Disclaimer: I don’t own Middle Earth or any of Tolkien’s creations and I’m not making any money.
Names/Pronunciations/Misc will come at the end of each chapter.
`*’ signals a footnote
“text” signals dialogue
‘text’ signals thoughts
Chapter 16.) Something Beautiful
“dazed an earth shakes sleep
out of her brightening mind:now everywhere
space tastes of the amazement which is hope”
– e. e. cummings
December 9, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
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.”
Despite the high tide of emotions that had been tossing Calina about all that day and the night before, she was able to sit beside Kallindo at supper with a degree of equanimity. She was aided in doing so by the lively atmosphere of Lady Calamau’s table, which boasted hearty food, friendly faces, and plenty of merry, inconsequential discourse. The five students who currently resided with the glass artisan had emerged mysteriously from the woodwork and, by more conventional means, a few favorite neighbors had presented themselves at the front doorstep. All were in rare form; it was quite an uplifting company. Calina knew all of them from her years spent in study there and she was surprised to realize, upon seeing them again, how much she had truly missed them.
Though Kallindo was somewhat reserved at first, he soon made his way into the ebb and flow of conversation and was accepted with tacit enthusiasm by all present as being a well opinioned, gentle elf. Calina was quite please by this development, as at that moment it seemed very important that they should approve of him. She was also rather amused with herself for feeling so.
The revolutions of Calina’s over-taxed emotions were as follows: Upon the entrance of the first course she was still in a fluster over Kallindo’s stolen kiss and rather daring assertion. As the first course began to make its descent, her discomfiture settled down into a subtle warmth around the heart. With the second course, this warmth traveled out through her fingertips and made her feel quite light and heady. And when dessert made its appearance, the butterflies in her stomach had become so insistent that she was forced to let them bubble out in laughter.
But after all of these wonders had come to pass, Calina knew that she truly lost herself when – after having to sit through an embarrassing, though hilarious, recital of one of her less than brilliant moments – Kallindo took her hand in his beneath the table, gave it a gentle squeeze, and forgot to let go. After that, the embarrassment, the uncertainty, even the laughter, didn’t seem to be so important as the feeling of his fingers intertwined with her own. For a few delicious moments, Calina was able to imagine that they were both blissfully in love. And though the feeling soon passed and she reminded herself that Kallindo’s professions had never yet touched upon love, she could not hide the joy in her eyes nor suppress the hope in her heart.
Turning to Kallindo, she gazed upon him with a slightly impertinent, mischievous, and calculating eye, and spoke to herself what she had not the courage to say aloud: `I shall teach you to truly love me one day, and what a glorious day it shall be!’
Kallindo felt her eyes upon him. “Dare I ask what the lady is thinking?”
Calina smiled. “You may ask, but I shall not answer you – not yet.”
“I see. Then it must be a very grave secret. And when, pray, might I expect to be allowed into your intimate confidence?”
Blushing quite prettily, Calina picked up her goblet with her free hand, though she did not drink from it. Kallindo still held her right hand firmly in his left. “I cannot say,” she finally murmured.
A gentle laugh reached her ears form across the table. One of the guest – a tall, charming elf, whose eccentricities almost rivaled those of Lady Calamau – leaned over to his dinner partner and whispered for all to hear: “I have never seen Calina’s eyes so bright, nor her cheeks so rosy. Think you that she is in love?”
A tide of laughter and elbow prodding lapped around the table, for everyone present had wondered at the new comer and at the interesting exchanges between him and their young friend.
“I believe I must agree with you,” one of the students piped from several seats down. “For my eyes may have played false with me, but I believe I saw a stolen kiss in the garden!”
This brought on a heartier wave of chuckles and general, friendly pandemonium. Calina felt that she should be cross, but the enthusiasm was very invigorating and she instead found herself laughing and blushing and laughing again. Kallindo attempted to glare at the impertinent youth who had revealed their secret, but he could not be bitter. A broad smirk soon took up residence on his face as he was accosted by questions, admonitions, and pointedly appraising stares.
