"Lady Reeve." Robert tapped on the door while Reeve was dozing on the couch.
"Come in Robert, I'm awake." Reeve called.
"Lady Reeve." Gretchen pushed past Robert. "Haven't you gone up in the world?"
"What do you want Gretchen. I have things to do." Reeve wondered how she'd ever let this hag bully her.
"It's Ellen. She's sick and she's asking for you." Gretchen sniffed. Reeve was panic stricken.
"Where is she? What happened?" Reeve ran for the door. "Robert, stay with the child. Lucas will be here in five minutes. I'll be downstairs. Gretchen?"
"Imperial guards too! Well well well." Gretchen sniped as they hurried down the hallway and towards the servant's stairs.
"Gretchen! For Torment's sake woman! Save it for another time. What happened?" Reeve pushed open the kitchen door to find the room empty.
"She collapsed in the Orchard. Silly old wench is at no age for fruit picking." Gretchen sat at the table and took out her ledger. Reeve looked at her in disgust and ran out of the back door.
"Ellen! Ellen where are you. It's Reeve." Reeve looked along the rows of fruit trees. "Ellen? Shit I bet you're unconscious. I'll bludgeon Gretchen Carter. Ellen!" She ran to the end of one row and rounded the corner. The last thing she felt before the blackness was searing pain at the back of her head, and blood trickling down her neck.
When she did wake up, Reeve was bound and in the back of a very fast moving cart. Two men were driving it and Gretchen was sitting on cushions in the back with her.
"What in Torment is this crap Gretchen!" Reeve wriggled and tried to free her hands. "Who are those men? Gretchen! What the shit is going on?" Gretchen cracked her over the arm with the birch. "You mouldy old relic!" That earned her another lash.
"I've missed this." Gretchen smiled viciously. "I'm taking you home Reeve! You should be happy!"
"Home? To Grasslot?" Reeve asked in confusion.
"Oh your dirty villagers aren't there now. Sorcerer Cord thought it would be a sentimental camp." Gretchen laughed. "Isn't that sweet of him?"
"You're working for Aaron Cord?" Reeve said in shock. "Gretchen! Why?"
"I like to choose the winning side." Gretchen shrugged. "Oh Ellen is fine by the way. It's her day off."
"So is he in Grasslot? You're taking me to him?" Reeve was terrified.
"He thought you'd come in useful, seeing as King Stephen kidnapped his son."
"That's not what happened and you know it!" Reeve still managed to snap. "So what am I? Hostage? Bait? I think you've overestimated my position, Gretchen." She sincerely hoped that was the case. 'The most valuable reeve in the realm.'
"Not me, Aaron Cord. You'll always be a reeve slut as far as I'm concerned. We're far enough away from Rothsburg now for those two Sorcerers to spellcast. Take a tip and keep your cheap mouth shut." Gretchen went to sit with the two men.
Lucas came out of the Infirmary shaking his head. Robert was, by now, getting worried. The King wanted Reeve and they couldn't find her. Stephen had be informed and they'd been told to 'kick her arse all the way upstairs.'
"Dungeons?" Lucas suggested.
"Marriot already checked but I doubt she's go there anyway. No need to. She left with Gretchen Carter because Ellen Brown was asking for her. Apparently Ellen wasn't feeling well."
"Well she's not below stairs, not anywhere." Lucas said.
"She's not in the Castle grounds or the immediate area. She doesn't know her way round the City, does she?" Marriot asked and Robert sighed and shook his head. "Do I get word out to the local Watches? Rothsburg is a big place."
"We'd better report to The King first and see what he advises." Robert looked like that was last thing he wanted to do.
"So you haven't found her?" Stephen met the Guards in the hallway and immediately started bellowing. "I do not need this shit! Look again and get the Watch on the job. I'll do my own checking. Skar!" He stormed out of the Castle and Skar followed him. The Scryer in the out building was still set up and still very functional. Stephen removed it's cover and frowned in concentration. Skar watched him intently. He knew how taxing this was even though he couldn't do it himself. The Scryer remained a dull grey colour. "Blast and bugger it." Stephen began spellcasting and Skar had to move in when he started swaying on the spot. "Damn it! Damn and pox to it!" He kicked the whole Scryer over and hurled the unlit lantern against the wall. "She's out of range, Skar."
"Out of range?" Skar repeated in surprise. "Well how far was the range? She has to be somewhere, Stephen."
"She's not in Rothsburg." Stephen took a kick at the upturned Scryer. "Blocks. Blocks." He muttered to himself. "What could block this? Certainly not Reeve and there's no one in the realm could magically screen one of my links. Running salt water, possibly." He looked at Skar.
"We have no natural salt water here. The river is fresh water and so are the water supplies. Anything else?"
"Heat by flame but it would have to be incredibly hot. Hotter than furnaces and forges. I'm talking volcanic lava hot and we've none of those either." Stephen snapped. "Underground natural rock. Did Robert check that crap hole of a dungeon? If I find out she's been there again I'll lock her in the damned place."
