Aradae's death became the force behind Karina's fury as the war continued on. She rejoined the front, carving a deep swath into the enemy forces, ignoring the calls for caution from Thranduil and her guard. For days she avenged her friend with blood, before a lull in the fight and a promise of a strike against the Morannon brought her back to her senses.
"I am sorry, Thranduil," she said wearily one evening when they returned to camp. "I do not know what came over me."
"Grief, I would wager," Thranduil said, eyes on his work as he finished wrapping a clean bandage around Karina's most recent wound. "I understand, but I find your reaction to it foolish at best, suicidal at worst. You make it difficult to focus on tactics when you are in this mindset."
"I know, and I am sorry," she repeated. "I will be more rational tomorrow."
"I sincerely hope so," Thranduil said, glancing up briefly. "I was considering confining you to your tent should your behavior continue to be erratic. You were beginning to become dangerous to your allies more than your enemies."
"Tomorrow I will be better. I promise. There is no way I would let you fight without me in this battle."
"Let us hope all your scheming will bear fruit," Thranduil said as he finished, standing and pulling Karina up out of her seat with him, planting a kiss on her forehead before continuing. "Let us hope the Morannon falls to us tomorrow."
"May the Valar be merciful," Karina agreed. "Now I do believe I should be heading to my own bed so I shall be rested before the offensive in the morn."
"Soon, my love, you will never have to depart from my side," Thranduil said with a smile, caressing her cheek. "Soon this war will be over, and you will be my wife."
"I look forward to that day with a joyous heart," Karina replied happily before meeting his lips with a kiss. She knew that day was much farther away than he anticipated. It would be many years before the armies exited Mordor once they entered. But that did not stop her from imagining the joy she would feel as Thranduil's bride.
"Soon," Thranduil said softly. "Soon we will be one."
"But alas, tonight I must leave you. Goodnight, Thranduil."
"Goodnight my love."
Karina's vision was hazy. Images—dark figures—drifted through the gray fog. She called out, but no one answered, her voice swallowed by the mists. She tried focusing on some of the images, to move towards them, but they just drifted away as she approached. She felt so lost, so unsure. Fear consumed her, though none of the figures appeared threatening. But there was an uneasy feeling in the air, and she wished she had her sword to defend herself.
She whirled around, eyes trained on the mist, looking for the speaker.
You must come with us, Karina.
The voice seemed urgent, calling to her in a whisper that seemed to originate in her own head. Warily, she moved forward, watching for something that she feared in the mists, though she knew not what.
Look, the voice urged. Squinting into the darkness, she saw a flash of color, of life. She moved closer, and found herself landing in the middle of the Elven army camp, colorful banners flying around her, elves rushing about, preparing for battle.
"I remember this," she said softly, recognizing the scene. She would not easily forget. "This is just before I met Thranduil."
She was not in control of her own body as she moved through the camp. She was reliving that day. Including how she almost ran over Thranduil.
"Oh, excuse me," she said, glancing up at him. He seemed to glow so much brighter in this memory than she recalled. Is this how he looked before the darkness of the war and the weight of responsibility took their toll?
"Are you alright, my lady?" he asked, concern in his voice just as it had been the first time. She felt a chill run up her arm at his touch as he put his hand on her arm. "You seem quite troubled this evening."
"No, I am alright," she said quickly, smiling up at him. It was no wonder she had fallen for him so quickly. Everything about him was perfect. "I was just thinking."
The rest of the scene began to change, the voices of herself and Thranduil growing fainter as the images faded. They became clear once more as the scene changed into the conversation she had with Thranduil about being an Adonnen. This one appeared for only a moment before fading into her first sword fighting lesson, then rapidly switching to her first conversation with Oropher, then to their confrontation over Thranduil's jealousy, then on to her sparring match before the Elven kings. Her life since her arrival became a rapid succession of images flitting before her eyes until it slowed abruptly on her with Thranduil in his tent. But she did not remember this instance.
