Chapter 10

Robert put up quite a few objections the following day regarding Reeve's job in the Infirmary.

"I can't just stay in here are fret myself silly, Robert." Reeve said decisively. "Obviously Aaron Cord isn't in Rothsburg otherwise we'd all know. The place is a fortress and I'm sure the proper warning systems are in place. There are people relying on me, Robert." Robert nodded and held the door open for her. "So have you heard anything more?"

"No. Just that they're trying to get a few explanations from Samson. He's not co-operating."

"What? Co-operating? Robert he's a child! He's probably scared stiff! Who's speaking to him? Please don't say The King." Reeve said in trepidation.

"No, not yet at least. The guards I presume." Robert nodded.

"Guards?" Reeve asked warily. "Robert, where is he?" Robert exhaled heavily. "He's in the jail? Seriously? You put a ten year old child in the jail-house?" She said angrily.

"Below it actually and no, it wasn't me. He has to be assessed and ... Reeve!" Reeve was marching off towards the jail-house. "Reeve come back here!" Robert strode to catch her up. "Reeve for crying out loud!"

"No! No, Robert. I don't know who's disgusting idea it was to stick him in a damned dungeon but he's ten! No wonder he's not bloody talking. Get out of my way." Tears of sheer rage and revolt were almost blinding her.

"Lady Reeve!" Two office jailers stumbled to their feet. "I don't think this is the place for you."

"I've heard that for twenty years. I want in the dungeons." Reeve half growled.

"Reeve. Shit." Robert came hurtling into the jail-house. "Reeve come on. You don't want to here."

"No I don't but I am. I'm not leaving, Robert. If I can't go in by myself then you'd better arrange it so you can come with me." Robert struggled for words. "If that child has been hurt I'll make sure The King hears of it. Do you think he wants him any more damaged than he already is?"

"I'll hang for this. Let us through, Norris. Two of your own men would be appreciated." Robert told Norris the jailer, who didn't look too sure but did as he was requested.

The ground floor jail cells were bad enough but the cellar dungeons were abysmal. Filthy men were crammed four and five into damp, stone cells and the smell was awful.

"Norris surely the child isn't in with hardened, adult criminals?" Robert whispered and Reeve almost burst into tears at the notion.

"No he's in the end cell. Solitary. We just put him where we were told." Norris deflected the blame.

"Who told you to throw him down here?" Reeve glared at the jailer.

"We were told he had to be kept out of sight, Lady Reeve. The people up there would go wild if they knew who he was." Norris tried to reason. Reeve refused to argue with him, even though she could have thought of at least half a dozen alternative, secure locations.

"Lady Reeve! Over here! Please, just a few words." The voice came from a tunnel off to the right.

"Shut your yap Forbes. She'll not talk to a maggot like you!" Norris shouted.

"Lady Reeve!" This was another voice. "Your King is to execute us." Reeve looked at Robert.

"The patrol squad?" Robert asked Norris who nodded.

"They're to be executed?" Reeve tried not to sound too mortified.

"Good chance of it." Norris shrugged. "What do they expect? King Stephen to be happy when Aaron Cord comes knocking. Where's she ... Robert!" Reeve was on her way down the tunnel.

"For shit's sake." Robert growled, hurrying after her. "What in Torment are you doing?" He quite forgot himself and grabbed Reeve's arm.

"Lady Reeve, please take pity." Forbes was a bloodied mess, as were his five companions, courtesy of their flogging.

"Reeve come on. He's playing on your sympathy." Robert said.

"See the state of us! Bragg isn't going to see the morning. Lady Reeve, we made a mistake and we were punished for it. Don't let your King kill us for a mistake." Forbes pleaded.

"Enough." Robert slammed the bars with his fist. "The King's more likely to kill you for trying to involve his Lady in such an appalling situation. The King's decision is his own, not Lady Reeve's." Robert steered Reeve back up the tunnel. "With respect, Lady Reeve, if you do that again, I'll carry you from here myself."

"But ... "

"Norris, we're leaving." Robert stated.

"No! I won't do it again. I'm sorry. Take me to the boy." Reeve grovelled. Robert looked like he had a headache coming on.

Samson Cord was in a tiny, widowless cell that reeked of waste and damp. The boy himself was curled up against the wall among the filthy scattering of straw on the floor.

"Visitor, brat!" Norris bellowed and Reeve was furious.

"You animal!" She rounded on Norris. "Get back up that bloody tunnel or I'll see you at the bad end of Stephen's cerebral liquification spell."

"What?" Norris laughed nervously. "You can cast spells?"

