Flowers of Nimloth - Chapter 4

Chapter 1: www.theonering.com/articles/20010,1.html
Chapter 2: www.theonering.com/articles/20031,1.html
Chapter 3: www.theonering.com/articles/20052,1.html

Chapter 4: Small Talk

A few moments later, the four found themselves at Isildur’s bedside. None had yet spoken, for they all were still reflecting on Isildur’s actions and on the promise that was now planted in the little shed. Lienilde was especially thoughtful and withdrawn, still trying to absorb all that she had just learned. The tears and depression that had consumed her for the past day and a half slowly gave way to greater thoughts: the newfound hope of Numenor, and pride for Isildur’s bravery. For though she still knew little about the wounded man, his deed had given her a surprising insight into his character and she almost felt as if she knew him, and was proud of him for what he had done.

"Lienilde," Amandil said quietly, drawing the apprentice out of her reverie. She looked up to see the old man’s face free of tears; indeed, all eyes in the room were dry. Knowing that Isildur may have changed the fate of Numenor had temporarily brought hope and peace to their hearts, for surely Eru would reward such a deed and Isildur’s sacrifice would not be in vain.

"Yes, sir?" Lienilde replied.

"Has Isildur’s condition changed? I have not spoken with you about him since yesterday."

Lienilde suddenly remembered the event that had led to her discovery of Isildur’s actions: his short awakening and her desire to notify his family. She scolded herself for neglecting her healer’s duties for so long. "It has, sir. He awoke briefly this afternoon and took a little water. When I found you in the shed, I had intended to tell you of his improvement, and I apologize for waiting until now."

"It is all right," Amandil replied, again with a slight smile on his lips, which this time Lienilde did notice. She felt her cheeks warm for the third time since she arrived, and wondered why Isildur’s family made her so self-conscious. She had a strong desire to please them and to perform her healer’s duties to the best of her ability -- though the desire was not due to a fear that they may ridicule or punish her if she failed, but rather because she truly wanted to help them. She began to realize that she cared for Isildur’s family nearly as much as she cared for the injured man himself.

At that moment, a knock sounded on the door. The three men quickly left and shut the door to Isildur’s room, leaving Lienilde alone with Isildur. She asked no questions, for she knew that they did not yet want Isildur’s condition to become public knowledge, for others would question how he came by his injuries. She waited by his bedside silently for the visitor to leave before she began changing his bandages -- a duty that she had neglected since the morning.

However, the visitor did not leave, but rather entered Isildur’s room with Amandil. It was Vorime, who had come to check on Isildur and her apprentice. "Lienilde," the healer said, after a quick glance at Isildur, "Amandil tells me that you have hardly left your patient’s side. How does he fare?"

"He awoke briefly this afternoon," Lienilde answered, "though otherwise there has been little change." Vorime said nothing and began lifting Isildur’s bandages to examine his wounds. "I was just about to change the bandages," Lienilde quickly added.

Lienilde stood quietly for a moment of tense silence, waiting for her master to examine her work. The apprentice knew she had done all she could, except for perhaps delaying the changing of the bandages, but she still worried about receiving her master’s approval.

"Very good," Vorime finally replied, turning toward her apprentice. "You have performed your duties well. I would like you to stay one more night, and if his condition does not worsen you may return home for a while tomorrow. I do not believe there is anything else that we can do, so now we must continue to treat him and wait." Though she did not say it, Vorime was pleased to see that Lienilde was much calmer than she was the day before. Vorime had been worried that Isildur’s case would be too much for the young, inexperienced apprentice, but the healer had other patients she had to see and she could not stay with Isildur day and night.

****

The afternoon passed without event, and it was not long before Lienilde found herself sitting at the dinner table with Elendil and Anarion. The meal once again began without a word, but this time Lienilde was determined to break the silence. She knew that the men’s thoughts were still consumed with worry for Isildur, but after two days of silence and sadness she could take no more.

"So," she began hesitantly, a few moments after the meal began, "you both work in the shipyards. Do you enjoy your work?"

Elendil and Anarion both looked at her, as if they were surprised that she spoke. Lienilde wondered if she should have held her tongue; after all, she was a guest in their home. Yet after all they had been through in the past two days, she felt little remorse for trying to have a friendly conversation.

"Yes," Anarion finally answered. "It can be long, hard work, but seeing a ship sail that you spent months building is a great reward."

"Aye," Elendil added, "and it is even greater if you are aboard the ship yourself." He said no more, for nearly all Numenoreans felt a great love for the sea. Even Lienilde, who had never sailed before, was still drawn to rolling blue waves under a bright morning sun and understood that sailing must be great delight to these men. She remembered many happy days playing on the nearby beaches with her brothers, running barefoot through the hot sand and splashing through the cool water. There was something invigorating about beginning the day by walking along the beach, or even just gazing out across the sea from a hilltop. However, the endless blue calm, or the grey and white waves under a storm, could also have a humbling effect on a man. The sea brought many emotions, and for the first time she began to consider what a joy it would be to work in the shipyards and to sail across the seas.

Yet before she could voice these thoughts, Elendil spoke again: "Tell us something about yourself, Lienilde. How long have you been an apprentice under Vorime?"

"For almost a year now," she replied. "When I came of age, my mother determined that I should either marry or begin an apprenticeship, and I chose the latter."

"I believe I would have chosen the same," Anarion replied with a slight smile as he reached for his wine. For Lienilde and Anarion were both still young, and neither could imagine themselves bound for life to anyone they knew of the opposite gender. The commitment of an apprenticeship seemed small compared to that of marriage.

