A small face peered over the edge of King Thranduils desk.
I am sorry, Legolas, said the Elvenking, without
looking up. It cannot be helped.
We will go another time.
Could we not, the elfling persisted, go afterwards.
Afterwards will be too late.
King Thranduil sighedan Elvenking was a poor match for
a small, determined elfling.
No, Legolas, he repeated. As I have
already explainedhe gave the child a little hugthe
messenger arrived unexpectedly, and must be dealt with today.
That means that I have to cancel our excursion. We will still
spend tomorrow together, ion nín, but we will not
be able to see the sun rise over Erebor, as we planned. However,
we will do that another time. The King looked down
at his sonand the disappointment on the boys little
face suddenly wrung his heart. Well... Suppose we open one
of your presents a day early?
Legolas smile could have melted ice.
At the heart of King Thranduils cavernous study, a couch,
some chairs, and a low table (standing upon a beautiful Haradin
rug) formed a comfortable sitting area, where the Elvenking entertained
his more important guestsand drove some of his harder bargains.
Today, a pile of presents lay beneath the table, sent by the
Kings various allies in celebration of his sons conception
Thranduil watched Legolas run over to the parcels, his little
arms flailing. Just one, Lassui!
There was a large one, wrapped in scarlet velvet; there was a
long, thin one, wrapped in royal blue; there was a round one,
wrapped in rich green brocade; and there was a wooden-box one,
inlaid with figuresa bird, a foot, and a strange, staring
eyefashioned in ebony and in tinted ivory.
Choose, said Thranduil.
Legolas considered the different shapes, sizes, and colours,
and decided he liked the red one best. This one, Ada.
Very well. Open it.
Excitedly, Legolas untied the cord and pulled the wrapping away.
Inside was a jerkin of smooth, brown leatherrich, like a
ripe chestnutdecorated down the front with swirly patterns,
and around the bottom with shiny metal points.
The elfling sat back on his heels with a puzzled frown. A
Mannish armour, Legolas, said his father. He picked
up the tiny cuirass and examined the tooling of its boiled leather,
and the casting of its brass studs. And very fine armour
it is. Later, we will write to Chief Bóðvarr, thanking
him for his generosity, and telling him how much you appreciate
his gift. He laid the cuirass on the table. Now, ion
nín, did you bring your Primer?
Yes... Legolas toddled back to his fathers
desk and picked up a small book, which he held up for Thranduil
Good, said the Elvenking. I must go to the
Great Hall, to receive the messenger
Can I come too, Ada?
No; not today, Legolas. The Elvenking lifted his
son onto the couch. Today, I want you to stay here, like
a good boy, and learn your tengwar. I will send Gwanur
Nerdanel to sit with you.
Feet dangling and lips pursed, Legolas watched his father leave
the study. Why do messengers always come when Ada is
supposed to be taking me out into the Forest?
He sighed heavily and, opening his Primer, turned to the table
of tengwar, and carefully unfolded it. He placed his little
hand over the caption beside the first character, and stared at
the black squiggle for a moment or two.
Tinco, he said, decisively, and lifted his
hand. The answer was there, but Legolas could not decipher it.
Undeterred, he carried on. Palma. He raised
his hand. Or... Calma?
It was far too hard without his Ada or his Gwanur Nerdanel there
to tell him when he was right. Legolas looked at the goblin coat
lying on the table and wondered whether goblins had to learn to
Only goblin words, he thought. Like
gurrrr,growling, deep in his throatand
Not hard words.
He laid down his Primercarefully, because his Ada had told
him that a book was the most valuable thing in the worldscrambled
to the floor, and picked up his goblin coat.
It was stiff, and quite heavy, but he slipped his hand through
one of the armholes, and shrugged it on
The little goblin raised his arms and, stamping his feet,
shook his fists at one of the stone Ladies standing beside the
fireplace. Gah! Gaarrh!
The stone Lady was not impressed.
The goblin sighed. Where is my goblin sword?
Legolas thought of the silver paper knife on his Adas desk.
But his Ada had told him that he must never, ever touch it...
The goblin wondered whether goblins really needed to
do what their Adas had told them.
Legolas decided that it would probably be best if they did.
