Recap of Tale 15 . . .
He frowned. “I thought I felt . . . Never mind.”
She grinned. “Don’t worry, Papa. I’ll protect you.”
“That’s not what I meant. Besides, I’m supposed to be protecting you.”
Her grin softened to a smile as she faced forward, then disappeared altogether as she stared at that clouds ahead of Wraith. “That’s just it, Papa,” she murmured to herself. “Your strength, even combined with the others, no longer matches even a quarter of the power of the one who is dangerous to me.”
He had been surprised and, to be honest, elated to see her. He had heard her assurance that she was only there for fun and known that she was telling the truth, but he had never imagined that he would have the good luck to be in the same place as her while she was visiting his territory.
They literally bumped into each other.
“Oh! I’m sorry!” she apologized, turning from one of her guardians to look up at him. Time seemed to freeze as her expression remained contrite, then shifted to pure delight. “Jonathan!”
She flung her arms around his ribs, squeezing him in a firm hug. At first he was stunned by this display, but then relaxed and returned the embrace warmly. It felt nice to have her in his arms again–very nice. But the dark glares he was getting from her guardians would not let him enjoy the reunion.
Speaking of guardians . . .
He lifted one hand, using the other to keep her head pinned to his collarbone, and pressed with his middle finger the vulnerable spot behind her jaw and beneath her ear. She flinched and tried to pull away, but he easily held her. If she used her telekinesis she could probably free herself, yet she did not.
“. . . Jonathan . . . Please don’t . . .” she whispered pleadingly as the pressure started to render her unconscious.
He lowered his head to whisper in return, “You have nothing to fear, angel. I promise that I will not hurt you. I will not hurt anyone today.”
Once sure she was out, he lifted his head and faced the Elves, who had begun to grow alarmed at what they were seeing and approached. [Maintain your distance, children of the Valar, or I shall strike you down in my own defense.]
The tallest–and probably oldest–of the five, took another step forward. [Do not dare injure her, Startracer!]
He laughed. [It has been quite some time since I was called that. In fact, you must have been around in the First Age to know that name.]
[How long I have been alive is none of your concern. You will give me the Starchild before I take her from you.]
He could hardly believe his ears. [You? You dare threaten me when a mere tenth of my power is enough to crush you into unidentifiable pieces? Silly Elf, you make the most unwise threats.]
[Return her at once!]
He smirked and looked down at the limp body he held against himself in his arm. [Yes, return her.] He used his free hand to grab her chin and force her head back to look at her peaceful face. [She is so delicate, is she not? To be in control of such power and needing only a small, fragile body like this one to house it. The ease with which I could snap her neck in two is ridiculous. Yes . . .]
He laughed again. [The Valar would be angry with you indeed if she were to die right now. She is at my mercy and you let it happen. Foolish Elflings, putting her in such danger when it is your job to guard her from it.]
She started to shift in his grasp and make unhappy mumbling noises. [Ah, she does not trust me. Well, I suppose it is for the best in the long run. Cannot have her becoming attached to me, now can we? Else she would not be able to fight with that conscience of hers–blasted thing prevents one from doing so much without a shred of remorse . . . Glad I am not in possession of one . . .]
Krystine twitched and then jerked, looking around wildly and then up at him. “You didn’t . . .”
“I promised I would not,” he answered.
She blushed. “I’m sorry I didn’t . . .”
“Don’t be. I’d rather you not.” She blinked and he tapped her nose. “Ah! I have a gift for you. Follow me.” She trailed him to a pile of backpacks, where a few people were collecting their own.
“Aw, Jonathan,” teased a boy. “Found yourself a girlfriend?”
“Sure did, Rob,” Jonathan replied without looking up as he dug through his own pack. “Here it is. I believe you like dolphins?”
She accepted the pale blue and white stuffie with wide eyes and hugged the soft item dazedly. “. . . I love dolphins. How . . . did you know?”
He smiled faintly and slung the pack over his shoulder, leaning in to kiss her forehead. “Lucky guess?”
She smiled in return and hugged him again. ” Thank you.”
“Krystine!” a voice barked sharply.
She turned to the Elves, who were standing about fifteen feet away, and tilted her head. “. . . Papa . . .?” she murmured curiously. Facing him once more, she smiled again and drew away. “Bye.”
He gave a single, acquiescent nod. So the old Elf had a more personal tie to her . . . Interesting. “And Krystine . . .” She stopped a few feet away and looked at him questioningly. “. . . The time draws ever nearer. I hope that you have been preparing for it.”
She frowned and gave a reluctant nod, then continued on to rejoin the Elves, who glared after him as he headed away with his friends. He was not intimidated in the least and his mild expression proved it. They could not hurt him any longer; the only one who held any sort of danger for him was more willing to be his friend than his bitter enemy.
Krystine was positive she had never been fussed over like this before. Haldir had taken her dolphin and was scrutinizing it angrily while the other four moved her head back and forth and muttered to each other about the point Jonathan had used to knock her out.
“Stop!” she cried, snatching her dolphin away from Haldir and cuddling it as though it had been frightened. “I’m fine! He didn’t do anything to me!”
“Krystine, he is the Evil!”
“I know that!” At their surprise, she elaborated. “When I left home, I met up with him. We talked.”
“You mean he tried to kill you,” Haldir growled.
“No. We talked.”
“About what?” Elladan exploded.
“About our purpose here. I knew nothing and he told me everything.”
“I bet he did,” Haldir grumbled. “Like how weak you are and—“
“No, *** it!” she snarled. ” He told me the truth! And I know it’s the truth now because everything he said is making more and more sense the longer I think about it and remember! It was nothing about me being weak or fighting a worthless cause, it was about our history!
