Katherine was stunned. How could he be here? Wasn't he dead? She looked all around, but she couldn't see anyone besides the priestesses. Was she having hallucinations or was this part of the bridal ritual? Something artificial?
However, this wasn't funny anymore. With gritted teeth, she decided to ignore it. Even if he was alive, there was no way for him to be here. This had to be a bad joke.
"Is it for your cousin?", the voice asked with a bitter laugher. "Are you begging for forgiveness because you want him to take you back? You really are pathetic."
"I.Am.Not!", Katherine hissed. "I will never forgive him, neither do I need his forgiveness!"
A few priestesses glanced at her curiously. They couldn't hear her conversation but were surprised why she looked so infuriated.
"You are dead, so shut up!", Katherine added in a lower voice.
For a while, there was silence. Relieved, she exhaled. It was only her imagination. Right, Frey couldn't be here. None of the children in the woods lived to this day. Ethan had killed them all.
Though she had never seen their bodies.
The unwelcomed thought made her doubt her own judgement. Why did she trust Ethan's word? Was there not reason to believe he could have lied to her? He did so easily before.
"None of us is dead.", Frey's voice reached her ears once more with a cold breeze of air. "You just left us there alone, but we are still alive."
Katherine's mind began to swirl. Was this possible? Did the children survive? She whole-heartedly wished for it, but that was exactly why she didn't dare trust this voice. It was too good. How could it be real?
"But we won't be alive for long if we don't get help", Frey added. "I'm not like Lily, I know you will forsake us again. Now that you have a comfortable live, why should you leave that behind for a few of orphans?"
Katherine bit her lips. So, they were really blaming her, like the way she once dreamed it. And they were right. She never suspected that Ethan might lie to her again. But before she could trust this voice, she needed a proof. "Because it is the right thing to do. I'm not that blind, impulsive girl anymore. I want to atone for my sins. But you are nothing more than a ghost of my heart, how can I make it up to you?"
"Look at the third bench to the right when you leave this place. Then you will know."
The voice vanished. When Katherine called for him once more, he didn't answer. Despite her heart racing in her chest, she first adjusted her scarf before slowly standing up. She bowed to the stature. Her mind was far away, and she almost forgot to thank the goddess for her kindness.
When she turned, the benches for prayers entered her field of view. Was there really something waiting for her or was this conversation just a test by the goddess?
Slowly, she walked down the aisle. When reaching the third row to the right, her fingers trembled as she slipped an unassuming envelope from the bench into her cloak.
Her back straight, she left the temple. There were too many eyes to open such a problematic letter directly despite her impatience. The carriage bringing her to and fro between the Palace and the temple was a better place.
"Milady? Is something the matter?"
Hazel, who'd waited in the carriage for her since the bride needed to follow the tradition alone, was exasperated when Katherine returned. The Lady's eyes glinted darkly with an anger and hatred she couldn't understand.
"Nothing. Let's go back."
When the carriage started rolling, Katherine took out the letter and read it. Then, in a bout of anger, she ripped it in the middle, ripped and ripped it again, till there were only tiny pieces remaining. She exhaled. "This damn inhuman monster of a man! I wish I could ripp off his head instead!"
Hazel froze like a frightened little mouse. She never heard her Lady curse like this before. Besides the Earl, she couldn't think of another 'him' her Lady would talk about. Was this marriage going up in flames before it even began? Oh no! Her poor Lady! What could she do to help?
"Milady... ", she began.
Katherine rubbed her forehead as if it could calm her anger. However, it didn't help much. "Not now, Hazel."
She needed to think about what she should do. Hearing from Ethan after such a long time, was like ripping open her soul to reawaken all those horrible memories. The children weren't dead. She was obliged to save them, because of moral standings, and for the promise she once gave herself. However, she abhorred following Ethan's instructions even if it was for the children.
What would it bring anyway? Turning into his slave again would not save the children. And he didn't kill them the last time, why should he do it now?
Slowly, she picked up the tiny pieces of the letter one by one with disgust on her face. She collected them in the envelope and closed it again. As soon as she was back, she would burn it to cinders. This should not be read by anyone else.
"Beware", Ethan had written, "someone will try to accuse you of murder. Stay away from the King today, if you want to be safe."
She wondered whose murder she would be accused of. Maybe the Milton's? The diplomat couple's death was a hot topic in the city. However, how should someone blame this on her? She only saw them once. Furthermore, why should she stay away from the King? After yesterday, she couldn't imagine the King being the one to accuse her. Maybe something would happen with the King that changed his decisions.
Anyway, she didn't plan to follow Ethan's instructions. He could be lying again for purposes she didn't know. Maybe she wouldn't be accused, and it was just better for him if she wasn't near the King. Yes of course, if she was near the King, she might have more influence on the whole of the Iceland, which was worse for Ethan. He knew she still wanted revenge.
This had to be it!
Besides, even if Ethan spoke the truth, just for the slim possibility of something happening to the King, it would be more reasonable to stay near him and try to help. She wasn't part of Dragsa anymore, but a soon-to-be woman of the Icelands. She should act like one and stay on the side of her new country.
Her only worry was the children. Ethan didn't write about them, but after what Frey said, she suspected he would punish them for everything she did against him. He might not kill them directly, but she still remembered that he normally treated them worse than livestock. Sometimes, she was the only thing that stood between them and the bridge to the afterlife. With his anger about her added, it could turn into devilish torture.
However, turning into a slave because of them wouldn't help. She was pretty sure that Frey let himself be used as a spokesperson because he didn't want them to be hurt more if he didn't fulfil Ethan's orders. As noble as it may be, that wasn't a solution. It didn't change anything on the children's situation.
No, the only thing that helped against tyrants, was to stand up against them. To use every possibility to bring them to fall, and free those who were throttled by their reign.
If it was bad for Ethan if she stayed near the King, she would do exactly that. If it was at risk of her own safety, so be it. And if it added to her guilt, well, that was the price to pay for victory.