12. Dear Stitch and Nath
Dear Stitch and Nath, When you read this letter I will be gone. It is not likely I will return, so when a year and a day have passed, the shop is yours. If the love I see between you grows, then I predict you will be the happiest of couples and the most successful sail makers in the Ethir Anduin.
Stitch, I have no child. You have been the daughter I never had, and I must ask this favor of a daughter and no one else. You must make a journey to the far northern forest, all alone save for helpers you may meet on the way. You are to look for the father of our Elvish customer, one Thranduil of the Greenwood. Tell him you are a messenger of hope. Make him listen to you, and if he will not, say the names of Legolas and Willofain. Give him the contents of the little box, and tell him to go to the banks of the stream where wild thyme blows at Midsummer. There he must read my words aloud to the spirit of Elsila.
This is a matter of more than life or death. Do not return until you have completed the task. It is my last wish. Give my love to Berendil and Nesta, and keep a large measure for yourselves.
From my heart – Aerlinn the Sail Maker
Gwael Reviad is the name of my shop. Gwael means gull and reviad has three meanings in the old tongue – sailing, flying, wandering. I could never decide which fit me best and so I let it be.
In my chamber above the shop I have a cupboard, and in the cupboard is a treasure. I have not been greedy for rich things. The pendant necklace is all I have, but it is very old – three thousand years, give or take – and very precious to me. My long-ago ancestress Willofain must have been wealthy at one time, for the necklace is a fine chain of mithril. The heart-shaped stone of red marble is marred in the center with a teardrop shape, and mithril fills the flaw. In tiny letters below is written our name "Willofain." We have handed it down, mother to daughter, generation after generation, all this time. The Dunédain themselves have not reckoned their kin more closely than we reckon ours.
I took the necklace, wrapped it in a cloth, and smashed it with a hammer, in token of breaking the long curse that shadowed my family and that of Thranduil. I broke the links of the mithril chain as well and put all fragments in a little box. Then I wrote my words to Elsila, to be read by her husband in the northern forest.
Elsila, these are the words of the descendant of the Mortal girl who brought such woe to you and yours. I am Willofain, and my foster daughter acts as my representative and messenger.
Through the long years you have lingered in the forest, and all the tears of Thranduil have not availed to move you. But now the time of the Elves has come indeed. They are all going, or gone. Your son Legolas is sailing West, and for grief at parting with no hope for either you or his father, he will die as surely as the one who writes this letter. And so will Thranduil, or else he will fade until all trace of his great heart is gone, forsaking all joy for love of you till darkness tides forever.
Young Willofain of long ago loved your son, and her careless love was your undoing. It does not matter that she meant no ill; good intentions can be as flawed as the broken stone. Your intentions are flawed as well, Elsila. Whether you refuse your duty in shame at your deeds of blood, or pride, or in fear of the Halls of Mandos, where correction may be your part, shame and fear and pride are unworthy motives. The time has come to put them away. Accept the Summons. Let Thranduil go, let Legolas hope.
I offer you a bargain, Elsila. I will balance the scales for you. Life for a life, a blood sacrifice to match the one you made for Elwen. I offer it freely, and it is already done. For I am going on the ship with Legolas, and the Valar will not allow me to pass into the Uttermost West. Before whatever happens to me happens, I will make Legolas understand that your long torment can end. You can be reunited, even if it is far from now, for time means little to the undying Elves. Accept this redress of your wrongs, and let the House of Thranduil find peace. Farewell.
By the hand of Willofain of Sea Fair
I put this letter in the little box with the broken necklace.
My room above the shop has a picture painted on it. From floor to halfway-high, all around the room is the sea, and from there to the ceiling above, the sky. One of my former apprentices was an artist, and he painted it for me. You may ask whether the colors are bright: turquoise and deep purple blue, with white clouds and sunlight above. Or maybe there are layers and shades of grey upon grey, and the horizon scarcely divides the sea from the sky.
But I will not say. That would be telling you more than I wish you to know about me; that is, unless you at least come to my shop and look for yourself. Some things, all things valuable, must be the result of effort, I have found.
I took one last look, and then stole away in the soft night to the grey ship. I climbed into the great leaf-carved chest that holds the bow of Galadriel. I found a grey cloak there made of the finest woven wool. It was full of his scent, like applewood and hazelnuts mixed together. I wrapped myself in it and slept for a long time. The sea rocked the ship like a cradle.
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