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
A/N: I have taken a little liberty: Everyone seems to think that elves can potentially go without sleep for a very long while. But what if they stretch that ability to its breaking point? How abruptly do they reach the end of their rope, and how does it affect them?
Chapter 17.) The Sweetest Dream (revised)
I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning
December 20, 210 Fourth Age, Valinor
Perhaps he wouldn’t have to rescue her after all. Looking at Kallindo, who still stood several feet off, Soronhín noticed the unusual serenity in his eyes. Perhaps they had already rescued each other.
“You must allow me to thank you once more, Lady Calamau.” Soronhín spoke as he set down his cup of tea. “Your hospitality is warm and inviting as always, though we did descend on you so suddenly.”
“I have grown used to unexpected guests this winter,” Oiratinwë replied. “And in this case, unexpected does not also mean unwelcome. It is always a joy to host any of your family.”
“Knowing your shrewdness, the honor of that sentiment is even more deeply felt.” Oiratinwë smiled her acceptance and then let her eyes rest on each of the company: Soronhín, his wife and his daughter, and Kallindo. All sat with a certain rigidity that was telling.
“I believe you have been tormented with my restraining presence long enough,” she stated, rising from her seat. “This room is at your service. No one shall disturb you here.”
Silence descended over the room after their host departed. For a brief moment, Kallindo wished that he had been able to drink something a little more fortifying than tea. But then Calina shifted beside him, her knee brushing against his own, and he was reminded that he already held faith and understanding with the most significant person in the room. This would be an uncomfortable ordeal, but it could not impinge upon the fact that she had chosen him.
“To say that I was surprised by the contents of your letter would be an understatement of gross proportions.” Soronhín leaned forward in his seat and rested his elbows against his knees, eyeing the couple across from him with a wry expression.
Calina’s rebellious lips tilted up into a half-smile. “Indeed,” she whispered into her tea as she brought the mug to her lips.
Soronhín eyed her with paternal resignation. “Yes, indeed. Though it seems that my wife was somewhat more prepared for this development than I.”
Calina looked at her mother curiously, wondering what her father had meant to imply. Danneniûl responded with a serene glance, but would not interrupt her husband as he continued.
“It is very hard for parents not to interfere in the lives of their children. Indeed, it would often be unjust for us to be silent simply to preserve harmony or avoid temporary discomfort. We were given authority over you for a time, and will always be here to guide you and give counsel when there is need. But,” here he paused to observe Kallindo for a moment. “This is your choice, Calina. We will not choose for you and we will support you in your decision.”
Calina smiled earnestly. “Thank you, atto.”
“Though,” he continued with a wry smile, “we do have our concerns.”
At this point, Danneniûl laid a staying hand against her husband’s arm and addressed Kallindo: “We have known you from almost our first days in Fánlitsë, and we know you to be an elf of the most upright character. Though we do have concerns regarding this union, I hope you know that we have never doubted your goodness or your worthiness.”
“I do know it, and I am thankful for your faith,” Kallindo replied with a grateful smile, “I have been shown nothing but kindness and acceptance from you both since I have had the privilege of being acquainted with you. Your friendship is very dear to me. And yet, I would not presume that it is strong enough to cover the transgression of having stolen away your daughter. Of course you are worried for her future – for my future with her.”
Soronhín leaned back as the weight of that last statement settled around him. His second daughter would be taken away, so soon after the first, and he was sad of it. His face betrayed his thoughts, and the sudden sobering of his features prompted Kallindo to address him.
“We spoke once before about the objections to such a match.” Calina opened her mouth as if to speak, but she stilled as Kallindo took her hand in his. “But I believe that those objections can be overcome, if we are dedicated to each other. Calina has placed her trust in me and given me her love. For my part, I will cherish her and honor her; I will do my best to learn how to be a good husband to her.”
“I do not doubt it,” Soronhín replied softly, “and I am not so reluctant to accept this conclusion as you may imagine. Though I was deeply worried at the outset of this journey, and though I am sorry to lose my daughter, I have seen in both of you today something which gives me comfort. It must not be forgotten that my solution would have led you both down a long and difficult path. Though I believe Calina would have recovered in time, I cannot but be glad at the thought that perhaps the two of you have found a better way, together. I certainly cannot condemn that possibility.”
