Karina woke to the sound of muffled voices. She blinked to clear her eyes, sitting up and checking the bed beside her. She was alone, the curtain closed, hiding her from view from those that must be conversing with Thranduil on the other side. She knew he was in there instinctively; she could feel his presence. It was comforting even though he was not beside her.
She stood with the intention of joining him, but quickly realized she had a problem. She was naked, and her night gown had been rather recklessly abandoned somewhere on the other side of the curtain. It did not seem appropriate to simply wrap a blanket around herself, so she began looking around for something to wear, any spare clothing. Her heart almost stopped when her eyes fell upon a pale green gown of gossamer silk fabric and delicate embroidery, laid out on a trunk at the foot of the bed. She knew this dress. It was the one she had worn in her vision. The one she had died in. Desperately she looked for something else to wear. She could hear the voices speaking quietly but urgently. It was almost time to depart for the battle. She needed to wear something so she could leave to fetch her armor. So against all her instincts, she put on the gown.
"You look enchanting, my dear," Thranduil said as soon as she pushed aside the curtain. He waved away his commanders as he smiled, the soldiers leaving without argument. "I am glad it fits."
"Why did you not wake me? I do not have much time to fetch my armor before we must depart."
"That was a gift from Gil-galad. He said it was only appropriate my wife look the part."
"Why did you not wake me?" Karina asked, her brow furrowed. She had not heard Thranduil's last statement. All she noticed was the wave of anxiety and fear that he attempted unsuccessfully to hide from her. His face remained cheerful, yet she could sense his unease.
"I thought you needed the rest."
"Do not lie to me Thranduil," she said heatedly. "What is it that you are keeping from me?"
"Do you promise not to be angry with me? I cannot bear the thought of us fighting."
"No," she said heatedly. "I will not promise that. Now tell me what you are hiding."
"I have given the orders for guards to be stationed outside this tent during the battle. You will be staying here."
"WHAT?!" Karina shouted, making Thranduil flinch. "You cannot do this!"
It was Thranduil's turn to look at her suspiciously.
"I can, and I will. Unless you tell me what it is you fear so much about this particular battle. Your fear last night was not just the result of a nightmare. I can sense your fear and sadness now, and it is more real than what a dream could provoke. What do you hide from me?"
"You promised me I would be able to be at your side through this battle. I need to fight!"
"Your fear awakened in me my own fears for you. Tell me why I feel such dread from you." He would not let her avoid his question any more than she had let him dodge hers.
"This is to be the battle in which we take the Morannon. It will be more deadly than any before. I fear to lose you. I have to be there at your side."
"You are not telling me everything, Karina. And unless you do, you are staying here."
"Thranduil please," she said, her voice begging him to listen as he started towards the entrance of the tent. "Do not make me stay here."
"I cannot risk losing you, Karina. I lied awake last night imagining all the horror that might befall you on the battlefield. I wondered how I could ever have let you join me on the front lines. No more. You will stay here where you are safe."
"Please, I must go!"
"No, you will stay here."
Karina felt panic welling in her chest, the image of Thranduil bleeding from the arrow wound in his chest resurfacing and dominating her thoughts. She did not understand that her increasing panic was only confirming Thranduil's decision. He could feel every emotion, and her irrationality on the issue made him certain he was doing the right thing.
"I cannot be left behind! I will die from worry."
"You will know if anything happens to me. I am told the bond offers that comfort at least." But Karina was not listening. She tried to physical stop Thranduil as he exited his tent, clinging to him frantically.
"Then you must not go either," she said, on the verge of hysterics. She had to stop him. Maybe if neither of them were on the battlefield, neither would face the future she had seen. "Please, stay with me. We will be safe here."
"You know I cannot do that. I must lead my army from the front. This is too important."
"And if you die who will lead them? Someone must be in charge."
"Another reason to keep you here. I am sorry, Karina," he said, supporting her hysterical form as she sobbed desperately, "but I have made my choice. I love you." He kissed her gently, still supporting her by her elbows.
