Rob jumped up quickly when he sensed someone standing over him. It was Fenton and he didn't look happy.
"Can I help you?" Rob snapped, bouncing out of bed and pulling down his shirt.
"Stay away from my sister and stay away from my mother. In fact, stay away from Lawlim." Fenton put his hand on his sword hilt.
"Just back up a bit pal." Rob snarled. "I wouldn't mind staying away from Lawlim, believe me. It's doing my head in! Stepney brought me here! How the hell can I stay away from her when she thinks I'm here for a purpose? As for Lady Julia, what do you suggest? Turn down her invitations to dinner? Run away from her? Tell her I don't want anything to do with her? Don't be a moron."
"You shouldn't take such insults from the likes of him." Another voice had Rob looking around for a weapon. He noticed Cripps had scarpered.
"Who in soddery are you? Let me guess, Hersh Rigman?" Rob glowered at the man at the door, dressed in black leggings and tunic, the Lions Crest embroidered into it. "Insults? Look, matey, you are in my room in the middle of the night. You are the intruder here."
"Don't be ridiculous." Hersh laughed. "We're Lawlim and you're in the house of a Lawlim family."
"At the invitation of High Priestess Stepney and Lady Julia. Back of pal, I'm warning you."
"Or you'll scream for my mother?" Fenton smiled in amusement. "I just came to tell you that you aren't universally welcome here and you're no hero."
"Oi! Knob off away from my divine tool, Fenton!" Stepney came striding along the landing still dressed in her day-wear. "Hersh Rigman, how cheery. Go on, naff off, the pair of you."
"It's fine Stepney." Rob felt hysterical. "I'm OK."
"He's not the saviour of Lawlim, Stepney." Fenton loomed over his sister. "He's human. Don't raise his to a level he isn't."
"And how much of that was scripted by him?" Stepney pointed at Hersh. "Do you even realise you're committing blasphemy?" Fenton looked uncertain for the first time. "I didn't say he was the saviour of Lawlim, Dinsen the Wise did." Stepney pushed the point further.
"And what will you do, Lady Stepney?" Hersh drawled, leaning against the door frame. Rob felt like smacking him one right there and then. "Have him sent into the barrier?"
"Not before I chuck you through the bugger first." Stepney glowered at the advisor. "Would you like to discuss the legalities of breaking into a private bedroom with McLintock?"
"Fenton can't be charged with breaking into a room in his own house." Hersh tutted.
"In his own wing of the house." Stepney corrected and Hersh glanced at Fenton. "Did he not tell you? This is a private room in my wing of the house. Lady Julia owns the entire top floor, feel free to go and break in to verify it with her. Sod off before I have you lifted. No, not you Fenton." Fenton nodded his dismissal of Hersh and Stepney kicked the door shut.
"He needs to know his place, Stepney." Fenton indicated Rob.
"I've had enough of this shite!" Rob shouted. "You may be well up in Lawlim society Fenton but I'm not Lawlim, as you keep pointing out. I'm here at Stepney's request and I'm her responsibility, not yours. You certainly don't have the right to try and intimidate me and you don't get to seep into my bloody room when I'm asleep! You weirdo! God I'm sick of this." He sat on the edge of the bed and held his head. "Just go away. I have no idea about anything any more. Just leave me alone."
"Fenton." Stepney left the room and Fenton followed her. "Cripps, sleep out on the landing please."
"Don't be so anal. Cripps can stay in here with me." Rob said. He'd never felt so miserable and dejected in his life.
Rob woke up the next day and sighed wearily when he realised he was still in Lawlim, in his nightie.
"Sir? I have your breakfast. Under the circumstances I thought you prefer this to attending breakfast in the hall." Cripps said awkwardly.
"Thanks Cripps." Rob sat up in bed. "This is madness. I take it you went for Stepney last night."
"She was in the temple. Pardon me for speaking out, sir, but you didn't deserve to be intruded upon like that." Cripps settled the breakfast tray on Rob's lap.
"Well nor did you. You were in here too. I can't get my head round Fenton. He's not stupid but he seems to completely influenced by Hersh. I don't understand how a headstrong bloke like Fenton would be influenced so much." Rob said, buttering his toast.
"I wouldn't know." Cripps said quickly.
"Yes you would. Get on with it, Cripps. I promise I won't have you flogged." Rob rolled his eyes.
"Just gossip sir. Lord Fenton is very much the odd family member out. Lady Stepney has incredibly strong magic, obviously, and both Lady Julia and the Late Lord Robin are also quite strong. Fenton's magic is barely magic at all and it tires him enormously. In that respect, he's closer to human than he is Lawlim."
"I bet he's chuffed about that." Rob said round a mouth full of oats.
"Not exactly, no." Cripps smiled. "I don't think it's that though, not as such. The House of Lions is a very strong family, a ruling family. Both parents and Lady Stepney were tailor made for the position. Fenton had to prove himself elsewhere and he did. His sword skills are unparalleled and he's a very able civic leader. He's learned to live without what most Lawlims take for granted and he's done that so effectively that he finds it easy to trivialise it. Enter Hersh Rigman." Cripps began arranging towels and soap on the bed and also a long, slim blade.
"What's that? A razor?" Rob asked, rubbing his chin.
"McLintock's idea. I'm afraid that aspect of your toilet was overlooked by Stepney, because she doesn't have to concern herself with whiskers, and also by myself. Lawlims aren't noted for their facial hair." Cripps told him. Rob had never really thought about that. He hadn't purposely created his male Lawlims as hairless. "Hersh Rigman." Cripps was clearly enjoying his gossip. "He's regarded by some as an opportunist. He saw Fenton's lack of magic, and the fact that Fenton didn't hold magic in such grand esteem, and he worked on that. The man's an unwavering racist and that's always a useful tool to use on the demoralised."
"Well I still can't bring myself to see Fenton as a complete victim." Rob moved his tray and clutched his shirt while he sidled out of bed.
"He's not, just a bit overshadowed in his opinion. He has far more good qualities than bad, it's just that the bad ones are far more than habits." Cripps took Rob's toiletries into the wash room.
"I'll probably cut my own throat here." Rob eyed the razor warily.
"Allow me." Cripps volunteered. "Don't look so worried, I was trained and this was part of it."
"Do you have a family?" Rob chatted. "I only had my nan and she's been gone for nine years. I wish she was here to help me with all this."
"Nan?" Cripps lathered Rob's chin.
"Grandmother. My mother's mother. Nan looked after me when my mother took off to god knows where. I never knew my father. Nan said he was an arsehole."
"She was probably right. Men don't often try and leave their families here. It tends not to go down well with the Lawlims. I don't think I've ever heard of a mother leaving her family."
"She had alot of problems and those problems don't exist here. I'm not defending her, I'm just saying there are things on my world that don't exist here, and the other way round. I did just fine with my nan." Rob smiled. "Good old Gwennie."
"I agree. My parents are both elderly. They had me late in life, obviously. They can't work as much these days so I help by supporting myself, as well has helping out with their costs too. Fenton got me the job."
"Fenton?" Rob was surprised.
"I told you, he has more good points than bad. All done." Cripps handed Rob the towel to clean his face.
"Not bad at all, Cripps. Thanks." Rob examined his face in the mirror and saw Cripps in the reflection holding a bottle green outfit that was otherwise identical to his blue one. "Is that necessary?" He turned round. "Can't I have trousers like McLintock?"
"Certainly not." Cripps said brusquely. "Lady Julia must have selected these. This is her favourite colour."
"Bah! OK pass them over here." Rob tutted.
"The shade highlights your eyes." Cripps smirked and Rob gave him a dirty look.