Katherine had not taken the window. On her return from the banquet, she had been surprised to find a messenger of Princess Helmina in her chambers. Said messenger told her about a fire outside the city walls, urging her to help the victims. In a bout of confusion, Katherine had told Hazel to let nobody in. If the Earl heard that she used her power on others, she was sure he'd try to stop her like Ethan did all the time.
The messenger led her through a secret passage she herself had no idea existed, before they entered the Princess' carriage at the gate to the second ring. Everything went so fast that Katherine had no time to think. The horror raised by the Earl's words that were so similar to her cousin's had no time to settle. The logical part of her of course knew that the both of them weren't the same, but it was the shock. She was afraid to again love someone that didn't care about other people's life. Someone that was a cold-blooded killer.
After treating the injured for a few hours, she had exhausted herself so much that she fell asleep standing, making another helper jump forward to catch her before she hit the floor. "Careful!"
Katherine woke up again from the shout, just long enough to reach the next chair and drink a glass of water. Then she slept deeply, ignorant of the people streaming in and out of the hospital she was staying at.
Suddenly, someone shook her shoulders. When she blinked her eyes slowly, she saw a Lady with a horse-face. "You have to come with me. There was an accident in the OP. You are the only one who can save them."
Half asleep, Katherine got pulled through several corridors, doors and doors rushing by as they ran deeper into the hospital. In her groggy mind, Katherine had the imagination that they entered a different building. The corridor was so long that she couldn't imagine how it would fit in one building alone.
She got shoved into a tiny operating room, white without windows. The bed in the middle was flooded with blood. A pale woman struggled for breath. Between her thighs stood a doctor with a bloodied bundle in his arms.
As Katherine wanted to rush towards the woman, the horse-faced Lady held her back. "The baby! Treat the baby first!"
Automatically, Katherine turned to the doctor. The skin of the baby was blue under smears of the woman's blood. They laid it into her arms. Her figure started to glow as Katherine called for her innate power. However, when she tried to channel it into the baby's body, there was something that resisted. The baby was barely alive, but something in his body fought against her invasion. It felt like the times she treated the patient.
"Poison!", she called out. "There is poison in it's body!"
But even though she felt that, there were no black veins, no outer signs of the poisoning besides the baby refusing to breathe. A hand clutched her shoulder like a claw. "Fight it! You have to save the baby! Fight for it!"
Katherine gritted her teeth and pushed against the power that had set foot in the infant. She had to at least free his vital points from the poison. However, the more she pushed the power away from the tiny heart beating weakly under her fingertips, the more power seemed to stream in.
It was like fighting against a flood in the middle of the water. All her attempts were useless and only accelerated the spread of the poison inside the baby.
"A cut! Make a cut in the skin! Hurry!", she urged the staff and closed her eyes to concentrate. The power inside the tiny body seemed to multiply by the second. It pushed her outside instead of the opposite. Suddenly, she wasn't able to enter the body anymore.
As she opened her eyes in shock, she saw... a whirlwind of colors. The baby's skin had transformed into a moving painting of saturated colors that were oozing out of it's body like a dreamy haze. Surprised, she nearly let it fall. She wondered if she never woke up, if she was still in a dream. The dizziness brought about by her power use felt very real. Her power was fighting desperately against the haze of colors that kept expanding.
Someone pulled her arms back, just as the colors started to crawl on her skin. The glow of her own magic power was exhausted. However, she couldn't worry about that now. Not when the bundle of colors levitated in the air. At some time, the linings of the baby had vanished, leaving only a blob of colors that expanded like a small nebula in the room. Then, in the middle of the nebula, the colors mixed, turning to black, no, into a hole. Katherine tried hard to keep her lids from falling. Her body leaned weakly against the person behind her, but she couldn't avert her gaze from the spectacle in front. There was something on the other end of the hole. What was this? What -
Suddenly, the expansion stopped. Then, in a fraction of the time it took to form, the colors got sucked into the hole and the hole... vanished on the spot.
"No!", she heard someone scream. "No! We nearly - "
Katherine's brain shut down and her eyes fell close.
With clenched teeth, Nathaniel tried to suppress the panic inside him. Katherine was nowhere to be found. Not at the location of the banquet, not with Lady Brandon, not in any of the Inns inside the city. And no guard or personnel saw her leave the palace.
As his steps neared the throne hall, he hoped for there to be another conclusion. He didn't want to write her name on the list of disappearances. He couldn't lose her. She was essential for his plan, his health, his -
He cut the thought short before it got out of control. Thinking of the consequences destabilized not only his mind, but also his magic. He had to keep calm. He had to think logical.
Like the first time, he didn't knock when he strolled inside. Knocking meant respect, and that king didn't deserve it. Maybe from his subjects, whom he treated like precious glass figures, but not from him.
Unsurprisingly, the king was in a meeting. It was with the Crown Prince alone this time. Their combined gazes of blue and grey made him halt in his step. The irony couldn't help but spill over. "What a peaceful family meeting."
Strolling over, he glanced at the map on the table between them. "The Renat Kingdom? Well, I guess it is the right time for this, decimated as they are. However, my business is more serious than this."
"More serious than a war? I doubt that", The Crown Prince assessed as he rolled up the map. Obviously, he didn't want Nathaniel to see their exact plans.
Nathaniel spared him a glance filled with ridicule. At the state the Renat Kingdom was in right now, it would fall with a little push. That were the kinds of victories his brother specialized in, the ones that were served on a silver platter. They didn't even need much discussion. As for why they were so easy? That was mostly Nathaniel's credit.
Nathaniel turned to the King. "Make your dog leave. I've got no time to play with him."
The Crown Prince stilled in action, while the King glared at Nathaniel. "Don't you speak about him like this!"
"Why? Afraid he can't stomach the truth? That's not my business."
"You two are still brothers!"
"His sister made pretty clear that this isn't the case. And you know they would never stand on opposing sides", Nathaniel rebuked, his voice strain to not scream out loud. There was no time for this discussion!
When the king opened his mouth in response, a sharp noise cut him short. The Crown Prince Emilian had slammed his hand on the table. "Is this really necessary?"
When the opponents looked at him, he continued: "Father, Nathaniel is right. I am not his brother. However", he glared at Nathaniel, "that doesn't mean we shouldn't treat each other with the respect we deserve. Now, excuse me."
The map in hand and with a straight back, Emilian left the throne hall.