Her second day in the medical tent was just as busy as the first. Karina couldn't figure out how, even with several dozen healers, they still had so much work to do preparing for the war. But Duross kept her running around, organizing blankets and bandages and taking notes for him. Much to her surprise, she found herself able to both read and write in the elvish language. Her fingers naturally wrote in the curved script, copying down everything Duross asked her to, her writing far neater than the chicken-scratch she had always used before.
She was exiting the medical tent to go take inventory of the medical herbs in a separate tent when a hand unexpectedly grabbed her elbow, pulling her off to the side. With a gasp, she looked around, her eyes widening in surprise as Thranduil looked down at her, a strange expression on his face.
"Why didn't you tell me you were an Adonnen?" he asked with a frown.
"Keep your voice down," Karina begged nervously, looking around to see if any of the elves nearby had heard the prince. "I was advised not to tell anyone. It's not like it's an easy thing to bring up in conversation."
"You still could have told me. When my father informed me last night of your interview with Gil-galad, I could barely believe him."
"Exactly. Would you have believed me if I told you?" Thranduil's silence answered for him. "I didn't lie to you, Prince Thranduil. I told you my name and origins were strange, which was true, as was the fact that I don't remember anything from more than twenty years ago. When I died in my world, I was only twenty-four."
"Do you realize how important this is?" he asked softly. Karina again noticed that he had failed to let go of her arm while he spoke. "The first of your kind in an age. I can hardly believe I am standing here talking to you."
"Yes, well," Karina said uncomfortably. "I am rather busy at the moment. So if you will excuse me, my lord."
"Hold on a moment," he said, pulling her back towards him as she tried to walk away. "You said you would be more suited to fighting than healing. Did you die in battle in your world?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes," Karina said, meeting his curious eyes. "I was shot while saving a man's life. It is complicated, and I really don't have time to explain it." She tried walking away again, but he pulled her back once more.
"When will you be done for the day?"
"I don't know. Whenever Duross is finished. Why?"
"You truly are fascinating, Lady Karina," Thranduil said, staring into her eyes and making her uncomfortable again. "If you would permit me, I would like to learn about your world. Now that I know your secret, you should be able to answer my questions without worry."
"I don't know," Karina said hesitantly. "That could be a bad idea. I am sure your father does not want you associating with me."
"Why would you say that?"
"Duross suggested I not tell people I am an Adonnen because some may think I was brought here by Sauron as a spy. Aren't you concerned that I am evil?"
"Lady Karina," Thranduil said seriously, "I could never entertain such a possibility. I am certain only the Valar could have brought you here at this time, for their own purpose."
"How can you be certain? What purpose do you think I have here? I was an average police officer in a big city."
"No agent of evil could be so radiantly beautiful," Thranduil said simply, making Karina blush and look away. "And only the Valar know why you were brought here, but I know in my heart it was not for a malevolent purpose. You say you died saving a man's life. That is as good a reason as any to believe you are here as an agent of light."
"Beauty can be used to hide many faults," Karina countered, looking back up at him. "Of which I have many. Though I do not yet know my purpose, even I do not know if I am here for good or evil. But I really must get back to work." She pulled her arm out of Thranduil's grip and started quickly towards the small tent nearby. Thranduil followed her.
"We shall see," Thranduil said. "But no matter your purpose, I will be back this evening. I shall see you then." When Karina turned around as she reached the tent entrance, Thranduil had disappeared, leaving her no room to argue or complain. With a sigh, she entered the tent to complete her task.
"Did you see Prince Thranduil sitting outside?"
"What is he doing here?"
"He was here this morning too."
Karina sighed as she continued with her notes, trying to ignore the healers chattering around her. It was just after dark, and she was finishing up her work for the day. For the last hour or so, it appeared Thranduil had made himself comfortable, sitting outside the medical tent.
"Is he here to see you?" Looking up, Karina noticed Sircil standing beside the desk she was working at, looking down at her curiously.
"Yes, I do believe so," Karina said with a sigh. "He told me this morning he would return this evening."
"What does he want?" Sircil asked, concerned. "He should be in his own camp."
"I am not entirely sure." It wasn't a complete lie. He had said he wanted to hear about her world, but he had said he was going to return before he knew she was an Adonnen. Why he had been so insistent then baffled her.
"I'll go ask." Before Karina could stop her, Sircil exited the tent. Sighing, Karina returned to her writing, only to be interrupted a moment later when the other healer returned.
"He says he just wants to talk to you when you're finished. He insists on waiting outside."
"Very well," Karina said, trying to focus on her work again. She finished up about half an hour later, finding herself easily distracted at the thought of the elven prince waiting outside for her to finish. As she put away her notes and turned off the oil lamp, she stood, shuffling towards the entrance. It took a fraction of a second from the moment she stepped out of the tent before Thranduil was standing next to her, a smile on his face.
