Lalaith Elerrina--Child of the Stars - Chapter 42
"Hush, fair one, I am here-," Elrohir's voice was soft in the still air of twilight in the forest as he sat with Calassë in a silver-wrought seat upon the balcony of his grandparent's talan, one arm clutching her tightly to him as they gazed together over the silver shadows of the twilight in Caras Galadhon. Upon his other side, he held a thick tome bound in silver that he had only just closed. Lights were winking on in the flets below them as a sweet, silver darkness settled softly over the woods in a warm, comforting blanket.
Calassë, huddled against him, her head tucked endearingly beneath his chin, was crying softly against his tunic, the slender, tapered fingers of her free hand clinging tightly to the leather of his jerkin.
"And that is how it came to pass, before you were settled safely in the mouths of Sirion, by the sea?"
Elrohir drew in a shuddering breath, clutching her protectively closer to him. "It is," he murmured.
"So many dear ones, lost," she choked softly. "Our noble king, and brave Ecthelion-, so many fair ones, women-, children-," she shuddered softly and choked upon a soft sob. "And dear Salgant, not the least of them. Dear sweet Salgant! How I adored the silly fool! Oft would he come to your mother's house, to take wine and repast, and tease me for my unwed state! How you laughed when he dandled you upon his knee! Never among the Eldar has there ever been so fat, nor so foolishly merry an Elf, Eärendil, as dear Salgant."
Calassë caught a ragged sob within her throat, and Elrohir let the book fall beside him as he took her in both his arms, and clutched her close tightening his hold as if he feared to let her go.
His voice soft and grating in anguish, he muttered, "I am sorry I have caused you tears in telling you of all of this-,"
"Alas, no!" she returned quickly. "I wished for you to! And I am glad of it, pained as I am. Do not despair that I cry, Eärendil. For they are healing tears."
She nuzzled his neck reassuringly before she sighed brokenly, drawing back slightly as a brief smile touched her face. "I always knew that Glorfindel could slay a balrog. Though-," her eyes grew troubled. "How can such a thing be, that once slain, he could return from the Halls of Mandos?"
"Anything can be, if it is the will of Ilúvatar. The fallen may return to life by His power-," Elrohir turned his eyes downward toward hers as she lifted her eyes to meet his own, and a great breath heaved in his chest as he studied the nearness of her softly parted lips. "The captive be restored to those who love her."
"Captive-," she breathed, shuddering fiercely, and glanced down at her hands, lifting them and turning them over before her face as if seeing them for the first time. "Eär- Eärendil-," she called out, her voice one of fearful pleading. "How long was it, this forgotten thralldom? How is it, that-,"
"Forgive me," he grated swiftly, catching her face in his hands, and pressing his brow against hers. "We will not speak of such things on a fair night as this." And shivering she nodded, her eyes softened like a child's who has been wakened suddenly and mercifully from a wicked, fearful dream.
"Come," he smiled warmly, drawing slightly back, and studying the endearing way that her small, pale, unblemished hands clung so desperately to his own, larger and tanned, bearing slight calluses. "Let us speak of happy things, and let us be merry! Tell me, instead, of your names, and why they were given."
Calassë's brow furrowed slightly, though Elrohir could see the glimmer of light within her eyes, for which his heart grew warm.
"Meleth my mother called me the day I was born and it remained mine, ever after," she murmured softly at last, her eyes misting with distant memory. "For the love between my father and mother was great, and I was a child of their love. All within the king's kindred but Maeglin spoke of me by that name." She swallowed softly, her face slowly beginning to fall. "Always, Maeglin called me Lissien, a pet-name that dear Salgant fashioned for me when I was a child, and was sweet to my ears when he spoke it, though upon the lips of Eöl's son, it sounded bitter. Never did I understand why-,"
"Meleth? Lissien?" Elrohir cut in with a soft laugh, hoping to draw her despondent thoughts away from Maeglin and his treachery. And he was glad that his teasing tone could coax a slight smile to her soft lips. "Both of them fair and fine names, indeed! And why did you remember the name, Calassë? Doubtless there is a reason. It was cherished to you, of a surety, and dearer, perhaps than your others. Why was it so? Do you remember?"
Calassë sighed absently. And her eyes, no longer troubled, lifted to Elrohir's, filled with warm light.
She spoke not at all, but her small white hand lifted, and lightly touched the firm warmth of his jaw. Elrohir could not help but draw in a long breath at her touch, closing his eyes, and turning into the warmth of her soft caress.
