Green Grove, Chapter 4
|Disclaimer:||I dare anyone to sue me over this one.|
|Summary:||A young woman wakes up in a strange place after a car accident.|
As frightened as she was by the notion of being caught trespassing, Krystle found it hard to resist following Stacey within Tolkien's cabin, after the teen-ager had just walked right in without so much as knocking first.
She waited outside, standing in the open doorway, for a few minutes, peeking in, while Stacey drew open all of the curtains to let light into the otherwise dim interior of what turned out to be one room. If there was anyone living inside, they would not have had anywhere to hide from view, it was that small.
Once Krystle was convinced that the cabin was empty, she found the temptation to do a bit of snooping around with Stacey just too alluring, and she gave in and entered. If anyone did find them here, she decided that she would explain how she was only trying to coax the teen to return to the clinic.
The floor boards inside of the cabin were in not much better shape than the ones on the porch, and they creaked, squeaked, and groaned dryly, and felt springy, when Stacey walked around the room. Small multi-colored rag rugs were placed decoratively around the floor, but she avoided them, they looked slippery.
"Be careful, Stacey, these floors don't feel so safe. Stay away from those rugs, okay?"
"I will, don't worry," said Stacey as she crutched right over the top of one, oblivious, while she stared around her.
The cabin was sparsely furnished with a quaintly 'Wild West' frontier- days flair. There were a table and chairs, crudely fashioned from thick planks of wood, maybe by local craftsmen, in the middle of the room. It bore a wooden bucket full of dead chrysanthemums as a centerpiece. A small wooden bed, with a crazy-quilt spread on top of its lumpy mattress, but no pillows, took up one corner.
A rocking chair made of bent branches, with a woven cane seat, was parked by a pot-belly stove in another corner. Pegs on the wall by the door held a hat, an umbrella, and a raincoat. There was nothing about the place that felt like Middle Earth. In fact, there was nothing to indicate that Tolkien ever visited there.
Except for the desk.
"Wowsers," breathed Stacey, impressed with the main feature of this historical landmark, located under a window, which was in the center of the wall opposite the door. Professor Tolkien's desk had a detailed placard above it, next to the window, with dates of its arrival in the United States from his home in Oxford, Great Britain, and a golden sun ray reaching through the glass poured over it like a spotlight.
It was called a 'traveling desk' in the description, and for comparison there was a photo of Tolkien's other enormous desk, which was located at his home. This one in the cabin was about a quarter of its size, but, for a traveling desk, it seemed grandly permanent among its more rustic furniture cousins.
Even to her untrained eye, Krystle thought the desk had a military flavor to it, with its simple brass corners and brass fittings, and its rich, dark polished wood. It had three drawers, which were partially opened to display their contents, mostly loose handwritten notes, and was placed on hinged crossed legs that looked like they should fold up. There was nothing very fancy about it, yet it was beautiful.
"Look," said Krystle, while pointing at the series of cubbyholes that were perched on the top, "here are some of Tolkien's pencils, ink pens, and paper." She did not touch them, afraid to leave fingerprints. There were a few pots of ink and some interesting if unrecognizable tools, she assumed they were meant for sharpening the pencils or filling the pens with ink. It would be nice to have a tour guide here to explain everything.
Some of the most valuable documents were framed under glass, labeled,and hung on the wall, such as a poem and a few pages of handwritten notes regarding the Dwarves' language, with samples of their alphabet. There were some sketches of flowers and trees, too.
On the desktop lay a leather bound notebook, opened to display what must be a journal, with nearly indecipherable handwriting. Krystle wished she could leaf through it, but a handwritten sign next to it stated, 'do not handle items without permission.'
Although Krystle knew little about the late author's life, she could picture him sitting there at his desk, staring out the window while writing in his notebook, composing his poem, or drawing his pictures. In her mind, he looked something like Gandalf from the movies, but with shorter hair and no beard.
"How boring," declared Stacey, after muttering her way through the displayed documents as she attempted to read them, with little success. "There is nothing here about Legolas at all. Or any elves. Who cares about dwarves?"
