The symptoms were exactly as Hazel had described them. All seven of them were unconsciousness, sweating and had black veins under their skin. What confused her though, was the location and spreading of the veins. Six people only had few black veins in the abdominal area, while the seventh it was hard to find places, were he hadn't any. Not that she'd seen his whole body herself, but the doctor, an old man with glasses, had described it to her and he had taken off the mans shirt to let her see.
She blushed looking at the bare skin. It wasn't right for a proper lady to see this. Well, she had always been a bit to wild to be a 'proper' lady anyways. And, oh my, he was such a magnificent piece of art.
Starting from his perfect face over all this smooth n.a.k.e.d skin down to his slender h.i.p.s she couldn't find any flaw. Well, maybe he was a bit too thin, but that was all. Somehow the black veins, like a confusing pattern on his slightly pronounced abs, made the fair skin even more attractive. Artistic. Regrettably, they were indications for his nearing death.
"I'm mainly worried about him.", the doctor told her, frowning deeply. "The others still have a few days left, but he seems to be weak to this kind of poison and therefore it is spreading much faster. He could be dying in the next hour and I just can't find the composition they used for the poison!"
"This is the person, the earl wants milady to treat.", the butler chimed in, his gaze even more serious than usual. "He is the gardener. If milady succeeds, you get a horse. However, his lordship told me to remind you, that, well..." he stopped and met her eyes uncomfortably. "He said, there is no place for useless things in his territory. So, you better not fail."
Katherines face darkened. This earl was just haaah, whatever. She didn't have the time to be upset. This poor gardener needed to be treated badly. "I will try my very best.", she said through clenched teeth and set her focus on the man lying on a simple bed.
Maybe the poison feared the wrath of the gods for it had yet to spread to his angelic face. Long pale eyelashes rested on high cheekbones, the skin so white, that she wasn't sure at first, if it glittered on itself or it were just the thin sweat-droplets shining in the morning sun.
Irritated by her own fascination she swept her gaze over his blonde hair, then down the tall figure. Aside from his face there was a little area on his chest which hadn't been attacked by the poison. Coincidentally, it was exactly were the heart resided. This servant had luck in all his misfortune.
Knowing that she had not much experience with poison, she decided to try healing it normally first, although she didn't have much hope to succeed. But the other idea residing in her head was a little drastic. She didn't want to do it before trying all other options.
The doctor was already back to mixing all kinds of ingredients and mumbling to himself, but the butler was still by Katherines side. She knew that he was watching her performance by order of the earl and therefore decided to ignore him.
To minimize the risk of making matters worse, she wanted to start her experiment far away from the most crucial organs. Following this thought, she wanted to take one of his hands, but the butler stopped her.
"It's not proper for a lady to touch a mans n.a.k.e.d chest, isn't it? Can't your magic work without skin contact, milady?"
Katherine blushed even more widely. "Well it can... but only if the distance isn't more than one inch, so it... hardly makes a difference." The butler looked embarrassed. "Is that so? Well, let me get you a pair of gloves at least. We can't demand of milady to touch a mans n.a.k.e.d chest."
Relieved but somehow disappointed at the same time, Katherine nodded. Well, it would be better for her reputation to wear gloves (although not touching the patient at all would be best), but... not getting to touch this delicious skin was regrettably.
What are you thinking, girl!, she reprimand herself and hid her hot face in her hands. Since when am I this shameless?
Sam came back with a pair of white gloves, which reached up to the elbows.
She put them on and tried to muster her professionalism as she took the patients hand. Shiver ran through the arm. Swiftly she looked up just to see the patient still asleep. She heard the butler stepping nearer, most likely to have a better observation point.
Shrugging inside, she activated her power and tried to channel it into the hand between hers. To her surprise, it was harder than usual. Something inside the body seemed to reject her. As she pressed on, that something got pushed back by her slowly. Looking at his hand she realized to her astonishment that the black veins had retreated, leaving his fingers in their original color. That wasn't like the food-poisoning. Exited she thought, maybe she could heal poison, too?
A deep groan got her back to reality. Her patient shivered on the bed, and shocked she saw the veins now reaching over his jaw, slowly painting the slim, but soft lips black. "Oh no.", she whispered, fl.u.s.tered. She hadn't healed the poison but pushed it further into his body.
Biting her red lips, she retracted her power and let go of his hand. This wasn't the right way. But maybe she could use her discovery for something else. Steeling herself for what she needed to do, she took a few deep breaths. "Get me a knife."
