Way too early in the morning, Katherine got called out of bed in a new chamber that was prepared just for this night. It was inside the center building of the palace, where only the royal family was allowed to reside. Yawning, she followed Hazel to a bathing tub filled to the brim with warm rose water. It was a very enjoyable bath in the beginning.
Just when she nearly fell asleep again, five of the maids from the evening before entered and began scrubbing her from head to toe until her skin was all rosy. Rapidly, the sleepiness was driven away. Even her nose and the nooks between her fingers weren't spared. They washed her hair four times in different ways before they were satisfied with the smell and texture.
"Smooth like silk and fluffy like feathers", one sighed while drying it carefully.
From the bathing tube she was led to the dressing table, where they filed and colored her nails, dabbed her skin with fragrant oils, and carefully chose her make-up before she was even allowed to put on a dress. Her complaints that it was rather cold were only heard by Hazel, who hurriedly brought her a blanket.
However, she wasn't allowed to wear the blanket for long as they began dressing her soon. That was when she noticed something wasn't right. "Wait, this isn't the bridal grown I choose."
"Of course, Milady. You don't want to accidentally dirty your bridal grown in the temple, right? This dress is the traditional grown for brides when they ask the goddess for her blessings.", one of the maids explained.
"Ask for her blessings?", Katherine mumbled and rapidly noticed that the customs in the Icelands might be different from those in Dragsa. "Hazel, explain it to me please. What does an Icelandic bride need to do on her wedding day?"
An hour later, Katherine knelt to the feet of a sparkling ice-stature and bowed her head how Hazel told her to. Her breath left white clouds in the air. The insides of the temple were the coldest place Katherine had ever been to and she was shivering. However, that wasn't surprising as it was the temple of Skadi, the goddess of snow and ice.
It was a wonderful place like in a dream, where everything sparkled in the sun that shone through the ice of the roof. The whole temple was kept steady solely by the priestesses, who stood by the side quietly, matching their still surroundings. They seemed peaceful, though they were rumored to be the best archers of the kingdom with their bows out of white horn.
"Goddess Skadi", Katherine whispered. It felt like a sacrilege to raise her voice any higher. This place seemed more holy than the fire temple she visited before. "I wish for your blessings. Please let my marriage be a fruitful one. Help me be a good wife and stand with me and my husband if life turns hard. Goddess Skadi, I wish for your blessings."
Now she had to wait. Hazel didn't tell her what she was waiting for, but she told her that she would know if the time was up. The waiting was essential, it showed her willingness to face the challenges a marriage could bring head on. Katherine was very willing to face these challenges, but it was different for the anger Nathaniel would show on their marriage day. This thought made her shiver even more. Would he even accept her as his wife?
She had wanted to contact him in the night, but she had been kept like a bird in a cage the whole time. Now she hoped he would let her explain herself. Maybe she should make a more personal wish to the goddess, too. Almost inaudible, she moved her lips. "Goddess Skadi, please let him not be too angry. I wish he will forgive me."
Suddenly, she heard a voice behind her. It was familiar but at the same time nearly forgotten like out of a bad dream. "Who are you asking forgiveness of, Lady Katherine? Isn't it way too late for that?"
A shudder swept over Katherine that had nothing to do with the cold anymore. No, this was impossible! He couldn't be here!
Nathaniel wasn't angry. Actually, he still didn't know the plans of the King and was busy greeting all the important people who attended the ceremony. If the King was already there, even he wouldn't be swarmed by as many people as Nathaniel today.
Though the medal ceremony didn't start yet, the rumor how the Earl looked that cooperated with the mysterious mage had already spread. In Nathaniel's case, the description alone sufficed to distinguish him from millions of people. Who else got hair and eyes like his and was in the same age after all?
Nathaniel shook hands left and right. Normally, he wouldn't care about the hundreds of lesser nobles trying to please him and pry into his secrets - "Why is your magical friend not here today, Milord?" "How much power does he really hold?" "Will he enter the military? It would be for the best of this country!" - but today he greeted and talked to every single one of them, not to mention the higher ranked nobles, military generals, and wealthy newly-rich. Why? He had to make a preselection. Who of them knew the ones involved with the organization? Who could also be part of them besides the ones he knew?
The questioning of Lord Orvet had been fruitful. Though he didn't reveal the head of the organization - which indicated trouble - he at least knew some very influential participants. Additionally, there was one information which he himself didn't know was valuable. Together with the gathered evidence, it revealed what Nathaniel had hoped to accomplish: the organization would use this gathering of all the nobles to act today.
However, it was more difficult than anticipated to find their target. Why? Well, because he just couldn't pinpoint their exact motivation. The organization could only be a gathering of ruthless minds that were only focused on science, but then they wouldn't need so many influential people in their rows. With these people at their hands they could also be aiming to rule the kingdom, but that didn't seem to be the case as well.
They never made a political stance. They were neither joining hands with the King nor trying to fight him directly. Yes, he suspected the Queen or maybe the Princess or even Emilian to be a part of it, but the organization didn't seem to be interested in hurriedly pushing them onto the throne as their marionettes.
This strange behavior made him mull over all the recent events once more. Actually, it made no sense for an Icelandic noble to kill the diplomats of the Dragsa kingdom. Most of them knew that they were comparable to laughing apes and treated them as such. Who with a sane mind would be angered by the sounds of apes?
He knew of no noble who was dumb enough to not understand that a war would follow the death of the diplomats. The Iceland's situation was too twisted internally for it to be a fast and easy victory. War wasn't something a sane noble would want for his own territory. And as far as he observed, the panic of the nobles asking for a savior was real. Their anger in search of the murderers was also real.
All in all, it was not the nobles doing. A single noble gained nothing from this. They would only lose their landsmen and gold to the war. Victory was too unsure to gamble on it.
The only party who he could think of as unbound by thoughts about land, territory, and people, who would benefit greatly from the chaos of war, was the organization. In war, who would notice it even if hundreds of people vanished? There were many orphans, many left-alone women that exactly fitted the criterions for their experiments.
So, their aim right now could be to make sure that the war they initiated with the diplomat couple's death really happened. Right now, most nobles of the Icelands were fearful and unwilling. They needed a trigger to make them hate and fight the Dragsa kingdom fervently. And that was where the problem laid: which trigger did they chose? There were just too many possibilities. The easiest one though, would killing an important person of the Icelands by the hands of a Dragsaean. Or at least let it look like a Dragsaean.