Startracer, Starchild - Tale 4--> Pain of the heart

Author's Note: Sorry this took so long!! As I'm sure the whole Reading Room knows by now, my older sister was visiting from NYC for the first time in a year and spent five days at home, so I wanted to spend some time with her before she went back. I'm sorry!!

Warning!!! This fic has instances of violent physical abuse!! If you are uncomfortable with this, do not read this Tale!!!

Recap of Tale 3 . . .

The girl ran inside and he approached the horses, a set of rugged mustangs. His attention, however, was on the Elves. [What are you doing here?]

[The Valar sent us,] Legolas explained as he dismounted with Dirnees still in his arms. [We were supposed to find a soul that they had sent here and got a bit sidetracked. What are you doing here? I was not aware you had left Valinor.]

[Because I never went in the first place,] was the reply. [You did not notice my absence?]

Tale 4

[You have been here all this time?!] Elrohir questioned as they headed up to the house. [How did you stand it? The steel beasts, this foul air, Men all the time encroaching upon your land without regard . . .]

[Where I lived previously was land that the Men had set aside to remain forest . . . a sacred place of sorts far to the east that is called George Washington National Forest.] He lifted the woman in the doorway and carried her inside. [Now I must ask you to not speak to me while the girl is near. She thinks I am one of her own race.]

[Has she not seen your ears?] Elladan queried.

[The race of Men occasionally sees strange occurrances in their own that set each individual apart. She believes I am merely one of those.]

[Will you not tell her?]

[I have already waited too long; I do not wish to tell her.]

[Then what did you tell her your name was?] Legolas demanded. [Your own is certainly far too strange for her race.]

[I chose one from her race that I liked and used that.]

They reached the sitting room, where the girl was waiting on one of two couches. She quickly got out of the way as Haldir set the woman down and then gestured for Dirnees to be placed on the other. "Krystine, go get a cold cloth for your mother and try to wake her up."

The girl obediently went into the kitchen. Legolas pulled up his brother's tunic, but there seemed to be little need for aid; the wound had already partially healed. Haldir shook his head knowingly. [He will be fine. He only needs rest and a good meal now.]

Krystine reentered the room and placed a damp cloth on her mother's forehead. "Mom . . . Mom . . . Mom!" She huffed annoyedly. "Dad, she won't wake up. Do that . . ."--she made a strange motion in the air that the Elves could barely identify--"that thing."

"It might be better to let her be for now, Krystine. Why don't you come here and tell me what happened?"

"There's nothing to tell, really," was the quiet answer. "They tied me up and I got away, the end." But obviously, such a `simple' event had been a sharp impact on her fragile sense of the world.

"Oh, Krystine . . ." Haldir rose and crossed around the coffee table. He knelt by the couch where she sat and tapped her shoulder lightly. She turned to him slowly and hid her eyes in his shoulder, sliding gradually to the floor and into his arms. "It's all right, love. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault."

"Daddy, Daddy," she whispered tearily, wiping her eyes on his shirt while at the same time nuzzling against him. "I was so alone and scared and from the first day I prayed for something to happen to get me away from there and back home but nothing happened and after a few days I prayed for death because that was all I wanted and I did everything I could to make them shoot me but they wouldn't and I had no way to escape and I thought I was going to go crazy if I had to spend another day going through the same thing over and over and over and over . . ." She broke into fresh tears. "I wanted to die . . ."

He kissed her head and rocked her gently back and forth. "Shh, it's all right now. It's all right."

"I'm sorry!"

"Don't be," he cooed, helpless rage and despair building in him. "Don't be. If it had come to that, I would rather have you die than suffer so much."

She nodded weakly and over the course of two long hours her sobs quieted and she slept. Haldir continued to rock her, however, and ran his fingers softly through her hair to keep her asleep.

[Is she all right?]

He looked over at Elladan. [She is exhausted. She will be better once she has had time to rest.]

[What happened?] Elrohir asked cautiously, aware that the subject would be very delicate.

Haldir sighed heavily. [. . . She was abducted and treated harshly.] The younger elves drew back in astonishment and gasped.

[Who would abuse a female in such a way?] Elladan wondered.

[It is how much the race of Men has deteriorated over the millennia,] Haldir replied. [Honor and chivalry have fallen badly. I have watched it happen . . . and I have failed to protect her.]

There was a contemplative silence broken by Dirnees' announcement. [The other wakes!]

[When did you wake?] Legolas queried.

[A moment ago. Were you not watching?]

Legolas rolled his eyes. [Forgive me. The conversation I was engaged in was far more entertaining than watching you sleep in a faint like a babe.]

Dirnees puffed up angrily, but as he was on his back, he could do little else. [I am no babe!]

[Silence!] Haldir hissed as Krystine stirred a bit and furrowed her brow in her sleep. [The one who wakes her shall face me!]

"Are these some friends of yours?"

All eyes turned to the woman who had propped herself on her elbow and was looking at the four visitors. Haldir nodded. "They are."

"I didn't realize there were so many Elves still here."

"There weren't. I was the only one for a time. They came from Valinor."

The four younger Elves were in an uproar instantly. They understood only one word from their friend, even if the word had been distorted somewhat by the millennia.

[You would endanger our home?!] Legolas roared, his voice cutting over the other three.

