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Coming to the Tree

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Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

They strung up a man

They say who murdered three

 

409 had gone, and as he fell overboard, he had yelled to 412, “I’ll meet you at the tree.”

 

412 had cried out, had wanted to jump overboard right then and there. But 411 held him back, and the Cheif Cadet made him keep rowing.

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in the hanging tree

 

412 considered his options. He could stay in the young army, where he was fed (mostly), warm (sometimes), and safe (hardly ever). 

 

Or, he could follow 409. He could hope he was still alive, and he could be cold and hungry and scared in the forest. 

 

It wasn’t much of a choice. 

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

Where dead man called out

For his love to flee

 

Quickly, quietly, softly, Boy 412 gathered his things. Into his pack went his one set of spare clothes, and 409’s. In went their blankets, and their Young Army Survival Packs. (these were only to be used in the Forest, so 409 had not had his on the boat.)

 

He considered that 409 might not have made it, for just a moment. He considered it, but he rejected it, simply because the thought was unbearable. 409 had to be alive, and had to be waiting for him. Waiting for him at their tree, where the boys had once sheltered from a wolverine attack, when the branches had been in just the right place to climb up and cling to each other in terror, and in relief. 

 

409 left the barracks slowly, silently, resolutely. He did not look back. 

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in the hanging tree

 

The forest was dangerous at night, 412 knew this. The wolverines were liable to attack, and the witches would be out looking for children to kidnap. That was what the young army said, anyway. 

 

The young army had been right, when they had traveled to the forest in the past. The young army was always right. 

 

So why was it so quiet? Why was the loudest thing in the Forest the quick, nearly silent footsteps of Young Army Boy 412? 

 

He walked determinedly. Boy 412 knew that the most important thing in the Forest was to Know Where You Go, and 412 Knew. He was going to 409. He was going to the Tree. He was going home. 

 

Because if home was where the heart was, his home was with 409. 

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

Where I told you to run

So we'd both be free

 

409 was in the tree. He rested in its perfectly placed branches, and waited for 412. He hoped for 412, because if 412 never came, he would never be happy. At least, that’s how it felt. 

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Time passed, although 409 did not know how much. 

It was dark, but the wolverines had not appeared. 

He was tired, but he dared not sleep. 409 knew he would not fall out, and he knew that he would not be in any danger here, in their Tree. 

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

Wear a necklace of hope

Side by side with me

 

409 spent the night braiding. 

He was using strands of a nearby willow to make necklaces for himself and 412. They were long and pretty, and it meant his hands were busy, even if his mind wouldn’t stop worrying about 412. 

 

412 spent the night walking. 

He was walking towards the tree he knew was there, somewhere in the Forest, surrounded by pleasant willows and soft grass. It kept his feet busy, even if his mind wouldn’t stop worrying about 409.

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in the hanging tree

 

When 412 entered, the clearing was empty. 

 

He wanted to scream, and cry, and curse the world for talking 409 away. For leaving him alone, a single solitary being in the universe. He was alone, and 409 was dead. Then he looked up. 

 

When daylight broke, 409 was still alone. He wanted to yell, and rant, and curse the world for taking 412 away. He was alone, and 412 was still in the Young Army. Then, he looked down. 

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

Where I told you to run

So we'd both be free

 

The boys locked eyes, and no-one moved. They stood silent, in awe of each other. 

 

Neither made the first move. The tree did. 

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in our savior tree

 

It picked 412 up in one fell swoop, bringing him to the branch 409 was resting on in that very moment. 

 

The boys were understandably shocked, but they were too overwhelmed with emotions to process the living, moving tree. 

 

Instead, they clung tightly to each other, as if nothing else in the world mattered. They were both exhausted from a long night, and slowly, calmly, peacefully, fell asleep. 

They were woken some hours later, by the soft chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves, and quiet hums of an undiscernible origin. 412 did not release 409, for fear it had been all a dream. There was a moment where he thought it all had been a dream, where 412 was absolutely certain that he was still in the Young Army barracks, and 409 was dead. 

 

Then, the tree spoke. It was slow, and very, very human. Their tree, which had save them in so many ways, was alive. It was introducing itself. 

 

“I was so happy to see you boys safe,” the tree said, in a kindly voice that reminded 412 of the old wizard ghost that would occasionally keep them company on a long watch outside the wizard tower. “I am Benji Heap. I Transformed permanently into a tree when my time was up, and I would like nothing better than to offer you a home.”

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

They strung up a man

They say who murdered three

 

Benji Heap considered the two boys whom he sheltered in his branches to be grandchildren. In fact, he was pretty sure one of them was his grandchild. 

 

He loved them just as much as he had loved his own children, and sincerely wished that they would visit, so his grandchildren could have a life outside of the forest. It was not to be, but eventually, the boys, who he had named Theo (the obviously Heap one), and Jack, left. 

 

They had spent years with Grandpa Benji, and Theo wanted to learn Magyk (Grandpa Benji had taught them a few spells, and Theo fell in love). Jack did not particularly care either way, but he went everywhere Theo did, and was excited enough to be going on an adventure. 

 

They returned to a Castle without the Young Army, where people wore bright colors and sent confused looks at the two boys who looked like the forest and acted as if they had never eaten a loaf of bread in their lives. (They had not.)

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in grandfather’s tree

 

Theo apprenticed at the Wizard tower, where a boy who looked just like him, albeit older, was the Extraordinary Apprentice. 

 

Jack wandered, finding his path much more slowly than Theo. But when he did, it was just right. ‘

 

On one of his paddles along the moat, Jack ventured into the Marram Marshes. There he met Zelda, who was Grandpa Benji’s sister, and taught him everything he had ever wanted to know about plants and potions. 

 

When Theo got pulled through a Glass of Time and fell in love with Alchemie, Jack was the reason he came back. He supported Theo no matter what, and Theo changed his apprenticeship. 

 

When Jack somehow started a friendly Witch Coven with Lucy Heap, the wife of the Extraordinary apprentice, Theo was there to bring him the ingredients and supplies only alchemists could really make well. 

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree?

Where dead man called out for his love to flee

 

And, when Theo finally realized that the man who looked just like him probably did so for a reason, they went to check the records together. They each found a family, but it was not their first family. That honor was reserved for each other. Theo was Jack’s and Jack was Theo’s. 

 

When Theo and Jack brought their loved ones to visit Grandpa Benji, he was the happiest tree in the world, and they were the happiest boys on Earth. 

 

Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be

If we met at midnight in grandfather’s tree