"The Valar bless your Eärendil, for your gentleness and your patience." Calassë drew in and released a soft sigh. "Calassë indeed, was secretly the dearest of my names. Fair to me above all others. To my ears, it was the most beautiful."
Her smile was like warm sunlight upon his heart.
"And why was it so?" he murmured softly, uncertain why he would speak with bated breath. "Who-, who gave it to you?"
Below him upon the shadow drenched ground, a frantic voice, Rumil's voice, tore through the sweetened silence like a knife through a delicate, silver shroud.
Elrohir threw himself to his feet, shoving his suddenly heavy thoughts to the back of his mind as he strode to the silver fluted railing and caught it beneath his hands, his eyes finding the yellow haired Elf upon the shadowed ground.
Rumil's bow was in his hands, his quiver but half filled with arrows, and the robes enwrapping his chest were damp with sweat, heaving from swift exertion.
"What is it, Rumil?" he demanded as Calassë slowly joined him at the railing, her hand warm and soft, tentatively closing over his own.
"Fetch Lord Celeborn at once, my lord!" Rumil cried, his frantic voice echoing through the softened silence of the night. "For Dol Guldur has launched another assault!"
Calassë bit her lip softly as she glided upward about the circling steps that twined about the truck of the Mallorn the golden light of the morning as it filtered down through the canopy above her as she approached the feet of the Mallorn where a set of winding stairs twined about the thick trunk of the tree. Two young maidens near her own age were sitting together upon a wide stone beside the trail, Celebwen, and Niriel, their usually merry chatter subdued, as they spoke furtively together of the hopes that soon word would come from their men folk upon the eastern borders. Celebwen had a basket filled with the silver strands of raw, untwined thread beside her as she spoke. Her hands were moving quickly as she busily twisted strands of raw lint into fine thread, twining it slowly upon a carven distaff in her lap. Calassë paused as she watched the maiden's work, a brief memory tugging softly at the corners of her mind.
"Ah, our dear Calassë!" Niriel cried of a sudden, noticing her, and Celebwen lifted her eyes in welcome as she set her work beside her. Niriel rose and hurried forward as Calassë drew tentatively nearer.
Through worried, though smiling eyes, Niriel observed Calassë as she came, and Calassë touched a hand against the cloth of her a new gown of silvery green that had been fashioned for her, to fit the slim curves of her body. The throat was hemmed with delicately embroidered vines and leaves, and the sleeves of the gown hung long and open to her small pale hands, which Niriel caught in her own.
"You look lovely, Calassë!" the maiden exclaimed squeezing her hands, and Calassë smiled softly.
"Indeed," called Celebwen from behind her companion as she placed her twining spool into the basket, and rose to draw near. "We are glad to see you well, and about."
"Thank you," Calassë answered, returning the squeeze gratefully. "Though my heart is as fearful for my dear lord Eärendil, as it was, the first time the men were called to the eastern borders-," She dropped her eyes, unaware of the subdued exchange between the two maidens at the mention of Eärendil's name.
Celebwen whispered softly, "The poor dear one-,"
"She will know, in time, so our Lady says," Niriel returned softly. "Our young lord will tell her, himself, when she is ready."
"Forgive me for causing all of you such distress before when the men were called away," Calassë continued. lifting her head, and the two maidens glanced once again at her, smiling. "After you have all been so kind-,"
"There is nothing to forgive, my friend!" Celebwen exclaimed with a soft laugh that ended in a sigh as she joined them, and pressed Calassë's hand gently. "We are simply glad to know that you are healing. The distress that yet remains, that which you feel for-," a curious look of hesitation came over the maiden's face, and the two girls exchanged a quiet look which Calassë wondered at before the girl shook herself and continued. "It is a natural thing. Well do we understand your fear for the safety of-, our noble young lord." She squeezed Calassë's hand comfortingly, and Calassë smiled softly. "For our own lovers have gone with him, and we know not what news will come from the battle."
"Before his departure, Eärendil read to me of the Fall of Gondolin," Calassë offered quietly. "I must confess, I wept-,"
Niriel and Celebwen smiled softly, and the two maidens touched her shoulders comfortingly.
"And so you truly are a child of-, of Gondolin?" Niriel asked.
"Indeed, I am," Calassë returned, drawing in an involuntary sigh. Oh, why did so many others seem to wonder so at such a thing? Had she not been telling them all along, that Gondolin had been her home? How was it, then, that they found her story so remarkable?
