<strong>Chapter 8: A Brother’s Wedding</strong>
The next two days passed quickly. Lienilde and the rest of her family stayed busy preparing the last of the food while the seamstresses stopped by for a few final fittings. Lienilde managed to find time each evening to visit Isildur, but the visits were always rather quick since her assistance was needed at home. Isildur did not always awake while Lienilde was with him, though Elendil told her that he awoke at least once each day and took a little soup.
Amandil did say that the King’s Men had spoken to him on the day after the man visited with Lienilde, but otherwise they heard nothing of Sauron’s search for the intruder. As the days passed with no further news, they began to feel confident that the search had not provided any leads, though they were still very careful to keep Isildur’s condition secret. However, Lienilde had to make a conscious effort to not quicken her steps whenever she passed a King’s Man on the road, and she prayed that they never noticed her fear.
Lienilde often thought of the injured palace guard during those two days. She never heard whether he had survived his injuries, but she suspected that he had — for if he had died, surely the search for his attacker would be doubled. Yet she could not shake the image of the unknown guard lying in bed, suffering from his wounds, no different from her patient Isildur. Did he have a family to wait at his bedside in worry like Isildur? What had he been thinking when he fought off his attacker? Since she had first learned of Isildur’s deed, she had unconsciously come to think of the King and his men as the enemy; but now her healer’s heart wondered how two Numenoreans–two of the Edain–could have been pitted against each other so. Had Numenor fallen so far that its noble citizens must now slay one another to protect their beliefs?
Yet coming home to her family each night and seeing the joy on Ardil’s face as his wedding day approached made it difficult for Lienilde to dwell on such dark thoughts for long. She soon realized that her musings did little good; all she could do was to continue to care for her patient.
Thus the day of the wedding soon arrived. Ardil and Inzil were rather fortunate, for the day was warm and sunny, unusually so for this time of year — and as they were to soon learn, it was to be the last such warm day of the season. Lienilde’s family arose early that day to carry the food to the beach, the location of the ceremony and party, as was custom in Romenna. Inzil’s family brought tables for the food, for her father was a carpenter, and dried flowers, berries, and greenery to adorn the tables and the corner of the beach where the ceremony would take place. Lienilde and her brothers spent much of the morning carrying goods from their house to the shore, while Melde and Mandil stayed at the beach and helped organize the efforts. Vorime had agreed to check on Isildur that day, so Lienilde was able to devote the entire day to the wedding.
Once everything had been carried to the beach, the bride, groom, and their immediate families returned home to dress while some friends and distant relatives stayed to help finish the preparations on the shore. Lienilde’s household was near frantic, as her mother rushed from room to room to make sure everyone was dressed perfectly, while Ardil tried desperately to calm his mother down. Lienilde could tell that her older brother was already nervous about the upcoming ceremony and did not want his mother to add to his stress. Finally, Melde slowed down as she retreated to Lienilde’s room to do her daughter’s hair. The men soon returned to the beach, leaving Lienilde and Melde alone in the house.
"You have so much hair!" Melde cried in exasperation, "It will take forever to braid it all!"
Lienilde smiled, for her mother could not see her face. Lienilde had recommended that some friends do her hair and her mother’s hair to save time, but Melde had insisted on doing her daughter’s hair herself.
"You need not braid it all," Lienilde answered. "Why not just braid the top half and pin it up, and let the rest fall down?"
"I may have to," Melde agreed, frustration evident in her voice. "But I had so hoped to have it all braided up! You always look so pretty with your hair up."
"It will be fine, Mother," Lienilde answered. "Besides, no one will even notice my hair — they will be looking at the beautiful dress you had made for me!"
At this Melde finally smiled. "You may be right, dear." They then sat for several moments in silence, as Melde concentrated on pinning the plaits into elaborate patterns on her daughter’s head. When she was finished, she then added a few stems of dried red berries to Lienilde’s dark braids, complementing her dress. It was much too late in the year for flowers to be in bloom, so berries and leaves were the main decorations used for the wedding.
"It is lovely, Mother," Lienilde said after seeing her hair in a mirror. "Now sit, let me do your hair!"
Lienilde had practiced her mother’s hairstyle the previous day so she already knew exactly what to do. Her mother’s hair was thinner, and Lienilde twisted it into larger plaits, so it was not long before all of her mother’s hair was braided and pinned up on her head, also adorned with a few berries and leaves.
"Now we are both beautiful," Lienilde said, handing her mother a small mirror. "What do you think?"
