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
Chapter 10: www.theonering.com/articles1-20200/FlowersofNimlothChapter10
Chapter 11: www.theonering.com/articles1-20202/FlowersofNimlothChapter11
Chapter 12: www.theonering.com/articles1-20213/FlowersofNimlothChapter12
<strong>Chapter 13: Isildur’s Story</strong>
For the next few weeks, Lienilde and Isildur made an effort to continue such conversations during her visits. Some days Isildur dominated the dialogue, often telling her about his work in the shipyards and the voyages on which he had sailed, but occasionally relaying a story about his family or recalling a memory from his childhood. On other days Isildur was too tired to talk much, so Lienilde entertained him with stories from her work or Failon’s latest antics. She told him about Ardil’s wedding, since Isildur was also a friend of Inzil’s brother, but omitted the conversation she had with Anarion and the dance they had shared. Anarion had been very upset that night, and she decided that if Anarion wanted his brother to know what had transpired on the beach, then he would tell Isildur himself.
After a few days, however, a question began to form in Lienilde’s mind, but she wanted to wait for the right moment to ask: a time when Isildur was fully awake and alert, and a time when none of his family was present. Even though Lienilde considered herself a friend of the family — and knew that they saw her as a friend as well — she still felt a little awkward participating in such informal talk with her patient while they were in the room. She still thought that she should appear as a professional healer while she was at work — or at least most of the time.
However, a day finally arrived when Lienilde was able to complete her healer’s duties with her other patients early, and had at least a full hour before Elendil and Anarion would be home. Amandil now rarely visited Isildur while the other family members were away — it had become clear weeks ago that constant care would not likely provide any additional benefit for the injured man. As long as tea and food were left at his bedside, Isildur seemed to do fine being alone for a few hours at a time.
Thus when Lienilde entered Isildur’s room to find him wide awake, she was quite pleased.
"You have come early today," he remarked. The slight smile on his face told her that he was not displeased.
"Yes, there were few patients to attend to today." A quick inspection of his clean bandages showed her that he would need no additional treatment that day, yet she lingered. Finally, she said, a little nervously, "Isildur, if I may be so bold to ask, why did you do it? And how? How did you manage to reach the inner courts of the King undetected?" She took a seat in the chair at his bedside, waiting for an answer.
"You are not too bold; I am surprised that you have not approached the subject earlier." Isildur gave her a brief, reassuring smile before his face turned to a more serious expression and he asked, "But why do you ask ‘why’? Do you not know?"
"Well, yes, I suppose I know why you did it — perhaps what I am trying to ask is how did you find the courage? I could not imagine performing such a feat myself."
"Ah," he replied, "I am not so sure that you would call it courage; a rash decision would be more accurate. Though hopefully, a rash decision in line with Eru’s will."
"How could it not be?" Lienilde replied. Was he trying to appear humble, or did he truly not know whether he had made the right decision? Lienilde suspected it was the former, but said anyway, "Without your action, Nimloth would be lost, and I doubt there is much else on this isle with such deep roots in Valinor. But now a seed of Nimloth has been planted, and when it sprouts perhaps it will give us some yet unseen hope."
"You are right," he replied, the smile returning to his face. He was clearly not embarrassed to hear such praise, as she would be.
After a brief pause, Lienilde asked, "But you have still not told me how you managed to perform such an act."
"That is a rather long story," said Isildur. "Do you wish to hear it all?"
"Of course! I have visited you every day for nearly three months now, and I have always wondered about what exactly happened that night."
"Very well," Isildur began, leaning his head back against the pillow, apparently getting comfortable for a long tale. "I am not sure how much my grandfather told you, so I will start at the beginning.
"One day, a messenger came from Armenelos to inform my grandfather that Sauron was attempting to persuade Ar-Pharazon to chop down Nimloth. Grandfather was deeply troubled for he knew that no one would be able to prevent Sauron’s will from being done, and he shared his fears with us. At that time, Anarion and I knew little of Nimloth’s history, and we stayed awake until nearly sunrise as Grandfather told us the story. I am sure that he told you something of Nimloth’s history as well?"
