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
Chapter 13: www.theonering.com/articles1-20235/FlowersofNimlothChapter13
Chapter 14: www.theonering.com/articles1-20239/FlowersofNimlothChapter14
Chapter 15: www.theonering.com/articles1-20243/FlowersofNimlothChapter15
Chapter 16: www.theonering.com/articles1-20250/FlowersofNimlothChapter16
Chapter 17: www.theonering.com/articles1-20265/FlowersofNimlothChapter18
Author’s Note: I accidentally titled the previous chapter "Chapter 18," but it should have been titled Chapter 17. The text of the previous chapter was still correct. Now for the real Chapter 18…
<strong>Chapter 18: An Unexpected Guest</strong>
The next two days passed rather slowly for Lienilde. It felt strange to return to work, knowing that she would not be seeing Isildur at the end of the day, and she found it hard to keep her thoughts away from him. He had said that he would like her to visit "occasionally", but how often was "occasionally"? She was certain that it was not every day, but when should she see him again? She wished they had scheduled a time for her to visit next, or that he had been the one to initiate the visits. She was not particularly comfortable making the decision herself.
However, it would turn out that she would not need to make the decision after all. Two days after Isildur first rose healed from his wounds, Lienilde arrived home one evening to see her former patient seated at her kitchen table.
"Isildur!" she exclaimed upon entering the house, "What are you doing here? You seem determined to keep me surprised as of late!" She quickly glanced around the house to locate her family: Failon was seated at the table near Isildur, and Melde had her back turned to them as she prepared supper. Lienilde could hear her father in another room; likely he had just come home from the smithy and was changing out of his soot-covered work clothes.
"Why, waiting for you, of course," Isildur answered her question with a smile.
"I — I can see that," she replied. She was feeling rather flustered finding Isildur in her own home, seated in the kitchen as if he were one of the family. She wondered how long he had been there and what her mother had told him, for Melde never remained silent while a guest was in the house.
"I was wondering," Isildur then asked, "if you would care to join my family for supper, to thank you for all of your hard work. My father managed to procure a chicken at the marketplace and it has been roasting all day."
Lienilde smiled; she had once mentioned that roast chicken was her favorite meal, for like most people in the seaport of Romenna her family ate fish more nights than not. She suddenly felt flattered that he would remember. However, she seemed rather incapable of forming an intelligent reply at the moment. "Tonight?" she asked, and then mentally scolded herself. Of course it is tonight; Elendil has not been roasting a chicken all day for tomorrow’s meal!
"Of course," Isildur replied. "And I am not sure if you even have much of a choice — it seems that your mother has forgotten to set out a plate for you tonight." Sure enough, Lienilde saw there were only three plates on the kitchen table. Melde, who had remained surprisingly silent during the exchange, flashed her daughter a smile over her shoulder. Lienilde then knew that Isildur had arrived quite some time ago, for she could sense a friendly conspiracy growing in the house.
"Then I would love to join you," she finally said, also smiling. Suddenly feeling rather self-conscious as she considered being a guest in his home that night, she glanced down at her grubby work dress, complete with a large stain where an infant had spit up on her earlier that day.
Reading her thoughts, Isildur added, "You may change first, of course; take as long as you need."
"Thank you," she replied, though she was immediately interrupted by Failon who had just noticed the stain:
"Ew, what is that?" he asked. Lienilde glared at her brother and he quickly fell silent, and as she turned to leave she could not help but notice Isildur stifling a laugh.
Shutting the door to her room tightly, she quickly began to look through her small wardrobe, searching for something suitable to wear. Most of her everyday dresses were rather worn and colored some shade of brown, though she did have a few nice dresses. Her fingers touched the red dress she had worn to Ardil’s wedding. I would like Isildur to see me in this. The thought flashed through her mind but she quickly pushed it aside; the red dress with golden trim was much too fancy for this occasion. She instead settled on a simple dark green dress. She had always liked how this dress fit her: the tailored waist and slightly full skirt gave the illusion of womanly curves at her narrow hips. Besides, it was one of the few dresses that she did not wear while at work or in the garden and was thus still unstained.
She slipped into the dress and then turned to the mirror as she undid her messy braid. It had rained earlier that day and her hair was in no condition to wear down, so she took a few moments to twist it up into a neat knot and pin it in place. Satisfied, she left her room, hoping that she had not kept Isildur waiting too long.
She was pleased to find Isildur still seated at the table, listening to Failon tell some tale about how he and his friends had gone tree-climbing that day. At least Failon did not challenge him to a game of chess, she thought with a smile. Mandil had joined them and was also seated at the table, listening to Failon. Melde was still occupied in the kitchen.
At Lienilde’s entrance, Isildur’s eyes quickly moved to her and he smiled in approval at her attire. Lienilde returned the smile and then walked over to stand by him while Failon finished his story.
"I am afraid we should be leaving now," Isildur said, once the boy paused for a moment. Rising from his seat, he turned to Mandil and said, "Thank you for allowing me to invite your daughter to my father’s house."
Both men knew it was only a formality: Lienilde had spent every evening at Isildur’s home for the past several months, why would Mandil not allow her to go to dinner? Plus, it had been a full year since Lienilde came of age; she was an adult even if her father wished she was still a little girl. "You are welcome," Mandil replied. With a quick farewell to the rest of the family, Lienilde and Isildur went on their way.
"How have you faired these last two days without me?" Isildur asked with a smile as they walked to his home.
"Quite well; thank you for your concern," Lienilde answered in jest. "Though in truth, I am glad to see you again."
"And I am pleased to see you," he replied, the smile not leaving his face, though he seemed to have less of a playful look in his eye.
