Part Eight: The Beast of the Forest
The search for the Beast continues, and Jimmy is going to have to go even deeper into the forest...
Welcome! Today’s story is Part Eight in The Beast of the Forest. The Beast of the Forest follows young Jimmy as he sets off into the forest to disprove the myth of the Beast… You can start at Part One right here:
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There was a long moment of silence as Jimmy, Leo, and four of the five bandits all stood and stared at the claw marks in the trunk of the Red Tree.
A look of despair could be found on the faces of a few of the bandits -- a defeated expression. They were already exhausted, but now they knew their journey was only just beginning, and that they would have to face a true Beast. They had been so hopeful that Leo had been the one they were searching for.
"So," said Arthur, the bandit leader. "Where do we find the Beast?"
"I told you," said Leo. "The mountains. There is a cave at the base of the mountains. That's where you'll find it. This time of year it will be there in its cave, waiting for summer."
"And how do you know that?" asked Arthur.
"I've been living in this forest for years," said Leo. "The Beast lurks here around the lake during the warm seasons and retreats to its cave for the cold seasons. I do the opposite."
"Why are you in the forest anyway?" asked Arthur.
"Why do you care?" said Leo.
The leader was thinking.
"Henry, come here," he said.
Arthur and the bandit named Henry walked twenty or so feet to the lake shore to talk.
"What do you think?" asked Arthur.
"I actually believe him," said Henry.
"I think I do too," said Arthur.
They both looked over towards the mountains in the far distance. It was a journey that would take days. They could not help but feel daunted -- not just by the distance, but by the thought of what awaited them.
"What are we going to do with those two?" asked Henry finally.
"What do you mean?" said Arthur. "The big guy doesn't leave our sight. You saw those claw marks. We need him. He lives here. He knows this forest like the back of his hand. We don't. And look at the size of him. We can use him for the fight."
"But the kid," said Henry. "He can't come with us. We can't just drag him along."
"The kid is our leverage," said Arthur. "He's what makes the big guy follow orders. Plus, they're probably father and son. If we just told the kid to get lost, do you really think he's going to listen? He would just come after us and try to free the big guy, just like he's tried already."
Henry thought it all over.
"Let me do the talking," said Henry. "Ok?"
"Fine," said Arthur.
The two then returned to everyone else back at the Red Tree.
Jimmy and Leo stood surrounded by the bandits.
"What are your names?" asked Henry.
Jimmy answered straight away, "Jimmy." He then looked to Leo to answer next, but Leo didn't say a word.
"And your name?" asked Henry, looking at Leo.
There was a long pause.
Arthur stepped in. "Your name," he said, impatience in his voice.
Henry tried to steady things and calmly asked, "Please, what's your name?"
Leo finally answered. "Leo."
"Thank you," said Henry. "My name's Henry and this is Arthur. Those two are Stig and Duke. The other one back at the campfire is Joel. We're obviously here in this forest to find the Beast. Now... Here's what's going to happen. You're going to take us to the Beast and everything is going to be ok."
“The boy doesn’t get involved,” said Leo.
Jimmy looked up at Leo and said very simply, "I'm staying."
Leo could instantly see that he didn't have a chance at changing the boy's mind. The bandits could see it too.
"Everything is sorted then," said Arthur. "We set off immediately. We've wasted enough time."
The convoy trekked together back through the forest to the path. They gathered their things and then they travelled along the path for hours and hours -- the bandits on their horses and Jimmy and Leo walking. A honey-coloured sun had taken over the sky. After the longest night of his life, Jimmy could not help but feel a slight moment of happiness to feel warmth on his face.
Everyone was tired and worn-out from the chaos of the night before. For the longest time, no one spoke, each of them only just managing to keep their heads up and their eyes open.
The five bandits had been together for quite some time -- a couple of years, which is a long time for a group of bandits.
First, there was Arthur. He had once been in the army and had the scars to show for it. He had experience giving orders and ran his little group with a level of discipline that was unusual for bandits. He didn't talk about his past. He was kicked out of the royal army, but no one knew why. He was in his 40s and the topic of family, much like his time in the army, was not something he touched.
Henry was second in command. Slightly younger than Arthur, Henry had been a baker once. He had lived a simple life. He had been excellent at his craft and content with his position in the world. One day, though, the little oasis of his life crumbled. Overnight, everything changed. His mill was taken from him by King Ted. Henry had been happy and he had been kind. A bandit's life was the polar opposite of the life he had once lived. He would have loved to still be a baker, but life got in the way of that, as it sometimes does. The King stole Henry's mill from him and left him with nothing.
Henry loathed the King with all of his heart. The fact that they were currently doing the King's bidding by searching for the Beast was infuriating to him, but he knew that he had to put his emotions aside.
Two of the other bandits, Stig and Duke, were brothers, younger still. They had been in the royal army with Arthur. When Arthur left, they left too.
Lastly, there was Joel. Joel was the oldest of the group, with a ratty bird's nest of silver hair on his head. He was a master of hunting traps, firemaking, and all things related to life in the wild.
Arthur was determined to make it a productive day. They didn't take a single break.
Finally, as the sun was setting, Leo told the bandits that they would now need to leave the path and start cutting through the forest.
They were all relieved when Arthur then declared that they would stop and make camp.
Despite the circumstances, everyone slept well that night, too exhausted to keep their eyes open for another second.
Here is a link to the next part in The Beast of the Forest:
Thank you so much for reading!