Hyellnassë: The Glass Thorn - Ch15: Why?
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Chapter 15.) Why?
"Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?"
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
December 8, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
"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."
It was several minutes before Calina regained her composure, or at least as much of it as could be regained under such trying circumstances. However, as her tears abated, she began to realize that she would soon be without the protection which they afforded. When one was crying one was safe: from having to face the situation straight on; from having to maneuver around the awkwardness of the moment; from having to make the simplest of decisions - like how to unclench her fist from Kallindo's tunic without drawing attention to the fact that she was clinging to him. Calina was miserable in her own cowardice. She wanted to turn into one of the sandy little sea turtles and disappear into the ocean, or close herself up inside her shell.
One by one, Calina began to deliberately relax the muscles in her body. She let several moments flow over her as she focused on the simple task of breathing, all the while trying to ignore the rise and fall of Kallindo's chest beneath her cheek. Lastly, after giving herself a short, stern lecture against timidity, Calina eased her eyes open and saw only darkness.
Sometime during her distress, though she could not remember when, Kallindo had pulled his cloak around the both of them, shielding her from the snow. The rough material now covered her immediate field of vision, and there was no way of catching even a glimpse beyond the warm darkness of the cloak without disturbing the present calm. Kallindo's arms still enfolded her, holding her firmly against him without allowing for any delicate means of retreat.
Stringing her courage together, Calina shifted, ever so slightly away from Kallindo. Immediately, his arms dropped from around her and the dim, cold light of a winter evening washed across her face. Calina looked to the side; the snow had begun to fall in a steady, though slow, stream. Large, delicate flakes caught in her mussed hair or spun down in lazy arcs to settle in her lap. She had the strangest longing to once more hide her face against Kallindo, but instead she pulled back slightly, raised her eyes, and met his anxious gaze.
She had never seen him look so unsettled. Sad and somber, yes, but never what could be termed nervous. It struck her then that he was as uncertain of how to proceed as she was. Yet it could not be for the same reasons. It was a bitter knowledge, but Calina would not deceive herself. Kallindo had just committed an astounding act of martyrdom, and was now probably reeling from what he had done. Calina felt ashamed for having accepted him. Hadn't she pushed and prodded him enough in their short acquaintance? Now she had, however unwillingly, guilted him into forging a bond with her!
"Kallindo," she rasped, drawing back so that she was kneeling in the thin layer of snow, "How.... no-"
"Sssh," Kallindo whispered softly, inching forward and raising both hands to smooth her hair away from her face. He could see the sudden blaze of obstinance and fear in her eyes, could feel her moving further and further away from him even while she knelt, quite still, in the snow.
"Why?" she finally asked, numbly.
"Because... I want this."
Calina's eyes widened with uncertainty, a sting of suspicion prickling across her skin. "Do not lie to me, Kallindo." Her voice was steady, hard, guarded.
Kallindo dropped his hands away from her face as from a flame: let them fall into his lap as though he were cradling an injury. "Have I ever lied to you?" he challenged.
It was a well-aimed question. Calina bowed her head in shame. "Of course you have not. Forgive me. But... I do not understand."
Kallindo looked around at the quickly falling night. This was not the best time or place to enter into an explanation - they would be there all night, shivering in the darkness.
"We cannot stay here any longer," Kallindo spoke cautiously. Calina raised her head -chin set in a stubborn line, lips yearning to speak. Kallindo smiled without thinking.
"Trust me," he urged, standing up and extending his hand toward her. After a brief hesitation, she laid her own, delicate white one in his.
For a moment, Kallindo forgot to draw her to her feet. Calina raised a fine, questioning eyebrow. Pulling her up, Kallindo settled the hood of Calina's cloak around her face and tucked in a few stray locks of hair.
"Trust me," he whispered, taking her hand once more and leading her to her horse.
Between the steady timbre of his voice, and the quick squeeze of his hand, Calina was inspired, at least to a certain extent, to do just that.
