Hyellnassë: The Glass Thorn - Ch8: Juicy Gossip and Fruit Juice
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Chapter 7.) Juicy Gossip and Fruit Juice
LOVE has crept out of her sealéd heart
As a field-bee, black and amber,
Breaks from the winter-cell, to clamber
Up the warm grass where the sunbeams start.
- D.H. Lawrence
July 8, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
Recap: Two days since last chapter. Calina's family has talked her into staying in bed and off her injured foot.
"How is the lovely invalid?"
Cora swept into the cozy room and sat down with a flourish onto the foot of Calina's bed. With a bright smile she withdrew a bouquet of newly picked wildflowers from beneath her cloak and held them aloft for perusal, eager to please her injured friend. But, despite all her cheerful goodwill, Calina's face retained its dour expression.
"This is all your fault."
Cora's lips descended into a confused line and she rose gently from the bed, taking the flowers over to a vase which was nestled in one corner of the room. "You're in a pleasant mood this morning. What can you possibly mean? I wasn't even there when that thorn went into your foot."
Calina burrowed down further into the pillows and pouted in a most child-like manner. "I don't care about the bothersome thorn. Oh, this is a mess!"
Cora straightened up from where she had set the vase on a low table and turned around in bewilderment. Calina had pulled the blankets over her head. In alarm, Cora went to her friend and tried to pull the covers away. Calina resisted, fisting the quilted material against the pillows.
"What has gotten into you?" Cora chided. "Speak to me."
"I dare not. Who knows what muddle you will lead me into yet." Calina's tone was verging on the petulant.
Cora braced her hands against her hips and eyed the mound of blankets critically. "Calina Soronhíniell, I would take it kindly if you would stop speaking in riddles this instant and tell me what distresses you so. If not I shall go spend the morning with your sister, who is no doubt in a merrier frame of mind."
A few moments of silence passed before Calina peeked her nose out from beneath the covers and whispered, "Do you promise not to tell anyone?"
Cora's eyes narrowed and she leaned in closer toward the bed. "I won't say a word. What have you to tell?"
Calina finally unearthed herself from the blankets and scooted up against the wall, beckoning Cora to join her on the bed. When the two were situated comfortably and Calina had satisfied herself that there was no one in the hallway beyond her closed door, the mystery was revealed.
"I think... well, I suppose I know it, but," Cora bit her lip nervously, "I fancy someone."
Cora's face broke out into a wide grin and she giggled mercilessly. "You're in a flutter about that? You ninny! Oh, and that's why you blame me. You think I egged you on, do you?" Cora gasped in the midst of her giggles. "Oh! And I'll wager it is none other than the `cold-hearted Avar.' This is too rich."
Calina looked a little dumb-struck by her friend's reaction. "This isn't funny. It's terrible. It's... why, it's disastrous!"
At the sight of her friend's genuine distress Cora's laughter subsided and she instinctively wound a comforting arm around the other maiden's waist. "There, there, dear, it can't be as bad as all that. Is it Kallindo, then?"
An exhausted sigh escaped Calina's lips as her shoulders slumped forward. "I couldn't bear for him to know it. It would make him so sad because he can never love me back, and he's so good that he would wish that he could do it for my sake, which would make everything even more unbearable. We could never be friends again, not like we are now. Which is a silly fear, I suppose. I've only known him for two months. Just two months... Oh Cora, I don't know how this happened!" And with a soft wail, Calina buried her face against Cora's neck and wept.
Several minutes passed as Calina slowly regained control of her emotions. When her tears were all spent and the shivering had subsided Calina drew away from her friend and looked up sheepishly. "I'm sorry."
Cora chuckled indulgently. "Nonsense. No apologies are needed. Now come, tell me all about it."
A watery smile spread across Calina's face and she sighed lightly. "There's not much to tell, really. The funniest thoughts began chasing around in my head the day before yesterday and as I tried to untangle them it just struck me. From the very beginning I've been drawn to him in a curious way. And we seem to suite each other so well, and before last night I would have told anyone who asked that I loved him dearly, as a friend you know."
Cora nodded encouragingly.
