The woman in the bed looked pale and was surrounded by four other woman, who had striking resemblance to her.
"My daughters and my wife Melissa.", the merchant introduced her. "This woman by my side is a healer from another caravan. Lina, show her the leg."
With a nod, one of the woman sitting next to the patient lifted the cover till there was a leg to be seen. The tent filled with a strong stench.
There was a long slash on the leg, but that alone wasn't troublesome. The clotted blood and pus as well as the purple color of the surrounding flesh was. Inflammation, although a regular phenomenon of wounds, was one of the many things who couldn't be countered by Katherine's power. She would need to remove the inflamed flesh first. How troublesome.
Heaving a deep sigh, she said: "A regular doctor would need to amputate this leg. You're really lucky that I have some special means. Now, take some alcohol first to lessen the pain."
The mood of the earl was bad today, Sam noticed while bringing in another stack of papers. It wasn't that he was yelling or throwing things around, as such actions would fit neither his status, nor his character. He was just... grumpy. There was no other word for it. His brows were locked together constantly, his jaw clenching from time to time and as for the eyes... their fire was black with gloom.
Although this time of the year was always hard on the earl, he would normally only show it on the day itself, not prior. And even then it wouldn't affect his working mood.
Settling the papers on the table, Sam left without disturbing him. An hour later, he came back with a tray in his hands. On it sat a plate with tiny chocolates, each unique with nuts or fruits in it. The chocolate was a dark and bitter one, as the earl didn't fancy sweet things. Sam originally bought them to lighten the earl's mood tomorrow, but there were enough for two days in store anyway. After settling it down next to the stack of papers, he just left again. A satisfied smile hung on his wrinkled face.
As he was buried in the tax assessments, the earl didn't notice the tray at first. Only when he was through with them and reached for the stack, did he see the chocolates. His furrowed brows smoothed out a bit, and he reached for one, putting it into his mouth before continuing to working.
The purple flesh was removed, leaving the wound in a scary red. As she had bound a cloth tightly around the girls knee there wasn't a big sprout of fresh blood, only a little river.
Her parents still stood beside the bed, hoping to give her mental support. The three sisters had run outside one after the other, their faces green with nausea.
Astonishingly, Hazel hadn't followed them. Maybe because her gaze was fixed on Katherine's face instead of her hands. Now she walked over and dabbed the perspiration on Katherine's forehead with a handkerchief away. Katherine smiled as a thanks and took a breath.
"Wha-What are you going to do now? Will she be able to walk again?", the mother asked anxiously while clutching her husband's arm as a support. The fat merchant was looking gloomy. As someone experienced in thee ways of the world, he knew that a full recovery of his daughter was not to be expected. Not with this kind of wound.
Therefore, he was even more startled, when Katherine replied: "Of course she will be able to. And in no less than a few hours even. Don't worry, she will be completely fine."
"Completely fine?", the merchant repeated disbelievingly. "How can that be?! Even if it won't inflame again, it will take weeks to heal!"
A taunting grin emerged on Katherine's face. "Weeks? Nonsense. I'll do it in an hour."
The merchant snorted, now letting his annoyance show. Was this girl really a doctor? "An hour? Absolutely impossible! The best doctors of the whole kingdom can't do it! Even if we are in a bad shape now, our caravan knows people all around the continent. Treating her in an hour is impossible! Do you think we are fools?"
Feeling offended, Hazel angrily opened her mouth. How dare they question a goddess like that!
Right in time, she saw Katherine sending her a cold stare, silently commanding her not to interfere. Although Hazel didn't understand how her lady could let this offence go, she still sealed her mouth shut. Her lady was a goddess. Whatever she did, she was in the right.
Fixing the merchant with a mocking gaze, Katherine slowly said: "Oh, so you don't believe me? How about a bet then? If I can't fix her in an hour, you'll get all of this as a compensation."
She waved at Pete, who readily gave her a bag as big as her head. When Katherine opened it, gold, silver, and dozens of precious jewels glittered in it. It was nearly all jewelry Katherine owned, most of it left behind by her mother. Counted together it could buy a castle by itself. Not that Katherine would ever give it away. There were too many precious memories attached to those necklaces, bracelets, and earrings shining in the light of the oil-lamps.
Registering the gazes of the merchant and even his teary-eyed wife burning with greed, she carefully set the bag down on a nearby table. While not letting them out of her eyes, she took her purse out of the folds of her skirt, opened it, and slowly poured all the shiny gold coins contained in it on top of the pile of jewelry.
The merchants eyes followed each falling coin, his heart beating louder with each chink when the coins hit the jewelry below, rebounded, and fell down again. He may have seen this much gold before, in the markets, from afar. But never had it been in his reach. And this sound! It was the sound of heaven awaiting him! He held his breath to hear it even clearer.
Jack on the side snickered into his beard as he saw the bald head of the merchant turning bright red with greed. Continue dreaming! This lady of mine is too shrewd to lose her wealth to you!
As Jack had felt her power on his own flesh, he was sure she would succeed in healing the daughter of the merchant in less than an hour. He was just curious what of this caravan was worthy enough to be of interest for the lady. It couldn't really be just them spreading the word, right?
"You can have all of this", Katherine repeated with glittering eyes. She realized that she had fun provoking them until the merchant nearly wanted to jump forward and seize the gold pile right here and now. Maybe she was a little evil deep inside? "If... and only 'if'... you win the bet. However, if I just so happen to be lucky and your daughter is healed in this one hour, you have to pay the price for my service."
She let the words sink in, but the merchant didn't even look up. He seemed to be enchanted by the gold filling up nearly all of the small table.
With a smirk, Katherine continued: "As my price I demand you and your whole caravan to work under me from now on. So, do you want to bet?"
The last question seemed to reach the merchants ears. Reluctantly, he lifted his gaze, still drunken by the large quantity of money here, in his very own camp. Just a few days ago they had lost a large sum fighting against bandits and left many of their carriages behind. Would their misfortune become a lucky chance now?
The throat of the merchant was dry, so when he tried to speak, there was no sound at first. Embarrassed, he cleared his throat and, as that didn't seem to help, grabbed a wine flask from somewhere, pulling out the cork and taking a few mouthfuls. That action alone showed how affected he was, as he simply lost all traces of his normal feigned higher-class behavior.
His wife looked at him with a troubled expression. "Husband... so much money... don't you think...?"
'Don't you think it is strange?', the woman wanted to ask. Her husband, however, cut her words off with a wave of his hand.