Oiratinwë watched with amusement as the poor couple was besieged. Finally, she decided to rescue them by standing up at the head of the table and calling her guests to order.
“Really!” she finally declared when the murmurs had died down. “One would think that you all are as gossipy as I am! If you cannot contain your nosiness, at least try and ask only one question at a time. You will drive the poor lad into hiding, and then Calina would never forgive any of us.”
“Quite right, my lady, quite right,” the elf who had begun the raucous agreed. “But I think there is really only one question that needs to be answered to allay our curiosity.” Turning his attention to Kallindo, the elf continued. “You must understand that we are all very fond of Calina – very cross when she left us and very happy that she has come again. Because of this we of course want to know more than we have any business knowing, but will settle for this: Do you fancy our little sea jewel and are you doing your best to make her happy?”
Calina spoke up before Kallindo could compose a reply sufficiently balanced between the serious and the light-hearted. These were her friends, and she would not force Kallindo to display himself before strangers. “You rogue, that was two questions, not one. But I shall be gracious with you.” A pause. “Kallindo and I are betrothed. And yes, he is making me happy.” She turned to him with a slow smile. “I hope I shall make him so.”
Kallindo rested beneath his lady’s gaze. All he could think was that her smile was for him. He squeezed her hand gently, trying to convey the fact that she already had made him happy. His true doubts lay in whether he could make her so. It was therefore comforting to know that, at least for the present, he was successful.
When looking back on the bewildering course of her day, Calina supposed that she really should not be at all surprised that she found herself, late that evening, sitting before the fire with Kallindo’s arm about her, leaning against him. However, she was surprised. And she felt, by the sudden stillness of her companion, that he was as well. It seemed to have happened without either of them actually meaning it to.
For a moment, Calina considered drawing back, but then decided against it. There was no cause for such an action, and she was quite comfortable where she was. Now, as to her impulse to put her hand against his chest and snuggle in… that was something she had not, as yet, the courage to do.
The pair sat quietly for several minutes. It was quite late, and though neither wanted to admit it, both were rather ready for the quiet and rest of their own beds. The gathering that evening had been quite jolly, but it had left them somewhat more at ease with their current circumstances than they felt they had a right to be, considering. Note the way Kallindo’s hand made a movement to touch Calina’s hair, but retreated quickly.
A log cracked in the fire. Calina blinked as though coming awake; her brow furrowed.
“Do I laugh too much?”
“Why would you ask such a thing?”
“I hope I am not overly silly – do you think I am overly silly?” Calina tilted her head up to meet Kallindo’s eye and quirked an eyebrow most comically.
Kallindo smiled at her expression, but spoke with a serious undertone. “Through the entire course of our friendship you never paid heed to the thought that the difference in our ages was an impediment. Why do you give place to such misgivings now?”
Calina frowned. “You can always see what it is I really mean. I do not think that is fair… You know all my secrets.”
“You’re secrets are safe in my keeping. Have no fear.” Kallindo urged Calina to rest her head back on his shoulder. Another moment passed before he wound up his courage. “May I touch your hair?”
“You may,” Calina whispered.
It was some time before either of them spoke.
“My father will be distressed over me,” Calina sighed heavily. “I do not see any way around that.”
Kallindo’s right hand was tangled in Calina’s hair. He withdrew it slowly. “Do you wish to go home, to tell your parents?”
“Strangely… no, I do not. I think I begin to agree with Lady Calamau. I have done enough running around the country for one winter. And I am happy here. I do not wish…”
“I do not think I should return home until we are wed. I…” She ducked her head. A moment passed while she resolved herself to speak.
“After you left, I would go into my workrooms every day and close the door, make them all believe that I was working and engaged. But I didn’t work; I just sat in the gloom mostly. And if I did try to make something it would come out all wrong. Or sometimes, it would be so perfect that I couldn’t understand how my hands should be able to go on making beautiful things when my own heart was no longer beautiful to me. I threw them all away – there’s quite a pile in the back behind the bushes. I felt, and still feel a little, the keen desire to smash the whole collection to bits, but such a terrible thing… I would never forgive myself. I don’t think I should be allowed the opportunity.”