"And then... well, it's rather embarrassing to tell, but... when he picked me up and swept me into his home and took care of me it was one of the most wonderful feelings. Like warm sunshine. I didn't even feel my foot any more, though it was bleeding terribly. I don't think my mind had the power to put itself right when I was snuggled up against him on the way home... my, but he is handsome, isn't he?"
As Calina trailed off wistfully, Cora repressed with a valiant effort the laughter that was threatening to bubble up inside her. Calina was thoroughly infatuated.
"But why does it grieve you so?" Cora prodded gently. "Are you so afraid that he'll reject you? How could he? Everyone can see that he holds you in high regard. And there's not a soul in the village who hasn't noticed how you seem to have healed his mysterious wounds. He smiles, he laughs - he's even danced!"
"You don't understand." Calina shook her head sorrowfully. "I am well aware of Kallindo's mysterious wounds. He... he gave his heart to a maiden in Endórë. But she turned him away."
A serious expression stole across Cora's face and she traced the embroidered design on Calina's sheets as she thought. "But," she finally spoke, though cautiously, "He did not fade."
Calina murmured an agreement.
"Well, that is something, is it not?" Cora encouraged.
"Aye, some, but not much. You know the way of our people. How many elves have you known of who loved more than once? It is almost unheard of. I know I rail against such fatalistic ideas - I've even told Kallindo I don't believe it. But that was when it didn't affect my life. Now it seems a much more solid truth. And I, being the fool I am, let myself become bewitched by an elf, ages older than myself, who isn't free to woo me and probably wouldn't want to even if he were!"
Calina's voice had steadily risen throughout this speech, and on the last word she flopped back onto the bed and pulled the covers over her once more, determined to hide there until she had chided her own heart into submission.
Kallindo wandered aimlessly among the cheerful crowd of market-goers. He had already acquired everything he had been in search for that day, but he was in no hurry to retreat to his forest home. He had the spark of an idea budding in his mind and he was waiting to see if it would take shape or pass away, as so many impulsive schemes do.
He had reached the outskirts of the market place, near the shore, when his slow progress was arrested by the sound of an excited elfling. Looking to the right he saw Falas talking animatedly with the mistress of a melon cart. He smiled suddenly. The first of the watermelons, modestly sized but cheerful, were nestled onto one end of the cart. Falas gazed upon them with a longing eye.
Strolling up to the cart, Kallindo surprised Falas with a ruffle of his unruly hair.
"Aye! You always sneak up on me!" Falas yelped before playfully dodging away from his elder.
Kallindo chuckled softly, greeting the proprietress, with whom he was acquainted, before turning back to Falas. "And I will continue to do so as long as you pay more attention to your stomach than to your surroundings. Would you like a watermelon?"
Falas straightened his shoulders and tried to look nonchalant, though his hopeful eyes betrayed him. "I do like watermelon," he said simply, "But you should not buy it for me. Ada would not like it."
Kallindo shared an amused glance with the cart-mistress before he laid a comforting hand on Falas' shoulder. "Your ada does not like it when you pester people for favors, and well he should. But I offer freely. And in any case, I thought perhaps your sister would like something special to cheer her up as well. Do you think the first watermelon of the summer would serve the purpose?"
Falas bobbed his head eagerly. With such hearty affirmation, Kallindo took a few moments to inspect the fare. With Falas' help he had soon selected one of the larger melons and, pleased with his purchase, he reached into a small leather pouch to fish out a few coins for the sale. The she-elf received his coins, smiling benignly and patting Falas on the head.
"I hope that whatever ails your lady will soon be got over," she offered kindly, "I'm sure the Regent's daughter will appreciate your thoughtfulness."
Kallindo paused, perplexed, and turned an inquiring eye on the she-elf before him. "My lady?"
The she-elf smiled in an almost congratulatory way for a moment but then suddenly realized the mistake, looking quickly at Falas before bunching her brows in mild consternation.
The quick glance was enough to start Kallindo on the road to discovery. Looking down at Falas he noticed that the elfling seemed to be intensely interested with his bare toes. Without subjecting the cart-mistress to any more awkwardness, Kallindo shifted the watermelon to the arm that already bore his sack of other goods and extended his free hand to Falas.
