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Green Grove, Chapter 10

By: Mary A
Beta: Malinornë
Disclaimer: I dare anyone to sue me over this one.
Timeline: Now
A/N: This story was written for a loyal fan of Mal's and my Mirkwood Adventures stories. Thank you, Krystle, for always being there for us!

Krystle's cheeks felt hot after Hirdaur complimented her smile, and she had to look away from him for a moment, if only to catch her breath.

"Thank you," she whispered. "Will you please tell the trees 'thank you', too."

"Tell them yourself, they will hear you." They were walking again, and she heard a bird chirping, and then another one answered it, a cheerful sound.

"Thank you," Krystle said out loud, while smiling and staring up at the trees. "And I'm sorry if I looked unhappy to be here, really, I'm not. You have, or, I should say, you are a beautiful forest." She stood still and waited for a response, and worried. Had she said the right thing?

"Did they understand me?" she asked. More birds were chirping, as if they had been waiting for some type of signal to start talking to each other again, and had a lot of lost time to make up for.

"The forest understood you perfectly," Hirdaur answered, and he tugged at her to move along again.

The trees' voices were quiet, the strong wind had calmed, but Krystle did hear something, besides the birds. It came and went, a barely-there sound, more like music than conversation, very faint. Were the redwoods singing? She was willing to believe almost anything at this point.

Around them, the dark gloom was lifting, and the pattering drips slowed down. The rain clouds must have passed, and to prove it, sunny spots appeared again, fingers of light stabbing down into the forest. Steam from the damp forest floor rose in the golden shafts.

The giant redwoods and ferns that lined the path were thinning out, too, and there were other types of trees, and a variety of bushes and berry vines, growing along the way. Krystle could still hear the music, but she no longer thought it was made by the redwoods, or any other trees. The faint, almost meandering sound was coming from ahead of them, and the forest was coming to an end.

Stacey and Chips were waiting in a clearing, as still as statues with their backs turned to Krystle, in a sunny meadow with rising wisps of mist, which was surrounded by the forest. And then Krystle stood still, stunned, when she reached them and saw the structure, a small log cabin, which was standing there, against the farthest stand of trees.

No wonder Stacey was so still; it was possible that she was in shock.

Was there some kind of gigantic joke being played on them all? Had they ever left Green Grove? Krystle muttered darkly and shook her head. She turned to accuse Hirdaur of fraud, but something made her stop and take a better look, first, and she stepped closer.

Before her stood a perfect replica, down to the last detail, even to the little shed in front, of Tolkien's cabin in Green Grove. On closer inspection, she could tell it was not the same cabin, as she had first suspected, and she stopped feeling tricked. This cabin was nearly new, or had been preserved in a much better way compared to the one that she and Stacey had visited, all those hours ago, and it was utterly charming.

The music was coming from inside of it. The windows' curtains were drawn back, and the door stood propped open, so she could see that the interior was empty. Empty of musicians or anyone, and anything, else. She could see no furniture. Stacey came and stood next to her, surprisingly quiet, perhaps the sight of the Green Grove cabin really had unnerved her, too? She tugged at Krystle's cloak.

"Do you hear that music?"

"There must be a radio inside," Krystle said. "Or a stereo." It seemed out of place in this fairy tale world for there to be mechanical music, but there it was, she heard an orchestra, and it had to come from something.

"Hirdaur, where is that music coming from?" asked Krystle. She looked around but did not see him, "Where did he go?" she asked Stacey, who shrugged. Chips did not seem too concerned, and the dog usually whined if Hirdaur left their sight. Was he hiding nearby?

She and Stacey moved closer to the cabin, up to the gate. The music was enchanting, stringed instruments and flutes, it sounded like. The tune was not one that Krystle recognized. She peered back into the deep green shade of the trees they had just walked out of, and she was surprised to find that she missed being inside of the dim shadowy forest.

Here, out in the open, she felt exposed, and almost vulnerable. There was nothing around that appeared threatening and the sunshine was nice. Despite that, and the chirping birds, for some reason it felt eerier for Krystle to find herself standing in front of Tolkien's cabin, again, than it had felt to be talked to by redwood trees.

