The Kidnapping of Katarina 6-1
The Kidnapping of Katarina
Make a bad one good, make a wrong one right
Power of love will keep you home at night
Make a bad one good, make a wrong one right
Power of love will keep you home at night
~ Huey Lewis
The human heart in its perversity finds it hard to escape hatred and revenge. ~ Moses Luzzatto
There was someone knocking on the door.
Leon noticed that before he recalled that this wasn’t his bed. And given the weight of Clarice Fia Atlee lying half-on top of him, that wasn’t a good sign for his wits being at their full sharpness.
Then again, Luxion would probably say that said sharpness wasn’t anything to brag about.
Olivia’s healing magic, and a night of sleep had done wonders for his condition. He honestly felt as if the strains of the previous day had never happened. His left arm was around Clarice, but his right hand was free to rub his eyes, clearing away a little sleepy dust and helping his rusty thinking processes get into motion.
Someone was knocking on the door. It would probably be best for Clarice’s reputation that he wasn’t found here, but at the same time just bolting and leaving her here would be rude, at best.
Maybe someone else would deal with it? Angelica had a maid, did Clarice? She had the contract-servants… except she’d ordered them not to bother her today. Great.
With a sigh, Leon rested his other hand on Clarice’s head and stroked her hair. She mumbled something but didn’t wake.
Well, it was probably safe enough to subvocalize to Luxion then. “Luxion.”
“Did you ever get the drone out of Jilk’s room?”
“Yes master. Thank you for asking.” The AI’s voice dripped sarcasm.
“I don’t suppose you’re anywhere near Lady Atlee’s room?”
“Outside the window, master. It is the easiest place to respond from if you were to be attacked.”
Leon blinked. “Why would anyone attack me?”
“Campus rumours are currently circulating to the effect that you have eloped with Katarina Rafa Claes,” the AI reported matter-of-factly. “I calculate a thirty-two to forty-seven percent probability of violence should you be encountered by her admirers.”
What? Leon had to bite that back, he wasn’t sure he’d have kept it quiet enough not to wake Clarice. He counted to ten in every language he knew - which didn’t take that long, but it at least let his pulse settle down. “I didn’t even elope with the woman I technically slept with last night. Why do they think I’ve done so with Lady Claes?”
“You are the only two students not to return to your rooms last night, master.”
“The concierge of your current companion’s dorm reported her return without mentioning you,” Luxion continued.
Leon rubbed his face again. “Being discreet to cover for Clarice’s reputation?” he wondered. “Or just doesn’t want to admit that she doesn’t know if I left or not?”
The irony was that the two of them hadn’t done anything scandalous. A part of Leon regretted that, for such an opportunity might never come again. Rather a large part of him, being honest.
But at some point last night, after Clarice was done sobbing her heart out, clinginging onto him as if she was afraid that he - like Jilk - would abandon her… at some point in the dark of the night before he fell asleep, Leon had concluded that it was probably for the best.
If sex was going to help Clarice, she would have cured herself long since. Having someone simply be there, so that she could open up to them, was likely going to do more good.
It didn’t leave Leon less frustrated, and the fact that he knew the feeling was immensely selfish made him feel worse, not better.
“I do not claim to understand the thinking of new humans,” the AI told him primly. “Or often of old humans. Cleare has suggested that your eventual offspring may share your desirable genetic traits. Steps towards having offspring would be preferable, however unpleasant it is to find myself agreeing with that AI.”
“Do you know where Katarina is?” Leon asked, not wanting to get into that topic of conversation.
“Based on the transmitter you gave her, she is currently in the noble district. Triangulation strongly supports that she is somewhere within the Berg mansion or the associated grounds, most likely on the second floor.”
“The Berg mansion?” What the hell? That wasn’t supposed to happen until the entire mess with Rafael. “Well, that’s not the worst news then. I think I know what’s going on and she should be safe.” Although… that was based on the same foreknowledge that had led him to believe that she wouldn’t be kidnapped this year - and evidently that had been a mistake.
Is this my fault for setting her up to act? he thought, and then shook his head. This isn’t something done on the spur of the moment - it must have been underway for a while, and I missed it being set up.
