Chapter 1: www.theonering.com/articles1-20010/FlowersofNimlothChapter1
Chapter 2: www.theonering.com/articles1-20031/FlowersofNimlothChapter2
Chapter 3: www.theonering.com/articles1-20052/FlowersofNimlothChapter3
Chapter 4: www.theonering.com/articles1-20083/FlowersofNimlothChapter4
Chapter 5: www.theonering.com/articles1-20129/FlowersofNimlothChapter5
Chapter 6: www.theonering.com/articles1-20150/FlowersofNimlothChapter6
Chapter 7: www.theonering.com/articles1-20162/FlowersofNimlothChapter7
Chapter 8: www.theonering.com/articles1-20192/FlowersofNimlothChapter8
Chapter 9: www.theonering.com/articles1-20199/FlowersofNimlothChapter9
<strong>Chapter 10: Hopelessness</strong>
"So the temple of Melkor has finally been completed," said the man. Lienilde glanced up from her work of mending the man’s broken arm while Vorime stood nearby, observing her apprentice’s work.
"Yes, it has," Lienilde said quietly, her eyes returning to the bandages.
"What a glorious day for Numenor, then!" the man continued, though his wavering voice belied the confidence in his words.
Lienilde said nothing, though she desperately wanted to tell the man how wrong he was and to tell him of Isildur’s great sacrifice. News of what had caused the black smoke spread quickly through the island and was met with mixed reactions. Some, like this man, believed the King’s words and welcomed this new way of worshipping Melkor, forgetting the fear they had felt earlier that day when they first saw the smoke. Members of the Faithful, however, reacted in much the same way as Anarion — with despair, and with fear that Numenor had completed its fall from the Valar’s grace. However no one was indifferent — even those that had previously ignored both the worship of Melkor and the plight of the Faithful now felt obligated to make a choice after seeing the dark omen in the sky. Yet through all of this, Lienilde remained silent, though she was finding it harder to do so with each patient. It was not in a healer’s place to discuss such matters, or to affirm or reject a patient’s beliefs. All must be given equal care.
Thus, Lienilde said nothing in reply to the man’s comments, and Vorime remained silent as well. The man soon fell mute himself, seeing that his audience was not responding, though later he began to tell them of the accident in the horse stables which had resulted in his broken arm. Lienilde again said little in reply, too consumed with her own thoughts. Soon the man’s arm was bandaged and the two healers were on their way. Vorime then sent Lienilde to check on Isildur, while the elderly healer headed home for the night.
It was a rather long walk to Isildur’s home and Lienilde had plenty of time to reflect on the day’s events: of the dark clouds that had appeared that morning, and of her patients’ reactions throughout the day. As she approached the marketplace she noticed that the normal noise and bustle was returning, though there was still a nervous tone in many people’s voices. The city was trying to return to normal now that there was an explanation for the smoke and the stench, but Romenna was not yet fully at ease. Indeed, even many of those who supported the worship of Melkor seemed anxious and worried despite their words. It is the black smoke, Lienilde thought. Men are children of the sun; we fear the night. How can anyone support the worship of a being who covers the land in darkness? Lienilde’s steps then slowed to a stop as she gazed up at the sky. The dark smoke had not abated; only a slight red glow in the west indicated that the sun was setting.
The black sky sent shivers down Lienilde’s spine, and so she lowered her head and continued to walk to Isildur’s house. The Valar themselves raised Numenor from the sea, Lienilde thought, suddenly recalling the history lessons of her youth. Have we really fallen so far that we would forsake their grace and turn to their enemy? The emotions that had been building inside of her all day suddenly flowed forth, and she sank to her knees on the side of the road as tears began to fall from her eyes. Anarion’s words from that morning rang in her ears, and though she did not doubt that Isildur had found favor with the Valar, she now knew that his deed alone could not save Numenor. Anarion was right — Numenor has no hope. Not unless the people will turn from Melkor… yet Amandil spoke of the Faithful still on the isle. Are there enough Faithful that we may turn the hearts of everyone else? But no — Lienilde’s thoughts turned to a conversation she had with Amandil a few weeks ago on the very topic:
"Lienilde," Amandil had said, "If we try to force the people to worship Eru, we would have to usurp the throne. Taking such power for ourselves would only corrupt our own hearts, and we would be no better than Sauron. Plus, Eru has appointed the line of Elros to be King–"
"But you are of the line of Elros!" Lienilde had interjected. "You would have even been king if the law had been different in the days of Tar-Elendil!" *
"True. But the law was not made at that time: I have not been appointed King; that title has gone to Ar-Pharazon. Eru raises kings up and causes them to fall, and we must trust that he has a purpose in all of this chaos."
