Chapter 7

Reeve tried. She spent all her time in the Infirmary to the point where Alwyn had to send her home. The closest she got to healing, was changing bandages. She was pacing her room in tears of frustration when she heard a knock on the door. Reeve came face to face with an extraordinarily beautiful woman. She had hair the colour of polished gold and cornflower blue eyes. The woman oozed elegance.

"May I come in?"

"In? Oh! Yes of course. Excuse my manners." Reeve stopped staring and snapped out of it. "I'm a bit of a mess. Sorry." She self consciously ran her fingers through her bedraggled ringlets.

"You're fine. I'm Erin Fawkes." Erin held out her hand.

"I'm Reeve. Just Reeve. I ... Erin? Lady Erin? Mage Skar's Erin?" Reeve blinked in shock.

"Pfft. Did he tell you that?" Erin sniffed. "Typical man. Yes I'm Lady Erin. Unworthy second Mage to Skar the Splendid." She smiled.

"I doubt you're unworthy of anything Lady Erin." Reeve said seriously. "Unlike me. I presume that's why you're here? I've tried, Lady Erin. I've never tried so hard at anything in my whole life." She said miserably. "The King and Mage Skar reckon it's there but I can't find it, or connect to it, or whatever it is you do."

"Of course you've tried. The whole household knows you've tried, and are still trying. Physician Alwyn says he's never seen such a worker in all his days." Erin smiled again. "That's not why I'm here Reeve. I simply wouldn't be qualified. King Stephen and Skar set off for the south east territories this morning and The King left instructions. Basically, I wafted away the staff and took the opportunity to meet you, eventually."

"Instructions for me?" Reeve asked warily.

"Instruction one. You're not to go to that abysmal Infirmary any more. The King's words, not mine." Erin handed Reeve a parchment with his written instructions. Reeve read it.

"Is he in a bad mood with me?" Reeve said hotly. "I have to be in the Infirmary, that's the whole point. It was his idea! So ... no to that one. As for this next one? Actually I don't know whether to be angry or upset. Lady Reeve? He's given me a title? Why? I don't deserve this sort of mockery, Lady Erin. It's hard enough working myself to exhaustion for him without having everyone laughing at me."

"You know, I can't believe I was the only one who anticipated this reaction. There is an explanation and I hammered it from Skar. In my opinion, The King should given you his explanation in person." Erin sighed wearily. "Certain rumours are fluttering around, almost certainly started from someone below stairs."

"Gretchen." Reeve said flatly. "What is her problem? What's she been saying about me? She's a peck short of a bushel."

"I won't disagree with you there. Vicious gossip regarding King Stephen's ... usage ... of you." Erin said awkwardly.

"I get it. Favourite bedwarmer and all that offal. Plus I'm a reeve. What else could I be used for?" Reeve said in annoyance. "So he names me Lady Reeve so I can go and give her a few with that birch? Please say yes."

"Reeve! Really!" Erin laughed. "The King only found about all this recently so in all fairness to him, he hasn't had the time to deal with Gretchen Carter, or this gossip. So he made you ... official." Erin shrugged her shoulders.

"Huh?" Reeve said stupidly. "Official bedwarmer? That doesn't help at all, Lady Erin, and it's untrue."

"King's Consort." Erin said quickly while darting to the bathroom for water, anticipating Reeve's reaction.

"K ... King's who?" Reeve squealed blinking at the glass of water.

"Consort." Erin smiled weaky. "Er ... congratulations."

"Lady Erin, I'm nothing of the sort!" Reeve burst out laughing. "Someone's got something wrong here. I'm a villager from Grasslot! Consort my foot."

"Reeve it's true. King Stephen wouldn't lie to or mislead Skar, and Skar wouldn't mislead me. I also took advantage of their absence, threw my weight around, and spoke to Halford, the King's Legislator. You are Lady Reeve."

"But he doesn't even like me! I get on his nerves and I frustrate him to Torment and back. He shut me out in the Rift Yard!" Reeve objected.

"Well he wasn't very impressed with the local peasantry slandering his Apprentice." Erin told her. "Like I say, he hadn't the time to get out there and sort it out."

"I'm not that either. I'm as magical as that hearth rug." Reeve grumbled. "So what do I do now? Just swan around looking Lady-like? Not likely. I'm still going to the Infirmary tomorrow."

"The instructions ... "

"Oh naff the instruction. King's Consort, remember." Reeve said firmly.

"I'm not sure he's thought this through properly." Erin laughed.

A smartly uniformed Guard tapped on the door before entering.

"Lady Erin, Robert is here, reporting for duty." The Guard said.

"Thank you, Edward. Send him in." Erin took Reeve's hand and they both got to their feet. Robert was another Guard in a similar uniform to Edward's. "Robert, I'm sure you know Lady Reeve. Reeve, Robert is one of the Imperial Guard. He's been assigned to you."

"I don't believe this." Reeve had to sit back down. "Erin I don't need a bodyguard! No offence Robert, I'm sure you're very good."

"Legal protocol." Erin told her. "I'm a Mage but I still have Edward. Don't look so worried. It's protocol."

"I'm not comfortable with all this Erin. Call me suspicious but I suspect The King's appointed Robert to watch me and report back to him." Reeve looked at Robert.

"Of course he has, Lady Reeve. That's part of my job." Robert seemed a bit confused about it. "Ah I think I see. I'm here for your safety, and to offer advice if I'm able. I'm not here to spy on you, Lady Reeve."

"Yes, fine." Reeve muttered, going slightly red. "Sorry Robert, I didn't mean to cause offence. So do you escort me to the Infirmary tomorrow?" She asked challengingly.

"If that is your request, yes." Robert replied immediately. Erin looked reproachfully at Reeve and handed over King Stephen's instructions. "My written orders were to serve Lady Reeve in the exact same manner as Edward serves you. They said nothing about the Infirmary. With respect, Lady Erin, mine is signed."

"Fine by me." Erin stated. "I'm not getting in the middle of all that."

"Nor should you have to." Reeve said supportively. "It's not your fault The King is lax in his paperwork. 'Exact same manner' Robert said so if Lady Erin asked you to escort her to the Infirmary, you would. Right Edward?"

"Er ... well yes I suppose so." Poor Edward looked bewildered and who could blame him. The beautiful and elegant Lady Erin Fawkes wasn't alot like Reeve in any respect.

"I suggest some sleep." Erin stood up. "Reeve please get some rest, I beg you. Robert has the bunk room adjacent to your rooms and he's never off duty."

Reeve did go to bed, but sleep was the furthest thing from her mind.

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