Hyellnassë: The Glass Thorn - Ch12: Investigations
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Chapter 12.) Investigations
"And all have joined in one endeavour
To bury this poor Thorn for ever."
- William Wordsworth
December 1, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
Recap: At the request of Soronhín, Kallindo has left Fanlítsë. It's been about four and a half months since the last chapter.
Ránendë put her glass of wine down absently and crept closer to where her sister was leaning on the balcony rail, looking out toward the restless sea. It was a gray day. The muted silver of Calina's hair mixed with the view of the leaden waters below and the misty air which swirled around the hills until it seemed as if she would at any moment slide into the picture and disappear. The thought sent a slow chill up Ránendë's spine.
As Ránendë watched, a youth from the village strode up the length of the balcony and handed Calina a steaming mug of wassail. Calina accepted it with a smile that, though it cheered the youth, did not bring any warmth to Ránendë. All throughout the house and grounds, guests that had come to help the Regent's family celebrate the first day of Hrívë* danced, gamed, toasted, or sang. But Ránendë could not help but feel that, amidst the sounds of gaiety, Calina walked within her own world of silence. There was a stillness that clung to her; stillness wholly foreign to Calina's nature. But the worst of it was that no one else seemed to notice.
A joyful summons interrupted Ránendë's silent watch. Her husband was in need of a partner for the next round of alouette* and she soon found herself seated by the fire, cards in hand, trying to make a passable attempt at concentrating on the game. Needless to say, her performance was less than brilliant. It was only through incredible luck, and a bit of Ehtúro's skill, that they managed to lose by just one hand. After the game, Ehtúro pulled Ránendë into a quiet corner and, with a sly grin, let his hands come to rest on her waist.
"And this from the lady who used to boast of her skill! Where were you today, dear wife? Not in the game, I'll wager."
Ránendë sighed tiredly. "I am worried about Calina. She is not well."
Ehtúro cocked a questioning eyebrow. "What has brought this mood upon you? I thought your sister was almost fully recovered. Why, she seems-"
"She seems all things comforting and convenient," Ránendë countered bitterly, "But I do not believe it is the truth. She is not herself."
"Well." Ehtúro let the word hang as he thought how best to follow it up. "These things do take time. Perhaps we have been overly optimistic and she is not altogether well. But at least she is in the process of healing."
Ránendë gazed on her husband with a bland eye. "Ehtúro, she was a sopping mess for two days - only two days, mind you - and then she got out of bed, took a walk on the beach, came home, and never let another tear fall or another sigh escape her lips. Over the past four months she has conducted herself as though she never cared for Kallindo at all."
"Perhaps her love was not true, as she deemed it."
"Nonsense!" A few nearby elves started at her outburst. Ránendë lowered her voice to a whisper as she continued: "I want my sister back, Ehtúro. All I have now is an apparition, with so many false smiles and brittle laughs. I would not be surprised if one morning she simply did not wake up. She has not mourned; she has not stopped loving; she has simply hidden her face. Perhaps she is trying to live up to her own standards: to not let herself be toyed with by fate. But whatever she is doing it is changing her into someone I do not recognize."
Ránendë's concern began to be mirrored in Ehtúro's own eyes. "Has your father done nothing?"
Ránendë sighed roughly. "He does not seem to notice, or will not allow himself to notice. He is letting himself accept her false display of contentment. Of course, he wishes it so much to be true. It is hard to see past wishes."
"What are you going to do?" Ehtúro asked his wife gravely.
"I mean to write to Kallindo, ask him to return."
Ehtúro tightened his grip on his wife's waist. "Wouldn't it be best to try and speak with Calina first - help her to begin her mourning. And are you sure it would be wise to cross your father? He is a wise man - surely he would send for Kallindo if he could not see any other way."
"Do you ask me not to do it?" Ránendë eyed her husband with a stoic expression.
Ehtúro let his forehead rest against Ránendë's. "Nay. But please, speak with your father about your fears. He should know of this."
