Legolas, looking like a little blond beetle in his stiff leather cuirass, glanced up from his Primer and, greeting his father with a radiant smile, said excitedly, “I know them, Ada! I know all of them!”

“Do you,” replied Thranduil, quickly scanning the room for any signs of the trouble—vague, but unmistakable—that his parental sixth sense was detecting.

“Yes,” said the elfling. “I have learnt them!”

Thranduil eyed the pile of presents beneath the table. Nothing seemed amiss—unless the pile was just a little too tidy. The boy, he thought, has probably been poking at them. He sat down beside his son. “Show me what you know.”

Legolas took a deep breath and, pointing to each character in turn, recited, “Tinco, palma, calma, quesse; ando, umbar, anga, ungwe; sûle, formen, harma, hwesta; anto, ampa, anca, unque; númen, malta, noldo, nwalme; óre, vala, anna, vilya; rómen, arda, lambe, alda.”

“Good,” said the Elvenking. “Now, give the book to me—thank you.” He pointed to one of the characters at random. “What is this?”

Nwalme,” said Legolas.

“And this?”


“And this one?”


Very good...” Thranduil closed the Primer, impressed with his son’s progress. “I am pleased, Lasdithen.”

The elfling smiled proudly. “Have you finished talking to the messenger, Ada?”

“I have,” said the King, setting the book on the table.

“So...” The elfling hesitated; then he said, “Well... Can we... I mean... Can we go for a ride tomorrow? Can we go to the black caves?”

“The black caves? The black caves are dangerous, Lasdithen,” said the Elvenking, “full of spiders, and gaurhoth, and goodness knows what else. Why would you want to go to the black caves, ion nín?”

“To kill goblins,” said Legolas, vehemently.