Hyellnassë: The Glass Thorn - Ch10: A Delicate Dilemma
Names/Pronunciations/Misc will come at the end of each chapter.
`*' signals a footnote
"text" signals dialogue
'text' signals thoughts
Chapter 10.) A Delicate Dilemma
Has no one said those daring
Kind eyes should be more learn'd?
Or warned you how despairing
The moths are when they are burned,
I could have warned you, but you are young,
So we speak a different tongue.
- W. B. Yeats
July 19, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
Recap: Ránendë has been married. At the wedding, Soronhín overheard two elves speculate on whether or not Calina was in love with Kallindo. He was rather disturbed by the possibility.
"You are in a dark mood."
Danneniûl approached her husband from behind and propped her chin on his shoulder, circling his waist with her arms. Soronhín made a non-commital noise in his throat and covered Danneniûl's hands with one of his own. His other rested against the frame of one of their many bedroom windows. It was just after dawn.
"Are you going to speak to me of this great evil today," she spoke again, "or should I allow you to brood for another six?"
Soronhín turned in his wife's arms and raised two questioning eyebrows. Danneniûl graced him with a shrewd smile.
"Your thoughts have been fermenting since the day after Ránendë's wedding - don't try to deny it. Now, if you're simply recovering from the shock of watching your first child marry, then tell me straightway and I will leave you to it. There's nothing I can do for you on that count. But if the malady lies somewhere else, I will have it out of you. I know how to unseal those lips."
A wry smile spread across Soronhín's face. "You are so sure of yourself?"
Danneniûl chuckled before leaning in to place a light, good-morning kiss on her husband's lips. "You cannot keep a secret from me, my love."
Soronhín seemed to deflate, pulling his wife tightly against himself and burying his face in the crook of her neck.
"I am perplexed by a very agitating dilemma," he finally murmured.
Danneniûl stroked her husband's cropped, silver locks, waiting for him to say more.
"It concerns two people that are very dear to us both."
Was it true, then? Danneniûl had had her own vague worries on that point, but hadn't given much weight to her suspicion.
Stepping back from her husband, Danneniûl led him over to their bed. She took up a seat by the headboard and pulled him down next to her. Soronhín laid his long body out across the bed and Danneniûl drew his head to rest on her lap, weaving the fingers of her left hand through his hair once more.
"Tell me of it, and perhaps together we will find a way through it."
Soronhín brought his wife's free hand to his lips before beginning the tale.
"What a diligent artisan I find at work today. But can there truly be a beautiful young lady under all those grim layers?"
Calina looked up from where she had just finished spinning out a disc of sea-blue glass. She had a thick leather apron on, to protect her from the heat, as well as an odd sort of visor. There was no doubt in her mind that she was also covered in an unbecoming layer of sweat, accented on occasion by dingy smudge-marks. As her eyes adjusted to the brilliant light from outside, she recognized that it was Kallindo who stood leaning casually against the frame of the kiln room door.
"Have you been standing there long?" she inquired.
"Some short while," Kallindo nodded. "You are fascinating to watch."
For all its awkwardness, Calina was very glad that she was wearing the visor at that moment. It hid quite nicely the pleased smile that unwisely leapt to her lips at his turn of phrase.
"I'm glad you approve of my art," she replied conservatively, removing the visor and setting it on one of the work tables. "And yes, by the way, there is a young lady under all these layers. But I couldn't say whether she is beautiful or not - she rather needs a bath before the epithet could be applied, don't you think?"
Kallindo paused in his inspection of one of Calina's newly finished projects - a moderately sized, stained-glass window. Turning to the maiden he looked her up and down in a very business-like fashion before proclaiming with authority, "Never lovlier."
Calina ruthlessly crushed the desire to grin like a mad fool as she moved to hang her apron on a nearby peg. Staring at the taupe wall she took a moment to compose her emotions. Then, turning back to Kallindo, she said in a light voice, "I must show you something. Come."
In a small room attached to the kiln, Calina had a wide array of oddities and trinkets arranged on rows of shelves. In the corner, a table sat with a curiously shaped, veiled object upon it.
"Would you like to guess what it is, or shall I simply show it to you?" Calina inquired.
Kallindo studied the peculiar lines of the covering. Whatever was hidden beneath was of no regular shape. It was perhaps two spans high*, three long, and the cloth over it seemed to rest mostly on various small points which jutted out like minature tent poles from the piece.
"I am bewildered, I must confess."