It was some time later before Ránendë had a chance to speak with her father, who she found watching over the merriment in his courtyard. Unfortunately, just as Ránendë began to speak, Calina made an appearance among the dancers, looking quite frustratingly normal. Soronhín, though he took his eldest daughter's concerns very seriously, was obviously not going to be awoken to any immediate action. He promised to speak with Danneniûl on the matter and watch Calina more closely, but Ránendë could extract no further promises from him.
And so it seemed, that was that. Ránendë was still set on her own course of intervention, but she would be forced to take up the endeavor alone.
"No, Alassar, I've had enough." Kallindo waved away the proffered wine goblet.
"Come now - it is a celebration! Be merry!" Alassar pushed the goblet into his friend's hand before tumbling into a chair beside him.
Kallindo's tone became dry. "I am merry enough, thank you. And, unlike you, I will also be merry tomorrow morning when your head is splitting open and mine is blessedly intact. I will also have a double cause for merriment at the memory of the ways in which you will no doubt make a drunken fool of yourself before the night is over. Besides, if I get drunk, who will be left to drag you home?"
Alassar chuckled. "Do not give me that condescending look. You know I only get drunk on feast days."
"Yes," Kallindo smiled ruefully, "And always in the middle of a large crowd of witnesses, who will derive much pleasure form your misbegotten antics. So by all means, continue."
"I shall," Alassar agreed jovially. "And in order to do so I think I shall revisit that excellent barrel of ale. Shall I bring you a glass of blackberry cordial, m'lord? Would that suit you?"
Kallindo smirked at his friend's supercilious tone. "Why yes, actually, that would be very agreeable."
Alassar drunkenly hoisted himself from his chair and wandered off toward another chamber of the city's feasting hall, where the barrels were set up. As soon as he was out of Kallindo's sight his wobbling steps straightened and he paused to rethink this plan of attack.
Not only was Alassar not in the least bit drunk, but he was also not intending to be drunk at any time that evening. He had made this determination earlier in the day, knowing that his faculties would be required for a higher purpose. That purpose was to get Kallindo, himself, mightily tipsy; so tipsy, in fact, that the quiet elf would finally loosen his tongue and tell Alassar why, in the name of all things good, he had shown up on the doorstep four months ago with all his worldly possessions in hand.
Of course, Alassar had been more than willing to help his friend. It had been good to spend the past months with an elf whose roots went back, like his, to Endórë. But his curiosity could only be restrained so long. Kallindo had arrived on his stoop like a brooding cloud: tired, weary of mind, and close-lipped. After a few days in the city his mood had improved and he had undertaken to find some small employment to provide recompense for his food and shelter. But Alassar saw then, and could still see, that a weighty matter hung persistently about Kallindo's neck. When questioned, all Kallindo would ever say was that the story was not his to tell.
As Alassar leaned against the cool stone wall of a crowded passageway devising his next plan of action an elf walked by with a small cask on his shoulder. A devious grin spread across Alassar's face. Yes, that would do just the trick.
"Mahtan! Hold a moment. Is that what I think it is?"
The elf with the cask turned, a broad smile on his face. "You've a good nose for trouble, Alassar. Don't tell me you want to start on this so early."
Alassar caught up with the elf. "Nay, but I know someone who is in grave need of it, if you take my meaning."
In a few moments Mahtan found a place to set down the cask and spouted a small amount of the deceptively sweet, deceptively light spirits into an empty goblet. With hearty thanks, Alassar accepted the cup and went on his way to find Kallindo, making a small detour to hide the potent liqueur in a flood of blackberry cordial.
Once the process was begun, getting Kallindo drunk turned out to be quite an easy affair. After the first secret dose, Kallindo becamse amenable to almost anything Alassar put under his nose. Unfortunately, this inebriated state did not bring about the desired results. During the first few rounds of drink Kallindo merged flawlessly with the festal atmosphere, which in the immediate company was a mixture of slurred song and exaggerated story telling. But as the imbibing continued Kallindo grew gradually silent, morose, and glowering. Finally, after watching the goblet slip listlessly from Kallindo's hand as the elf slumped back in his chair, Alassar decided that his mission had been a failure.
