Chapter 1: /articles/20010,1.html
Chapter 2: Musings in the Night
Lienilde stayed with Isildur’s family for the rest of the day and through the night. She spent the entire time in Isildur’s room, with only a brief break for a silent dinner with Elendil and Anarion, since Amandil had returned to his own house for the night. It was obvious that Elendil and Anarion did not wish to talk, so she did not speak either. Vorime stopped by after dinner to change Isildur’s bandages, but she too spoke little, for it was clear that their patient’s condition had not changed. Lienilde slept for only a few moments that night, not wanting to break her vigil, though Elendil and Anarion both retired late in the night after sitting with her for several hours.
The young healer had managed to appear calm and confident the entire time that Elendil and Anarion had sat with her — only because they did not speak with one another — but after the men had left her mind and emotions soon began to wander. She sat at Isildur’s bedside, staring at his sleeping form. The room was lit by a single candle, and the small flame gave a warm glow to Isildur’s pale face. However, the light did not deceive her, for she knew his true state and the danger in which he yet remained. She recalled his father’s and brother’s expressions from earlier that day, and how apparent it was that they feared Isildur was approaching death. Lienilde’s thoughts began to stray to the first time she had encountered a death herself.
She was fortunate enough to have never experienced the death of a close family member. Two of her grandparents had died when she was very young, and she hardly remembered them or their deaths. A distant cousin had died when his boat sank in a storm a year ago, but again, she had not been affected since she had barely known him. She did not truly face death until she began her apprenticeship. Two short months after beginning her training under Vorime, the master and apprentice visited the home of an ill elderly man. When his children and grandchildren greeted the healers, Lienilde could instantly sense their intense fear and sadness. Their strong emotions had frightened Lienilde, and she avoided their eyes as they made their way to the man’s room. She knew that they thought he would die, and she also knew that the whole family was praying that Vorime and Lienilde could heal their patriarch. But what if we fail? Lienilde kept thinking, over and over. This man’s life is in our hands! What if we fail?
When she first saw the patient, her heart sank even further. The man was thin, so thin Lienilde could hardly believe that he was a living man and not a skeleton. Only a few strands of long, white hair were left on his head, and when he opened his mouth to cough or gasp for breath, she could see that his teeth were yellow and broken. She remembered that she had stood still, staring, until a stern glance from Vorime brought her thoughts back to her duties.
They administered several herbs and medicines to the patient, but they seemed to make no difference in his condition. As Vorime and Lienilde treated other patients later that day, her thoughts remained with the elderly man and his family. When the healers returned to the man’s home that evening, they found that he had already passed away. All of his family, about a two dozen people, was gathered in one room, crying and grieving together. Vorime and Lienilde only stayed for a few moments, but during that time she felt the stares of the young grandchildren. Why could you not save him? they seemed to cry, though they spoke no such words. Why did you let our grandfather die?
Lienilde had no idea how she had managed to not break down and cry right there in the house. Vorime sent her home as soon as they left the house, knowing that her young apprentice needed time to heal from what she had seen.
Lienilde remembered that she had returned home and refused to eat dinner with her family that night, and had spent the evening alone in her room. Her mind told her that there was nothing they could have done to save the man, but her heart remembered the pleas in the children’s eyes and tried to tell her that she had let down the entire family. That night was the first time she truly began to question her belief that death was the Gift of Man, a belief she had blindly accepted since childhood. If death was a gift, why was his family so distraught to see him die? Why did the elderly man himself try so hard to hang onto life rather than gladly receive his gift? She remembered crying on her mother’s shoulder later that night, though she could not recall a word her mother said. All she knew was that her heart eventually healed, and with each death that she witnessed as a healer, her own pain grew smaller.
So why was Isildur upsetting her so? She thought that she had learned how to remain calm with a dying patient, but this day had proven her wrong. Was it simply because Isildur was so young? All of the other patients she had seen die were elderly, so was it possible it was simply Isildur’s age that troubled her?
She again looked at Isildur’s sleeping face and wiped away her own tears, not even knowing when they had first appeared again. You are different, Isildur, she thought. You are young and strong, and you do not deserve death yet. I promise you, I will do everything in my power to heal you — I will not let you down!
