"Well", Sam tried again, "He is searching for the origin of the 'black tower' - how you called it - right now. However, he will go straight to the capital after this, and as we are taking the patient along, he would most likely overtake us even if he starts a whole week later than us. Carriages can never be as fast as a single horse. They need a good road to ride on, and I can't promise that for all the roads to the capital."
Thinking about it, Katherine thought it did sound right. However, there was another thing that irked her interest in his words. "You said before that the mansion won't be safe anymore. Is it because the guards will go with the earl to the capital or is there a direct threat?"
If something like a direct threat existed, there was no doubt the patient would be safer if they left despite his condition. If not, she would make a stance for staying here until he was at least awake. This was not only for him, but she had some leftover business herself. If they left right now, there was a possibility that she might loose contact to the merchants of the Golden Cauldron. She could find them again in the capital, but waiting for their first contact and just telling them would be much simpler and she didn't trust them enough to be sure they wouldn't run away with her gold if they heard nothing of her. Maybe she could even arrange it so that they could meet up on the journey.
"There are many people who want to kill him.", Sam just replied, without disclosing anything else about them. "And with his weakened condition we can't be careful enough."
Katherine sighed. It was a pity she had to leave before she even started to really feel at home here. The only strand of hope was that there would be way more possibilities waiting for her in the capital. Maybe she would not be bound to the earl anymore and find someone else to help with her revenge. Though she was reluctant to look for another possible husband - it would require her to actively pursue someone after all, which was kind of embarrassing for a lady - the hopes of convincing the earl were next to zero. And maybe, she thought, she could get someone with an even higher status to look at her. A marquess, or even a duke.
About seducing a prince, she had no illusions. If they were not engaged at a young age, they generally had many beautiful girls surrounding them, who, even though they might be younger than her by up to three years, most likely knew better how to seduce someone. Katherine knew her own worth: she might be pretty, but was not the greatest beauty alive, and with seventeen she was slowly nearing the boarder to being too old for an unmarried maiden.
"So, are you coming along?", Sam interrupted her thoughts after waiting for an answer for nearly a minute.
Katherine shook her head to chase away the picture of herself in a white wedding dress pleading several faceless man to marry her that somehow arose from her imagination. That would be a nightmare for her. "Ah, yes. Maybe it really is better that way. When do we set out again?"
"Tomorrow at sunrise. I will send more maids to help you pack as this is rather sudden."
It really was, and left Katherine stumped for words. Though she had not enough things that it would cause a problem, she would have preferred an earlier notice just to adjust her mind set. "Good... I... I'll better prepare myself then."
Just when she was about to go, a thought crossed her mind and let her turn back once more. "Just to inform you, Hazel will be coming with me."
With that, she went back to her chamber, leaving Sam heaving a relieved sigh. Without Katherine's approval, everything else was meaningless. There was no hope for the earl to wake up without this headstrong girl. Feeling quite thankful for her existence, Sam closed the door to the infirmary behind her.
Anni and Nina volunteered to help Hazel packing. When the girl heard that they would leave for the capital, she was torn between reluctance to leave her friends - especially the cook - , and excitement to visit such a big city. Contrary to Katherine, she had never been in a big city before, and none was as big as the capital. Though deep down, she was a little bit afraid, she told herself that her goddess would be with her and like this nothing bad could happen to her. Only at the level of writing practice at most.
When Nina and Hazel were occupied in the anteroom, Anni used the opportunity to speak to Lady Katherine. She knew that it was out of her jurisdiction, but like every romantic woman, she was curious how things with the earl progressed after their last date. From what she'd heard so far, she could deduce that there might have been more trouble than predicted, and she was a bit concerned about the girl. Maybe she could help her some more. The girl didn't seem to have any experience in romantic matters.
"Milady", she asked carefully, and showed her a nightgown. She first had to strike a conversation, then talking about other things would come more naturally. "I found a hole in this one. Shall I mend it?"
Katherine looked up. The nightgown was the red one she sewed herself. It spoke miles about her ability that it had a hole already. A wry smile on her lips, she stretched out her had. "Thank you, but this one I'd like to fix myself. Can you get me the small box in my drawer?"
Anni brought it to her and saw her take out a needle and a yarn matching the one of the dress. Her eyes lighting up, she asked her: "Have you sewed it yourself? Is it for some... special event?"
"Special...?", Katherine was confused at first, but then her ears and cheeks slowly turned red. "No! Nothing like this!"
"But it is a beautiful gown.", Anni pointed out, and Katherine wanted to snap at her at first, but when she raised her head, she realized that the older woman didn't look like she was teasing her. There was nothing mischievous or scolding in her eyes, only warm concern. So Katherine just closed her mouth again and focused on mending the gown.
This action didn't escape Anni's eyes, and her expression turned even gentler. "Dear, did something happen lately? Has the earl mistreated you?"
Katherine shook her bowed head, but her ears turned a bright red shade as she remembered the taste of chocolate, and a dark red gaze that wanted to devour her. But then he had fled out of the carriage. Even now, Katherine wanted to hide her face in shame, when she thought about it.
Something was not right, Anni noticed. Though she might be embarrassed sometimes, Lady Katherine had seldom been this taciturn. Following the intuition of a woman, she knew that something went definitely wrong. To lighten the girl's spirits, she said: "In love there are many different path's, but they are rarely straight. Even if a first try doesn't succeed, the most important thing is to never give up. Hindrances will eventually be overcome, and in retrospective you may even notice that they have just been stupid misunderstandings."
She paused, waiting for a response. Nothing. Just as she was about to leave with a sigh - she could not press on an answer after all - she heard Katherine's soft mumble: "I... I don't think it's a misunderstanding."
Gently, Anni placed a supporting hand on Katherine's shoulder. "Misunderstandings don't always look as one. Maybe you can tell me what happened? Outsiders sometimes have a clearer view on things then the people involved."
Katherine thought about it for a few seconds, before agreeing. Slowly and with blushing cheeks, she told Anni the gist of what happened in the carriage.