"I'm sorry friend," he murmured as he pulled Kallindo to his feet, "I tried. Your secrets are safe. Let's go home."
Kallindo didn't put up any resistence; he was too preoccupied trying to remember the third stanza of a melancholy old ballad. However, Kallindo didn't help the journey either. His feet were clumsy and Alassar was barely halfway to his home before the weight of Kallindo leaning against him became a bit too much. Alassar, minstrel that he was, had never been an intimidating physical specimen, and Kallindo, though lean, was still marked by a warrior's strong, imposing frame.
They were inching past a small fishpond, surrounded by a bed of smooth, pale stones. Alassar lowered Kallindo down onto the stones as gently as he could. Kallindo laid flat on his back, feet in the road, finishing off the last strains on the finally remembered ballad. When he finished Alassar sat down wearily beside him.
"I see your wisdom now, my friend. Next time I'll do the drinking."
Several moments of silence past as Alassar let his body rest. He then turned to Kallindo, ready to make the last leg of the journey home. He paused. Kallindo had something in his hand that was attached, by a piece of twine, around his neck. He was holding it up to the light of the stars.
"What is that?"
"My thorn," Kallindo spoke softly, almost soberly. "My memory."
Alassar puzzled over the statement. "How can a thorn be your memory?"
Kallindo's head lolled to the side and he sighed. "It is my memory of her. I wouldn't want to lose it, so I keep it here." Kallindo tucked the thorn back under his tunic.
The words brought Alassar to full alertness. Unsure of what to ask next he stalled for time. "That's very sensible of you... you wouldn't want to lose it."
"No, I wouldn't," Kallindo agreed suddenly, as though it were a new idea to him, "I wouldn't, would I..."
"What would she do if you lost it?" Alassar probed.
Shrugging, Kallindo dug his fingers into the layer of stones beneath him. "She wouldn't know if I did. I won't see her again, Alassar. Perhaps never."
"But you would like to?" Alassar made a guess. "You would like to see her again?"
Kallindo frowned, looked at Alassar groggily. "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about this. Am I?"
"Tell me the lady's name and I'll tell you if you're allowed to talk about her."
Kallindo shrugged. "She made my thorn."
"Calina made my thorn."
Alassar fished into his memory. `Ah yes, the Regent's daughter. Pretty little maiden at the masquerade.'
"Why won't you see Calina again?" he questioned aloud.
Kallindo sat up abruptly and turned to face the water. Then he lowered his spinning head into his hands. A raspy laugh clawed out of his throat. "Why would a beautiful, young she-elf fall in love with me?" He spread his hands out, questioning. His next words were barely a whisper: "I bring sorrow everywhere."
"She loves you?" Alassar exclaimed.
Kallindo nodded slowly, sadly.
"Why, that's wonderful!" Alassar grabbed Kallindo's near shoulder and turned him, so they faced one another. "Isn't that wonderful? I thought... didn't you want-"
"I can't love her!" Kallindo wailed, slumping against his friend's shoulder.
Alassar stilled. "Can't, or don't?"
Kallindo grew still as stone. "Are those the same?" he finally slurred against Alassar's shirtsleeve.
"No, my friend. They are most certainly not. How do you know you can't love her unless you try? And why wouldn't you try unless you don't love her?" Alassar frowned. That hadn't come out right. He hadn't drunk much that evening, but he felt that his mind wasn't in very good working order. However, Kallindo didn't seem to be scrutinizing the details of his logical analysis.
"I don't... I don't know?" Kallindo struggled to his feet and looked around as though he didn't know how he had arrived there. "I can't or I don't... I don't want to talk about this any more."
Kallindo's face had hardened. Alassar suddenly felt ashamed at the way he had toyed with his friend. Kallindo would be very displeased in the morning.
"Come on," he finally said, standing up. "Let's go home."
The stars had already revealed their glory and only a few guests remained, lingering over their farewells. Ránendë wove through the various chairs and tables set up inside, helping her father's few servants restore some meager order to the house. Most of the work would be left for the morrow, but some little could be done that night. Above the shifting of furniture and clink of empty glasses Ránendë heard Soronhín, Ehtúro, and some of the other elves, conversing in the courtyard as they dismantled the wine tables and corked up the barrels.
