"My lady," Corulang said softly, lifting up the tent flap and stepping outside. "The king will see you now."
Karina hesitated for a moment before ducking under Corulang's arm and entering the tent. She paused only a few feet inside, her eyes falling on three very regal looking elves. Perfect, she thought. I get to explain my insanity to all three kings at once.
"Please, sit down," the tallest elf said, gesturing at a seat in front of a large table, which had maps and charts strewn across it. She quickly complied, looking up at the dark haired elf once more. She assumed this was Gil-galad. The one to his right with pale blonde hair and green robes was probably Oropher, King of Greenwood the Great, and the one on the left was probably Amdir. She didn't know much about him, but he had long golden hair and a silver crown on his head. She wasn't sure how she so easily distinguished the other two elven lords, as they looked of similar decent. But she was certain she was right, glancing at each of them in turn before her eyes returned to Gil-galad.
"My captain has told me that you were found on the banks of the Anduin this afternoon with no knowledge of how you arrived there." Unable to form words, a nervousness she hadn't experienced since she first started at the police academy coming forth, Karina just nodded. "And where did you say you were from?"
"Chicago, my lord," she said, finding her voice again.
"Where is that?"
"It is a major city in Illinois, my lord," she replied, knowing instantly that she was talking gibberish to them.
"I have never heard of such a place."
"My lord, if I may speak freely," she said softly, not sure what the protocol was for speaking with an elven king. "I am not from this world. I was shot and possibly killed in my world, and woke up here in a different body. I know this sounds strange and ridiculous, but until a few hours ago, I was human."
"Impossible," King Amdir said, standing and walking closer to her, bending down to look at her closely. Karina felt very uncomfortable being scrutinized so closely by the king, but she let her eyes return to Gil-galad, who was eyeing her with raised eyebrows.
"That is an extraordinary tale, my lady. What did you say your name was?"
"Karina Lindstrom, you majesty," she said, folding her hands tightly in her lap, determinedly not looking at King Amdir, who still continued observing her like a scientific specimen.
"Lady Karina, if you are to be believed, you are of a rare race of elves that have not been seen for an age," King Gil-galad said, sitting down and meeting her eyes. "It has been a very long time indeed since we have seen one of the Adonnen rise from the earth."
"I do not understand," Karina said, feeling lost. "What are Adonnen?"
"Many millennia ago, it was not uncommon for fully grown elves to be born from the earth. That is the origin of the elves, born from the ground by the will of the Valar. However, long after the first elves walked the lands, more elves arrived this way, with knowledge of worlds far beyond our own. They all claimed to have been reincarnated from past lives as men, having died in one world only to be reborn in another. They are called the Adonnen, the Reborn. But their race passed into legend with the end of the First Age. I know of no others since then that have shared your story."
"So I am not the first?" Karina asked, feeling very relieved not to be instantly labeled as a lunatic. "What happened to the others?"
"The Adonnen were always brought to Arda by the Valar for a reason. They had purpose in their lives. Many had visions of what they were supposed to accomplish. Some were to be leaders in battles, others were to bring settlers to a new region of Middle Earth." Gil-galad paused here before continuing. "But upon completing their mission, they all died. Some were meant to die in battle as their mission, others were killed in apparently random events following the completion of their quest."
Karina thought this seemed a bit extreme. So much for immortality among the elves. "Why didn't they just avoid fulfilling their destinies then? Surely if they knew death was coming, they wouldn't go forward with their plans."
"Some that knew their roles tried just that. Their actions inadvertently brought about the exact event that they were needed for, causing their own demise. Those that didn't know just found themselves fulfilling prophecies, not realizing what they were to do until after they had already done it. Most just accepted the fact that they were to die, as they had all died once before and took every day of their new lives as a gift from the Valar."
"So," Karina said slowly. "I was brought here to fulfill a mission, then to die."
"It has been an age since the last Adonnen," Gil-galad said, watching her reaction carefully. "Perhaps you are not bound to the same fate."
"It seems logical," Karina sighed. "How do I discover what my task will be? And how long do I have before I die again?"
"That I cannot say. Only the Valar know your true purpose. I am intrigued. An Adonnen comes to us on the eve of battle against the greatest evil since Morgoth himself. Are you a great warrior?"
"In Chicago, I was a common police officer. I was a good shot with a gun, but—" she noticed the blank looks on the kings' faces and cleared her throat. "Nevermind. I am little more than average in my world."
"Interesting," Gil-galad said, folding his fingers under his chin. "How old were you when you died in your world?"
"Twenty-four," she said, feeling especially tiny as she looked at the elven kings who were all thousands of years her senior.
"Curious. You have no knowledge of why the Valar may have chosen you to be reborn?"
