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LEGEND OF THE LOST

By Christine King All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 3

Time to Find the Lost Forest

As if time had a point to prove, it’s been twenty years and Jack still remembered the promise he made all those years ago, that day on the plane.

For the last five years Jack had been charting out maps of the area around the Mountain. He had also studied and compared the leather bond books and journals, that his father once had done before, and was so passionate about. The writings hadn’t said much about the forest, and it didn’t say anything about the location, except that it was somewhere… on the Mountain. Very unclear; he understood now why his father had been so frustrated. What good was it to write about something, if one would not be accumulating any concrete data, or proof from it. It was a mystery, the village was a mystery; and the writers of the journals, two of them being more significant than the rest; one, an unidentified woman from the village, who told tales of magic, and the other… his father; just two sizably eccentric individuals, sharing the same obsession.

Jack had changed a lot over the years. His hair darkened to black, and his eyes, settled to a light grayish blue; and his perfect eyebrows, defining them in-depth. He was now a handsome, well-built man of 6′1".

It all began in a dream. One night, Jack dreamt that he had been venturing over the countryside, the clouds rolling in the sky, and then he found himself surrounded by trees. He heard the voice of a young woman echoing and calling for help. He ran to her rescue, but he couldn’t find her; and the closer he got to the sounds of her cries, the farther away he was from her. Then all of a sudden, he heard a death hurling scream. It all had gone wrong, and he had failed to save her.

Jack woke up in a sweat, breathing heavily. He tried to go back to sleep, but he couldn’t clear his head, of the terrible and frightfully disturbing dream he had. He got out of bed, took a shower, put on some clothes, and went to the kitchen to make some coffee.

When all is said and done it would not be too soon or too late. Whether the invitation was given or not, he found that he couldn’t help himself from visiting these beckoning thoughts, which would tell him that this dream… had something to do with his father, regarding the Lost Forest. Over a black cup of pick-me-up, he came to a conclusion in his ever-bothered mind. It was time to go back to his father’s old abandoned house at the bottom of the Mountain, and uncover what was hiding in the mysterious mist. It was time to find the Lost Forest. It was time to call Adrian.

Jack picked up the phone and dialed a number. After a few rings there was an answer. “Hello!”

Adrian recognized the characteristics of Jack, when he expressed something of great importance. He knew it meant serious business, no matter when or what it was; and this subject was even more so a personal matter for the both of them. “Adrian, pack your bags and assemble a team, we are going to the mountain. It is about time we find the Lost Forest.”

“I’m on it.”

Adrian was a planner of archeological digs. He would get the gear and the team ready, and Jack would take them to the digsite. Adrian grew into a man almost identical to his father. His hair was brown and his height 6′2"; but his eyes were hazel, not brown like how his father’s were. But it was almost scary how much like him he had turned out to look. Adrian clutched to the phone tightly.

This time, he wasn’t just getting a team together; he was getting THE team together!

Adrian knew this wasn’t another archeological dig. This wasn’t even close to an archeological dig, of what they had gone on in the past. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity… a search for the legendary Lost Forest.

It was a hot sunny day in the Badlands and Eric, a twenty-seven year old archaeologist, blond, blue-eyed guy, of average height, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and opened his canteen to take a drink.

His pretty redheaded girlfriend came walking towards him with a radiophone. She handed it to him, saying. “Babe! Adrian!”

Eric quickly took the phone. “Hi Adrian, what can I do for you?”

“Eric, I have something big, a once in a lifetime opportunity! In fact, this will be the most important discovery mankind has ever uncovered. Pack up, and get yourself, Samantha, Oliver, Thomas, Ron, and Helen too… to New York as quick as you can!”

Eric and Samantha were old friends of Jack and Adrian from college, and they have worked together on a few successful digs in the past and on, up till date, so they knew they could put their trust in them, when they said. “Pack up, and come to New York.” Right after Adrian’s call, Eric, Samantha, and the four others, who were there working with them at the site, began packing all the equipment, and tearing down camp.

When they arrived in New York, Adrian had already been waiting for them at the Airport entrance, with a van. There were five others, and no doubt, hired professionals, in the van along with Adrian, whom Eric and Samantha hadn’t recognized.

As Eric, Samantha, Oliver, Thomas, Ron and Helen, got into the fifteen-passenger van, they introduced themselves to the five strangers. Eric and Samantha first greeted Adrian, and then, Eric shook the hand of the first of the five. “Hi! I’m Eric.”

