Recap of Tale 16 . . .
“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.”
Haldir did not care for surprises. Especially when he was in the supposedly controllable environment of his home. Surprises generally gave him headaches, like the one time Marie had temporarily housed all the kids on Krystine’s bus until their parents took them back because the vehicle had gotten stuck in the snow. The kids came very close to destroying the house–though Marie was oddly tolerant and even amused–and Haldir came very close to going utterly mad and killing them.
Therefore, while this was not on the scale of what that had been, it was still a surprise and still quite unwelcome.
“What is that?”
Krystine looked over at him blankly, as if he had perhaps taken leave of his senses. Her eyes were dark and tired, as though she had been up all night, and she answered him matter-of-factly. “An egg.”
“I know it’s an egg. What is it doing here?”
She rubbed her eyes and yawned. “Wraith laid it last night. She hadn’t had time to make a nest for it and was afraid, with it being December and wintertime, that the hatchling would freeze to death.”
“So she woke you up and had you put this large egg in my kitchen?”
“Papa, it’s not that big–I fit it through the front door easily enough–and this is Mom’s kitchen. You almost never cook.”
“My culinary skills are not in question. It’s not staying here.”
“Of course not. The cold linoleum isn’t good for it. I already made it a nest in my room; I’m having a break for breakfast before I take it there.”
He walked cautiously past her and the off-white egg that was lying at her feet like a well-trained dog, poured himself a fresh cup of coffee, and stood for a while, sipping at the solid black beverage (despite that he had never taken it this way prior) as he scrutinized the egg narrowly. He did not want an egg in the house. Not only was it strange, but it would be a huge mess to clean up if it hatched when no one was around to put it outside.
“Gee,” Marie commented blandly aloud as she walked past him with her hair styled in an ornate bun and dressed in the top half of a woman’s business suit as well as a pair of cloud-dotted pajama-bottoms, “if looks could kill . . .”
“I do not want an egg in the house.” He was unable to help staring at her attire as she passed. “Video conferencing?”
Holding a refilled cup of pitch black coffee, she stood on her toes to give him a quick peck on the cheek. “Yes. And whether or not an egg is in the house is not your decision because—“
“It’s not my house,” he finished, eyes on the ceiling. “I know.”
“Ah, I have trained you well.” Marie continued on her way, then paused in the doorway to the kitchen. “I think Krystine needs to go to her room to sleep. It’s too loud here. And speaking of loud, may I ask you to keep the boys quiet if they come back in? The meeting’s on break, but there’s still another hour to go.”
He rolled his eyes. “Sure, sweetheart.”
She smiled–“Thanks, schnookums.”–and disappeared out through the living room into the media room.
He went to Krystine and found her asleep on the bar, her half-finished bowl of oatmeal cooling in front of her. Shifting her back into his arm, he picked her up and carried her upstairs, laying her gently in her bed and drawing the covers to her chin. She sighed and rolled over onto her side immediately, that being her preferred position of sleep.
Just to the right of her bed, formed amongst an army of stuffed animals, was a nest made of straw and layered with dog and cat fur and bird feathers as well as several pillows to stabilize it while it sat and–he could not believe this–an electric blanket for a king-sized bed. It had that sharp smell of just being fresh out of one of those thick plastic bags they come in, so it must have been new and bought just for this one . . . simple . . . egg.
Going back downstairs, he retrieved the egg–to avoid being screeched at later and not because he cared–and brought it to the bedroom, setting it in its bed and tossing the blanket over it. Muttering, he turned the blanket on and went downstairs, where he snuck behind Marie to play a quiet game of Tetris.
She turned and hissed, “Haldir, I’m still in the meeting! Be quiet!”
“Then make this thing cooperate!” he hissed back, pointing at the television screen accusingly.
“Turn that off and go outside!”
Haldir growled but obeyed. Almost as soon as he opened the door he came face-to-face with Wraith and snarled. “Don’t you dare take up residence around this house. If you have a problem with your egg being indoors, talk to Krystine in a few hours when she awakens.”
With that he proceeded to ignore her even though she followed him into the trees and to the stream, where the other Elves were practicing.
[You look positively delightful,] Legolas commented, pausing in his aim at a target across the clearing.
[Why hello, Sunshine,] Elladan teased, stopping his sword a bare inch from Dirnees’ throat.
[. . . A late-blooming flower in Autumn . . . always the most beautiful . . .] Elrohir mused absently, his head bent over some old scripts from the Gondorian library beneath the house, obviously not paying the world around him much attention.
Haldir snarled. [This dragon laid an egg and Krystine brought it in the house to keep it warm!]
[What is the matter with that?] Legolas asked.
[It is an egg in the house!]
[So? We brought eggs to the Mountain Hall all the time,] Dirnees informed him, fighting off Elladan. [Spiders generally ate the parents and someone needed to take care of the hatchlings inside.]
[Yes, but there are no longer such spiders living here and those eggs were not as big as this dragon’s foot! There is plenty of room in the barn–I do not understand the need to keep such a thing indoors where it can make a mess!]
Elladan snorted at him. [You are one of the frenetic sort, are you not? When something happens that you do not like you grow childish.]
[None of us see a problem with an egg, albeit a large one, being indoors. The weather is growing cold and despite the dragon being warm-blooded, she must be more prepared to aid Krystine on a moment’s notice. The only way to do this and still be a mother with a conscience would be to ensure that even in her absence the egg would constantly be warm.]