"Please, please…" Karina sobbed, repeating the word over and over as Thranduil held her to his chest for a moment.
"Captain," he called over her head, presumably to a soldier somewhere off to the side. "Will you please take the Princess inside? Do not let her leave for anything." Karina heard it that time.
"Princess?" she choked out, looking up at Thranduil with watery eyes as the Captain approached, waiting for his prince to let go of the weeping elleth in his arms.
"Of course," Thranduil said with a smile. "Can't you feel it?"
Karina felt a surge of love wash over her, stronger than anything she had felt before. She stared at him breathlessly. She had so many questions, but she had no words left to ask them.
"Be safe, my love. I will return to you if I can. If not, you are my successor. My commanders know to follow your orders."
"No, no, this is not right! I have to go with you!"
"No, NO!" Karina screamed as the Captain took her from Thranduil, having to hold her firmly as she struggled to get away. "Thranduil!"
He gave her one last sorrowful look, a wave of love hitting her once more before he turned away. As he turned his back on her, Karina broke down in a sobbing heap, collapsing onto the ground. The captain gently carried her back into the tent, though she hardly noticed. She was inconsolable. Thranduil was going to die.
Karina paced back and forth muttering to herself. She had to get out of here. She had to reach the battlefield. She had no way of knowing when the moment was supposed to happen, her death or Thranduil's, but she knew she could not wait. The longer she waited, the closer they got to the Morannon, and the closer Thranduil got to his death.
She stopped abruptly as she passed behind Thranduil's desk. The answer was so obvious.
"Fool!" she said, cursing herself angrily. Without hesitation, she dropped to her knees and lifted up the edge of the tent. The tent was pulled tight around its posts, but the edge moved just enough that she was able to lie on her stomach and crawl out awkwardly. She immediately rose to her feet, looking around to make sure no one had noticed her exit. Luckily, almost everyone was at the front. She raced away quickly, hoping it would be some time before her guards realized what happened to her.
The sounds of battle could be heard from over a mile away. Screams, the clang of armor and arms; they drew her in like a siren song. She knew the plan. She knew where Thranduil should be. She only hoped she was not too late. There was no fear over what waited for her at the end of the road. Her life was not important. Thranduil was the one that must survive.
Everything was happening the way it had in her vision. She had not bothered to don her armor; she had only taken the time to grab her sword. Though she sensed he still lived, she did not know how long that would last. So she rode into battle in the green gown. Any thought of changing her fate was buried under the waves of absolute dread at the thought of losing Thranduil.
As if drawn to him by some magnetic force, Karina knew where to find Thranduil. She rode as deep into the chaos as she could, her sword in hand, cleaving heads from orcs that dared to try to hinder her progress. But eventually she had to give up the horse. She stood out in the middle of the foot soldiers, and she was drawing fire. If she died now, Thranduil would also surely perish, too. So she dismounted and began carving a path towards him, unperturbed by the black and red stains now peppering her gown as it was torn to shreds. She had but one purpose and nothing else registered in her mind.
Relief flooded her as she finally laid eyes on Thranduil. Yet her relief was short-lived. Though she saw it from a different angle, her nightmare was unfolding right in front of her. The seconds seemed to drag on as the orc pulled back his bow, the arrow aimed at Thranduil's chest as he fought only a few yards away. Karina had no choice. She dashed forward, screaming in rage as she swung wildly at the hated creature.
"Karina!" Thranduil shouted as she connected with the orc's neck, severing his head cleanly, his body crumpling at her feet. She knew what was coming. She turned just enough to meet Thranduil's eyes with resignation before she felt a sharp, searing pain in her back and abdomen. She was on the ground in a moment, gasping for breath as she stared up at the black sky above.
She turned her head to see Thranduil drop to his knees beside her, his face full of anguish, reflecting the emotions she could feel pouring off of him. He had his hand over the wound as he cradled her body in her arms. But she could barely feel it. She knew the arrow had ripped through her, blood dripping down the arrow shaft beneath her. She had seen it. She knew she would not survive.