"Checked but I'll get word to the Watch to check other cellars." Skar nodded.
"Domestic ones too. Where the Torment is she?" Stephen opened the outbuilding door and locked it after Skar. "Do you think she's in Rothsburg? In some bugger's cellar? We'll check anyway but I'll need to organise search parties."
"Don't you flip out here, but did you fight with her after Erin and I left? You're quite frightening when you start." Skar asked warily.
"It was probably the only time we didn't fight." Stephen stopped sat on a wall outside the Infirmary. "No fighting and no arguing. Skar I was going to ask her ... "
"Sir! King Stephen, Sir." Guard Toze trotted towards them. "I've been looking for you, Sir. You have a visitor."
"If it's not Lady Reeve then I don't want to know." Stephen set off for the Castle.
"Sir it's Lord Lisle!" Toze called afer him and Stephen turned round. "Lord Lisle, Sir. He's in the library."
"Shit!" Stephen shouted. "Anything else, anyone?" He yelled to the population in general. "Come on Skar. You, go for Lady Erin." He ordered Toze.
Paul Lisle was easily the same size as The King, despite his advancing years. The man's appearance, took the Mages and Stephen by surprise. He was clearly exhausted and covered in dust and grime.
"Lord Lisle." The King motioned for the Lord to stay seated. "You look a tad worn."
"I've rode for a week solid to get here, Sir. I bribed Lothi's Mage to get me to Stonefield through the Rift and I've been on horseback ever since. I know it's illegal to abuse the Rift and I'll take what I get for that." Lord Lisle stopped and wiped his forehead.
"What necessitated this urgency?" Stephen asked while a tiny voice in his was already telling him the answer.
"My grandson is here with you." Lord Lisle looked at Stephen. "Aaron Cord's son is my grandson."
"I know." Stephen leant against the edge of the table. "The fact that he volunteered this information to my Lady should tell you that he wasn't taken maliciously and he's received no hostility here."
"I knew the rumours of kidnap were all rot, perpetrated mainly by the Sorcerers. So you believe me? He is my grandson."
"I believe you I just don't understand how. Obviously your daughter was in union with Cord but I don't understand how that could have come about or how you can deny being in contact with the snug little trio for a decade." Stephen asked calmly.
"Quite simple, Sir. Cord abducted Elise, like he did with so any others. Once he got her to the Flatlands, I'd all but lost her. She managed to get a letter to me five years ago telling me I had a grandson. I was delighted at first,more because she was still alive. Then the reality kicked in. I'd never get to see either Elise or Samson, not while they were in the clutches of Aaron Cord. I'm a step ahead of you Sir. Lisle has one of the most efficient armies in the Realm. Why didn't I at least try to rescue them? Lisle is riddled with Aaron's Sorcerers. It's rotten with the scum. We can't prove who they are though. They never cast magic because my own Mages would sense it. They're there though and they're all through Lisle's society. If I move against them, Aaron has my family. If I ride on the Flatlands, his Sorcerers, under his orders, have my City and all its people. I couldn't even take the risk of coming to you, Sir."
"But you did, eventually." Stephen prompted.
"You have Samson here. I worked it out that Elise was dead. The boy was found alone, wasn't he?" The Lord hung his head.
"He was, yes. He was trying to get to you, Lord Lisle." Stephen said and The Lord's head jerked up in surprise. "Your daughter told the boy for ten years of her love for you. She died in the Flatlands and the boy fled. He headed to the only source of love left for him. You." The strong Lord broke down in tears. "He was brought here by my men because they knew who he was but they were unaware of his connection to you, obviously."
"And ... and ... your Lady looked after him? I didn't know, by the way. Congratulations." Lord Lisle tried to compose himself.
"Huh? Oh! Yes, er thank you. Lady Reeve. She's away just now. Samson is staying with her in her private rooms."
"Why?" Lord Lisle suddenly looked very old. "Aaron Cord is your sworn enemy."
"Aaron Cord isn't in my Castle, his son is." Stephen said. "Lady Reeve reminded me on that he's an innocent child in all this, despite his despicable parent. She's right." He didn't miss the looks of the faces of Skar and Erin.
"I owe her a lifetime of thanks." Lord Lisle was holding back the tears again.
"Me too when I bloody well find her." Stephen said. "I mean ... you know? When she gets back. You need to rest, Lord Lisle. Samson is perfectly safe in the hands of Robert, one of my Imperial Guard." Robert walked into the library and Stephen glared at him. "Or maybe Lucas. What?" He barked at Robert.
"The patrols need your authorisation, Sir."
"Skar would you send someone to come and escort Lord Lisle to the guest wing?"
"We'll escort Lord Lisle." Erin offered. The Mages could hear Stephen wailing dramatically as they walked down the hallway.