"What have you done to keep yourself occupied the last two days, now that you are no longer confined to bed?"
"I have passed the time with my father and brother at the shipyards. It felt wonderful to breathe the sea air, to hold the ropes of the mast; even sawing wood was a welcome change."
"Sawing wood, eh? Does that mean that your strength has fully recovered?"
"Always the healer," Isildur laughed. "I will admit that I am not quite as strong as I was last summer, after lying in bed all winter. But it is nothing to be concerned about: my full strength will easily return by the end of this summer."
"That is good to hear," she replied. She was still rather amazed at his instantaneous recovery: it still seemed odd to see him out of bed, to be walking with him through the city streets. Yet she was still happy to see him recovered, proud of him almost. As they neared the marketplace she glanced around, watching the shopkeepers close their stands and the last customers head home for the night. To them, Lienilde and Isildur were simply another young couple, walking home for dinner after a day’s work. Lienilde almost wanted to tell them that no, Isildur was special! Here he was, her miraculous patient, her friend, walking with her for only the second time since they met four long months ago. Yet she knew that she could make no such announcement; she would have to be content with only her family and Isildur’s family knowing of his secret.
Though such thoughts did bring another question to Lienilde’s mind: "What did you tell the men at the shipyard when you returned? How did they react?"
"Father had already told them that I long lay ill, so I said the only thing that I could: that I was well, and that the illness had left me with the arrival of the warmth of spring. Many were surprised that I healed so quickly, or that Father had not told them of my progress until I appeared at the harbor completely healed. Of course, we could not tell them that there was no progress until Nimloth’s leaf opened!" he answered.
"Of course," she said with a smile. When she thought of all that she and Isildur and his family had endured over the past four months, she could not help but beam with joy to know that their troubles had come to an end. Since Isildur first rose, she had hardly even thought of Sauron’s dreadful work in Armenelos. She had also not seen Ardil since the day she spoke to him about Isildur, so she thought little of him as well. Of course, all of those sad thoughts had still entered her mind, especially since most of her patients still insisted on talking about such things, but she had not been dwelling on those thoughts as much as she had previously. Isildur’s injuries must have worried her more than she realized, for his healing to bring her such happiness.
The rest of the walk passed quickly as Isildur told of her of his day at the shipyards, and before long, they had arrived at Elendil’s home. They entered to find Amandil sitting in the front room by the fire, while Elendil and Anarion were busy in the kitchen. After a cursory greeting to Amandil, they joined the men in the kitchen.
"Is there anything we can we do to help?" Lienilde asked soon after arriving in the kitchen.
"No, I do not believe so," Elendil answered. Indeed, he and Anarion were already hardly working, just occasionally stirring a pot and watching the chicken roast over the fire. "Besides, you are our guest, and we cannot have you cooking your own meal!"
"Which reminds me," she replied, "I do want to thank you for inviting me tonight. I have already eaten so many meals in this kitchen; I do not believe it is necessary–"
"But never a meal with Isildur," Elendil interrupted with a smile on his face.
Lienilde felt her face flush slightly. "No, I suppose not."
With that, Isildur placed a hand on her shoulder. "My father and brother seem to have everything under control here, Lienilde. Let us go speak with my grandfather."
Isildur and Lienilde then made their way back to the front room. Amandil had been staring into the fire, clearly lost in thought, but looked up when they entered. "There was nothing for us to do in the kitchen," Lienilde explained, as they took a seat in two empty chairs nearby.
"I see," Amandil simply answered, straightening up to face them.
"Does something trouble you?" Isildur then asked. "Have you received any new tidings?"
"Let us not speak of that right now," he answered. "I do not wish to darken this happy night."
But I believe you already have, Lienilde thought, her previously light-hearted mood quickly fading. Amandil’s words made it clear that he knew something she did not, and she knew that she would spend much of the evening trying to guess at his new knowledge. She thought back to the argument she had with Isildur a few days ago, when she had wished that she had never heard of Sauron’s works. She had been pondering her previous words for several days now, and she knew now that they were no longer true.
"I am not so sure," Lienilde replied hesitantly. "I — well, I think I would rather know what you were thinking, to know what was happening in Armenelos. Perhaps then, we could do something about it, or at least pray for the King’s forgiveness." She lowered her eyes when she finished speaking, but she felt Isildur reach over and place his hand on her knee.
Amandil smiled slightly, though Lienilde did not see it, but the smile vanished from his face as quickly as it appeared. "Another of the Faithful has been arrested on charges of rebelling against the King. We fear that he may be the next sacrifice."
"I should not be surprised," Lienilde mumbled, for she had already guessed at Amandil’s news.
"Thank you for telling us, Grandfather," Isildur said. The three then fell silent, for what else could they say on the matter? Despite Lienilde’s words, there really was nothing they could do right now, so far away from Armenelos, with so little influence in the King’s court. Thus they sat for several long moments, each absorbed in their own thoughts.
Finally Amandil stood. "Well, it is approaching suppertime. I think I shall join my son in the kitchen; he never did learn how to properly carve a chicken."
Lienilde and Isildur smiled and rose from their seats, but did not follow him into the kitchen immediately. Rather, they turned and faced each other. Isildur wrapped an arm around her shoulder and smiled. "Lienilde," Isildur whispered, so that the men in the kitchen would not hear, "I do believe you are becoming a woman after my own heart."
Lienilde smiled, slightly embarrassed by his praise, though she did not know quite what to say. However, Isildur knew her thoughts, and simply squeezed her shoulder, then released her and headed into the kitchen. She soon followed suit, and it was not long before they were all seated at the table, enjoying a dinner of roast chicken and boiled vegetables, chatting as though all was well with the world.
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.