Karina was intently focused on her patient, carefully pulling the shards of metal from the elleth's back. She did not even notice the elf approaching until the soldier she was tending sat up straighter, head turned towards the newcomer.
"Gaelwen," the elf said, nodding his greeting to the elleth before his eyes shifted to Karina. "Lady Karina, may I have a word."
"Certainly, Commander," Karina said, glancing up at him. "I am almost done here."
The commander waited silently, watching Karina finish caring for the soldier Gaelwen. As she finished bandaging the wound, he spoke once more.
"If you would follow me, my lady, I believe we should speak somewhere private."
"Very well," Karina said, her curiosity peaked as she stood and followed Commander Brandorn. She guessed that he had been among those briefed by Thranduil, and assumed his interruption had something to do with her Adonnen origins.
"Who are you?"
"Excuse me?" Karina asked, taken aback. The commander stopped, spinning quickly to face her, a hard look on his face, forcing Karina to stop abruptly to avoid colliding with him.
"Who are you and why are you in our camp?"
"Did Prince Thranduil not tell you?"
"He said you are an Adonnen," Brandorn said curtly. "But that is not true, is it? Where are you really from? Are you a servant of Mordor? Are you here to kill the Prince? Or perhaps your aim is higher, and you wish to kill King Gil-galad?"
"No, none of that!" Karina said earnestly, stepping back from the strength of the commander's verbal attack. "I am an Adonnen. All of the kings agree. I don't want to kill anyone! I just want to help!"
"Horse shit," Brandorn said, or at least what Karina interpreted as the elven equivalent. "The Adonnen are a product of the ages past. No single elleth could possibly be important enough to warrant the intervention of the Valar. If you were an Adonnen, there would be more of you. And as for your stunt yesterday, that was nothing more than pure stupidity and luck. If not for King Gil-galad's intervention, you would have gotten all of us killed. Is that your goal? To destroy us from within?"
"Of course not!" she replied anxiously, feeling overwhelmed by the accusations being thrown at her. "I just want to help!" she repeated, trying to string together a convincing argument to explain her presence.
"Help who? Sauron?"
"I want to help Prince Thranduil and the Kings! I only want to save lives!"
"You will have to be more convincing than that," Brandorn said, crossing his arms over his chest. "You somehow managed to charm your way into the Prince's confidence in only a few weeks time. It seems like sinister magic at work here."
"Commander, I promise you, I am not an agent of Sauron, or of any other dark force. I know very little about the Adonnen except what I have been told since my arrival in this camp, and it does sound like I fit the description others have given me. I will do whatever it takes to convince you I am not villainous and seek only to advise Prince Thranduil and offer him my services, as much as I can give. What must I do to put your mind at ease?"
Karina blinked, taking a moment to register the commander's message.
"Leave?" she replied after several seconds of silence. "You want me to abandon the fight?"
"I want you to return to wherever you came from, in this world or another," he said with a scowl. "I have seen the way the Prince looks at you, and good or evil, you are a distraction and not to be trusted. Whether you are an Adonnen, a spy of Mordor, or simply a poor little peasant girl who thinks she can become something by charming a prince, there is no place for you here on this battlefield."
Karina stared at the commander for a long time, his dark grey-blue eyes watching her sternly and daring her to argue. She could see that he meant every word, and would not take no for an answer. But the more she thought about his command, the angrier she got. She had let her superiors bully her and order her around before, treating her like a child or a helpless, empty-headed woman. But here, without her career on the line and a vow not to let Thranduil face the enemy alone, she was not going to back down.
"No," she said flatly, surprising both herself and the commander with the strength and fire in her tone. "I will not leave."
"Excuse me?" the commander said, now the one taken aback. He clearly was not used to being disobeyed.
