Black blood flecked Karina's face. She could taste the vile poison on her lips, and took a moment to spit the wretched flavor from her mouth before her sword swung upwards again, severing an orc's arm and cutting another across the chest in the same stroke.
It was the second day of combat on the Dagorlad, and Karina could feel her muscles beginning to suffer from the strain. She had lasted far longer than she had expected to, but her adrenaline high could not hold out forever. Twice in the last hour she had been struck with orc blades, her body saved injury from the strong elven armor. It would not be long before she would have to fall back. Her guards were all fighting beside her, pushing on despite injuries and fatigue. Though she was too busy fighting to look, she knew Thranduil was not far off, somewhere to the north.
"My Lady! Beriosid is wounded!"
"Get him behind the archers!" she shouted back at Samarad, driving her sword into the stomach of an orc. It frustrated her to no end, fighting this way. She could see the black armies still waiting at the Gate. Trolls, orcs, and wargs, all waiting. It was clear Sauron was taunting them. They could not break through the Morannon. Not when their armies were being whittled away by the forward forces. These were the weaker companies, their aim to wear down the Alliance, to eat away at their numbers like acid until they were tired and broken, making them easy targets for the heavier troops. She was particularly worried about the wargs. They were large, fast, and she had no doubts that they would rip through their lines easily should they be released.
Severing limbs from two more orcs, she took a moment to glance around to see how the army was faring. The forward company was holding strong, and the archers were successfully thinning ranks, yet the wave of orcs continued on relentlessly.
She turned quickly as an arrow sped by her ear, embedding in an orc bearing down on her. Grateful, Karina raised her sword in salute, though she did not know which of the Silvan archers had just saved her life. She dove back into the fight, her blade slicing into the ribs of an orc as Dagnir severed its head.
"Night is coming," he growled, stabbing an orc through the eye slit in its helmet, kicking off the carcass aggressively. "Be ready to fall back." Karina merely nodded, burying her blade to the hilt in an orc's throat, ripping it out through the side and unleashing a horrible torrent of black blood in a violent spray. She felt savage pleasure at the pain in the creature's eyes. She had never felt more hatred for anything than she did for the servants of Sauron. She had seen what they did to the wounded, captured, and dead. They would receive no mercy from her.
A short while later, she found herself facing down three orcs simultaneously. The one on her left attacked first, and she was able to block his attack easily. The one to her right thrust his blade at her hip, forcing her to aggressively push back the first before deflecting the blow from the second. Unfortunately, this gave the third a chance to slice at her with his dual blades. The first she avoided, but the second made contact, leaving behind a deep gash in her leg. With a grunt, Karina stepped back, swinging her sword in an arch, forcing her enemies backward. The second was unlucky, and quickly found his intestines in a heap on the ground, oozing and steaming. Ignoring the pungent smell, Karina engaged the other two orcs, managing to dispatch the third without trouble before Thalanor split his skull from behind.
It was with relief that the horn sounded the retreat, Karina obeying quickly as her guard closed around her to ensure her safety as they fell back behind the lines of archers, the lines changing as fresh soldiers took the places of those that had been engaged for hours without reprieve. Sheathing her sword, Karina took a moment to breathe before she began giving orders.
"Thalanor, find Samarad and Beriosid. I want to see his wounds immediately. Dagnir, find Thranduil and make sure he is unharmed. If he has been injured I want to see him immediately as well. Lethril and Gelirion, fetch me healing supplies. If you are injured, I want you to see a healer as soon as you are done." They all obeyed without complaint, Idren and Tarlanc following as she made her way towards the Silvan healers, spread out just behind the line of archers.
"What injuries have you sustained?" she asked seriously, glancing around at the elves trailing her. She noticed red blood mixed with the black on Tarlanc's chest, but he seemed to be moving without too much pain. Idren was holding a gash in her side, but it did not appear to be bleeding profusely.
"My shoulder is dislocated and I do believe I shall need stitches," Tarlanc said as if this was normal.
"A minor cut is all, my lady. My armor took the brunt of the blow." Karina nodded thoughtfully, looking around as she heard her name.