The pair entered Tármírë after the sun had disappeared below the horizon. With little conversation, they carefully wove there way along the cold, stone paths, toward the home of Lady Oiratinwë Calamau, hoping that someone would brave the cold nip of the air to receive them at the gate. After having rung the sturdy bell that hung over the gate from a delicate, arching metalwork, they waited. Kallindo stood a little way off with the horses. It was only a few moments before a lantern appeared in the gloom on the other side of the courtyard. Calina watched expectantly as the bobbing light wove its way toward her.
"Soronhíniell, is that you?" Lady Calamau herself had come out with the lantern. Her sharp eyes now roved over the figure before her, trying to dip beneath the hood of Calina's cloak to confirm her suspicions. But it was a needless exercise - she knew that chin, and the curve of that pert mouth.
"What a day to be traveling," she continued, without letting Calina reply to her previous question, "And who did you haul across the country with you in the middle of winter? Good elf. He shall have some of my spiced tea for that. But you? You I do not know what to do with. You are like a leaf in the wind, coming and going and coming, like the Younger Children: everything done so quickly."
The gate had by that time been opened, and Calina had stepped through, pausing to lay an affectionate kiss on the elder she-elf's cheek. "And I am pleased to see you as well, mistress."
Kallindo was still hesitating in the street, unsure of what should be done with the two horses.
"Bring them in," Lady Calamau beckoned. "I keep three stalls in a very small stable which has proved itself useful on occasion. I am afraid I do not keep it provisioned very well, as I do not keep a horse myself, but there should be some hay, blankets, and a barrel of dry grain."
Taking the lady's invitation gladly, Kallindo brought the horses through the gate and made it his business to tend to their needs. Calina tried to go with him and care for her own horse, but he gently sent her off in the care of their hostess, saying that he would find them shortly. Calina attempted to look cross at first, but then she simply rolled her eyes and turned away.
Oiratinwë watched the brief exchange with some little amusement. She wondered why Calina had given in so quickly. But she was even more curious as to why the stranger's face had seemed to soften with affection at Calina's last, impertinent gesture, and why his eyes clung to her retreating form for a moment longer than was customary.
Calina walked by Lady Calamau, heading toward the northern side of the courtyard, where an opened door let light spill out onto the frosted ground. The lady moved to follow her. Soon they were seated in a cozy, book-riddled, little room, with mugs of spiced tea, awaiting the return of the elf, whom Oiratinwë had already took to calling in her own mind the Mystery. And they were undoubtedly waiting for that imminent arrival: Calina spoke little, and kept taking covert glances at the doorway.
True to his word, it was not long before Kallindo found them in their comfortable corner of the house. However, upon stepping into the room, he was hesitant to join them within the soft glow of the firelight. Calina sat across from him, near the fire, on a settee that was just large enough for two. The only other seat available was a larger settee, situated on the opposite side of the room and strategically positioned to keep him as far away from his newly betrothed as the small room would allow. Lady Calamau sat between the two positions, keeping her thoughts to herself as she watched Kallindo glance quickly between the far seat and the near. Calina was staring steadfastly into her mug of tea, as though determined not to give him her opinion one way or the other.
After a very pregnant pause, Kallindo braved the expanse of the hearthstone, and took the seat beside Calina. Oiratinwë, pleased with his daring, poured the elf a generous mug of tea, and then settled back into her own prodigiously stuffed chair, waving off the thanks of her guest.
"Shall you introduce me to your friend?" Oiratinwë questioned.
Calina bit her lip fiercely before looking up into the steady gaze of the master glass artisan. "Forgive me. This is..." Calina searched desperately for a better way of expressing herself, but in the end, her efforts resolved in: "a good friend. Kallindo."
Kallindo did not stir or make any sign of being offended by the epithet. Calina continued pressing on with the introduction. "He is of Fanlítsë, though his family is spread across many provinces."
"Then you are from across the Sea?" Calamau discerned.
"Yes," Kallindo replied, wrapping his long fingers around the warm mug of tea. "I dwelt in Lothlórien. Much of my family still chooses to live under the Lady's rule here, but we were all free to choose otherwise, and several of us did."
