“I know you are hiding somewhere, Starlight. If you want to be my friend you had better come out now!” Legolas shouted into his chamber. Naturally there was no response, for a toy wooden horse, even one crafted by the most talented elvish woodworkers in Mirkwood, was not gifted with a voice and only spoke in the imagination of the young elf. At present there was nothing but silence and Legolas stomped his foot in frustration and glared crossly at the empty spot on his bedside table where he was certain he had last seen the errant grey horse.
“Perhaps he fell under here,” he thought, crawling into the darkness beneath his bed, emerging after a careful search with nothing but a light coating of dust on his clothes and hands and a look of disappointment on his face. He did not recall putting the horse away with his other toys, but decided that a thorough search of his toy chest was in order.
At first he began slowly removing the various stuffed animals, books, rocks and other playthings, but when it became apparent a wooden horse was not among them, instead of placing his treasures on the floor, he began throwing them angrily aside. By the time the toy chest was empty, the floor of his chamber had become littered with the innocent victims of his display of temper.
“Ada will be most annoyed with Starlight when he sees this mess, after all it is his fault,” childish logic reasoned as Legolas sat back on his heels and surveyed the havoc. “ADA! Of course! I must have left Starlight in Ada’s chamber after I woke him this morning,” he decided with relief. Without wasting a moment more with concern for the chaos he was leaving behind, Legolas ran quickly to Thranduil’s chamber, his eyes alight with the anticipation of finding his elusive toy.
The brightness in his eyes faded rapidly as found no sign of the horse and it was a dejected young elf who climbed onto the large bed and sat cross legged in the middle of it, scowling at the bedcover.
“By the Valar, you are in trouble Starlight!” he swore, placing his hand across his mouth to stifle the giggle as he realised he had uttered words knew he was not permitted to say in such a manner. His mood improved slightly when, after looking around the chamber, he spotted a likely hiding place.
“I wonder if you are in Ada’s toy chest?” he mused, referring to the large chest that stood at the end of Thranduil’s bed. It was not really a toy box, although since Legolas had never seen its contents, he simply assumed that it served the same purpose as his own. He briefly wondered if he should ask permission to open it, but knowing Thranduil was currently occupied with the morning audience, Legolas gave in to his suddenly overwhelming curiosity.
There was no lock on the silver clasps that held the chest closed, nor did there need to be, for it was carved from thick wood and the lid was almost too heavy for young arms to lift. It took a great deal of determination, and some ingenuity in using several thick books to keep the lid from closing as Legolas stopped to recover his strength in between pushing the top open a little further each time. Finally his efforts were rewarded and the lid fell back against the bed, revealing the contents which were not childhood playthings but mementoes of a past age.
Legolas removed the faded and tattered banner bearing the emblem of the King of Mirkwood that covered the treasure beneath, and smiled with delight as he waved it about before putting it to one side. The next item he selected was a rather old and slightly tarnished circlet which he placed on his head before examining whatever was wrapped in the shiny black cloth on which the circlet rested.
His eyes widened in awe when he beheld the pair of white handled elvish knives and, with the intention of wielding them as he had seen the warriors do at their sparring practice, he picked them up and stepped away from the chest to allow himself more room. It was this moment that Thranduil entered the chamber.
“What do you think you are doing, Legolas?” he asked angrily as he snatched first the knives and then the circlet from his son. He placed the items back in the chest and then turned to face Legolas who, never having seen his Ada in such a rage, took a step back when Thranduil approached. Not only were there tears in his eyes, but also a trace of fear that caused the elder elf to gasp as if he had been stabbed in the heart.
“Come here, little one,” he said with infinite tenderness as he knelt down and held out his arms, placing tiny kisses on the head of the sobbing child who ran to his embrace. “Ai, Legolas, I am sorry if I scared you, it was just my shock at seeing you playing with such dangerous weapons. You could have injured yourself badly for those knives are very sharp.”
“I was just looking for Starlight…and…I… well, he might have been in your toy chest,” Legolas explained between sobs.
“The things in that chest are not toys, they are treasures that are very precious to me,” Thranduil said as he wiped away the tears and moved to sit on the floor beside the chest, drawing Legolas into his lap as he did so.
“Why?” asked Legolas.
“Because they belonged to my Adar,” Thranduil said simply with the shadow of a sad smile on his lips.
“But why are circlet and the banner are so old and worn but the knives so new?” His son’s inquisitive nature elicited an exasperated roll of the King’s eyes and he knew full well that if he did not answer now, then Legolas would persist in asking until he did.
“Many a night around the bonfires you have heard the tales of the great army that the elves of Greenwood the Great joined in the battle against Sauron, and you have also heard that it was in that war that your grandsire perished?” Legolas nodded. “Well, to answer your question, the circlet is the one he always wore, and the banner was his standard and they along with the knives were all that were retrieved from the battlefield. The knives were made by our smiths for that very battle, but never used for he was struck down before he had a chance to wield them.” Thranduil’s voice was rough with the grief he still felt keenly at the loss of Oropher and he smiled though tear filled eyes when two small arms snaked around his neck.
“I promise not to touch the circlet or the banner again Ada, but when I am grown, may I learn to use the knives?”
“Aye, I always intended to give them to you when you reached your majority, but I thought you were more interested in archery?” said Thranduil who only had to go to the archery practice range if he sought Legolas, for that was where his son was usually to be found. He was still far too young to learn any weapon, but the archery master had taken pity on him and made him a small and totally harmless bow and quiver of arrows, as well as setting a few easy targets.
“I am, but if I can use more than one weapon then I can better protect you when I am a warrior and then I will not ever have to be King.” The meaning in the simply stated reply warmed Thranduil’s heart and hugged his son close.
“The Valar willing that day will never come,” Thranduil whispered into the soft hair on the head resting against his chest. “However, the day of your coming of age is far in the future and for now I think there is something in this chest you may safely play with,” he said as he moved Legolas to one side while he rummaged through some of the books and papers to reveal the object of his search, a wooden horse much like the missing one, but black instead of grey. “This is Midnight, a dear friend from my own childhood,” he said confused when the look of delight on his son’s face when he accepted the gift turned to a concerned frown. “What troubles you still?”
“I need to find Starlight, especially now that he has someone to keep him company,” Legolas explained in all seriousness.
“Well, I believe you once told me he is fond of sweets?” A raised eyebrow followed the question.
“Aye and so am I, Ada.” Thranduil laughed merrily at the eagerness of the reply.
“I know, so I believe we should try the kitchen, where I know for a fact that we may at least find freshly baked tarts,” said Thranduil with a wink as he rose and reached for his son’s small hand.