The Russian Mercenary, with short sandy blond hair, and amber eyes, replied; informing directly. “Good to meet you, I’m Angelus, and this is Ross, Emily, Coral, and Mark.” Eric established a friendly vibe with the rest, and gave a slight wave of his hand. Samantha then, made her introduction. “I’m Samantha, and this is Helen.” Helen had light brown hair and dazzling green eyes, and Angelus was caught in a short hesitant stare because of this; and then, said quickly. “I’m sorry, Helen!” He shook her hand and then said with a smile. “Your eyes are stunning by the way!” Helen smiled back, and said with a playful tone. “Yeah I get that a lot!” Oliver, Thomas and Ron, seated themselves with pleasant gestures, and then, Adrian, eager to start the drive, said jokingly. “Okay! Now that you’re all acquainted you wouldn’t mind if we get moving now, would you?”

None of them had seemed to pay any attention to him, or to what he had said. He paused for a response, but didn’t receive one. He looked at the driver, and then, looked on out the front windshield, and said. “Okay then, let’s start our engines.” The driver started the van and drove off.

It was outside the right windows, where Jack stood for everyone to see. He waited by the entrance of a private jet as the driver pulled up in an empty parking lot, and turned off the ignition. All of them came out of the van with their bags, and boarded the private jet; with Jack, giving each one of them his acknowledgment, as they had done so. After the plane door was shut, now with everything and everyone loaded aboard, the pilot had commenced take off.

Jack briefed them on the details, and of what this expedition had been all about, explaining to them where they were headed, and why. He ended on a heartfelt note, bringing up his father. “Before my father died, he dedicated his life to finding the Lost Forest. It was his dream and since he never lived to fulfill that dream… I’m going to fulfill it for him. My father was a great man, and I will not let his death be in vain. I will find the Forest for him… along with all of your help. That is why I had Adrian, bring all of you uniquely together. We are going to the Mountain, covered in mist.”

It was a cold October day. The sky was cloudy, and the air, had been thick with humidity. The sticky feeling on their skin was quickly forgotten, when they unloaded their baggage, and supplies into the rented jeeps, they had waiting there for them, upon arrival.

They continued their journey to the mountain, and there it was; the old house, where Jack and Adrian, once had lived as children, along with their father, until the tragedy of his death. Coming back here had made all these memories, logged away for years, just come fluttering back on through Jack’s head. Then all was silent in his loud mind, and his thoughts were focused on one particular event, of his father, looking out the big front window, facing the mountain; and then, out of nowhere, his thoughts were interrupted, when a raccoon ran out in front of the vehicle! Jack slammed on the brakes! Adrian, behind him, came to the same abrupt halt, and just barely missed crashing into Jack, and rear ending him! Jack opened the door and hopped out, to check and see if the raccoon had been hurt. The creature lay disheveled in the dirt, just a foot from the tire, but he didn’t seem to be injured. Oh how he hoped the poor thing was alright; he picked up a stick, and poked the little animal, to see if it was alive. It gave him a start, when the raccoon quickly came ’round, hesitated for a moment, in a daze; insomuch, Jack was shaken up a bit himself; it came to look in his direction, sniffed the air, and then, ran off. Adrian rolled down his window. “Hey Jack, he sure gave you a fright, almost as much as you did him. Do you think the raccoon could have been Rickie?”

Jack replied with a slight grin. “No! It’s not; he wouldn’t even still be living. Now shut up Adrian.” Jack climbed into the jeep, and drove on down the unpaved trail; coming up on the right, was the house, and he parked on the side of the road, in front of the big window; as did Adrian. They opened the doors, stepping out of the jeeps. Jack and Adrian, just stood and stared at the old place; how peaceful, though haunting.

Jack broke the silence. “Well, we better have a look inside, before we unload.”

Adrian agreed; harmlessly mocking his paranoia. “Okay… you first!”

Jack replied with irritation. “What? Are we still kids here?”

Adrian continued in hopes to instigate. “No… I just think you should be the first to go inside.”

Jack pulled out a key from his pocket, and walked up the rickety, old, wooden stairs, to the front door. Just as if they were kids, Adrian tagged along. He unlocked the door, turned the knob, and pushed it open, while keeping a cautious distance. He slowly crept into the dark, and dusty, old house to look around. Maybe Adrian was just a little uneasy about the place; after all, it was a sensitive issue returning here after all these years. Indeed he tried very much to put any depressing thoughts from his mind. He waited till Jack had taken a few more steps into the dusty old front room, and then, he walked in after him.

