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Part 17: The Beast of the Forest
Leo has to deal with the aftermath of Jimmy's escape...
The story of The Beast of the Forest goes on! Today’s story follows Leo and the aftermath of Jimmy’s escape.
Here’s a link to the previous part in The Beast of the Forest:
And here’s a link to Part One:
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One day earlier…
Before the escape…
It was all hands on deck, everyone digging. Leo glanced at Jimmy and the boy looked like a meek shell of his former self.
Leo had to act before the boy got too exhausted to escape. He also wanted Jimmy to have as much sunlight time as possible so that the kid could get some distance between himself and the bandits and beasts.
Leo scanned the opening in the forest where they were creating the trap. The bandits were focused and locked into a rhythm of digging. Leo eyed off Arthur, the head bandit. He was going to be the one he would have to go for. That was what would get the biggest reaction.
Leo turned to Jimmy and nodded. It was time.
Leo charged at Arthur and tackled him. He caught the bandit cleanly and swept him off his feet. Leo knocked him to the ground and then braced for the reaction of the other bandits.
As the bandits swarmed Leo, all he could do was try and catch a glimpse of where Jimmy had been standing. From the corner of his eye, he saw Jimmy darting off into the forest. The kid had finally done something that he was asked.
Then Leo had to refocus. The bandits were still walloping into him, trying to pry him off of Arthur. Leo held on tight though. He wanted to buy Jimmy as much time as he possibly could.
Finally, the bandits were able to get Leo off of him. They put Leo face down on the ground and held his arms behind his back. It took all of the bandits working together to drag Leo across the ground to a tree and tied him to a trunk. Three of the bandits then fanned out into the forest to look for Jimmy; two stayed behind to keep an eye on Leo.
Leo was tense with nerves as the bandits searched for Jimmy. They could show up at any second, dragging the boy back with them.
After ten or so minutes, the bandits began to return. They came back one by one. With each bandit, Leo held his breath as they stepped into vision. When the final bandit returned, Leo felt his whole body relax and sink. All of the bandits had returned empty-handed…
Leo watched as the bandits gathered together in a huddle. He was worried about the bandits sending out a more thorough search party.
“I’ll still help you,” Leo called out.
The bandits turned towards him briefly then returned to their discussion.
The huddle went on for a while longer and then Henry walked over to talk with Leo.
Henry crouched down. He smiled at Leo.
“The boy got away,” said Henry. “You did well.”
The bandits had decided to let the boy go. He wasn’t worth the hassle. They needed to focus on getting the trap ready.
The bandits left Leo tied to the tree to swelter in the heat, pouring sweat, and got back to work. The bandits weren’t giving him any water. When he tried to shuffle around the tree for shade, they told him to get back where he was. Still, it beat digging.
As the day went on, the bandits struggled as they dug for hours in the merciless heat. It was taking a toll on each of them. Progress on the trap was slow and brutal. There would still be a long way to go if they wanted a hole deep enough for one of the beasts.
Finally, towards the end of the day, Henry went to Leo with a cup of water. Leo’s head was drooped down and his eyes were barely open. Henry held the cup to Leo’s lips and raised it carefully. Leo downed the water, too drained to think. Henry then walked around and loosened the ropes a bit.
Despite the hunger and despite the pain he was in, Leo slept strangely well that night. With Jimmy out of harm’s way, he felt like he could finally relax.
Leo woke up the next day to Henry tying a rope around one of his ankles. Leo looked down and he wasn’t tied up around the waist to the tree anymore.
Henry was tying the knot around Leo’s ankle.
“There’s breakfast for you,” said Henry. “I’ll get it now.”
Leo looked around the opening in the forest. A small campfire was heating up a pot of vegetable stew. The rest of the bandits were sitting around and eating. The day of work had not yet started.
Henry returned with a bowl of food and a wooden spoon. He gave it to Leo and Leo immediately started tucking in as if there were a sand hourglass timing him.
After breakfast, it was time to start digging. The bandits weren’t going to let Leo just sit around anymore. He had to dig along with the rest of them.
The day went on and they were making good progress. Henry eventually convinced Arthur that Leo, as the strongest there, should have one of the spades to speed things along.
It took a long, arduous day of slaving away, but they eventually managed to finish the hole. It was deep enough for a standing adult and wide enough for a king’s roundtable.
Some of the bandits went off into the forest to gather up bits of branches to cover the hole with. Once they had a frame of branches and twigs, they covered it all with leaves.
They all impressed themselves with the final product. It looked perfect.
It was time to get into position. They set themselves up in the trees surrounding the forest opening, two of them in each tree. They formed a triangle around the trap: Leo with Henry, Arthur with the eldest silver-haired bandit, and the two twins together in the last tree.
Now it was a waiting game…
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