Chapter 5: Burdens of the Heart
The sun warmed her face as Lienilde walked home, though the wind was chill with the first breath of winter. It saddened her to know that autumn had truly arrived and that winter was on its way, for summer was her favorite time of year. But her thoughts did not dwell on the weather long. Though she had spent the last two days with Isildur’s family, experiencing long nights and sorrowful times at his bedside, her mind quickly turned to other things now that she was on her way home. She thought of her brother Ardil’s upcoming wedding, only five days away. She wondered how her mother was faring with the remaining preparations. Her mother, Melde, was a woman who was often concerned with details and always wanted to be in control at home, yet her heart was still soft toward her children. Ardil was her first child to be married, and Lienilde could only imagine the stress and joy that her mother was now feeling.
It was not long before Lienilde arrived home. Upon opening the door to her house, she was greeted with a flurry of activity. Her twelve-year-old brother, Failon, stood in the center of the front room, flanked on either side by a seamstress. Lienilde recalled that her mother wanted the entire family to wear new clothes to the wedding; Lienilde had been fitted a week prior, and it was apparently Failon’s turn now. He currently wore a deep green tunic, the seams still rough, with golden trim loosely pinned to the sleeves and neckline. He was clearly bored with the process, but remained still as the young seamstresses ran circles around him, pinning and cutting threads on all sides and chattering with Melde the entire time. Melde, meanwhile, was quickly pacing through the house, juggling rolls of fabric and baskets of sewing supplies, and spouting instructions at the seamstresses. Lienilde’s father and older brother were absent from the scene, and she assumed that they were seeking solace from the hustle in their smithy.
“Lienilde!” Failon was the first to see her enter and called out in greeting, but was unable to escape from his current predicament. Lienilde smiled in reply, but before she could speak her mother dropped her load on a nearby chair and ran over to greet her.
“Lienilde! I’m so glad you are home!” she said, giving her daughter a quick hug. “Are you hungry? Let me fix you something for lunch. Oh, and I will need you to try on your dress while the seamstresses are here; we found the most beautiful fabric and–“
“Mother!” Lienilde exclaimed, already overwhelmed. Quickly lowering her voice back to a normal level, she continued, “I am not hungry, but I have had little sleep the last few days and would love some rest.”
“Oh, of course,” Melde replied. Now that she took the time to look at her daughter, she could see the exhaustion evident on her face. What sort of work has that healer made her do? she wondered, but said nothing. She would talk with Lienilde about her experience later; right now she knew her daughter needed rest. “Just come out whenever you are ready, and we can try on your dress.”
“Thank you,” Lienilde replied, and quickly retreated to her room before her mother changed her mind and found some task for her to perform. Before she had time to dwell any more on the wedding planning, she found herself in bed and quickly falling asleep.
When Lienilde awoke, her room had already grown dim from the setting sun. She deliberately took her time changing into a clean dress and combing out her long hair. Though she still had not bathed in several days, it felt wonderful to be wearing clean clothes and feel soft, untangled hair falling down her back. Pushing the lingering thoughts of Isildur from her mind, she left her room prepared to help her mother with the wedding plans.
The first thing she noticed was that the house was much quieter than it was earlier. The seamstresses had left, though their tools and materials still lay stacked in the corners of the front room. Her father, Mandil, sat by the fireplace whittling on a piece of wood, its final shape still undeterminable. Her brothers were seated nearby on the floor playing a game of chess, and Lienilde could hear her mother singing softly to herself in the kitchen as she prepared dinner. The quiet was a welcome relief to the girl, for she had been expecting to see the family still rushing throughout the house.
“Good morning, Lienilde!” Failon said, with a sparkle in his eye that let her know he was only joking.
“It is good to see you again,” Ardil added, looking up from the game for only a moment. Failon was by far the best chess player in the family, and the other family members required intense concentration if they were to have a chance at winning against him. Turning back to the board, Ardil continued, “Mother said you have had a few long days.” He paused, and Failon and Mandil both looked at her expectantly, hoping to hear her story.
However, Lienilde did not yet feel like reliving the past few days’ experiences. She knew she would have to confront the memories again the next day when she returned to treat Isildur, but for now she simply wanted to spend some time at home with her family. “Yes,” she finally answered, “yes I have.” Without further explanation, she headed toward the kitchen to help her mother with dinner.
“What do you think happened?” Failon whispered after she had left. “Do you think someone died again?”