Wraith walked past him to take a drink from the stream, nodding at Elladan’s words. After her drink, she meandered off through the shadows of the trees on what Krystine had termed a `patrol’.
Not that any of the Elves knew what it was she was supposed to be patrolling for . . . The only danger they cared about was the Evil.
[. . . By the Valar!]
All eyes turned to Elrohir, whose nose was still all but glued to the script he was reading.
[Well what is it?] Elladan prompted after a moment. [You know the rule: No swearing without reason.]
Elrohir continued to skim over the scripts. [I was just reading . . . I came across a lineage scroll . . . It is a full one rather than the usual family-by-family ones . . . I saw Krystine’s name . . . She is . . . related to us . . .]
[Related to us?] Elladan echoed, bending over his brother.
An instant later there was a scramble to get to the house. They burst into the kitchen, where Marie was making lunch in her suit and pajamas. She looked up and smiled at them as they entered.
“Ah, good! Lunch is almost ready! And the meeting’s over, Haldir, so you can go back to cussing inanimate objects.”
Elladan took the paper from Elrohir and shoved it in front of her. “Did you know of this?”
She squinted at the faded ink. “Oh, look, it’s my grandfather’s handwriting! He was very much into family trees and whatnot—“
Elrohir took the parchment back and pushed Elladan aside to speak to Marie himself. “Did you know your family line dates back to the Third Age?”
She frowned. “Well doesn’t everybody else’s too? All the western countries are basically of Rohirrim and Gondorian descent and all the eastern countries are of Haradrim and Rhunic descent, right?”
“Yes, but yours is a very important family,” Legolas insisted.
“It is likely the reason why the Library is under your house,” Dirnees put in.
“Really? Well isn’t that intriguing.”
Haldir snorted. “You four are going about this the wrong way. Marie has no interest in bloodlines.” He turned to Marie. “I’m sure you know who the great King Aragorn is, right?”
“Good. You are, through many generations, his granddaughter.”
Marie stared at him, then put her knife down and stared at him some more. Then she laughed and grabbed the knife again. “That’s a good one. For a minute, you almost had me there.”
“It isn’t a joke, Marie. It makes sense.”
“Uh-huh. Maybe to you. You’ll have to forgive me my skepticism.”
“Marie, listen. The Good and the Evil have only fought twice before. I was there both times. And both times, the Good was born as an Elf and the Evil born as a mortal. This time, in this Age, the Good could not be born as an Elf because there are no longer Elves here. So Krystine, being of an Elven descent, was the next best choice to represent the Valar.”
“. . . Right. You expect me to believe that? Even I know my family–assuming you’re right–was only begun from the marriage of an Elf to one of Men. Pure Elven descent? Bah.”
Elrohir and Elladan appeared over each of Haldir’s shoulders. “That is true,” Elrohir replied, “but why do you think that Aragorn was able to live so long? The Dunedain were indeed known for their long lives, but that was only because they were progeny of Elros, a half-elven and the twin of our father, Lord Elrond. As a half-elven, there is a choice offered between mortality and what you Men deem to be immortality. Elros chose to be a mortal while our father chose to be one of the Eldar. Elros died, but not before creating the Dunedain bloodline.”
“Aragorn was, in a slightly roundabout manner, of Elvish descent,” Elladan added, “even if he did not show it in any physical manifestation, such as his ears. He became King and married our sister, who chose to be mortal.” He paused and the twins both bowed their heads momentarily in reverence, then he continued on with his explanation. “So you are descended from the Elves, even if you no longer show signs of it.”
Marie frowned at them. “So you’re telling me that all that lineage junk you just dropped on me means that I’m an Elf in a Man’s body?”
“And that this is the reason why Krystine’s being pulled into whatever war she’s supposed to fight.”
“Oh, well then that makes everything all right.” She slammed the knife down into the sink, making all five of the Elves flinch at the loud noise of metal on metal. “Haldir, you know I hate the concept of destiny.”
“I do. But what is it you want me to do about this? I’m not a god, I can’t reverse time and make everything the way you want it.”
“It’s not about me, Haldir. It’s about Krystine. She’s eighteen–not even truly an adult–and suddenly she has to go and fight for a world that hardly even knows she exists because of fate?”
“One’s act of selflessness may be a drop in the ocean,” he answered, “but the ocean would be less without that one drop.”
Marie sneered in reply. “Don’t give me that philosophical jargon. This is my daughter we’re talking about. You think I’m going to let her march off to fight a in a war that has no significance to anyone but the Valar?”
“Whether or not you want me to go, I’m going.”
Everyone turned to the doorway, where Krystine stood. She was watching them with a wisdom generally reserved for the Elves.
“I won’t let you,” Marie insisted.
“You can’t stop me, Mother,” Krystine told her, “and you know it. I am aware of the power I possess and I am aware of how to use it. There isn’t a place you can put me that I can’t escape from . . . but I don’t know what category such strength puts me in. I am more than a child, but less than an adult. I am more than a Man, but less than an Elf. I am more than one of the Maiar, but less than one of the Valar. The time for war is fast approaching and I am ready.”
“Fast approaching?” Haldir echoed. “You mean . . .?”
She nodded solemnly, her expression calm and accepting of the pre-planned future her mother was trying so hard to fight.
“He is coming.”