<strong>Chapter 14: Family Matters</strong>
The next day, Lienilde arrived at Isildur’s home, looking forward to talking with him, perhaps hearing him tell of Nimloth’s history. Elendil and Anarion were already home and preparing dinner, and Amandil had come to join them that evening. After a brief greeting to the three men — for Lienilde saw them often and no further talk was required — she made her way to Isildur’s room.
She found him asleep, and was rather disappointed when he did not awake at her touch. She sighed and sat down on the familiar chair, too frustrated to examine his wounds quite yet. He had been alert and animated yesterday while he told his tale, but today he would not even awake. This was not the first such day either: while there had been many days on which Isildur seemed to show signs of improvement, there had also been several days when his fever would suddenly rise or his wounds would be unusually painful. Lienilde had been treating him for nearly three months now, and there had been little overall progress since the first two weeks. She began to wonder if her treatments were even helping, and if he would be no worse if she simply quit caring for him. Even Vorime was at a loss, not knowing what else they could do to help him. Lately Vorime had expressed concern over Isildur’s seemingly unchanging condition, and worried about any lasting effects this long fever would have on him should he recover. But Lienilde tried not to think such thoughts, for it was too saddening. It was easier to simply treat him day by day, not worrying about the future.
Lienilde was startled out of her reverie by the sound of footsteps at the door, and looked up to see Amandil walking toward her, his gaze moving between his sleeping grandson and the young healer.
"He is so slow to heal," Lienilde said, suspecting that Amandil had already read her thoughts. "Sometimes I wonder if I am even doing him any good."
Amandil stood beside her chair and put a hand on her shoulder, though he kept his eyes on Isildur. "Nonsense," he replied, "You have done all that you could. Though his recovery may seem slow now, I am certain that you helped save his life during the first few hours. And if nothing else–" Lienilde looked up to see a slight smile form on his face–"he looks forward to your visits."
"Thank you," she replied, her eyes returning to Isildur’s sleeping form. He had shifted slightly at their words, but had not fully awakened.
Amandil patted her shoulder and then left the room, sensing she that she was not in the mood to talk further. After a moment Lienilde finally stood and checked his wounds, and after a quick farewell to his family, she began a slow walk home.
Lienilde was able to head home a little earlier than normal that evening and she suspected that she would still have an hour before her mother had supper on the table. However, as she approached her house, she saw her father seated on a bench in the otherwise empty garden plot near their house. He was obviously deep in thought, and Lienilde knew that from that bench one could see glimpses of the sea between the neighboring houses and shops. She had often sat on that bench to think herself, though normally not in such chill weather.
Mandil did not hear her approach until she was quite near. "Father?" she asked once he turned her way. "Is everything all right?"
"Ai, I suppose," he answered with a sigh. "I am just thinking."
Normally Lienilde would take that as her cue to leave, but this time she sensed that maybe her father wanted to say more. She took a seat next to him on the bench, wrapping her cloak tighter around her body. While it was slightly warmer than days past, a cold wind still blew in from the sea. Lienilde said nothing, and they sat a moment in silence, staring off into the distant gray waves.
Finally Mandil spoke. "I guess I am just worried about how I have raised you children."
"What do you mean?" Lienilde replied, looking up at her father.
Mandil knew he could not give a simple answer, so he immediately launched into an explanation. "You know I have always taught you the beliefs of the Faithful, though perhaps not as thoroughly as I should have. However, I never have been involved with the doings of the Faithful, not like your friend Elendil, and Amandil. When I married your mother, I did not want to risk her safety, and after Ardil was born that resolve was only strengthened. Yes, as of now I suppose all that has happened is the Faithful’s practical banishment here to Romenna, but I always worried that someday the persecution would be worse. But now — now I wonder if I should have done something more, if I should have taught you by my actions rather than just my words, or even if I should have just spoken to you more about it."
"I am not sure I understand," Lienilde replied. She comprehended what he had said so far, but she was not sure why he was suddenly so concerned, not now that two of his three children were adults. Indeed, she and Ardil had received few lessons on the beliefs of the Faithful and on the history of Numenor since they were small children.
"Lienilde," he said, resting a reassuring hand on her knee. "I am not worried about you; in fact I am very proud of what you have done these last few months. But — well, it is Ardil I am concerned about," he finished hesitantly.
"Why?" Lienilde asked, though her heart sunk as she already suspected his answer.
"We have had several conversations in the smithy this week, and it seems that Inzil’s parents have joined the worship of Melkor. Inzil and Ardil are considering following them."
