Part Six: The Beast of the Forest
Rise and shine...
It was time for Leo to make a decision. A very fast decision, but a very big one. Fight or run...
He paused for a brief moment on top of the bandit he had tackled. The other three bandits by the campfire were all waking up. They hadn't caught on to what was happening just yet, but they would in a second. There was a reassuring slowness to their movements, but that could change at any time.
Leo then looked behind him to check on Jimmy and saw him just getting back up.
So it was time for Leo to decide.
Fight or run.
What would you do?
Leo suddenly let go of the bandit under him and climbed to his feet. He bolted straight for Jimmy. Getting to him, he helped get him up and properly to his feet.
He looked into Jimmy's eyes and saw a dizziness in him; his eyes were wobbly and only half-open. He was even slightly swaying from side to side.
Leo scooped Jimmy up and threw him over his shoulder like a bag of flour. He then immediately started for the horses.
Behind them, the bandit on the ground was calling out to the others.
"He's getting away!"
They were all realising what was happening. They then began to stumble across the opening after them.
Leo, meanwhile, was untying one of the horses.
"Hold on tight, ok," he told Jimmy.
He then lifted Jimmy up onto the horse. Then it was Leo's turn. He started to climb onto the horse with Jimmy, but just as he put one of his feet into the foot holds, a bandit grabbed his shirt and yanked him back.
Caught off guard, Leo fell like a toppled tree and hit the ground hard.
On impact, all of the air instantly left his body. He tried to breathe, but no oxygen would go in.
He looked up and saw a smiling bandit standing above him.
Up on the horse, Jimmy threw out a kick and caught the bandit in the head, sending him staggering.
Leo still couldn't breathe. Staying calm as he wheezed, he got to his feet and tried again to get onto the horse. This time successful, he promptly took the reins of the horse and tried to back up away from the tree where it had been tied up.
But it wasn't going as smoothly as he had pictured.
The horse neighed and huffed. It was stressed. It trotted in circles and kicked up dirt.
The bandit Jimmy had kicked was getting back to their feet and the other three were all rushing over.
"Come on!" said Jimmy.
Leo was only just starting to get some air back into his lungs.
"I'm trying!" he said between wheezes. "I don't ride horses."
Jimmy snatched the reins from Leo's hands. The horse immediately responded to its new lead and turned towards the road. Just as the bandits were grabbing at them, Jimmy sent the horse into a gallop and got them clear.
"Well done, kid," said Leo.
Looking back, he could see the bandits getting the other horses ready to jump straight into pursuit.
Jimmy was focused as he held the reins tight and kept the horse at a charge along the road. He was feeling more and more awake every second.
The moon was no longer directly above them. The trees blocked out a lot of the light as they followed the narrow and chewed-up dirt road.
It seemed like they were pulling away. It seemed like they were maybe going to be in the clear. But only briefly...
The sound of three charging horses was creeping up behind them like an approaching thunderstorm.
"This isn't going to work!" shouted Leo above the sound of galloping. "I'm too heavy!"
It was true and Jimmy knew it.
They couldn't see them yet, but they could hear the horses getting closer.
Their own horse was starting to breathe a little heavier.
"You know what has to happen," said Leo.
"No!" said Jimmy instantly. "Don't you get it? We're both getting out of this."
"Why?" shouted Leo, genuine desperation in his voice. "Why do you want to save me?"
"Can't you just shut up and let me help you?" said Jimmy.
"This will only get us both captured," said Leo.
"It's not over yet," said Jimmy.
Leo looked back and the bandits were just coming into sight. They were closing in rapidly.
"We'll think of something," said Jimmy. "We just need to concentrate. There will be a way out of this."
Leo felt a quietness come over his heart. He knew what he had to do. Ever so gently, he climbed off the back of the horse.
And down he went, rolling, battering the earth, like a boulder tumbling down a mountainside.
Jimmy didn't even realise at first. Initially, he just went on riding.
When he looked back and saw Leo wasn't there, he immediately pulled up the reins to bring the horse to a stop.
Fifty yards back he saw Leo sprawled out on the ground.
Jimmy was just starting to race back for Leo when he had to pull back the reins to a sudden stop. Just beyond Leo there were the bandits, already about to reach him.
Helpless, Jimmy watched as they surrounded Leo's body.
Leo himself was motionless on the ground.
The bandit leader climbed off their horse and crouched down by Leo's side. The bandit leader then grabbed Leo's head by his hair and lifted him to his knees.
Jimmy could just see the moon in Leo's eyes and see that he was alive.
Suddenly, Jimmy then started riding towards them.
"Wait!" said Jimmy. "Wait!"
The bandits all turned Jimmy's way, ready to fight.
Jimmy stopped his horse just short of them.
Jimmy told them, "You can't truly believe that he's the beast of the forest."
The bandit leader sneered. "And who would be the beast of the forest then?"
"I'll show you," said Jimmy.
Here’s Part Seven!
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