"Good evening, my lady," he said, taking her hand and kissing it softly. "How was your day?"
"Busy, as expected," Karina replied, glancing at her hand that was still held in his. "If you don't mind, I would like to grab something to eat before we talk."
"Certainly," Thranduil said, bowing his head and gesturing towards the tent across the way. Karina pulled her hand free from his and made her way towards Himtui, who was roasting chickens on a spit.
"Good evening, Lady Karina. Would you like some dinner?"
"Please," Karina said with a smile. Himtui glanced at Thranduil briefly, but turned to enter the tent behind him. He returned a moment later with a plate of bread and fruit, a bowl of stew perched on the edge.
"Here you are, my dear. Just bring the dishes back when you are done. We will wash them for you."
"Thank you, Himtui," she said, starting back across the path. She sat down along the edge of the healers' tent, curling her legs up under her as Thranduil took a seat beside her.
"So what exactly did you want to know?" she asked, setting her plate on the grass in front of her and looking up at him.
"Everything," he said, shifting on the ground so he could look at her comfortably. "You are from a completely different world than our own. I don't remember what you said you did before you died, but it was a completely new profession to me."
"Oh, I was a police officer. I don't know what the equivalent might be here. I patrolled the city looking for people who broke the law."
"You make a living off of that?" he said, confused. "Are there really that many crimes in your city?"
"There are over two and a half million people in Chicago. And so naturally, there are both good and bad people, and some good people that are forced to do bad things because of their lot in life."
"Two and a half million?" Thranduil said, eyes wide. "In one city? How big is the kingdom?"
"It's not actually a kingdom. It's a democracy. The people choose their own leaders through a complicated voting system, which I personally think is rather flawed."
"How do you know who to pick?"
"That's incredibly complicated to explain," Karina said slowly. She would have to explain television and radio and the internet in order to give him an accurate picture of her world, but that could take days. "We have incredibly fast methods of communication that I am not qualified to explain. The best I can say is that I work in a huge city with a large number of people like me who are out to enforce the law every day and keep people safe. Chicago has a high crime rate, and I died during a shootout among gangs."
"What does that mean?"
"There are a lot of substances that people use that cause them to do terrible things. But because these substances are illegal, there is a lot of money that can be made selling them to people who use them. Gangs often control parts of the city that they sell in, and when gangs fight over territory, it is not uncommon for civilians to get caught in the crossfire. I was saving a young man from getting hit when I was shot in the side." She put her hand over the spot on her ribcage where she had been shot. "It was painful, but I blacked out quickly from the trauma."
"What were you shot with?"
"A bullet. We have weapons far more dangerous than anything you have here. I was shot with a pistol, I think. It's a small weapon that fits in your hand and when you pull a small trigger it shoots tiny pieces of metal at high velocities. The bullet probably ruptured some of my internal organs which caused me to black out."
"So you use these pistols instead of swords and bows and spears?"
"The general term we use is guns, but yes," Karina said, watching Thranduil's awestruck expression as she ate a piece of fruit. Swallowing, she continued. "They are more deadly and more accurate over long distances than any arrow. We have worse weapons, but it would take a very long time to explain them all."
"So this is why you know so much about military strategy. Your society is always at war."
"Yes, I suppose it is, but most people choose to ignore that fact. I joined the police academy because I wanted to become a narcotics agent and try to control the drugs on our streets. I lost a good friend to drugs in college."
"I am sorry, but I do not understand your vocabulary."
"Right, well, I went to the city for my studies, and I had a friend who died because of a substance called heroin. He put too much of it in his body, and it killed him."
"I am sorry," Thranduil repeated soberly. "Your world does not sound as great as I thought it would."
"Chicago is not a very nice place, but there are others that are better. I grew up on a small farm a long way from the city, and that was a calm, peaceful existence. We raised sheep and cattle, and I learned to ride fairly well. I have done some traveling in my time as well. I love the mountains. We have beautiful mountains in my world, though I am sure they are just as beautiful if not more so here."
"When you have to cross them with an army, they become less wonderful," Thranduil said with a smile. "I came across the Misty Mountains with Gil-galad's forces. We only met up with my father's army a few days ago."
"Why were you not with him?"
"I have been living in Lindon, working on my own studies. My father rules the forest to the north, but I had not yet joined him there when the threat of Sauron reached us in the west."
"I think you should tell me more about your world. Not many know I am an Adonnen, so it would be odd asking questions from others. What is Lindon like?"
