Hyellnassë: The Glass Thorn - Ch14: On the Brink
Disclaimer: I don't own Middle Earth or any of Tolkien's creations and I'm not making any money.
Names/Pronunciations/Misc will come at the end of each chapter.
`*' signals a footnote
"text" signals dialogue
'text' signals thoughts
A/N: Remember that I do not claim to know anything very particular about the geopgraphy or borders of Valinor. I've made up another city, another town, and the name of the province is made up.
Chapter 14.) On the Brink
"But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet"
- William Butler Yeats
December 5, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
Recap: Three days since the last chapter. In an attempt to overcome her sorrow, Calina has chosen to return to her apprenticeship with the glass artisan Lady Calamau. Meanwhile, Kallindo has been giving much thought to his present trouble...
Kallindo walked down the cool hallway toward the warm light of the kitchen, but he did not enter it. Leaning instead against the frame of the door, he watched as Alassar - who sat at the table, surrounded by various waxes, oils, and rags - expertly re-strung the viol* cradled in his lap. It was a beautiful instrument; it would make a fine addition to Alassar's steadily growing collection.
Alassar finished with the last string and set the viol lovingly onto a swatch of velvet on the table.
"Welcome. I'm glad you have returned."
Kallindo nodded his acknowledgment of the greeting. Two mornings before, his head full of many tangled thoughts, Kallindo had left the city. He had gone before sunrise, leaving Alassar with no word of his departure, or any clue as to when he would return. His feet had taken the Middle Road southward, and by the afternoon of the first day he had found himself in Calina's small cave, which she had shown him that summer. The crispness of the wintry stone and the hum of the waves below had seemed to clear his mind, but there were still questions that were, as yet, unanswered.
"I'm sorry," Kallindo finally spoke, entering the kitchen and taking a seat opposite Alassar.
"I'll forgive you, I suppose," Alassar murmured with a half-smile.
The two friends stared at one another, then at the table. Kallindo cleared his throat and leaned forward onto his folded arms.
"I've made a rather horrendous mess of things, haven't I?"
Alassar's brow rose. "Considering the circumstances, I would say you've acquitted yourself remarkably well."
"What?" Kallindo's own brow made an ascent. "You've decided I wasn't such a great fool after all?"
Alassar grinned. "Oh, a fool undoubtedly! But it takes uncommon greatest not to play the fool at whiles throughout ones life. And I'd wager that your bout has all but run its course. It's only those who never realize they were foolish to begin with that are the true fools."
"That's comforting, I suppose," Kallindo replied dryly.
Standing up, Alassar gathered his supplies from the table and packed them away in a leather satchel. Then, slinging the pack over his shoulder and picking up the viol with tender care, he went to put the newly acquired instrument in its place among his other treasures in the upper room. Kallindo waited in the kitchen.
When Alassar returned he sat down across from Kallindo, placed his folded hands on the table before him, and gazed at his friend with a serious air.
"What did you discover while you were away?"
Kallindo screwed his lips up and then relaxed them; brought his hands up on the table and drummed unconsciously with his fingers on the worn wood.
"I think... no - I know... that is... I want to..." Kallindo looked up distractedly and saw how much amusement Alassar was drawing from his current performance. "Oh, hang it all!" he cried, letting his face fall into his hands
Alassar laughed freely as he reached across the table to pull his friend's hand away from his face.
"Forgive me. It must be a revelation of vast proportions to give you so much trouble in the telling of it." Alassar suppressed his mirth. "I will be perfectly serious; come, speak. It will not seem so terrible once you have given voice to it."
Kallindo raised his head and looked morosely at his friend. A moment past before he corrected his posture, straightened his tunic restlessly, and gave a curt nod toward the beckoning hand of Fate. He took a deep breath, then another. Alassar waited with great expectation.
"If I were to address... only my own wishes and happiness... I would marry Calina."
A heavy silence followed this declaration. Alassar watched in wonder as his friend's expression shifted between softness and grim uncertainty.
"I do not wish... to forever live as I have lived. I long to share myself with someone, and as I dwell on thoughts of her, I find more and more that she is someone who I want to share myself with, as I had begun to do through our friendship. She would make me very happy, I think. And if she were my wife, I would try my utmost to make her so. But..."
"Yes," Alassar prompted gently.