"Yes," Lienilde answered. "Not the whole story, but enough to know that it was descended from one of the Two Trees of Valinor, and he spoke of Tar-Palantir’s prophecy."
"Then that is enough for now; perhaps I can tell you more during your next visit." Lienilde smiled at this, already looking forward to her history lessons. While she enjoyed her visits as of late, she had begun to wonder if they would ever discuss anything other than stories from their trade or family.
"We all retired at sunrise to get a few hours rest," Isildur continued. "But Grandfather’s stories had awakened a fire in my heart. Not only did I share his despair over Nimloth’s obvious fate, but I was angry: angry at Sauron’s actions and angry that our King would allow such evil to enter our fair isle. The Valar themselves had raised Numenor from the sea, and now we have tossed aside all of their blessings–"
Lienilde rested her hand on Isildur’s arm and he fell silent at her touch. She could see that the memories of that night had brought back powerful emotions, and she worried that the stress may be too much for him to bear in his already weakened state. "You need not continue, if you do not want to," she said softly.
"No, it is all right," Isildur replied, lowering his eyes. "I know you worry for my health, but do you not think that I have lain here day after day, recalling that night? Telling the story will be no more harmful than thinking of it."
Lienilde simply nodded and allowed him to continue, for she knew he was right.
"I did manage to sleep for a few hours, for I was quite exhausted after hearing Grandfather’s stories. I awoke before the rest of my family, and almost immediately a plan began to form in my mind. I knew I had not the power to stop Sauron, but I thought surely I could do something to lessen the Valar’s wrath against the line of Elros. The messenger that had come to my grandfather the previous day was a low-ranking member of the palace guard. I managed to enter his guest quarters at my grandfather’s house and took his uniform while he was out. Although in hindsight, I hope that the messenger had an extra uniform, for it was in no condition to be worn again when I returned."
Lienilde recalled that when she had first seen Isildur, he wore only a pair of loose-fitting pants; apparently his family had already removed the uniform and hidden it. Recalling the blood on the sheets that day, she could only imagine how stained the uniform must have been.
"I then rode one of my grandfather’s horses to Armenelos, for I had visited the city before and knew the way. It was a long ride, and past sunset on the second day when I arrived. I left the stallion near the borders of the city, hidden in a valley, hoping no one would find him that late at night. I then made my way into the city by foot. I knew that guards were ever present in the inner court that housed Nimloth, and I was not sure whether the uniform I had borrowed would match theirs. I did have enough foresight to bring a scarf to hide my face, and I am certain that was the only reason my deed was not found out."
Isildur paused for a moment. He had told the beginning of his tale without much emotion, but now Lienilde could see the memories of the next events were affecting him more, though his exact thoughts remained hidden from her. Was he recalling the fear and anger he felt that night? For surely he felt fear not only for the fate of Nimloth but for himself as well. Or was it some other emotion Lienilde saw in his eyes? Unsure of what he was thinking, she simply remained silent and waited for him to finish his story. It was not long before Isildur spoke again.
"I — I think it was at that moment that the weight of what I was about to do finally dawned on me." Isildur fell silent again, recalling how he had then asked Eru to bless his quest and to forgive the sins of Numenor, though he did share that rather personal memory with Lienilde. He did not notice that a slight sheen formed in his eye at the recollection.
However, Lienilde did notice and began to realize what had gone through his mind that night, and even what he was feeling at this moment. Ever since she had first heard of Isildur’s deed she had known he was a compassionate man, but to hear him tell the story touched her heart even much more than simply hearing it from Amandil. Lienilde blinked to hide the tears forming in her own eyes, and reached out and took his hand in hers. Isildur glanced at her and gave her a brief smile, then turned his eyes away. He had been hesitant to look at her while he told his story; likely he did not want Lienilde to see all of his emotions. Perhaps he had not even realized how telling the story would affect him until now.
However, the emotion left his voice as quickly as it appeared and he went on. "Even if my uniform would allow me to enter the courts of the Tree, I could not devise a reason to visit the Tree so late at night. Thus I simply prayed that my guise would allow me to enter the palace of the King, but once I arrived at the place of the Tree I knew I would need to rely on stealth."