The movement must have disturbed Clarice, as his previous murmuring had not. The arm she’d draped across him shifted and he felt her turn her head further. Looking down, Leon saw her eyes blink open, evidently puzzled to find herself sleeping on someone who was wearing a shirt.
“Good morning, angel,” he greeted her chirply.
The redhead’s eyes went wide. “Bartford? Did we… Oh! Oh… oh…” Then she rolled off him, grabbed one of the pillows and pulled it over her face. There was muffled wailing from beneath it.
Leon looked at her, waiting patiently until someone started knocking on the door again. “Clarice, you might want to tone that down before someone thinks you’re being murdered in here.”
She very reluctantly stopped hiding behind the pillow, crimson faced. “I can’t believe this. I bring a boy back to my bed and then spend half the night crying on him.”
“It’s a considerable gesture of trust. I’m touched.” He paused. “Frustrated, I will admit, but touched.”
“Touched?” Clarice asked and then turned towards the door, still being knocked on. “SHUT UP!” she roared at the top of her voice.
The knocking stopped.
“It’s still a form of intimacy,” he pointed out.
“I suppose it is.” She looked down at him. “I don’t want to sound unwelcoming, but can you at least wait outside so I can get changed?”
“I’m not unwilling, but you’re still lying on my left arm,” Leon told her blandly.
Clarice arched herself up on her shoulders and feet so that he could remove his arm. He hadn’t realised she was quite that flexible.
Recovering his jacket and shoes, he stepped out into her living room and closed the door to her bedroom. The window was inviting, but he was careful not to get too close in case someone with sharp eyes spotted him through the glass. If Clarice decided that it was alright to let anyone know where he was, that was fine and he doubted that it would damage his reputation (although almost nobody would believe that the night had been a chaste experience for them).
After a few moments, Clarice joined him. She was wearing the school uniform properly now - the skirt rather longer than had been her custom, the jacket worn - although he could just barely see that she still wore the same choker around her throat.
“Well,” she greeted him. “Shall we face the music together? I don’t know who that is, but if it’s the servants then I’ll just sell their contracts. I left them instructions not to bother me.”
“This may not be about either of us,” Leon observed. He pointed out the window. “Something’s going on. It looks as if there’s a search going on.”
Clarice went to the window. “...you’re right. Wonderful,” she added in a tone that made it clear she considered it anything but.
Nonetheless, she headed for the door. Leon joined her and tried the key. It didn’t turn, or rather, it did but not usefully since the door wasn’t locked. Whoever was knocking hadn’t tried the handle presumably.
With a shrug, Leon pulled the door open and caught a glimpse of the older boy he’d ridden with during yesterday’s race. He still didn’t know his name.
And then someone punched him in the nose. Leon sat down abruptly, as much out of surprise as due to the unexpected pain.
The young man who had punched Leon was apologetic with very little prompting from Clarice. He got quite a bit of prompting from her anyway, because that was not the start to the day that she’d wanted.
James - that was his name, James Fou Basilios, a nephew of Count Basilios and a third year student in the general class - helped Leon set his nose straight. Clarice kept a small medical kit available, so some tape was available that would probably keep it from leaving the younger boy with a crooked nose.
“I’m sorry,” James said again as they left the dorm. “I was worried that Lady Clarice wasn’t responding and I couldn’t think of any good reason for you to be in her room.” He’d explained that Katarina Rafa Claes was missing, which spared Leon from having to explain how he’d learned of that little crisis.
“That’s a remarkable lack of imagination, you’re displaying!” another voice cut in, and Deirdre Fou Roseblade trotted after them, her hair bouncing. “So that’s where you’d disappeared to, Bartford.” She caught hold of Clarice’s arm. “Details, Atlee, I want all of them.”
“Even if there were details, why would I disclose them to you?” the redhead demanded, pulling her arm free.
The blonde didn’t seem inclined to give up. “You’re the one that ditched acting last night so you could sneak off. You’re not going to tell me you knew Claes was up to the role when you cancelled at the last minute? And don’t I deserve to know what I’m in for, once he stops playing coy?”
