what might have happened to Erna because he didn’t make it in time.

   She had not been at the station, or under the clock tower.
He shouted himself hoarse, as he rode all over town, calling her name and catching a cold at the same time.
He worried that she got caught sneaking out of the house.
Or maybe she got cold feet and decided not to go, or maybe she decided to head to Buford on her own.

   It had been dawn by the time Pavel had given up searching the streets and went round to the Hardy Mansion.
The maid was the one who answered the door, who told Pavel that Miss Hardy was sick in bed and could not come to the door.

   The maid had shot him a wary look and told him not to come back, as Miss Hardy would be laid up for quite some time.
The maid turned back into the house and left Pavel standing on the porch.
He breathed a little easier, knowing that Erna had made it safely back home, but there was something in the way the maid looked at him.

   Pavel sent a letter, but there was no reply, maybe all he had to do was wait for Erna to get better, then when she was ready, she would contact him again.
He hoped that would be the case.
It had been days since the intended run away and there hadn’t been a single whisper of Erna.
Pavel was starting to get worried all over again.

   Something must be wrong.

   Pavel came to this conclusion when the errand boy came back for a third time empty handed.
The atmosphere around the Mansion was still calm, but it was clear that there was something amiss.
He then bumped into Baroness Baden as he was about to set off and conduct his own investigation.

   “Pavel, my dear boy, are you okay?” The Baroness asked.

   She examined him and could see concern on his face.
The face any boy made when they were about to do something foolish.
Pavel looked at the Baroness with a flushed face.

   He had to tell the Baroness, but he had no idea how.
She needed to know what was really going on between Erna and the Viscount, but what’s the point now that Erna is missing? There was no point in piling on yet more sadness on this old woman.
But what if Erna was not really missing?

   “Yes, Baroness, I’m fine.” Pavel said.
His palms felt clammy.

   “It’s okay.
The Baroness reassured him.

   Even during the moment of cowardly evasiveness, Pavel would have to face the truth and at the very least, tell the police officer.




“I’ll give you the money.” 

   Bjorn finally broke the silence that had stood between them for a long moment.
Even though Erna understood the words and their meaning, she stared at him blankly, not entirely sure she did know what the words meant.

   “The money you were going to borrow from Pavel Lore, I will give it to you instead.” Bjorn said, hoping the clear explanation would help.

   Viscount Hardy was a despicable man for using his daughter to clear his debts and decent into poverty.
To make a deal with a young girl, promising to let them keep Baden Mansion in Buford, all so that he could get her to Lechen and sell her off in marriage.
Erna had suffered nothing but hardship since coming to the city

   It was not enough for him to get involved in the affairs of a disgraceful man and his young daughter, but part of Erna’s hardship was his fault.
If he had not crossed paths with the young girl, then none of the rumours would exist.

   It was no revelation that it had all been because of money.
The one thing that he could give her, to help even if just a little.
It felt a little underhanded, but he hoped that if he gave her the money he got from winning the bet over her, maybe that would cancel the dirty feeling.

   “Don’t worry, Miss Hardy, this is not another debt to fall into.” Bjorn said.
He wanted to reassure her that this was not like the time with the Deer Antler Trophy.

   “Your Highness, you would just give me money?” Erna said.

   She looked at Bjorn warily and blushed.
As expected, Erna was a little cautious about excepting money from him, without any thought of returning the favour.

   Bjorn sighed and looked out the window to order his muddled thoughts.
He didn’t want to owe her anything and he didn’t want her to owe him, especially not emotionally.
Emotional debt was especially abhorrent to him.
Erna would be stubborn about taking the money, and with good reason.

   A knock came at the door just as Bjorn turned back to Erna and was about to speak

   “Your highness, its Mrs Fitz.”

   “Come in,” Bjorn sighed.

   Mrs Fitz pushed open the door and came only a little way into the room.
She seemed bewildered and maybe a little flustered, it must be something important.

   “An order from his Majesty, the King, you are to attend him at the palace at once, your highness.”

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