"Well, I am glad that you chose to do so, and were thus available to escort my young friend on her rather foolhardy errand. I still do not understand what you were thinking, Calina, coming up the coast this far in winter." Oiratinwë turned a knowing smile on Kallindo. "Ah well, she is still a child, I suppose, and must be forgiven."
The observation, which Oiratinwë knew to be quite false, was made with deliberate calculation. I little jab at the obvious weakness of the match that seemed to be forming before her very eyes could prove to be quite informative.
Calina stared blankly at Lady Calamau. `You are up to something, Old Lady. I wish you would stop it.'
Kallindo took a long sip of his tea and favored his host with a dry smile. "Calina is not in the least a child. She had a very good reason for coming, and is quite capable of making the trip without an escort. I am simply gratified that she allowed me to accompany her."
Oiratinwë smiled broadly. "You have a staunch defender, Soronhíniell. I think I shall like him. Now, will you tell me the whole story, or shall I send him away first?"
Two pairs of eyes suddenly found the contents of their respective mugs very interesting. The tips of Calina's ears went slightly rosy. Kallindo slouched forward, resting elbows on knees and bowing his head.
Several moments passed before Calina spoke up in a clipped tone: "I am sorry, Kallindo. I didn't think to warn you that the Old Lady is quite infuriatingly perceptive, and shockingly blunt."
Oiratinwë laughed. "I knew that is what the novices called me when they thought I wasn't listening. Their secrecy wasn't worth the effort. I enjoy being old - when one is old one can laugh at the follies of youth. Now come, good friend Kallindo. Let me show you to a spare room so that I may have Calina all to myself. I am not a patient sort, and I know she will not speak as long as you are in the room."
Kallindo was torn between indignation at the interruption of their quiet evening and gratitude that the obviously ill concealed tension between he and Calina had been so utterly demolished that there was no longer the slightest use in them attempting to continue their charade. Oiratinwë gazed at him questioningly. He returned her gaze with a challenging one of his own.
"A moment, please?" Kallindo asked in a polite tone, which had a touch of command simmering round the edges.
Lady Calamau smiled. Yes, she liked this elf very much.
Calina watched distractedly as Oiratinwë left them and walked out into the hallway, knowing that the lady would still be able to hear anything that was said. Her attention was gathered back to Kallindo when he slipped one of his hands across her own folded ones. His fingers were still cool from being out in the stable. The unexpected touch made Calina want to start away, but she quelled the emotion admirably.
"And so it seems we must part," Kallindo murmured.
Calina met his gaze, inclined her head slightly in agreement. She desperately wanted to know what had prompted him to reach out and touch her hands.
"Goodnight, then." A slight squeeze of the fingers accompanied his unremarkable words, making them somehow very precious. "May your dreams be incomparably sweet."
An artless, tentative smile pulled at Calina's mouth. "Goodnight," she whispered, afraid to say anything more.
Kallindo rose quietly and left the room. Oiratinwë moved in front of him, leading him down the hallway toward some unknown part of the rambling house. Lady Calamau's home was replete with indoor and outdoor workspaces, and storerooms for her craft, but aside from a small gallery, which could function as a reception area, the modes of living were simply squeezed into whatever cracks and crevices remained. It was a few minutes before the lady returned.
Calina could not help but glare daggers at her hostess. Was there never a time when that lady did not speak her mind?
`And some people dub me impertinent?' she huffed silently.
Oiratinwë took up Kallindo's recently vacated seat. "Will you be angry with me forever, do you think? It's not as though you were truly fooling anyone, either yourselves or me - I did not expose anything. The air was so thick between you I could have sliced a bit off and spread it across my morning biscuit."
Calina's demeanor softened, though she still turned exasperated eyes upon her teacher. "Can you not ever leave things as they lie, Old Lady. It is a wonder I kept my sanity, even living here for a mere ten years!"
With a gentle laugh, Oiratinwë pulled Calina into her arms, and began sliding her hand along the younger elf's hair. "There, there, don't fret. And yes, I am very capable of letting some things lie, and have done so many times in my long life, but not this. And now I am going to say something that you will not like at all, but it must be said, and then you can contradict me soundly."