Walking aimlessly from the room, Ránendë almost bumped into Cora, who was carrying a handful of mugs. As a friend of Calina, Cora had been seen more and more frequently in the Regent's home and was almost an installation herself.
"Beg pardon," Cora laughed merrily as she held the mugs, many of which were still in various states of fulness, safely to her chest. "Did I spill any on you?"
"No, no. I'm sorry, I don't seem to be watching where I step."
"You must be tired, after helping your amil prepare for the evening's festivities," Cora replied with a pretty little shrug. "It's no wonder your feet are getting away from you."
Ránendë offered the younger maiden a genial smile before moving past her down the hallway. But she had only taken a few steps when a thought struck her.
"Cora, would you speak with me a moment?"
Cora looked back over her shoulder, a curious expression settling down around her eyebrows. "Certainly. Let me just run these to the kitchen."
Ránendë nodded. "Please meet me in my room."
While Cora went off to the kitchens, Ránendë took the stairs up to the second floor of her old home, went to the rooms that were once hers, and waited. It was not many moments before Cora returned to her.
"What is it?" The she-elf questioned softly.
Ránendë sat down on the bed and gazed at her toes, thinking of how she would soon have to don shoes for the cooler weather. She was not quite sure where to begin, not knowing Cora very well herself.
"Have you noticed," she finally spoke, "anything curious about Calina's behavior?"
Cora looked long and hard at Ránendë before wrinkling up her nose in frusteration. "I couldn't say, really... We are, I suppose, speaking of her predictament?"
"Well, you know that I did not even know her for very long before all of this happened, so perhaps I am not the best judge..."
"Yes. Go on." Ránendë urged.
"It seems such an ominous things to say, but it's as if she doesn't even remember him. She never speaks of him, never seems to be thinking of him. Sometimes my scoundrel of a younger brother will mention Kallindo in some careless way - and of course, he does not know better since I haven't told him what happened - and I'll wince, thinking how terrible it must be for Calina to be reminded. But she never looks a hair out of place, doesn't look as though she even knows that she should be uncomfortable."
Cora looked at Ránendë as though she was searching for some sort of confirmation. She continued softly, "But I have never known an elf who was grieving, so perhaps this isn't out of the ordinary."
Ránendë tugged at a lock of her golden hair impatiently. "I do not think that Calina is well. And I am glad to know that I am not simply imagining things."
"You are worried for her?" Cora asked, distressed. "I do hope she will be alright. Is there anything I can do?"
Ránendë thought for a moment. "I do not think she will speak to me. She is trying to convince the whole family that she is well, I think. Could you talk to her? Try to get her to speak of Kallindo? I do not think she has allowed herself to mourn, and that can be very dangerous."
Cora nodded seriously. "I'll try."
A smile graced Ránendë's lips. "Thank you. It is good to know that I have an ally in this battle. Very well, then, if you discover anything could you tell me, please?"
Cora agreed and, after a brief moment of determined silence, the two she-elves went back downstairs filled with an air of camaraderie and purpose. They parted ways with a resolute handshake when Ehtúro came to collect his wife for the walk home.
"Are atar and amil in the yard?" Ránendë asked Ehtúro as he swung her cloak over her shoulders.
"Yes, they are bidding the last of the guests farewell. I believe Calina is with them also."
"Good. Then all I must do is find Falas to bid him good-bye."
Ehtúro smiled broadly. "I saw him dash toward his room with a new toy in hand: apparently someone thought it would be good to give your brother a dull-edged dagger to play warrior with."
Ránendë rolled her eyes heavenward. "The Valar preserve us."
In a few moments, the couple found themselves peaking surreptitiously around the frame of Falas' door, watching the re-enactment of a glorious battle. To Ránendë's surprise surprise, she found that Calina was not in the yard after all, but was obligingly taking on the role of the enemy: a wicked balrog. However, her role-playing was much less than satisfactory. Falas had scaled his bed and was, with a pillow for a shield, preparing himself to pounce on the vile beast below him when he paused, let his shield arm drop to his side, and plopped down on the bed in frustration.