Calina rose suddenly and moved to sit next to her father. Sidling up to him she placed a light kiss on his cheek. “I know that you were trying to protect me, to seek the best for me. But do not be disheartened. I believe that I have found it on my own.”
Soronhín placed an arm around his daughter and pulled her to him. He then did the same to his wife and kissed the hair of each. Looking up, he caught the approving eye of Kallindo. In the silence, the two shared a quiet smile and a brief moment of understanding.
“Does not our family present a charming example of the picturesque?” Calina addressed Kallindo with a pert smile.
“Most charming, lady.”
“Nay, more than charming,” Soronhín contradicted, squeezing Calina’s shoulder. “To have a good wife and a good daughter at your side, Kallindo. That is one of the sweetest things of all… I hope you shall be blessed in like manner.”
“I shall at least in this be blessed,” Kallindo murmured, sharing a gentle smile with his betrothed, “to have a very good wife. Of what blessings may yet come, I am ignorant, and yet content: for I have already been graced beyond expectation.”
A demure blush graced Calina’s cheeks as her bright eyes darted about among the tea service. Kallindo’s smile broadened affectionately as he observed her discomposure.
Danneniûl saw all of this and was happy. Soronhín saw all of this and was content.
The rest of the afternoon, and part of the evening, was spent in a rather sober, though necessary, conference. Both of Calina’s parents were determined to have their say before relinquishing their daughter to Kallindo, and in the process, several issues were canvassed which the younger couple were secretly relieved to have brought out into the open.
Did he feel the need to gain his parents approval? How would she be received by his family? Would she continue her studies? Where would they live? How would he contribute to the support of his family? How would they reconcile the different perspectives that came with their difference in age? These were the turns of the conversation which, weighty though it was, did wind down shortly before supper.
Though invited to stay for the evening meal, Soronhín and Danneniûl both professed a wish to return to their inn. They were both weary from their rushed journey up the coast, and there was also much to think of and speak of in the privacy of their own chambers.
As mother and daughter bid farewell with a long embrace and many quiet words, Soronhín and Kallindo were left to face one another. A moment hung precariously between them. Soronhín seemed on the verge of speaking and so Kallindo waited, though he felt the need to bridge the gap between them somehow. Finally, the elder elf put a hand on Kallindo’s shoulder and drew him further away from the ladies.
“Tell me this at least, to calm the last fear of this father’s heart: Is your heart free? Does it cling to another?”
Kallindo met his friend’s gaze firmly and replied simply. “My heart is free.”
Soronhín gave a succinct nod. “You have my blessing.”
“And your friendship?” Kallindo inquired boldly.
“Both friend and father?” There was a pause. “Yes. You have my friendship. Though it will take some time for me… Yes.”
The two parted as suddenly as they had come together. Soon after, Calina walked with her parents out to the gate to bid them farewell. After final embraces were exchanged, they departed and Calina returned to the house to search from Kallindo. Her search did not last long. After a few turns a pair of long legs arrested her progress. Kallindo was sprawled out across the floor, his back resting against the wall, eyes closed.
She shook her head in amusement. “What are you doing on the floor, silly?
Kallindo shrugged. “It seemed as good a place as any.”
Calina was slightly confused by his lethargic tones. It was a stark contrast to his demeanor when she had been with him only minutes before.
“Are you alright? You look quite pale.”
Kallindo shrugged. “I will be fine. Sit with me.”
Calina obliged him. Kallindo opened his eyes long enough to find one of her hands with his own. A smile spread slowly across Calina’s face.
“You are positively worn out,” Calina finally pronounced, shaking her head. To herself she mused: `Poor thing, I have run his head ragged these last months.’
Kallindo nodded once.
“And yet,” Calina continued, “this slumberous mood has come on quite suddenly, has it not?” She smiled impishly. “I hope that I and my family did not tax you over much.”
Kallindo opened his eyes and turned his head toward hers. “They are also my family now… and no, neither they nor you are the cause of my present condition. In truth, I have not slept well these past few nights. That is… I haven’t slept at all. And it seems now that I am finally to suffer for it. I very much look forward to crawling into my bed tonight, I can assure you. But, as you see, I found the need for a temporary respite to hold me over until then. Couldn’t walk another step.”