Krystle stayed at the desk and studied the framed items on the wall, but Stacey moved to the side of the cabin opposite the bed where a regular-sized cooking stove was located, with shelves containing dishes, pots, and pans above it. And a teapot. She opened a cupboard door and giggled over her findings.
"Digestive biscuits?" She pulled a faded red box out and held it up for Krystle to see. "These aren't biscuits."
"Put that back!" Krystle ordered, and she reluctantly left the Professor's desk to make sure Stacey did as she was told.
"They look like cookies," said Stacey, as if unimpressed with Krystle's stern command, and she leisurely examined the box that was still in her hands, shaking it and sniffing at it, before opening it to inspect the contents. "I wonder what they taste like?"
"I think what you are doing could be called burglary," warned Krystle. Even as hungry as she was, to steal someone else's food was not right, and to do it in a historical landmark was probably a felony at least. "Even coming in here is committing burglary, I think."
"Just like Bilbo!" Stacey answered and she bragged about 'at least' having read "The Hobbit", although she was disappointed that Legolas never appeared in the story. The hobbit was best at breaking into places and stealing food, so that was not an insult to her and she seemed proud of the fact. She stuck her tongue out at the box and added, "But these don't look very fresh, so I don't want them."
After putting the box back exactly where she found it, at Krystle's suggestion, Stacey stood in front of the open cupboard and studied the rest of the contents without touching anything else. There was not much of interest inside, mostly the usual items one would find in a kitchen, such as salt, pepper, a box of baking powder and the like. Stacey had a giggle over some rusting tins of tea with funny names like 'Darjeeling' and 'Lapsang Souchong'. Neither of them knew how to pronounce the words.
"This is so boring," sighed Stacey finally, with a yawn. The long night was finally getting to the teenager, it seemed, as well it should have, or so Krystle believed. Now was the time to take advantage of the situation.
"Lets go back now," she said quietly, reaching out with her good hand to gently tug Stacey away. "Aren't you hungry?"
"Wait, I want to look in here, first." Stacey easily eluded Krystle's grasp and opened the only other cupboard. Within it were some candles in a box, wooden matches, an empty glass kerosene lamp, and toothpicks. The teen groaned with disappointment.
"What did you think you were going to find? An elf?" Again, Krystle reached out and this time was able to grab hold of Stacey's arm, she tugged her away.
"I don't know, because I didn't find it," Stacey answered, grumpily. "Okay, lets go."
Krystle released Stacey's arm, reminded her again to be careful, and then watched helplessly as the teenager crutched toward the door, eager now to leave, and caught the tip of one crutch on a rug. She slipped, pirouetted around the other crutch as she fell, and, with a loud whoop of surprise, landed flat on her behind.
"I'm okay!" she said, embarrassed, before the shocked Krystle even had time to react.
"You broke the floor!" Krystle felt a thrill of panic race through her. They were almost out the door and now what had Stacey done? Upon her impact, one of the loose boards, a short one, had jumped up completely off of the floor and landed sideways, with a clatter, next to the crumpled rug.
"Oh, you don't even care about me," Stacey whined, even though she was obviously physically unhurt. "One stupid piece of wood comes loose and you throw a fit!"
With a sigh, Krystle reached down to help her, but was waved away with a petulant, "No thanks. I can get up by myself."
"Maybe you should just stay here and fix the broken floor," snarled Krystle, fed up. She picked up the crutches and held them out of Stacey's reach. "While I go get someone to tie you up and carry you back before you kill yourself."
"Hey, wait a minute!" said Stacey, not having paid attention. She was examining the hole left by the wayward board, her head tilted sideways. "There is something weird...?" As she spoke, she tugged at another board, it was short too, until it came off the floor.
"Stacey!" cried Krystle as she crouched beside her to stop her from doing more damage. "What are you doing?"
"There's something under here," said the teenager, pointing proudly.
