Flowers of Nimloth - Chapter 9

Chapter 1:<br /> Chapter 2:<br /> Chapter 3:<br /> Chapter 4:<br /> Chapter 5:<br /> Chapter 6:<br /> Chapter 7:<br /> Chapter 8:<br /> <br /> <strong>Chapter 9: The Fate of Nimloth</strong><br /> <br /> Over the course of the next two months, Lienilde&#8217;s life began to fall back into a pattern. She spent nearly all day with Vorime, attending to patients in all parts of the city. On an island that had never seen war (though its seamen were often met with battle on the shores of Middle-Earth), there were few healers in each city. Thus as the chill winter winds began to blow from the sea, Vorime and Lienilde could easily spend an entire day visiting the homes of the ill.<br /> <br /> At the end of the day, Lienilde would stop at Elendil&#8217;s house to check on Isildur, before returning to her own home for an often late supper. Elendil and Anarion were usually back from the shipyards by the time Lienilde arrived; the early nights and suddenly cold winds often shortened the shipbuilders&#8217; days. However, Anarion never spoke of what transpired on the beach the night of Ardil&#8217;s wedding. Lienilde had a suspicion that he was embarrassed about his show of emotions that night, but she could hardly blame him -- his brother had been near death for a week, and then to hear that Sauron had been building a temple to Melkor for quite some time (for Sauron did not make the purpose of the building apparent at first) would have surely taken a toll on his heart.<br /> <br /> Thus the days passed at a steady pace: Lienilde&#8217;s twenty-sixth birthday came and went without much excitement, as did Failon&#8217;s thirteenth birthday. Melde focused her attention to her cooking and housework now that her eldest son's wedding had passed, and Ardil and his new bride stopped by for dinner at least once a week.<br /> <br /> Isildur slowly began to show more signs of improvement -- he awoke at least once a day, sometimes for as long as a few hours. However, Lienilde was still concerned by the slow progress of his healing wounds and by his unwavering fever. Yet as the days passed, the fear and anxiety that Lienilde had felt earlier abated and was replaced by a calmer concern -- indeed, caring for Isildur soon became just a part of her daily life, not much different than sharing a meal with her family or mending a mischievous child&#8217;s broken arm. Of course there were times when she would be seized by the strong emotions that she had felt earlier, but they did not last long. She had learned that such feelings did no good and thus tried to ignore them. Amandil informed her that the King's Men had practically abandoned their search, which also helped calm Lienilde's heart. However, she knew that it was still important that she keep Isildur's deed a secret, for surely the search would be renewed if new information on Nimloth's attacker reached the King's ears. But her fears did fade over time, and Lienilde&#8217;s own family ceased to worry about her, seeing that their old daughter and sister had returned. <br /> <br /> It was with that mindset that Lienilde came to Elendil&#8217;s house one evening to find the door locked. It was the first night in a long while that Elendil and Anarion were still at the shipyards when she came to visit, so she let herself in with the key that Amandil had given her earlier.<br /> <br /> The house seemed abnormally quiet as Lienilde stood alone in the front room, for Vorime had not accompanied her that night. (In fact, Vorime only occasionally visited Isildur since his progress was changing so little.) The sun was beginning to set, so Lienilde lit a candle and carried it to find her way to Isildur&#8217;s dark room.<br /> <br /> Isildur was asleep when she entered, a thick blanket pulled up to his chin. His hair was no longer spread across the pillow as when she had first seen him, but rather was bound at the nape of his neck, though several strands had pulled free. Lienilde sat in a chair at his bedside -- so familiar to her now -- and placed a hand on his face to check his fever. At her touch, Isildur&#8217;s eyes fluttered open. She pulled back her hand as Isildur&#8217;s eyes found hers and he gazed at her, saying nothing. Lienilde&#8217;s heart began to pound and she glanced away, suddenly feeling uncomfortable under his stare. <em>What is wrong with you, silly girl?</em> Lienilde mentally scolded herself. <em>You have not been this emotional since that first week with him!</em> But there was something about sitting alone with Isildur in the quiet room that reminded her of the first time she saw him open his eyes, and all those old emotions suddenly flooded back to her.<br /> <br /> &quot;Lienilde.