The sound was muffled by the haze around her, this image not clear like the others had been. This time, she was not in her own body. She watched from a distance, as her other form danced around the tent with Thranduil, dressed in her thin blue night gown. She watched, puzzled, as that image faded as well, turning into a vision of Thranduil holding her arms to support her as she cried hysterically, tears pouring from her eyes. The image was disturbing, and made her shift uncomfortably in the corner where she watched silently. Was this her future? What had happened to cause this?
Before she could decipher the clues, she found herself in the middle of the battle field, the Morannon looming menacingly above. She looked around for her other self, yet she was not there. But Thranduil was, and she watched as he slew orcs left and right. He was carving a path through the sea of black figures, when he stopped abruptly. She felt the air leave her lungs as he faltered, falling to his knees, an orc arrow protruding from his chest. The projectile had pierced his armor, and he collapsed in a pool of his own red blood.
"NO!" Karina screamed, finding her voice as she tried to race towards him, to save him. But her legs would not cooperate. She was not really here. She could do nothing but watch as the life faded from his eyes.
"No, this cannot be! He has to live! He is meant to live!"
As she screamed this image too began to fade. But when the colors returned, she was standing back in the same spot on the battlefield, watching once more as Thranduil fought his way forward.
"Stop, don't make me watch it again," she cried, eyes veering away from Thranduil towards the orc she knew was destined to slay him. But this vision was different. To her surprise, she saw herself crossing the battlefield, sword slicing a path towards the enemy orc raising its bow toward Thranduil. Strangely, this image of herself was not wearing armor or even a tunic, but was dressed in a pale green gown she had never seen before. It was splattered with black blood and was torn beyond repair, but it did not matter. She had reached the orc she was hunting, and with a look of hatred upon her face, she sliced the orc's head clean from its neck. But her victory was short lived. Taking the life of the orc had left her open, vulnerable. With no armor and her sword out of position, she was an easy target for a second orc to send an arrow into her abdomen, bursting straight through her thin frame. Dark crimson grew around the wound, staining the green gown. Time seemed to slow as she watched herself crumble as one of Thranduil's guards came forward to dispatch the archer that had felled her. Thranduil himself appeared in her line of sight, his face one of ultimate agony as he ignored the battle around him, sinking to his knees beside her and cradling her body to his chest.
Gray mist curled around her once more, obscuring her view of her own death. Because she knew what she had just been shown. She was given her options. As if to confirm her thoughts, the whispering voice echoed in her head again with a single word: Choose.
Karina woke with a start, her chest heaving as she sat up, staring into the darkness of her tent. Had all that really happened? She covered her face with her hands and found she was crying. Brushing the tears away, she was unable to stop the strangled cry from breaking free from her lips. She had just witnessed her story unfold, from beginning to end. There was no denying it, not when she had always known that her story might end this way. But she had not expected it so soon. She had been waiting for a sign from the Valar, and they had given it to her. Her purpose was to save Thranduil's life. That had always been her purpose.
It took her some time to calm her racing heart. Her own death was imminent, but it was the alternative that had frightened her. She had watched Thranduil fall. And she had not even been there with him, as he was for her. The image of the arrow in his chest would haunt her, she knew. But not for long. Because only one future would happen, and she knew which one it must be.
She found herself outside Thranduil's tent once more, still dressed only in her nightgown. She had no memory of walking there, but she recognized this was where she was meant to be. She had to be with Thranduil.
"May I?" she asked the guard quietly, no trace of the trouble plaguing her mind evident in her voice. The Silvan guard nodded once and she entered, her eyes adjusting to the darkness as her eyes sought Thranduil.
"I am sorry, but I had to see you."
"What is wrong?" Thranduil asked, standing from the mattress on the floor. He lit a candle on his desk as Karina approached quietly, needing to hold him. She wrapped her arms around him without a word, burying her face in his chest. "Karina?"