"I will not abandon Thranduil. I promised I would help him and I will. I don't care what you think of me, and I will not be talked down to just because you think that I am worthless. I have had people do that to me all my life, just because I am a woman trying to make a name for myself in a man's world. It was me that told Thranduil that he should inform you all of my origins and to voice your concerns, so that you could trust him more. He is a young leader and needs your wisdom and guidance. But that does not mean I will let you bully him or me, Commander. You may think my methods are shit and my origin questionable, but you damn well better respect Thranduil more than that and trust his judgment. He is not just a lovesick young elf. He is one of the greatest negotiators, strongest fighters, and most caring leaders I have ever seen. I will not give up on him or run away from this fight as long as I am still breathing. I was put here for a purpose and I am going to do what I must, as the Valar intended. If you can't handle that, Commander, then fuck off."
Karina twirled back around and stalked away quickly, feeling her blood boiling and the adrenaline pumping. That speech would undoubtedly come back to bite her in the ass, but it had to be said. She had wanted Thranduil's advisors to voice their doubts and concerns, but she was not going to take shit from any of them. Perhaps she wasn't as open minded about this as she had thought. Regardless, she felt better knowing that her origin was out there. It was exhausting, hiding who she was. And even if it made some enemies in the camp, at least Thranduil would not have his advisors left in the dark. Though now that she thought about it, perhaps the truth was not always the best policy. Seeing Commander Brandorn's response was a bit disheartening. If she wasn't more careful, she might just cause a rebellion in the middle of a war.
No longer feeling like she would be helpful to the wounded, Karina started back towards Thranduil's tent. The entire way, she mulled over her conversation with the Commander. By the time she reached the tent, she was chewing on her lip, anxious that she may have been way out of line to shout at him as she had. Without thinking, she walked into Thranduil's tent, her eyes unfocused and her lips moving as she muttered to herself.
"Hmm?" she said, pausing half way to the chair in the corner. Looking around, she felt her face flush. Thranduil was not alone in his tent, and there were several important looking elves standing around his desk, all eyes now on her.
"Are you alright?" Thranduil asked, worry clear in his eyes.
"Oh, yes, sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. I'll leave."
"That is not necessary, Lady Karina," one of the elves said, striding quickly towards her. He had a thin, serious face, but his pale blue eyes looked down at her kindly. "We were just talking about you. Perhaps you could tell us more about yourself?"
"I think we have heard enough," said one of the other elves, eyes narrowed as he watched Karina approach with the first of Thranduil's advisors. "I agree with Brandorn. Her origins are of little consequence. She needs to be sent back to the main camp."
"If she was sent by the Valar, and if she has the natural gifts Prince Thranduil claims she has, then we are only putting off the inevitable," said a third, a fairly short, thin elf with an emotionless face and crossed arms. "She is meant to fight and will be on the battlefield, whether we allow her to be or not. King Gil-galad was going to put her on the front lines. If she does not fight for us, she may just fight for the Noldor."
"We have no proof that any of her story is real," the second elf interjected. "We have only her word. She could have made up the story of her origins just to gain attention and status within the camp."
"My father, King Gil-galad, and King Amdir all believed her story," Thranduil said sternly. "King Gil-galad had enough faith in her to allow her to change his strategy in the middle of the battle. If you take the time to know her, you will see that what she says is true. I have complete faith in her and I will not send her back to the main camp unless she wishes to go."
"It is that faith that troubles me, Your Grace," the second elf continued. "I believe you are far too attached to this elleth. Your judgment has been clouded."
"Can we stop talking about me as if I am not here?" Karina interrupted loudly before Thranduil could reply. He paused, mouth open as he prepared to snap back at his commander, and instead looked around at Karina. She cleared her throat and continued. "I just got done speaking with Commander Brandorn, and he too expressed his misgivings. I don't know why I'm here and frankly, I don't care. All I know is that I am willing to work with you all and offer my advice as the war continues. But do not think I am going anywhere. I promised Prince Thranduil that I would help him and I intend to do just that. I thought I could listen to your criticisms with an even head but I can't. I am still partly human, and I just don't give a damn what you think. Now you know the truth, and you can think whatever you want of me. I hope you all won't be petty enough to let your dislike of me keep you from treating your prince with the respect he deserves. Keep a close eye on me. Disagree with me in counsel meetings. Argue with me every chance you get. But I am not going anywhere."
