Epilogue

The day of departure had arrived and the eight maidens had come out to the hythe to bid the travellers farewell. On the green grass they stood behind their lady's chair, Silverlode to the right, Anduin the Great to the left. The fellowship was already attired in the cloaks their skilful hands had crafted. In the cool, clear light of a winter's day, the fabric shone in hues of green and grey, of silver and brown. One by one, the companions stepped forward to receive gifts from the Lady of Lothlórien. And unheard, but with all the strength of their silent will, each maiden bestowed her blessing once more.

Keep hoping...

Find the way...

Grow to maturity...

Seek new shores...

Bring friendship...

Have courage...

Stay true...

Be whole once again...

And then the moment came when the three boats glided away from the hythe and joined the current. Grey figures in grey vessels, the eight travellers would have been quickly lost to the sight of all but the elves, who watched them until they had disappeared around a bend in the river. Then they turned to walk back towards their city, but Lindhris remained by the river bank. She stood like a flower bent by rain, still facing downriver, though her eyes were closed. Faenchiriel saw her standing thus and retraced her steps and approached her friend. She took her hand. "Come, dearest," she said and gently pulled her away.

oOoOo

Noon had passed when Galadriel returned once more to the bower. The room was quiet and empty, for the maidens had been sent to refresh themselves in the gardens after their toil. Pale golden light fell on their eight cushions and on the tools of their craft: scissors, thimbles and spools of thread. Here and there on the wooden floor lay scraps of grey cloth. The Elven tailors had fulfilled their task well, albeit with no time to spare.

A gentle smile lay on Galadriel's face. In her mind, she saw the maidens at their work as clearly as if they were there in the flesh. She knew the cloaks would provide more than warmth and concealment. None would be in the confidence of the Lady of The Golden Wood who did not themselves possess powers of perception and of benevolence. These eight had her trust and they had not failed her.

Still, her heart was heavy. Her eyes fell on a piece of fabric that lay in a corner. She knelt down on one knee and picked up what remained of the bale of cloth. She held it up to let the light shine on it and reveal the hues of green, brown and silver. A long while she regarded it till at last with a sigh she let the fabric fall. There would have been enough for one more cloak, and she herself would have sewn it. Without the one who should have worn it, what hope was there for the company? Yet with or without hope, she had sent them forth from her realm with such blessings as she still had to bestow. She knew that her power was waning. No matter if they failed or prevailed, her doom was sealed.

That night, she climbed down again the long flight of steps into the deep green hollow by the silver stream. Nothing but starlight shone on the quiet garden. She took the ewer, filled it from the stream and poured it out into the silver basin. Bending like a blade of grass she leaned forward and breathed on the water. But when the surface cleared and even before the mirror showed any image, she recoiled. Slowly she set the ewer down on the ground. Her hand trembled.


Thanks to you all for the encouraging comments - it was great to write a story quite so popular!

It could be argued that the maidens know too much of both the past and the future. One would have to assume that Galadriel has chosen them for their powers of perception, or else that some of her own mental powers have rubbed off on them. I hope nobody feels I have taken away from the canon characters' achievements by attributing some of their merits to the maidens' blessings.

There is a definite AU element in this story, though it may escape your notice as it initially escaped mine. When I reread FOTR in preparation for this story, I found only a very vague indication of the time they stayed in Lorien. So I chose seven days as a feasible time, both for the companions to rest and for the cloaks to be made. I had almost finished the story, when it occurred to me to check the appendix in ROTK, and then I found that they had actually stayed a whole month. I didn't want to change the whole story to fit that, so I just thought to myself: "Oh, come on, Professor Tolkien, a whole month is way too long. They have an urgent mission!" Feel free to agree or disagree.