Karina stood outside Thranduil's tent, staring at it unseeingly, wringing her hands together nervously. The guard kept his post silently, but he cast curious glances at her as she stood unmoving, waiting for her to decide whether to enter or not.
"He is not occupied, if that helps," he offered after several minutes of inactivity from Karina. She flushed, glancing up at the guard. He often guarded Thranduil's tent, and she knew he fought at his side during the campaign. Needing a distraction if she was going to get up the courage to enter, she decided to strike up a conversation.
"You would not happen to know his temperament at the moment, would you?" Karina asked softly, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"I am afraid I cannot help you with that," the guard said sympathetically. "He has been rather…off lately."
"Which I am sure is my fault," Karina said with a sigh, glancing back at the closed tent flap. "Do forgive me, but we have not been introduced before. I am Karina."
"I know," he said with a smile. "I am Bronwe of the Prince's Guard."
"It is a pleasure, Bronwe. I suppose I should thank you for keeping Thranduil safe for the last month."
"It is my duty," he said, though he bowed his head in thanks. "It is an honor to serve His Highness."
"He should be honored to have such loyal subjects," Karina replied, feeling her heart racing. She knew she could not put it off any longer. "I suppose I should speak to him now, if he is truly unoccupied."
"Shall I announce you?"
"No, I think it is best I just go myself and get it over with. Thank you though."
With a solemn nod of thanks, Karina parted the tent flaps and entered.
Thranduil was standing behind his desk, looking imposing as he frowned down at whatever he was reading. The bruising on his face was almost gone, but there were still some dark green colors marring his pale skin. She felt her heart ache, seeing him so fiercely regal, dressed in intimidating silver and black. He looked much older, much more like the king she knew he would become. She almost ran to him and wept her apology, begging him for her forgiveness. But she caught herself, stopping in the middle of the tent with her jaw set, waiting for him to look up. He seemed unaware he had been interrupted, and kept his eyes on the parchment in front of him. Thinking he had not noticed her enter, she was about to clear her throat when he spoke.
"What can I do for you this morning, Lady Karina?" he said, his voice emotionless and his eyes still downcast. She winced at his formality, his indifference more painful than his anger. But she kept telling herself that she had done nothing wrong. It was his fault if he was still angry.
"I wanted to see if you were doing well, Your Majesty," she said with equal indifference, refusing to let him guilt her into an apology. "I understand my actions the other day may have caused you some unintentional stress. I do hope you have not been too inconvenienced by my attempt to save lives." Well that sounded a good deal ruder than she had intended. Karina cursed herself for not preparing what to say ahead of time.
Thranduil finally looked up at her, his icy blue eyes searing her soul as he looked at her silently. It was too much. She broke and looked away, still feeling painful discomfort from the look he was still giving her. He stared at her silently, his scrutiny making her want to flee. Too many emotions were writhing angrily within her.
"You think I have been inconvenienced by your actions?" he said finally, his voice low and dangerous. "Is that what you think?"
"I think that by going to King Gil-galad I have disrespected you, and I have damaged the trust you had in me. For that I am sorry. But I am not sorry that I went ahead with my plan. It is not within me to let people die needlessly when there is another way. Soon, Prince Amroth will have valuable intel about our enemy, whether we are able to cross the mountains or not. Enough elves and men and dwarves have died already. I will not apologize for trying to save those that are left."
She glared at him defiantly as she finished her speech. He stared back at her, his emotionless mask firmly in place. He was silent even longer this time, as if weighing her words and carefully crafting a response. When he failed to reply in what she thought was a timely manner, Karina let out an irritated sigh.
"Very well then, I will leave. Do forgive me for interrupting." She turned to go, but his voice made her pause.
"Amroth has received word from three of the four scouting parties that he sent out. They have found half a dozen accessible points of ascent, and he is waiting to hear from the fourth party to see if any further south are possible routes into the mountains."
"Thank you for informing me," Karina said without turning around. "I will go speak with Amroth about the next phase of the plan."
"Karina," Thranduil snapped, his voice finally betraying some emotion. A little less forcefully, he continued, "Come here."
Karina obeyed, but she did so slowly, her jaw clenched. She refused to look at Thranduil until she stood directly in front of his desk. Looking up, her eyes dared him to order her further. He took the challenge.