"I still do not think that my offer would be as it ought to be." Kallindo paused and searched the far wall of the room, waiting for the right words to present themselves.
"How can I ask for her hand - ask for her life, eternal - without being able to say that I love her? When last we spoke, you implied that my regard for her was warmer than I would admit. But whether I love her now, or could grow to love her as she deserves... it all seems quite damning, really."
Alassar cocked his head in confusion. Kallindo gathered himself for yet another explanation.
"I thought I loved once. If I did indeed love Oloriel, but I come to love Calina, then what constancy do I have? If I did not, in fact, love Oloriel, but was utterly convinced that I did, then what perception do I have of my own heart? What faith can I place in my own judgement? - None."
Alassar leaned heavily on the table, tracing the rough grain of the wood with his eyes. The answer seemed plain to him and yet it was hard to express in a plain manner.
"We elves," he began slowly, "are steeped in the idea that a love which seeks the bond of marriage is as unique an experience as the bond of marriage itself. And much of our history tends to support that claim. Yet, is it not the great rule of those who delight in measurements, and reasoning, and proofs that the truth of a claim cannot be ascertained simply by looking at many examples, but that there must be an indisputable progression, from one piece of wisdom to the next?"
Alassar's reasoning did not seem to make a great impression upon Kallindo, but he continued to press forward. "Love comes in so many different forms and ways; I do not think that the presence of one would exclude another... To experience a binding love twice in a lifetime is rare, but you yourself know it is not completely unheard of."
Leaning back, Alassar pushed a hand through his hair, reaching for words. "Is it... Do you doubt yourself because you believe that if your first love faded, than any other love might be as unstable?"
This last question penetrated Kallindo's thoughts and he mulled over his answer for a few moments. "In a way... yes," he replied softly.
This answer gave Alassar a small bit of firm ground to work from: "But your love for Oloriel did not fade - you consciously put it aside, did you not? To spare her?"
Kallindo looked up quickly. "How do you know this?"
Alassar smiled faintly. "You were very much in love with her... I remember. But you did not fade. It was beyond my expectations, and that of many others. You have a very strong heart - it is capable of miraculous things, I think." Alassar's face brightened as he warmed to his theme: "Do not fret yourself that it is somehow defective. To discover love once more would not be a damnation, it would be a triumph!"
This declaration gave Kallindo great pause. It was a new way of looking at the world, and provided a much more hopeful aspect.
"I do not think I deserve such praise," he finally murmured, haltingly, "But I thank you."
Alassar waved aside Kallindo's gratitude, glad that he seemed to have pushed his friend's mind in a more helpful direction. "I think that is enough on that trying subject for now. You have not broken your fast, have you?"
Kallindo realized then that he was hungry, and so Alassar hunted up the leftovers from his own breakfast, earlier that morning. After securing the provisions, it was agreed that some fresh, though cold, air would be preferable to the enclosed warmth of the kitchen. Donning thick cloaks, the pair headed for the small balcony on the upper floor, ready to brave the cold morning.
Alassar's home was actually only a small portion of a much larger house, which surrounded a courtyard. Alassar's balcony over-looked this courtyard. The youngest member of the family which owned the house, a cheerful youth straining toward his majority, was busy drawing water from the well below when they stepped outside. Greetings were exchanged all around before Kallindo settled himself down to eat his breakfast. The small meal was over, and the two elves were lounging quietly, wrapped up in their cloaks, before Alassar chose to breach the subject of their previous discourse once more.
"What are you going to do, at present?"
Kallindo loosened his cloak and leaned forward in his chair, elbows on knees. "I am uncertain. I do not feel as though I can simply walk back into Calina's life. If she were truly in danger I would not hesitate, but I believe I would have heard tell of it if she was. And if she has already begun to put this behind her, who I am to come barging in with my own expectations? I would like to start from the beginning, perhaps have a chance to court her properly, though I'm afraid my skills in that area are rather meager. But I simply do not see where to begin. Does she even desire my intervention? I do not want to press her into a hasty decision."
Alassar considered the dilemma. "Is there anyone you would trust to give you an honest account of Calina's state of mind? If you are set against travelling to Fanlítsë, perhaps you could write. The letters from the south should be arriving today or tomorrow, and carriers will be sent southward again soon after."