Jack went on investigating, whereas Adrian lit the oil lamps, squishing a huge spider on the mantel.

Relieved, as if something had been troubling him, but wasn’t anymore; Jack concluded. “Alright! Let’s get the gear in here… and the luggage of course.” Jack walked out the door with haste in his step, and grabbed his bags and announced that everyone should follow him into the house. Eric and Samantha were the first to respond, which broke any resistance thereon, that had kept the rest from proceeding to do so as well.

Jack led them up the stairs and around the corner, to the living room. This was the closest room to the front entrance, other than the kitchen. Everything had gone according to plan so far. He turned to face his followers. “Alright everybody… This is where you are going to rest for the night; and first thing in the morning, we head out, up the mountain. It is always best to get a fresh start, don’t you agree?” Eric and Samantha nodded, and then, Jack continued. “Angelus and his group, will scout out ahead, and set a trail of markers, so we can find our way back. The rest of us will stay in a group. The key is to stick together so that no one gets lost; let’s make this a safe venture, and stay close as possible, no wandering off; and this will effectively make Angelus’s and his teams’, job much easier.” Eric, Samantha, Oliver, Thomas, Ron and Helen, agreed, and started unrolling their sleeping bags.

Angelus and Helen, talked for quite some time; until finally, Jack told them to quiet down; and not keep him and the others up with their chatter; because they were getting up at 5:00 A.M.

How the hours just slipped on by, it was morning already. Jack gave the wakeup call, by blowing a loudly annoying whistle.

After a light breakfast, of trail mix, energy bars, and other packaged and portable foods; all of them got their things packed up, and strapped on their backpacking equipment. Angelus and his team had a few additional items, such as rifles, knives, first aid, binoculars and a compass.

They were all outside, and were soon to be on their way, when all of a sudden, Jack slipped a bit on faulty footing, for he was caught off guard by something that the others would not understand; an interrupting vision; something that had never happened to him before. It was of a woman running from a terrifying beast. The vision had come almost as soon as it had left. Jack stumbled, wide-eyed, as if he was delirious, and all at once, recovered; coming back to his senses. Had this momentary lapse of his concentration been from something else… or was it stress. What could have caused it... Adrian looked at Jack, with confusion, as he kept him from almost collapsing. This was not like Jack; had he become ill.

“Are you okay Jack?”

Jack anxiously responded. “Of course I’m okay! Just lost my balance for a second there! That’s all! Angelus… you and your team go on ahead, and do what it is you do; get it prepared! I’m fine… no problems.” Jack paled like how someone would look if feverish, but his skin returned to its normal healthy appearance, quickly enough, for Angelus to not take great notice; but his brother had. Angelus replied, without giving a second thought of what just happened with Jack. “Yes sir, come on men… let’s move!”

Jack turned to the rest. “Okay everybody, let’s head out; we’re burning daylight!”

Angelus was the first to enter the woods, and he signaled his team to collect inward, with a describing hand motion. They followed his orders immediately, and formed a defensive circle, while still moving forward. They had a system that was quite effective and efficient.

Jack and Adrian followed Angelus and his men, leading the rest into the woods. It was haunting; just as they came into the forest, it had all too suddenly, lowered in temperature. It grew darker, and then, even a little bit colder, allowing them to see their breath as they exhaled. The further they went into these woods, the further on they wandered into despair.

They were much deeper within the thickness of the forest now, and the forest had transformed. It became something both beautiful and frightening. Much larger and moss grown, and like right out of a horror story, the trees morphed into tall dark wonders. They gave the atmosphere a sense of death, and of vast secrets, older than time.

The ground was covered in savage vegetation, decaying leaves and fallen branches. When it began, now, to look much too unsettling, Adrian leaned closer to Jack, and whispered cautiously. “Jack... what if something bad happens… to us…”

Jack replied in slight aggravation. He always felt his brother’s commonsense had not been as matured as he would have liked, or had the patience for. “That’s why I hired Angelus and his very competent team!”

Eric came into the conversation, in trying to take Adrian’s mind of this nonsense paranoia, with a little sense of humor. “Adrian! It’s not like you to be afraid, especially in front of the ladies!” Eric laughed a little, and then, gradually became quiet, when he figured out he wasn’t helping Adrian’s mood at all.

Samantha attempted to cheer Eric up. “It’s okay dear, I thought you were funny; Adrian just might be too busy obsessing over nothing to comprehend that you’re hilarious… and should do this for a living you clever devil you; why don’t you!”

