It was a calm clear day. The noonday sun streamed through the thick canopy of the forest while a cool breeze blew gently through the trees. Mika had been walking with her parents for what in her mind must have been three minutes short of forever. It was the first time that her parents had invited her on this monthly trip and they expected her to be excited. It was abundantly clear however that Mika was not. Despite the hopes of her Father, Mika had no interest in joining the Guardians. It simply did not matter to her that it was a family tradition, and it mattered less that it was the most exclusive organization in the whole of Fenorra. The idea of socializing with a group of gray haired people in robes who had nothing better to talk about than the size of their money pouches did not appeal to her at all. Maybe at one time the Guardians actually served a purpose but what that purpose was no one was too sure of. The Guardians were notorious for their secrecy and exclusive membership. Mika knew however that was just a front to keep the status of its members as high as possible. She had grown up on the legends and tales of the so called noble order but no one took them seriously. Not even the members themselves. Most regarded the tales as allegories meant to teach a better way of living to those who heed their message. None of this appealed one bit to Mika and she was more than willing to make it known to her parents.
Hercomplaints however fell on deaf ears as her parents continued on towards the meeting. It wasn’t long before the three of them arrived at the edge of theHidden Grove. Mika never quite understood why it was called the Hidden Grove.It wasn't hidden at all in fact it was a well-known fact that the Guardiansheld there meetings there. What was the point of being a member of Fenorra'smost elite club if you couldn't flaunt it? Of course “Hidden Grove” soundedmuch more mysterious than the “Guardian's Club Tree House”, so Mika never didmake too much of an issue of the name with her parents.
Mika,having never actually been to the grove before, couldn't help but be takenaback by the site of it. She knew it was impossible but everything seemed justa little more real there. The trees seemed taller, the grass seemed greener,and even the smallest animals seemed somehow more majestic. Her parents noticedher sudden change in demeanor and smiled to each other as they pulled theirhoods over their heads and walked Mika deeper in. As they approached the centerof the grove they were stopped by a group of similarly robbed men and women, eachlooking pale and frightened. There was something wrong, they said, somethingwrong with the Tree. Mika's parents’ mood immediately changed and told her towait here while they went to discuss the situation with the rest of theGuardians.
Her parentshad been gone for a good long time and Mika began to get nervous standing alonein the forest. She had never been one to follow orders but for some reason feltapprehensive defying her parents this time as she made her way closer to thecenter of the grove. She crept along slowly being careful to not make a soundfor fear of angering her father if he was to notice her disobedience. As sheneared the center she could hear the muffled voices of the members still toofar away to be understood. Mika could tell from the cadence and tone of thevoices however that something was horribly wrong.
Sneakingcloser to the voices Mika could now see the group of robed figures standing infront of a very old looking tree. Some were arguing some were crying a few werepouring over what looked to be very ornate books. As she looked over thechaotic scene Mika saw what had caused the turmoil. Despite the lushness of thesurrounding forest the grass around the base of the tree they were gathered infront of was quite dead. The radius of the affected area seemed to be onlyabout ten feet or so but it was an alarming sight even to Mika in contrast tothe deep greens of the plant life everywhere else.
Mika crouched behind a bush and tried to make sense of thescene before her but could not. It seemed to her that the Guardians themselveshad no idea what to make of the situation when one of them called out to therest holding up an open book. Quietly, too quiet for Mika to overhear from herhiding place, he read to them all from the book. Once he had finished the groupstood in silence for a short time seemingly trying to come to terms with whatthey had just heard. Slowly each one of them turned to the tree and approachedit. It was difficult to be sure from Mika's perspective but it looked as ifeach one of them took an acorn from a low hanging branch of the old tree andcarefully placed it in their pouches. As soon as each one of them had takentheir acorn they slowly filed out of the grove.
As herparents walked past her Father saw Mika crouched in her hiding place. He wasnot angry at Mika as she had feared; instead he seemed relieved to see her. Hegrabbed her hand and the three of them made their way out of the grove. Mikaand her parents walked for what felt like miles to her before anyone spoke asingle word. Her Father turned to Mika and told her to never tell anyone of what she saw there and under nocircumstance should she ever return to the grove. She could tell by the look inhis eyes and the tone of his voice that this was not an order but a fact,indisputable and undeniable. Mika could only nod in stunned silence to herfather who had already begun to continue walking.
As they walked the long trail back home Mika tried to make sense of everything she saw.The lush forest, the old tree, the chaos a patch of dead grass caused. None ofit made any sense to her. What could have been in that old book? Why did everyonetake a silly acorn? She tried to wrap her young mind around it all. TheGuardians were just a social club full of old snobs why would any of thismatter to them? In her mind she went over everything she saw, everything sheknew, every fairy tale her mother ever told her as she went to sleep. Mikastopped dead in her tracks.....
What if the stories were all true?