Startracer, Starchild - Tale 8--> Live ammunition

Recap of Tale 7 . . .

All evidence supported what they had told him--Dirnees' pointing out her similarity to the Evil in their dreams, Elladan's noting how she attracted the worst of her race simply by being within a few dozen feet of them--but he had been too blind to see until Marie removed the veil from his eyes . . .

Krystine was the Evil.

Tale 8

Far beneath the sea, curled in adjoining caves that had at one time been part of the proud peak of Mount Rerir in the range of Ered Luin but were now hidden in the sand of the seabed, two creatures woke from a deep slumber. Two pairs of bright green eyes glowed in the pitch blackness as the beings rose and stretched, then peered at each other. Even with their undeniably superior eyes that could see in a new moon what one sees in an afternoon light they could not see now in this place where no light could enter.

Soft growls, rumbles, and snaps of fangs could be heard as the two conversed in their own language. Finally, both spat a burst of flame into the hallway and lit the path that led to the caves' exit. After a pause where the two stared at each other, one stepped from its cave into the hallway decorated with ancient art cracked by stress in the earth and moved along the gentle downhill slope, the other a few dozen paces behind to avoid the long tail of the first.

They stopped at a large, calm pool of water. It was their only exit from their beds, miraculously remaining mostly untouched over time. The first waded in a few steps and then placed the end of its snout on the water's surface. It slowly leaned forward, allowing the water to consume more of it. Finally, it had entered the water more silently than any stealth predator. And for its size, that was a considerable feat to achieve.

The second followed quickly but in that same silent manner. In the cramped tunnel consumed by salt water they moved surprisingly quickly with little more than their paddling rear feet and their wings. They eventually reached the open ocean of the north and angled themselves toward the surface, hardly noticing the change in temperature.

They came to an unexpected and very painful stop, colliding with a thick layer of ice at nearly full speed. Normally they might have fought with the barrier, but their business was urgent. Letting out snarls of rage and backing away, they turned to dive once more, going down several hundred feet and then to the south, constantly peering up to gauge the thickness of the ice as they went.

Upon discovering a thinner section they bolted for it, exploding into the sky and splitting to go opposite directions; one east, one west. Neither concerned themself further with the other and soon their thoughts focused on their destinations--on the beings they searched for once more, as they had so long ago.

~*~

"Jonathan, where are you going?"

He stopped and turned to the kitchen, forcing a smile on his face. "Just out, Mom. I won't be gone too long."

"How long is `too long'?"

". . . Just a few hours. I probably won't be home until after midnight."

His mother frowned. ". . . All right. But be careful."

He entered the kitchen and grasped his mother's shoulders. "I'll be just fine, Mom. I'm only going to be at the library checking up on free apartments out west."

She knew he had always wanted to go on a trip to the west and was not going to keep him from what he wanted. He was an adult, after all, and no longer the little boy she had looked out for. He was a man. "Okay. You better go, then. You'll be back sooner."

Jonathan managed another smile and then walked out the door, a normal school backpack slung over his shoulder. As soon as he stepped onto the street, his smile faded to a grim acceptance of his fate.

At a crowded street corner he paused and looked westward. "You haven't moved, Omega," he murmured almost to himself. "Why? Are you waiting for me to come to you? What do you have planned for me?"

He crossed the street and entered Central Park. After walking for nearly an hour, he paused and sat on a bench, looking out over the dead brown grass. It ususally looked pleasant, but this was not the summer . . .

He raised his head at several terrified screams and turned to the north, watching a huge shadow darken the ground. Lifting his gaze, he found himself staring into the sharp green eyes of what appeared to be a snowy white dragon. Except for its eyes, the only other sign of color was its black horns, talons, the inside of its ears, and the underside of its wing membrane, which were all black.

"Hello."

The dragon tilted its head as if considering him, then reached out tentatively and nudged him with its snout.

He smiled and pet its cheek. ". . . I remember you . . . Come, let us go find Omega and her little Wraith."

~*~

Krystine sat down on an aged tree stump and cried. Ever since her birthday Haldir had been acting so strange, so . . . distant. He hardly paid her any attention any more and it had come as a shock to her, for he had never had a problem with her before. She was even afraid to talk to him, for fear that he would yell at her to go away and never get near him again. It would break her heart, she knew, and she did not want that to happen.

"Papa, why? Why are you doing this? Don't you love me any more? . . . Papa . . . Papa . . ."

She was so deep in her self-pity that the arrival of an enormous shadow did not affect her until it landed with a thump. She startled and let out a squeak of surprise, staring up at the pitch black creature before her. Its white talons, horns, inner ear, and wing underside were the only other color on its entire body besides its piercing green eyes.

It stretched toward her, sniffing at her. She drew away with a whimper. ". . . Um . . . Hi?"

But then it struck her that . . . she knew this creature.

". . . Wraith?"

The dragon bared its fangs in a frightening parody of a smile and licked her face in long swipe of its ridged, forked tongue, drenching her in saliva more potent than a dog could ever wish its own to be.