They waited beside the gate; Krystle would not allow Stacey to open it and enter the yard without their host along, and an invitation. As they stood there, silently scanning the clearing around them, more questions swirled through Krystle's mind. Had Hirdaur disappeared for a reason? Why had he left them here to wander about on their own? Did he expect them to explore the cabin without him?

"Let's go on in," suggested Stacey. "This is getting boring just standing around out here." The music had changed, it was faster now, merrier, like a song one would dance to at a party. The teenager was holding onto the gate and dancing in place, her hind end moving in time with the bouncy tune.

"Not yet," said Krystle. Something about the whole situation felt imposed on her, as if she was meant to react to what she saw in a certain way, and she resisted against the idea of being on display for someone else's amusement.

"Why not?"

"Well, what if this is a test?" asked Krystle. Stacey did not seem too concerned with the idea, she was varying her dance and watching her feet as she did a sort of modified jig, still holding the gate to keep her balance.

"What kind of test?" she said.

"Oh, I don't know." Krystle scanned the clearing again, still no Hirdaur to be seen. "Maybe a fairy tale kind of test, I guess. Like we're getting another chance to do the right thing, and not go into the cabin without permission this time. Don't you feel like we're being watched?"

It occurred to Krystle that Stacey had ran ahead and not heard her conversation with Hirdaur about the trees, earlier, which was probably all for the best. If the teenager found out that she could have an audience of stationary, and mostly silent, listeners to chatter at, she would have possibly never left the forest.

"No, I don't feel like I'm being watched," said Stacey, although she did abruptly stop wagging her hips in time with the music. "Who do you think is watching us? I don't see anyone around here."

Despite her misgivings over having a lot of explaining to do, Krystle had to tell Stacey who their witnesses might be.

"The trees," she said and she pointed at the stand of redwoods behind them.

"Why would they care?" asked Stacey, unimpressed. "They probably wish they could go inside of places, if they didn't have roots." As she spoke, she let go of the gate and turned to look around at the forest of possible witnesses Krystle was pointing toward. After her last word, there was a slight creaking sound, and they both turned back to see the gate swing open on its own.

"Isn't that a sign?" Stacey walked through the gate without waiting for Krystle to reply. She went up to the front porch, turned around, and came back to the gate. "See, I'm fine. I don't think it's a crime to walk into someone's yard, if their gate is wide open."

"We should wait," said Krystle again, but with less conviction. The opened gate had not changed her mind, it could be another step in the test. To be able to resist going through it might be the point. If there was a point. She stared at the cabin; from the angle she stood at, the interior revealed by the opened door was in shadow.

"Well, think about it," argued Stacey. "If you were coming here to visit, wouldn't you come in the gate and then go knock on the door?"

"Yes, but..."

"We could just go up to the doorway and peek in."

"That is exactly what you said this morning," said Krystle."Remember? One quick peek?"

"How about if we hold hands and go up to the door together?" Stacey held out her hand and Krystle could not resist the offer. If she could physically restrain the wild teenager from entering and destroying another cabin, then it might be alright to just take a quick glance inside the door. As they drew nearer, she tried to see in the windows, but the shade from the porch roof made them opaque.

They approached the porch cautiously and were just about to step foot on it when a clanging sound made them turn around. The gate had closed itself.

"Whoa, what do you think that means?" whispered Stacey.

"That means," said a familiar voice from inside the cabin, "it is time to come in and join the party." They whirled back around, gasping in unison when they saw who was standing in the doorway.

"Herman!" shouted Stacey. "Hirdaur!" shouted Krystle. "How did you do that?" they asked together.

"I had to tidy up the place, first, before I could let you see it," he explained, grinning. With one of his famous courtly bows, he gestured for them to enter. The music was louder and it seemed to swell now to a crescendo as they walked across the porch, still hand in hand, and stepped in the door.

For Krystle, it seemed as if the interior of the cabin that was visible through the open door had grown darker the closer they came to it, and when she walked inside, it seemed as if she was walking into a windowless cave instead of the same cheery room she had been in before. There was a breeze blowing in her face, and the music came from somewhere very close. She could not see a thing.

