“It’s ok,” said Jimmy quietly.
Down by the stream, the adult beast’s ears instantly perked up the moment Jimmy uttered a word. Its attention snapped away from Leo and Henry and went to the edge of the forest where Jimmy and the young beast were facing off.
The adult beast let out a short sharp growl almost like a bark. Jimmy turned his head towards the water and could immediately sense movement and action back in front of him. He turned his head again and the young beast was already leaping at him with fury in its eyes.
Jimmy could only just react in time to lift up his arms in front of his face to protect himself. The lion-like beast smacked into him and knocked him down onto his back on one of the flat rocks of the stream’s shore.
With Jimmy on his back on the ground, the young beast towered over him, growling menacingly. It lurched over him like a terror creature in a nightmare. He scrambled backwards but his movements were panicked and clumsy. Finally, he just lifted his hands in front of his face, trying to shield himself from the second lunging attack he knew was imminent.
Leo turned to see the commotion and was about to bolt into action when the adult beast let out another far fiercer roar. The boom stopped everyone flat in their tracks. It felt like an earthquake had just hit the forest. None of them had ever heard a noise so horrible and loud.
They weren’t the only ones to hear it. Back by the bandits’ trap, the bandits in their trees each heard the beast’s roar, as did the townsfolk who were hiding just nearby, as did the waiting young kids with their pumpkin farmer minders.
It took a moment for Jimmy to realise that the beast’s rage was not directed at him, nor at Leo or Henry. He looked up and saw that the prowling young beast’s entire expression had shifted. Its eyes had dropped and all of the ferocity had evaporated from its face.
It backed slowly away from Jimmy, its head bowed down like a scolded and apologetic pet dog.
With a small gap between them, Jimmy took his chance and scrambled further back, clambering across the shore. Leo was straight on it and hurried over to him, Henry joining too.
Leo crouched down beside Jimmy and was instantly checking his face for any injuries.
“Are you ok?” Leo asked.
“Yeah,” said Jimmy, “I’m fine.”
Leo took lifted Jimmy’s arms one by one to check for any wounds. He seemed to be alright.
“You’re one strange kid,” said Henry.
“Where’s everyone else?” Leo asked Jimmy.
Henry cut in. “What do you mean, ‘everyone else’?”
They both ignored him.
“They thought you’d be at the trap with the other bandits,” said Jimmy.
“Who is ‘they’?” asked Henry, increasingly frustrated.
There was still extreme tension by the stream. The beasts weren’t backing down. The young one that had jumped at Jimmy was still nearby, and the others were still by the water.
Jimmy answered Henry’s question. “A group of us from town. We came to save Leo.”
Henry’s face immediately tightened with panic.
“Are your parents part of the group?” asked Leo.
“Yeah, they’re there,” he answered.
“And they know you’re in the forest somewhere too?”
“They know,” said Jimmy. “They wanted me to stay back out of trouble.”
“This is good,” said Leo. “They would have heard the beast’s roar. They’ll be on their way here right now.”
“The other guys will be on their way too,” Henry added.
Both were right.
See you next week for Part 26!