"Wonderful, thank you dear!" Melde, apparently slightly calmer than earlier, stood up and gave her daughter a quick hug. Then picking up her skirts, she promptly made her way toward the door. "Come! The ceremony will start soon! I hope your cousins laid out the food properly!"
Lienilde simply smiled and followed her mother in silence, as Melde continued to fret as they walked down to the shoreline.
The ceremony was short and simple, as was the modern custom in Numenor. Lienilde, normally not one to cry at such things, did shed a tear or two as her brother expressed his love for his bride. She could not help but wonder if she would ever feel such a love herself — she had said earlier that she did not want to marry anytime soon, but seeing the bond between Ardil and Inzil made her feel as if she was missing out on some incredible joy unknown to her.
Her mother, however, practically bawled through the entire ceremony, while Mandil remained dry-eyed, although Lienilde could see the emotion in her father’s eyes. Even Failon appeared caught up in the ceremony.
Soon the ceremony was over, and as the sun drew low in the sky the guests scattered across the beach. Weddings were public affairs in Numenor, and much of the harbor town was on the beach that night — some to share in Ardil and Inzil’s joy, others simply to have fun dancing with the other guests. Some stood in small circles chatting and eating, while others danced with groups of friends or alone with their beloveds. Melde finally seemed to calm down after the ceremony, and was content to sample the food and talk with the guests. Ardil and Inzil danced for the first several dances, then began to walk through the crowds greeting the guests with a plate of food in their hands — they knew if they sat down to eat, they would be accosted by many congratulating friends and family.
Lienilde spent much of the time conversing with several of her female cousins, and joining in a few dances with friends. She realized that it had been a long time since she had last spoken to some of her family, and enjoyed the chance to see them again and catch up on lost time. Most of her cousins had never had an apprenticeship and were eager to hear about hers, and while Lienilde entertained them with some of the more light-hearted stories of her work, she avoided discussing the patients who had passed on and never mentioned Isildur — she had enjoyed herself for most of the day and did not want to ruin her good times with sad thoughts.
As the evening went on her cousins dispersed to talk with other guests or to dance, and Lienilde soon found herself standing alone in the sand near the edge of the crowd. She glanced around and saw a lone figure standing at the water’s edge, and tried to discern who it was. But it was growing dark and torches were only lit near the food and the musicians, so Lienilde could not make out the guest’s face. The man then turned away from her — for Lienilde could tell the figure was not wearing a skirt and thus must be a man — which only perplexed her more. Setting her drink next to several other empty glasses, she made her way toward him.
"Good evening, sir," she said as she came within conversational distance of the man. He finally turned, and she was surprised to see it was Anarion — she had not seen him earlier that night; in fact, she had not seen any of his family at the wedding.
"Hello, Lienilde," he said softly, and though it was dark, Lienilde could see that he looked rather distracted, if not actually saddened. Her first instinct was to fear for Isildur, but she quickly realized that if Isildur’s condition had worsened, his brother would not have left his side simply to come to a wedding party, even if Inzil was a friend of his.
"Anarion," she said, "what is wrong? Do you not enjoy the party?"
"Oh, it is a lovely party, and your family did a wonderful job," Anarion said, and Lienilde could see he was simply being polite. Something else was on his mind.
"Thank you," she replied. She wondered if she should continue, for it almost seemed as if he did not want to talk; but rather or not she should have spoken, she did so anyway: "Anarion, something troubles you. What is it?"
"I would rather not say," he answered, avoiding her gaze. "I do not wish to bring ill tidings to a wedding."
"But it is not my wedding, and we are alone. I am simply concerned for you."
"Thank you," he answered. "It is just …" he paused, and Lienilde waited quietly. Finally Anarion blurted out his thoughts in one rushed statement: "My grandfather has heard that Ar-Pharazon has finally cut down Nimloth, and that Sauron has begun building a temple to Melkor. A temple!" Anarion’s voice rose at that last statement. Lienilde glanced around, relieved to see that none of the guests seemed to have noticed.
"Anarion–" she began, reaching out and grabbing his hand. She felt his skin tense at her touch and for an instant she wondered what had compelled her to hold his hand, but as his hand relaxed she forgot about it and wondered what else she should say to him. She did not yet comprehend the depth of his news and simply wished to comfort the young man.
