Part Four: The Beast of the Forest
The adventure continues as Jimmy must find a way to save the Beast...
With no fire by his side, Jimmy felt the bite of the cold night. He had to keep his jaw fixed to stop his teeth from chattering.
Jimmy kept a good distance as he followed the bandits and Leo. It’s not like they were hard prey to track. The bandits talked constantly and loudly to each other, bickering about this and that.
The four bandits walked in a diamond shape with Leo in the centre. Jimmy could tell by the way he would snap at the others that the bandit at the front of the diamond was the leader. Setting the path, the leader carried a torch while the other three led Leo along with pieces of rope.
Jimmy didn’t have a plan. He weaved his way through the dense and dark forest, following the chatter and the firelight.
Eventually, Jimmy spotted a campfire in the distance.
There was an opening in the forest where the campfire was. There was another bandit there — so five in total — and five horses which were tied up together to some trees.
Hiding nearby, Jimmy could hear lots of talking but couldn’t make out the words. Carefully, he crept closer.
The bandits walked Leo over to the horses and sat him down and started to tie him up to one of the trees.
“Tie the ropes tight,” said the leader. “I want him barely able to breathe.”
Just before they left him, one of the bandits gave Leo a hard kick to the gut that even Jimmy could feel. The bandits left him then and gathered around the campfire.
Jimmy hid behind a tree and listened in.
“So that’s him? That’s the Beast?” said the new fifth bandit. “I thought he’d be bigger.”
“Of course, it’s him,” said the leader. “Who else would be out here like that? The stories about him were exaggerations. Who cares? Prince Ted gets a big pat on the back for capturing the Beast. We get paid. End of story.”
The bandits went on talking and arguing. Jimmy looked over at Leo tied to a tree among the horses. His head was bowed down.
Jimmy thought about what to do. He could wait until the bandits went to sleep, but what if they just took turns being on watch? Or what if they woke up while he was letting Leo go?
That was when Jimmy noticed the steaming pot that hung over the campfire. He had an idea.
Jimmy turned and set off into the dense forest. The full moon was high in the sky and bright. He kept his eyes on the floor of the forest as he made his way among the trees.
He was searching. Searching for something that he had been told about when he was younger. Slumber Weed. It was a spiky weed that wrapped around the roots of trees. Jimmy remembered being warned about it by his parents.
He had already seen some earlier in the day. It wasn’t particularly rare.
Jimmy kept on searching, bouncing from tree to tree. Then, finally, he found some.
Straight away he took off one of his socks. He put his hand in the sock and started picking the Slumber Weed. As he was filling the sock he felt a sharp pinch. He looked at his hand and found a barb a Slumber Weed sticking into his skin.
He quickly finished filling the sock and started to make his way back towards the bandits.
As he was walking, though, he felt a slight dizziness starting up. He could feel his feet growing heavier.
He got to the campfire opening and paused at the tree-line, staying hidden. The bandits were still sat around the fire, the pot bubbling away. As Jimmy watched, his vision began to blur and shiver. The campfire briefly flared up like a tiny sun. His hand slipped on the tree trunk he was holding onto. Almost falling over, he had to pull himself back behind the tree.
Jimmy took a few deep breaths to compose himself. Let’s do this, he told himself.
He started pacing through the woods along the edge of the tree-line to where Leo was tied up with the horses.
As Jimmy approached Leo, he was feeling dizzier than ever. He crept up behind the tree Leo was tied to and half-stumbled to one knee.
Leo heard him instantly, but it didn’t seem like the bandits noticed anything.
After briefly turning his head to see Jimmy, Leo promptly faced forward again, not wanting to give away Jimmy’s presence.
“What are you doing here?” said Leo without moving his lips.
“I have a plan,” said Jimmy.
Jimmy’s eyelids felt like they were made of stone. All he wanted to do was roll himself up into a ball and sleep.
“Stop this,” said Leo. “You need to leave right now.”
Jimmy ignored Leo and told himself he had to focus.
He crept a few steps over to one of the trees where the horses were tied up. He silently and carefully undid their ropes so that they wouldn’t notice they were freed. He then made his way back to Leo.
“I need you to wait one minute,” said Jimmy, “and then I need you to bark like a dog.”
“Excuse me?” said Leo, intensely tempted to turn his head.
“I need you to be as loud and wild as you can be,” said Jimmy. “We don’t have much time.”
“Jimmy,” said Leo.
“You need to trust me,” said Jimmy.
Leo didn’t have a choice but to do what he was told. If the kid was going to go along with this plan no matter what, then Leo felt his only option was to do whatever he could to make it work.
Without another word, Jimmy disappeared back into the forest.
He walked back along the edge of the tree-line, trying to count to sixty in his head but constantly losing his place, inching closer to sleep every second.
He made it to his spot and tucked himself behind a tree, directly across the opening from where Leo was.
A moment passed and then there was the sudden sound of a dog barking ferociously. The horses responded instantly, rising up on their back hooves and letting out a chorus of piercing neighs. The bandits were already on their feet and running around trying to settle them.
Leo went on barking and a couple of the horses bolted into the forest. One of the bandits promptly made a move for Leo and started beating him. Nevertheless, Leo went on barking.
And so Jimmy had his chance. He quickly sprinted for the pot above the campfire. Looking around, no one had spotted him. He took his sock and dunked it several times into the soupy mixture. The liquid burnt his hand but he didn’t care.
At the same time, the bandits had finally managed to fill Leo’s mouth with cloth to get him to shut up.
Jimmy ran back to the trees and hid. With his back against one of the tree trunks, he finally couldn’t hold himself up any longer and slid down to the ground.
Exhausted, he looked around the tree and into the campfire opening.
And then it happened. He could not keep his eyes open any longer.
Here’s Part Five!
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