The dismal outlook for the Alliance took a turn for the worse when a storm came upon them suddenly, hidden by the constant dark clouds that hovered over the Dagorlad. In a matter of minutes, a heavy rain pelted the armies of Middle Earth with a cold, stinging rain. Karina, still busy tending the injured, was sent scurrying with the rest of the healers in a frantic attempt to find shelter for those being tended. Unfortunately, there were far too few tents for all the wounded to be taken out of the downpour, but the worst were taken under whatever cover they could find to be treated without also being drowned.
While helping to carry an unconscious elf into her tent, her personal space sacrificed for the needs of the soldiers, a haggard and breathless elf ran up to her, saluting quickly as he stopped beside her.
"Lady Karina. Your presence is requested near the front."
"I am a bit busy at the moment," Karina said testily, her temper already short from lack of sleep and trying to organize her tent so that the maximum number of elves could fit inside. "Why is my presence requested?"
"Prince Thranduil refuses to let anyone but you tend his injuries." This made Karina stop abruptly, another soldier taking the unconscious elf from her care. She stared at the messenger for a moment before his words sunk in.
"Where is he?" she demanded, forcefully grabbing the soldiers arm and dragging him back the way he had come. "Show me!" The soldier took off at a jog, Karina slogging through the mud after him. She was soaked to the skin, cold, and already coated in a runny layer of mud, but the news of Thranduil's injuries spurred her into action. Her ankle had not fully recovered yet, but the throbbing was ignored in favor of a more pressing issue. She raced after the soldier, dodging through the camp chaos out towards the front lines. She hoped that the prince was not still there, fighting despite his injuries. To her relief, they slowed down along the eastern most edge of the healing camp.
"He is over here, my lady," the soldier said, gesturing her to follow him through the throng of elves. It took Karina a moment to realize who she was looking at when the soldier finally stopped, trying to get the attention of an elf currently in a heated conversation with those around him.
"You will pull our troops back immediately!" Thranduil ordered, pointing his finger at one of the commanders in front of him. "We are not attacking in this weather. Visibility is too low and we will lose more soldiers to injuries from falling in the mud than to Mordor's armies. Have your regiment of archers create a perimeter around the retreating soldiers, Commander, and get them back to the main camp. Gil-Galad's forces can hold the front for now. We need to regroup before launching another assault."
Thranduil kept giving out orders as Karina tried to push her way towards him, scanning him for signs of injury. He did not appear severely wounded from this angle, but most of what she could see was blood, mud, and streaks of shining armor between the other stains. His hair was coated with a layer of grime, and there were new dents in his plate armor.
When Thranduil paused for a breath, the messenger interjected quickly. "I brought her, my lord." The prince turned his head, catching sight of Karina squeezing through the crowd. Karina's heart leapt into her throat at the sight of his face, bruised and bloodied, though his haunted eyes lit up at the sight of her. He closed the distance between them, putting his hands on her arms and examining her closely.
"Ah, Karina, I am glad to see you are alright," he said softly. Lifting his head, he continued in his thundering military voice. "You are all dismissed. I want those troops moved now!" As the soldiers scuttled away, he smiled back down at Karina, making her heart melt despite all the minor wounds marring his handsome features.
"I heard you were injured," she said with a worried look up at him. She rubbed some of the blood off his face, uncovering yet another cut. "What did you do to your face?"
"I might have bitten off more than I could chew with a troll," he said with a grin, wincing as his split lip opened up again. Karina immediately pulled a rag out of the healing pouch on her belt and began wiping off his face, aided greatly by the downpour still falling upon them. "I've been on the front lines for almost three days without sleep, my reaction time was slipping."
"Is there anything else that I need to know about?" she asked, doing a quick scan of his front. "When did this happen?!" She had noticed a large gash in his armor that ran from his hip to the bottom of his rib cage. "Let me see."
"The armor took the worst of it," Thranduil said, watching her bend down and examine the damage as best she could, wincing as she stuck a couple fingers into the gap in his armor. "It is mostly healed already."
"No it isn't, that needs stitches," Karina said, pulling away her fingers and showing him the fresh blood on them. "You are coming with me and I am going to sew that up. I probably will have to stitch that one below your ear as well…" Thranduil obediently followed as Karina began trudging back through the camp, muttering about all his injuries and how much she would have to do once she got him into a tent for healing. Thranduil just smiled, the pain forgotten as he observed how Karina's damp clothing clung to her form. They had not been apart for long, but being with her again felt like coming home.