"Would you like to find out? I'm sure Stephen can rectify the situation if there's any doubt. Clear off, you cruel little weasel." Norris nodded and scampered back up the tunnel. Robert was just looking at Reeve in surprise. "I won't tell if you don't." She winked and Robert just shook his head at this blatant bluff. By now, Samson was watching them, but still hadn't moved. "We can't leave him down here, Robert. He's just a little boy! Samson? Is your name Samson?" Reeve crouched in front of the bars. "I'm Reeve. Have these men hurt you?" Samson just stared at Reeve, then Robert. He seemed to be terrified of Robert. "This is my friend, Robert. He won't hurt you. He looks after me."

"Black ... Black ... " Samson hugged his knees.

"Reeve?" Robert knelt by Reeve. "He thinks I'm Stephen." Reeve was heartbroken. Heartbroken because this little boy was so terrified of one man, fuelled by his father's hatred and Stephen's own manic reputation.

"No, Samson. This is Robert. You don't have to be afraid of him. I know you've heard some very bad things about King Stephen but sometimes things get all twisted. Hey I'm from a village called Grasslot and the herbalist told me that man eating monsters lived in the woods. Sounds a bit silly doesn't it? I was ten and I completely believed her. I had no reason not to. I'd never seen a monster in action so I had no idea what they were capable of. Turned out to be a proper load of old offal." Reeve smiled. "We don't have monsters here, Samson, no matter what you've been told or by whom." Samson glanced along the tunnel and Reeve noticed. "Norris." She said in disgust. "Did the guards tell you Stephen would hurt you?" Samson's eyes were like tankard tops and he nodded slowly. "Seems to be his party piece." Reeve muttered, referring to the patrol squad. "Robert can't we get him out of here? Can you not order that little rat up there to let him out?"

"You know I can't." Robert sighed. "The only person who can release him is ... well you know who." He said quietly as not to scare poor Samson any more than necessary.

"Damn it. Samson? Samson listen to me. Guess what I'm going to do? I'm going to shout at him up there for frightening you like that. The coward. Let's see if he can frighten me. Pfft!" Reeve snorted and Samson uncurled a bit from the wall. "Now don't be scared when I start. Good?" Samson edged forward so he could see along the tunnel. Reeve starting striding up it.

"Hey!" Robert hissed. "No you don't. What are you going to do? You can't order his release either, Reeve and shouting at Norris won't make a scrap of difference."

"Trust me. I used to work in the Town Hall. I know ... stuff." Reeve said vaguely. "Norris!" She barked before Robert could object any further. Norris came grovelling towards her. "The boy needs Physician Alwyn. He's sick."

"He doesn't come here to the likes of these, Lady Reeve. Don't worry yourself." Norris fawned.

"Samson Cord is hardly 'the likes of these' you silly man. If anything happens to him on your watch, I'm sure The King won't thank you for it. Suit yourself."

"You'll never get Alwyn Peters down here!" Norris scoffed.

"So Robert will have to take him to Alwyn, in that case." Reeve reasoned.

"Not a chance. Kid or not, he's prisoner." Norris said stubbornly.

"I can either get a message to Physician Alwyn, or I can get a message to King Stephen. Either will do."

"Well I suppose seeing as you're The King's Lady ... " Norris digested this. "Try the Physician first. If he won't come then you're out of luck, Lady Reeve. I've consented to this, not to you banging heads with King Stephen. Just doing my job."

"Thank you. Oh one more thing. If you or your men give that child so much as a dirty look, then I'll point The King, and the boy's father straight at you." Reeve turned on her heel and marched from the dungeon, then the jail-house.

"I'll wake up in a minute." Robert said in a stupor. "Reeve if the King himself ordered the boy's detainment and you overturn it, he'll go absolutely mad!"

"I can't overturn anything but Alwyn can intervene for politically valuable prisoners. Honestly." Reeve nodded. "Fair enough, we had no prisoners in Grasslot, no prison either, but we were still covered by Rothsburg laws. Me and Mayor Deeks read the lot of them when the Elders wouldn't let Master and Mistress Mist adopt me properly. I'll ... reason with The King. Sort of. Maybe. The first thing is to get that child out of that pit."

Four hours later, Samson Cord was tucked up in a warm bed in one of Reeve's bedrooms. Robert suddenly had to swap posts with Lucas and was now co-ordinating rotas in the smallest, darkest, office in the loneliest corner of Rothsburg. Alwyn declared himself 'infectious' and hid out in the Infirmary. Reeve drank wine for the first time in her whole life, then had another two glasses just for good measure. She was fully expecting to be rendered brain damaged and dumped on Kencaster's steps, but at least she'd tried.

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