"Is there anyone I could trust?" Kallindo questioned the air softly. "Is there anyone who would give a plain answer? I trust Soronhín implicitly, but on this matter I cannot approach him. And I would not want to put Danneniûl in an awkward situation between her own husband and myself... Perhaps Ránendë: she has a quick wit, and a very steady head. She might do. But I do not know how much she has been told."
Alassar rose to go inside. "Be subtle, if you must, but please do something. If you bottle yourself up again I'm afraid that one day you'll wander off into the wilderness again and not come home for a few moons at least!"
Kallindo smiled and promised faithfully that, before the sun set, he would do something. With this assurance, Alassar departed to earn some coin giving lessons on the harp to a few elflings that lived in the city.
It was almost noon by the time Alassar returned. A large smile was on his face as he tripped lightly across the threshold of the house. He enjoyed teaching the little ones, he was optimistic about the conclusion of his friend's troubles, and the journey homeward had provided him with a chance to excahnge a few words with a lovely little maiden who had captured his attention recently. The day was turning out quite well. And, to add to the pleasantries, Alassar had, in the pocket of his cloak, a letter addressed to his friend, which came from Fanlítsë. He hoped it would contain something to either cheer Kallindo's spirits or spur him onward to even more daring actions than he had hitherto considered.
"Kallindo, are you here?" Alassar called out as he divested himself of his cloak and retrieved the latter. A muffled affirmative came from up the stairs.
Alassar took the steps two at a time and soon found Kallindo sitting at his desk, with a blank sheet of paper before him.
Kallindo smiled wanly. "A very short while after you left, Náriël begged my help her carry some potted bulbs over to her brother's house. She then found it necessary to vent all her newly acquired gossip upon me over several cups of tea. I am only recently returned. And yet... I have been sitting over this arduous letter for at least five minutes," Kallindo tapped the paper with the feathered end of his quill, "As you see, I have not even been able to decide upon the salutation."
"Well then, put it aside and let her brain stew on it a moment. Perhaps this will give you some food for thought."
Alassar handed the letter over and went to put his harp away. Kallindo took the missive and flipped it over to look at the seal. Recognition of the sender sent a jolt through his entire frame. Of course, Alassar would not have been familiar with it; otherwise, he might not have delivered it in such a blithe manner.
With great trepidation, Kallindo broke the seal and read the contents of the letter. It was short and to the point. After a brief greeting Soronhín informed Kallindo that he was free to return to Fanlítsë. An invitation was also extended for Kallindo to dine with the Regent and his family at the earliest convenience, at which time, Soronhín hoped he could atone for the startling nature of their last encounter.
Kallindo stood up quickly and hurried to gather his things together. Hearing the commotion, Alassar found his friend in the spare room, packing, and questioned him anxiously, as to whether the letter had contained ill news.
"I am summoned back to Fanlítsë," Kallindo answered him, as he brushed by Alassar and made for the stairwell.
"For what purpose?" Alassar askes, hurrying after him.
"Soronhín says I may come home. I do not know what has happened, but do not doubt that it somehow concerns Calina." Kallindo paused at the doorway to the street and turned back to his friend. "Alassar..." His faced betrayed his anxiety as he laid a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"I know, do not distress yourself. I am certain that all will be well. Truly it will. May Eru* himself watch over journey." Kallindo was already out of the door and well on his way when Alassar called after him: "Your horse is still stabled with Séregon!"
Kallindo turned even while his feet continued moving him down the street. "Yes, thank you. Thank you, Alassar."
Alassar watched at the doorway until his friend had disappeared between the houses of stone. Then, with a quizzical expression, he lifted his eyes in quiet supplication and turned back into his house.
Danneniûl had hardly put a foot across her threshold before Soronhín came to meet her, questioning her silently as he divested her of her winter cloak and took her cool hands into his own large, warm ones. Danneniûl graced her husband with an affectionate smile, but slowly withdrew her hands to bend over and take off her boots.
"No, no," Soronhín chided softly, leading his wife gently, though inexorably, toward a cozy room down the wide hallway. He put aside the curiosity and unease that had been building in him all that afternoon, and focused for a few moments on pampering his wife. He sat her down by the fire and put a thick wrap around her shoulders, filled a mug of hot cider for her from a pot that hung simmering over the flames, and then knelt before her to remove her boots.