&quot; Hearing him speak her name caused her heart to race even faster, and she looked back into Isildur&#8217;s face. She had heard him speak several times in the last few weeks, but it was normally to his brother, or father, or grandfather -- rarely to her. She could feel her cheeks start to flush and she hoped that the dim candlelight hid her emotions.<br /> <br /> &quot;Thank you,&quot; Isildur said, still staring at Lienilde, his dark grey eyes focused and unmoving.<br /> <br /> &quot;For -- for what?&quot; Lienilde stuttered, unsure of how to reply, though she knew he was thanking her for her care. <em>But I was simply doing my job,</em> Lienilde tried to convince herself, but deep down she knew there was more to it than that.<br /> <br /> Isildur&#8217;s brow lowered as he tilted his head, obviously surprised by her reply. &quot;For healing me,&quot; he answered, his voice low but stronger then Lienilde had ever heard it.<br /> <br /> &quot;But you are not yet fully healed!&quot; Lienilde blurted, then cringed at her own words. One of the first things that Vorime had taught her was to never tell a seriously ill patient the full extent of his condition, to give him hope. &quot;I&#8217;m sorry,&quot; Lienilde immediately added, her eyes dropping to the floor.<br /> <br /> &quot;Don&#8217;t be,&quot; Isildur replied. &quot;I know that I am not well, I am still confined to bed, after all!&quot; Isildur gave Lienilde a weak smile, and she returned it before he continued. &quot;You have been very diligent in your healer&#8217;s duties, and you have done more than you realize. I am sure that with your care, I will be recovered by winter&#8217;s end.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Thank you for your confidence in me,&quot; Lienilde replied with another smile, this one more genuine than the first. At that, Isildur leaned his head back and closed his eyes, and she assumed that the conversation was over -- and for that she was thankful, for she knew not what else to say. They remained silent for a moment while Lienilde pondered her patient&#8217;s words. Though his body was weak, she had seen a strength in Isildur&#8217;s eyes that she had never before seen in another man. It nearly filled her with awe, and she almost felt as if being his healer was some sort of honor for her. She also wondered what prompted this sudden appreciation on his part -- had he simply been waiting for a chance to speak with her alone? She could sense his sincerity and almost felt embarrassed at his thanks. Thus she sat alone with her thoughts until she heard the steady breathing of Isildur&#8217;s sleep. A quick glance at his bandages told her that they did not need to be changed, so she left the house and began a slow walk home -- but left the candle at Isildur&#8217;s bedside, a light in a dark room.<br /> <br /> ****<br /> <br /> Late that night, Lienilde sat alone at the windowsill in her bedroom. The city had long since retired, and few candles remained lit in the windows as Lienilde scanned over the nearby streets. From her window she could see many houses and the forests beyond the city -- a calming view compared to the marketplace and harbor visible from the opposite side of her family&#8217;s house. Their house sat on top of a hill, the last of a short row of houses, and offered a splendid view from each side. The night was cool and the stars were slowly disappearing behind an approaching cloudbank, though Lienilde barely noticed.<br /> <br /> As Lienilde sat, gazing over the sleeping homes, she recalled the events from earlier that evening. Dinner with her family had been uneventful, now that she was used to seeing Ardil&#8217;s seat empty. Yet Lienilde had been distracted by her thoughts of Isildur, and on more than one occasion a family member had to repeat their question before they received an answer from her.<br /> <br /> She now realized how foolish it was to have thought that her life had returned to &quot;normal,&quot; to how it had been before she met Isildur. She recalled the night of Ardil&#8217;s wedding, and how she realized that the Valar had brought her and Isildur together for a reason yet unseen to her. How could she have forgotten that?<br /> <br /> <em>But I can&#8217;t just sit and worry about him all day, either!</em> she thought to herself. <em>My life needs to return to some sort of normal, or I shall go mad from constant thoughts of Isildur!</em> Yet she also knew that her life would never be the same -- Isildur had changed her, and she was just now realizing how much she had changed, for the transformation had been very gradual. She now took her healer&#8217;s duties much more seriously, even for minor cases. Things that once amused her now seemed trivial, like playing games with Failon -- though she did still play with him to make him happy. However, Isildur&#8217;s heroic deed and knowledge of the Faithful&#8217;s struggles had suddenly forced her to examine her life from a different viewpoint. Great and terrible things were at work in Numenor, and Lienilde was only one small girl in the midst of it. <br /> <br /> With a sigh, Lienilde slowly left the windowsill and slid into bed. &quot;Forgive me, Isildur,&quot; she whispered in the dark, &quot;for thinking I could forget your sacrifice and return to my life unchanged. You will never know what you have done for me.