Hyellnassë: The Glass Thorn - Ch15: Why? (revised)
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'text' signals thoughts
Chapter 15.) Why? (revised)
"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
Kallindo drew her more closely against him, whispered against her hair: "It would be my joy and honor to be your husband. Will you have me?
"Yes," she whispered...
Calina's back stiffened with a deep shudder. She closed her eyes and took in a long, slow breath, leaning further into Kallindo's warmth. His hand was still grasped firmly within her own and she laid a kiss upon it before drawing it down to cradle against her chest. It was a warm and tangible reminder that she was indeed awake, and not still perched up in the cold tree dreaming cold dreams.
Kallindo did not attempt to withdraw his captured hand. Instead, he adjusted the grip of his free one to hold the cloak more snuggly about them both. Despite his efforts, the chill air began to send tremors across Calina's skin.
"You are so very cold." Kallindo finally broke the silence between them.
Calina shifted herself so that she could look out above the edge of the cloak at the snow-spattered air. She saw her breath frosting in front of her eyes as she looked toward the flat eastern horizon, toward a small slate-gray strand, which was the sea. She was reminded of the first time that she had seen the ocean from the turret in her grandmother's house, on a bitter winter's day.
"As a child, do you know what I wished for?" She murmured softly and unobtrusively, not really seeking an answer. "I wished that I could turn into a thick-skinned sea turtle and slip into the sea, or close myself up inside one of those great big shells. You see, I was convinced that the turtles were keeping great secrets inside of those shells."
Kallindo watched silently as Calina rose from his embrace. Pulling her own cloak about her, she took two steps toward the east and tried to discern where it was that the gray sky dipped into the frosty sea. A startled smile burst across her lips as a large, dopey snowflake landed squarely on her nose. With a small shake of her head she turned back to Kallindo, took two steps, and knelt down before him.
"I imagine, that if I really were a sea turtle I would not be nearly so cold as I am at this moment. But I would not choose to be one now for anything, because I no longer care for the secrets in their shells."
Kallindo held his breath as Calina framed his face with her icy hands and searched his eyes. "I only care for the secrets in a certain elf's heart," she continued in a whisper, "and if I was in the sea and he was on the land, I would be beside myself with grief. I can be patient; I can, Kallindo. But you must promise me... promise me that we will not be parted again. If this is what you want then you must promise or turn back. I cannot-"
"Shhh," Kallindo whispered softly, inching forward and raising both hands to smooth her hair away from her face. He could see the sudden blaze of fear in her eyes. "I promise. I do want this, and I promise."
Calina's eyes glazed over once again with tears. She smiled timorously and ducked her head.
"Oh, how can this be?" she finally whispered. "I do not understand any of this."
Kallindo looked around at the quickly falling light. This was not the best time or place to enter into a prolonged discussion, and the coolness of Calina's skin still worried him.
"We cannot stay here any longer," Kallindo spoke gently.
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.
Pulling Calina to her feet he settled the hood of her cloak around her face and tucked in a few stray locks of hair. "You must trust me now, Calina. Please trust me."
The sun had disappeared below the horizon, taking with it its meagerly bestowed warmth, when the pair entered Tármírë. There was little conversation between them as the chill and the weariness of the journey got into their bones. Each was eager to be safely within the walls of Lady Oiratinwë Calamau's house and out of the forbidding night.
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. Fortunately, 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."
Lady Calamau started back slightly. "Goodness child! Lips as cold as ice!"
Kallindo was still hesitating in the street, unsure of what should be done with the two horses when the lady of the house shooed him in.
"Come, come! I keep three stalls in a small stable on the far side there. 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. I will send one of the students out to help you. We must be quick or we'll all freeze into doorposts. Calina, follow me."
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 firmly sent her off in the care of their hostess, saying that her numb fingers would do none of them any good. Calina attempted to look cross at first, but she was over-ruled by both her companions and so relented.
Calina walked with Lady Calamau toward the northern side of the courtyard where an open door let light spill out onto the frosted ground. Soon they were both inside, settling themselves down into a cozy, book-riddled little room, with mugs of spiced tea, awaiting the return of Kallindo. Oiratinwë smiled with amusement over the rim of her mug at the display before her: Calina was attempting to casually watch the doorway while displaying all the disinterestedness of a cat in front of a mouse hole.
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. His first instinct had been to join Calina on the settee that she had chosen, but her jittery air, immediately apparent, gave him pause. However, the only other alternative was an over-stuffed chair that had been wedged between two bookshelves into the far, dim corner of the room. It seemed a cold and unwelcoming prospect. 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 slipped down beside Calina. There was just enough room for two on the settee and each of them tried to be unconcious of the fact that their arms were touching. Somehow sitting side-by-side before a civilized fire seemed more strange and unnerving than huddling together on the frozen ground outside.
Oiratinwë, pleased with his decision, poured the elf a generous mug of tea, which Calina passed over. His hand brushed against hers in the exchanged and each drew back quickly. However, it was only a moment before Kallindo reached out once more and touched her hand.
"Your fingers are still cold."
