Two days later, the patient was finally out of critical condition. It would have been much faster if casting magic wasn't this exhausting. She had been overly glad that the short time without breath on the first day didn't kill him, but even after that the life signals had been unsteady for a long time when the poison nearly reached the heart or unexpectedly clotted in his veins.
In the last two hours, everything seemed to be calming down finally, so she assumed that the biggest threat was over with. The one thing that worried her though, was that he still didn't wake up. His lungs were working properly and his heartbeat was steady, albeit a bit fast because of the stress to his body. Still, the eyes under the closed lids didn't move once. She didn't know what the reason was, and could only hope and continue her work of pushing the poison out and replacing it with fresh blood where necessary. If she found any injury, she repaired it, but there was strangely little real damage. Only this black poison and the areas where it clotted.
However, from what she deduced, the speed of the poison was way slower then what the quack said. She got a little suspicious. Was that really a doctor? He couldn't even predict the flow of the poison and all he seemed to know was to call for her help whenever something happened. Well, at least he'd learned that, now, after the patient nearly died.
When she had some free time, she searched for the earl. She wanted to talk to him about changing to some real doctor so that she had to worry less.
After looking in his study and passing by the dining hall and his quarters, she got confused. Where was the earl? It was strange enough that he didn't come to see his brother even once, but now he seemed to not be at home at all? What kind of family was he, leaving his dying brother behind?!
Then she remembered about the Renat kingdom. Was there an attack already? But the earl said that they wouldn't reach the mansion... Anxiously, she searched for the only person who knew everything around the mansion other than the earl: Sam. However, the whispers of two servants coming down the corridor stopped her in her tracks.
"A whole army of Renat soldiers - are you sure?!"
"Yes, they said it was a gigantic army! And then, seconds later, there was that black thing in the sky and everyone was gone!"
"That black thing? I saw it, too! It looked like a really, really big tower to the sky!"
"I thought it looked more like a black light falling from the clouds and casting everything in darkness... ", the male servant debated.
"No, no, it didn't come from the clouds! I saw it! It came from the ground like a whirlwind and then it grew bigger and bigger and -" To demonstrate, the woman raised her arms up high. "Then it crashed down like this! Wuuush!"
With a harsh movement, she brought down her arms. "It was really fast!"
"Wait, wait, wait!", Katherine interrupted them, running in front to stop their steps. "The Renat army is already here?! When? Where? What happened?!"
"Milady!", the servants exclaimed surprised, and wanted to bow.
"Cut that", Katherine said impatiently. "I want to know where the Renat army is." What are they doing? What has the earl done to stop them?"
Fl.u.s.tered, the two servants exchanged glances. "Milady...", one of them began. "We don't really know what happened to the army... and we wouldn't dare to ask for the earl's plans..."
"Oh, do you?", Katherine asked and narrowed her eyes. "And what were you talking about just now?"
As she saw how anxious the servants got, she sighed and softened her tone. "Look, I'm not mad at you for gossiping. I just want to know what happens outside. Who is winning? Who is loosing? And what is up with that black thing you mentioned? I didn't see anything like that."
The woman finally calmed down, only showing astonishment instead of fear. "You really didn't see it, milady? It was a black pillar reaching to the sky! Even villages miles away saw it."
"Erm..." good question. Why didn't she see something this big? "Where exactly was it?"
Completely synchronous, they pointed in the same direction. "There!" "Over there! It was three days ago."
Through the big windows of the corridor, she saw the forest in the far, far distance. It was the direction of the village, she thought, but before panic could set in, she remembered about the evacuation the earl had made. So it was this village.
Then she squinted her eyes. Were her eyes betraying her or was there a big earthly-brown patch before the forest? She couldn't recall something like that from her last trip to the village. But even if it was new, it didn't mean anything, right?
She recalled the day and knew instantly, why she didn't see the black tower: on that day she had been playing with Froseti on the backside of the mansion, where the building would have obstructed her sight, and afterwards she had been too occupied with keeping Nathaniel's brother alive to look out the window and see that dark tower. Wait - dark tower? Could it have anything to do with the poisons outbreak? Both were black after all.
She shook her head slightly. No, that was too far a connection. Tough it happened on the same day, it didn't mean that they had anything to do with each other. After all, that thing out there seemed to be gigantic while the other was just a simple - well, maybe not all that simple - poison. If she just knew what caused the outbreak, she could prevent it from happening again...
"So, was that were the Renat army was?", she doubted the words she'd heard earlier. It sounded too much like a fantasy. "Or what was that about that black thing swallowing the army?"
It sounded unbelievable.
The servants exchanged a glance again. "We didn't see it ourselves... but I heard it from someone trustworthy! I heard there were over a hundred thousand soldiers, right here at our doorstep! And then that black thing came and poof! They just vanished into thin air!"
"Laughable", Katherine commented under her breath. Louder she said: "How can they simply vanish? They must have occupied the whole horizon and then disappeared without a trace? What concept is that?!"
The servants gulped when they saw her annoyance. Again, they looked at each other shortly, before they simultaneously issued one word that should be an answer, but sounded more like a question from their mouths. "Magic?"
Katherine held back an unladylike snort. Though she didn't go to the magic academy, she knew a lot about magic. Most of them were connected to the elements. There were mutations like her own magic, but they were exceedingly rare. If the power was like they described, it would be a mutation. But even if there was a magic with a strange black magic power, one mage alone should never be able to form such a big tower. That was too unnatural a power for a single person.
Her worries were not stilled. Was the thing about the army vanishing true? How? And if that black thing existed, was it on their side or some kind of natural power that could threaten the Icelands, too? It could even be something the enemies orchestrated to confuse them... at least Katherine felt now more confused then before she met the servants.
And in all this chaos, where was the earl?