A purpose, Lienilde thought, her mind returning to the present. How can Eru have a purpose in allowing the people to worship the Great Enemy? Yet Lienilde knew that Amandil was right — the Faithful could not take the throne by force. But what can we do? Sit and wait for the Valar to intervene? But Isildur — Isildur did not wait idly!
Finally Lienilde just emptied her mind of all her jumbled thoughts, and sat motionless as she tried to calm her heart and dry her tears. She sat quietly, eyes closed, listening — not to the sounds of the marketplace, or to the steps of the passers-by who ignored the young girl kneeling beside the road, thinking she was simply scared of the dark; but to her own heart. Soon a thought came to her, almost as if someone was speaking to her, though she heard no voice: You have already begun your task; persevere and you will be shown the way to its completion.
Lienilde remained still as her heart calmed for the first time all day. I am on the right path, she thought, I just cannot see the end. For what else can I do but continue on? With that final thought she slowly rose to her feet and opened her eyes. The sight of the black sky was almost a shock to her, but she did not allow it to break her newfound sense of purpose, weak though it was. As the sights and sounds of the marketplace returned to her she quickened her step, the image of Isildur’s face filling her mind.
When she arrived at Isildur’s home, she was surprised to find that Elendil and Anarion were not there. Glancing down the street, she saw candles burning in Amandil’s window, and she suspected that the family had gathered at his house to discuss the day’s events. Thus, she once again let herself into the dark home.
"Hello, Lienilde." The voice startled her as she entered Isildur’s room; she had not expected to find her patient awake, sitting up in bed.
"Hello," she replied, laying her bag of healer’s supplies on the floor. "How are you feeling?"
"The same as yesterday, and the day before…" his voice trailed off, and Lienilde noticed a rather unsettled look on his face, though she could not place the exact emotion — fear? Worry? Even pain, perhaps?
"Lienilde," Isildur continued before Lienilde had a chance to formulate a reply. "What has happened today? There is a foul stench in the air, and my father and brother are not home even though it is night."
Lienilde paused for a moment. He does not know, she thought. But should she tell him of Sauron’s new triumph, or would it be best for him to hear the ill tidings from his father? And how much does he already know — does he know that the King chopped down Nimloth not long after he stole its fruit? Does he know that Sauron had begun to build the temple? Yet a glance at Isildur’s anxious face confirmed to her that she must tell him: she could not leave him waiting, worrying, until Elendil returned home.
But the thought of bearing such news quickly saddened her heart, and any feelings of hope and purpose she had felt earlier now left her. With a sigh, she finally spoke, keeping her voice calm as to not worry Isildur needlessly: "How much do you know of Sauron’s recent work in Armenelos?"
"I know that Sauron has cut down Nimloth," Isildur replied, lowering his eyes to stare at his hands, now clasped in his lap. "And that he began building a temple to — to Melkor."
Good, Lienilde thought, If he already knows of the temple, hopefully news of its completion will not be too hard for him. Yet Lienilde saw the sadness in his eyes and knew that the news would not be easy, either.
"I am sorry," said Lienilde as she approached his bed and sat beside him on the chair. "But Sauron has completed his temple, and last night he gave his first burnt offering–" She paused, not wanting to complete her sentence, but finally mustering the courage to do so: "the branches of Nimloth. The smoke has darkened the sky all day; it is in fact only evening and the sun is just now setting."
Lienilde looked at Isildur expectantly, wanting to know how he would react to the news. "No," he whispered, and then buried his face in his hands. He said nothing for a long moment, and Lienilde began to wonder if he was trying not to cry. As the time passed she sat still, not knowing what else to say, and wondered if she should have even told Isildur what had happened. For surely Elendil or Anarion would know how to comfort him better than she!
"I’m sorry," Lienilde finally said, and then on an impulse she moved from her chair to sit on the side of his bed, next to the grieving young man. She wrapped an arm loosely around his shoulders and repeated, in hardly more than a whisper, "I’m sorry."
Isildur finally dropped his hands, and sure enough, his eyes glistened with tears. He stared straight forward, refusing to look at her just yet. "There is nothing to be sorry about; it is not your fault," he said, his voice also quiet. "It is just — just that my efforts seem to have been in vain!" His voice began to crack with tears, and Lienilde felt her own eyes moisten as she watched the young man cry. "How foolish I was to think that preserving a fruit of Nimloth would save all of Numenor from the Valar’s wrath! Nothing will be able to redeem us after this abomination! And yet, I continue to suffer so — I have tried to do right; why am I still being punished?"