&quot; A single tear slid down her cheek as Lienilde closed her eyes. It was not long before she drifted off into an uneasy sleep.<br /> <br /> ****<br /> <br /> When Lienilde awoke, it was so dark that at first she thought that it was still night. But when she heard her mother preparing breakfast in the next room, she knew that it must be morning. She walked over to the window and pulled back the curtain to see the sky covered in the blackest clouds she had ever seen. Her heart nearly skipped a beat when she thought of the terrible storm that must surely be soon to come. It was then that the wind suddenly shifted and she noticed a sickly sweet stench in the air. &quot;What is happening?&quot; she whispered to the clouds, an uneasiness filling her heart and mind.<br /> <br /> She quickly slipped on a clean dress, then without bothering to braid her hair, left her room to find her family. Her mother was in the kitchen, and she saw her father and brother standing in the open doorway of their house, staring at the black sky.<br /> <br /> &quot;What is this?&quot; she asked, joining her father and Failon.<br /> <br /> &quot;I do not know,&quot; Mandil answered. &quot;I do not believe it is simply a storm cloud, but what it is, I cannot say...&quot; His voice lowered as he trailed off into his own thoughts.<br /> <br /> Lienilde glanced at Failon; for once the boy was silent, and she could see the fear in his eyes as well. But it was not long before Melde broke the silence with a call to breakfast. No one spoke during the meal, and soon thereafter Lienilde left the house, wanting to make a special stop before joining Vorime for the day.<br /> <br /> ****<br /> <br /> Even the marketplace was unusually silent as Lienilde made her way through the city streets, her cloak wrapped tightly around her to block the winter wind. Merchants no longer shouted at the passers-by to sell their wares; customers quietly purchased their goods and moved on to their next destination. Often the only sounds were made by murmuring customers, or by crying babies and their comforting mothers; even the birds in the trees seemed silent. A dread hung over the city that no one wanted to speak of, though everyone felt it. And the smell -- the stench was everywhere, growing stronger as the sun rose somewhere behind the dark clouds, making the city&#8217;s fear even more palpable.<br /> <br /> Lienilde finally arrived at Elendil&#8217;s house, relieved to see that he and Anarion had not yet left for the shipyards. &quot;Elendil, what is happening?&quot; Lienilde asked as soon as she entered the house.<br /> <br /> &quot;I do not know,&quot; Elendil said, surprisingly calm -- <em>or was he just hiding his fear?</em> Lienilde thought. &quot;But I sense the work of some evil here -- perhaps the work of Sauron.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Of Sauron?&quot; Lienilde replied, surprised. &quot;He may control the King, but surly he does not command the sky as well?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I do not know,&quot; Elendil answered, &quot;but you must feel the presence of darkness in those clouds.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;I do -- we all do,&quot; Lienilde said, then fell silent. She glanced over at Anarion, seated in the corner, who had remained wordless since she arrived. Seeing the young man, she suddenly recalled the dance they shared at her brother&#8217;s wedding. He had seemed like such a good friend at the time, but now she suddenly realized that she had spoken little with him since then as they both became absorbed in their work. In her attempt to distance her emotions from Isildur, had she distanced herself from his family as well? The thought troubled her, but she knew not how to respond to it. So she simply stood still for a moment, unsure of what to say, yet not wanting to leave and begin her work with Vorime, either.<br /> <br /> It was not long before the door opened without a knock, and Lienilde turned to see Amandil enter the house. &quot;Father,&quot; Elendil said, &quot;Have you learned of what ill omens these clouds bring?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Yes, or at least I believe so.&quot; Amandil answered, a grief visible in his eyes that reminded Lienilde much of the day Isildur was injured. Her blood seemed to cool as she feared what Amandil would next say. &quot;Sauron has finished building his temple to Melkor, and last night he gave his first burnt offering: the branches of Nimloth.