Thranduil sat obediently, watching Karina move about the tent, collecting what she would need to treat him. His eyes flickered onto the other soldiers filling the tent, those whose injuries were severe enough to require constant care. It may be his tent, but he did not belong here, not with his minor wounds. It was more important that those in need had the proper facilities for treatment. But he also was not going to argue with Karina, the one person in his camp who had no trouble ordering him around or giving him a stern talking to if he needed it.
"Can you get your armor off?" Karina asked, coming back and setting a pile of healing supplies and herbs on the cot beside him. "You have quite a few more dents in it than I recall."
"I think I can manage," Thranduil said, starting to peel off the plate mail, wincing whenever the metal hit a sore spot. Karina helped him get off his chest plate, though he hissed as she pulled it away, the metal having been stuck to both fabric and skin by dried blood. Unable to bend over without pain, Karina removed his greaves while he carefully took off his tunic, exposing all the bruising on his chest and the oozing gash at his side.
"I'm going to stitch up your side first since that seems to be the worst of it," Karina said, eyes downcast as she shoved his armor out of the way under the cot. When she looked up, she paused for several seconds before quickly reaching for a bowl and rag to begin cleaning the wound. Though he had been examining his side, pulling green threads from the clotted blood, Thranduil still noticed the brief pause, and it made him smirk.
"Do you gawk at all your patients like that?" he asked, pleased to see her cheeks flush slightly at his words. She just rolled her eyes without responding, cleaning his wound with a little more vigor than necessary. He bit his lip against the pain, but he kept his eyes on Karina, watching her usually steady hands tremble ever so slightly as she worked, staring determinedly at the cut she was tending. Though irritated that he had received such an injury in the first place, he was more than a little smug to see the effect his shirtlessness had on her.
"I was just going to stitch this, but if you want, I can cauterize it instead," she said, voice all business as she went about scrapping away the dried blood. "It will be painful, but quicker. Either way, there is a chance you will open it up again if you go back into the fight over the next few days. I would highly recommend you get your armor fixed before that, or the metal will rub against the wound and aggravate it even further."
"I intend to return to the main camp as soon as possible to regroup," Thranduil said, eyes on her as she continued her ministrations. "I will have a smith fix the damage then."
"Good," Karina said shortly, offering no further conversation.
"How have you been the last few days, Karina?" Thranduil asked softly after a while.
"I've been busy healing, as expected," Karina said without looking up. "I can't say I enjoy holding the lives of others in my hands like this, especially when I am unsure if it is better to let them die than to let them continue this mad attack on the Morannon."
"Have you thought of a new attack plan yet?" Thranduil asked, choosing to steer the conversation away from the uncomfortable melancholy that filled Karina's words at her declaration.
"No, not yet. I admit I have been a bit too busy to give it much thought."
"Come back with me to the main camp. You will have some time there to recover and make plans, if you wish."
"I should be here, Thranduil, helping the healers."
"I would rather have you safe with me for a few days," Thranduil said, taking her hands away from his side so she would look up at him. "I hate having you so far away from me for so long, not knowing your fate."
"I'm an Adonnen," Karina said, offering him a smile for the first time in days. "I have not done anything important yet, so I cannot die."
"That is no excuse to be reckless. I will kidnap you and bring you back to the camp if you refuse."
"Very well, but only so I can keep an eye on your injuries," Karina said, returning to her work. "So, stitches or cauterization?"
"Stitches," Thranduil said automatically. "I hate the smell of burning flesh. Especially my own."
Once Thranduil was patched up, his deeper cuts sewn and ointment applied to his extensive set of bruises, he followed his retreating army back to the main camp. Karina, still using the excuse that she was keeping tabs on Thranduil's health, returned with him. She followed obediently despite the fact that she was rather annoyed with Thranduil. He had been a little to cheeky during his treatment, having pointed out every blush that darkened her face when she applied ointment to his back and chest, only making the red flush brighter. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy doing so, and did not appear at all phased by the fact that they were surrounded by other soldiers, several of which watched their exchange with interest. Karina gave him the silent treatment on the way back to the main camp, feeling his teasing was inappropriate given the circumstances. Despite this, Thranduil maintained his jovial mood the entire way back.
Karina intended to return to her own tent, a small place set up for her when she decided to join the Silvan army. She would sleep for a while and then develop a new battle plan for seizing the Morannon. She knew it could be done, because she knew the Alliance won in the end. She just did not know how it happened, or how long it had taken and how many lives were lost in the process.