Calina smiled triumphantly and drew the cloth away. Kallindo stared at the sculpture for a moment before chuckling at the inside joke. There before him, mounted on a simple platform, was a gnarled locust branch, wrought out of clear, pristine glass. A window was situated in the far wall, and the light that shone through it splintered delightfully among the smooth, slanting thorns and textured contours of the branch.
"Very appropriate," he finally murmured. "I approve."
"I was pulling slender pieces of glass for a raised design on another piece, and they reminded me of that confounded thorn I stepped on. I thought it would make for a very elegant design."
"It does... quite lovely," Kallindo mused as he peered closer, to look at some of the details of the bark.
Unfortunately, the entrance of Calina's father waylaid his inspection.
"Ah, there you are."
Kallindo straightened up to greet his friend. "Are you ready to depart?"
"Yes," Soronhín replied. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. It was a letter of some delicacy, and had to be sent with haste."
"No matter," Kallindo shrugged off the apology before turning back to Calina. "Farewell, we'll leave you to your work."
Calina was about to ask where the two were bound when Soronhín told her that her mother was asking for her, and that it was a matter of some urgency. Without knowing quite how it happened, Calina found herself swept out of her workshop, into the courtyard, and up the steps to the main house before she could bid Kallindo farewell. With a curious feeling that she had missed something important, Calina ducked into the cool shade of the house and went in search of her mother. She hoped the matter would not be so pressing that she couldn't delay for a moment to wash her face and hands.
Danneniûl did send her daughter off to the washbasin as soon as she laid eyes on her. But it was only a few minutes before Calina returned and stood expectantly, wondering what was astir. Danneniûl seemed hesitant as she continued to roll up tidy bandages, which Falas would no doubt run through in a few short weeks. Without knowing what else to do, Calina sat down across from her mother, who stood at one of her work-tables, and opened the conversation.
"Atar said that you needed me rather urgently. What is it?"
There was a pause before Danneniûl spoke. "Could you take those other pieces of cloth and start making them into strips?" She gestured toward a small pile of sturdy, plain cloth at the end of the table.
Calina, now quite confused, reached over to pull one of the pieces toward her. There was a pair of scissors sitting on the table as well. As she snipped along one edge of the cloth at two or three inch intervals, she eyed her mother speculatively.
"This is not an urgent matter, amil, and you cannot convince me otherwise. Why did you need to speak to me?"
With steady movements, Danneniûl wrapped up the last bandage, placed it on top of the others in a round basket, and set the basket aside.
"Come," she moved from behind the table and took her daughter's hand. "Walk with me."
Silence reigned between the pair as Danneniûl led Calina through a small doorway that opened on the hillside, down through a trellised garden, and into the cool shadows of the trees. Not a word was spoken until they came to a convenient fallen log and settled onto it. Ribbons of soft wind whispered around them and through the delicate branches of the birch trees.
"Your atar and I are worried."
Calina stared down at the moss beneath her feet. "Hmm," she finally murmured, nudging a small stick around with her toe. "Am I to know what about?"
"I do not say it is true, but we have heard some gossip..." Danneniûl trailed off as she caught her daughter's less-than-enthused expression. "And we would like to hear from you if there is any substance to the report."
"And it is?" Calina prodded.
"That there is more between you and Kallindo than friendship."
Calina's eyes went suddenly ablaze. "If someone has dared to question my honor, I'll-"
"No, no, no, child. It is not of that nature. Be calm." Danneniûl took her daughter's face in her hands. "It is only said that, perhaps you are in love with him, and he with you."
Tears leapt to Calina's eyes before she could repress them. She did no allow them to fall, but the wetness of her eyes told her mother much before she even spoke.
"No," Calina finally breathed, blinking rapidly and pulling her face away from Danneniûl's warm hands. "He is not in love with me."
"Ah, so that is where the wind lies."
Without a word of censure, Danneniûl drew Calina into her arms and allowed her to cry what few tears she would let fall onto her shoulder.
Calina felt brittle. She was perched on a chair between two of the pillars which enclosed the sitting room on the north and east sides. She faced inward, toward the round fire-pit in the center of the room. The light of the setting sun was on her back, but it did not warm on her. Soronhín and Danneniûl sat side-by-side on a settee, facing her, but she did not meet their gazes. She wanted to be angry at their inquisition, but she found she didn't have the energy for it.
"I do not understand why you and amil think it necessary to hold counsel on this matter." Calina finally met her father's eye. "I am in love with Kallindo. I did not mean to lose my heart to him, but is it done; there is nothing else to be said."