Calina nodded her head wearily.
Lady Calamau took a few moments to compose her words before beginning: "I received your letter two days ago. You gave no explanation as to your coming, and the missive was devoid of any of your usual chatty pleasantries. I come out to the gate this evening and find a very grave pair of elves, one of whom is a complete stranger to me and has as yet given no reason for his coming. Now, I have a good feeling about this young lord, and since I have sat with you and he I would swear against the doubts I am about to express, but I must ask the question. Are you in any sort of danger or trouble? Has Kallindo-"
"No." Calina straightened and met Oiratinwë's gaze head on. "I know that you have seen many dark and unexpected days, but Kallindo is in all things very honorable."
"Didn't I tell you?" Lady Calamau smiled brightly. "A very sound, unaffected defense. I believe you. But, now that my motherly anxiety has been set to rest, my curiosity runs rampant. You really must tell me everything, or I shall never be able to sleep tonight."
Calina smirked, shaking her head at the indefatigable she-elf. Her conclusions were confirmed: had Oiratinwë been born to the race of men, she would have made a wonderfully outlandish old biddy. The Old Lady loved gossip almost as much as she loved her craft.
And so, as the night wore on, Calina poured out the tale to Lady Calamau. And quite naturally, she poured out her heart as well, filling her teacher's ears with the turmoil and uncertainty that plagued her heart. Oiratinwë sensed that it was a cleansing act, and so she listened patiently and quietly, with a supportive shoulder, calming hands, and a very large pot of her spiced tea.
"You are an early riser I see. My, but your good qualities do keep mounting up." Lady Calamau rustled down the hallway in her eccentric skirts, clasped one of Kallindo's hands warmly within her own. "I see that you braved my bewildering hallways."
Kallindo inclined his head. "I was restless this morning. And I was not without a guide."
Oiratinwë looked slightly surprised. "I find it hard to believe that any of my students have suddenly gained an appreciation for the wee hours."
This observation brought a reluctant smile to Kallindo's lips. He was still rather uncertain as to how he should approach the lady before him, but her easy manner was disarming. "No. You mistake me, madam. I was referring to the heady scent of fresh nut bread and," he paused for effect, "spiced tea, which is drifting from the hallway that branches left behind me. I can only assume that the kitchen is in that direction. I have always found that if one can find the kitchen, everything else becomes a little easier."
Oiratinwë laughed, delighted with Calina's chosen, and in that very moment, became committed to the cause. She slipped a hand conspiratorially into Kallindo arm, and began leading him away from the tempting smell of nut bread.
"I like you very much, Kallindo. And Calina likes you a sight more than I. Would I be correct in thinking that you like my young pupil very much?"
Lady Calamau paused long enough for Kallindo to smirk at her nosiness and give a short nod.
"Good. So here is where we are: I like you both, and Calina likes you, and you like Calina. But, unfortunately, Calina is convinced that you are only trying to protect her, as a brother would his sister. Is this true?"
Kallindo stopped short as they stepped out into the front courtyard. "I assume Calina has told you all of the story as she knows it, and thus that she trusts you. I will therefore be honest. I do wish to protect Calina... but she is most decidedly not my sister. If you take my meaning."
Oiratinwë narrowed her eyes in a calculating manner. "Have you told Calina this?"
"No. The moment has not presented itself for such a discussion."
"Hmm... Well, since I am a good deal older than you are it can only be hoped that I am a little wiser. You should tell Calina these things, but not now. She needs to time to think her own thoughts, I judge."
Kallindo took a speculative look around the courtyard, knowing that the lady had brought him there for a reason. "What would you have of me?"
Lady Calamau smiled broadly, withdrawing a folded piece of parchment and handing it to Kallindo. "I had planned on going to the market today. These are the things I need. Be sure to dawdle as long as you possibly can. Do not, on any account, be back before lunch."