There was a beaten metal surface clearly visible under the hole left by the loosened boards, odd, but that is not what Stacey was concerned about. She lifted yet another board, it came off with a firm tug and a squeal from the rusted nails releasing their grip, and there was a large ring at one edge of what was revealed to be a metal plate, which was some kind of lid.
"It looks like a trap door," said Krystle, amazed. She removed a board this time, the nails easily slid through the rotted wood, and the entire hidden door, a perfect square with thick iron hinges on one edge, was uncovered.
"You know what that is?" Stacey sounded breathless, as if she had been running. "It's a portal! A portal to Middle-earth!" Before Krystle could stop her, she lifted the ring and pulled the door up, its hinges screamed almost painfully. There was no puff of smoke, or fire, or flashing lights, or anything magical at all to indicate it was anything more than an ordinary trapdoor, if trapdoors can be called ordinary.
They both peered down into the dark hole and saw only a steep narrow wooden staircase that plunged straight down like a ladder, and ended in shadows. As if on a signal, they looked at each other.
"Well, we will never know what it is, will we?" Krystle asked brightly, as if what she saw down that dark, deep hole was the answer to all of her problems with Stacey. "Because you can't get down there with those crutches and you aren't going to see me trying to break my neck today. Middle-earth is safe from us, I think." She stood up and offered her hand to Stacey.
"We gotta put this floor back together and clean this up before we get caught," she added, hoping she would get no further arguments from her out-of-control companion.
"Okay, hand me my crutches," answered Stacey. "Watch," she said, after she had her crutches back in her hands, and she turned them handle-side down and let them fall into the hole. They traveled noisily down the steep steps, ending with a dull thump on their padded edges somewhere below the shadows, which cloaked the bottom.
Krystle burst out laughing, mostly from hysteria, at the absurdity of what she had just witnessed.
"I hope you don't think I'm going to get those for you, with my broken arm." Now she shuddered a little to think of slipping on those steps and tumbling to the bottom of the hole. "There's got to be spiders down there."
"Don't worry, I'm gonna get 'em myself," declared Stacey. "Spiders don't scare me." She slid herself feet first into the hole and proceeded to slowly bump down the steps on her behind. Krystle watched her, speechless. The temptation to shut the trapdoor and run for help swept over her, but to leave the teenager alone in the dark would be cruel.
Finally showing some good sense, Stacey stopped when she reached the shadows, and changed her mind. Coming back up was not so easy, she did it backwards, too scared to turn around on the steep stairway and risk falling. When she was almost back to the top, she stopped and asked Krystle for a candle.
"But, I can't leave those crutches down there!" she protested, after Krystle shook her head 'no'. "They would be evidence that we were here, see? We have to get them!"
"All I want you to do is bring me a candle, its dark down there." It took some time, but eventually Stacey was able to wheedle a lit candle out of Krystle after she pointed out that to leave the crutches behind would mean she would need to be carried back by Krystle, with her broken arm.
"You know what?" Krystle remarked, before rising to fetch the candle. "I would gladly, no, I would cheerfully go to jail for vandalism and burglary, and whatever other charges might be made against me, if someone would walk in that door and arrest me right now."
"I'll get my parents to bail you out," said Stacey, missing the sarcasm altogether, but at least sounding sorry. "It was all my fault anyway."
Satisfied a little, Krystle let those last words hang in the air while she rummaged around for a flashlight, with no luck, and then for a candle-holder. All she could picture in her mind was Stacey starting a fire, somehow. Finally, she had to settle for a saucer, to which she fixed the lit candle in place with its own drippings. She made sure it would not come undone if handled carefully, and sent up a small prayer as she carried the dish to the trapdoor.
Stacey was crying.
"Now what?" asked Krystle, concerned. "Did you hurt yourself?"
"I'm so stupid!" Stacey sobbed wetly. "Everything I ever do is wrong." She was posed dramatically on the stairs, her face covered by her hands, and crying loudly as if her heart was breaking.