"Sit," he said, gesturing at a chair to her left. She did, taking her time to smooth out her dress before letting her eyes meet his again.
"What is it you want from me, My Lord?" she asked when he failed to say anything, his eyes staring at the parchment in front of him once more. He continued leaning over his desk, his pale hair framing his troubled face. For it was no longer passive, but weary and sorrowful.
"My commanders gave me the casualty report today," he said softly, not looking up from his desk. "We have lost almost a quarter of our army in the last month."
Karina had no idea what to say to this. She had not realized they had lost so many so quickly. She knew casualties were high, but she had no idea how badly the war was really going. At this rate, the Sindarin and Silvan ranks would be depleted long before the siege was complete. Clearly, a new plan was needed. But she did not say "I told you so," not when she could see how clearly Thranduil carried the weight of their deaths on his shoulders.
"I am sorry," she said softly when no other words came to mind.
"No," Thranduil said with a heavy sigh. "I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not believe in you. I am sorry that I let my fear for you turn into anger. And I am sorry that I took it out on you."
"Thranduil…" Karina began, but he held up his hand to stop her.
"I do not deserve your forgiveness. You are right, of course. I cannot control you. You are free to stay with Duross. Or to join Gil-galad or Amroth. I will not bother you any further."
"Thranduil," Karina repeated, struggling again to find the right words. "I promised you I would not abandon you; that I would fight by your side. Whatever arguments may come, whatever idiotic things either of us do or say to cause a rift to grow between us, I am not going to leave you unless you wish me to go. I love you, Thranduil. Nothing is going to change that."
He looked up at her, his repentant eyes meeting hers. Some of the pain that was aging his face seemed to leave it as they looked at one another. He sat in his chair behind his desk and gestured for her to come to him. She did so, letting him pull her onto his lap as he looked up into her face with love in his eyes once more.
"You are too wonderful sometimes," he said with a gentle smile, brushing her hair behind her ear. "I do not know what I have done for the Valar to bless me with your love when I do not deserve it."
"You deserve every ounce of my love, Thranduil," Karina said, gently taking the crown off his head and setting it on the desk. "I only wish I had more to give."
"With you here by me, I will have all I ever need," Thranduil said, gently guiding her lips to his. She kissed him softly, relieved to finally be back in his arms. The physical distance had been almost as bad as the emotional distance. She had had far too much time to dwell on what she was missing the last two days, and it pained her to think about how desperately she had missed him. Judging by the increasing force he was putting into their kiss, the feeling was mutual.
Karina actually opened her eyes in surprise when Thranduil aggressively demanded access to her mouth, the quick bite of her lip and insistent force of his tongue dancing with hers so different from his usual gentle caresses. She gladly gave him access, responding in kind. She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, her fingers in his hair as she held herself to him, letting herself fall hungrily into the passionate embrace. Thranduil's strong fingers gripped her waist tightly, trying to pull her hips closer. Realizing the problem, Karina shifted in his grip, pulling away just long enough to straddle his lap before returning her lips to his. The sigh that escaped her was almost a moan as she pressed herself against him, her body molding to his easily as her skirts bunched up around her thighs, her knees and calves exposed.
The elves gave off a furious heat as they eagerly embraced. Thranduil's hands wandered freely, first holding her tightly to him, then pushing her away so they could find the proper places to massage in order to elicit a lustful moan from her eager lips. He was careful to keep his wandering hands above her waist, but he could feel his control slipping as he let his lips move to the soft skin of her collarbone, her fingers caressing his ear as she made it quiver with her moans. Karina was long gone, her body aching for him as one hand slid down the back of his tunic, her fingernails digging into the tender flesh and making him bite her neck in return.
Thranduil was trying desperately to regain control, his hands returning to her sides as he let his lips return to hers, less fervently than before, when Karina rocked her hips against his. He lost it. In less than a second, he had moved his hands down to her thighs, sliding his thin fingers under the fabric of her skirt to grip the soft, warm skin beneath. He lifted her up off the chair with him, making her gasp in surprise, though her lips never left his. Roughly, he pushed everything on his desk out of the way and set her down on it, his hands continuing their journey upward from her knees as her legs wrapped around his waist. He could feel his swollen groin begging for her, so close and willing. Her fingers began undoing the ties on his tunic. She had made it as far as his abdomen when his hand shot up to stop her, his breath shaking as he pulled away slowly.