With that, he immediately rose to retrieve a throw that lay across the rejected chair in the corner. Despite Calina's meager protests, he soon had the blanket situated around her shoulders and was once more seated next to her, finally pausing long enough to take a sip of his own tea.
Oiratinwë thought the pair quite diverting. "Shall you introduce me to your friend?" She inquired.
Calina looked up into the steady gaze of the master glass artisan. "Forgive me. This is..." Calina froze for a moment, unsure of what to reveal. "This is Kallindo," she finally finished, lamely.
Kallindo did not stir or make any sign of being offended by her weak introduction. Calina pressed on. "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. "I dwelt in Lothlórien. Much of my family still chooses to live under the Lord and 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 in many ways, and so we must forgive her."
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 nodded approvingly. "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.
Several moments passed before Calina spoke up in a clipped tone: "I am sorry, Kallindo. I did not think to warn you that the Old Lady is infuriatingly perceptive, and quite shockingly blunt."
Oiratinwë laughed. "I knew that was what the novices called me when they thought I wasn't listening! Though they needn't have gone to the trouble of trying to be discreet. 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 and amusement; the whole situation was entirely too ridiculous. And yet, he was not about to let himself be incapacitated by the outlandish personality of his host.
"Might you give us a moment please, madam?" 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 she-elf would still be able to hear anything that was said. Her attention was gathered back to Kallindo when he gently took her mug away from her and folded her hands within his own.
"And so it seems we must part," Kallindo murmured.
Calina met his gaze, inclined her head slightly in agreement, but did not reply.
"We will talk on the morrow. Goodnight." 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 host. 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 - 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, uncertainty, and joy that ran wild inside her. 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 union. She slipped a hand conspiratorially around Kallindo's 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 plagued by a very pernicious anxiety. You see, she is still worried deep down by the thought that you, compassionate and selfless as you are, may be 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 plain with you. I do wish to protect Calina... but though she is as dear to me as a sister could be, she is most decidedly not my sister. If you take my meaning."
Oiratinwë narrowed her eyes in a calculating manner. "If you would permit me to counsel you I would say that you should tell Calina these things very plainly and very soon. But not now; at present, I have another task for you."
Kallindo took a speculative look around the courtyard. "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. I have matters of import to discuss with Calina this morning and I do not want you around to muddle her thoughts. 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.
Kallindo soon found himself stepping 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 with 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 hands to ward off the deluge of words that was streaming over her. She leaned forward then, still laughing, and raised a hand to her chest.
"Stop it!" she protested, still trying to quell her mirth. "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? Why now? What happened while you were away that made you want to marry me? Tell me how these things have come to pass and that they are not going to fly away again tomorrow."
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 gather 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."
Kallindo was rather surprised by her answer. He hadn't been preparing himself for the short version. Straightening his back, he cleared his throat once and took the plunge.
"I care for you - I care for you very much." Kallindo tightened his grip on her hands and took a deep, steadying breath. "But, for a time, I could not bring myself to believe that that was good enough. For you, that is. And then... well, I know first hand what it is that you would suffer, were I to reject you, and I could not bear to see that. And... ah..."
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. 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. "It is past my time and I long for it dearly, and I would do everything I could 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. "It would be my greatest pleasure to be your wife, Kallindo. But I think we must settle one thing between us from the beginning. If you are to look after my own happiness, then you must allow me to look after yours."
Kallindo closed his eyes, content beyond words to be sitting there in that cold, barren garden with his future wife. He felt the blessing of all that had been given to him and true gratitude welled up in his heart.
The two sat in silence for many minutes, content in their decision. However, their peace was not to be left unbroken for long.
"Did you ask him?" Lady Calamau poked her head into the garden and gave Calina a hard stare.
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 so-"
"She wants to know if you find her enticing." Lady Calamau broke in matter-of-factly. "There, was that so very hard?"
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 at times. 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 great regret that Kallindo finally drew away. Calina waited a long moment before opening her eyes and staring up at him in wonder. Her gaze pulled at the elf to steal one more kiss; he leaned in slightly but then hesitated, pulled back, and then moved to whisper close against her ear: "Not desire you? ...Calina, my entire body is humming."
And so saying, Kallindo laid a quick kiss on her jaw and rose. However, he did not get very far as Calina stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"You're not going already?" She questioned softly, clearly confused by his swift departure.
"I thought we might both benefit from a little distance. Of course, if you wish... that is, perhaps when you have finished with Lady Calamau at the kiln we could speak again."
Kallindo motioned toward her clothes. Calina seemed to come back to herself.
"Yes. She did invite me to return and help her this afternoon. I had not... Well, then I shall see you again, soon."
Calina nodded her head firmly and rose, grasping her hands in front of her. The two now stood facing each other, neither one quite sure how to go about parting.
After a lengthy pause, Calina favored Kallindo with a steady smile. "Thank you. I needed to know that."
Kallindo felt the warmth of Calina's smile and his spirits lifted. "Farewell, Soronhíniell," he murmured, letting his hand touch her face for a moment.
He thought to say more, but was discouraged by the sound of someone approaching the garden. Making a small bow, he retreated quickly, just as an oblivious student padded out into the tiny courtyard to tell Calina that the Old Lady was asking for her.
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"