"Come along with me, I'll take you home and we can have our first feast of watermelon."
Falas took the hand sullenly and followed with shuffling steps as he was led out of the market, out of the town altogether, and along the southern path under the eaves of the forest. He continued to observe his toes until Kallindo suddenly came to a halt. Looking up, he watched as Kallindo let go his hand and moved over to a shady patch of moss, setting his load down before taking a seat himself. Kallindo beckoned for Falas to join him. A few moments of silence passed.
"What have you been telling people?" Kallindo asked softly.
"I am not angry with you," Kallindo encouraged, "But I should like to know what other surprises I am likely to encounter."
"I only told the melon lady! And I just said... that you..." Falas' courage flagged once more and he dug his small fingers into the moss below him.
"I told her that I saw you walking together last night... and that when you escorted Calina home you scooped her up and carried her all the way and made her laugh a lot."
This last part was spoken with incredible speed. Kallindo looked at the guilty culprit with a mixture of pity, amusement, and reproof.
"Falas, you know very well why I carried Calina. She was injured. Did you tell the kind lady that as well?"
Falas shook his head reluctantly.
"And I must say, Falas, I am very disappointed that you lied. You know very well that I did not make Calina laugh but once. And then it was barely a laugh. Why did you say that?"
Falas shrugged. To his mind, laughing was the best thing to do, so it had seemed like a good thing to add to his story.
"And I am also disappointed that you disobeyed your parents and were not in your room like you were supposed to be. The hour was late. Should I tell your father or would you like to do it?"
With a start, Falas' head flew up and he looked at Kallindo with agony in his eyes.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Kallindo asked the silent question. "Your father is my good friend and he trusts me to help look after you."
"I'll tell him," Falas muttered softly.
"Now, I have one more question. Why did you even say such things?"
Falas sighed dramatically. "I've heard a lot of people say... that you and Calina should fall in love and, um, I thought that would be... nice... cause then you could be my brother. Hravan has an older brother and so I thought maybe I'd like to have one. Only I don't know Ehtúro very well, so he won't be a good older brother even though Ránendë is marrying him."
Falas looked dejectedly at the worn knees of his leggings as his little speech came to an end. He was waiting for the lecture to being. But to his surprise, instead of a stern lecture, Kallindo began to laugh heartily. When the merriment subsided Kallindo leaned over and put an affectionate arm around Falas' shoulders.
"After such a heartfelt and pitiful confession I have heardly the heart to scold you. But please, do not spread any more tales about your sister and myself. This is not the way to go about matchmaking, and I am certain that we do not need any help of that kind. I think that Ehtúro will be a very find older brother, once you grow to know him better."
Falas nodded seriously.
"Come," Kallindo got up and hoisted his load back into his arms, "You shall go and tell your father of your misdeeds, but I promise that whatever befalls you, you shall have the first piece of watermelon. And perhaps later today I can give you a lesson with the wooden swords."
Falas brightened considerably after that declaration and almost leapt up to join his mentor. The two walked away from the spot in a much lighter mood than they had arrived.
When the two arrived at the Regent's home they met Cora, just as she was departing.
"Oh, Kallindo, good morning," the maiden greeted him as they met at the head of the path that ran up from the shore.
For a brief moment Kallindo thought he heard traces of surprise and alarm in her voice, but the feeling soon dissipated as she exchanged a few quick pleasantries with him and then bent down to give Falas a message of childish importance from her younger brother, Hravan.
When Cora had bid her final farewell, Kallindo led the way inside. First, they found a safe place to set the watermelon in the large back kitchen. One of the few servants that Danneniûl employed in her household was there tidying up and she smiled over the lovely summertime surprise and agreed that Calina would like it quite well. With their treasure safely stored, Falas was then sent to his father's study to see if he was at home. To Falas' great delight, however, he was out on business and the dreadful confession could be put off, for a time at least. He came back to the kitchen in a merry mood, ready to dig into the large melon.
Unfortunately, as the fruit was being cut, hoof beats were heard in the courtyard. Falas' face fell. Kallindo felt pity well up in his heart and could not help giving him a few words of encouragement.