"No, I have no idea. I am not extraordinary."
"I suppose only time will tell what your role will be in this world," Gil-galad said with the air of finality. "In the mean time, we shall find a place for you in camp. Since you are not a warrior, you will stay behind when we face Sauron's forces. Have you any healing experience?"
"Only basic first aid," Karina replied, feeling particularly useless. In this world, she had no useful skills at all.
"Captain Corulang," Gil-galad called loudly, his captain quickly entering with a bow. "Take Lady Karina to the healers. They can train her in the art so she is useful while she stays in the camp."
"Yes, your majesty," Corulang said, gesturing for Karina to follow him out of the tent. She quickly stood, bowing awkwardly to the kings before hurrying after Corulang out of the royal tent.
Karina spent the short walk to the medical tents thinking about what Gil-galad had said. She had learned some good things. She wasn't crazy, and she was part of a plan of some sort. The whole dying part was unfortunate, but no matter what her body looked like, she still felt human, and death was not something she had ever feared. The part that concerned her was that she was now set on a predetermined path, and had no control over the outcome. Whatever her destiny was, she could not avoid it. The Valar, who she recalled vaguely as the gods of this world, had given her a purpose and that was all there was to it. She hoped that she would get a vision soon to give her a direction, at least. Not knowing seemed worse, in a way.
She pulled herself back to the present as Corulang stopped in front of a large white tent, pulling up the flap and gesturing for her to enter. Karina complied, ducking down to enter the large open area, where elves were busy rushing around, seemingly with some direction and purpose.
"Corulang, if you are not injured, I need you to leave," a stern looking elf said, looking up at the captain briefly before his eyes returned to the papers in his hands.
"I am here under the King's orders," Corulang said, ushering Karina forward. "He has asked that you train Lady Karina as a healer."
"I don't have time for new recruits. I have to get everything organized to take out to the battlefield as soon as the King decides he wants to engage the enemy."
"It is non-negotiable, Duross," Corulang said firmly. Duross looked up, his eyes falling on the uncomfortable looking lady in bare feet and simple gown standing in front of him.
"What is so special about the lady that the King wishes to burden me with her when he knows I am extremely busy?"
"Only the King can answer that," Corulang said evenly, not perturbed by the other elf's hostile tone. "But he specifically said she is to learn the art of healing."
"She is going to have plenty of practice soon enough," Duross said, handing his papers to an assistant, who scuttled away quickly. "Do you have any experience, Lady…Karia, was it?"
"Karina," she corrected nervously. "And only the very basics."
"Hmph," Duross said, taking her arm and steering her deeper into the tent. "We shall see. What are you, some highborn lady whose father is close to the king so he is keeping you away from the fighting?"
"No," Karina replied, trotting to keep up with the elf's long strides. "I don't know why the King sent me here. All I know is that he thinks I am one of the Adonnen, or something like that."
Duross stopped abruptly, turning sharply to look at her with his dark brown eyes.
"Adonnen? He said that?"
"Yes. I have only been in this world for a few hours, and I have no idea what is going on."
"This is unprecedented," Duross said, his other work forgotten as he studied her closely. "No wonder he wants you kept out of the fighting. I will train you, but you would do well not to go around advertising that you are an Adonnen. Those that know of that race may not be so welcoming."
"Why is that? I thought the Valar sent the Adonnen to Middle Earth? Surely that is a good thing."
"Not all the Adonnen were sent for benevolent purposes," Duross cautioned, his voice low. "Some were sent by Morgoth, to hinder the forces of light. With the eve of war upon us, some may see you as a spy of Sauron."
"How do you know I am not?" Karina said, incredibly concerned now. What if it was a malevolent being that had brought her to this world?
"We cannot be sure, but I personally do not believe Sauron holds the power to bring Adonnen to this world. He is not as powerful as Morgoth or the Valar, as much as he would like us to think otherwise."
"I hope you are right. I do not want to live as a pawn of the evil that plagues this land." As she said this, Karina frowned. Where had that come from? The new elven part of her apparently wanted her to sound like she was in a Shakespeare play.
"Only time will tell," Duross said, starting forward once more. "In the mean time, I must teach you the art of healing."
Karina spent the next eleven hours running around after Duross, listening to him instruct other elves in healing, and fetching papers and whatever else the elf wanted. It was overwhelming, but Karina found herself easily able to follow his orders, and quickly absorbed the lessons he was giving her. Since the battle had yet to start, there were no elves currently being treated, but Duross was incredible at multitasking, and gave her lectures on various healing techniques as he worked. If she had spent an eleven hour shift on the job in Chicago, she would be looking forward to a bath, pizza and beer for dinner, and then lying down in her warm bed. Now, she hardly felt tired at all. Instead, she felt invigorated, eager to go out and do more, despite the darkness that had fallen over the camp as night fell.
