She jerked awake when a hand touched her shoulder. Mary cringed, expecting a blow. When none followed, she blinked and looked up at the silhouette framed in the door. He extended a steaming bowl to her. “Cook?”
“To be sure,” he whispered. “This may be my last visit. The castle’s astir this morning. But you’ll want the good news. Your young friend Rolf escaped last night.”
“Rolf?” Then she remembered who Rolf was and where he had been taken. “You mean he’s dead?”
“He was living and breathing when he comes through the kitchen last evening. Wet as a rat and chilled to the bone, but we got him dried and fed and on his way.”
“Where is he?”
“Out the postern, to be sure. Impossible, you say? Well, I hardly believed it myself. Blaz opened the doors just as nice as you please.”
“The regular guard. You know, the big guy who’s all sweet on you.”
“Regular? Sweet? You mean, Oaf?”
“You shouldn’t call him that, just because he’s simple. He and you are about the oldest people in the castle. Not old, but—”
“Oaf—I mean, Blaz has been here all this time?”
“He was here when I come to work. Been at that door every day and many nights since. He gets his own morning draught, ‘cause he must, of course, but mostly I feed him right there. He don’t bunk in the barracks, but sleeps among the kitchen stores.”
“I never knew.” Mary remembered how she feared him, and how she’d treated him. “I felt low because everyone treated me like nothing, and I was treating Oaf—Blaz—that way myself. I was so afraid of him.”
“Oh, aye. He’s one to be afraid of. He’s a little simple and he’s brutal strong, but he looked out for you.”
“So, Rolf’s safely out, and Oaf is my guardian angel. A morning of miracles.”
“Well, I don’t know how safe your friend is, and I doubt Blaz is no angel, but this morning is more apt to bring you disaster than miracles. How do you think the Dragon will do when he discovers his prisoner gone?”
“But no one ever looks in the third dungeon.”
“Not normally, but the Dragon had a personal interest in that one.”
“What about Will?” Mary asked.
“Ain’t heard nothing ‘bout him. Hoping he’s found someplace to hide or a way to escape. My lord Dragon has a way of knowing things you don’t think he knows. We’ll hope his building project distracts him this morning.”
“Building? What’s he building,” Mary asked.
“A platform in the yard, up close to the tower.”
Mary had a bad feeling. “A gallows?”
“No, a low platform, three steps high across the front. Back against the tower steps.”
“No idea, and I ain’t asking.” Cook straightened. “Just like I know my being here to feed you isn’t smart. I best get back where I belong. The garrison is all up and looking about. Something’s happening. You lay low, Mary girl.”
Mary wondered just how she was to “lay low” in a dungeon.
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