Kallindo wanted to smash something himself. Instead, he pulled Calina to him with both arms and held her snugly against his chest. He did not speak. There didn’t seem to be anything worth saying.
“Thank you,” Calina finally murmured against his tunic.
Kallindo smiled sadly. “I don’t see that I have ever done anything by you that is worthy of gratitude, but… I would…”
He trailed off. Calina’s somber mood shifted; she was on her guard. Pushing herself back, she gazed at Kallindo with a stern aspect.
“Don’t you dare marry me because you feel guilty, Kallindo. You’ve done an admirable job so far of convincing me that you want this, even if not for the same reason as I do. I will gladly be your companion, your friend, your comforter, your… lover.” Calina looked away toward the fire. “But do not make me your peace of mind – your absolved conscience. I will never regret that I met you, so do not try to convince me, or yourself, that I should!”
Here, Calina adjusted herself so that she was kneeling on the settee, facing Kallindo. With hands that shook only slightly, she framed his face and pulled it toward her. Looking him levelly in the eye she declared: “I am so happy to have known you, Kallindo. I am so happy at the thought of being your wife, of being with you. In my judgement, you have done very well by me, and you will simply have to learn to put up with my gratitude. You may still be in dispute with your own heart, but know this: I am of the firm belief that Eru himself made me for you. Do not apologize for capturing my heart.”
Kallindo watched in awe as a sudden smile blossomed on Calina’s face. She leaned closer.
“For allowing me to bully my way into your life those months ago, you have my thanks.” She laid a soft kiss on his lips. “And thanks again.” Another kiss.
Letting his eyes sink closed, Kallindo rested his forehead against Calina’s and slipped his left hand into her hair. The two sat silently for several moments, letting peace settle back down around them.
“I am not here to absolve myself,” Kallindo finally spoke. “I want you to be my wife. I do want that. I still feel that this desire to have you with me is a selfish one, at bottom. But if it is what you need from me, then be at peace.”
“That is what I need.” Calina drew away, and favored Kallindo with a glowing countenance. “That is what makes this right, don’t you see? If we both want this and are determined so see it grow into something beautiful, then it will grow into something beautiful. It will be what we make of it.”
Kallindo smiled warmly, restored by his lady’s enthusiasm. “It seems obvious that you shall be the voice of optimism in this venture,” he teased lightly.
Calina shook her head in mock censure. “Nay. I am the voice of practicality and reason. As adorable as you may look with a forlorn expression on your face, I hope that you will begin putting a few of those trammeled and overly analyzed impulses to some good purpose. You cannot sigh forever!”
“`Trammeled impulses.’ My, but that does sound bleak.” Kallindo’s tone was very dry. “Just remember that I am the elf who chased you for three days and asked for your pledge in the middle of a snowy field. Wasn’t that impulsive enough for you?”
Calina paused, wondering if his cryptic tone implied that he was actually irritated with her. Kallindo winked. Calina’s eyes widened in astonishment, her lips parted in a silent `o’.
“Further proof,” the elf murmured. “If I can surprise you, I must have some spontaneity about my person.”
With that, Kallindo rose and laid a parting kiss on Calina’s hair. “May your dreams be very sweet.”
“You said the same last night,” Calina observed absently.
“And were they sweet? Your dreams?”
Calina merely nodded, a smile in her eyes.
Kallindo turned to depart the cozy chamber. He was almost through the door when he swung back, paused, then stumbled out: “Would you… if your father consents, that is… might you consider being married soon?”
“I would – I do. Indeed, I would wish it to be so.”
“I will send a message to your father then. We will not go back until you are ready, so let us hope your family can make the journey in haste.”
With a quick nod, and a self-conscious smile, Kallindo bid a final farewell and went to seek out his own bed.