James gave Leon a suspicious look. As tempting as it was to protest innocence, that would be admitting weakness in front of Dierdre, which was never a good idea.
“I haven’t found there to be anything coy about Leon.” Clarice sounded amused. “And I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise if you ever do have the… privilege.”
“Oooh. Now I’m looking forward to it.”
Leon rolled his eyes.
“Bartford!” Keith rushed out of one of the other dorms, eyes wild. The path was literally rippling under the earth mage’s feet. “Where’s my sister!? Where have you swept her off to!?” Sophia followed behind the flaxen haired boy, looking around eagerly. The light in her eyes seemed to dim a little when she realised that Katarina wasn’t with them.
“When,” Leon asked, “Did I get this reputation as some kind of lothario? First I’m accused of seducing both the ladies I was escorting yesterday, despite the fact I’d been delegated the duty by the rest of the Student Council.” (Although it was stretching a point there, Angelica was part of the student council, not the whole of it). “And now apparently you think I can seduce both Lady Atlee and Lady Claes in one night.”
“Aha!” Deirdre declared loudly, “That’s what I need: another woman to share you with!”
You’re not helping, Leon’s glare told her.
I’m not trying to, the blonde’s toss of her hair answered.
Clarice sighed and patted Leon’s hand. “I knew that the two of us getting out of bed was a mistake.”
“It was your idea.”
Keith and Sophia were both red-faced. “But where is Lady Katarina!” Clarice’s cousin wailed.
“I haven’t seen her since the first act of the play yesterday,” the redhead told the girl patiently. “I was… weary, and Leon did me the favour of escorting me to my room. I would assume that Lady Claes at least finished her part in the play.”
“She was amazing!” Sophia gushed. “But if she’s not with you, where is she?”
“That’s a more reasonable question,” Leon agreed. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you. Who saw her last? James said she was missing, but he didn’t know the details.”
Keith wiped at his face. “She finished the play, there was the curtain call and then she went backstage to get changed out of her costume.”
“The play was a great success, then?”
“Yes,” he said dismissively.
“You both filled your roles well,” Leon told him.
“That’s a bit generous,” Deirdre objected. “He was a cardboard cutout of a character! Gerald had some attitude.”
“That’s what the play calls for,” he explained to her. “Edmond Dantes is supposed to be a puppet who does nothing he’s not pushed into by the villainesses. Keith was supposed to portray an empty shell of a man, because that’s what the play expects of the male cast. If anything, Gerald was over-acting.”
Clarice tilted her head. “Is that why you didn’t take a role?”
“One of the reasons. Anyway, Keith’s sister went backstage. What happened then?”
“We were waiting for her to join us for the after-play party,” Sophia explained. “But she didn’t come. After a while Anne went to look for her...”
“Katarina’s maid,” Leon explained to Clarice.
“How do you know that?” Keith demanded suspiciously.
Leon gave him a put-upon look. “I talk to people? It’s not hard to learn people’s names.”
“And this Anne didn’t find Lady Claes?” asked Clarice.
Sophia shook her head, white hair flying. “Her costume was there, but her own clothes weren’t.”
“No sign of a struggle? She’s a pretty vigorous young woman, if someone tried to drag her away I think she’d have made quite a bit of noise and fuss,” Leon speculated.
“None,” Keith confirmed, his ace worried. “But she’s very careless. Someone could have told her a lie and led her into almost anything.”
Leon nodded slowly. “I see. And I assume the logical places - her rooms, her garden and so forth have been checked?”
Keith nodded sharply. “We checked there, and Prince Gerald’s rooms too. Then we raised the alarm and started a wider search.”
Because of course you thought her fiance might have had her taken to his rooms so he could move ahead with their relationship, Leon thought. And probably said as much right in front of him.
“The academy did a roll call,” Sophia continued. “That’s when we found out that you were missing as well. We could account for everyone else one way or another.” The girl gave Clarice a beady eye.
More students - another search party, Leon assumed - approached them and he saw two familiar faces.
“Leon!” Olivia exclaimed. “Thank goodness you’re alright. Have you found Lady Katarina?”