Tears now ran freely down Lienilde’s face as she listened to Isildur’s words. It pained her to hear him speak of the same hopelessness that Anarion had felt only hours before. After seeing so many of her patients praise Sauron’s efforts earlier that day, she began to wonder if there was some truth to Isildur’s words. Was she the fool to think that there was still hope for Numenor’s redemption?
"I — I do not know," Lienilde finally said. "I cannot believe that a just god would have you suffer so, yet I do not understand why your wounds are so slow to heal. I wish I could help — I wish I could tell you that there was hope for Numenor — yet I do not even know myself anymore!" At this, Lienilde dropped her arm from Isildur’s shoulder and began to cry into her own hands.
Isildur then turned to look at her through his own tears. The sight of the young woman crying nearly broke his heart, and he now regretted his outburst. He should have waited to display such emotions until his father came home, rather than putting such pressure on the healer. Lienilde’s last words suddenly rang true, and he wished he could help her — to heal her heart as she had tried to heal his body. He then wrapped his arm around Lienilde’s waist, for the arrow wound in his shoulder was too painful to raise it any higher.
The warmth of his arm around the small of her back nearly sent a shiver through Lienilde’s body. Wiping away her tears, she looked up to return Isildur’s gaze. For a brief moment they sat silent, each seeing their own emotions reflected in the other’s eyes. But soon Lienilde turned away, feeling uncomfortable under his stare.
"Lienilde," Isildur finally spoke, "it is my turn to be sorry. I should not have reacted so — why, we hardly know each other; it was not right for me to pour out my heart to you."
"It is all right," Lienilde said, the slightest hint of a smile forming on her face. It had touched her heart that Isildur would forget his own sadness to apologize to her. She was beginning to see his true character — not only did he care for Numenor as whole, but for its individual citizens as well. However, she also guessed that his physical condition had caused him to drop his guard slightly and to express his feelings more freely.
Isildur then dropped his arm from Lienilde’s side and leaned back against the pillows, closing his eyes. It suddenly struck Lienilde that such a show of emotions must have taxed Isildur’s strength, for he was still weak with fever. "Isildur," said she, "if you are willing, let me bring you some soup. You need the nourishment."
"Yes, thank you," Isildur replied quietly, opening his eyes to give her a weak smile. Lienilde had seen a pot of soup over the fire when she had entered the house, and now she left his room to retrieve a bowl. Her mind was still reeling from all that she had experienced in the last few minutes, and rather than confront her feelings now she simply focused on the task of getting the bowl of soup, and later checking Isildur’s wounds while he slowly ate. They said little for the rest of the time Lienilde stayed, speaking only when necessary as the healer treated her patient, and for that Lienilde was thankful. It had been a tiring day for both of them, and it did her mind good to forget about the day’s events for a few moments.
Isildur was nearly asleep by the time she finished changing his bandages, and after helping him lay back down in his bed, she quietly left the house to return to her own home. It was well past sunset by the time she left, and she was thankful that the darkness of night hid the smoke above, though nothing could hide the stench. Suddenly anxious to return to the safety of her own home, she quickened her step, and soon she was greeted at the door of her house by the familiar scent of her mother’s cooking.
Dinner that night passed with a mix of silence and uneasy small talk. By now everyone in the family knew the source of the ominous smoke, but no one seemed willing to talk about it. Whether it was because her parents were afraid of scaring her younger brother with such talk, or because they simply did not want to think about it, Lienilde did not know. The family soon retired to bed early — or at least, Lienilde thought it was early, for she did not know exactly when the sun had set. She did not realize how tired she was until she climbed into bed, and she was thankful to fall asleep soon rather than dwell on the day’s depressing events throughout the night.
* Tar-Elendil was the fourth king of Numenor. His daughter Silmarien was his oldest child, but at his time the law stated that the kingship should go to the first son. Later, the sixth king of Numenor, Tar-Aldarion, had only one child, a daughter, and the law was changed so that the king’s eldest child would become the next ruler of Numenor, regardless of whether they were male or female. Silmarien’s descendants became the Lords of Adunie instead, and eventually the kings of Gondor and Arnor. Just a little note for any readers who may be a little rusty on their Numenorean history!
Lienilde: "People-loving", a twenty-six-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 thirteen-year-old brother.
Melde: "Beloved", Lienilde’s mother.
Mandil: "Good Friend", Lienilde’s father.
Inzil: Adunaic for "Flower", Ardil’s wife.