The short man with the ragged blond hair and the crooked smile emerged from the little hut on the forest floor. He liked the message he carried. And he would certainly enjoy giving it.
Jan reached the cord that hung from the treetops and gave it two tugs. There was a jerk from above in response and the cord jumped a bit. Jan took this as an answer and stepped onto the little wooden seat, grabbing the cord tight. Then the cord began to rise. As he shot upwards towards the distant tree tops, the grin carefully changed into an expression of sorrow.
By the time he reached the fort in the trees and stepped off onto the platform, his entire figure was displaying the deepest of sorrow and pain. He said nothing to the man who'd operated the pulley, but brushed past, his solemn silence doing wonders. Then he entered the fort, walking very slowly to the front of the busy room. By the time he reached the front, the room had gone very quiet.
He turned to address them.
"I am sure you are all wondering what happened to the Leader. Some saw him fall. Others only heard about it from friends. Even I was taken off guard when it happened. Yes, it was an unexpected tragedy. We did not expect Landon to be so sudden. I am sorry to inform you all that the Leader died from his fall. I was second in command when he died, and I will take his place. You need only to call me by my name. I am Jan. And this project will continue."
The room was deathly silent. Stunned faces looked on, mouths open but no sound emerging. Not even breath could escape them. Then Jan strode from the room.
By the time he was out of sight, a zip-line away, he was grinning. But it was a grin of amusement; a grin as if from an inside joke. Five minutes later, he was some distance from the scene, whistling a tune as he approached his camp. But when he saw who was sitting in his camp, he stopped his song and gave a grin.
"So you fell off the bridge and died?" Jan asked, as he strode into the camp. "How exciting."
"Indeed," the Leader responded, sitting coolly in the shade of a Canelo tree. "And don't give me that grin. I didn't plan it. I only prepared for a fall in case something went wrong. And many people saw me fall. So I figured it would do the story justice by going with it; I mean, it would make the whole thing seem rather unrealistic if I was to survive. After all, they need to be taken care of as well; they're all a part of the adventure just as much as Landon is."
"Well now that they've got me as their new leader, yes. Their adventures are about to begin."
The Leader smiled thoughtfully. "Yes. I do believe you are the most terrible leader I've ever known."
Jan gave a grin and collapsed into a hammock. "Indeed," he quoted.