"Oh Father," she replied, at a loss for words. She and Ardil had never talked much about their beliefs, but she had always assumed that he shared the same faith as their father. Though Mandil had never been extremely outspoken about his beliefs in front of his children, he had taught them enough for Lienilde to know that worshipping Melkor was the wrong path. To think of Ardil now taking that path, like many of her patients, came as a shock to her. When Mandil remained silent, Lienilde spoke again, "We may no longer be children, Father, but you can still influence us. Do not count Ardil as lost just yet."
"Thank you," he replied. "In my heart, I know you are right, but it has just been hard for me to accept that he would even consider it."
"I know; it seems strange to me too. Yet in a way, perhaps it is not so surprising, for I think that even many of the Faithful have still heard Sauron’s lies and also fear death: perhaps not in the same way as the others, but they feel fear nonetheless."
Lienilde said no more, but Mandil guessed her thoughts. She had spent much time with Isildur’s family, and Mandil suspected that they had been very worried about his fate. Mandil knew that while he feared death little for himself, he would be distraught if death stole one of his children before their time. Knowing that death was the Gift of Man would be little consolation if he could never see his children again. Perhaps Sauron’s lies had a greater influence than they realized. However, he could think of nothing to say in reply to his daughter’s observation, so instead he returned to the thoughts that had originally been on his mind: "And what of Failon? Which way will he turn as he grows older?"
"But he is still young," Lienilde replied, "You have much time to influence him — perhaps even influence him in a different way than you did with me or Ardil. Although, I have confidence in Failon: he was very concerned about Nimloth’s sacrifice, and I do not believe he will turn away."
"I agree," Mandil said, "But still — Ai, let us think no more on it. There is no use sitting here, dwelling in the past."
Lienilde simply nodded in reply, and Mandil gave her a pat on the knee and then stood. "Thank you for listening to your old man’s ramblings," he said as Lienilde rose also. "You have become quite the young woman as of late, and I meant what I said earlier, when I said I was proud of you. I daresay that you have done more these last few months to help the cause of the Faithful than I have done in many years."
At this, Lienilde felt her cheeks warm despite the cold air. "Thank you, but I am who I am because of your teachings, and Mother’s."
"Ah yes, speaking of your mother, let us go see if she has supper ready yet. It is too cold to remain out here for much longer." Though his words were light, his eyes told her that he appreciated her thanks.
"I completely agree," Lienilde replied, for she had been ready to go inside quite some time ago. So with that, they returned to the house and the warm fire within.
They soon realized it would still be some time until supper, so they both went and sat by the fire for a moment. Ardil and Inzil had already arrived for dinner. Ardil was seated on the floor playing a game of chess with Failon near the fire, Mandil took a seat nearby and soon began whittling a block of wood, and Inzil and Melde were preparing dinner in the kitchen. With the exception of Inzil’s presence, it was a night no different than many others for as many winters as Lienilde could remember, and she nearly forgot the conversation she had had with her father just minutes before. The familiarity was comforting to her, and thus she made her way to the kitchen to see if she could assist her mother with dinner.
"Why hello, Lienilde," Inzil greeted her, hardly looking up from the potatoes she was chopping. "Vorime seems to be keeping you out rather late now a day; you should tell her that you do not need to work so hard." The smile on her face told Lienilde that she did not actually except the apprentice to confront her master so.
"There is–" Lienilde paused for an instant, considering her words, for they had never told Ardil and Inzil about what had happened to Isildur. "There is a patient I have been charged with," she continued. "He is rather ill, and it is my duty to check on him each evening."
"I see," Inzil answered. "It seems that you are well on your way to becoming a full-fledged healer then, and not just an apprentice."
"Perhaps," Lienilde answered.
Just then her mother interrupted: "Lienilde, please help Inzil with the potatoes. They really should have entered the pot a few minutes ago."
Thus, the three women spent the next hour chatting in the kitchen and preparing the meal, while the men in the front room took turns playing chess and discussing their work at the smithy. Finally the family found themselves seated at the table, ready to eat a hearty meal of fish stew.
Not long after the meal began, the small talk died down as Ardil spoke up with an announcement: "We have some news to share, but we wanted to wait until everyone was gathered in one room." The family looked up in anticipation, and Ardil smiled at his wife and continued: "Inzil is pregnant."
"Oh that is wonderful!" Melde immediately exclaimed, jumping up and running to the other side of the table to hug her son and daughter-in-law. Lienilde and Mandil also offered their congratulations. Failon, on the other hand, simply remarked, "Well, that didn’t take long," which resulted in a simultaneous elbow in the ribs from Lienilde and a stern glare from his mother. Ardil and Inzil either did not notice Failon’s comment or did not care; they simply beamed with joy.