"Here, eat some before you go. While you are gone I shall take some up to Calina and that way, if your adar will allow it, we can start with the wooden swords after he is done speaking with you."
Falas lifted his chin in a most manly and courageous way and nodded soberly, before gobbling down a few bites of melon and marching resolutely out of the kitchen. Kallindo watched him go with an indulgent smile. Then, putting several generous slices on a colorful glass plate (which he noticed, appeared to be on of the pieces of Calina's own making) he departed the kitchen as well and ascended the delicate, circling stairway that lead to the second floor of the home.
"Is she awake and ready for visitors?" Kallindo called merrily from outside Calina's door. He heard a bit of shuffling around inside before a timid reply was finally given.
"You may come in."
"I have brought you something I think you will like," Kallindo declared as he pushed the door open with his shoulder.
Calina's face was set in a decidedly neutral expression. He lowered the plate of watermelon down to her eye-level for inspection. This produced a soft smile.
Kallindo smiled as he set the plate down on a small table and produced several cloth napkins which he had held under his left arm. "I think we shall need these."
The watermelon was eaten in unusual silence, but Kallindo did not sense that anything was amiss, so he assumed that Calina was simply in one of her more contemplative moods. It was not until they were nearing the end of their repast that Kallindo broke the silence between them.
With a grin, Kallindo reached up with the corner of one of the napkins and caught a trail of watermelon juice just as it was about to trickle off Calina's chin. "Getting a little messy at the end, are we? A pity, for you were going only so prettily."
An uncharacteristic color dusted Calina's cheek as she ducked her head and brought her own napkin up to make sure that all traces of the sticky substance were gone. She let out a small, nervous laugh.
"Are you well?" Kallindo asked softly.
Looking up quickly, Calina gave a short nod. "Aye, I am fine."
But her face looked so pensive that Kallindo searched his mind for something to lighten her mood. He thought of Falas' own woe that day and decided that it would make for an admirable and amusing retelling. He omitted all mention of the gossip, feeling that perhaps this would disturb Calina, and focused instead on Falas' late-night excursion and the imminent interview with his father. The pitiful tale produced several smiles, especially as he recounted Falas' soldier-like exit from the kitchen, and so Kallindo deemed it a success.
"I promised I would let him work with the wooden swords afterward, so I'm sure he'll appear any moment, unless your father has other plans."
Calina smiled wistfully. "I wish I could get up and go play wooden swords with you all. My foot hardly hurts any more and I do believe it is almost healed."
"I daresay it is," Kallindo acknowledged, "You have been very good to stay off it as long as you have. However, you do not want to be overly hasty and open up the wound once more."
Calina sighed quite pitifully and sank back into her pillows. The picture brought a smile to Kallindo's face.
"But perhaps you could come outside and watch. If you promise to sit on one of the garden benches and not go wandering off."
A hopeful look stole across Calina's face. "May I?"
Kallindo nodded decisively and then, tossing off her covers in one sweep, he boldy scooped her up into his arms and began walking from the room.
"What are you doing?" Calina yelped, feeling a most embarrassing flush rise up in her cheeks. `Not this again,' she wailed to herself and she went rigid in his arms.
"I am carrying you down to the garden." Kallindo looked at her quizzically, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "You are decently clad. Did you want to put on a cloak?"
Calina shook her head while trying to find the will to speak. "Certainly... certainly I could manage to at least walk to the garden myself," Calina murmured, avoiding Kallindo with her gaze as he began descending the staircase.
"That won't do at all. I must take extra care of you. Otherwise, who would I dance with at your sisters wedding?"
Calina looked up with a start, lips parted slightly as she took in Kallindo's words. She knew it was folly, but she couldn't restrain her heart from leaping at the words.
"Well, if you put it that way," she said softly, "I suppose I can't refuse."
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. "illuminated"
Kallindo: Q. "noble heart"
Cora: Q. "encircle"
Falas: S. "beach, shore"
Hravan: Q. "wild one"
Ránendë: Q. "moon pool"
Danneniûl: S. "fallen embers"
Soronhíniell: "daughter of Soronhín"
avar: a sindarin elf