"Am I needed for anything further, my lord?" Karina asked, brushing a lock of hair out of her face as she stood in front of Duross. The elf was scribbling away quickly on his notes, and didn't look up at her as he answered.
"No, that will be all for today. I took the liberty of having one of the healers arrange a bed for you. Sircil will take you there." He waved over a redheaded lady who came over and gently took Karina's arm, leading her out of the medical tent towards a smaller tent nearby.
"Lady Karina, is it?" Sircil asked pleasantly as she walked beside Karina.
"Just Karina, please. I don't much care for titles, not that I have one anyway."
"That is an unusual name," Sircil commented lightly, but didn't push for information, much to Karina's relief. It would be hard to explain her name without explaining she was an Adonnen. "Here we are," Sircil said as they entered the tent. Several other female elves were walking around the tent, apparently getting ready to retire for the night. "This cot by the entrance is yours. I apologize for not having better accommodations, but this is the best we get when we are at war."
"It will be fine," Karina assured her. She had slept in worse spots, after all. Her family had been avid campers and backpackers during her youth.
"I found a spare uniform and nightgown for you so you don't have to stay in that dress." Karina had been given a light pair of shoes, but had not had time to change outfits before being wrapped up in the day's work. "There is a small makeshift bathroom in the back corner if you want to wash up. Do you need anything else?"
"I am a bit hungry," Karina said, realizing she had not actually eaten since she had arrived in this new world. She often went long periods of time without eating, but she was surprised to realize she had not eaten at all that day.
"Of course! Silly me. There is a tent just across the way there," she said, opening the flap and pointing, "That's for the cooks. Since we are too busy with healing chores, we get our own cooks. I am sure if you stop in they will be happy to give you something to eat."
"Thank you, Sircil," Karina said with a smile. She left the other elf in the tent and walked across the path to the tent she had indicated. Opening the flap, she peered in to see a couple elves preparing food on a wooden table. It was quite the elaborate setup for a military entourage.
"Can we help you, my lady?" one of the elves said pleasantly, looking up at her from where he was rolling out dough.
"Um, yes, sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering if you had anything small I could eat for dinner. I haven't eaten since…this morning." She had been about to say since she got here, but thought better about it halfway through her sentence.
"You must be famished, my dear!" the second elf said, coming around the table and wiping his hands on his apron. "Come, come, I will find you something." He gestured for Karina to follow him towards the back corner of the tent, where he started rummaging in barrels and crates for something she could eat. "If you had come earlier we would have had some stew, but I am afraid that has gotten cold. We have some bread and cheese if that will be enough. I can whip something up quickly if you'd like."
"Bread and cheese would be fine," she said quickly, not wanting to interfere with their work.
"I don't believe we have met before," the elf said, pulling out a loaf of bread and a wheel of cheese, taking them over to the table to cut them up for her. "I am Himtui, and this is Lomwin," he said, gesturing towards his companion. "Did you join us from one of the other camps? You do not look Silvan, but perhaps you traveled with them?"
"No, I am from…Rivendell," she said, using the first location name that popped into her head. "I am Karina."
"Karina, hmm?" Himtui said, handing over a chuck of bread and cheese. "That is a strange name. If you are from Rivendell, why did you not travel with the army over the mountains? I would recognize you if you had."
"I was just recently appointed to be a healer," Karina said quickly, her mind racing to find a way to explain her presence. "King Gil-galad requested I be posted there."
"The King himself did?" Himtui asked, his eyebrows rising. "Curious."
"Indeed," she said, desperate to escape now before he asked any more questions. "Well, thank you for the food. I should be going though. Long day."
"Yes, of course," Himtui said with a smile. "Goodnight, my lady."
"Goodnight," she said as she quickly retreated back out the way she had come. She could tell Himtui was suspicious of her story. She needed to think of a better one in case more elves started asking questions. It really was going to be a bother to hide her true story, especially when she no longer remembered much from reading Lord of the Rings when she was younger.
As she stood outside the food tent, she looked around, taking a bite of bread. It was quite delicious, not at all what she was expecting for war food. She remembered all too well the meals she had eaten at the police academy. Not really wanting to go to bed just yet, she looked up at the nearby hills, where she could see fires glowing amongst more tents, figures clearly visible moving around them.
Without really thinking, she started off to the north. She had a vague idea that she wanted to explore the campsite and see who all had joined the fight. If her memory was accurate, there should be dwarves and men nearby, and she thought it would be interesting to see how their camps compared with those of the elves.