Elrond smiled indulgently as he watched the father and son stroll through the small beech copse that was the closest bit of woodland to his halls.
“Look at me, Ada!” and with that, the little golden-haired sprite dived into a bank of crisp autumn leaves whose hues ranged from a deep russet to a pale yellow almost the same hue as the locks of the Elfling who now frolicked amongst them.
Thranduil laughed merrily as his son leapt to his feet, squealing with laughter, leaves sticking out of his tangled hair. Then, as a gust of wind blew more leaves down from the beeches around them, Legolas darted around, shining eyes turned skyward, as he attempted to catch one.
“Remember, if you catch one, you can make a wish!” Thranduil called out to his son. Then he took a moment for himself, to take in the beauty of the copse and murmur a soft blessing to the trees who had so eagerly welcomed the woodland king and his heir.
“I must thank you again, Elrond, for permitting me to bring my son to the council,” the king said eventually, tearing his eyes away from the trees. “The shadow is spreading so fast in my realm that I dare not let him play amongst the trees as often as I would like. It is doing him a world of good to play here in safety, where one need not fear the sudden advent of spiders, or worse. I-”
But just then, they were interrupted by the clear ringing of a bell, summoning them to the council. Elrond felt a sudden upsurge of pity in his heart as he saw Thranduil sigh, then square his shoulders before calling to Legolas that it was time to return to the house.
“Oh, but Ada, can’t we stay here a while longer?” pleaded Legolas, running up to his father. “The trees are so happy to see us, and look! I made a wish!” He held out a grubby hand that Elrond could see was clutching a single golden leaf. “I wished that we could stay here all day. Can we?”
At that, Elrond felt a deep sorrow well up inside him at the thought that this charming little sprite was being denied the same carefree childhood that his own children had taken for granted. Looking down at the Elfling once more, and observing the tears that welled up in those eyes that had been alight with joy only moments before, he felt a determination that today at least, Legolas should have his day romping amidst the autumn leaves. He clutched Thranduil’s arm to forestall the negative he was about to deliver.
“Wait here,” he murmured. “Let me see what can be done.”
If Elrond’s advisors thought it strange that they should cart all their documents and maps out to the small, leaf-strewn clearing in the beech copse and hold their meeting there that day, none said so. If their lord demanded that they meet in this breezy, inconvenient location rather than the comfortable council chamber, then clearly it was a matter of importance and they would do all in their power to accommodate his wishes. They even accepted and wore the wreaths of autumn leaves and berries that the grubby, tangle-haired son of Thranduil handed them. That they did so with grave courtesy and without batting an eyelid demonstrated just how well the Lord of Imladris had trained them in their task.
As for Elrond, if at any time during the day he questioned why he should be holding a council meeting in such an odd location, or why he was wearing a prickly wreath that persistently slipped down over his left eye, no matter how many times he tried to correct it, well all he had to do was look at Legolas to remind himself of the reason. The little Elfling simply glowed with happiness as he romped under the trees, picking up handfuls of leaves and throwing them in the air, or just sat, snuggled in the roots of an ancient beech, singing softly to his beloved trees.
Whatever else Elrond achieved that day, he thought, he had already achieved the most important thing: Legolas would have his perfect day amongst the autumn leaves.