"There is much to be said," Soronhín replied gently. "You are young and your acquaintance with him as been short. There is no need for this to continue further."
Calina lifted her chin stubbornly. "I do not pretend to be hopelessly lost, nor do I pretend to be more mature than I am or to know more of love than I do. I am not so carried away. But if you think that it would not hurt me gravely to be parted from him, you are wrong, atar. I understand the difference between infatuation and love. I do not use the terms carelessly. I love Kallindo. I do not want to put away the feelings I have for him."
"Yet it is the wisest choice. I do not mean to be cruel, little one, but he does not love you." Calina flinched perceptibly, but her father continued, sure that it was the best thing. "And it is probable that he will never love you. Nay, that he cannot love you! Your heart is too precious to me, Calina - I will not stand by as you throw it away!"
"I am not throwing it away! It is the purpose of every heart to love. And I will love; I will hope. It is enough, atar... please..."
"And what if your hope is fulfilled?" Soronhín pressed on. "What then? You will bind yourself to an elf almost your father's age? Separate yourself even further than you already have from your peers, and from the simple joys of your youth, which will never come again? Marry your fate to that of an elf who gave his heart to another before you were even born? Calina! You are only a hundred and twenty-one years old! ...He has lived for well over two millennia. The match would be ill made.
A single tear escaped Calina's tightly closed eyes and Soronhín watched with an aching heart as it slid down her cheek. Danneniûl squeezed her husband's hand reassuringly before standing up and moving to crouch down in front of Calina.
"Dearest, we love you. We will always love you." Danneniûl brushed the tear away. "And we say these things because we love you."
Calina opened her eyes and gazed over her mother's head to where her father sat dejectedly. "I love him," she whispered, "And I do not have the strength to withdraw my heart. It is done. I do not know what else to say."
Soronhín stood and walked slowly from the room. Danneniûl pulled her daughter up from the chair and kissed her on both cheeks.
"Go rest. I am sure we will speak more on this matter in the morning. Do not sorrow, Calina. We will find a way to understand each other, I am sure. But it will wait for the morning. Go sleep."
Calina allowed herself to be sent to bed, but she laid awake beneath the covers until timid streaks of dawn began to light up the eastern sky.
Soronhín rubbed a hand across his face before sitting down on the window seat. He and Calina had stumbled into each other in the library very early that morning, both being unable to rest well. His interview with her then had not been any more productive than their conversation the night before. He only hoped that what he was about to do next would prove more useful. And he prayed fervently to the Valar that it would not do any lasting harm. He had the feeling that his wife would not be pleased with him.
A soft knock sounded from the doorway. Soronhín composed his expression and rose to meet his guest.
"Kallindo, come in. Thank you for coming so early."
Kallindo gave a small smile. "I was more than willing to come. You deserve it after the grief I gave you over those birds. I was shocked into wakefulness by the very fact that you had finally trained one of them to fly where it should instead of disappearing to start a nest with bits of paper from the letter it carried. Well done."
Soronhín could not help a wry smile slipping onto his lips. But it was a tainted pleasure, to be proven correct at this of all times.
"I have something very grave of which I must speak with you, my friend."
Kallindo immediately sobered, taking up residence on a nearby chair and focusing his attention on his host. "You know that I am willing to serve your family in any way I can. Speak on."
With a great deal of discomfort, Soronhín revealed what he knew of Calina's current state in as few words as possible. After some skirting around of the issue, he knew that he had finally communicated the full import of the situation when Kallindo's face paled visibly.
"She - Calina loves me?"
Soronhín let out a tired sigh. "Aye. At least she thinks so."
Kallindo chuckled mirthlessly. "Oh, she does much more than think. Calina always knows what she wants."
Both elves sat silently for a few moments.
"I can only assume..." Kallindo got up abruptly and began pacing the room. "I take it that you do not approve of her choice."
Soronhín stood as well. "It is more complex than that. You should know, Kallindo, that I hold you in the highest esteem. But as far as I can see, your situation does not leave you at liberty to offer Calina what she seeks. It is hopeless, is it not?"
Kallindo stood at of the windows, gazing intently toward the horizon. His hands were clasped behind his back, the fingers of his right hand curling and flexing. A lengthy pause extended once more between the pair.
"What if it were not?" Kallindo finally questioned, almost to himself.