"The baby should be born in early autumn," Inzil said, which resulted in a barrage of questions from Melde about the preparations that would need to be made. After a moment of listening, Lienilde glanced over at her father, who had remained mostly silent — of course, few could get a word in edgewise with Melde’s constant chatter. Mandil was smiling and was obviously happy at the news, but Lienilde could also see a hint of sadness in his eyes. She knew what he was thinking: he was already worried about Ardil and Inzil’s spiritual state, and now there would be a child to worry about as well. She locked eyes with him a moment, showing that she understood his thoughts, and he gave a slight nod in return.
She then turned toward her elder brother, who had already fallen out of the conversation as Melde and Inzil discussed the baby that would soon be coming, seemingly ignoring the others at the table. Ardil smiled and trading a knowing glance with his younger sister; Melde was more excited now than when the couple had announced their betrothal. It was going to be a long night.
Ardil and Inzil were finally able to return to their own home late in the night, once Melde was satisfied that they had already begun the considerations required before the baby was born. By the time they left it was already decided that Inzil’s father would build the baby’s cradle while Melde would spend the next several months sewing clothes and blankets for the infant. Lienilde was surprised that her parents did not donate the cradle and clothes they had used when Lienilde and her brothers were infants. Were her parents still hoping for another child? Even though Failon was young, her parents were reaching the end of their childbearing years, so she found that doubtful. However, that was a question she would never feel comfortable asking her parents, so she quickly put it out of her mind.
After the family had retired — though Lienilde could hear whispers from her parents’ room and suspected that Melde would keep her husband awake even longer with talk of the baby — Lienilde sat at her windowsill for a few minutes before climbing into her own bed. She was happy to hear her brother’s news and certainly looked forward to meeting the baby and becoming an aunt, but as of late it seemed that no matter what happy news she received, her joy was always clouded by thoughts of Isildur, still confined to his bed. And why did she always look forward to seeing him even though the sight of his suffering always saddened her heart? Her thoughts often seemed contradictory: sometimes she believed that her life would be so much simpler if Isildur was not in it; other days she was so glad to have met him. She sighed and slid into bed; another night of thinking would not resolve the issues that had troubled her mind for so many weeks. She instead tried to cheer herself with the thought that perhaps tomorrow Isildur would be well enough to tell her about the history of Nimloth.
True to his word, Isildur began the story of Nimloth during Lienilde’s next visit, when his fever had lowered and he was more alert. Amandil had stayed up all night telling the family about Nimloth’s history on that fateful night three months ago, and now Isildur seemed determined to relay every detail to Lienilde. He told her of the creation of Telperion and Laurelin and how they lit the world with alternating silver and golden light before the days of the sun. He spoke of Galathilion the tree of Tirion, created in the image of Telperion, and of its descendant Celeborn in Tol Eressea, and finally of Celeborn’s scion Nimloth. He even recalled some of the history of Feanor’s Silmarils, created with the light of the Two Trees, and of the resulting wars and tragedies that those precious stones brought to the world. Thus it took nearly three weeks worth of visits for him to finish the tale.
Of course, there were days when Isildur did not feel like talking much, and on those days Lienilde either let him sleep or entertained him with stories from her own life. She told him that Ardil and Inzil were expecting, and shared several humorous stories illustrating Melde’s excitement and impatience for the baby to arrive.
Lienilde soon realized that her visits with Isildur were now lasting longer — she was not quite sure when it began, but now she always stayed long enough to hear or tell just one more story, even if Isildur did not require much care that day. But as the worst of winter passed and the days slowly grew warmer in preparation for spring, Lienilde found herself with fewer patients to attend to and more time to spend with Isildur.
Even her time at home began to fall into a pattern. Her mother had recruited her to help make the baby’s clothes. Lienilde had never been an expert seamstress but she could knit decently, so she spent the evenings slowly knitting a blanket made of soft blue and yellow yarn. She was actually rather grateful for the change; during the winter months Failon tried to play chess with her nearly every night since it was too cold for him to play outside. Now it was Mandil and occasionally Ardil that were forced to suffer his attacks, though on some nights Mandil instead gave Failon lessons in whittling, so that maybe the boy would develop another interest that he could practice indoors. Lienilde did have a desire to speak to Ardil about the Melkor worship, but she never seemed to have the courage to start the conversation. In the end, she decided she would leave it to her father — she suspected that Ardil had a much closer relationship with their father than with her, after spending the last few years working with him in the smithy. Thus, those three weeks passed in a fairly happy contentment for Lienilde as she waited patiently for the warm days of spring to arrive, though her heart was never truly free from her worry for Isildur, for the fate of Numenor, and now for her own elder brother.
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.