The message was sent; Kallindo and Calina settled down into their temporary abode and waited expectantly. Both felt that a very hopeful beginning had been made and that it only needed encouragement to grow into “something beautiful,” as Calina had termed it. Kallindo was not yet ready to put a name to what that something beautiful might be, but he felt its burgeoning nonetheless.
Despite the air of hopefulness, however, the waiting did become a bit nerve-wracking. And so, to keep her hands occupied and her thoughts away from the impending confrontation with her family, Calina stepped back into her role as one of Lady Calamau’s pupils. She was up with the other students in the morning, preparing, cataloging, and learning the properties and meanings of different tinctures, patterns, and techniques. In the afternoon, she would be in the kiln room, sweaty and content, generally aiding, but sometimes working on pieces of her own.
Kallindo likewise did what he could to make himself useful. Each morning he would take the horses out of their rather cramped accommodations and exercise them in the fields beyond the city gate. Upon his return, he would groom the horses and then seek the kitchen to try and beg work of the housekeeper (who was in truth merely an old friend of Oiratinwë). The fruits of his inquiries generally amounted to peeling a few potatoes, or drawing water from the well, but it was enough to keep him busy until lunchtime. After this, his pleas fell on deaf ears and he was shooed out of the kitchen. He amused himself by meandering through the livelier streets of the city, reading, or sitting in a corner of the kiln room, unabashedly watching his betrothed.
The last, in particular, was quite amusing indeed. Watching Calina in this setting revealed things about her that he had never known before. For instance, she was careful of her ears; when she tied her hair back she would always pull it over her ears, and continue to reach up absent-mindedly to make sure it was still in place. When she worked at the kiln she was stern-faced and silent, but when she stood by to aid someone else she couldn’t stop speaking or singing. Though her confrontations with Oiratinwë on matters of their craft were infrequent, she would always preface the argument by stepping back, setting her hands on her hips, and delivering the first wave of her artistic rebellion in the form of a question.
When Kallindo thus observed her, he tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible. He would, of course, be found out as some point, and then Calina’s mannerisms and habits would jumble together in a self-conscious tizzy. After a while, she would perhaps take his stares as a challenge of sorts, and dive back into the activity around the kilns, but never without a look or a certain tilt of her head that declared she knew he was watching her.
One day, shortly after Kallindo had been found skulking about by Maica, a ruddy-haired she-elf who was the youngest of the lot, Calina set a pair of tongs aside and approached him with determined steps.
Kallindo eyed her quizzically as she took a firm stance in front of him, hands on her hips. She smiled slowly, eyes glinting. His lips responded, sliding into a bemused expression. She cocked her head as her smiled broadened into a Cheshire grin.
“You’re not of any use in this corner. Come on.”
“Come and help me. You should be able to do it – you’ve arms and legs enough, and a mind that I dare say is not too dull.”
Kallindo shook his head at her teasing tone, and then pinned her with his glance, trying to determine if she was in earnest. Calina favored him with the most sincere “come hither” look he had ever beheld on the face of a female; he was up and following her to the kilns.
For the next hour Kallindo was given an introductory lesson on the art of glassmaking. Calina was working on crafting a modestly sized chandelier, which was the working together of many delicate, amber-colored, glass birds. As an accent, she wanted to craft slender feathers to hang down from beneath the candles. One such feather was the results of Kallindo’s instruction. Under the guidance of Calina’s steady hands and playful eyes, he rolled, pulled, and etched the heated glass until, only shortly after Oiratinwë had called the other students away, he had brought the piece to what was, at least, a recognizable form. Calina overlooked all of its imperfections and praised him heartily.
“You flatter, my lady. I do not suffer under the delusion that it is well done. You may cease your adulation.”
Calina laughed. “No, indeed! It is quite well for your first attempt. I am indeed impressed. You are very adept with your hands, I wonder that you are not a craftsman yourself.”
Kallindo smiled wryly, wiping his sleeve carefully across his face before taking the glass feather in a pair of tongs and returning it to the coals. He thought he would make one more attempt to clarify the ruffled edges of the plumage before supper.
