As the four walked aimlessly, Danny wondered if they were actually taking him to a shelter, or to a trap deep within the forest that would kill him instantly. Danny swallowed hard to his second thought, and kept walking. He stayed a good distance behind the others just in case they pulled something.
“So.” Brian yelled back to Danny. “What brings you here?”
“Well… I'm not really sure.” Danny responded, shaky. “All I remember was being on a plane, taking a nap, and waking up on the ground.”
“Odd story.” Brian laughed. “Seems like something straight out of Hatchet.”
“What?” Danny asked.
“Hatchet. It's a book about a boy who gets stranded in the wilderness. Even I've read that book and I've been here all my life.”
“How could you have read it? You live in the woods.”
“It just popped up one day. Things seem to do that every once and awhile.” They kept walking for what seemed like forever. Eventually they reached what appeared to be a gate made out of tree branches. Paul approached the gate and untied a very complex set of ropes. A locking mechanism. Paul pushed open the gate, which opened up to reveal to an open path. Along the sides of the path were some type of torches illuminating the way in the pitch black jungle. At least now Danny could walk comfortably, for he kept stepping in holes and pricker bushes.
“You guys made all this!?” Danny asked, amazed.
“Yes sir.” Said Reid, proud. “Took us well over six months, but it was all worth it. It's nice to have a place you can call home; especially if it's a comfortable enough place to live in.”
“Right.” Danny said, sheepish.
They walked for a few more minutes, when suddenly a clearing emerged. It was something Danny had never even dreamed would exist. The clearing was in the form of an enormous circle, with the perimeter blocked by more bamboo and wood fencing. There was a farm, a pond, much more space than Danny had back at home. And right in the center of all of this, as if the spectacle wasn’t amazing enough, was the tallest tree you could possibly imagine. It had to be at least 20 stories high, and it's trunk was wider than his house.
"You have got to be joking!" Danny shouted. He laughed in amazement at the spectacle, completely awestruck. He walked around the perimeter of the circle staring at all of the detail and symmetry that was carved into every wall, every fence, every utility. It was truly a sight to see.
"This isn't a shelter." Danny joked. "This is a freaking paradise!"
"Yeah. We like it." Added Brian, laughing.
"How did you even think about starting to build this!?" Danny asked.
"Well the tree was already here." Stated Reid. "All we had to do was clear the bushes and create the fences. My sword came in pretty handy for that job."
"I made my hammer from the trees we cut down." Paul said.
"I honestly don't know what to say." Said an honest Danny. "This is insane."
The four walked back to the main square of the clearing, right in front of the entrance to the tree. Brain took Paul and Reid aside for a moment, but Danny was far too awestruck to notice.
"So." Said a frank Brian. "If he asks should we let him stay?"
"I see no harm in helping him out." Added Reid.
Paul responded. "I like him. He seems like a pretty cool guy. Could be useful. And besides, where would we all be if no one showed us any kindness when we started out here?"
"Ok. Then it's settled. We let him stay." Brian concluded. "Hey Danny." He called.
"Yeah?" Danny asked, running over.
"We've decided. You're free to do whatever you choose, but if you want to stay here you're more than welcome."
"Really?Oh, um, sure. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to spend the night." He laughed.
As the four were about to head inside the fort, some distant footsteps were becoming more and more prominent.
"Paul!" Brian whisper-yelled. "Did you lock the damn gate!?"
"Of course I locked the gate. I'm not an idiot." Paul quipped.
"Then how did someone get in!?"
"Don't ask me. Reid designed the thing."
Brain grabbed his bow and took an arrow in his hand. Reid grabbed his sword, and Paul his hammer.
"Danny." Brian whispered. "Get in the fort. You don't have a weapon."
Danny listened, and retreated into the shelter of the tree. The footsteps got louder and louder, until suddenly a hooded figure, dressed all in black with a red rope belt, emerged from the shadow of the brush.
"Well, well, well." Said the voice. "If it isn't the old gang."
"What do you want now, Jack." Brian asked, firm.
"Wow. You guys really forgot how to throw a welcome party. Here I am, returning to check up on my old friends and they treat me like I'm some sort of animal! It's not a very easy walk from my tower to your jungle fortress, you know."
"Nobody said you had to come here, Jack." Paul added.
"So you've kept the weak link, eh? I always said you should get rid of him. But you got rid of me instead. Ah well. Let's just let bygones be bygones. How's about an old fashioned Java juice? Like the good ol' days."