“Failon!” Mandil replied sternly. “Please do not speculate. Your sister will tell you what happened when she wants — if she wants.”
“Yes, Father,” Failon mumbled, turning back to the chess board. Suddenly his face lit up with a smile as he moved his queen piece. “Check!” Ardil simply sighed and rolled his eyes in defeat.
Once Lienilde’s family realized that she did not wish to talk about the last few days, the conversation at dinner quickly turned to the wedding. Lienilde did not remember her family being so caught up in the wedding planning before she left, and she wondered what had spurred this burst of activity. Perhaps her mother had simply realized that the wedding was only five days away.
After dinner, Melde insisted that Lienilde try on her dress, even though she would just have to try it on again the next day so the seamstresses could adjust the fit. “Just look at this gorgeous fabric,” Melde said as she helped Lienilde into the dress. The dress was made of a rich, heavy fabric in a deep red. It had long sleeves and several layers in the skirt to keep her warm during the autumn months; consequently the garment was rather weighty and it was easiest to put on when another was there to help. “Once the fit is right, we will sew some details on the dress using some gold colored thread and silk,” Melde continued. “Oh, the color is just beautiful with your dark hair!”
Lienilde finally got a chance to turn around and look into the mirror, and she had to agree with her mother that the dark red did complement her hair and skin. Even the fit was good considering Lienilde had only been measured once for the dress, although it needed to be taken in a little near the neckline. “It is lovely, Mother,” Lienilde finally replied. “Thank you for having it made for me.”
“Why, you don’t need to thank me!” Melde answered, surprised at Lienilde’s formalism. “You must look beautiful for your brother’s wedding!”
“Of course,” said Lienilde, turning around and waiting for her mother to help take the dress off. As Melde began to undo the laces in the back of the dress, she wondered at Lienilde’s attitude that evening. Her daughter had been abnormally quiet during dinner, and had barely even smiled when she tried on the dress.
“Lienilde,” Melde finally spoke as Lienilde stepped out of the dress. “What is wrong? You have been so quiet today.”
“Nothing,” replied Lienilde, as she sat down on her bed. “It’s just been a long few days.”
“I know,” Melde answered. It must have been the third time that day that she had heard her daughter use that phrase. “What of your patient? Did he–” she stopped suddenly, not wanting to say the word “die.” She too recalled Lienilde’s first experience with a dying patient, and wondered what had happened to her daughter at Elendil’s house.
“He is alive,” the girl answered, anticipating her mother’s question.
“What happened to him then?” Melde asked, remembering that Vorime had been very vague the morning she came to fetch Lienilde.
“He was–” she stopped, unsure of what to say. If she said he was attacked, surely her mother would ask more questions. While she did trust her mother with Isildur’s secret, she also knew that she could not tell everyone what had happened — what if her mother told her father, and her father mentioned it at the smithy? She knew that Elendil’s family did not want Isildur’s deed to become public knowledge, or they would all be in danger. “He is very ill,” Lienilde finally answered. “Vorime gave me the rest of the week off from my duties; however, I do need to check on him at least once a day.”
“I see,” Melde answered. It was obvious that her daughter was not telling her everything; however, seeing that Lienilde was not as distraught as she had been when that first elderly patient died, Melde decided to press no further. She knew that her daughter would talk if she wanted to — it was a rare occurrence that any of Melde’s children kept secrets from her, so close was their relationship.
“In that case, I believe I shall retire now,” Melde said, after hanging up her daughter’s dress. “I shall wake you in the morning, so you will be up by the time the seamstresses arrive.”
“Thank you,” Lienilde replied as her mother exited her room. Sitting down on her bed, she wondered if she had made the right decision by not telling her mother about Isildur. She longed to tell someone — Isildur was such a burden on her heart, and she wished that she had someone whom she could share the burden with. But I do have someone, she realized after a moment. I have Anarion, and Elendil, and even Amandil. And they need me to be strong — Isildur needs me to be strong! The image of Isildur’s face suddenly flooded her mind, as she remembered his dark eyes the morning that he awoke. Something about his face still broke her heart, and she soon found herself looking forward to the morrow when she could see him again. For though his injuries brought her much sadness, knowledge of his heroic act in Armenelos filled her with a pride and a hope such that she had not experienced in a long while.
Lienilde: “People-loving”, a twenty-five-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 twelve-year-old brother.
Melde: “Beloved”, Lienilde’s mother.
Mandil: “Good Friend” (contracted form of Manendil), Lienilde’s father.