"Ugh!" She wiped her eyes clear, then laughed. "Perfect! I can get out of here now!" She leapt to her feet and ran for the house, skipping through the door but stopping short at what she heard. It was her mother in the kitchen, yelling at someone there. Krystine crept to the door and peered into the room.

Her mother's face was red from all her crying and shouting. "How could you do this to her?! You've gone from treating her like some Persian queen to acting as though she's dirt!"

"Marie, I know you don't wish to hear this, but she's not what you think she is. She's the epitome of evil--the embodiment of it, if you will. She's extremely dangerous."

Krystine watched as her mother took three swift strides and slapped Haldir as hard as she could. Haldir's head snapped sharply to the side, his eyes closed in sadness, and did not move.

"How dare you!" Marie hissed in fury. "You have no right . . . no right . . . to say such a thing about my daughter!"

"It's true," Haldir murmured softly, without looking at her.

"It's not! I refuse to believe that my daughter is Satan!"

Krystine felt her eyes tear up. She did not yet understand the situation, but if Haldir thought she was the devil . . .

A gentle hand dropped on Krystine's shoulder and she barely supressed a yelp as she whirled.

It was Dirnees.

"Good?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Bad."

He tilted his head curiously, apparently listening to the continuing kitchen conversation, though he probably understood little of it. Still, he reached out and embraced her. She was momentarily surprised, but it was a comfort that she had not received too much of recently and was relieved to get it.

She did not resist when he led her into the den, where Legolas, Elladan, and Elrohir were knelt on the floor mere inches from the television, their attention riveted on the appliance. But then, as once, all three turned to look at her.

"You well?" Legolas asked, having picked up more English quicker than the other three.

Krystine shook her head. "He thinks I'm evil."

[It is has taken him long enough,] Elladan snorted, being able to understand English better than speak it.

Elrohir elbowed him sharply. [That is rude!] After a pause, he added, [Even if it is true.]

[She is not the Evil!] Legolas insisted.

[You have gone mad,] Elladan remarked. [If Haldir now believes it, what evidence do you have to back yourself with?]

[Is my heart not a good enough judge?] Legolas shot back.

[Hearts can be deceived,] was the sharp reply.

[Stop bringing your past concerns into this! You are condemning a living being to death!]

[A death she deserves for being what she is!]

[You fool! Even if she was, would you kill her for a destiny that she has no control over?! Would you kill Haldir for loving her?! Would you kill Elrohir for being your brother?!]

[Do not dare compare her to one of our kind! She is a creature of Morgoth and has no right to cause chaos!]

[Dare you to judge on looks alone?! What we perceived to be the Evil may have been completely wrong! What if we are the ones mistaken?! The Valar said that evil was as fair and exquisite as good!]

[But the other could have been mistaken for one of us! And never would evil wear the white of light!]

[If she had been the Evil, would the Valar not have told us so that we could have killed her before a battle between the spirits became necessary? She did not yet know her power--we could have killed her then! But the Valar said nothing! Why would they send us all here to protect the Evil?!]

As their bickering escalated, Krystine slipped away and up to her room. She grabbed her backpack and stuffed a few necessities in it. Then pulling on her long black trenchcoat, she slung the backpack over her shoulder and headed downstairs, exiting the house as though she was merely stepping outside, not walking away forever from the only home she had ever known.

Wraith stepped from the trees like a shadow detaching itself from its creator and walked over to Krystine, its wings folded against its sides. Krystine did not understand how it could walk without forelegs, but supposed it was the same way the dinosaurs had: good balance and a long tail. It probably helped that there was a small pyramid-shaped club at the tail's end.

Lowering its wings, Wraith balanced on the upper joint, where two extended finger-claws acted as braces steadied against the earth. Krystine moved around the dragon's wing and climbed onto its neck, settling herself between the flight muscles that attached to the wings.

As the dragon rose, Krystine took a final look back at her home. ". . . G'bye, Papa . . ." she whispered, tears escaping her eyes and sliding down her cheeks. She faced forward and cried tearily, "Go, Wraith! Take me away from here!"

~*~

Jonathan called home, cupping his hand around the mouthpiece to keep down the wind stirred by the white dragon's flight. "Mom?"

". . . Jonathan? Is that you?"

"Yeah. I---"

"Where have you been?! We were starting to worry!"

"Hey, look, I'm really sorry I didn't call sooner, but I found a really good deal on a house in South Dakota."

"Oh really?" Her voice was understandably skeptical.

"I mean it was so good I had to go see it. The seller was going to give it to a developer and I stayed the action for a little bit, but not long. I had to go right there or they wouldn't hold it."

"Jonathan Gabriel, are you lying to me?"

"No, Mom, honest. I promise I'll be home in a few days."

"How many is `a few'?"

"Two or three. I'll call if I have to stay longer."

"Two or three?"

"Yes."

". . . All right. Be careful."

"I will."

"I love you, honey. Come home soon."

"I love you too, Mom."

He hung up and slipped the cellphone into his backpack, then looked at the dark horizon. "She's moving," he said to the white dragon. "Do you think she's finally putting her plan into action?"

The dragon snorted.

"Can you reach Wraith?"

The answer was a soft hough.

"Then do it. The sooner we get this done, the sooner I can go home."


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