Impulsively, Calina reached up a hand and smoothed Kallindo’s hair back, even as she chided him. “You should take better care. Oh! And I made you work with me this afternoon at the kiln. It is a wonder you did not fall asleep in the coals. How many nights have you done this?”
Kallindo scrunched up his face in concentration. “Five… no, six… Yes. Six nights.”
Calina’s mouth fell open. “Kallindo,” she breathed, drawing out the syllables. “I don’t even know what to say.”
A groggy smile adorned Kallindo’s lips. “Oh, feel free to scold,” he murmured, as his eyes wandered waywardly toward her lips.
Calina heaved a great sigh, letting her head rest again the wall, still turned toward him. “I have not the heart for it.”
“Kind heart,” Kallindo whispered as, with somnolent imbalance, he followed his gaze and tilted slightly toward her. Their heads were very close now: Calina’s slightly upturned to meet his drowsy gaze. She flushed slightly as Kallindo studied her face, slowly and quite thoroughly, with a half-smile on his lips.
“I was thinking of you… all these nights. Thinking of you, trying to puzzle you out… it is strange, so strange… puzzling.”
Calina’s breath was very shallow, but she managed to whisper: “Kallindo, are you quite conscious of what you are saying?”
He smiled crookedly. “Vaguely, madam. Ever so vaguely.”
Tilting further, Kallindo’s lips seemed to meet hers almost by accident. It was a languid, sensual kiss that left Calina’s nerves tingling. This impression was heightened even more by the fact that Kallindo did not press himself against her. His body, hovering slightly over her, seemed to eclipse her in its warmth, without demanding anything.
As the kiss progressed, Calina began to have the distinct impression that this was the sort of caress that should not be undertaken in a public hallway. And yet, she could not bring herself to draw away. She could only hope that Kallindo would soon do so for the both of them, as she was feeling rather light-headed and disoriented.
Several moments passed before Kallindo granted her unspoken wish, pulling back ever so slightly and allowing her to gain a few startled breaths.
“And are you quite conscious of what you are doing, sir?” she finally murmured, half between a sigh and a laugh.
Kallindo shook his head, drawing his eyebrows together. “I think… yes. I – forgive me… that is, if I have offended you.”
Calina could not but smile affectionately at the exhausted elf before her. “No,” she replied. “No, you have not offended me in the slightest.”
To prove her sincerity, she squeezed his hand and nestled her head down against his shoulder. The pair sat quietly for some time after that, hands entwined, simply enjoying the stillness and wondering at the peace that existed between them. However, their solitude was eventually broken when Maica appeared from around a corner in the hallway.
“There you are!” She cried jovially. “I’ve been sent out by the Old Lady to find you. We’ve been holding supper.”
“Everyone is waiting, then? Oh, but I really should help you get to bed, Kallindo… Kallindo?”
“It seems as though he has already found a bed wherein to cast his dreams,” Maica whispered over the unconscious form of Kallindo.
“We cannot leave him here,” Calina whispered. “Won’t you help me move him?”
With great care, the two carried Kallindo a few paces down the hallway and took him into the cozy room in which he and Calina had sat the evening they had become betrothed. He was soon ensconced amongst the pillows on the largest settee with a wrap tucked around him. His poor feet stuck out at the end. Calina smiled at the picture he presented.
Maica beckoned to her to come to supper, but she sent the younger she-elf on without her. Turning back, she knelt beside the settee and studied his peaceful countenance. With reverence, she placed a kiss upon his lips. “May your dreams be very sweet,” she whispered wistfully, adjusting her position to recline against the skirt of the couch with her head near Kallindo’s on the cushion.
Sitting there quietly, listening to his gentle breathing, it was not long before Calina too stepped out onto the path of dreams. And if her position rather tended toward a crick in the neck, and if his long legs slid indecorously off the thin settee in the middle of the night, neither one thought it of any account. Especially when they were rewarded for their troubles by waking up to each other’s dream-filled eyes in the morning.
“You stayed with me?”
“All through the night?”