"There were no good ol' days when you were around, Jack." Reid quipped. "You always had to start something. It didn't matter who it was."
Jack took a step forward in protest, but Brian, Paul, and Reid stiffened their battle stances. They hadn't budged since he first emerged.
"You guys really tightened security since I've been gone." Jack glanced over to a pig in the farm. "Oh and look at that! Angela got so big!"
"Cut to the chase, Jack." Paul shouted. "Why are you really here."
"Well first of all I made too much meat stew and I didn't want it to go bad. I knew it was Reid's favorite so I wanted to drop some off. Second, was the fact that I saw some new punk strolling through our beach and I wanted you to know in case trouble erupted." Danny slowly walked out of the fort, much to the dismay of the group.
"Well!" Jack yelled in humor. "You guys have gone soft! You'll let anyone in your pathetic little group, won't you!?"
"We are not pathetic, Jack. I'll have you know that Danny over here..." Brian thought. "Is the one."
Jack's face changed from a look of laughter and joy to one of regret and confusion. His stance became worrisome.
"There's no way that you guysgot "the one" to join
"Well we did. So you can take your stew and go.” Brian quipped.
“Fine.” Jack added, defeated. “But don’t come crying to me when you need my help.”
“Don’t worry. We won’t.” Paul added.
Jack turned slowly, and started to walk away. Suddenly, a great power overcame him, and he quickly turned back to the group. The group intensified their stance. Without hesitation Jack lifted his arm into the air and threw it back down with great effort. As he did this, a great cloud of powder formed around him, and when it dissipated, he was gone.
“Well what do you know.” Reid said, in shock. “He actually mastered his tricks.”
There was a beat of silence from the group, as they wanted to make sure that Jack wasn’t pranking them, or returning with a real weapon.
“Sorry about that, Danny.” Brian added. “Jack can be a handful sometimes.”
“That’s an understatement.” Paul said under his breath.
“Who was that guy?” Danny asked.
“Jack used to be part of our group.” Brian explained. “We all started out here same as you. Lost, hungry, scared, confused, and most of all, alone. Just when I thought life couldn’t be repaired, I found Reid. We quickly became friends, and decided to stick together. We found Paul stuck in one of our bear traps and took him in, and we met Jack while he was stealing a squirrel from another one of our traps. Jack was both a blessing and a curse. Mostly a curse. He taught us how to farm, fish, etc. The only problem was that he was a confrontationist, and if something happened that he didn’t 100% like or agree with, he would start a grudge, or become a total jerk - so, we let him go.”
“Wow.” Danny added. “But, tell me, what is ‘the one’?”
“It’s an old legend.” Brian explained. “Reid you know the story best.”
“Well.” Reid began. “The legend tells of a boy that would save our world from an ancient and evil force. It’s mostly myth nowadays, but Jack believes the story is 100% true. He even thought he was ‘the one’ for a portion of time.”
“But why tell him it’s me?” Danny asked.
“Because.” Reid explained. “It was the only way we can get him to shut up.”
“Tell you what.” Said Brian. “Let’s all go inside and have some dinner. Then we can show you to your room. Sound good?”
“Totally.” Said a hungry Danny.
Brian led him inside the fort. After the two had gone inside they could hear Danny shouting in awe from within.
“That is one excitable kid.” Smiled Reid as he walked over to a torch.
“Something seems weird about him.” Said Paul, as he helped Reid put out the torches.
“What?” asked Reid.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very nice kid. I just feel something weird when he’s around. A feeling that… maybe he really is ‘the one’.
“Don’t be ridiculous, dude. It’s just a stupid story.”
“How can we be so sure. I mean, remember when we found that temple last month?”
“The one with the artifacts?”
“Yes. We specifically saw some pictures depicting ‘the one’. There had to be a pretty good reason for so many people to believe in such a strange thing.”
“Listen. I’m not going to denounce your theory, because frankly anything is possible, but let’s quit the speculating for now. It’s getting dark, and you know as well as I do that Brian doesn’t like us to be out after a certain point. Let’s just have some dinner, and tomorrow we can see how he does at training. Fair enough?”
The two finished their small chores, and headed into the fort. Slowly multiple windows were lighting up, and muffled laughter could be heard from inside. Danny was finally getting back to his old self. As the setting sun finally disappeared, all was calm at the clearing -- that is until the ground very subtly started to shake.