“Now stop babying me! Believe me, if he had done anything to hurt me I would have given him whatfor before any of you could have blinked. And with that taken care of, may we please move on? I have coasters to ride!”
That put Elladan on her side almost instantly. “Good idea!”
Haldir hissed, but let her lead them off to the roller coaster she wished to ride first. Elladan followed her, babbling happily about the things he wished to do while in the park, but though his voice was excited his eyes were narrowed, observing her every move with a critical view. Elrohir and Legolas matched Haldir’s pace, leaving Dirnees to trail meekly behind the rest of them.
[Has he bewitched her?] Legolas asked.
[Bewitched her so that we might leave him alone?] Elrohir added.
[No,] Haldir answered. [Nothing like that. But something he said to her when she left before must have inspired her confidence in him or she would have attacked him on sight.]
They were relieved to hear it and Elrohir moved on.
[Why call him `Startracer’ and her `Starchild’?]
[It was a designation mentioned once by the Valar and carried on by those who were there to hear it. Krystine is the Starchild because she is of the stars–the champion soul of the Valar. He is the Startracer because he is not of the stars and could only hope to follow them for eternity.]
[A curse?] Legolas guessed.
[A prophecy. He will never be allowed to join the stars.]
They rode the Great Bear first, which was four seats across on a train of roughly twelve connected rows. Krystine was disappointed that the line for the front was so insanely long, but was almost as happy sitting in the middle of the train. Elladan, Elrohir, and Legolas would be riding with her.
“I’ll ride a bit farther back with the Elfling,” Haldir volunteered, indicating a trembling Dirnees, “just in case there’s an . . . accident.”
“All right,” came the acknowledgement.
They boarded the ride and Elladan and Legolas, who was definitely showing signs of enjoying roller coasters the longer he rode them, sat on the outside while Krystine and Elrohir, who was not adverse to coasters like Dirnees but appeared to prefer watching them from solid ground, were on the inside.
Krystine looked over at Elrohir. “For being his twin, you aren’t much like Elladan.”
“Elladan is insane,” was the dry reply. “I was not . . . blessed . . . with such a free nature. I am quiet and analytical, like our father, not loud and spontaneous like our mother. And frankly, I am glad of it.”
On her other side, Elladan made a rude noise.
She snorted. “Hey, on that note, are your parents are still married?”
Elrohir tilted his head curiously as the train left the shelter and started up the hill. “Of course they are. Except in one instance very long ago, Elves marry only once in their life.”
“They do?” A matter-of-fact nod. “Then how do two so different people tolerate each other without getting angry enough to separate?”
“I am really not quite sure,” Elrohir answered. “But as a rule, Elves do not let themselves get frenzied as easily as you mortals. Plus, Mother is not as excitable as Elladan is. None of us are positive how he got the way he is.”
She laughed, changing it to a yelp as the train descended the hill and flew on over the heads of the people walking below. It curled among the trees, charged through a loop, and went through three corkscrews before reaching the end of the ride and coming to a nearly abrupt stop.
Because no one trusted Dirnees to stay put if he was left alone while everyone else was on a ride, they went on to ride Trailblazer for his sake and he asked roughly nine times if there were loops on it.
“No, Dirnees! There are no loops on this ride! It has a few sharp corners, but it’s basically a family ride, which means that children under five years of age ride this and like it. You’ll be perfectly safe—Here, Papa, let me sit with him this time. I’ll show him it’s safe.”
Krystine popped into the car with Dirnees and pulled the bar down over their laps. “Now, you didn’t mind that wooden coaster in Six Flags, did you?”
“. . . Not really.”
“Well this is just like that, only on round metal rails.”
“. . . Okay . . .”
Dirnees survived the ride with a few squeaks to his credit and that one shriek of terror when they had gone down underground into pitch blackness for about ten seconds. He had grabbed her and squeezed her in a death grip, but she did not blame him for it because she had forgotten to warn him.
They rode Sidewinder, which was little more than a Two-Face that was not suspended, then made their way to the back of the park–riding the wooden coaster Comet on the way–where two more wooden coasters, Wildcat and Lightning Racer, were. Wildcat proved to be extremely uncomfortable–it was being run too fast by the attendant and gave Krystine a headache.
Lightning Racer, however, was a great deal more fun than Wildcat. It pitted red Lightning against green Thunder on twin tracks that mirrored each other’s every twist and turn. Even Dirnees was interested in the concept.
So Haldir, Legolas, and Elladan got in line for red Lightning while Krystine, Elrohir, and Dirnees got in line for green Thunder. They made sure to board for the same race and Krystine turned around from the seat she had all to herself to peer beyond the two Elves, then over at the other train.
“I think we might win,” Krystine informed her companions as the trains left the shelter and curled around to the hill.
“How so?” Elrohir queried.
“I’m pretty sure that we have more men in our train and men are generally heavier than women. This will work to our advantage because every roller coaster works by using the laws of gravity and the heavier an object is, the faster it will fall, or whatever. So we’re in good shape, I think.”
It turned out that, whether or not it was due to gravity, Thunder won the race. It was the start of much prodding at the losers, especially concerning Dirnees, who apparently adored the ride and was so ecstatic to go again that he tried coaxing the others into challenging him into another race.
“Looks like someone is no longer afraid of roller coasters,” Haldir noted to Krystine, who shook her head.
“The competition went to his head. He was thinking about that, not the ride. I bet you if we put him on the Wild Mouse he’d wet himself.” She indicated the towering mini-coaster they were passing that swung the riders around corners so sharply they nearly felt throw free.
Haldir watched it, then nodded solemnly. “Perhaps.”