"I just needed to see you," she said softly, trying to hide the distress in her voice as the image of his broken body returned to her in vivid color.
"Karina, tell me the truth."
Sighing, knowing he would not let this go, she explained in as little detail as possible: "I had a nightmare."
"Your death. In the attack tomorrow."
"Karina, it was just a dream," Thranduil said gently, stroking her cheek as he wiped away a lingering tear. "Tomorrow will be a difficult battle, but have faith in me. We will be victorious."
"How can you be so sure? The death toll could be astronomic before we break through their lines."
"Where is this negativity coming from? Why do you doubt us all of a sudden?"
"I thought you on the verge of death once, Thranduil. My nightmares bring forth all the fear once more, and I cannot shake the feeling that tomorrow will be the worst of the fighting thus far. That terrifies me."
"Your premonitions are often right. Yet why now do you let the fear take control? You and I have survived much in this war already. Do you not have faith in us anymore?"
"Of course I do. But faith is not enough to ensure your safety."
"Karina, tell me truthfully. Why do you bring this to me now? Surely it is not just the nightmares."
She stared up at him, wonder how much to tell him. He knew her too well; he could sense she was keeping something from him. But she could not tell him the truth.
"I already lost Aradae," she said softly, choking back her tears, though her eyes watered nonetheless. "It was the greatest pain I have yet felt in this war. I cannot lose you too."
Thranduil stared down at her, a look in his eyes she had not yet seen. He was silent for some time, his blue eyes filled with emotion.
"Whatever comes next, Karina, know this: I love you. No distance between us will change that. Not even death will stop me loving you. I would wait on the shores of Eressëa for as long as it took to be reunited."
"I know how you feel, Thranduil, but that is not why I fear for you. I fear for what Middle Earth would lose should you fall. I fear how the future will change, how the rest of the war will fare without you here."
"You burden me with such responsibility when all I want is to love you, no matter what else comes."
"Please, listen to me Thranduil. Promise me you will not depart from my side tomorrow. Promise me that I will be there to keep you safe."
"As always, my love," he assured her, though his face looked troubled. "We are together in this."
Comforted—at least as much as she could be under the circumstances—Karina rested her head on Thranduil's chest. She closed her eyes, listening to his heart. As long as it kept beating, everything would be alright.
"Dance with me."
"What?" she asked, glancing up abruptly.
"Dance with me," he repeated, taking her hands in his and beginning to lead her in a simple dance around the floor of his tent. To her surprise, he began singing, a gentle elvish love song. He had never sung before, and it was heartbreakingly beautiful. But as beautiful as the moment was, she could not escape the truth: her dream had not just been a dream. She knew in her heart the truth, but her head had wanted to deny what she had seen. Yet now she was reliving the scene she had witnessed in her vision. Everything was as it should be. And she knew what would happen next. The next part of her vision had been her anguish as she confronted Thranduil. What was going to happen to them?
But as she listened to his song of love and hope, she felt her fear fade. There was power in his words, the power to give her hope. The fear in her heart turned to determination. Who were the Valar to decide what her fate was to be? She had seen the path they were supposed to take, the one that lead to death. She would not accept it. She would change her course. She would alter her fate. She would defy the will of the Valar.
"Thranduil," she whispered softly, pausing in their slow dance. He stopped, waiting for her to continue. "I do not want to wait anymore."
"What do you mean?" he asked, brow furrowed.
"I love you more than I have loved anyone. I know that our hearts belong together. Will you give me just one night to prove it?"
"I give myself to you freely. Please, let me love you heart, soul, and body."
Karina joined Thranduil in his bed that night. They joined together body and soul as they made love the way they had both longed to do for weeks. Karina had felt the power of Thranduil's love before, yet it was nothing compared to the strength of their bond as they became entwined in the dark in the early hours of morning. She could feel him become a part of her being, as if they were indeed becoming one entity with one mind and one heart.