"It is a beautiful country by the sea," Thranduil said with a smile. "I lived with my kin in the south, Harlond. Gil-galad and the Noldor lived mostly in the north. With the sea to the west, and mountains to the east, it is breathtaking, when you take the time to enjoy it. Great stone halls with wide open courtyards and gardens, music always playing somewhere." Karina couldn't help but smile as she ate, watching his eyes in a far-off world as he spoke wistfully of his home. "I used to love just sitting on my balcony watching the elves walk through the gardens below, the smell of the sea drifting over the buildings and treetops."
"I have never seen the sea," Karina admitted softly. "There is a vast lake beside my city, but it is freshwater, and polluted from all the industry of the last two-hundred years. I can't imagine the beauty of the sea here."
"Perhaps someday you will make it to the sea," Thranduil said, watching her eat slowly. "I do not know if your people have the same longing for the sea as the rest of us, but I know it will tug at your heart all the same."
"If I survive the war, I shall have to make that a priority," Karina said with a smile, offering him half of her bread, which he took with a smile and a soft thank you. "I have always wanted to stand on the shore of the sea, my toes in the sand as the water swirls around my ankles…" She sighed, thinking back to all the pictures she had seen of friends who had been to the beach, or take a cruise across the crystal clear waters in the Caribbean. What she wouldn't have given to see that.
"If we both survive, I will take you there," Thranduil said, leaning back on one hand as he took a bite of bread. Swallowing, he continued. "It would be my honor."
"That is generous of you," Karina said with a gently laugh. Her own laugh sounded strangely melodious to her ears, but she did not think on it much, as she was starting to really enjoy her conversation with Thranduil. "I may have to take you up on that offer, since I certainly do not think I shall be able to get there myself."
"It is settled then," Thranduil said with a grin. "When this war is over, we shall travel over the mountains to Harlond, and I shall show you my city and the sea."
It was strange, but Karina found herself quickly opening up to Thranduil as they sat together under the stars beside the medical tent. She quickly forgot that she was talking to a future king, one she had once or twice wished to join in his woodland kingdom after reading The Hobbit for the first time. Though he wasn't what she imagined, she liked him, especially the easy way he talked to her, not caring about protocol or any of the stuffiness associated with royalty. It was refreshing, feeling like she could be herself. She rarely felt that even in her own world, thanks to the expectations of her when on duty.
She was deep in conversation when Sircil came out of the healers' tent, eyes falling on the two elves chatting nearby.
"Karina, it's late. You should be in bed already. Duross wants us up before dawn tomorrow."
"Alright, Sircil, I'll be in shortly," Karina called back before her eyes returned to Thranduil. "She is right, I should be getting some sleep. As should you, I would guess."
"I am not concerned about it, but if you need sleep, I shall take my leave," Thranduil said, standing and holding out his hand for Karina. She took it, letting him pull her easily to her feet. She bent down and picked up the dishes sitting empty on the ground before starting towards the cooks' tent. Thranduil followed her, waiting outside until she returned from dropping off her dishes.
"Thank you, Lady Karina, for a wonderful conversation," he said, taking her hand and kissing her fingers gently. She just smiled, getting used to his peculiar treatment of her.
"Thank you for your company, Prince Thranduil. It is nice to know that I shall not have to hide who I am from everyone."
"Then I shall be sure to return soon so you do not have to suffer for long," he said with his charming smile firmly in place. "Goodnight, my lady."
"Goodnight my lord," Karina said, watching him depart back through the sea of tents. Entering her own, she found Sircil still up, a concerned look on her face. "What's wrong?" Karina asked, noticing the strange look directed at her.
"I am not sure you should be so friendly with Prince Thranduil," Sircil said softly. "After all, he is a Sindarin prince."
"Which part should I be concerned about?" Karina asked evenly. "The prince part or the Sindarin?"
"I am just afraid you will get too attached," Sircil replied, disregarding the question. "When this war is done, he will return with his father to the forest in the north, and we will return back over the mountains to Lindon."
"What makes you think I will be returning with the army to Lindon?"
"Is that not your home? Do you not have family there? You are Noldor, are you not?"
"No, I do not have family there. I have never even been to Lindon." She avoided the question about being Noldor. She wasn't sure what qualified her to be Noldor, but she was pretty sure being an Adonnen meant she did not actually belong to any of the elven races.
"Well, wherever you end up after the war, I highly doubt King Oropher will be willing to let you return with him to the Greenwood." Karina was no stranger to racism. It was rampant in Chicago's underbelly. However, she had not expected it to be so prominent amongst the elves, especially when it came to their own people.
"Be that as it may, if the prince chooses to come here and sit with me at dinner, I am not going to complain. It is his choice, and I find him to be a pleasant conversationalist."
"Hmm, just be careful," Sircil cautioned, lying down to go to sleep. "I don't want you to get hurt." Karina just shook her head, lying down for the night. Thranduil accepted her even though he knew she was of a completely different race than any he had ever encountered before. That was a good enough for her.