Flowers of Nimloth - Chapter 16

Chapter 1:<br /> Chapter 2:<br /> Chapter 3:<br /> Chapter 4:<br /> Chapter 5:<br /> Chapter 6:<br /> Chapter 7:<br /> Chapter 8:<br /> Chapter 9:<br /> Chapter 10:<br /> Chapter 11:<br /> Chapter 12:<br /> Chapter 13:<br /> Chapter 14:<br /> Chapter 15:<br /> <br /> <strong>Chapter 16: Opportunities</strong><br /> <br /> The next few days passed slowly for Lienilde. Word of Sauron&#8217;s human sacrifice soon spread through Romenna and was met with mixed reactions, very similar to when news of the temple&#8217;s completion reached the city. Some people believed Sauron&#8217;s words that the sacrifices would free the land from death and welcomed this new form of worship; others trembled in fear or anger, much like Lienilde had. Yet after dealing with emotional patients the day that the dark smoke had appeared over Romenna, she now had some experience hiding her thoughts from her patients. While Isildur may be an exception, she knew that she must appear calm and professional for her other patients. Even Vorime was impressed with her attitude.<br /> <br /> During those days, Lienilde did not get much chance to speak with Isildur: Vorime accompanied her on one visit, and Isildur was too weak to speak much on the other visits. Finally a day arrived in which she did have an opportunity to talk to him. &quot;Isildur,&quot; she began, not long after she had entered his room, &quot;how are you feeling today?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;The same,&quot; Isildur replied. &quot;You really need not ask me each day; if perchance I do ever improve I will certainly tell you.&quot;<br /> <br /> Lienilde sighed; he was obviously growing frustrated with his lack of progress. Not that she blamed him; she could not imagine spending nearly four months in bed herself. Just staying indoors for a week with the flu was enough to make her restless. She knew better than to continue this conversation, but she could think of nothing else to talk about. &quot;I do not suppose you have heard any more tidings from Armenelos?&quot; As soon as the words were out of her mouth she cringed. <em>He is already in a poor mood; why did I have to ask a question like that?</em><br /> <br /> &quot;No,&quot; he replied curtly. &quot;But let us not dwell on that. Tell me, how have you faired as of late?&quot;<br /> <br /> Relieved that she did not seem to upset him more than he already was, she answered, &quot;I have survived. All of my patients seem to want to talk of Sauron&#8217;s sacrifice, so it has been rather hard to think of anything else.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Then let us speak of something else,&quot; he replied, then paused for a moment. &quot;Is your mother still having you help with the preparations for the baby?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Of course -- I think my hands shall fall off soon from all the knitting!&quot;<br /> <br /> They both smiled and then fell silent; they were still finding it rather difficult to make light-hearted conversation. However, their talk seemed to spark some memory in Isildur, and his brow furrowed for a moment before he asked, &quot;Lienilde, I had forgotten to ask you until now, but a few days ago when you -- well, you mentioned you were worried about Ardil. What did you mean by that?&quot;<br /> <br /> Lienilde, who had been busy changing his bandages, paused for a moment before answering. She knew what he was referring to: during their argument a few days prior, she had briefly mentioned she was worried about Ardil&#8217;s fate. She sighed and sat down for a moment, leaving her work unfinished. &quot;I have not spoken to Ardil about it, but my father told me that he and Inzil were considering worshipping Melkor as well.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I see,&quot; Isildur answered, clearing thinking about her statement. &quot;Why have you not spoken to him?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I do not know what I would say,&quot; she replied. &quot;And besides, I believe Father has been speaking with him in the smithy. I just have not had the opportunity.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Sometimes,&quot; Isildur answered, &quot;you have to make your own opportunities.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I suppose you are right,&quot; she replied, a hint of a smile reaching her lips, but only briefly. She could not help but think of the opportunity that he had &quot;made&quot; for himself in Armenelos four months prior. <br /> <br /> They remained silent as Lienilde continued to change the bandages. She wanted to change the bandages on all of his wounds today, and that always took some time. Finally, she said, &quot;I never properly thanked you for telling me of Nimloth&#8217;s history.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;There is no need to thank me; I much enjoyed the telling.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I know,&quot; she replied, finishing her work with the bandages and taking a seat beside him. &quot;But I still appreciated it nonetheless. Though I do wonder what we shall speak of now; I had grown rather accustomed to your history lessons.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Well then,&quot; he replied, &quot;I shall think of another story for your next visit.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I would like that,&quot; she answered with a smile. With that, she bid him farewell, and returned to her own home for the night, hoping that the next day would be more cheerful, for everyone involved.