"What happened to the lights?" asked Stacey. Even as she was speaking, there was a flash of red flame that startled both of them, and Hirdaur was holding a torch in his hand, and he was standing right next to them.

"Welcome to my home, follow me," he said, and then he waved the flaming brand up in the air to show them where they were, and it was not inside of a cabin. The walls were made of stone, it looked like, and not with carefully placed blocks like in the wine cellar, this place seemed carved right into the rock, instead of built with it.

"Wowsers," said Stacey, "How did we get in here?" They followed Hirdaur as he led them forward with his torch. Not that they had any choice, Krystle discovered, for behind them was darkness, no doorway back out. It raised the hair on the back of her neck when she turned to see, and she turned back and hurried to keep up with the flickering light.

"Where are we now?" Krystle asked, staring all around her in amazement. "Are we back in the tunnels? How...?" She stopped short; they had turned a sharp corner, and before them stood an arched doorway to an enormous hall.

Her eyes were dazzled by the brightly lit place, in comparison to the dark entry way. The hall had dozens of torches hanging on the enormous walls. Some of the torches were placed near large, convex mirrors, which reflected their flames in multitudes of identical golden-red bursts of light. In the center of the hall was a large, long banquet table, bedecked with candles, fruit, and fall flowers,

At the farthest end of the table stood a man, a very handsome man, with coppery hair and a curious headpiece. It was a complete circle of leaves and red berries on his head. He raised a goblet in Krystle and Stacey's direction, nodded his head at them, as if in greeting, and then sat down in the over-sized dining chair placed there.

As soon as he was seated, he nodded toward the musicians, and they played a song that had a brisk tempo that felt almost military. The music had stopped earlier, when they had entered the cabin door, but Krystle did not even realize it until the musicians, a small group seated in a roped-off performance area to the side of the entrance, began to play again.

As if on signal, two lines of people marched into the room in time to the music, one line entering from behind tapestries hung in each far corner, and they were bearing trays laden with every type of wonderful, delicious thing to eat and drink that could ever be imagined. They sat the trays on the table and then sat down in a chair, each one after the next, so that the table was filled with food by the very people who would be eating it.

The dishes were sent around the table, from hand to hand, along with pots of tea and pitchers filled with water, as well. Every place setting had a goblet filled with ruby red fluid that seemed to glow. The music did not slow and the platters and trays were marched along around the table to the same beat. Stacey and Krystle were seated in the middle of the table, next to each other, Chips sat on the floor between them, beneath the table. They were bewildered by the wide variety of choices that passed into and out of their hands almost before they could decide what to eat.

While Stacey sat, she bounced in time to the marching song, and Krystle laughed at her expressions when she chose her food, she took a little bit of almost everything, until her plate was too full. For herself, Krystle chose what seemed the most familiar, and safest to eat, which was still quite a lot.

The whole process was so dizzying that there was no time for Krystle to think about what was happening. Finally, everyone's plate was full, the hall grew quiet, and the music stopped. Hirdaur took his place, which was at the end of the long table opposite to the tall man with the funny headpiece.

At that moment, Krystle's head stopped spinning long enough, and she realized that she was at a feast. Everyone seated around her and Stacey were seemingly oblivious of their presence, however, and all eyes were turned to the far end of the table. The hall grew silent.

The man with the leaf and berry crown stood up again, he gestured at the crowd to remain seated, and she could not take her eyes off of him. He bore a strong resemblance to Hirdaur, except that he seemed to be in a higher position of authority and stature. There was something extraordinarily regal about him, even though he wore the same quaint, rustic clothes as the rest of the people in the hall, a simple tunic over leggings, except that his clothes had a velvety texture.

At the other end of the table was Hirdaur. He had changed his clothes, while he was out of their sight, and now wore a sleeveless tunic over a satin shirt. It was hard to say what color their clothes were because the torches cast a reddish-orange glow on everything. With a start, Krystle realized that Hirdaur's hair was the same copper shade in the torches' glow as of that of the the man with the leaf crown.