It was with some great trepidation that Kallindo, upon his return at noontime, relieved himself of his newly acquired burdens and began collecting his thoughts for an encounter with Calina. After spending a few minutes in a failed attempt at crafting his opening address, he left the kitchen and began wandering the halls. It was not long before he finally met one of Lady Calamau's illusive pupils, hard at work organizing different pigments and fillers in a small storeroom that had its door ajar. Without being asked, the young elf offered up that the Old Lady and Calina could be found by taking two rights, going through the lattice doorway, and veering right once more.
Not many moments had passed before Kallindo stepped out into the thin, winter sunlight. Calina and Oiratinwë were at the center of a tiny, sleeping garden, with their profiles to him, speaking in an animated fashion. At that moment, Calina's head tipped back in unguarded laughter. Kallindo paused to watch her, enchanted. Her whole body seemed to be wrapped up in the humorous tale that Lady Calamau was weaving. She twisted away from the lady; her shoulders scrunched up as she raised her light hands and tried to ward off the deluge of words that was streaming over her. She leaned forward then, raised a hand to her heaving chest.
"Stop it!" she protested, still trying to quell her laughter. "I cannot breathe! Oh - you are very naughty, Old Lady. I shall never be able to think of- "
The words were cut off abruptly, as Calina became aware of Kallindo's presence. For an instant, all expression slid from her face and dropped down into her hands, which suddenly bagan to fiddle with the hem of the tunic she was wearing. Then, with a great effort to appear easy, she straightened her posture and forced her lips into an imitation of a casual smile.
Lady Calamau, seeing the change in her friend, turned slightly and took in Kallindo's appearance. She nodded a silent greeting then turned back to Calina and laid a kiss on her forehead before rising.
"Ask him," she commanded firmly.
Calina's eyes lifted, wide and anxious, and the two she-elves had a battle of wills for a few moments before the younger finally dropped her head in defeat. Lady Calamau approached Kallindo and laid two reassuring hands on his shoulders. She did not need to speak, but Kallindo understood his own silent mandate: Tell her. With a satisfied smile, Oiratinwë left the two in peace.
Kallindo walked over to Calina and sat down beside her, leaning forward to brace his elbows against his knees. Calina continued to fiddle with her tunic. For the first time, Kallindo noticed that she was not wearing a dress. Instead, she was attired in a particularly grimy set of legging, with an over-sized tunic. Her hands were smudged and smoky. By the evidence, Kallindo would say that she had been working at a kiln that morning.
The silence lengthened between them. Abruptly, Kallindo stood and swung one leg over the bench so that he could straddle it. Facing Calina head on he prepared himself to begin his poorly prepared speech. Calina spoke first.
"Why do you want to marry me?"
Her eyes were cast downward, toward the section of wooden bench that separated them, fingers still clenching and unclenching. Kallindo had the absurd desire to gathering her fretful hands within his own and congratulate her for being brave enough to speak first. He did not congratulate her. He did capture her fingers within his grasp.
"Would you like the long explanation or the abbreviated tale?" He tried to enfuse his tone with lightness.
Calina looked at their entwined hands and then finally turned her face up to meet his eye, all seriousness. "I would like the abbreviated tale, please. I don't want any long explanations. I just want something simple that I can understand and act upon."
Kallindo was rather surprised by her answer. He hadn't been preparing himself for the short version. Tightening his hold on her hands, he cleared his throat and began:
"I like... that is, I do care for you very much." Kallindo took a large breath, as though in beginning to speak he had just accomplished some great endeavor. "I know first hand what it is you would suffer, were I to reject you, and I would not wish that upon anyone. And... and..."
Kallindo dropped his eyes, the memories of centuries flooding his gaze for a moment and taking his breath away. He felt caught inside a spell, weighed down by silence and time, unable to speak the words that were tearing up from his heart. For some inexplicable reason, he wanted to cry, burned to cry. The feeling was almost overwhelming, but it too was lodged somewhere between his heart and his lips, unable to break free.
With unexpected sweetness, Calina adjusted the lay of their hands, weaving her fingers with Kallindo's strong ones and giving them a gentle squeeze. Kallindo looked up into Calina's face and found a beautiful answer there, to a question he hadn't even known he was asking.
