Recap of Tale 5 . . .
He managed to pry her arms from him and tilted her chin up. ” Krystine, it’s nearly two a.m. You’ve had a very long day and you need to rest. I promise that I won’t leave.”
“Cross your heart?”
“Hope to die,” he confirmed, kissing her forehead. “Now go to bed.”
“Will you tell me about Middle-earth?”
He did not know why it would interest her, though she did enjoy history a great deal. “Sure, love. Whatever you want.”
Krystine stumbled downstairs at seven a.m. and tiredly poured herself a glass of milk, ignoring the coffee that had just begun perking but already smelled rather nice (she hated coffee; it smelled far better than it tasted, in her opinion). The cold beverage woke her up and she looked outside blearily, her eyes clearing when she saw what was outside.
Giggling, she ran back upstairs and dressed in a few layers of pants and shirts and socks, then pulled on her tall snow-boots and her snow-gloves and her heavy drawstring-hood coat. Then she dashed outside around the back of the house and freed the dogs to play with them in the six inches of white powder.
Inside, Haldir drifted leisurely from sleep into wakefulness. He had heard the front door shut and decided that he must have slept in (the only window in his room faced west, so the sun did not wake him as soon as it did Marie). Glancing at the digital alarm clock by his bed, he was surprised to find that it was only seven-thirty in the morning. Marie never got up before nine if she could help it and he knew she had not planned on going anywhere that day.
Rising, he dressed and went downstairs into the kitchen, peeking into the other rooms along the way. Finding no one, he poured himself a cup of coffee and put three spoonfuls of sugar in it as well as a little milk, stirring it absently (Marie preferred her coffee to be black like a moonless night and it subsequently tasted very strong, which was too much for him). Sipping experimentally at the light dirt-colored drink he found it exactly to his liking and, looking out the window above the sink, saw that the driveway was covered in snow.
Just as he was thinking about how Krystine loved snow and would be ecstatic when she woke, he saw Anca dash by with three snow-covered puppies in tow. It was only a moment before Elen rushed by with the other two, who were also covered in snow. He frowned; Marie had locked the dogs in the kennel the night before, he saw it for he had been there speaking to her. How had they gotten free?
He went to the front door and opened it, stepping out onto the porch. It was fifteen below, but as he was an Elf he hardly noticed more than the initial blast of the cold air when he left the house. His eyes immediately fell on Krystine, bundled in her black coat and throwing loosely-packed snowballs at the dogs, who retaliated by knocking her over to get snow on her face. She went down with a shriek of laughter and warded off the puppies as they crawled all over her in a frantic attempt to lick her face.
“Hi, Papa!” she called when she noticed him. “Come play!”
“Krystine, what are you doing up so early?”
She tried to get up, but on her back it was almost impossible for her to move agilely enough to rise that way. So she flipped to her stomach and pushed herself to her feet, walking over to the porch. “What?”
“I said, what are you doing up so early?”
“Oh.” She looked around and then squinted up at the sky, rubbing the back of her head thoughtfully. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Yeah. It was really weird. I felt scared, like something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what because I wasn’t dreaming. It was just a feeling.”
“Aren’t you tired?”
“Mm . . . No.”
He regarded her skeptically, but she showed no obvious signs of fatigue. He let it go even though he could sense some exhaustion from her. It was not too much and he was sure that she would be napping throughout the day as she tended to do while she watched television. At least she had graduated from school the past June and did not have classes to be concerned with or he might have considered putting her to sleep through the use of pressure points.
Krystine grabbed his hand and tugged it. “Come on, Papa! Come play in the snow with me!”
“Love, I have a mug of coffee in my hands and I don’t have shoes on.”
“Well hurry up!” was the petulant but still respectful answer.
“All right, all right. Let me put my boots on.”
“Yay!” She released him and bounced back down the stairs into the snow, flopping backward and moving her arms and legs to make a snow angel.
He smiled, then turned and went back inside. Finishing off his coffee as he pulled his boots on, he rinsed the mug out and placed it in the dishwasher, then put a jacket on and headed outside.
It was about that time that the four younger Elves woke. Separated into two rooms, they still all awakened at the same time, mainly due to the raucous barking of the hounds that was going on outside. They got up and went down into the kitchen (they had been instructed to wait there if they woke before anyone else), taking note of the snow almost immediately.
Curious about the hounds’ ceaseless barking, they stepped outside and stopped short upon seeing Haldir engaged in a rather vicious snowfight with Krystine. They stared, unable to believe their eyes. Was this the same Elf that had regarded even other Elves visiting his realm with distrust and generally only laughed when it was at another’s expense? The same Elf who subjected every single being he met to intense scrutiny?
[How strange,] Legolas murmured thoughtfully. [Life among mortals has actually softened him a great deal.]
[He is going to hurt her,] Elrohir noted.
Sure enough, a snowball cracked Krystine in the face and she flopped backwards and was still. Haldir ran over and knelt beside her worriedly, taking in her cold-pinkened face and her closed eyes. “. . . Krystine?”
Her eyes opened and she grinned evilly–“Gotcha!”–and splashed snow on him. With an indignant yelp he leapt to his feet and dashed back to the barrier of snow he had built to protect himself, leaping over it and dropping to the earth to avoid being struck directly.
They went on for another hour before Marie appeared and was given a clear view of the battle. “How long have you two been doing that?” she shouted, though it was hardly necessary.
Haldir turned to look at her and one of Krystine’s snowballs splattered across the side of his head. He did not seem to notice. ” What time is it?”
“Only an hour then.”
“You’ve been out here an hour?! It’s nearly twenty below! You’re both going to catch your deaths! Especially you, dressed like it’s sixty degrees! Come inside, both of you!”