"Lienilde," Anarion said softly, taking a slight step toward her, but keeping his face turned toward the sand. "I am sorry. I should not burden you with this news, not on the day of your brother’s wedding. I do not even know why I came tonight; I should have just stayed home with Isildur and my father–"
"It is all right," she answered, giving his hand a quick squeeze. "I am glad you told me; such news will not affect my happiness for my brother." Anarion looked up at her, his expression calming as he realized that he had not upset her as he feared. "Besides," she continued, her voice also soft, "now we know that Isildur’s plight has not been in vain."
"That is true," he said simply, trying to hide the emotion in his voice. Then suddenly, he let go of her hand and drew her into his arms, resting his cheek against her hair. Lienilde was rather surprised, but soon relaxed and lightly wrapped her arms around his waist. "You are a good friend, Lienilde. I could not wish for a better healer for my brother."
Now it was Lienilde’s turn to be overcome with emotion at the other’s words. "Thank you," said she, still clinging to his waist, "but I–" She suddenly stopped, decided that anything she could say would simply ruin the moment. Somehow she knew that they both understood each other, and no more words were needed. After a moment, they slowly released each other as if in one accord.
"I–" Lienilde began, "I should go. My friends are probably wondering where I am–"
"Of course," Anarion replied, the emotion already gone from his voice, though not from his heart. Yet Lienilde lingered just a moment more, and soon they became aware of a change in the music across the beach. The tune had slowed, and it seemed to reflect their mood at the moment, as if the musicians had known what had transpired between the two young people at the water’s edge.
"How about a dance before you leave?"
Lienilde smiled nervously, surprised by Anarion’s offer. "I suppose," she answered. "But just one. It is late, and I wish to see my friends off before they leave."
Anarion simply smiled, and took her hand and led to her the crowd dancing on the beach. It seemed that many of the guests were getting weary of talk and had turned to dancing. Even though Lienilde and Anarion were surrounded by dancers, they ignored the crowd, each deep in their own thoughts as they danced slowly. It was during that dance that Lienilde first began to realize how terrible Anarion’s news really was, though for now she did not wish to dwell on such thoughts; rather, she once again thought of Isildur’s sacrifice and her heart swelled with pride.
The dancers nearby glanced at the silent young couple and wondered at their thoughts — the young man with a sad, yet content look on his face; the girl in the red dress and a smile on her face.
When the dance was over, Anarion returned home with only a polite farewell to Lienilde. Lienilde stood alone for a moment, still trying to take in all that had happened. She had enjoyed the dance, but what had surprised her most was that she had not been thinking about her dancing partner — her thoughts were on an injured young man with deep grey eyes, asleep in a dark room in the back of his house.
"Lienilde!" The young healer nearly jumped, so startled was she to hear her name while she was deep in thought. She turned to see two of her cousins running toward her: Serme and Vanye. The two girls were approximately Lienilde’s age, though Serme was a little younger and Vanye a little older.
"Who was that lovely young man you were dancing with?" Serme asked, a huge grin across her face. Vanye was also smiling, and Lienilde knew what they were thinking: her brother had found love, so surely her time would come soon!
"He is just a friend — the brother of one my patients," Lienilde replied, though she immediately regretted the last phrase. Please do not ask about Isildur! she silently begged her cousins.
"Just a friend, eh?" Serme continued with a giggle. "Well, I think he is smitten with you!" Lienilde resisted the urge to roll her eyes; while she usually enjoyed Serme’s company, the girl was quickly becoming obnoxious. Lienilde had no desire to explain what had actually happened between her and Anarion that night.
"I am sorry to disappoint you, Serme, but he is truly just a friend," Lienilde retorted, a little more harshly than she meant.
Serme looked rather surprised at her cousin’s denial, but Vanye gave Lienilde an understanding smile. Vanye had been in a similar situation herself earlier that year, when she had been accused of falling in love with a young man she had known since childhood. "Please forgive my sister," Vanye said, and Serme looked up at her, clearly disappointed that Vanye was not helping her to interrogate Lienilde. "Come, Serme," Vanye continued, placing a hand on her sister’s back. "Let us find our friend Callo and greet him before he leaves."
Serme’s face suddenly lit up and she turned to follow her sister. Lienilde wondered if Serme had feelings for this Callo, and could not help but smile as she watched her cousins leave, though she was still a little agitated at how Serme had interrupted her thoughts. She glanced around the crowd and noticed that several of the guests had left; it would probably not be long before everyone had retired home and she would be forced to stay behind and help clean up after the party. Lienilde sighed; it would be a long night. Seeing Failon near the food tables, she made her way toward her brother: at least they could have a little fun before their mother put them to work.
