1. The Thorn Gate
"This is my very own private garden," said King Thranduil. Ever the charming Elvenking, Thranduil was his usual suave self, and only one of his closest intimates would have marked the tone of carefully controlled diplomacy in his voice as he addressed his Golodhren guest. "Perhaps you will find it more to your ease than my study?"
Master Erestor, archivist of the House of Elrond, nodded silently as he settled himself onto a bench fashioned from two boulders and a roughly hewn log. Under the burden of strong emotion, a behind used to the delicate marble of Imladris failed to notice the more rustic furniture stylings of Mirkwood.
"Are you able to breathe normally again?" Thranduil enquired solicitously.
Erestor let out a tremulous laugh. "Please forgive me, my lord. I had not realized until now that enclosed spaces would affect me quite so strongly. As long as I was in your library and intent upon examining your antique Doriathrin scrolls, my mind was distracted somewhat. It was not until I joined you in your private audience chamber that the full import of being underneath tons of solid rock came over me. I am sure I will have quite recovered myself by dinnertime. If not then, most certainly by the time I must go to my bedchamber."
"Quite so!" said Thranduil, rather too heartily. "Especially with enough wine. The potent vintages of Rhûn will calm even the most sensitive nerves. And on that score . . ." The King struck a small wooden gong, near to hand. Within a short time, a dark-haired elf in the green and brown livery of the Woodland Realm appeared.
"We need Dorwinion, Galion, and plenty of it."
Galion nodded. "I took the liberty of anticipating your needs, Sire." He produced a large decanter and two glasses. He poured one and placed it in the shaking hand of Erestor. "Sire, if I might -- a delegation of Lakemen is in your throne hall. Something about the river tolls."
"Forgive me, Master Erestor," Thranduil said. "This should not take long. Meanwhile, my butler will keep you company." The Elvenking disappeared back through the door into the side of the mountain with a barely concealed look of relief.
"Lovely, is it not?" Galion said conversationally.
Erestor looked about the garden. It was Mirkwood. Dark trees loomed, dripping moisture in the ever present mist. Some of the trees held the remnants of webs. Large webs.
"Few spiders get in," Galion said matter-of-factly. "When they do, we kill them. The orcs are kept out by that thorn hedge yonder."
"If that is so, why is that gate left open?" Erestor referred to a stone archway set into the tall, thick hedge. The stout wooden gate stood ajar, and the dark paths of the forest showed beyond. Erestor favored Thranduil's butler with a nervous glance.
"Ah," Galion said. "It is a strange fancy of our King's. None of us dare oppose it. In happier times, our late King, Oropher, used to return from a relaxing day of fishing in the Forest River and come through that very gate. Home he would come, with his pole in his hand and his creel full of trout."
Galion sighed. "Oropher fell at the Dagorlad, and his body rests, lighting corpse candles in the Dead Marshes, until World's End. But our King has never left off the vain hope that one day his father might come walking through that open gate, the words of his favorite song upon his fair lips."
Erestor stared at the butler, eyes wide.
Galion nodded and tapped his forefinger to his temple. "We humor him. For who can minister to a wounded mind? And who, indeed, Master Librarian, can understand the full scope of Eru's vast music? It may be that on certain days of the year, the dead may return to their favorite haunts in life. Of course," Galion continued, with a dark and meaningful look, "how Lord Oropher would look after all this time in the peat is something I do not care to imagine."
Master Erestor's eyes widened even further.
As Erestor stared, there came the sound of soft footsteps, muffled by the mist, from the forest outside. A light tenor voice rang through the damp air. "Where now she wanders none can tell, in sunlight or in shade; for lost of yore was . . ."
The Imladrian let out a piercing shriek, as a tall, slender figure with pale hair came striding through the thorn hedge, his features hidden by the twilight gloom and the shifting fog. His fishing pole was draped over one shoulder and his creel hung at his side. The Golodh cowered back, skirted around the edges of the thorn hedge, and ran out the open gate, his screams echoing in the forest.
"Whoever was that, Galion?" said Prince Legolas, casting a puzzled glance after the fleeing elf. "I am unaccustomed to having people react to the sight of me in THAT manner!"
"A scribe sent by Lord Elrond to do research in our library, my Prince," replied Galion, innocently.
"He seemed rather . . . emotional," Legolas opined.
"Aye," said Thranduil who had returned in time to witness the end of the incident. "Why Elrond would choose to send us a claustrophobe as an envoy is a mystery to me. What set him off this time, Galion?"
"I think it was the fish, Sire. Master Erestor told me that he had recently been grievously assaulted by a school of perch while doing his laundry in the Bruinen." Galion's voice lowered confidentially. "I believe one got down his leggings and dealt him a most vicious nip."
Elvenking and Elvenprince nodded sagely. "Those Golodhrim are far too sensitive for their own good," Thranduil said. "Legolas, send an escort after him and see he escapes the Wood without being eaten by a spider. I do not want Elrond declaring war on us because we managed to lose his librarian."
Father and son proceeded on into the cave, leaving the butler behind to clear away the wine decanter and glasses.
Galion picked up Erestor's half-empty goblet of Dorwinion and drained it with a secret, wicked smile. The spinning of fanciful tales at short notice was his specialty.
* * * * * * *
Author's Note: Scholars of English Literature will no doubt recognize the plot from H.H. (Saki) Munro's short story, The Open Window. I do this as tribute and parody, with no intent to deceive. Thank you, *removed* for the discussion that inspired me to write this story -- and happy birthday!
Further note: This story does not even pretend to be canonical. In fact, the alert reader who can provide me with the most canon impossibilities in this story will be entitled to a free night's lodging in King Thranduil's basement guest quarters.
(1) Plagiarism -- both alone and with someone else. This joke is stolen from the hilarious 1985 film "Heaven Help Us." I recommend it highly.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.