“Are you not weary and stiff from such an endeavor?”
“Let’s run away.”
“Where shall we run to?”
“To the seashore.”
“Shall we ride?”
“Yes. And be back again before midday.”
“Take care, lady. Once I have absconded with you, I may not want to bring you back.”
“I never took you for a villain. Would you hold me against my will? “
“Nay. But I might find ways of persuading you to stay.”
“The shore it is then.”
“Lead the way, madam.”
As the sun tilted fully above the horizon, two cloaked figures could be seen stealing out through the city gate, horses in tow. They made nary a sound as they descended down past the monuments and towering trees of the causeway. But soon, they were racing across the flat plains below Tármírë, toward the sea and into the heart of the sun.
An hours ride brought Calina and Kallindo to the water’s edge. The former jumped gracefully from her seat and removed her shoes in a twinkling. She was then in the water, holding her skirt up as she squished her toes around in the wet sand. Kallindo, thinking to remain dry, stood a few feet away from the waves and watched her. This, however, was not to be born. With only a mischievous glance to warn him, Kallindo found himself under attack as Calina sent a hearty spray in his direction.
What resulted then was not in the spirit of dignity, grace, or decorum. Between the splashing of water, the whoops, and the laughter, the setting of races, and the gathering of colorful shells it might be said that these two adult elves simply played together, like truant elflings in the joy of their freedom. So glorious was this release, that their juvenile antics did not cease until they had progressed a good half mile up the coast, whereupon they mounted a small knoll and collapsed within a copse of trees, sides aching with mirth.
“I haven’t played like that in such a very long time,” Kallindo sighed, trying to regain his breath.
Calina’s heart sang. “Then I am doing you some good after all, am I not?”
A lock of her hair blew against Kallindo’s arm and he captured it, letting his fingers trail along its silvery length. “You, Calina Soronhíniell, have done me a world of good.”
Calina stilled, then looked out across the sea. Kallindo followed her gaze and the two sat in silence for several moments, contemplating the expanse before them.
“You told me once that the sea gave you great comfort. And yet you told my father that you would live with me in Tármírë, while I perfected my craft. Will you be happy in a stone city? Will not you miss the sea?”
The winter breeze quickened, sending Calina’s hair tumbling behind her shoulders. The wind slipped through her wet clothes, but she was not cold. Merely keen to know his answer. She did not want his heart to ache on account of her.
Kallindo touched her shoulder. She turned to him and met his honest eyes.
“Do not worry over me. I hate to see it. Do not worry any more.”
“How can I not, when you will not answer my question?” she pressed.
Time passed and Kallindo did not speak. Minutes swept away and he simply looked at her. It was unnerving to Calina, and she had almost resolved to change the subject when Kallindo finally spoke, tenderly and softly:
“I should hope that I would love my wife far more than I love the sea. That is the answer.”
Calina’s heart caught raggedly at his words. “What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?” His deep, warm gaze enveloped her. “I mean that here, on this indifferent piece of sod, with water in my shoes and sand in my hair, I have finally found the courage to say what I should have said long ago.”
Drawing close to her, he placed a gentle kiss upon her brow. “I love my wife and you are she. You are my sweetest dream. And I will live by the sea or in a stone city or high up in a bird’s nest to be with you.”
A single tear graced Calina’s cheek, but Kallindo did not attempt to wipe it away. It was her testament, her love.
“Yes,” Calina whispered steadily, touching his face in wonder, “I am your wife. Kallindo, let us-“
“Shhh,” he whispered, placing a finger upon her lips. “Be still now, love. Let me lead as I should have led.”
The confusion in Calina’s eyes slowly melted into understanding. She acquiesced silently as Kallindo stood and drew her to her feet.
Taking both her hands within his own he spoke out across the sea, to the listening wind: “Let any who hears be my witness. I am ready to receive the great blessing I have been given. Today I will take Calina as my wife,” he turned to her, “if she will have me as her husband.”
“You are my husband, Kallindo. For all the ages of the world.”
And so, there upon winter grasses, within a sanctuary of roots, they were wed and two hearts became one.
Kallindo blinked against the light of the afternoon sun and instinctively tightened his hold upon his wife, pulling her more snuggly against his chest.