Lienilde, Failon, and some of their friends participated in the last few dances, but once the musicians left the guests quickly began to go home. By this point the sun had set several hours before, and Lienilde was already tiring from their long day but obediently followed her mother’s orders and helped gather the leftover food (what little there was) and the refuse scattered across the sands. It was late in the night before the family finally returned home to retire, though Ardil of course was absent: he had taken his bride to their new home, a small house near the smithy.
Lienilde was grateful for the chance to finally rest, but as she lay in her bed she found that she could not immediately fall asleep. Her thoughts returned to Anarion’s tidings. She was not terribly surprised that the King had cut down Nimloth, for that is why Isildur traveled to Armenelos in the first place, but it was still a shock to hear that the ancient symbol of the kings was gone. She remembered that Amandil had said that the fate of the line of Elros was tied closely to the White Tree of Numenor, and for the first time she began to wonder what was in Numenor’s future and began to fear the wrath of the Valar. For surely they would not allow such a deed to go unpunished! But what of the Faithful — would they suffer the same fate as the rest of isle, or would the Valar offer them grace? And to hear that Sauron was building a temple to Melkor — that shocked her even more than the news of Nimloth. She knew that many of the people of Numenor, especially those outside of Romenna, had begun to worship Melkor — but to build an actual temple seemed like even more of an abomination. And if Sauron was commissioning the temple, surely the King approved of it. Would the King begin to force the people of the isle to follow him in worship at the temple? What of the Faithful, of those that refused?
She suddenly realized that as she had been thinking about the Faithful, she had counted herself among their numbers. Was she really one of the Faithful? She despised the worship of Melkor — even before hearing Amandil’s story, she knew enough about the history of Numenor and Middle-Earth to know something of Melkor’s evil — but even so, she did not actively worship Eru, either. Her father had taught her some of the Faithful’s beliefs, but not enough that she felt very knowledgeable in the subject. Was hating Melkor reason enough to be counted among the Faithful? What about her thoughts on death? During the past year, she had begun to doubt her childhood beliefs that death was the Gift of Man after seeing several dying patients and their grieving families. She could not understand how a Gift could cause so much sadness and despair. Yet she knew that Amandil and his family believed that death was a Gift, even though they had been worried about Isildur’s fate. But how could that be? How could they fear something that was supposed to be good? It seemed that even the most devoted of the Faithful were susceptible to Sauron’s lies. She suddenly realized that perhaps her views on death were not so different from theirs: she had always believed that death was a gift in her mind, but her heart was not immune to the fear that so many other people felt. Perhaps Isildur’s family felt the same: they simply could not resist the fear of death that had surrounded them their entire lives, for the Faithful were dwindling and there were few left who resisted Sauron’s teachings.
Yet despite the fear of dying that Isildur’s family felt, she could not help but think of all of the other ways in which they were faithful: Isildur’s great deed, of course, but also Amandil’s efforts to advise the King and encourage the Faithful, and Elendil’s strong beliefs which he had passed on to his sons. How different their family was than hers! Her father’s lessons in the Faithful’s beliefs and Numenor’s history had never been very detailed and had ended as she passed from childhood into adolescence, and her brother Failon received equally few lessons. Now her family rarely discussed anything of a political or spiritual matter. They simply lived day to day, absorbed in their professions, chores, friends, and family. When Lienilde contrasted her family with Isildur’s, she began to think that there was something more that she should do.
But what? What can I do? I am young, and I am no hero like Isildur! I want to do something, but I am so scared — do I really have the strength to resist the King if he should mandate the worship of Melkor? Can I play a role in Numenor’s future?
Suddenly, the answer came to her unbidden — whether it was from Eru himself or simply a realization of her own, she did not know. But she knew that she had already done something: she had cared for Isildur, sat with him. She had given him her heart as she healed him. And somehow, she knew the answer to her earlier questions: Isildur had been brought into her life for a purpose, and her role in his tale was not yet over.
amp;quot;None too soon was this (Isildur’s deed) done; for after the assault the King yielded to Sauron and felled the White Tree, and turned then wholly away from the allegiance of his fathers."
-The Akallabeth, from The Silmarillion
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", Lienilde’s father.
Inzil: Adunaic for "Flower", Ardil’s new bride.
Serme: "Female friend."
Callo: "Noble man."
Author’s Note: I apologize for the much delayed update! We recently moved to a new apartment and didn’t have internet access for several weeks, and then I had to work some insane hours at work. Thank you for waiting so long and coming back to this story!