Danneniûl laughed gaily at the last touch and leant to place a kiss on the top of Soronhín's head. "Thank you, my heart. It is bitterly cold outside, and the wind blows something terrible, but I am sure that this will soon revive me."
Soronhín smiled up at his wife. The boots dealt with, he settled himself at her feet, back resting against the base of the low couch which Danneniûl sat upon. She reached out and smoothed his silver hair.
"What was troubling you?"
"You were not here when I came home."
Danneniûl smiled softly. "I had to attend to a small dispute in Maivellë while you were gone. A rather spirited horse broke himself out of his fence and did some damage around the town. Some were afraid that the snow coming would hide all of the evidence for some time and they were not willing to be patient."
Soronhín nodded softly. "Did they accept your judgement?"
"They did," Danneniûl replied simply.
"I am glad you are home now," Soronhín said some moments later. "The house was very quiet."
"Falas is spending the night with Hravan and his family."
"I know. But it is strange to not have any of the children in the house."
Danneniûl hesitated before turning the conversation toward she whom they were both thinking of. "Do you think she will be alright?"
Soronhín turned himself so that he could comfortably rest his head against his wife's knee. He closed his eyes as she took up stroking his hair.
"I do not know," he finally breathed. "I cannot tell what the end of this will be. I am frightened for her."
Danneniûl stared bleakly into the fire, her heart heavy with sorrow for her suffering child.
"What has happened?"
Soronhín and Danneniûl both started at the unexpected interruption of their solitude.
"Kallindo!" The name leapt from Soronhín's lips as he stood to greet his friend. "So soon you have come. Come in, come in."
Kallindo stepped further into the room but did not remove his cloak or take a seat. "What has happened? Why did you call me back?"
Soronhín was puzzled by the urgency in Kallindo's voice, but he knew that the elf did care for his daughter, and was doubtless very curious about the unexpected summons.
"Please, Kallindo, sit. I shall answer all your questions."
Taking a chair mechanically, Kallindo leaned forward with an expectant air. "Where is Calina?"
"She is gone. She left this morning to return to Lady Calamau."
Kallindo stilled, leaned back into the chair somewhat, a little deflated. "She is alright?"
Soronhín and Danneniûl could not help but reveal their discomfort at the question. Kallindo easily understood the quick look that passed between them.
"Is she alright?"
Danneniûl gave a non-commital shake of her head. "She is not fading, but she is... not herself."
Soronhín interjected before Kallindo could reply. "She asked me to allow you to return home. It has always been very important to her that you should not be driven from this place. She has gone away, and hopes to distract herself with her craft.
"That will do little good," Kallindo replied wryly, thinking back to his own days of mourning.
"What would you have us do?" Soronhín questioned tightly, his frusteration, anxiety, and remorse seeping out in bitterness. "I could not deny her."
Kallindo captured Soronhín's gaze and the two elves stood motionless, tussling over unspoken words.
What would you have me do?, Kallindo's eyes seemed to say.
Soronhín's mind was riddled with doubt and worry. He couldn't seem to help his daughter and felt mired down in his own powerlessness.
I do not know! Soronhín turned quickly and left the room, afraid of doing more damage by trying to meddle with the situation, and equally afraid of his ever increasing desire to meddle.
Kallindo did not pay heed to his friend's departure. He turned back to Danneniûl and asked of her the same question: "What would you have me do? I know the pain and the doubt and the numbness of time that Calina will endure. What would you have of me?
Danneniûl searched Kallindo's face for several minutes. Her voice was dry in her throat when she finally spoke: "Can you love my daughter?"
The pounding of Kallindo's heart was thick in his ears as he replied steadily: "I will try... I would do anything...."
Rising hastly, Danneniûl stepped up to Kallindo and held his face in her hands, cutting off his words as she pulled his head down to place a kiss on his brow. "Bring her back to me if you can. Bring her home."
Kallindo nodded dazedly. He could not find any words to speak.
"Go," Danneniûl whispered into his ear, "She needs you now."
Kallindo's horse was splashing back across through the icy water of the Ford before Kallindo himself was quite aware of where he was and how he had arrived there. His horse's coat was flecked with sweat. In his carelessness, Kallindo had ridden quite hard, not sparing his mount. Now that he had regained his senses, Kallindo knew that he must pace his journey.