"Beriosid is just this way, my lady," Thalanor said, gesturing back the way he came. "He has a knife in his chest, but it is to the right and the healers do not think it is fatal, but it may have punctured a lung. They are working on him now."
"Show me," Karina said firmly, following the elf back the way he came. "Tarlanc, I want you to find a place to sit as soon we reach Beriosid and start removing your armor so we can set your shoulder and look at the damage. Idren, are you well enough to help?"
"The bleeding is mostly stopped, my lady. I should be able to assist without issue."
"Good. But I want that cut in your side cleaned and sewn as soon as possible."
"The Prince is nursing some minor injuries but he is organizing troops at the moment," Dagnir said, falling into step beside her.
"Are you injured, Dagnir?"
"No, my lady."
"Good, help Tarlanc and then see to it that Thranduil is brought to me when he is done."
"Healing supplies for you, my lady," Gelirion said, catching up to the group as they reached Beriosid. The injured elf's face was screwed up in pain as the healers prepared to remove the knife. One quickly pulled it free, another swiftly removing his chest plate while a third pressed a cloth to the wound to stem the flow of blood. It did indeed look like a lung had been punctured. Blood was dripping from his lips, and he let out a rasping cough, blood splattering on the apron of one of the healers.
"How bad?" she asked, kneeling beside the healers to examine the wound as the cloth was pulled away briefly to assess the damage. She pulled off her gauntlets and shoved them out of the way, removing other pieces of armor one by one to allow her movement while she healed.
"It was deep, my lady," the one applying pressure said solemnly. "His lung is filling with blood."
"Hold on there, Beriosid," Karina said, putting a hand on his arm as a healer brought forth a bowl of green paste, another pulling a hot knife from a nearby fire. "You will be alright."
"My lady, it looks like Tarlanc's wound is infected." Turning to see the hole in her guard's shoulder, it did indeed look infected. He must have sustained the wound a while ago, to have the infection progress as far as it had.
"Idiot, why did you keep fighting with a wound like this?" she demanded, gesturing for Gelirion to pass her an antiseptic ointment similar to the green paste now being applied to Beriosid. "It will just be harder to heal now."
"My duty is to protect you, my lady," he said, wincing as Karina stuck her finger into the hole in his shoulder, smearing the ointment in the wound.
"You cannot do that if you lose an arm to infection," Karina snapped, wiping her finger on her tunic to remove the blood, puss, and ointment. "Has your shoulder been dislocated just as long?"
"No my lady. That happened just after Beriosid was removed from the battlefield."
"There is no telling what else might have torn while you were fighting with that useless arm," Karina continued sternly. "It is a good thing you elves heal fast, or this would lay you up for months. I think I can kill the infection by cauterizing the wound if you are okay with that. Then we will set the shoulder." Tarlanc just nodded, accepting the strip of leather Lethril passed him, biting down on it as Karina fetched a hot knife.
"Ready?" she said, meeting the elf's eyes as he nodded, his jaw clenched around the leather to keep him from biting his tongue. Karina quickly pressed the hot knife to Tarlanc's shoulder, the flesh hissing and letting off a foul cloud of smoke as his muffled scream added to the frenzied clamor of the camp. After several seconds, Karina removed the knife, handing it to Lethril as she examined the burnt and blackened flesh. If nothing else, it stemmed the slow bleeding.
"My lady, Prince Thranduil is here."
"Thranduil, how badly are you injured?" she asked, not bothering to look up. She could sense him approaching from the right and knew he would hear her.
"Nothing serious," he replied, pausing beside her. "How did you fair?"
"Tolerable. Gelirion, hold him still while I set this shoulder." Karina stood, moving around behind Tarlanc to push on the undamaged part of his back.
"Karina! You are bleeding all the way down your leg."
"Not now, Thranduil," she said tartly, ignoring his concern as she prepared to set the shoulder. "Ready? One, two, three!" Tarlanc let out an earsplitting shriek of pain as Karina forced his shoulder back into place. He passed out against Gelirion a moment latter, giving Karina a chance to feel the injury to make sure nothing else was out of place or broken.