Adrian shot a look back at them. “I heard that!” Samantha quickly exclaimed, while Adrian still had his eyes on her. “What is that?!” She pointed just beyond and in front of them all, causing Adrian to jolt with panic, as he immediately turned his view forward, to have a look. There was nothing there; Samantha started convulsing with laughter, and tried to speak, but she couldn’t. Now that it was revealed how seriously jumpy Adrian was, Eric found, that it was something to laugh at as well.

Adrian looked to Jack, and commented. “Look at them; they’re just a couple of squawking birds of a feather!” Adrian turned to face Samantha, and continued. “Samantha! The next time you say there is something in front of me; I’m not going to loo—”

Samantha cut him off, and put on an act, expressing terror. “Holy shit! What’s that?”

Adrian hadn’t turned his head to look this time; he kept his eyes fixed upon Samantha, who was behind Jack; pointing for Adrian to watch where he was going, but he hadn’t paid any mind to her. The ball was in her court on this hilarity strike, and he walked right into a good sized tree; but would be considered as a young sprout compared to the size of the others. He fell down clumsily. Samantha, with her arm around Eric’s shoulder, and her stare locked on Adrian; and Eric, with his arm around her waist, burst into laughter as Adrian laid out on the ground, dumbfounded and embarrassed.

“You better look next time; I might be telling you the truth!” She continued to laugh, and so did everyone else after that unrecoverable episode.

This was sure enough to get anyone’s mind off of something; and he didn’t feel as suspicious of the woods, now, that he had been outwitted by a female. He quickly got up and ran on passed Eric and Samantha, and caught up to Jack. Jack had now drifted quite a ways on ahead, from the rest of the group, so it took a bit of speed.

“Stop fooling around, I think you’re right… there is something out there!” Jack said, as Adrian came up to his side.

“You think I’m going to fall for that?”

Before Jack could reply, a distinctive snap of a twig breaking, suddenly came from the depths of the trees to their left. Adrian turned his head to find the source, but only saw as far as twelve yards of shadowy ground and trees; and beyond that, there was nothing visible; maybe a dark outline of some fluffy mammal, dashing to conceal itself. Now the fear Adrian felt had purpose. And he regretted this purpose. The woods ricocheted with more of this snapping, and then swift dashing movements. Something was coming towards them, and it wasn’t friendly! Eric, Samantha, Oliver, Thomas, Ron and Helen, neared, slowed pace, then stood together. They could hear it too; how it taunted them; rebounding from every direction!

“What the hell is that!” Adrian was frozen at the very sight, of which he now could not believe his eyes. Angelus stopped; alert and listening. He motioned for his team to follow, as he turned and hurried towards Adrian and Jack. Then all of a sudden, cutting through the forest, Angelus spotted a crazed wolf, darting forth at full speed, for Adrian; its every thought, involving, ripping him apart.

Angelus took off in a sprint, as fast as his legs would carry him, and shouted loudly, for them to take cover behind him! Angelus’s team ran to guard Eric, Samantha, and the other four, who were of a minor distance away, from Jack and Adrian. They had their rifles in hand ready to shoot! As they passed him, Angelus knelt down on one knee, cocked his rifle, and aimed at the maddened wolf, currently coming straight for him! He quickly lined up his rifle and fired! The wolf went down, and its body produced a cloud of dust, as it slid and came to a jolted halt; three feet in front of Angelus. Angelus got up and rushed to guard Jack and Adrian, who were just a few yards behind him.

Ross, Emily, Coral, and Mark, kept a look out for wolves, lurking in the void; growls and rustling, giving away the secret, that they were out there. Somewhere. But where exactly, was a mystery of the shadows, where they were concealed by there ever-heightened killer instincts. Emily saw something move behind the trees far off in front, its glowing eyes flashing in the darkness. What were they waiting for. What were they strategizing out there. It was an ambush; and a large set of teeth and claws, were coming at them from every direction. What a master plan of attack, these predators had crafted. There were six in number, closing in, as if summoned by the devil himself. Emily did not flinch. She was the first to fire her rifle at one giant alpha closest to her. It was a direct hit to the brain, and the wolf’s head smacked down, producing a bone crushing sound, and caused the body to do a complete somersault, over the ground.