"What are you doing?" Stacey stage-whispered to her. It was not until she was asked that Krystle realized she was whipping her head back and forth, as she turned her attention from one end of the table to the other, and comparing the features of the two men standing at either end. She stopped, but there was no time to answer the question; the regal gentleman, who looked like Hirdaur, raised his goblet, and so did everyone else at the table, and so did Krystle and Stacey.

"Mae gevennin na vereth nín, hiril reviol." He tipped his goblet and drank.

"What did he say?" asked Stacey, whispering.

"I have no idea," said Krystle.

"I think he was speaking French," Stacey decided, but Krystle was pretty sure that he was not.

They both turned toward Hirdaur, who raised his own glass to them with a smile. He was too far away to ask him anything without having to shout it. Everyone around them was drinking from their goblets, and Krystle took a sip from hers. It was wine! Very delicious, too, and she normally did not like the taste of it.

As if he had been waiting for her to drink, the leaf-crowned man sat down, Hirdaur sat, and everyone began to eat, there was a low murmur of conversation.

"Do you think we were supposed to say something in response?" Krystle asked Stacey. She was afraid of doing the wrong thing, even if she had no idea where she was and why she was here. Stacey shrugged, licking the wine from her lips after sipping it, and making a face.

"How should I know?" she said, and then tried her wine again, as if to see if it still tasted the same the second time around. "How can people drink this stuff?"

It took a moment for her words to sink in, and then Krystle grabbed the goblet away, before Stacey could try any of it again. "You're not old enough to drink!"

"Hey!" Stacey exclaimed.

"I mean it, it's bad enough that I let you drag me into Green Grove and get us into that tunnel, but if you drink alcohol and your parents find out, I could go to jail for life!" Krystle could tell that Stacey was not paying attention, she was leaning forward and looking down the table. She thought the teenager was examining the man with the leaf crown.

"Do you think he is related to Hirdaur?" Krystle asked. "They look so much alike."

"Hey!" Stacey said again, but with a gleefully excited expression on her face, like she had just won something valuable. " I know who that is!" she said, "I read about him in The Hob..." Before she could say another word, Hirdaur interrupted her. He was suddenly standing behind them, tapping Stacey's shoulder, and Krystle's, too

"Stacey," he said quietly, " please do not say another word about it, I am not in that particular tale..."

"But, if I'm right," said Stacey, and she turned to the bewildered Krystle, pointed at her, and added, "and I know I'm right," and then turned back to Hirdaur, saying, "If 'he' is who I think he is, then that means that you are..."

"Please, call me Hirdaur, that is my name, now, it was chosen for the tale that I live in these days."

"What are you two talking about?" Krystle asked, confused.

"Is he your father?" asked Stacey, pointing at the leaf-crowned man.

"Yes, you guessed right, but you always do," Hirdaur answered softly, and almost sadly. "Now, enough about names, mine or anyone else's, please eat and drink."

He paused, and handed Krystle her goblet. He smiled when she sipped it, and continued, "Now enjoy yourselves, and have no cares about what lies outside these stone walls." Almost so swiftly that she was not sure it really happened, he bent down and kissed Krystle on the cheek.

He left them there and returned to his seat at the other end of the table before Krystle could ask him to translate what his father had said. She put her hand on her face where he had kissed her, and sipped some more of the wine, it truly was delicious.

She turned to Stacey, to try to get some answers, but when she started to speak, she giggled instead. Shocked at herself, she covered her mouth and glanced at the other people at the table to see if anyone noticed. Everyone seemed too busy eating and drinking to be paying attention. Without warning, she giggled again, only this time she could not stop, and had to put her napkin over her mouth.

"What's wrong with you?" asked Stacey. Krystle tried to answer, but as soon as she calmed herself down enough to speak, she started to giggle even harder, until tears came into her eyes. "It must be the wine," said Stacey, and before Krystle could stop her, although she probably could not have with both hands now in use to cover her traitorously mirthful mouth, the teen had grabbed back her own goblet and started gulping it.

Instead of feeling angry, however, Krystle was so amused that she laughed out loud, no more giggles. Stacey lowered her goblet, and she had a dark red mustache. Krystle thought she would stop breathing, the sight of it made her laugh so hard. Stacey was giggling now, too.