The elves all stared at Karina as she haughtily stared back. She wasn't sure where this new found bravery—though some might argue it was stupidity—came from, but she had released her fury once today and it was so much easier to break down now. All her frustration and rage, from this world and the last, were being unleashed in a torrent that rained down on the elves who questioned her motives.
But even as she did so, her anxiety from before came back. What was she doing? She may be sticking up for herself, but at the same time, she was making enemies. This unyielding stubbornness would undoubtedly cause a backlash that could seriously damage her, and it was extremely likely Thranduil would suffer, too. But she couldn't control the fury anymore. She was angry. Angry that she had been so stupid to get shot. Angry that she felt so lost in this world. Angry that so many were dying around her. Angry that she could do so little to help them. Angry that she was being questioned just because she was trying to help.
"Karina, that's enough."
Thranduil's tone made her pause, the red that clouded her vision fading as her eyes met his. She realized suddenly that she had her hand on the knife at her hip, and the elven commanders around her all had their own hands on their weapons, watching her warily to see what she would do.
"I told you. She cannot be trusted. She is unstable, at best."
"Enough, Olyrn," Thranduil said, turning his gaze to the second of his commanders, his eyes darkening as he did so. "I will deal with this. You are all dismissed."
The elves filed out, Olyrn giving Karina one last suspicious look before disappearing out into the darkness.
"What was that about?" Thranduil said tartly, gesturing after the departed commanders as soon as the tent flap shut behind them. "Just a few hours ago you wanted them all to trust you, and now you threaten them all to their faces. If you keep that up, I am going to have to send you back to the camp. As much as I hate to admit it, I have to agree with Olyrn. If you are going to act irrationally, I can't have you here in my army."
"I am sorry, Thranduil," Karina said with a sigh, flopping down into a chair next to his desk. "I don't know what came over me. Commander Brandorn cornered me earlier and I guess I felt threatened and lashed out. I didn't mean to take it so far."
"You are not helping your case, my love," he said, coming over and kneeling in front of her. "Many of my commanders are on the fence about your presence, and that display will certainly not help your cause in most cases. The soldiers will hear about it too, naturally, and that could cause dissent in the ranks. You need to be more careful if you do wish to stay here."
"I know, I am sorry. Perhaps I should lay low for a few days. So they don't find further fault with me."
"I think that would be wise," Thranduil said, kissing her forehead with a smile. "And I would feel better having you here instead of on the front lines after your recent adventure. My heart still hasn't stopped racing in fear."
"I am sorry for that, too," Karina said with a smile. "I will stay back and help heal the wounded for a few days, then. But don't think this means I am giving up fighting. I will be out there beside you again soon."
"I have no doubt you will," Thranduil said, brushing her hair behind her ears and kissing her lips softly. "Try to take the next couple days and think of a better speech to give my advisors, as well. Some of them will likely wish to talk to you again once you return to the field."
"Alright," Karina said through a yawn, letting Thranduil pull her up with him as he stood. This made him smile wider, and he kissed her ear gently.
"I think perhaps you need some sleep, hmm?" he said, putting an arm around her shoulders and steering her towards the cot in the corner. "Here, lie down for a bit. I will see if I can get some better accommodations for you for tomorrow night, but for now, this is the best I can do."
"What about you?" Karina asked, sitting on the cot and looking up at him anxiously. "Should you not be getting some sleep?"
"I have gone much longer than this without," Thranduil said, gently forcing her back onto the cot and pulling the blanket up over her. "You're tired. Sleep while you can. I'll be back later." He kissed her one more before turning and disappearing out of the tent, leaving Karina to herself. Shifting onto her side, she pulled the blanket up to her chin, curling up on the cot and closing her eyes. Perhaps some sleep would do her some good.