&quot; Lienilde, startled by the news, did not realize that no messenger could have ridden from Armenelos in a single night. It was not until several days later that she began to wonder how Amandil had learned of this news so quickly, and a full year would pass before she would learn all the means of the secret communications of the Faithful. But at this moment, all she could think about was fair Nimloth's horrible fate.<br /> <br /> &quot;Then it is the smoke of Nimloth that hides the sky?&quot; Anarion exclaimed, jumping up from his seat. Amandil simply nodded, and Lienilde saw Anarion&#8217;s brow furrow in anger. &quot;How -- how despicable!&quot; Anarion nearly shouted, suddenly pacing across the room. &quot;Numenor has surely fallen fully from the grace of the Valar now! It is only a matter of time until Manwe sends his eagles to destroy the entire isle -- what hope do we have now?&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;We have Isildur!&quot; Lienilde replied rather strongly, surprised at her own vehemence. She quickly lowered her voice and added, &quot;and we have the fruit of Nimloth, planted and ready to sprout in the spring.&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;But how much hope can a single tree offer us?&quot; Anarion asked, his voice slowly fading from anger to despair. &quot;I love my brother, but surely one man&#8217;s act cannot redeem all the sins of Numenor!&quot;<br /> <br /> &quot;Isildur&#8217;s act may have brought us more hope than we realize,&quot; Amandil said, taking a few steps to stand beside Lienilde and face his grandson. &quot;And do not forget there are others on the isle who have not yet fallen: you and I, and Lienilde here, and the hundreds of Faithful in Romenna and scattered across the land.&quot;<br /> <br /> The angry fire in Anarion&#8217;s eyes finally died completely at his grandfather&#8217;s words. &quot;Perhaps you are right,&quot; he admitted, &quot;but I still fear for Numenor, and -- and for us.&quot; At his last words, a tear escaped his eye and he quickly wiped it away. Amandil then approached his grandson and embraced him, and the two men stood still for a moment, their eyes shut. Lienilde own eyes begin to water as she watched the exchange, and when she felt a hand on her shoulder she turned to see Elendil standing beside her. He said nothing, but his eyes spoke of his own grief and fear, and of the hope that Amandil offered. The slightest hint of a smile touched Elendil&#8217;s lips and warmed Lienilde&#8217;s heart.<br /> <br /> Lienilde suddenly began to feel a calm come over her, as she watched this small family grieve and comfort each other. And perhaps -- perhaps she was part of this family as well. Even though they had rarely spoken during the past two months, she could not deny the closeness she felt to them. She glanced once again at Elendil&#8217;s hand on her shoulder and her thoughts were confirmed. As she thought of Amandil&#8217;s words, she began to see that there was nothing she or any of them could have done to stop the building of the temple, but she also knew that they would not give up now -- the Faithful would continue to fight to bring the light of the Valar back to Numenor.<br /> <br /> ****<br /> <br /> <em>&quot;But Sauron caused to be built upon the hill in the midst of the city of the Numenoreans, Armenelos the Golden, a mighty temple; and it was in the form of a circle at the base, and there the walls were fifty feet in thickness, and the width of the base was five hundred feet across the centre, and the walls rose from the ground five hundred feet, and they were crowned with a mighty dome. And that dome was roofed all with silver, and rose glittering in the sun, so that the light of it could be seen afar off; but soon the light was darkened, and the silver became black. For there was an altar of fire in the midst of the temple, and in the topmost of the dome there was a louver, whence there issued a great smoke. And the first fire upon the altar Sauron kindled with the hewn wood of Nimloth, and it crackled and was consumed; but men marveled at the reek that went up from it, so that the land lay under a cloud for seven days, until slowly it passed into the west.&quot;</em><br /> <br /> <em>-The Akallabeth, from The Silmarillion</em><br /> <br /> ****<br /> <br /> <strong>Notes:</strong><br /> <br /> I don&#8217;t know how long it took for Sauron to build his temple because the timeline did not really seem clear to me in the Silmarillion. In this story I&#8217;m assuming it was completed only two months since Nimloth was cut down, implying that he had already begun building it beforehand. Plus, I figured that Sauron was so powerful, he could have easily ordered a lot of people to build the temple for him in a rather short amount of time, and the Numenoreans were the best craftsmen in the world!<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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