"Stop it," she told Krystle. "Have some more," she added, while handing Krystle another goblet.

"Don't min' if I do," said Krystle, and then she laughed at herself for saying it, slopping wine on herself. Stacey, leaning back to laugh now, and holding her stomach, was slowly sliding off of her chair. She was a blur through Krystle's watery eyes. And then everything was a blur, a spinning blur.

She thought she was going to be sick.

"Wake up, dear. The doc says your free to go."

"I'm awake," said Krystle, and she moved to prove it. Pain instantly shot down her left side, her arm throbbed. She struggled to sit, pushing her hair out of her face, and tried to focus through bleary eyes at the figure standing in front of her. "Where am I? Oh, my head."

"That pain shot really knocked you out, huh?" It was Netty speaking. Krystle was back at the clinic.

"What shot?"

"It says right here," Netty answered, pointing at a clipboard she was holding, "You were given pain meds," she stopped, then said, "No, wait, it says a shot was ordered, but it doesn't say when it was given. Hmm. Let me go check at the desk, maybe she wrote it down there."

Holding her aching head, Krystle watched Netty leave in disbelief. She knew she had not been dreaming, that was for sure. Or had she been? Did she get some kind of shot that knocked her out so hard that she did not remember it? Would narcotics give her such a crazy dream?

The curtain between her and Stacey's bed was drawn, so Krystle had to get out of bed, her whole body protesting, to see her. Something heavy, warm, and furry brushed against her leg and she squeaked; it was Chips! The dog still wore the funny little rope leash on her neck. It was not a dream, after all! Then she remembered that the ambulance driver had put the rope on Chips, it happened before they crossed the bridge.

"Stacey," she whispered. The teenager was sound asleep, mouth open, her bandaged hands were lying outside the blanket. She shook the bed. "Stacey, wake up."

"Her parents just came," said Netty, entering from the other side of the curtain. She let out a yelp of alarm when she saw Chips. "How did that dog get in here?"

"She's my dog," Krystle explained as she grabbed the leash. "I... I don't know how she got in. I'll take her outside and tie her up."

"The night shift drives me crazy," said Netty, shaking her head. "I don't know what goes on around here. Now I smell wine." She clucked her tongue and pointed at Stacey. "Okay, well looks like she is awake. I will go get her parents if you'll take the dog over to the other side of the curtain." She left, but Krystle hesitated.

"How did I get here?" Stacey was sitting up now, bewildered, and she stared at her hands. "Ow," she added, and then, mournfully, "What happened to the party?"

"You dreamed about a party, too?"

"It wasn't a dream," Stacey answered crabbily. "You were there, you should know."

"Your parents are here."

"That's just great." Stacey was wiping her eyes with the tips of her fingers. "I think I have a hangover."

"Hirdaur and the others must have brought us back and put us in bed," said Krystle. "You have new bandages on your hands."

"I guess he was right," Stacey replied, awed. "No one will ever know we were even gone."

"No one will know that you were gone, you mean, because I doubt anyone would have noticed that I was missing." Krystle could hear people approaching, and she tugged at Chips' leash. "I am going to take her outside," she whispered to Stacey, while slipping around the curtain. "If I don't see you again, it was fun. Wish me luck."

"You're going back there! Not without me!" Stacey threw back her covers, but it was too late, her parents were there and Krystle hurried to leave.

It was hard to run when her whole left side was in pain, and her broken arm was being jolted by each step she took, so Krystle held it at her elbow. She had to let Chips loose and the happy dog ran ahead of her, over the bridge.

She kept running, however, despite the pain, and despite the stares she got from the people in Green Grove when they watched her go by. It was worth it, because Hirdaur was standing there, on the front porch of Tolkien's cabin, waiting for her. His arms were opened wide.

The end

Sindarin translations:

Hirdaur = 'forest master'
"Mae gevennin na vereth nín, hiril reviol." = 'Well met at my feast, wandering ladies.'

A/N: As for the identity of the "man" with the leaf and berry crown, anyone who has read The Hobbit should know who that elf is.

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Posted: December 6, 2006

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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"