The goblin dropped to the ground, his head darting this way
and that, his beady eyes surveying the Haradin landscape. Directly
ahead, a huge pile of treasure lay glittering in the mouth of
Legolas crawled forwards on his hands and knees, his little behind
high in the air.
There was a long, thin sapphire, blue as the sky; a big round
emerald, green as the Forest; and a wooden box, no doubt filled
to the brim with coins of silver and gold...
Legolas could not help noticing that the wrapping on the blue
parcel was loose, andonce he had seen itit was hard
not to stretch out his hand, and poke it with a finger.
The goblin caught a glimpse of gnarled wood, polished smoothnot
a goblin sword, but a goblin club!
Legolas looked over his shoulder. The door was closed. No one
could see him.
The goblin crawled closer.
But Legolas Ada had said that he could only open one
The elfling chewed his lip. The wrapping had been tied with a
golden cord, and the bow had slipped, allowing the edges of the
fabric to fall apart. And Legolas was good at tying bows, so if
he unwrapped the goblin club, he could wrap it up again, properly.
That would not be naughty. He pulled the end of the cord.
The goblin seized the weapon and jumped to his feet, waving
it in the air. Gah! Gaarrh!
The stone Lady looked a bit frightened.
Iwantyourgold! The goblin
threw himself at the wooden chest.
The box lid flew open.
Oh! squeaked Legolas.
Inside, the box was divided into compartments, each lined with
dark red silk, and sitting in each of the holes was a little statuesix
shiny black and six frosty white.
Curious, Legolas lifted out one of the black pieces. It was cold,
and very heavy and, when he looked at it closely, he smiled, for
it was a lionwhich he recognised from a picture in one of
his Adas bookssitting on its haunches, its curly head
held high, its broad, velvety muzzle wrinkled in a fierce snarl.
Legolas set the lion on the table and pulled out a white piece.
This one was a deer, tall and slender, hiding behind a tree stump.
The goblin grabbed both animals.
I am going to EAT you, he threatened, in a deep,
dark voice, making the lion loom over the deer.
No, no, he piped, making the deer back away.
Raaaaa, he roared, making the lion pounce.
Aagh, he squealed, making the deer struggle, aaaagh!
But, safe in Legolas little hand, the deer suddenly broke
free and, leaping high, it alighted on the Forest green brocade,
and slipped into hiding between its folds.
YES, cried the goblin, spotting a flash of curved
metal beneath the green fabric. A goblin helmet!
Legolas stared thoughtfully at the last of his presents.
Go on, said the goblin. We are already in
trouble, so opening that one will not make any difference.
No, said the elfling, firmly. He slid his hand under
the green fabric and pulled out the deer.
What are you doing? asked the goblin.
I am putting them back, said Legolas, fitting the
piece into its little compartment. He picked up the lion. And
then I am going to wrap everything up again.
Just try the helmet.
No. Legolas closed the box lid, and fastened the
Only for a moment. Look. The goblin pulled
aside the wrapping. The helmet was a funny shapewide and
shallow, with a tall crest that ended in three clawed feetbut
it was the right size.
Legolas looked down at the silver drinking cup. Well...
I have to learn my tengwar.
Learning tengwar is boring, said the goblin.
Being a goblin is fun.
I know, Legolas admitted. But Ada said
Ada said! Ada said! cried the goblin. Ada
said that he would take you out into the Forest! Ada said
that you would spend the night under the stars. Ada said
that you would watch the sun rise over Erebor on your conception
But a messenger came
If you put that helmet on, said the goblin, we
can go out.
Why not? You want to go.
Yes, said Legolas. But... But I want to go
You are scared!
I am NOT!
Then why not put the helmet on, and go?
Because, said Legolas, his little face screwed up
in misery, because... Ohhhh! He grasped the
green fabric in frustration.
Half an hour later
Oh! Your Majesty. Mistress Nerdanel, almost colliding
with the Elvenking as she hurried towards his study, dropped into
a low curtsey.
King Thranduil frowned. Why are you out here? he
I received your message only moments ago, sire. I... I
am sorry, I
Are you saying that Legolas has been on his own all this
He has, sire.
The Elvenking sighed. Wellhe is a responsible boy.
Yeshe dismissed the elleth with a wave of his handyou
may go, Nerdanel.
Thank you, your Majesty. She curtsied again.
King Thranduil opened his study door