"Calina!" he pouted.
Ránendë's breathing stilled as she took in her sister's state. Calina knelt near the bed with her profile to the doorway, a garish piece of red cloth draped over her shoulders for the purposes of the game. Again, Ránendë was struck by the disjoint between Calina and her surroundings: gray, muted stillness stubbornly opposing the blaze of red cloth and the warm lick of the hearth fire. The difference was made even more disturbing by Calina's listless pose and unseeing eyes; her gaze bored into the far wall, as though she was seeing, beyond it, some strange and desolate vision. For the second time that day, a chill feeling crept over Ránendë. She had never, in the four months of what she now deemed her sister's personal role-playing, seen Calina allow herself to slip away like that.
"Calina, are you playing or not?" Falas spoke again, tossing his pillow-shield aside.
As though it was done with great effort, Calina drew herself back from wherever she had been and gave Falas a tired smile. "I'm sorry, where were we?"
Falas gave Calina a brief reprise of the details up to that point.
"And I am to be the balrog?" Calina questioned.
Falas stared at his sister with a perplexed expression, as though he had had to repeat these directions several times already.
"Yes," he finally replied.
Exasperated, Falas punctuated the word with a kick of his leg and accidently upset a long-forgotton glass of apple juice that had been sitting near the bed. The juice sloshed its way into Calina's skirts. In a startling display of temper, Calina leapt to her feet and grabbed her brother by the shoulders.
"Falas! You know better than to keep food on the floor - look at my skirts! This is one of my best dresses! If it is ruined I'll make you work to pay for another one." Calina glared at Falas for another moment then, with a quick twist of her foot kicked the empty glass into the fire.
A tense moment past as Falas stared up, wide-eyed, into his sister's angry face. Ránendë stood, imobile, wishing she could see Calina's face from her position. She felt Ehtúro shift behind her uncertainly.
Then, as though a gust of wind had sifted through her, Calina shivered and dropped her hands from Falas' shoulders. She took a quick step back and with a soft cry hurried to the fire, trying clumsily to rescue the glass from the flames. Not thinking to retrieve the poker, which had been used previously as a spear in one of Falas' games, Calina burnt a finger and then collapsed, defeated, onto the hearthstone, breathing erratically.
Falas, still startled by his sister's reaction, approached Calina cautiously and laid a timid hand on her slumped shoulder.
"It's alright, Cali," he patted her shoulder, "I miss him too."
With a great shudder Calina pulled her brother into her arms as a flood of tears began their slow, silent march down her cheeks. She made no sound, simply rocked back and forth gently, stroking her brother's cropped, silver hair. Falas, sensing his sister's distress allowed himself to be coddled.
Ránendë and Ehtúro stood frozen in the shadows, unsure of whether they should withdraw or go in to comfort Calina. Their moment of indecision was suspended as they focused on Falas' soft whispers.
"You'll be alright, Calina. Atto said you would be. And I won't mind it if you yell sometimes, if it makes you feel better."
Calina didn't respond; the rippling fire had snared her gaze and she was lost again.
"Calina?" Falas pulled back to look at Calina's face. "Calina?"
Calina started, blinked her eyes back into focus. "I'm sorry," she stumbled, "I'm sorry."
Ehtúro moved silently away from the door and, reluctantly, Ránendë followed him. In the dim light of the hallway the worry and anxiety which each felt flowed freely between them. Without words, they both moved toward the stairs, in search of Soronhín.
1. Hrívë: Quenya for winter; 72 days between modern 1 December and 10 February.
2. Alouette (4 players): a medieval card game, teams of two
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. "illuminated"
Kallindo: Q. "noble heart"
Ránendë: "moon pool"
Ehtúro: "spear victor"
Alassar: "joy stone"
Falas: "beach, shore"
Soronhín: Q. "eagle child"
Danneniûl: S. "fallen embers"
Endórë: Q. "Middle Earth"