Lienilde’s newfound determination gave her strength, but still her heart was burdened with all of the emotions she had felt earlier that day, and soon it could endure no more. As the night wore on, her heart became numb to her feelings and her determination lessened, and though she remained awake, her mind strayed to other things: her friends and family, her elder brother’s upcoming wedding, her other patients. Such thoughts helped calm her heart, though seeing Isildur laying in front of her kept her from experiencing any sort of true peace. She did doze off a few times, but never for very long, for she saw Isildur even in her dreams.
During the later portions of the night her patient began to shift about and mumble in his sleep though he never fully awoke; however, even that was an encouragement to Lienilde since he had not moved the entire day. When the sun rose in a cloudless sky the next morning, Isildur’s condition had changed little, but the fact that he had survived the night brought hope to the healer’s apprentice.
Not long after sunrise, a soft knock sounded at Isildur’s door. “Lienilde?” Anarion whispered, cracking open the door. Seeing Lienilde awake, he continued, “How is he?” His voice was hesitant, as if he were afraid of the answer he would receive.
“His condition is the same, if not slightly better,” she replied, trying to sound confident and assured despite her lack of sleep. “Though he still has a long road to full recovery.”
“Of course,” Anarion replied, relieved to find his brother still alive though he was obviously still greatly concerned. He had only been able to get a few short hours of sleep himself. After a brief pause he asked, again slightly hesitant, “Would you care for some breakfast?”
A slight smile appeared on Lienilde’s lips, the first since she had arrived at the house. “I would love some.” Suddenly self-conscious of her unkempt hair and wrinkled dress, she added “I will be there in a moment.”
Anarion nodded and left the room. After a quick glance to ensure that Isildur’s bandages were still clean, Lienilde quickly rebraided her hair and attempted to smooth her dress. She could hear Anarion and Elendil talking and assumed that the younger man was reporting on his brother’s condition, but by the time she left Isildur’s room the two men had fallen back to their routine of silence. Suppressing a sigh, Lienilde joined the two for yet another wordless meal. Having grown up in family who considered mealtimes to be social times, these silent meals were nearly as depressing to her as treating her near-death patient in the back room. However she dared not break the silence, knowing that she was a guest in their home and wanting to behave like a proper young lady.
Shortly after breakfast Lienilde’s younger brother stopped by with a change of clothes for her, for Vorime had informed her family where she would be spending the next few days. Anarion allowed Lienilde to use his bed for a short nap, and the young girl was asleep nearly as soon as she lay down, her first chance to truly escape the horror of the previous day.
Lienilde awoke to a bright midday sun shining through the window onto her face. She lied in bed for a few moments with her eyes closed, absorbing the sun’s warmth, when she suddenly remembered where she was. With a sigh, she slowly pulled herself out of bed, changed into the dress her brother had brought earlier, and made her way to Isildur’s room.
As she brought her hand up to knock on Isildur’s door, she heard a soft voice inside. Recognizing the voice as Anarion’s, she lowered her hand and turned to leave, but the words she heard tugged at her heart and she stayed, listening to Isildur’s brother through the partially closed door.
“Isildur,” she heard Anarion say, his voice broken. He was obviously crying and she knew that she should leave him alone in his grief, yet for some reason she stayed — whether from concern for Isildur and his family or simply from morbid curiosity, she knew not.
“Isildur,” Anarion repeated. His voice was soft, and she strained to hear all that he said. “Why did you not tell me of your intentions? Did you–“ The next few words she could not make out, but tears quickly welled up in her eyes and began to fall freely down her face when she heard the mourning brother continue: “I would have come with you,” Anarion whispered. “I would have protected you. I would have died for you!”
Suddenly, Lienilde could take no more without crying aloud herself. She quickly but quietly made her way back to Anarion’s room and lay face down on his bed. The grief in the house was overwhelming, and Lienilde’s heart finally broke fully for the family. Burying her face in the pillow, she cried long and hard until she fell asleep, not knowing that Elendil and Anarion could hear her.
Lienilde: “People-loving”, a twenty-five-year-old healer’s apprentice.
Vorime: “Faithful” or “Steadfast”, healer and Lienilde’s master.