"What if it were not?" Turning to Soronhín, Kallindo cleared his throat and unclasped his hands, then clasped them again. "Soronhín, you know how much your friendship, and the friendship of this entire family has meant to me. And Calina, in a few short months, has entirely gained my respect and affection. I still do not understand the workings of my own heart, nor do I know that it is healed or that it will ever heal. But if, by taking your daughter's hand, I may prevent her from experiencing the pain that I have experienced, I would do it with my whole heart. I do care for your daughter a great deal, though I have never looked beyond friendship. And I would do my best to make her happy. If that is what you would have of me, I will do it without hesitation."
Soronhín was dumbfounded. He had not expected this sort of selflessness. It took him a moment to compose his thoughts. In the end, all he could manage to say was, "I could not let you sacrifice yourself in this way."
"It is certainly not a heavy sacrifice," Kallindo replied. "If it even deserves that title. To have a companion and a purpose is not a burdensome lot. And certainly it is a blessing to be able to bless those who you love."
"Still, it is not what you deserve, nor what Calina deserves. She knows what she wants, but she also knows when she is being mollified. She does not know that I am speaking with you and I think she would have my head if she found out. She would not want your pity."
Kallindo dropped back down into his chair. "Then what is to be done? Do you mean to leave things as they lay? For me to pretend I don't know and hope that the matter resolves itself somehow?" He smiled impulsively. "Perhaps, if I set myself to the task, I could learn to love her. She is daring enough, I daresay she would teach me how if I asked it of her." Kallindo chuckled softly, shaking his head and letting it fall into his hands.
Soronhín did not meet his friend's gaze as he spoke. "Nay. I would not have it so. Ai! And this is where I come to the meat of the argument. I hate to ask this of you, my friend, but... I would like you to leave Fanlítsë. Her love is still new - it may yet die under a cold wind. Take yourself from here and let her forget. Let her be young. Let her grow up slowly"
Kallindo raised his head and studied Soronhín's face for several moments. His heart chilled somewhat as he began to understand the root of the matter. "You are playing with fire. What if it is too late? Are you willing to risk her health - her very life - to keep her from a match that you believe to be ill-suited?"
Soronhín met Kallindo's gaze sharply.
"That is the crux, is it not?" Kallindo spoke softly. "I am too old for her? My friend, stranger matches have been made." Soronhín opened his mouth to defend himself, but Kallindo carried on. "But I do not blame you. I see the reason in it - I would tend to agree with you. And I see that you are trying to protect your daughter. Because of this, and because of my respect for you, I will leave. But if anything ill should befall her because of it, I will defy you and return. She is a dear friend, and has my loyalty, even as you have mine. I hope I do not have to choose between them."
With a grave nod, Soronhín placed a firm hand on Kallindo's shoulder. "As do I. But I do not want you to follow your loyalties blindly. Take some time to decide what you think is best. This is your life as well. I will not run you from the village."
A crooked smile lifted the corner of Kallindo's mouth. "That is one small pleasure, at least. I will wait until the morrow to depart, but I do not think I will change my course."
After a few more moments of strained conversation, Soronhín walked with Kallindo out into the courtyard. They faced one another with grim expressions, unsure of how to depart. Their silence was interrupted as Calina stepped from her kiln-room, where she had sought refuge to think. Upon seeing Kallindo's back, Calina froze and was flooded with the strong urge to escape back into her dark sanctuary. But the impulse was overcome, and with what she hoped was a quiet expression, she approached the pair, bidding them a congenial good morning.
Calina found herself unable to meet her father's eyes, but she sought out Kallindo's gaze hungrily. She felt that if she could only have a kind glimpse of him, and a light word, she would be able to survive the day ahead with a smile on her face. Her hopes, however, were dashed when she caught the fleeting mixture of emotions that tumbled across his usually placid face. Calina would never have been able to sort them all out, but at the forefront she recognized a clear streak of pity. The realization hit her like a blow in the stomach.
"Oh, atar, you didn't!"
Calina turned to her father, hoping to find that her fears were groundless, but his eyes gave her no solace.
"Atar, how-" She took a few steps backward. "I have to go, I- I have to go."
Soronhín watched helplessly as his daughter walked briskly from the courtyard and fled down into the forest.
1. 1 span = 9 in = 22.86 cm
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. "illuminated"
Kallindo: Q. "noble heart"
Soronhín: Q. "eagle child"
Danneniûl: S. "fallen embers"
Falas: S. "beach, shore"
Ránendë: Q. "moon pool"