Clarice groaned. “Leon was with me all night, Miss Campbell. Neither of us had seen Katarina since the play’s first act yesterday.”
The common-born student went wide-eyed. “A-all night? Um...” Her ears went crimson and she covered her mouth with both hands. Scarlet Rafa Ades, standing next to Olivia, gave Leon a curious look.
“Now that’s some endurance!” Deirdre exclaimed.
“Nothing happened,” snapped Clarice irritably. “Stop making it out to be more than it was. I… wasn’t in a good state yesterday. Leon was looking after me, he didn’t take advantage.” She crossed her arms irritably. “I needed someone to hold onto me and let me…”
“Eeeee…” Sophia squealed. “That’s so romantic!”
Scarlet nodded solemnly. “Leon is very supportive. If I had needed such aid after Lord Seberg ended our engagement, I am sure he would have been just as gallant.”
“Another one!?” Keith exclaimed. He threw up his hands. “And you wonder why we think you’re a lothario! Is there any woman you haven’t seduced!”
“Lots of them. Pertinently, your sister.”
Sophia punched the air lightly. “Brother still has a chance!”
Deirdre sighed. “Really, I’m almost disappointed. But on the other hand, that you can resist her charms just makes you even more challenging.” She shook her head. “Anyway, the carriages of guests who hadn’t left yet were checked before they could depart and messengers were sent after those who had. The staff and the student council have been searching ever since.”
“So where in the world is my sister?” Keith wondered. “Without us to look after her, she could be in any sort of danger!”
Katarina Rafa Claes’ first thought was that she was dreaming. Sleeping in a warm, comfortable bed was nothing unusual for her, but waking up without Anne’s intervention? Feh, as if. So she rolled over, pulled the covers and enjoyed the dream. After all, a nice drowsy morning of not being pulled out of bed to be washed, dressed and made-up for the day was something to appreciate.
After dozing long enough that the shadows of the bedroom had moved noticeably, she began to wonder if maybe she wasn’t just dreaming. She never remembered having to worry about bodily functions in a dream, but part of her was definitely suggesting that she needed to get out of bed and take care of a certain something-something.
Oh gosh, was Anne unwell!? The girl sat up, bolt-upright. Was Anne not waking her because she was sick?
Pushing the covers aside, Katarina scrambled out of the bed and rushed for the door, not caring that she wasn’t dressed.
The door failed to be there and she found herself facing a dresser with a tall mirror that she didn’t remember. “Uh…”
Looking around, this didn’t look like her bedroom. In fact, looking down she realised she was wearing a long nightgown rather than her usual and much more practical pyjamas. What was going on?
Brushing her hair back, Katarina winced as her fingers caught on a tangle. Anne was going to have to comb that out carefully or it would tug something awful when Katarina’s long silky hair was brushed. Wait, yes - she’d been looking for Anne.
At least there was a door, it just wasn’t where she’d expected it. The girl strode across to it eagerly, but before she could grasp the handle, it turned on its own. Was it a ghost!? Was Katarina in a haunted bedroom!?
Actually, she realised as it opened, it was a maid. A little taller and more slender than Anne, but dressed in the same maid’s apron and uniform. Hmm. Wasn’t there another maid…?
“Good morning, miss.” The maid took her hand and herded her back towards the mirror. “Let’s get your hair done and then you can bathe before lunch.”
The maid took a comb and started working on Katarina’s hair. No! How insidious! If Katarina pulled away now she’d get her hair tugged on something fierce. “But I have my own maid. Anne takes care of that for me.”
“Yes, she isn’t here right now.” The maid ran her fingers through Katarina’s hair, combing locks that weren’t tangled away from those that were. “My name is Lana and I’ll be taking care of you for now.”
“Oh no! Is Anne alright!?”
“She’s just fine. I’m sure you’ll see her again soon.” Lana started working on the tangles. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, very well.”
Katarina’s stomach began to rumble. Acting was a surprisingly amount of work and she was looking forward to the food at the party after the… Oh! She hadn’t gone to the party after the play was over, Katarina remembered. And if it was the next day… “What’s for breakfast?”