"And where do you think you are going?" Karina put on her best look of irritation as she turned to look at Thranduil, who had caught her by the arm as she strode past his tent.
"To take a nap," Karina said tartly. "I am tired and need all the brain power I can muster to develop a solution to our Morannon problem."
"There is no need for that tone, my dear," he said, smirking as he pulled her closer to him. "Are you really that upset at my flirting with you?"
"You didn't have to be so obvious with all those soldiers around," Karina pointed out, glaring up at him. She was painfully aware of the soldiers still milling about everywhere, a few of them glancing her way as they passed.
"But I could not pass up the opportunity to make you blush," Thranduil said with a grin. "It was quite satisfying." Karina snorted as a reply, turning to leave again. But she was stopped once more as Thranduil deftly steered her into his tent, closing the flaps behind him. Crossing her arms, she scowled up at him as best she could.
"You better let me go sleep, Thranduil. I am not going to stop being annoyed with you just because you—"
She did not get the chance to finish. Thranduil pressed a kiss against her lips, effectively silencing her and making her forget why she was annoyed in the first place all at once. Karina was slightly breathless when he finally pulled away, but that did not stop her from scolding him once her irritation came back.
"You are going to reopen that cut on your lip," Karina said pointed, licking her own lip that now tasted vaguely of iron. "And is this really appropriate behavior from a prince when his people are dying by the hundreds in a futile battle?"
"Some may call me callous, but I hope that you are not one of them, my love," Thranduil said, moving away from her. She watched as he lifted the silver crown from his head, staring at it for a moment before setting it gently upon his desk. Turning, he continued seriously, "If we were not at war, I would take the time to court you properly instead of sneaking in private moments with you like this. But this is all I have, the last refuge from the evil and misery that surround us day to day here on the Dagorlad. Will you give me that? Just a few hours of peace and love to forget about the images of my people dying around me?"
Karina felt her eyes watering as she watched the torment dancing in Thranduil's eyes. He was still so young, so inexperienced, so unprepared for the weight now bearing down on him after his father's death. Her irritation faded rapidly as his words sunk in, making her wonder if perhaps she needed this too, so she could go on with her harsh task of treating the dying soldiers on the front. Perhaps a few hours of forgetting was not so bad.
"I will give you whatever you require, Thranduil," Karina said, coming up and hugging him tightly around the waist, feeling the comfort of his arms wrap around her shoulders as she buried her face in his shoulder. "I love you and that will never change, no matter how bad things get in this war."
"Thank you, Karina," Thranduil whispered softly. "I hope you know that I feel the same about you. I do not care what others say about us. My only wish is to have you in my arms as often as I am able."
"There is nowhere I would rather be," Karina said gently. She paused for a moment, before continuing with a laugh, "But in this case, I think we both need baths first."
Thranduil laughed lightly, kissing Karina's forehead as she pulled away to look up at him. "Separately or together?" he asked with a grin, to which Karina rolled her eyes and poked him, making him wince as she hit a bruise.
"I think separately would be a wiser path, my lord," she said with no small amount of sass. "Your shirtless physique may make me blush, but I do not think we would get much accomplished if you were to see mine." With a quick kiss Karina left Thranduil staring at her with his mouth hanging open in shock as she headed towards the exit with a smirk on her face. Before she left, she looked back at the shocked prince and added, "I will be back in an hour or so. Good day, my lord."
As much as she wanted a nap, Karina decided to forgo that luxury and return to Thranduil's tent as she promised. Stifling yawns most of the way, she returned a little over an hour after she first departed, finding Thranduil had not forgone a nap, though clearly it had not been intentional. Smiling, she approached him silently, watching his hair stir every time he exhaled. He had fallen asleep propped up at his desk, his head resting at an odd angle in his hand, his hair partially obscuring his face, though she could still see the dark purples and reds of his wounds through the silvery-blonde curtain.
Instead of waking him, Karina gently slid the maps and charts off the desk, carrying them over to the mattress beckoning to her from the smaller side tent, where most of Thranduil's personal belongs were kept. Settling onto the surprisingly comfortable mattress, Karina spread the maps out around her, familiarizing herself with every detail.
It did not take long before her eyelids began to droop, making her jolt awake every time she drifted off, her head falling towards her chest. She rubbed her eyes, wishing she had access to some strong coffee. Now that she was not running on adrenaline and breathing in toxic fumes, she found her surroundings lulling her to sleep at a rapid pace. It did not take long before she too succumbed to exhaustion, and fell back onto the mattress to sleep.