Isildur paused yet again, recalling what had happened next. When he arrived at the gate of the palace and was met with two guards, he had suddenly panicked. He then realized that his plan was not as thought-out as he believed: he did not know whether he should initiate a greeting with the guards, or if there was a required pass phrase. Rather than incriminate himself with the wrong words, he tried to appear as a calm, confident guard of the palace. To his relief, they had allowed him to enter without saying a word, and it was at that moment that he knew that Eru must have heard his prayer for protection. However, that moment of weakness in his plan was still a point of embarrassment for him, and thus he omitted it from his story, simply telling Lienilde that the guards allowed him to pass through the gate into the outer courtyard. However, there was another embarrassing moment later in his story, which he could not omit when he came to it.
"The courtyard was beautiful, Lienilde," he then said, turning his face toward her, forgetting his previous thoughts for the moment. "When I entered the gate and realized I was alone in the courtyard, I could not help but pause and admire its splendor. The great hall of the King stood before me, a tall, ornately decorated structure of pale gray stone. Elvish influences were readily apparent in the architecture, though I am afraid it only served to remind me of Numenor’s fall. Trees and bushes were scattered throughout the open areas, and I longed to see the courtyard under the light of the sun. The beauty of nature was such a contrast to the manmade towers of stone. I wish you could see it some day," he finished his little speech with a slight smile.
"I would love to," Lienilde replied.
"But I digress. As I surveyed the courtyard, I spied a stone wall, not much taller than the height of a man, the top branches of Nimloth just visible behind it. I knew it to be Nimloth, for no other tree would shine as silver under the starlight. Another tree grew beside the wall, and I realized I could scale the tree to enter the inner court where Nimloth grew. I hoped that the guard would be stationed outside the gate to Nimloth’s court and that they would not notice my entrance over the side wall — surely they would suspect an intruder to try to enter through the gate.
"It took me some time to climb the tree, for I had to be as quiet as possible. When I reached the top of the wall I was elated to see that there were no guards present in the inner court — they were just outside the gate, expecting any intruder to enter there. I grabbed a low-hanging branch of the tree and dropped to the ground, and fortunately a recent rain had moistened the ground enough to soften the noise of my fall.
"I paused for a moment simply to gaze upon Nimloth. I could hardly believe that I was finally in the place of the Tree — Nimloth, descended from Galathilion, created by Yavanna in the likeness of the great Telperion. It was truly a magnificent sight: even though Nimloth was not in bloom so late in the autumn, the moonlight shone on its perfect fruit and delicate branches. And to think that it is now gone–"
A tear finally fell down Isildur’s face and he closed his eyes for a moment. The sight of the young man crying touched Lienilde’s heart as she wiped away her own tears. He truly was as compassionate as she believed.
Composing himself, he continued his story: "I approached the tree silently, and gently plucked one of the fruits and hid it in a leather pouch I had been carrying. I was so elated at completing my task, that I did not notice the exposed tree root until I tripped over it.
"I quickly stood up, but the guard had been aroused, and entered the court before I could make it back to the wall. They yelled for me to halt, but I obviously could not be found out and sprinted to the wall. I did not realize the guards had bows until an arrow pierced my shoulder. The Valar must have given me strength that night, for I managed to reach the wall and jump high enough to grab the branch of the tree. I swung my feet against the wall and then pulled myself onto the branch, unable to scale the wall in such an awkward position. I locked eyes with one of the guards at that moment and prayed that the darkness and the scarf concealed my face. As I stumbled onto the top of the wall another arrow hit my leg and I jumped to the ground." He did not say that he fell rather than jumped, but Lienilde guessed as much, remembering the bruises she had seen when she first treated him, and doubted his agility with two arrows still in his body.
