Thranduil looked up from the documents he was studying as there was a knock on the door and a messenger entered.
“A letter, my Lord. The courier said it was most urgent.”
Curiously, for the seal was unfamiliar, Thranduil opened the message and read it swiftly. Then he read it again, more slowly, and looked at the messenger in silence for a moment before responding.
“Do you know what this says?” he asked.
The messenger shook his head. The smile he had been trying hard to suppress gradually spread across his face. “I do know who sent it, however. And the – courier – was most insistent that I delivered it immediately. She seemed a little upset about something, my Lord.”
Thranduil sighed. “She is right to be.” He cast a swift look at the papers which still littered the table. “These can wait. Lanatus, I will see you in the morning. Goodnight.”
His steward jumped to his feet in shock. “But my Lord! This is important!” he exclaimed in dismay. “The trade negotiations, the new rates for the river tolls – you must read the documents, you must be ready to discuss matters in the morning at the council! It cannot wait!”
“It can and it will,” Thranduil said firmly. “Lanatus, stop fussing. There is a far more pressing matter that requires my immediate attention.”
Lanatus, now tidying the papers on Thranduil’s desk, looked at the King. “An urgent matter, my Lord? Can I be of assistance? Who is the message from? Lord Elrond? Lady Galadriel?”
Thranduil shook his head. “No. Someone rather more important than either of them. My son.” He left the study, leaving Lanatus staring after him in astonishment.
As he neared Legolas’s room, he could hear his son’s clear voice questioning his mother. The plaintive tone saddened him. “Nana, do you think Ada will remember to come and say goodnight this time? He won’t be too busy again?”
Telparian’s gentle voice came to him clearly. “No. He will not forget. Not this time.” There was a steely note in her tone that boded ill for Thranduil if he had forgotten. “Now keep still and let me dry you.”
Very quietly, Thranduil pushed open the door and peered in. “Have I come in time to read a bedtime story?” he asked.
“Ada!” A small blond whirlwind, clad in nothing at all, flung himself at Thranduil. “You came! You didn’t forget!” Legolas clung to his father, beaming with delight.
Thranduil straightened, Legolas still entwined about him like a vine. He had to loosen one small arm from the stranglehold around his neck before he could speak. “Yes, I came. I was in my study talking to Lanatus when a very important letter was delivered. I thought I had better come and find out what it was about.” He put his free arm around Telparian, drawing her close, and kissed her. “I am sorry, my dear. I should not have needed reminding.”
Legolas, squashed between them, squirmed free and placed an arm around his mother in a three-way hug. They broke apart, and taking the discarded towel Telparian still held, Thranduil finished drying his son. He smelled fresh and clean after his bath.
“You got my letter, Ada! Did you read it?” Legolas pranced and chattered, lively as a squirrel, as Thranduil attempted to brush his hair and dress him in a sleep tunic.
“Yes, I read your letter. And I am more sorry than I can say that you had to write it. I should not have forgotten before. I did come last night, but it was late, and you were already asleep.” He finally tugged the sleep tunic over Legolas’s head. “You write very nicely. Did Nana help you with the spelling? And what did you make the seal with?” Thranduil picked up the message and indicated the seal. It felt slightly sticky.
Legolas smiled as he bounced into bed. “It’s some of that special dough Mireth made, that I make animals and warriors with. I put a blob on the letter, and squashed it with my thumb!” He demonstrated how he had done it. “And Nana only helped me with some of the spellings. I could write most of it.”
“You did very well, my little leaf. I know your tutors are pleased with you!” Telparian pointed out proudly. She glanced across the bed to Thranduil. “I am glad you came so quickly. I know you were busy.”
“How could I ignore this?” Thranduil picked up the letter and read it through again. It was short and to the point.
Please dont forget to come and say goodnight to me tonight. You forgot last night and the night before. Please dont forget again
I love you Ada
Very carefully, Thranduil folded the letter and tucked it into a pocket. He knew he would treasure it always. It would remind him of the things that were truly important.
Legolas interrupted with another question. “What were you doing with Lanatus, Ada? King things?”
Thranduil smiled at this description of the unending work involved in ruling his realm. “Yes. King things. But they can wait until the morning now. I promised Lanatus that I would deal with it before the council meeting.”
Legolas’s face fell. “Oh.”
Thranduil sat on the bed and pulled him onto his lap. “What is wrong?”
“Well – I wanted us to go for a ride in the morning. Now you can’t. Not if you promised.” Legolas was clearly trying to hide his disappointment, but not succeeding very well.
Wrapping his arms around his son, Thranduil kissed the top of his head. His hair smelled of sunshine. “You are quite right; a promise should never be broken. Especially not a king’s promise, so I cannot go in the morning. Besides, I thought you had lessons then? What about the afternoon? Shall we go then?”
Nodding vigorously, Legolas looked at his mother for approval. “Can we? Sometimes, if I work very hard, my tutor lets me have the afternoon free. And can you come as well, Nana?”
Telparian frowned in mock worry. “I told Tionel I would talk to him about provisions for the winter.” Then she laughed at her son’s dismay and ruffled his hair. “But I have not promised him, so he will not mind if we change it to another time.”
“Then that is settled,” Thranduil declared with satisfaction. “We can go tomorrow afternoon, just the three of us.”
Legolas snuggled against him cosily and yawned. “Is that a promise, Ada? A king’s promise?”
“No. This is even more important. An Ada’s promise.”
Later, after a bedtime story of friendly dragons who served an elven king by heating his palace and cooking his meals, Thranduil and Telparian both kissed Legolas goodnight. “Are you going back to your study to do more king things, Ada?” he asked sleepily.
Looking at Telparian as she smoothed the soft blanket over the bed, Thranduil caught and held her eye. He saw a glimpse of another sort of promise there. “No, not tonight,” he told Legolas. “Tonight I think I will go to bed early. Good night, little one.”
Legolas was asleep before they shut the door.