[I have done nothing wrong,] Haldir replied patiently. [I will show you why soon. However, you must be content for now with the fact that if there is no other of the race of Men that can be trusted, she can. I will vouch without doubt for her; she has kept my secret for sixteen years.]

[There is nothing you can show us that will make us trust one of her race,] Elladan growled. [Not after seeing what they have become.]

Haldir smirked. [Do you hold to that?]

As the younger Elves looked between each other nervously, Marie reached down over Haldir's shoulder to touch Krystine's cheek. They stopped throwing looks and nearly inaudible murmurs and instead focused as one being on the woman, who was all but draped around the elder Elf's neck. Even more shocking was the fact that Haldir, who had been known for his duty-conscious mind and who had categorically refused a relationship any more involved than the one he had had with Lord Celeborn--which had always revolved strictly around Lothlorien's safety--was actually tolerating this woman's behavior.

The four broke out into whispers once more and finally, Haldir could take it no more. [I am not hard of hearing.] The younger Elves had the decency to go pink in the face and look at the floor. [As if it is any of your business, Marie is an extremely affectionate person. I have grown used to such uncalled-for familiarity, but we are not involved.]

"What about me? I heard my name."

"It's nothing. They were simply making assumptions."

"Oh." She laughed. "Well you know, if you wanted to play a little joke on them . . ."

"I'll keep that in mind," he replied dryly, though the idea--now that he gave it some thought--might be worth going through with if only to see their faces.

[When are you going to show us this thing that will convince us she is trustworthy?] Elrohir asked.

Haldir was annoyed. He had planned to spend as much of the day as possible holding Krystine so that she would get the rest for what she needed to face next: the police. [For being immortal, you are in quite a hurry.]

[We have to find the soul!] Elladan snapped.

[You will not find it.]

That got their attention. [What do you mean?] Legolas demanded. [Why will we not find it?]

[The Valar sent me westward seventeen years ago. They have not contacted me since I found this place. Have they continued giving you instructions?]

All four shifted uncomfortably and exchanged looks.

[I thought as much. You will never find it if they do not direct you. So many of this race look alike that it will be impossible to find the soul.]

[She looks like the Evil,] Dirnees pointed out, indicating Krystine.

[And I can show you a dozen in the city who look similar to her. She is far too kind to be the Evil.]

[The Valar said---]

[She is not the Evil!]

[We will accept what you believe for now,] Elladan told him. [However,]--he shook his head--[if she truly is the Evil, we will kill her. And if you try to stop us, we shall be forced to kill you as well.]

Haldir was furious at these thoughtless accusations. Had he not been around the girl long enough to know whether or not she was the Evil? [If she was the Evil, the Valar would have told me and I could have disposed of her before they went to the trouble of sending you four here to vex me!]

There was a sudden silence and the elder Elf huffed angrily, putting a final end to the debate. Unfortunately, he realized too late his shouting would awaken Krystine, who stirred and stretched in his arms. Well, at least she had gotten a little sleep, even if it was not what could be considered ideal.

Krystine yawned and rolled over in his lap, lying still a moment before lifting her head and looking up at him. "You didn't have to sit here with me."

"You would have awakened if I hadn't stayed."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I hardly mind."

Behind him, Marie sighed heavily. "We should probably go to the police so they know she's all right."

Krystine looked to the other couch. ". . . What about them? If they're illegal aliens, won't they get in trouble?"

"They might," Haldir replied quickly, shooting a glance at Marie to quiet her and keep her from interfering. "You will have to make up a story of how you escaped all by yourself."

She nodded.

~*~

Krystine burst into tears.

On the other side of the two-way mirror, Haldir agonized silently that he was not there to comfort her. She had told them all she knew of the men, every little detail she could recall. But that still did not satisfy the police grilling her for information. They did not seem to care that the men were already dead, but preferred instead to remind her of the abuse she had suffered.

They finally took the humiliation to its ultimate point by telling--not asking, telling--her to describe how each man beat her. After five hours of being questioned relentlessly, when any other person would have madly ripped their hair from their head in their frustration, it was only then that she began to cry. They continued to pester her, seemingly cold to her shame and anxiety, until she shoved back from the table and stood, knocking her chair over backwards.

"What is it that you could get out of knowing that?!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, tears running in tracks over her red face. "Can't you just leave that in its corner?! Why is it imperative you know?! If you're sick enough to enjoy hearing about it to come after me yourselves, then you sure aren't the people I need to be talking to! I need someone who'll give a crap about me, not how many times I was beaten while tied to a tree!"

"Now Miss Hawkins, we're trying to help you---"

"Help me?! You can help me by not bringing it up at all! The fact that it happened is all you need!"

"We just want to be sure you were acting in self-defense---"

"Self-defense?! I was kidnapped and beaten and me killing all three of them to escape alive is not self-defense?! I rescued myself because you people sure weren't going to do it!"

"Hang on now---"

Without warning, the table split evenly in two and held for a brief second before exploding into a million splinters. Krystine stood her ground for a moment, then bolted past the stunned cops and straight out the door of the inquiry room into Haldir's arms.

"Daddy! Papa!"

Haldir, just as surprised to be witness to the table's abrupt destruction, caught her reflexively. But it was not long before her sobs refocused his attention and he attempted to soothe her.

"Please, take me away from here!" she begged.

"All right," he cooed into her hair, rubbing her back. "All right."


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