“I was busy becoming adept at other things, I am afraid. After spending the entirety of my adult life as a warrior, it seemed somewhat late to find another calling. I dally in this and that, and earn my keep…” He faded off, suddenly very conscious of his unimpressive, retiring lifestyle. Would Calina be content simply living in a small house by the ocean, without expectations or diversions or ambitions? Would he be content to keep her there? These were points worth considering.
Slowly, so as not to startle him and cause some accident with the hot glass, Calina slipped her hands around Kallindo’s waist and leaned her head against his back. “You must do `this and that’ very well, for I know an elfling back home who positively adores you. And, now that I consider the question, I quite adore you as well. I cannot understand what it is to live in warfare, what it would be like to spend your life learning how to kill just so that your people would survive. I know it does not make any sense at all, but I feel very grateful just now, and very proud of you.”
Kallindo pulled the feather from the kiln and laid it across a metal workspace. Moving cautiously, and bending over only slightly to carve at the hot glass, he hoped that Calina would not let go. She didn’t. He knew that they made for an odd picture, but to him it was the most intimate and satisfying moment they had yet shared. His hands moved with new-found confidence, proving themselves, telling the story of his thanks where words were insufficient; his back held carefully still, showing Calina that he desired her to rest against him, desired her confidence and trust.
Calina smiled against his tunic and closed her eyes, listening, feeling his fluid movements, sensing his contentment. She gave his torso a gentle squeeze.
Both elves jumped slightly, caught completely unawares by the sudden voice. Calina’s movement pushed Kallindo slightly forward and his hand, which had been hovering barely above the heated feather, touch against it lightly.
“Ai!” he drew his hand back quickly and clenched his fist together at the sting.
“Here, here is the water!” Calina flew to a bucket of water nearby and brought it back, instructing Kallindo to hold his hand out as she slowly poured some of the contents across his burn.
It was in this pose that Calina finally looked up and toward the doorway.
“Amil, atar! I- I am so glad you have come.”
Kallindo looked up and met the puzzled gaze of his future father-in-law.
“Soronhín.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say, as the water flowing over his hands came to a stop.
Calina put the bucket down and stood next to Kallindo, her hands clasped behind her back. Kallindo shifted away from Calina and then back again, paused, wiped his smudged hands against the leather apron he had been given. Soronhín took several tentative steps forward, leading his wife by the hand and carefully scrutinizing his daughter, while Danneniûl kept her eyes averted as she attempted to quell a rebellious smile.
Kallindo cleared his throat. Danneniûl looked up and gazed upon him warmly, encouraging him to speak.
The brilliant introduction that he had composed in his head ran as follows: “I know my letter must have been quite startling. If you would allow me to speak with you somewhere more private I am sure many of your worries could be addressed. Calina and I have much to say.”
What actually came out was: “My letter, you received it… good… good, you are here.”
A moment passed in silence before Kallindo winced and let his eyes wander back to the floor.
With undisguised tenderness, Calina stepped closer to Kallindo’s side and slipped her hand into his own. She addressed her father.
“Do not look so grave, atto. I have so many happy things to tell you!”
Leaving her place beside Kallindo, Calina approached Soronhín and embraced him, nestling her head against his chest.
“You’ll see, atto. It is something beautiful.”
Soronhín wrapped his daughter firmly in his arms and laid his cheek against her hair. Her brightness had returned; her warmth and vitality comforted him. She was no longer the little shadow he had watched ride away almost two weeks before. She was Calina again: illuminated. His lovely daughter
Perhaps he wouldn’t have to rescue her after all. Looking at Kallindo, who still stood several feet off, he noticed the unusual serenity in his eyes. Perhaps they had already rescued each other.
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. “illuminated”
Kallindo: Q. “noble heart”
Soronhín: Q. “eagle child”
Danneniûl: S. “fallen ember”
Oiratinwë Calamau: Q. “eternal spark/light hands”
Maica: Q. “piercing”
Atar/atto: Q. “father/daddy”
Amil/ammë: Q. “mother/mommy”