9. The Eighth Cloak
Bright sunshine made the gloom of the previous morning forgotten. The cloaks were nearly completed. Seated in their circle, the maidens put on finishing touches. They stitched around the edges of the buttonholes at the neck, where the cloaks would be fastened with leaf-shaped clasps. Underneath the buttonhole, they embroidered a single letter to mark the owner of the cloak.
"All cloaks have been blessed but one," said Salabeth, while she deftly adorned her cloak with the letter S.
"This will be the hardest choice," replied Aerwing. "There is so much to wish for."
They thought for a while, each searching her mind to decide what the perfect gift would be. Their eyes, though open, saw not the bower and the clear sunlight on the leaves outside the window, but looked at a road stretching ahead into darkness. On that road they beheld a group of grey travellers hastening forward, bearing a danger and a hope so great that the whole world seemed hushed in anxiety. Meagre and weak their blessings appeared to them in the face of that shadow. However frail their hopes were, though, they would give a blessing to this last cloak, too, and choose it wisely.
"He will need endurance," began Salabeth, "for the road may be longer and harder to travel than any of us can foresee."
"Determination would serve him well," said Gathgael, stitching the outline of the letter G, "because there will be many discouraging moments and he might wish to lay down the burden that is placed on him."
"The inner strength to resist the power of evil," murmured Belegwen.
"Luck has helped him along the way so far," said Lindhris, her eyes fixed on the needle that formed the letter L. "May luck stay with him."
"I would wish him resolve to go on, come what may, and to - "
"Have you no mercy!" cried Faenchiriel.
Seven faces turned to her in surprise. Faenchiriel met their gaze, her eyes burning. She clutched the cloak to her chest and a single tear ran down her cheek.
"Have pity on him," she whispered. "He is willing to give everything, to give his very life for the good of us all. He has been hurt already, and he will be hurt much more, in body and in soul, ere all is over."
"But dearest Faenchiriel," said Aerwing, "that is why we want to give him those blessings. Anything that would help him fulfil the quest - "
"No! It is not the quest that we should be thinking of! Don't you see how selfish that is? What else is all this than a desire that he should sacrifice himself for the good of others? Yet there is nothing we could ask of him that he has not already resolved to do. If we wish these things for him, it is a sign that we regard him as nothing but a tool, that we think of him only as far as concerns his plight. With all that he is willing to give, yea, that he has given already, don't you see that he deserves better than that? We should think of him with an attitude of compassion, not of demand."
There was silence in the bower. The rustle of leaves and the voices of other elves could be heard beyond the windows. The other maidens were looking at the floor. Even Gathgael had cast down her eyes, and colour had risen in the faces of Maedhvel and Lindhris.
"What will you wish for him then?" said Parvelui at last.
Faenchiriel spread out the cloak on her lap. With gentle fingers she caressed the soft grey fabric.
"He is doing this for us and for all of Middle-earth. It is beyond our power to make him prevail. What will be, will be. But if he overcomes and escapes with his life, he will be deeply wounded. I will wish him healing, when all is over. May he find peace, and wholeness, and a lasting home."
Slowly, as if they were coming to their senses after a long sleep filled with troubling dreams, the others nodded their agreement, and as they did so, the image of a grey ship appeared, they knew not how, and drifted through their minds and was gone.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.