“It’ll be more of lunch, Lady Claes.” Lana patted her reassuringly on the top of her head. “Just a little longer, we’ll take good care of you.”
“It’s just that I don’t think I had supper…” Katarina didn’t see a clock but when she caught a glimpse of the window, the sky was certainly high enough for it to be late in the morning.
What had happened yesterday that she’d missed the party. There was… She frowned in concentration. Right, Lady Clarice hadn’t felt well so Katarina had to step up as her understudy. She’d tried cramming on the script, because she’d tried to study it before - really she had - but there was also so much else going on for the festival that things had gotten ahead of her.
Sophia had coached her on the lines, and Katarina had written prompts on her hand (except they’d smeared and she’d had to wash them off).
And then, out on stage, her mind had just gone completely blank. She was facing Gerald, she knew there were things she was supposed to say but for the life of her she couldn’t remember the lines that Sophia had just gone through with her.
Fortunately, she did remember more or less the story. She’d read the book with Sophia, after all. And even if the exact words didn’t come to mind, there had been a scene back in the game where the villainess Katarina had been stirring up trouble and Olivia had heard her persuading someone to throw something on the heroine’s dress at a party. So Katarina had parroted the lines and hoped that no one would mind. The show must go on, right?
And everyone seemed to like it!
Even Sophia told her that she didn’t mind Katarina not using the script and that Clarice had come backstage to say how pleased she was with Katarina’s acting. Which was really nice of her, and just went to show that however scared Sophia had been, the nice kind girl that they remembered from before was still there.
And so they’d finished out the play, Katarina faking the lines when she couldn’t remember them occasionally. Well, more than occasionally. It was… well it wasn’t quite all of them because there were two scenes that she was barely in and Mary had whispered the short lines to her right when someone was about to give her cue.
But mostly she’d improvised.
And it had worked out alright. There had been lots of applause when the final curtain went down and everyone went out in costume. Gerald had taken her hand and said they could go right to the party, but Keith and Mary insisted that it was better to change out of the costume first, because it was getting late and the costume really wasn’t very warm…
Lana set aside the brush and Katarina let her lead her out of the room and across the hall into the bathroom, where there was a nice warm tub waiting for her.
Katarina used the other facilities and then sank into the warm and relaxing bath. She let Lana soak her hair and played with the cute floating wooden duck - she really liked it, maybe she could get one of her own! - and thought back to what had happened after the play.
She’d gotten the costume off, and then her clothes were mostly on except for doing her corset up. So she’d looked for someone to help with that and there was a nice maid - see, she was right! There had been another maid! Anyway, the cute little maid had done her corset and then led her off to mee the others.
They’d walked out on the academy grounds, away out through the quiet, which was such a relief from the heat inside the hall. But after a while they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Katarina thought that maybe the maid was lost, because they were nearer to her garden than they were to the centre of the academy where she thought the party was to be… but she might have made a mistake.
She’d just been about to ask, as nicely as she could, and then the maid had stopped. Katarina also came to a halt and…
Someone had put a cloth across her mouth! And the next thing Katarina remembered was waking up here.
There was a shock of water hitting her as Lana rinsed Katarina’s hair. “Let’s get you dressed,” the maid said, indicating where Katarina’s clothes from yesterday hung up, looking freshly laundered.
“Oh my gosh! I’ve been kidnapped!”
Lana patted her on the head again. “It’s time to get dressed for lunch, Lady Katarina.”
Katarina’s stomach reminded her that she was hungry so she let Lana help her get into her clothes and followed her downstairs to a dining room.
A young man in a butler’s tail-coated suit, immaculate and handsome, moved a seat back for her and then pushed it in for her. A moment later, another woman arrived and the butler did the same for her. Katarina studied the woman. Was she also a hostage? She was someone Katarina knew, but not very well…
Cee, Sea… Selena! Yes, it was Selena Rafa Berg! Gerald and Alan’s brother Ian’s fiancee! They were both three years older than Katarina and had graduated from the academy at the end of the last year. Mother had shown her the invitations received so that they could all attend the wedding between this term and next term, which sounded ever so romantic.
