As the sun glinted off Thranduil's sword, something clicked within her. Karina felt her feet shift beneath her almost of their own accord, and her hands came up in an arc to block Thranduil's attack. Immediately after the swords scrapped together, her feet moved once more as her body reacted involuntarily, directing a blow at Thranduil's side. He blocked it, but his face was surprised as she rapidly spun away and struck once more towards him from above. Karina was barely conscious of her own movements as she moved rapidly back and forth, her sword meeting Thranduil's in a rapid succession of blows struck on both sides. She only stopped when she found Thranduil's sword aimed at her chest.
As if coming out of a dream, she blinked, her eyes focusing on the prince's astonished expression. Neither of them spoke for a moment, just staring at each other.
"She was holding out on us, I think," Ricyll said, his own voice expressing his surprise and amusement. "Where did that come from?"
"I don't know," Karina said, lowering her sword and looking over at the elves standing to the side, watching her with bemused expressions. "I have never done that before."
"You cannot honestly tell me you have never picked up a sword before," Thranduil said. She turned back to him as he put his sword away. "When I said I expected you to have natural talent, I did not mean that I expected you to be able to spar like that instantly."
"I don't know how to explain it," Karina said, not sure what to do now. She was as astonished as the others at her recent demonstration. "It felt like I wasn't really in control at all. Like some other force had taken over."
"Remarkable," Aradae said softly, his calm dark eyes on Karina. "I do not know whether you are completely mad or not, but there is something special about you, my lady."
"I feel like I'm going mad," Karina said, running her fingers through her hair. "There seems to be so much I don't know about myself."
"Now I am eager to see if you demonstrate the same exceptional skill with a bow," Ricyll said eagerly. "Do you have a bow for her, Thranduil?"
"Indeed I do," he said, pulling one from his bag. He strung it easily and handed it to Karina, taking a quiver from inside and holding it out as well. "I do hope it will be about the right weight for you." Karina pulled it back part way to test the tension. She felt the power in it, but found it fairly easy to pull back.
"I think I shall manage," she said, putting the quiver over her shoulder. A target stood at the far end of the field, and Thranduil ushered her over towards it, positioning her about twenty yards away.
"Whatever you did to tap into your skills before, I suggest you try it again," Thranduil said merrily, stepping back to watch her.
"Feet shoulder width apart, back elbow parallel to the ground, and your left arm slightly bent," Aradae instructed as she pulled an arrow out of her quiver. "Breathe and relax."
Karina closed her eyes, taking a deep breath as she pulled back the bowstring. Releasing the breath, she opened her eyes and took aim.
"Well, if you were aiming at an orc's heart, it still would have done some damage," Ricyll said as he observed the target. The arrow had hit the target, but about six inches below the center.
"It is a good start," Aradae said evenly. "Perhaps your bow is a little light. You seemed to pull it back fairly easily. With a little more power I think it would be more accurate."
"Have her try yours, Aradae," Ricyll said with a grin. "That will give her more power."
"You may try it if you like, my lady," Aradae said, eyes on Karina. "But I think it may be a little too much for you."
"It can't hurt to try," Karina said, curious to see if she had been gifted great strength as well as skills with a sword. Aradae walked away to fetch his bow, quickly bringing it back and handing it to her, as well as one of his own arrows.
Karina instantly knew that no matter what gifts the Valar may have blessed her with, she was never going to pull back Aradae's bow.
"Holy shit. How do you pull this back, Aradae?" She belatedly realized what she had said, blushing lightly. Not that it mattered. There was no elvish word for "shit" so they just looked at her in confusion. She cleared her throat and continued. "I think it would take a team of horses to pull this back."
"Not at all. Allow me." To her surprise, Aradae came up behind her, putting his hand over hers on the bow, and taking her right hand in his, putting her fingers on the bowstring once more. He was standing very close to her as he put his own finger on the bowstring, pulling it back smoothly. Karina was awed at how easily he managed it, standing perfectly still as he aimed around her.
"On three, I will let go," he said softly. "One, two, three." Karina slid her fingers off the bow at the same time as Aradae, and she watched in amazement as the arrow flew straight and true, imbedding itself in the center of the target.
"That was amazing!" she said as Aradae let go and stepped back. "To have that sort of strength and accuracy shooting around me…I am in awe."
"Thank you, my lady," Aradae said with a smile. "There are many in this camp that are of equal or greater skill."
"To think that any force would dare stand against such skill," Karina continued. "Unbelievable."
"It seems your talents, Lady Karina, lie with the sword," Thranduil said, changing the subject and taking her arm, leading her away from the archery range. He spoke a little more tartly than usual, but Karina let it go without comment. "I would very much like the chance to refine your skills."
"Perhaps that would be wise," she admitted. It would be beneficial to learn to tap into her hidden skills quickly and easily if she were to set foot on a battlefield. "What would you like me to do?"
Several hours of sword practice left Karina tired but happy. By the end, she found herself easily able to let go of her conscious thoughts and get lost in the battle. Her movements were still rather rough, not nearly as refined and fluid as Thranduil or Ricyll, but she was getting quicker. The exercise had relaxed her mind as well, giving her relief from the pent up stress she had undergone the last few days in Duross's rapid healing lessons.
"You continue to amaze me, my lady," Thranduil said as he finished putting away all the gear he had brought. Ricyll and Aradae had departed some time ago to return to their duties, leaving Thranduil and Karina alone. Several other elves had come to use the space at various times, but they had largely been left alone except for brief greetings and farewells.