Silence behind her. Then: "Excuse me, milady?"
She turned to the butler. "I need a knife. Please get one for me."
The butler hesitated, sweeping his gaze over the man behind her and obviously came to a decision. He nodded curtly, unbuttoned his sleeve and revealed a slender dagger strapped under his arm. Hilt first he held it in front of her.
For a while, Katherine could just stare at this dagger, then up to the nice old man and again at the dagger. Something didn't match here. Only as the old man lifted his brow she couldn't decide, if it was a questioning or mocking gesture did she snap out of it. She would think about this combination later. For now, she grabbed the knife and turned her head again, trying to figure out where to cut him best.
*cough* *cough* "If I may ask, milady, what do you plan on doing with this dagger?"
"Cutting him, of course."
A short pause. "For what purpose would you cut him?"
Annoyed, she rolled her eyes. Didn't he have any trust in her? "I'm trying to kill him, of course. Your lord already bribed me, so could you stop asking stupid questions?"
With that, she concentrated on her task again "Get a bowl."
The butler, although pale like a paper, complied and she positioned the bowl under the elbow of the patient. Taking another deep breath she made a cut at the inside of his arm, then, laying the knife away and putting both hands on his exposed chest, she channeled her healing-power once again. She felt his heart beat rapidly under her fingers but was too focused to be fl.u.s.tered by the intimate contact. This was a matter of life and death.
Slowly, her power spread in his body, pushing against the poison, shoving it inside his arm and black blood gushed out of the slit. Under her constant pushing, it didn't stop, slowly filling the bowl.
After a while, the bowl wasn't half filled, she stopped and used her power to stimulate his blood-reproduction, replacing the lost blood so that he wouldn't die. Then she pushed again.
Like a clockwork she repeated this circle over and over. Pushing, reproducing, pushing, reproducing. In between she began repairing the damage the poison had done to the body, and slowly and steadily realized: this body could not have been poisoned today. The damages were too heavy. Even the bones were affected. By the tempo the poison was operating at, he must have been poisoned for at least a week to reach this stage.
Ending her circle, she closed the wound and stretched her stiff back. They had emptied the bowl two times, but there were still many black veins on the patients' body, although his upper body with the exception of one arm was cleared of them.
She was exhausted and disappointed. This 'servant' was poisoned for an extended period. Nevertheless, they made her belief differently. Had the earl poisoned the other servants to cover for his wish to heal this one? Hopefully not, but she couldn't exclude the possibility. Who was this 'servant'? He wasn't a real servant for sure. To the earl he was someone significant, although maybe not so much for the outside world. Hazel surely would've informed her if there was someone important inside the mansion beside the earl.
Although she hadn't noticed it at first, but after getting alarmed by his state of poisoning, she remembered the feeling of the 'servants' hand. This wasn't the coarse hand of a servant. Instead, he had long and slender fingers, the palm a bit rough, but not enough for doing hard work.
Bending over his face, she was damn sure not to have seen a servant like him inside the mansion. On the other hand, she had yet to see much of the mansion. Maybe he really was a servant. Eyeing him even closer, nearly nose-to-nose, she decided that, no, he didn't look like a normal servant but more like a very personal servant. Did the earl bend in this way? She had only read about this disposition. It would explain why he treated her this coldly and seemed to be repelled by the idea of marrying her.
Standing tall again, she pondered over exposing the earls lie. Maybe accusing him to lie wasn't good for their relationship. However, she wanted to know more about him. How would that be possible without asking? "He isn't a normal servant.", she announced to the butler, probing her theory. "Is he a friend of the earl?"
The butler paused. "You could say that. I am sorry for not informing milady. He likes keeping a low profile."
Of course he likes keeping a low profile if he works in that kind of field, Katherine thought. "I want to discuss new terms with the earl. This wasn't part of the contract. If he wants me to heal this person fully and as you see, doing it would be a huge burden to my body I want something other than the horse."
The butler frowned. "I will relay milady's' request to the earl."
"That's all I ask for. Thank you." She gave him the gloves and left, forcing herself not to take a last look on the patients' exquisite body. Maybe it was because he was the first man, whose chest she had touched, or because he was such a handsome specimen, but now that her professionalism left her, she felt bashful again. Rubbing her fingers together as if trying to rub off the feeling of his skin, her cheeks flushed red.
Hastily, she stopped her actions and sent the guard, who had approached her, a frowning look. "To my chambers." The guard nodded and led the way.