“Se-” she began, but the other woman raised her empty glass.
The butler opened a bottle of wine and filled the glass, before doing the same for Katarina. Selena sniffed at the contents of the glass, which always seemed silly to Katarina because you drank wine you didn’t inhale it. But she did the same anyway, because Selena had good manners - Katarina’s mother had always pointed her out as a good example to follow when they crossed paths at parties.
Selena sipped her wine and Lana returned - wait, when had she left? - with a little trolley holding plates of food. Katarina tried not to salivate into her glass at the smell of the food.
Both ladies set their glasses down and that meant it was okay to eat now. Katarina grasped the silverware and dug in. Gosh, she needed this!
“I hope that we’re not inconveniencing you too badly, Lady Claes.” Selena was barely eating at all. As Katarina chewed on a big mouthful of potatoes, carrots and pork, she saw that the older girl only sliced a little meat and put it on her fork, but toyed with it before finally putting it down.
“In-” She paused, chewed a bit more. “Inconvenienced?” Oh, this was delicious… Wait, yes. “Oh, the kidnapping.” She cut the half-potato in half again - that looked small enough that she could get it into her mouth. Now soak up some gravy and maybe get some peas onto her fork as well… “Wait, you’re not kidnapped as well?”
Selena covered her mouth with one hand. “Oh, oh no. This is my mansion, Lady Claes.”
“Wait, so you’re the kidnapper?”
Her… well, almost a friend, almost a sister-in-law (although once Gerald found someone he really loved that wouldn’t be the case… What was the word - acquaintance? That sounded right. Her acquaintance nodded with a certain embarrassment visible on her face as Katarina shovelled more food into her mouth. “That is the case, yes.”
Katarina chewed on her food. Wow. She hadn’t expected that. What was the motive? How had they kidnapped her? Wait, no - she’d been there for that. What was the last question… oh, right: motive! Why had they drugged her, brought her to Selena’s mansion, given her a cosy bed to sleep in, bathed her, dressed her and were now serving her a lovely dinner?
Wait, people were kidnapped for ransom!
And Keith said she’d never learn anything useful from romance novels. Showed what he knew. He ought to listen more to his big sister!
A little council of Katarina’s inside her head nodded emphatically and then started squabbling over how much ransom she ought to be worth as Katarina cut some more pork, brow furrowed in concentration.
On the one hand, she was a duke’s daughter and engaged to the brother of another duke. But Selena’s father was Duke Berg so she shouldn’t be hard off for money… unless she needed a huge sum to cover gambling debts or something.
The image of Selena sitting at a green baize table, nervously pushing chips across it as a mish-mash of playing cards lay before her crossed Katarina’s mind.
Wait, no, she shouldn’t get distracted. She’d been wondering about ransoms…
Oh dear, she could just imagine her mother’s face if some extravagant demand was made. ‘It’s too much for that girl, with her poor manners’ she could almost imagine her mother saying in disappointment. ‘We’ll just have to manage with Keith, he’s at least well behaved’.
Poor Keith, to lose his sister because of a kidnapper who asked for too much in ransom!
“Um…” Katarina wiped her mouth with a napkin Lana presented her after the main course was done. The butler had taken Selena’s plate away even though barely half of the contents had been eaten! (Katarina considered asking if she could have the rest, but she was a guest and she remembered her mother lecturing her about that at length when she asked for that once while visiting Mary. “Uh, Selena. How much ransom are you asking for?”
How much would be acceptable? Perhaps if it was only as much as a year of her allowance? Let’s see, multiply by fifty-two…
“Ransom?” Selena looked baffled.
Katarina nodded. “That’s what kidnappings are for, right?”
“Oh my. No, it’s nothing like that. I -”
The butler cleared his throat. “Excuse me, my lady. I believe it is time for you to rest.”
Selena’s face fell into an expression of dull acceptance. “Yes, of course.” She let the man pull her chair back.
“Wait.” Katarina tried to stand, forcing her own chair back. “Selena, I need to ask…”
“Dessert, my lady?” Lana asked, moving another trolley up to the table.