Haldir maintained a bland expression and did not bother to remind her that he was immortal and not affected by extreme temperatures. He looked over at Krystine in her `fort’, creating a store of snowballs while they talked. He took note of the tiny shiver that ran through her constantly and sighed. Even if he was impervious to the cold, she was not.
“No!” Krystine cried in dismay, looking sadly down at her array of perfect snowballs. “Mom, Mom, may we please stay out a little longer? Until I run out of snowballs? Please?”
“Not a chance.”
Krystine bowed her head in defeat, but Haldir was not so ready to give up anymore. “Oh, come on, Marie. It’s her birthday.”
Marie caved. “. . . All right, fine. But only until you have no more snowballs left.” She went back inside and the four Elves on the porch continued to watch, mouths partially agape, as Haldir returned to the snow battle. It was a full half-hour before they finished and Krystine agreed to go inside.
“Are you all right?” he asked, concerned. “Your lips are blue.”
“I’m okay,” she answered. “I just need some hot chocolate.”
That was her answer to everything; hot chocolate. He followed her into the house, where Marie had predicted Krystine’s needs and was warming a kettle of water. Two plain glass mugs with a few spoonfuls of chocolate powder each sat on the counter. Haldir had always understood that Elven mothers could predict their child’s (or children’s) needs, but until he had begun living with Marie and Krystine he had not comprehended that mortal mothers possessed the same ability, even if only to a lesser degree.
On the stove, the kettle started whistling. As usual, he simply put his hands over his ears to muffle the sound (it was not the volume that bothered him as much as it was the pitch and intensity). However, the younger Elves were not so versed in the confined noise.
[What is it?] Elladan growled, rubbing one ear as he reached for his sword. The others made similar comments.
[It is called a kettle,] Haldir informed them. [The first one to draw their weapon spends the day outside in the kennel with the hounds.]
They looked at him, then followed his example. Expressions of relief flashed across their faces.
[But it is very loud,] Elrohir pointed out. [If it will not stop . . .]
[It will stop. Marie insists on letting it go for a moment before removing it from the stove top. There is no need to draw your sword in the bounds of the house to silence an inanimate object.]
Krystine slammed her hand on the countertop and slid off her stool, muttering to herself. Raising her voice, she called to the house, “Mom! This kettle is driving me crazy! I’m going to pitch it out the window!” Grabbing the knob that would cut the burner off, she gave it a near violent twist and removed the kettle from the coil, carrying it to the counter, where she poured the water into the mugs. “Do they want any, Papa?”
[Do you four want this?]
[What is it?]
[It is `hot chocolate’. Unfortunately, as none of you have tasted chocolate, I cannot give you more of a description than that.]
Willing to try, they agreed. Krystine fetched mugs, spoons, and chocolate powder for them.
[All right, now before any of you get the brilliant idea to attack the mug, I am warning you now that this drink will almost certainly be hot. Do not scald yourself and then get angry. You have been forewarned.]
Three Elves stirred the drink and sipped cautiously at it, finding it to be quite delicious. Haldir stared at the fourth, untouched mug, then looked around the room for Dirnees. He spotted him standing in front of the stove, apparently mesmerized by the red coil. He thought the younger Elf had enough sense to identify the red on black to mean that it was hot, as one would see of the embers in a fire.
However, Dirnees was not as wise as Haldir and did not make the association until he had put his fingers on it. He let out a pained yelped and quickly jerked his hand away from the coil, trying to get rid of the feeling by brushing his fingers on his tunic. Naturally, that only made it worse.
“What happened?” Krystine asked as the other four Elves stared at the one who was making such a fool of himself.
“He burned himself on the coil, the moron.”
“Oh!” She jumped from her stool and grabbed Dirnees’ wrist, dragging him over to the faucet. “You poor thing! Here! Hold still!”
[Be still,] Haldir commanded. When Dirnees continued to wriggle, he snapped in fury, [Be still, boy!]
Calming, Dirnees allowed Krystine to put his wrist beneath the water coming from the faucet. It ran down his palm and over his fingers, soothing the burn. “Stay there,” she said, running from the room.
[Do not move,] Haldir echoed.
Krystine returned with a first-aid kit and set it on the counter. She made quick work of the injury, placing a `second-skin’ over the burn and then wrapping nearly the entire finger. When she finished she smiled. “There. All better?”
Dirnees stared at his finger. It no longer looked like his finger, though it was obviously still there. Most importantly, however, the pain was gone. There was a pleasant coolness on the burn. [It does not hurt anymore,] he murmured, wonder in his voice.
[That is the power of the mortals’ medicine,] Haldir answered. To Krystine he said, “He says the burn doesn’t hurt anymore.”
It was then that Dirnees remembered his manners. Turning to Krystine, he took her hands in his and bowed slightly. [Thank you very much.]
“He says thank you,” Haldir translated. It felt rather odd to him to have fallen into the role of translator so easily. Perhaps if he had not been the only Elf that had not gone to Valinor, he would not have been so willing to do it.
“Well he’s very welcome. It was the least I could do.”
[She says you are welcome. Now sit down and drink your hot chocolate.]
Dirnees obeyed, stirring the drink briefly before scrutinizing it more closely. [It looks like mud water.]
[I did not say it was perfect,] was Haldir’s annoyed response.
Dirnees lifted the mug, sipping cautiously at the brown liquid. He paused and rolled the taste around in his mouth and head, decided he liked it, and swallowed it.
Does it even get that cold in California? I mean, I wouldn’t know; I live on the east coast in the mountains and it gets colder than that here, but I always heard California was relatively warm. Can anybody provide me with clarification?