Coming at a walk to the branch in the road, Kallindo turned his horse to follow the way that ran parellel to the mountains. The other path, which veered off in a westerly direction, led toward Alassar's city. The one he now took led through several smaller towns and then onward toward Tármírë, the principal city of the province of Eccaianórië.
As he urged his horse into a trot, Kallindo calculated that, if he rode diligently and did not tarry long to rest, he had a small chance of reaching Calina before she made it to the city. He hoped that he would indeed overtake her berfore Tármírë, as a city-full of elves would make it difficult to meet with Calina alone. He still was not exactly certain how such an interview would proceed, but for the first time in months he felt easy with not knowing. Something would come to him... something had to come to him. There was no turning back.
A few miles back, the road had been transformed from a well-trodden dirt path into an even, stone-paved avenue, flanked by trees that in the spring were no doubt ladened with blossoms. But the trees were bare now, stark against the pale colors of the winter sunset. The wind had whipped itself into a hurried dance earlier that afternoon and at whiles fat, overly hasty snowflakes twirled recklessly down in its grasp.
Calina knew that she was not far from the city, but she felt dull and weary. And the cold was not nearly so daunting to her as the thought of passing through the gates and being forced to speak and to explain and to pretend to listen. Bringing her horse to a halt, Calina slipped down and led the way toward a particularly gnarled old tree. On impulse, she climbed into the low, fat branches, and curled up against the bole of the tree.
`Just a few minutes,' she promised herself. A few minutes to let her limbs and eyes and heart rest.
It was some while later when Calina began to discern the clop of hoof on stone. But her mind was caught halfway between worlds and she paid the sound no heed. It was only when a hand touched her brow, sweeping her hair away from her face, that her perceptions came into focus.
A startled gasp escaped Calina's throat and no word or sound would follow it. A hand was extended to her, but she could neither refuse it nor take it. No thought or gesture seemed appropriate to the agonozing moment.
The elf before her gazed at her with worry, beckoned her to come down, then finally slid an arm around her back to take her from the tree's embrace. When her feet touched the ground Calina finally remembered how to move. Stumbling away from the elf, Calina leaned against the trunk of a neighboring tree, then slid down to rest at its base.
Kallindo knelt down before her, saying something inconsequential about how cold she was. She squeezed her eyes shut.
"What are you doing here?"
Kallindo took off his own cloak and covered her with it. "I've come to take you home."
Calina shrugged the extra cloak away, tried to give it back to him. "I am not going back to my father's house. I am going to the city, to Lady Calamau. I cannot go back to Fanlítsë."
To Kallindo it seemed as though the whole world held its breath as he stood upon the brink. Dare he make his declaration? Was there enough courage in his whole being, scraped together and held fast in his good heart, to fill a few small words with such soul-deep intent?
"I do not speak of your father's house," he began, his voice shallow, faltering. "I speak of my home - our home. Will you not let me take you home?"
A weary sob scraped out of Calina as she clambered away from him. "Do not speak these words! Do not give me more than what your true feelings dictate, I could not bear it, I do not want it. I promised myself that I would take as much as you would give me. So please, spare me... do not ask... do not give me that!"
Kallindo followed Calina, dropped down beside her, and drew her into his arms, holding her fast. How could he explain to her what was inside of him? How could he make her believe that this was what he wanted, what he desired? It would take time, patience, and many reassurances. But he could not bear to leave Calina as she was for one moment longer than was necessary - it would have to begin now. Yes, it was right for him to do this thing. It would be right in the end.
"Will you be my wife?" he asked against her hair, even while her body strained away from him.
At the simple words, Calina collapsed in his arms and cried angrily, joyfully, burying her face against his chest and trying to bury the pounding of her own tangled heart.
"Yes," she whispered brokenly, "Yes, yes."
1. Here's a good picture of the type of viol I imagine Alassar might use: http://www.s-hamilton.k12.ia.us/antiqua/t_viol.htm
2. Eru: "The One." The creator of the Valar... and, basically, everything else.
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. "illuminated"
Kallindo: Q. "noble heart"
Alassar: "joy stone"
Soronhín: Q. "eagle child"
Danneniûl: S. "fallen embers"
Falae: S. "beach, shore"
Hravan: "wild one"
Oiratinwë Calamau: Q. "eternal spark/light hands"
Eccaianórië: Q. "outer sea region"
Maivellë : Q. "little gull"
Tármírë: Q."lofty jewel"