"No, Karina…why are you here?"
"I had to save you," she said weakly, already feeling weakness taking over. "I could not let you die."
"You were supposed to be safe. You should not have been here at all."
"This was always meant to happen, Thranduil. I was meant to die for you. I am an Adonnen. It was my purpose."
"No, I refuse to believe that. We will find a healer; you will live."
"I am already fading. I know you can feel it. Please, just stay with me until I go."
"You were supposed to live," he said, his tears falling heavily on her face. "You are my wife. You cannot leave me."
"I did not know that I was asking you to be my husband last night, Thranduil. I just wanted to show you I loved you. Before the end. The Valar told me that I had to choose my life or yours. There was only one option I could accept."
"Why would they do this to us? No, you cannot leave me."
"I am sorry Thranduil. I love you. Do not let this break you. Your people need you. There are years of war left ahead before peace reigns again. Do what must be done."
"I cannot do this without you, Karina. Karina? Karina!"
His words went unheard. She was gone.
Karina's head swam. She could feel nothing but the dizziness and dull throbbing of pain throughout her body. Achingly, she tried to open her eyes. But they were so heavy, so unwilling to obey. Distantly, she heard humming, something not natural, not normal. She had to break free of the darkness.
With all her strength, she forced herself to focus on opening her eyes. She felt like she was ripped from the comfort of the dark as she opened her eyes into a blinding light, making her blink and shrink away. So many new sensations assaulted her senses, but they all felt wrong. Dulled. Unnatural.
When her eyes focused, she saw brilliantly white tile ceilings, identically white curtains hanging beside her. They appeared hazy. Her breathing was labored. She realized that something was covering her nose and mouth and with difficulty, she brought her arm up to remove it. Her arm was bare, a needle in her skin at the crook of her elbow, a clamp on her finger. She looked at the foreign objects in wonder. She heard voices nearby, the shuffling of feet, but none of it registered. She was back. She was home. And it made her want to cry tears of anguish.
"Miss Lindstrom, welcome back." She looked around dully at the neatly dressed doctor looking down at her with a clinical smile.
"Mi van me?" (Where am I?) Her voice was raspy. She hated it. The doctor looked at her strangely before speaking in a matter-of-fact voice, ignoring the question.
"You have been in a comma for almost six months now. You were shot on duty and suffered head trauma when you collapsed. You must rest. It will take you time to gain all your functions again." She could not process any of this. She wanted it all to go away. She wanted to escape the confining white sheets tucked tightly around her. She was shaking, uncomfortable in her own skin. It was wrong, so very wrong.
"Are you alright, Miss? Are you in pain?" the doctor asked, noticing how Karina was carefully running her fingers along her form, taking considerable time to massage the tips of her ears. This broke her. She was human again.
"Ni ú-edhel," she lamented, feeling the tears begin to flow down her cheeks. "Ni firen." (I am not an elf/ I am mortal.)
"I do not understand," the doctor said, concerned at her tears and the strange language she was speaking. "Can you understand me?"
"Baw, ú-cheniodh?!" Karina cried loudly. "Ni firen!" (No! You don't understand! I am mortal!)
"Miss, you must calm down."
"Am man theled? (For what purpose?) Amman, Valar? (Why, Valar?) Gi fuion! (I abhor you) Nin gweriantheg! (You betrayed me!) Man I theled cared? (What is the purpose of doing this?)
"Contact the family," the doctor said, addressing a nearby nurse. She had not expected her patient to be so distraught over waking. Nor had she thought a woman from the American Midwest would wake from a comma speaking a language she could not for the life of her recognize. Perhaps the family would be able to help.
"Meleth nín, goheno nin. (My love, forgive me). Le uivelin, herven. (I will always love you, husband.)" she whispered softly, curling up in her bed to cry.