Ross shot at the second wolf, but his aim was faulty, and he missed. They didn’t have time for misses; but where Ross failed, Emily immediately lined up her rifle, and took the frontrunner down. Mark fired at the third wolf, but the wolf had observed his fallen pack, and dodged the bullet. Would they be outsmarted and overtaken by these keen hunters. What a tragic misfortune that would be. The wolf had maddened, and was out for blood, headed straight towards Mark in frenzied rage. Mark took a second shot, and this time, hit it in the chest effectively. The wolf, that just a moment ago, had ripped up the forest floor, whimpered and collapsed. Coral, keeping steady and calm, locked her rifle to the wolf ahead of her, and sent a bullet through its heart. Four down, two to go. But the remaining two were uncomfortably close, to making contact.

Samantha, Eric, Oliver, Thomas, Ron and Helen, wailed out screams of terror. The wolves were dangerously close to them.

Ross ran forward a short distance from the rest of the team, and fired at one of the wolves. But the wolf had been closer than he could have anticipated. The bloodthirsty hunter jumped on him, knocking the gun out of his hand, and sunk its teeth into his arm. Emily and Coral acted quick, before the wolf could cause him any serious injury.

Coral had reached him first, and took out her knife, and drove it into the wolf’s throat. The wolf backed off of him, blood gushing from its neck profusely, as it lunged for the hand that held the knife. Emily did not let it live long enough to have success in this attempt, to mull up Coral’s hand. She raised her rifle to her shoulder, and finished it off.

What horror waited just behind them, they did not know. From out of nowhere, the last wolf came leaping over a fallen tree, crushing Oliver to the ground. The wolf did not hesitate to rip out his jugular, and he was killed almost instantly. Turning to fire at the wolf, Mark was too late to save Oliver, but not too late to bring death to this depraved abomination.

It was a horrifying sight to withstand; blood pooling out from under the body, with the dead wolf, lying on top, pressing the fluids out forcefully like from a grape. Thomas, Ron, Helen, Samantha, Eric, Adrian, and Jack, were shocked by the utter truth of this sudden horror… the scene seared terror in their hearts, and there was a long silence.

Coral and Emily mended Ross’s arm. Luckily, the wolf that attacked him, hadn’t been granted enough time, to do any serious damage; given any more than a few seconds, that thing would have easily shredded his flesh from right off the bone! But he had gotten away with just a couple of bite-marks, and few minor scratches.

Samantha and Eric sat on a rock, comforting one another, and Thomas, Ron and Helen, compared sympathies about Oliver’s death. How sad it was; his wife and kids would miss him.

Just standing out there in the darkness, staring at him, Angelus spotted a wolf off in the distance. Knowing he was outmatched, the wolf cowered, and turned to run off in the opposite direction.

“Jack, Adrian! Follow me.” Angelus kept ever-watchful eyes, as they reunited with the rest.

Ross groaned in pain while Coral stitched him up. Emily stood by, ready with her gun. “What happened here?”

Mark ran up to inform. “Sir, one dead, one injured!” Angelus looked at the sight of Oliver, and then looked at Helen. He focused his concern on her; and anything else, he now just barely paid attention.

Angelus never felt so affected by conditions like this, until now that it had involved a woman he had set his eyes on. He walked over to where she knelt in the dirt crying. “Are you alright Helen?”

“I’m okay; I’m just a bit shaken.” Angelus looked down at her with compassion, which at that time, was when he felt for the first time, a splurging rush of emotion; he wanted to protect her, reassure her. He stood there for a moment, and then, went to check on the condition of the others; and ignoring the need to take her in his arms. Now was not the time or place for such a thing. But in truth, he didn’t care. He would have done it, and he wished he did, but he had already marched away.

Jack asked Angelus in an observant irresolution, as he passed on by. “Where are we?” Angelus pulled out his compass, and stopped to take a look. There was no way to tell of which direction they had come from, or in what direction they had been heading, at the moment. The compass arrow just spun round and round. “How odd.” Angelus gave it a shake. “Mark, let me see the radar, designating the markers. The radar was blank; there was no trail back showing up on the screen; they had no idea where they were.

Jack said in a start! “We’re lost, aren’t we!?”

“Yes Jack… I’m afraid so.” Angelus let the radar device drop from his fingers. “So, do you want to continue this search, or attempt to find a way back?” Jack replied. “I had no idea things would get this out of hand. We’re dealing with something more than what we had bargained for, or are able to control.” Jack pondered for a minute, then continued. “Regrettably I say this… we shouldn’t go on any further on this, and we should find a way back.”

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