Eliawen paused for a moment as she entered the woods so that her eyes could adjust to the sudden dimness. The grassy field where she had been gathering herbs had been ablaze with light, but under the eaves of the trees it was suddenly darker. As she grew accustomed to the dim light, she saw the path ahead of her dappled with sunlight, and the nearby river flashed where the bright rays pierced the trees and sparkled on the water.
Following the path further into the forest, Eliawen listened to the water's chuckle and splash as it flowed over rocks and around tree roots that extended out into the current. The River Erui was not wide, but it was swift and cold as it flowed from its source in the White Mountains through the forests and fields of Lossarnach on its way to the Anduin. Eliawen loved where she lived -- in a small town on the edge of the forest, surrounded by fields and meadows, with the river nearby. Erui's voice was always in her ears wherever she went, and that made her very happy.
Eliawen and her parents were a family of healers. In addition to serving the needs of their village, they also took part in gathering and preparing the healing herbs that were needed for their craft. Some herbs were cultivated in the fields that surrounded the town, while others grew wild along the banks of the Erui or in the shade of the forest trees. The healing herbs they gathered were also in great demand in Minas Tirith, for use in the Houses of Healing as well as for sale in the marketplace. Today was a gathering day for the purpose of sending supplies of herbs to the City, and a boat was waiting downstream to carry what was gathered to the mooring place where the South Road crossed the river Erui, whence it would be transported by cart to the markets of Minas Tirith.
Eliawen was searching for one particular plant that grew in the damp shady parts of the forest near the river. She was particularly adept at finding it and her mother had put her in charge of gathering as much of it as she could, since it was popular as a curative for headaches. She took pride in her ability to find the herb, and was determined to provide it for this gathering time. The beginning of March was early for some of the healing plants they collected, but the climate was mild enough in Lossarnach that many of the herbs they needed were available, including kingsfoil.
A dense patch of foliage off to the left of the path caught her eye, and she turned aside to investigate. To her delight, the thicket was filled with kingsfoil. The long leaves gave off a sweet fragrance that filled the air. Eliawen knelt and carefully cut the stems close to the ground; as she cut and gathered, the wholesome smell grew even stronger. This was the part she loved most about harvesting kingsfoil; the scent of the plant when it was cut was so refreshing, she never failed to be uplifted and encouraged by it.
The patch of kingsfoil was large, but Eliawen took only what she needed to fill the bag she was carrying. She made a mental note of the spot for future gathering days. I found quite a bit today! she thought happily. Father and Mother will be pleased. Now I had best hurry back, the boatman will be waiting to take what we have gathered down the river.
Eliawen handed over her bundle of kingsfoil to the boatman, who carefully laid it atop the load that was already piled in his boat. Eliawen's parents had been busy in their own gathering of herbs while she had been searching in the forest.
"Ah, such a sweet smell that is!" the boatman exclaimed to Eliawen. "These herbs of yours must work wonders for the sick and ailing, if even the smell of them brings a healing of the spirit."
"That is what we hope for always!" replied Eliawen fervently.
She waved farewell as the boatman poled his boat out into midstream, watching as the River Erui took the boat and its cargo away upon the journey to the City and the people who needed her healing herbs. As she watched the boat dwindle into the distance, Eliawen silently prayed that the kingsfoil she had gathered today would be useful in the hands of a healer, and that some poor soul who was suffering would be refreshed and find relief from pain.