The silent exclamation seemed to ring out in Kallindo’s head, spreading a joyful tremor through his body. He had a wife!
In awe, Kallindo let his gaze travel down the sleeping form of his new wife. There she was – lovely and soft as the petals of a newly opened flower – nestled safely in his arms. It was the stuff of dreams.
And yet, with great surety, Kallindo knew that this was not a dream. He could feel her, down to the very bottom of his soul. She was inside of him: in his heart and mind. Her very presence permeated him. This was the essence of their bond and it was…
Calina stirred at the sound of her husband’s voice, but she did not awaken. Kallindo was glad of that, for he garnered a very satisfying pleasure in simply gazing upon her. She was so tranquil and perfect. After a few more moments passed in this silent contemplation, he drew the courage to speak once more.
“I never thought of you as delicate before, but you are. Did you know that? As delicate as a spray of glass; strong and supple as the willows; beautiful as a winter morning with your silver hair.” He drew his face closer to hers. “See… you even have me spouting poetry, you are so wonderful.”
Kallindo’s heart seemed to compress as a wave of tender protectiveness washed over him. “Thank you… thank you for making me a husband, for trusting me with your heart. From this day forward, it is my most prized possession.”
Calina stirred once more at his voice, and this time she did awaken. A sleepy smile adorned her lips as she beheld the face of her husband.
“We are late,” he whispered playfully.
“Late?” she questioned.
“You said that we would return by midday. It is already passed.”
“So it is,” Calina acknowledged drowsily. “Let it pass.”
“You see,” he murmured, as he leaned over her and placed a kiss from against her neck. “I did persuade you to stay with me.”
“I suppose I should have put up more resistance,” she sighed dramatically. “But your charms overcame me.”
Kallindo drew away and looked down at Calina. “You undid me, I’m afraid, and my chivalry was overthrown. I feel I must make some sort of an apology. I never expected to declare my love to you in the middle of a winter’s day on top of a barren hill. Not the most illustrious way to begin our lives together.”
Calina drew Kallindo’s face to her and gazed at him solemnly. “It was perfect. I would not have had it any other way.”
“I would never dream of contradicting you,” Kallindo replied gallantly. “Still, I think it would be wise to return to the city. You may not feel the cold now, but when you taste the comforts of a warm fire and a glass of wine you may wish you had had them earlier.”
“Very well,” Calina acceded reluctantly. “Let us return.”
As soon as Kallindo drew away from her, Calina sat up and prepared herself for their return journey. She then stood and started down the hill to gather the horses, which were still roaming free on the sands.
“Yes?” She turned around almost shyly, the immensity of what had just taken place beginning to catch up with her.
In his hand, Kallindo held up the glass thorn which she had given him. “I know I come to this marriage almost empty-handed, and have nothing proper to give you as a gift. But will you receive this from me, as a token of the day?”
“I do not understand,” Calina replied, her discomposure giving way to honest confusion. “Why should I have it?” “Because I do not need it any more.” Kallindo smiled broadly as though he had declared the most wonderful truth.
Calina, however, was still clearly unsure of his meaning, so he continued. “When you gave this to me, you offered it as a token of remembrance. And it did its duty well. Every day,
cool against my skin. It kept you with me: a thorn in my flesh that would not give me a moment’s peace. My thoughts were continually turning towards you. But now… now you are with me always. I can feel you within my very spirit. So you see, I do not need it any longer.” With solemn movements, Kallindo opened Calina’s hand and placed the thorn against her palm. “It has completed the work for which it was made. Now it returns to the hand of its creator as a remembrance of our joy.”
Calina closed her hand around the thorn and slowly stepped into the circle of Kallindo’s arms, twining her arms around his waist and nestling her head beneath his chin. She didn’t say anything. Nothing needed to be said.
No! It is not over yet…
Things to Know:
Calina: Q. “illuminated”
Kallindo: Q. “noble heart”
Soronhín: Q. “eagle child”
Danneniûl: S. “fallen embers”
Oiratinwë Calamau: Q. “eternal spark/light hands”
atar/atto: Q. “father/daddy”
amil/ammë: Q. “mother/mommy”