<br /> <br /> ****<br /> <br /> Lienilde arrived home early that night, too early to even help her mother prepare supper. Thus it was not long before she found herself sitting on the bench in their garden, staring out across the hilltop, catching glimpses of the sea over the tops of the neighboring houses. Spring was slowly arriving, and though the air was still chill, it was not too cold to sit on the bench in the setting sun with a cloak wrapped around her shoulders. It was a peaceful spot to sit and sort through her many thoughts -- something she seemed to be doing a lot of, as of late.<br /> <br /> However, it was not long before she heard footsteps coming up the path to house. She turned and saw Ardil and Inzil approaching the house; apparently they were joining the rest of the family for supper again. Inzil smiled at her then entered the house, but Ardil followed the path to the little garden and took a seat beside her on the bench.<br /> <br /> &quot;What brings you to this spot, little Lien?&quot; he asked as he sat down.<br /> <br /> &quot;I am just thinking,&quot; she replied, not sure of what else to say. It suddenly struck her how far apart she and Ardil had grown in the last few years -- for there was little on her mind that she could speak with him about without a lengthy explanation first. She found it rather sad; they had been quite close when they were children, but once Ardil began his apprenticeship in the smithy and spent more time with Inzil, and later as Lienilde began her own apprenticeship, they simply had little time to spend together.<br /> <br /> &quot;How is your patient?&quot; he asked after a moment of silence. &quot;The one you have been treating so long -- Isildil?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Isildur,&quot; she immediately corrected, then paused. She had still not told Ardil what had really happened to him, especially now that she knew Inzil&#8217;s family were openly worshiping Melkor. <em>Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities.</em> Isildur&#8217;s words from earlier that day suddenly came to mind.<br /> <br /> &quot;Ardil, if I tell you something, will you keep it secret? Even from Inzil?&quot;<br /> <br /> Her brother raised his eyebrows, obviously surprised at her request. &quot;Well, yes, I suppose so -- yes I will.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I have already told Failon and our parents,&quot; she continued, &quot;and that was probably already too many to tell...&quot; Her voice trailed off; she was really just stalling as she thought of how to tell her brother of Isildur&#8217;s secret. Finally she spoke again.<br /> <br /> &quot;Do you remember when Sauron cut down Nimloth four months ago?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Yes, of course,&quot; Ardil replied hesitantly.<br /> <br /> Lienilde remembered the night she told her parents of Isildur&#8217;s deed: how the stench of Nimloth&#8217;s smoke filled the air, and how she wept as she told the story. She took a deep breath and continued, determined not to cry this time.<br /> <br /> &quot;A few days prior, Isildur&#8217;s grandfather Amandil learned of Sauron&#8217;s plans. Isildur entered the courts of the King in disguise, and managed to steal a fruit from Nimloth&#8217;s branches. However, the guard was aroused, and he was seriously wounded when he fought them off and escaped. He has still not recovered from his injuries.&quot; Lienilde omitted that they had planted the fruit, but Ardil would probably deduce the fact easily enough.<br /> <br /> &quot;I see,&quot; Ardil replied after a short moment. &quot;And I suppose that you do not want me to tell Inzil because of her family&#8217;s loyalties.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Well, yes, in a way,&quot; Lienilde admitted, &quot;but also because the fewer people who know Isildur&#8217;s secret, the safer he is. It is not that I do not trust Inzil; I think she is a wonderful woman--&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I know, I know&quot; Ardil cut her off with a wave of his hand. The siblings fell silent, for Lienilde could not read her brother&#8217;s thoughts and did not know how to respond. She began to wonder why she had told him -- she had hoped it would segue into a conversation about the Faithful, but now she was not so sure. Suddenly she began to fear that she had made the wrong decision. Would her brother even keep Isildur's secret safe?<br /> <br /> &quot;Lienilde, do you ever fear death?&quot;<br /> <br /> Lienilde glanced up at her elder brother. The question was slightly unexpected, though not wholly out of place -- she suspected that he knew their father had told her about his considerations to join the Melkor worship, and that is why she told him about Isildur.<br /> <br /> &quot;At times, yes,&quot; she finally answered. &quot;In my mind, I still believe that death is the Gift of Man, but it is hard not to experience fear when so many others are afraid. I have only had a few patients pass on, but all of their families were so distraught -- I know that none of them thought death was a gift.&quot;<br /> <br /> The two were silent again as Ardil considered her words. Lienilde could tell that he appreciated her honest answer, and now she waited to hear his thoughts. &quot;Our child is not even born yet,&quot; Ardil finally said, &quot;but the more I think about his birth -- or her birth, I suppose -- the more I feel that death is something unnatural. How can anything that separates a son from his father, a wife from her husband, a man from his brother, be a gift?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I suppose that if death was the end of all things, then yes, such a separation could not be a gift,&quot; she replied. &quot;But I do not think that is the case. The Eldar reunite with their loved ones after death; why should we think that Man is denied the same privilege?