"The guards at the main gate of the palace had also been alerted to my presence. I was forced to draw my sword against them if I was to leave the main courtyard. When the first guard approached me, our swords met with a clang that likely awakened the entire courtyard. We fought for a moment, his sword striking me once or twice, I hardly remember now, before I twisted his blade from his grasp and faced the second guard. He seemed to hesitate, surprised at his comrade’s quick defeat, and without a thought I swung my sword in a wide arc, the tip of my blade tearing his across his midsection. I hope now that I did not injure him too badly, but at the time I could see no other means of escape — the guard quickly fell to his knees and I was then able to exit through the gate."
Lienilde realized with a start that this must have been the injured guard whom the King’s Man told her about so many weeks before. She realized that she had thought little of the guard as of late, even though her mind was so preoccupied with him after her meeting with the King’s Man. Yet she never learned the guard’s fate, and thus she remained silent — though she suspected that the guard had survived, for surely the search would have doubled if the perpetrator became a murderer! But Isildur did not notice her reaction and immediately continued with his story.
"I had been to Armenelos several times with my grandfather and knew the city streets well. I raced through the small streets behind the marketplace, eluding any palace guard that may have joined the chase late. There were few people awake at that time but they did nothing to stop me, knowing not what had just transpired at the palace. Thus when I reached the edge of the city and made my way to my horse, no one followed me."
Isildur’s voice had quickened as he told the tale of his escape from the guards, but now it slowed as he finished the climax of the tale.
"I was too tired to remove my guard’s uniform so I simply wrapped my cloak around me and prayed no one would notice. I also broke the shafts of the arrows, but could not remove them completely. It was nearly sunrise when I departed the city. The ride home was very long, I am not even sure how many days it took for I remember little of it. I avoided the main highway for the most part, and with my wounds I could not bear that my horse travel any faster than a walk. When I arrived in Romenna I again took the less-traveled roads to avoid the King’s guards on the main streets. The last thing I remember was arriving at Grandfather’s door and giving him the fruit of Nimloth — and my next memory is of your face." Isildur then turned to smile at Lienilde, and she could not help but return the smile. So he did remember her from the night he first awoke!
"You are truly a brave man," she replied, still holding his hand. "I know the Valar will reward your effort."
"Thank you," he replied, then sighed and closed his eyes. Lienilde and Isildur then sat silent for a moment, unmoving. Lienilde gazed down at Isildur’s face and once again marveled that such a young man could perform such a heroic deed; he could not have been much older than Ardil. At that thought, she considered how she would respond if her brother had been the one to save a fruit of Nimloth and return home so near to death. She recalled the fear she had seen in the eyes of Isildur’s family on that first day and suddenly began to understand their pain. Not that she had been unsympathetic before, far from it in fact, but she now realized that for them to watch their son and brother on his deathbed after carrying out such a selfless act would have been incredibly difficult. Rather than praising him for his effort and boasting of his deed to their friends, they were praying for his life and keeping his story secret.
Brushing a stray hair from Isildur’s face, Lienilde stood and said softly, "Thank you for sharing with me. I should go, and leave you to your rest." Isildur slowly nodded without opening his eyes, obviously exhausted from telling the long tale and reliving such a night. With that, Lienilde left the quiet house to return to her own home, with many thoughts running through her mind, many of the same thoughts as when Amandil had first told her of Isildur’s sacrifice.
amp;quot;But when Amandil heard rumour of the evil purpose of Sauron he was grieved to the heart, knowing that in the end Sauron would surely have his will. Then he spoke to Elendil and the sons of Elendil, recalling the tale of the Trees of Valinor; and Isildur said no word, but went out by night and did a deed for which he was afterwards renowned. For he passed alone in disguise to Armenelos and to the courts of the King, which were now forbidden to the Faithful; and he came to the place of the Tree, which was forbidden to all by the orders of Sauron, and the Tree was watched day and night by guards in his service. At that time Nimloth was dark and bore no bloom, for it was late in the autumn, and its winter was nigh, and Isildur passed through the guards and took from the Tree a fruit that hung upon it, and turned to go. But the guard was aroused, and he was assailed, and because he was disguised it was not discovered who had laid hands on the Tree. But Isildur came at last hardly back to Romenna and delivered the fruit to the hands of Amandil, ere his strength failed him."
-The Akallabeth, from The Silmarillion
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.