"You're just tired," said Krystle. She sat next to the trapdoor and reached down to pat the top of Stacey's head. "And crying like that is only going to make you feel more tired. Besides, I followed you in here, didn't I? I have to share some of the blame, and since I am an adult and you are a minor, I probably have to take all of it."
"But it wasn't your fault! You were just trying to get me to go back the whole time!" Stacey's anger over the imaginary charges Krystle would be facing stopped her tears.
"Here, take this, and don't let it go out," Krystle said as she handed over the candle on its saucer. "I would tell you to be careful and not to start a fire, but I am afraid of what might happen."
"Oh, ha ha ha," replied Stacey, not amused. She was cautious, for a change, with the candle, and she slowly made her way back down the steps. As the flickering light penetrated the shadows, Krystle leaned farther over the opening to see what was at the bottom.
Only a few steps below the shadows the top of an arch appeared on one side of the narrow walls. It grew into an ever widening opening as Stacey, who appeared not to notice it at all as she kept her eyes glued on the lit candle, slowly reached the bottom of the steps.
"Got em!" she shouted, and held up and waved a crutch around over her head in triumph. "Whoa!" she shouted, when she turned to pick up the other one and saw the arched doorway next to her. "Krystle, you got to get down here and see this!"
With the agility of a typically tireless adolescent, Stacey was up on her crutches, without dropping the candle, and had disappeared from Krystle's view. All she could see was the glow of the wavering candle light coming from out of the arched opening. It was only then, and with a start, that Krystle realized the walls on either side of the steep stairway were made of stone. How curious.
"What do you see?" She called down.
"Wine!" Stacey shouted back, and she laughed with an evil cackle. "Hurry up before I drink it all!" There was a loud clatter like pottery being dropped, an "Oops!" and then a few thumps, followed by an "I'm okay!"
"You better not break anything in there!" Krystle was alarmed enough to swing her legs into the trapdoor opening and set her feet on the steps. If Stacey could make it to the bottom with only one hand, then how hard could it be? "Get out of there now before you set the whole place on fire!"
"Hey, there is something written in Elvish down here!" hollered Stacey. Her voice was slightly more muffled now, as if she had moved farther away from the door. "I think it is, anyway. It says 'chat you soo verane'?"
"What are you talking about?" Now Krystle was inquisitive enough about whatever Stacey had found to start down the steps. "Why do you think its Elvish?" Stacey popped her head from the doorway and smiled upwards.
"You gotta see this! I think I really found the secret passage to get to Middle-earth! I'm not kidding! Hurry up!"
"What is it?" But the teenager disappeared without explaining further. As Krystle descended the last few steps, with only the dim candlelight's glow from the hidden room to guide her, she heard Stacey knocking on something; the regular raps made a hollow sound like a drum.
"What are you doing?" Krystle was astonished at how large the cellar was, now that she was walking about in it, it was a wine cellar and the walls were made of stone. There were racks, mostly empty, for bottles of wine.
Stacey was around a corner, standing in front of some large, rounded objects which she was rapping on. The candle threw shadows over everything, and it was hard to tell what they were at first. Stacey pointed out the words printed on them that she thought were Elvish.
"I think one of these is a door," Stacey said, continuing her knocking.
"These are wine barrels," Krystle declared, nodding as if it was just as she expected. "Elves like wine, but those aren't Elvish words. They say, 'Chateau Souverain', not 'chat you shoo verane', or whatever you said."
"I have heard of Chateau Soverain before." Stacey stopped knocking and sighed, disappointed once more. "What does it mean?"
"It's French." Krystle shrugged. "And it's the name of a famous winery, you probably saw their commercials on television. These are just some ordinary wine barrels. Nothing Elvish about them. Let's go now."
"Hello!" A male voice called down to them from above. "Is there someone down there?"
Stacey jerked at the sound and the candle fell over on the saucer, immediately extinguishing itself. She clutched Krystle, which hurt, while Krystle's mind raced as she tried to think of what she could possibly say now.
To be continued in Chapter 5
Posted: August 24, 2006
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"