Katarina stared at it. There was flan, there was trifle, there was pie. A jug of cream, a bowl of whipped cream. Lana removed the covers from two serving dishes, revealing cakes. “Th-thank you?”
When she looked back across the table, Selena was gone. The butler was just closing the door behind himself. “Uhm, doesn’t Lady Berg want any dessert?”
“Lady Berg ordered this especially for you,” Lana assured her.
All for her? Katarina couldn’t believe it. Maybe she was dreaming after all! But it would be rude to refuse…
“I… regret… nothing…” Katarina declared, sprawling upon her bed. The bed in her room. The bed in the room she was using in the Berg mansion. The girl cradled her distended stomach. Urgh, this was what happened when Keith wasn’t around to tell her she was eating too much. But it had all tasted so good…
“Please take a little nap,” Lana suggested. “If you don’t feel better soon I’ll get you some indigestion medicine.”
Katarina gave the maid a little wave. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, medicine always tasted foul.
Once Lana was out of the room, Katarina craned her neck up and looked around for spyholes. There were no suspicious knots in the door, and while there were framed pictures on two walls, they were both landscapes rather than portraits that might have eye-holes cunningly disguised as the eyes of the person in the portrait.
Satisfied that she was probably safe, Katarina rolled carefully off the bed and staggered to the window. Looking out through it, she saw that the roofs outside did look like some of the mansions she’d seen around the capital before. So this probably was the Berg Mansion. She could even see the royal castle off in the distance.
If I could just open this window and climb down, I bet I could get across the gardens, she thought. And then there’s just the wall and the gate in the way…
Her stomach made a squeaking sound and she sat down again nervously. She’d just been theorising! Planning! She wasn’t going to try it now, she frantically assured the offended digestive system. All in good time.
After a moment and a warning twinge, her stomach relaxed slightly. No longer immediately fearing a food escape, Katarina laid back down and thought.
Getting down from the window was probably alright. It would mean a bit of climbing, but if she could climb up a tree then climbing down a wall wouldn’t be too bad. And she had lots of bedding, she could even make a rope. The difficulty would be getting past the wall or the gate. And probably past any guards.
Were their guards? Likely. Villains always had henchmen in the novels, and while Selena wasn’t very villain-like, she probably at least knew that much. Assume there were guards.
It would be much easier if she had one of her friends with her. Sophia would probably know a perfect plan from a novel that could be applied here.
Hmm. Maybe if she tried thinking like them…
Katarina folded her hands behind her and looked up at the ceiling. What would Keith do in this situation?
In her mind’s eye, a little Keith waved his hand magically. A golem rose from the earth and helped her brother down from the window. Then they trotted across to the garden, brushing aside guards that were trying to block the golem with their hoes, before the golem lifted Keith up over the wall.
Of course, Katarina couldn’t create golems. All she could do was make an earth bump. That would help her climb down the wall, so that was good. And it would make handholds for climbing over the wall...
But not so much in dealing with guards. Darn.
“A perfectly good plan foiled by the fact it just wouldn’t work,” Katarina muttered to herself.
Alright, so setting aside the Keith method. What would… What would Gerald do in a situation like this?
Katarina considered her fiance, trapped in this room. She considered the entire room on fire…
No, that probably wouldn’t happen. Selena was Ian’s fiancee and Gerald wouldn’t want to upset his brother like that. So no fire. What else would the blackhearted prince do to solve this?
Hmm. Well Gerald was brilliant, so he’d probably work out exactly what Selena was after and then find some small and overlooked flaw that would cause it all to unravel. He’d sit down facing her across the table, smile warmly and then lay out his icy logic, trapping Selena in a predicament so torturous that she’d have no choice but to yield when he presented her with an escape.
Gosh, Gerald was clever.
Katarina clenched her fists. She could do this. All she had to do was figure out why Selena had abducted her! It wasn’t for ransom, so what else was it for?
Several minutes later, Katarina was happily dreaming of her brother and their friends all congratulating her for escaping the kidnappers and throwing her a ‘you missed the after-play party’ party. It was a lovely party, so it was rather a pity that it was all happening inside her head.