"Karina, stop. You have to get your leg fixed. You," Thranduil said, pointing at a random healer passing. "See to Lady Karina's leg." The healer obeyed, attempting to get a look at the deep wound that was still oozing. But Karina moved out of her reach a moment later, still focused on Tarlanc.
"He tore some of the muscles but I think everything else is in place," Karina told the group at large. "Gelirion, as long as you are not wounded, see that he is settled comfortably and get some cream on that burn. Idren, your turn. Let me see that cut."
"But my lady," Idren protested, taking a step back as Karina attempted to scrutinize the elleth's side. "You are injured."
"Never mind that, let me see your side," Karina demanded, peeling away the guard's hand so she could survey the damage. At the same time, the healer ordered to treat her leg was hovering beside her, attempting to blot at her thigh to clean off the dirt and blood. Through the chaos, Thranduil was attempting to get her to stop so she could be treated, while Karina was simultaneously examining Idren's injury and demanding to know what was wrong with Thranduil so she could address his wounds next. Adding to the confusion were the myriad of healers bustling around attempting to help or to get to other patients, while Thranduil had several commanders and messengers attempting to talk to him. Intermittent between his answers to their questions, he continued berating Karina in an attempt to get her to sit still long enough for the healer at her feet to patch up the wound, which she was being told needed stitches. Karina meanwhile was demanding a needle and thread, her goal still to attend Idren, throwing in several more stern commands for Thranduil to tell her what he had sustained for injuries.
It took quite a long time for order to be found out of the chaos. Eventually, Karina managed to pass off Idren to another healer to sew, while she was forced to sit during her own treatment, though she spent the entire time examining Thranduil, trying to ascertain what he needed from her once she was freed.
"I am fine, Karina. Minor cuts and bruises. I am not even bleeding any longer."
"Are you certain? You did not reopen any wounds, did you?"
"No, all my other wounds have closed. Is that one on your leg the only injury you suffered?"
"I am sure I will have a bruise on my solar plexus and it might be a few days before I am able to move some of the fingers on my left hand again, but I am otherwise unharmed."
The healer, finishing her treatment, moved away to see other charges, leaving Thranduil to kneel in front of Karina, examining the newly sewn skin.
"You seem to move well enough with this, hopefully you will not be laid up for long," Thranduil said, gently running his fingers over the wound and muttering soft words of healing. Karina usually let other healers do this part of the job. Despite the books Duross had forced her to read on the subject, elvish healing spells still made her uncomfortable. The intangible magic that it implied was hard for her to come to terms with. Though, as Thranduil gently tended her wound, she could feel the pain easing. His hand comfortably on her thigh also was soothing in its own way.
"How long do you think we will have to keep this up before Gil-galad gets his plan in place?"
"It should not take much longer," Thranduil said, eyes still on her injury. "He will have the troops in place and the siege equipment ready soon enough."
"Do you think it will work?"
"It is hard to say. Any number of factors could change before it is put in motion. Come, let us go see if there is any news. Can you walk or should I carry you?"
"I can manage just fine," Karina said, rolling her eyes at Thranduil's teasing tone. He pulled her upright, and started to lead her away, but she paused, looking behind her. "Let me know if there is any change, alright?" she said, speaking mostly to Lethril who was keeping an eye on the two guards most grievously injured. The others had either drifted away to get healed, find food, or rest until they were called into battle again.
"Yes, my lady," Lethril said, bowing her head.
"I will have someone send you dinner," Karina finished, talking over her shoulder as Thranduil led her away. His long strides meant Karina had to almost jog to keep up.
"I am injured, you know," she commented as they left behind the healers, Thranduil's tent just up ahead. "If you are so anxious for news, you should go ahead and let me walk alone at my own pace."
"Forgive me," he said, slowing down with a smile. "I was too deep in thought."
"That is obvious. Do you worry for the plan or for some other reason?"
"I worry for a lot of reasons these days, my love. But let us eat and see what our next move will be before thinking on everything that we have to worry about."