"Thranduil?" she asked softly, confused and slightly hurt that he had stopped. She was not afraid of intimacy, and she had never had anyone that she wanted to be intimate with more than Thranduil.
"I am sorry, my love," he said, breathing heavily as he leaned his forehead against hers. He took several long breaths, hoping to dissipate the lust that had almost made him lose control. It failed, as she was too close still for him to have any hope of recovery. It was only the distance between their lips now that kept him from giving in to his desire. He let out a soft laugh, meeting her eyes with a smile. "I need to be more careful around you."
Karina continued to look at him in confusion, though she did not ask the question that was on the tip of her tongue. She did not know how elves handled intimacy. She supposed they were more reserved than humans. After all, as immortal beings they could theoretically have hundreds of children if they did not restrain themselves. But she did not like having to control her desire, especially when Thranduil had taken her so close to the edge, but she would respect his wishes. This was his world, not hers.
"I understand," she whispered. She kissed him softly, wondering if she really did understand. But she let herself come down from the high she had been riding, her breathing returning to normal slowly as Thranduil silently massaged her thigh. It did little to help calm Karina, but it apparently helped Thranduil, as after a while he leaned back, smiling at her with regret in his eyes.
"Why could you not have come to me before this war?" he asked gently, caressing her cheek as he leaned forward to kiss her again. "This would not be so difficult."
"You will have to take that up with the Valar," Karina said, turning her head and kissing his palm.
"Someday perhaps I will," Thranduil said with a chuckle. "As long as they do not resent me for distracting you from your purpose, Adonnen."
"Perhaps it is my purpose to distract you," she replied coyly. Thranduil kissed her again before moving away, picking up the things he had thrown off his desk in his feverish lust.
"If that is true you are doing a particularly fine job of it." Karina fixed her skirts, but remained sitting on his desk, watching him clean up the mess. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed his crown sitting askew on a roll of parchment. She picked it up, looking at the fine metalwork, the carefully crafted vines and leaves twinkling at her from the lantern light filling the tent. She thought again about how she desperately wished that her purpose was to be Thranduil's wife. She would have scoffed at the idea of marriage as a purpose in life two months ago, but now she wanted it more than anything. Thinking about it reminded her of the conversation she had had with Ricyll and Thalaras.
"Have you heard the rumors about us?" Karina asked as Thranduil stood behind her, sorting papers.
"Which rumors?" he asked over the sound of shifting parchment.
"That we are bound," Karina said, blushing at the thought. She did not know why this idea made her so nervous. Especially after what had almost happened just a few minutes earlier.
"I have heard whispers."
"Does it bother you?" Karina asked, turning around on the desk so she could see him, a look of worry on her face. "The fact that most of the camp thinks I am your wife."
"No," Thranduil said simply. He paused, looking up at her. "Why? Does it bother you?"
"A little," Karina said, looking down at the crown in her hands. "It makes it sound like I have some sort of authority that I do not have." This made Thranduil smile. He took one of her hands and kissed it gently, running his thumb over her knuckles.
"If that is all you are worried about, then there is nothing for you to fear," he said encouragingly. "Unless I die, you have more authority as an Adonnen than you would as my wife."
"Oh," Karina said, not sure how she felt about that. "Do you think we will be treated differently because of this?"
"Perhaps, but I doubt it," Thranduil said dismissively. "I am already a Prince, and you are already an Adonnen. Attitudes may change, but I doubt the level of respect we receive will. The most I can see happening is that 'Princess' will be added to your title."
"Apparently some people have already started calling me that," Karina said, earning another chuckle from Thranduil.
"You best get used to it. Because I have every intention of making you one by the time I return to Greenwood. The only trouble is that it will not last long. As soon as we return, you will have to get used to being called Queen Karina instead."
Karina wrinkled her nose at this. "I am not sure I like the sound of that. Perhaps I should change my name to something elvish."
"Whatever makes you happy, love. As long as you are my queen, I care not either way."