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;The Elves,&quot; Ardil muttered quietly, with a bitter undertone that was not lost on Lienilde. She knew then that Ardil had come to believe Sauron&#8217;s lies about the Elves: that Men were entitled to eternal life but the Elves and the Valar were keeping it from them. She sighed; apparently her and her brother&#8217;s beliefs had grown further apart than she realized. Her apprehension about Isildur's safety slowly grew.<br /> <br /> &quot;How do we know what the Elves say is true?&quot; Ardil then asked. &quot;How do we know that the Valar have not placed the Ban upon us to prevent us from obtaining immortality? How can death be a gift when we all fear it so?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;And how do you know that what Sauron says is true? His teachings go against all that we have been taught for generations!&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;You have been spending too much time with Isildur,&quot; Ardil then retorted, a hint of anger in his voice.<br /> <br /> Lienilde started to speak but held her tongue. Her first instinct was to reply <em>And you spend too much time with Inzil!</em> but realized that such a comment would lead nowhere, or at least nowhere that she wanted to go. So instead she answered, in a much softer voice than before, &quot;Perhaps. But I believe we are both too easily influenced by those whom we care about.&quot;<br /> <br /> Ardil paused and looked at his sister in surprise -- partly because she did not reply with the harsh comment he would have expected of her just a few years ago, and partly because it was obvious that she was including Isildur in the phrase &quot;those whom we care about.&quot; She had hardly spoken to him of Isildur before this day, and Ardil did not realize until now that he was more to her than just a patient. He wondered at her change in demeanor, and he also realized how much he and his little sister had changed over the years.<br /> <br /> &quot;I am sorry,&quot; he replied, &quot;I should not have said that. It is just that I have already had this same conversation with Father recently, multiple times actually, and I am growing weary of it.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;That is understandable,&quot; Lienilde answered.<br /> <br /> &quot;Let us forget about it for tonight, then.&quot; Ardil then stood and waited to see if his sister would do the same, but she remained seated on the bench.<br /> <br /> &quot;I would like to stay here for a moment longer,&quot; she answered.<br /> <br /> &quot;Of course,&quot; Ardil nodded his head in reply. He started to walk towards the house, then suddenly stopped and turned toward her. &quot;You need not worry,&quot; he said. &quot;Your secret is safe with me; I would never do anything that would hurt my little sister.&quot;<br /> <br /> She looked up and smiled, suddenly relieved, for despite their differing viewpoints she knew that her brother was truthful. &quot;Thank you,&quot; she replied, not knowing what else to say.<br /> <br /> Ardil simply smiled and returned to the house.<br /> <br /> Lienilde then drew her feet up onto the bench, and wrapped her skirts around her legs and her arms around her knees. The sun was setting, and the wind was quickly growing colder. However, she wanted just a little more time alone with her thoughts. Ardil&#8217;s comments should not have surprised her after what her father had told her, yet it still saddened her to know that he believed Sauron&#8217;s lies -- despite Ardil&#8217;s words that they could not know whether the old Elven ways were the truth, she knew in her heart that they were. She wondered what he would have said of Sauron&#8217;s recent human sacrifice, for she had a hard time believing that he could accept something that felt so inherently wrong to her. Yet she suspected he would have said the same as many of her Melkor-worshipping patients -- that sacrificing the lives of a few criminals was a small price to pay if it would entreat Melkor to give the rest of Numenor immortality. She had always looked up to Ardil, for he was her older brother and her only sibling for the first half of her life, but now she realized that she could no longer do so. <br /> <br /> Yet in spite of all this, she also felt a strange sense of encouragement. She was glad that she was able to bring up the topic at all with Ardil, and that for the most part, their conversation had been very polite and civil. She knew that Ardil still cared enough for her that he would at least listen to her, even if he did not agree with her, and she knew that he would keep Isildur's secret. She also realized that in matters as serious as this, no one conversation would be able to turn the heart of another, but perhaps over time, Ardil would come to think differently. Perhaps over enough time, the Faithful could even turn the hearts of all the people in the Land of Gift.<br /> <br /> <strong>Notes:</strong><br /> <br /> Land of Gift -- another name for Numenor, referring back to when the Valar first raised Numenor from the sea and gave it as a gift to the men who aided them in the war against Morgoth.<br /> <br /> Lienilde: &quot;People-loving&quot;, a twenty-six-year-old healer&#8217;s apprentice.<br /> Vorime: &quot;Faithful&quot; or &quot;Steadfast&quot;, healer and Lienilde&#8217;s master.<br /> Ardil: &quot;Noble Friend&quot;, Lienilde&#8217;s thirty-three-year-old brother.<br /> Failon: &quot;Generous, Just&quot;, Lienilde&#8217;s thirteen-year-old brother.<br /> Melde: &quot;Beloved&quot;, Lienilde&#8217;s mother.<br /> Mandil: &quot;Good Friend&quot;, Lienilde&#8217;s father.<br /> Inzil: Adunaic for &quot;Flower&quot;, Ardil&#8217;s wife.<br />
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