"I am lonely for a mate," he finally whispered, letting the truth have its own way. "If you would have me, I would try to make you happy."
Calina's face did not betray her thoughts as she leaned forward and rested her head against Kallindo's chest. She was seated too far away from Kallindo for him to comfortably gather her into his arms, but he brought his hands up and slipped them around the back of her neck, buried them in her hair.
"Thank you. I understand that," she whispered. "And do you think... could you ever come to truly love me one day?"
Kallindo closed his eyes. "The thought of love is still so new to me, but I think I could. I want to. And, for now, I do know that it would give me great pleasure to call you my own."
Calina's soft smile went unseen by her companion. "And it would give me pleasure to be by your side, and to have the hope of one day receiving your love. I will be your wife, Kallindo."
The two sat in silence for many minutes, content in their decision. When Kallindo broke the silence, it was with some regret.
"One question remains."
Calina sat up and looked at him questioningly.
"Two paths lay before us. We can either try to start from the beginning and allow ourselves a proper time of courtship, pretending all the while that we are not in actuality betrothed. Or we can marry immediately, with the hope that once our souls have been bound together everything else will fall into place."
A look of pained uncertainty crossed Calina's features, as though she knew what she desired, but was afraid that it was the wrong choice. She did not answer immediately and Kallindo began to grow concerned that he had spoken too hastily on the subject.
At that moment, Lady Calamau poked her head into the garden and gave Calina a hard stare. "Did you ask him?"
Calina groaned and looked away. Kallindo's eyebrows shot up. Hadn't she already asked him the question? Wasn't the `why' behind all of this her greatest concern?
"I can't," Calina pleaded, "Please, do not make me. It is too-"
Lady Calamau broke in matter-of-factly: "She wants to know if you find her enticing. I dare say if you answer that question, she'll be able to answer your own more easily."
Kallindo's jaw dropped ever so slightly at the elder lady's temerity. Turning back to Calina, he couldn't help but notice that she was blushing furiously. The sight was oddly endearing.
"I... that is, I know I am not a child," Calina began, face still turned away from Kallindo. "But I might as well be one. I am very young compared with you and I must seem rather... immature and child-like. I... I thought that... oh never mind!" She covered her face with one hand and waited desperately for the most embarassing moment of her life to reach its climax.
Kallindo wanted to laugh, but felt that such a reaction would certainly not be taken well. Of all the things to be worried about, her desirability was certainly not one of them. She was a lovely, vibrant young maiden. How could she possibly every doubt herself?
Sending a glare at Oiratinwë to ensure her departure, Kallindo eased closer to Calina on the bench and leaned into her.
"Look at me," he commanded softly.
Calina didn't move.
"Please, look at me."
With half-hearted compliance, Calina twisted around toward him and stared fixedly over his left shoulder. Before she could fright away, Kallindo leaned in closer and pressed his lips to hers. She was obviously startled by the bold move; Kallindo quickly slid his hand around her neck to hold her to him as he continued to taste her sweet mouth. Slowly, ever so slowly, she relaxed under his touch. He smiled into her lips as she timidly began to respond to his caress.
It was with regret that Kallindo finally drew away. Calina waited a long moment before opening her eyes and staring up at Kallindo in wonder. Her gaze pulled at the elf to steal one more kiss, but instead, he moved his lips to beneath her ear and whispered: "Not desire you?" he chided, "Calina, my entire body is humming."
And with that, Kallindo laid a quick kiss on her jaw and rose, feeling that distance would be a good thing for the both of them at that moment.
"Farewell, my lady," he murmured, "We shall speak again this evening."
And with that remark he reluctantly departed the garden, leaving behind in his wake a maiden who was, perhaps, blushing evening more furiously than she had been before.
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. "illuminated"
Kallindo: Q. "noble heart"
Soronhín: Q. "eagle child"
Oiratinwë Calamau: Q. "eternal spark/light hands"
Soronhíniell: Q. "daughter of Soronhín"
Tármírë: Q."lofty jewel"