Rob stood at the barred door of the dungeon staring down the dimly lit corridor. He kept glancing behind him at the ghostly men in the cell with him. The place stunk to high Heavens. That was from the slop barrel which apparently had spilled a few times. It was like standing in an outhouse. There seemed to be a waterline on the wall which wasn’t reassuring.
The other men looked liked they didn’t eat very often. Rob saw a few rats who looked like they didn’t eat very often either and Rob had to wonder what they ate when they did. All of them, Rob, the men and the rats were standing in hay and slop. It was hard to see in the cell; it reeked; it was cold. Rob was left to wonder how he got here. No, he knew how he got here but wasn’t sure why he was here. It had to do with a small man- no, two small men. One was Francis and the other was some sort of royalty.
Rob saw a rat standing on his boots. The rat was staring at him and squeaking. The rat then ran through the bars and down the corridor. A small opening got him out. All Rob could think was -damn rat! Then he thought- yet, he comes back here. Pretty stupid rat. Then he thought- I don’t feel any better being smarter than a rat, if I am.
Rob had never been considered smart. He was never considered close to smart. He wasn’t very big or muscular; he wasn’t a hard worker. His father didn’t know what to do with him or about him.
“That boy ‛asn’t got much going for ‛im. The best ‛e can hope for is a war that ‛e doesn’t survive. Then ‛e’d ‛ave ‛onor.”
“What kind of thing is that to say about our son, our only child?”, Rob’s Mother would say.
“The truth, a sad truth.”
Rob was interrupted by a very old man. He was thin to the extreme and was wearing rags that barely covered him. He had more sores covering him than clothes. He smelled bad and looked worse.
“I say, chap,‛ow old do I look?”
Rob didn’t want to answer that question. He didn’t want to talk to anyone here. This guy looked older than Moses. Rob didn’t want to think about what that might mean for him.
“Ye look a little old, just a little.”
“Ye are trying to be kind. No one cares about kindness ‛ere. I don’t know ‛ow long I’ve been ‛ere. I was put in ‛ere when I was twelve. ‛ow long do I look like I’ve been ‛ere?”
“Umm, a long time.”
“Well now, ain’t ye a lot of ‛elp?”
“ Ye talked to me. I didn’t speak to ye. I wasn’t going to speak to ye. Why would a twelve- year old be thrown in a dungeon and kept here as long as ye have been?”
“I got caught stealing eggs.”
“Thrown in the dungeon for stealing eggs?”
“No, idiot, for getting caught.”
“Yea, well, still...” Idiot? That seems a funny thing to say to someone ye just met. It seemed odd to say it to someone ye are asking a question of. Maybe I should tell this old man kiss my asrse.. No, I’m too curious.
“It was better than being ‛anged. At least I thought so at the time. Not so sure anymore.”
“A lifetime in the dungeon for stealing ,wait, getting caught stealing eggs? Seems a bit ‛arsh. The owner ‛ere must be a real bastard.”
“The one who put me ‛ere died a week later. ‛is son took over and I think ‛e doesn’t know I’m ‛ere.”
“Why doesn’t someone tell ‛im?”
“Who? There is nothing in it for anyone to ‛elp me.”
Rob thought that one through. It made sense to him. Now, was anyone trying to help him? By anyone, he meant Francis. It was his fault he was in this place; mostly his fault. Even if it wasn’t, Francis wasn’t here so he must be free. That’s a good thing only because there was no alternative except this crazy old man, his crazy mates and the rats.
They had been walking for several days, talking and making good time. Down the road came a group if horsemen and one was carrying a banner. That’s when the problem started. Rob was watching them when Francis delivered a kick to his shins.
“Oww! Damn it all to ‛ell, Francis. Why did thee do that?”
“You idiot, that’s royalty coming down the road. Ye need to bow you ‛ead and act subservient.”
“Oh, yea, I do.”
The horsemen pulled up and the young Earl at the head yelled, “Too late! You bowed ye head too late. Take ‛im!”
Some of his men jumped down and bound Rob’s hand behind his back and threw a noose over his head.