Where are we going Ada? asked Legolas,
scampering along beside his father.
To the vaults, replied Thranduil, taking his sons
little hand and guiding him into a dimly-lit side-passage.
Legolas considered his fathers answer. Adawhat
is the vaults?
A safe place in which to keep things, replied Thranduil.
Oh. Legolas frowned. What sort of things?
You will see when we get there.
The Elvenking hurried down the corridormaking no concessions
for the elflings tiny strideto a simple doorway cut
in the living rock and, with a curt nod to the guards standing
either side, ducked under the lintel, pulling LegolasAda
is teaching me how to be King!behind him.
Keep a hold of my hand, said Thranduil; these
steps are very steep.
Moving more slowly now, the pair descended to the cellars, then
kept going downwards, until the stairs ended in a single narrow
corridor, lit by a few scattered torches.
Legolas looked about him. Is this the dungeons? he
What do you know about dungeons? said Thranduil.
Gwanur Nerdanel told me that the dungeons are where you
keep elflings who have been bad, said Legolas.
Did she now, said Thranduil. And had
you been bad?
After many twists and turns, passing several stout wooden doors
secured with heavy padlocksIs this where you put the
naughty elflings, Ada?they came to the remains of
a doorway, walled up with massive stone blocks. Thranduil removed
a torch from the sconce beside the sealed arch, seized the empty
bracket, and pulled it downwards. With a deep groan, the false
blocking swung away and the Elvenking, holding the light aloft,
led Legolas into the vault.
The room was filled with wooden chests, each about the size of
Legolas own toy box, and somelike his toy boxhad
been crammed too full, so that their lids could not be closed
and the elfling could see what lay inside.
Some of the chests held pieces of greendark, like the rind
of a melon, or bright, like new leaves in spring, or pale, like
the waters of the forest riverand all of them flashed and
sparkled in the torchlight.
Legolas had never seen anything so fascinating.
He slipped from his fathers grasp and approached the nearest
chest, inclining his head this way and that to make the sparks
fly. The other boxes were piled with chunks of redwarm and
rich, like his adas favourite wineor chips of whitecold,
like the ice that had hung from the Great Gates last Yuletideor
pieces of bluepale, like a fine winter sky.
Legolas took up a handful and let them fall back into the box...
What are these, Ada?
Our wealth, said Thranduil.
Oh. Legolas seized another tiny fistful. Ada,
Come over here. Thranduil held out his hand. Legolas
dropped the sapphires and toddled, between the chests, to where
his father was standing beside a long, narrow box decorated with
gold. Do you recognise this? asked the Elvenking,
pointing to the inlay.
They are beech leaves, Ada, said Legolas. And
that is your sword.
Thranduil smiled. These are the arms of the Woodland Realm,
he said. They tell us that there is something important
in this box, something that belongs to me as King, and to you
as Prince, of this kingdom. Whenever you see this swordhe
traced it with his fingersurrounded by these leaves,
you must remember your duty as Crown Prince. Do you understand?
Good. Now open the chest.
Obediently, Legolas pushed up the heavy lid. Hand-in-hand, father
and son gazed down at three elaborate circlets, intricately wrought
in silver and studded with diamonds and pale, watery emeralds.
Do you know what those are? asked Thranduil.
Crowns... said Legolas.
The Crown Jewels of the Woodland Realm, said Thranduil.
This onehe pointed to the largestis
the Kings; this one, the Queens; and this
he pointed to the smallestbelongs to the Crown Prince.
Me, said Legolas.
But... The elfling stretched out his free hand and
tentatively touched the princely circlet. This is made of
metal, Ada. And a real crown is made of flowers and leaves.
A real crown? Gently, Thranduil drew Legolas
hand from inside the chest and closed the lid. Come, Lasdithenlet
us go outside and I will explain.
The Greenwood was sparkling with light summer rain.
Thranduil led his son through the Great Gates, across the terrace,
and lifted him onto the parapet at the side of the stone steps.
Can you see the houses, Legolas? Up in the trees?
The Elvenking pointed, across the Forest River, to various dwellings
nestling amongst the branches.
And do you know who lives in them?
Our peopleyesvery good. I am their King
and you are their Prince. And do you know why kings wear
So that their people know who they are, said Legolas.
Very good. Thranduil smiled. And what is a
king? What does hewhat do Ido?
You work in your study, said Legolas.
Yes, sometimes. Doing what?
Letters? Thranduil began to suspect that the conversation
might be going awry. What sort of letters?
Letters about wine, said Legolas, confidently, when
it tastes like vinegar. And about deerskins, when the Beornings
have not paid for them.
Hmm. The Elvenking wrapped a strong arm around his
son. How do I explain this, he wondered, to a child?
A king, he said, takes care of his people,
just as an Ada takes care of his son. A king makes sure that his
people have food to eat, and a safe place to sleep, and can live
without fear. Sometimes he can do it by talking or by writing
letters; sometimes by giving gifts or by making payments; sometimes
he has no choice but to stand up for his peoplethe way I
would stand up for you if somebody threatened you, the
way he gave his son a proud little hugyou
stood up for Collo when Saelbeth was bullying him.
That is what a king is. He is his peoples
Legolas nodded, but said nothing.
Thranduil continued. To be an ada to so many people, a
king must be rich. The jewels you saw in the vaultthe green
and red and white gemswill buy many bows and arrows to protect
The Elvenking frowned; Legolas did not seem as interested as
he had expected, but he decided to persevere: When I am
here, in the Palace, I wear a crown of leaves or flowersa
real crown, as you put ithe gave the child
another little squeezebecause my people already know
that I am their ada. But when I meet with other kings, I wear
a crown of metal...
Thranduil realised that his sons head had begun to droop.
Are you listening, Legolas?
Yes, said the elfling, his little lip quivering.
What is wrong?
Do not tell me nothing, said Thranduil.
Tell me what is troubling you. He leaned closera
trifle impatientlyto hear his sons mumbled reply.
I thought you were just my ada, not everybodys.
Oh Little Leaf!
Thranduilso seldom openly demonstrativefolded his
arms about his tiny son and held him against his chest, rocking
him back and forth. Of course I am your ada! I am
your real adanot a pretend ada, as I am to
He kissed the crown of the childs head. I
love you more than anything in Middle-earth, Legolas Thranduilion,
And though his heart had always known it, it seemed to Thranduil
that his mind was only now recognising the truth of it: No
ada ever loved his elfling more than I love you, my precious,