"You may choose such now," Elendil said, "but rest assured, there will come a time when you choose differently." He also had a slight smile on his lips, though it was more thoughtful than Anarion’s jesting smile. She suddenly wondered what had happened to Elendil’s wife, for surely he had been married once. However she knew the bounds of polite conversation and refrained from asking him.

After a brief pause, Anarion, clearly enjoying the conversation and not wishing to revert back to their previous routine of silence, turned to Lienilde and asked, "Do you have any brothers or sisters, Lienilde?"

"Two brothers. Ardil is my elder brother by eight years and works in my father’s smithy. Failon is twelve years old -- he stopped by briefly this morning, if you recall."

"Ah, yes. Ardil is engaged to be married, is he not?" Anarion replied.

"Why yes, in a week," Lienilde answered. Only a week? she thought. She had been so isolated from the outside world and from her normal life during the last two days that she had almost forgotten about her brother’s upcoming wedding. Her thoughts then quickly returned to Anarion’s reply and she said, slightly surprised, "I did not realize that you knew him."

"I know of him," Anarion clarified. "His betrothed’s brother is a friend of mine and also works in the shipyards. She is my friend’s only sister, and he talks about the wedding often."

"I see," said Lienilde, thankful that the men had responded to her attempt at conversation, even if it was only small talk. They continued to converse for the rest of the meal, but it was not long before Lienilde again found herself alone in Isildur’s room for the night.

****

The night passed slowly, for once again Lienilde tried to stay awake, though she drifted off several times. It had been a very exhausting two days for her. Elendil had given her some blankets so that she could sleep on the floor, but she spent most of the night sitting on a chair near Isildur’s bed. However, she was not as emotional as she was the previous night -- it seemed as if the more time she spent with Isildur, the calmer she became, though she was still just as concerned about him as she was earlier. Perhaps it was simply because such strong emotions were so tiring to the heart, and she could not remain so sad and worried forever. Or perhaps his awakening earlier that day, combined with her knowledge of his heroic feat, gave hope to her otherwise exhausted soul.

Isildur woke once during the night, again for only a brief while, although this time Lienilde had the medicinal tea at hand for him to drink. Again Isildur said little. Lienilde wondered why his condition seemed to remain constant -- he seldom woke, and his fever remained the same despite the herbs that she had given him. She had expected him to be either better or worse by this point, but perhaps she was wrong. She had never dealt with a patient as seriously injured as Isildur, so maybe it would take longer than she expected for him to heal. After all, she suddenly realized, it has only been two days -- though it feels like so much longer!

A few hours before sunrise, Lienilde’s lack of sleep finally caught up to her. Wrapping herself in the borrowed blankets, she curled up on the floor and was soon fast asleep. She slept soundly, and did not notice that Isildur woke again during the night and watched her sleep for a few moments before returning to his fever-dreams.

****

Lienilde awoke the next morning to the sound of a knock on the door. She took a brief moment to orient herself after waking up in a place other than her own home, then walked over to the door while running a hand through her tangled, unbound hair. "Yes?" she said as she opened the door, her voice scratchy from sleep.

"I’m sorry to wake you," Anarion answered softly. Lienilde guessed that he had not been awake long either, judging from his ruffled hair. "Vorime is here; my father is speaking with her now."

"Thank you," she replied, and Anarion shut the door and left. She twisted her hair up into a loose knot, and after a quick check to see that Isildur still slept calmly she left to see Vorime.

"How does he fare?" Vorime asked when Lienilde entered the room.

"He awoke again during the night, but otherwise there has been no change," her apprentice answered.

"I see," the master replied. She studied her student closely, seeing the exhaustion in her face. She then walked into Isildur’s room and began to examine him, saying nothing. Lienilde was no longer nervous about receiving her master’s approval, and was not concerned about Vorime’s lack of words -- the healer seldom spoke unless she had to.

"Lienilde," Vorime finally spoke. "You have done well and deserve some rest. How about if you return home and help your mother with the final preparations for your brother’ wedding. Until after the wedding, the only duties that I ask you to perform is to check on Isildur once or twice a day."

Lienilde was surprised at Vorime’s generous offer, for it would be nearly a week before she resumed her full apprentice duties. "Thank you," she replied, knowing that nothing else needed to be said.

Vorime soon left, and Lienilde explained her plans to Elendil and Anarion. "Thank you so much for helping Isildur," Elendil said after Lienilde was finished. "We are very grateful for all of the effort you have put forth."

"I am honored to help such a heroic man," Lienilde replied, a rush of pride for Isildur filling her heart.

"Just remember that you are welcome here any time," Elendil said. Anarion smiled slightly in agreement.

"Thank you," she answered. "I shall see you tomorrow, then." With that, she turned and began the walk home, her first return home in two days.

Notes:

From what I have read, I do not know if Elendil’s wife was alive at the time of this story since Tolkien never mentioned her, so I decided to just omit her rather than adding a new character. (For that matter, I don’t know what became of Amandil’s wife either.) Plus, I kind of liked the idea of Lienilde being the only female in the house!

Lienilde: "People-loving", a twenty-five-year-old healer’s apprentice.
Vorime: "Faithful" or "Steadfast", healer and Lienilde’s master.
Ardil: "Noble Friend", Lienilde’s thirty-three-year-old brother.
Failon: "Generous, Just", Lienilde’s twelve-year-old brother.



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