"You cannot be more amazed than I am," Karina said, standing beside him as he finished. "As I said before, I am a fair shot with a gun, but never have I had such immediate skill on anything. I have always had to work hard to reach such a level."
"It is clear that the Valar intended for you to fight during this war at some point," Thranduil observed, his eyes meeting hers as he stood. "If you were only to stay in the camp, then you would most likely have been gifted with more knowledge on healing."
"Whatever their intent, I do not much look forward to being in a battle," Karina admitted. "I have seen death before and I would rather avoid seeing the havoc that comes along with a full scale assault."
"Wise words, my lady," Thranduil said solemnly. "If only we could all avoid such evils."
"In these dark times those that have the strength and will must stand together to defend the good in this world, I suppose," Karina mused. She was starting to sound like a hero in a movie, quoting the major plot point or theme. The phrase "With great power comes great responsibility," came to mind. Though some of Gandalf's speeches from Lord of the Rings seemed far more appropriate.
"Where is Gandalf?" she mused aloud. "I would have thought he would be here."
"Who?" Thranduil asked, puzzled.
"Nevermind," she said quickly. She did not remember much about Gandalf's origin, but surely he would have made himself known if he was around. If Thranduil didn't know who he was, then it was best not to bring him up again. "I owe you a great deal of thanks, Prince Thranduil, for taking the time to hone my skills, and for unlocking them in the first place."
"It has been my pleasure," he said, taking her hand and kissing it before placing it at the crook of his elbow. He started back into the sea of tents, his bag on his back and Karina on his arm. "Truly. I find every moment spent with you is well worth it."
"You are far too kind to me. If there is anything I can ever do for you, please let me know."
"Once the battle starts, I may need your healing skills. Then we shall be even."
"I certainly hope that is not the case. I fear I am still very inept and have yet to actual treat anyone."
"You shall learn quickly. There is no one I would rather trust my life with."
"A very misguided thought considering what you know of me," Karina countered. "I do hope that I do not have to hold your life in my hands someday. I do believe I would crack under the pressure."
"And let me die? Never. You will prove yourself soon enough."
"I do not know where your faith in me comes from, my lord, but I do appreciate it, though I think it is a bit premature. You still know so very little about me."
"I know all I need to know," he said with a smile down at her. "You are kind, gentle, intelligent, hardworking, and not afraid to speak your mind. The fact that all this comes wrapped up in such a beautiful exterior does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for getting to know you."
Karina wasn't sure if she should be offended by this last statement or not. It sounded a bit cheeky and would have caused her to punch a man for using it in her world. But Thranduil sounded genuine as he said it, and after all he had done for her, she felt clocking him upside the head would not be the best move. She settled with simply saying, "You are too kind, my lord."
"Thranduil! What are you doing here?" Thranduil and Karina paused, turning to the speaker. The former looked confused, while the latter turned pale at the sight of King Oropher walking regally towards them, two guards trailing behind.
"I was just practicing the sword, Father. I do believe you already have met Lady Karina."
"I have," Oropher said, peering down his nose at the lady in front of him, who curtseyed as best she could with her hand still held firmly on Thranduil's arm for support. She was feeling a bit lightheaded. "Has she also been working with the sword?"
"Yes, your majesty," Karina said quickly, fighting to meet his eyes. "Prince Thranduil has been teaching me the art in case I am forced to defend myself."
"Let us hope that need does not arise," Oropher said, his gaze shifting to Thranduil again. "We have plans to discuss. Return Lady Karina to where she belongs quickly and meet me in my tent."
"Yes sir," Thranduil said as Oropher began striding away with his guards.
"I have a feeling he is going to have some strong words with you when you get back," Karina said worriedly. Thranduil just shrugged.
"He always does. He will rant for a while about Gil-galad's plans and then grudgingly agree that they are the best method for moving forward."
"That is not what I meant."
"What did you mean? The fact that he caught me walking arm in arm with an Adonnen?"
"Well, yes," Karina said uncomfortably.
"He is already aware of what I have been doing in this camp," Thranduil assured her. "Though he has spoken to me about it—frequently—he has agreed that perhaps your purpose here is somehow connected with me. After all, it seemed like fate that you almost ran me over the night you wandered into our camp. Fate that no sooner had I arrived back to my quarters that my father comes and informs me that the lady I just escorted home was in fact of the ancient race of the Adonnen. I think that perhaps I am here to help you achieve what you were sent here for."
"And he does not think I was sent specifically to kill you? Or to use you to get to him or King Gil-galad?"
"He suggested the possibility, but it was clear he did not believe it. He and I agree that only the Valar have the power to bring an Adonnen here after an age of absence. When you spoke with Gil-galad, my father saw the truth in your eyes when you explained who you were. He agrees that you are an Adonnen and not merely mad, and that you have some important role to play in the coming war."
"That is a heavy burden for me to bear when I do not even know what that role is," Karina said with a sigh. "King Gil-galad informed me that some of the earlier Adonnen received visions of their purpose. I have had no such guidance and feel lost at the prospect of being controlled by a destiny I do not understand."
"We shall figure it out together," Thranduil reassured her, his warm hand on hers giving her great comfort as she thought about how alone she was. She may be the only Adonnen, but at least now, she was not truly alone. And slowly, she was figuring out her destiny. Today had proved that. Battle was in her future somewhere. It was only a matter of time before she knew her own eyes would take in the carnage of war.