"I am glad, though, that my dear Eärendil was saved, that his father and mother were able to lead some few of our people to safety to the dwell by the mouths of Sirion. And I am glad to learn that though Glorfindel fell-," her words faded as a chilled shudder wracked her body. Why did such a thought leave such a chill in her? Why did his name come so easily to her lips, yet she could not recall how she knew him? Surely he had been dearer to her than she could now remember.
"Though he fell, he returned again," Celebwen finished for her, and the words seemed to envelope Calassë in a warm mist of peace, banishing the previous chill.
"Yes," Calassë finished softly, before she shook herself, and smiled, remembering her previous task.
"Lady Lothriel dwells upon this talan, does she not?" she asked, indicating to the circular steps leading up into the higher branches of the tree. "She has not come to our Lady's dwelling, and Nana-," Calassë sighed, though the two maidens seemed not to notice the slip of her tongue. "Lady Galadriel bid me come to see if she is well."
"She does dwell here, indeed," Niriel returned. "Though neither of us has seen her this morning."
"Perhaps being with child wearies her," Celebwen offered helpfully. "My mother bore two sons after me, and well do I remember how weary she became, even in the earlier months."
"Or perhaps, she has darted off to battle again, to join her beloved!" Niriel offered, with a soft laugh, which Celebwen returned, shaking her head. Calassë raised her brows. Lady Lothriel had been in battle before? Quiet, graceful, demure Lothriel? She found herself smirking at the thought.
"Nay," Celebwen countered. "Not when she has her lord's child to think of. Doubtless she is only weary, and has slept beyond the sun's rising."
"Then perhaps I shall go up, and see," Calassë offered, and with a grateful wave, she turned toward the silver fluted steps and tripped lightly up them, one by one until she came to an arching doorway.
A light tap brought no answer, and so Calassë caught the latch, and pushed softly upon the wood, the doorway giving easily beneath her fingers.
"Lady Lothriel?" she called, poking her head into the circular sitting chamber at the fore the small, but elegant house Lothriel shared with her lord, Haldir. Several passageways and doorways led away, out of her sight, stairs circling up into branches unseen above her head. The ceiling was generously high, and the windows were large and peaked to let in generous amounts of light, the lattices interlaced with fluted designs imitating trailing, weaving vines. Against a nearby wall, sat a shelf lined with a small selection of books bound in silver and soft leather. And in the center of the chamber, there were several cushioned chairs set about a low carven table upon a richly woven rug. Upon the polished surface of the table, a small pair of bare feet was propped, the owner invisible beyond the high backed divan which faced away from her.
"Lothriel?" Calassë called, entering the chamber tentatively, and approaching the figure who stirred and sighed in response to her name.
Calassë smiled as the sight of Lothriel, clad in a sleeping shift came into her view, a silver bound tome resting upon her yet narrow stomach as her body lay curled like a slender cat upon the couch, her eyes lifted to the ceiling, unfocused. A basket much like Celebwen's rested on the floor beside her sleeping form, unfinished thread twined upon the distaff that sat idle upon the mounds of raw lint that had yet to be wound.
"Ai, my lady," Calassë chided softly as she drew the book from her limp hands. "Doubtless I shall find it as difficult as you have, to sleep alone when I have found a-," Calassë blushed to herself at the thought. "A husband," she finished as she closed the book softly, and turned it in her hands to read the gold delved inscription upon the cover.
`Of Beren and Lúthien'
Calassë smiled at this, and unthinking, she sat in the cushioned chair beside her friend's sleeping form and placed the book upon the table before her, and let it fall open, her eyes perusing the scrolling markings that had been drawn there as she absently took up the distaff from the basket beside her, her own hands twisting the lint unthinkingly into a slender, flawless thread. She blinked softly, her heart catching in her throat as she followed the words, "And after much hardship, Beren came stumbling into Doriath grey and bowed as with many years of woe, so great had been the torment of the road. But wandering in the summer in the woods of Neldoreth he came upon Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, at a time of evening under moonrise as she danced upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin..."
Calassë stopped short, struck with the familiarity of what she was doing, twining as she read, though she could not remember how she had learned to do either. Often had she done that before when-,
A ghost of a memory, like an elusive scent upon a forgotten breeze, brushed through her mind.
"Ho, lapsë onómë, my little Calassë," Glorfindel chuckled as he strode to the divan across from her, and flung himself casually upon it, observing her with a teasing smirk as he propped an arm beneath his head. Calassë looked up from the words she had been hungrily devouring, and grinned at him. "Once again reading as you do you twining?" He nodded at the book beside her, and the distaff rolled with shimmering thread that she held in her lap. "Well you know I should scold you for that, though I will not. You boast the finest thread in the market. You could dance as you twined, and the quality would not suffer. "Nay, I do not jest!" he cried as Calassë shook her head, laughing. Glorfindel grinned, rising to sit up, and lean forward, his elbows upon his knees, and his eyes grew warm. "For you are a fair dancer, fair as you are beautiful. For I have seen you dance upon festival days with the other maidens, and with-," his eyes darkened slightly even as they filled with a hint of pleading. "With Maeglin, though there are other men who admire your beauty, and who wish dance with you, if you permitted them. But they dare not speak of their intentions-,
"Nay, I do not jest!" he cried as Calassë shook her head, laughing. Glorfindel grinned, rising to sit up, and lean forward, his elbows upon his knees, and his eyes grew warm. "For you are a fair dancer, fair as you are beautiful. For I have seen you dance upon festival days with the other maidens, and with-," his eyes darkened slightly even as they filled with a hint of pleading. "With Maeglin, though there are other men who admire your beauty, and who wish dance with you, if you permitted them. But they dare not speak of their intentions-,"
Calassë gulped softly, her thoughts returned to her as the elusive memory faded from her mind, leaving naught but wisps of thread behind. Her eyes fell to the distaff, the thread twined upon it, realizing that she had added a significant portion as she had recalled the faint memory.
With a sigh, she replaced the wooden distaff in Lothriel's basket, and reached for the thick book, closing it softly.
"I remember the small white school upon the corner of the market, where mother sent me to learn with the other children-," she breathed softly, hefting the weight in her hands, drinking in the old familiar scent of leather and parchment as she drew it near to her face. "I remember-, I remember sitting upon the grass beside-, beside Glorfindel, so tall when I was a child-," a chill shuddered through her body. "He helped me learn how to read-,"
A stirring and a soft sigh beside her, reminded her of the present, and the faint memory was gone. She turned toward Lothriel with a smile upon her face, and rose softly from the chair. Doubtless, her friend had stayed up into the late hours of the night, reading the story of the two lovers, pining for her own lord, and now she slept wearily. At this understanding, Calassë turned, and with silent steps, made her way toward the shelf of books, meaning to replace the tome, and hurry back to Galadriel with the news.
But she paused briefly as she placed the book upon the polished golden wood of the shelf, perusing the other silver bound tomes in thoughtful contemplation.
`Nirnaeth Arnoediad', read the silver inscribed binding of one book, but Calassë shuddered, and glanced quickly away. Well she knew of that battle, and did not wish to read of it more, now that the men were away, and in peril.
`Akallabêth--The Downfall of Númenor' read another one.
Númenor-, Eärendil has spoken of it before, but the title seemed too sad for her to read now, and she wished for her heart to be light, that she might greet her dear Eärendil with a bright face upon his return.
Dear Eärendil, she sighed to herself. A child no longer, but a man, noble and kingly as his forebearers, and of such manly beauty that she could not breath to think of him-, And to feel his arms about her when he held her, she knew her pain could never be unbearable, the blackest memory of her forgotten thralldom could not break her, if she endured it in his arms. How he had changed-,
What has happened to me? she breathed to herself, pausing and placing a hand upon her heart to quell a curious aching that pulsed there as she pictured his fair visage in her mind. I loved him as a child. Yet now, this which I feel, this sweet aching tenderness, I did not feel, before-,
Her eyes stopped of a sudden, upon a blessedly familiar name, and the pang in her heart throbbed all the more fiercely as she drank in the silver etched words.
`Eärendil the Mariner'
With a soft, eager gasp, she snatched the tome from the shelf. Though he was not here with her, sheltering her in the warm strength of his embrace, still she could have thoughts of him near her.
"You shall not mind, if I borrow this for a brief time?" she asked eagerly, turning toward the sleeping woman before her. Lothriel sighed in her sleep.
And Calassë grinned widely as she hugged her newfound treasure to herself, and scampered from Lothriel's abode, darting with swift steps down the silver twining staircase, and to the forest floor.
Niriel and Celebwen, to her disappointment, were both gone now, and she sighed briefly as she flopped down upon the rock they had been sitting on, for she had wished to share her treasure with them.
Still, her spirits were not dampened long as she smiled and curled her legs beneath her upon the stone's flat surface as she drew the cover open to the first page, reverently as if she opened the lid of a chest sheltering a cache of precious jewels. Her lips drew up into a smile as she followed the first several lines of the page, for the story began where the Fall of Gondolin had ended, in the sweet restful havens nigh to Sirion's mouths.