The next morning Tucker woke up in almost near darkness. It had been the most uncomfortable night sleep that he could remember and all night he couldn't take his mind off of Jessica. He only hoped for her that she was sleeping in a more comfortable place. All through the night he could hear squeaking noises that he was pretty sure was rats and he could hear groaning.
He had felt naked through the night without either Juggernaut or his armour and his mind had almost hit rock bottom. He couldn't call himself a knight at all without his armour or his sword, the chances of him being knighted now seemed extremely slim and he began to wonder just when his end would come. He could only imagine the torture that was coming his way, with the way that he had seen the serving women leave after having their regular session on a rack he couldn't fathom to imagine what would happen to those that Lord Nostory actually wanted tortured.
His first contact with another human being that morning was only of the guards walking past and banging on the bars of the cells to wake up the inmates. This was another form of torturing as the inmates were allowed very little sleep. They had only a few hours a night to sleep and if they fell asleep during the day they would be awoken by a guard. If they were caught sleeping they would move up on Mathew's list of torture victims.
Tucker's breakfast consisted of cold and weak soup that was only one level above being water and stale bread. He could see that there was mould beginning to grow on it but it was all the food that he was given.
Many of the inmates in the dungeons died from food poisoning rather than actually being tortured. But it was more tactics to break their wills so that when they finally died they were broken men, only a shadow of their former selves. Tucker vowed that his will would never be broken but in truth this was a promise that he knew that he couldn't keep. Every man no matter how strong had their own breaking point and at first glance at the wannabe knight his breaking point looked to be low. He was stronger inside than he looked but that still had limits. He thought that his only hope of getting out anytime soon was either finding a way to escape or somehow Jessica to free him. She was still under Lord Nostory's spell and he knew that she wouldn't be helping him anytime soon.
Tucker spent many hours wondering inside his cell as there was nothing that he could do. The man in the cell besides him was silent and he could only speculate that he was either being tortured or was simply choosing not to speak. Communication between cells was strictly forbidden and it was only late at night when the inmates had any chance to actually speak to one another.
There was literally nothing for Tucker to do and the boredom was another form of torture that was used to break the inmates. Even something as simple as a ball or chalk could be the difference between a man staying able minded and falling into madness. There was even suicide watches so that inmates couldn't kill themselves and end their torture. Only Lord Nostory could permit an inmate to die.
It wasn't until mid-afternoon that Tucker's cell door opened. In front of him he saw two heavily build guards standing there. They were different to the guards who had taken him down here but they still wore the same armour. Tucker wanted to try and break past them to make an escape but he couldn't see anyway passed them and all he would gain from the attempt as a fractured skull.
"Get up you bloody cur," said one of the guards. "You've got an appointment with Mathew and he doesn't like to be kept waiting."
Both guards approached Tucker as he barely moved and they grabbed his arms and dragged him out of his cell. He didn't resist at all and his heartbeat increased dramatically as he knew that he was going to be tortured very soon. He wanted to try and distance himself from the situation so that at least it would be a little less painful. But there was nothing that he could do to stop what was going to happen. He was dragged away from his cell and he said nothing to his defence. He knew that he would only be wasting his energy and right now that was something that he wanted to conserve.
While Tucker was dragged he continued to look into the cells that he went passed and he saw one man lying on the ground motionless. At first Tucker thought that he was asleep but he soon realised that this wasn't the case, if he had been sleeping the guards would have woken him up, no that man wasn't asleep, he had passed onto the next world to meet with his ancestors.
The next thing that Tucker saw was a well lit room but before he could fully look at where he was he was thrown to the ground and he landed with a loud thud. It caused some bruising on his knees but there wasn't any serious injuries. This was the least of his worries however as when he looked up he saw a man standing in front of him. This man was around six feet tall and had long straggly hair. His clothing was a patchwork of different pieces of cloth that were many dark and shady colours. He wore basic black shoes that covered his feet but little more than that. He had a small scar on his cheek and his eyes were an emerald green. One thing that Tucker also noticed about this man was that there was some dry blood on his hands and they weren't recent either. He didn't even have to guess to figure out that the man standing in front of him was Mathew.
"So we have a new plaything this afternoon," said Mathew as he looked down with an evil smile. His teeth were yellow and it definitely was not a pretty sight. "I like them when they're fresh, it makes it that much more enjoyable, well for me that is, not so much for you. You must have done something very naughty to end up down here. I bet you tried to rob Lord Nostory didn't you, you naughty little thief."
"P-please I haven't done anything," replied Tucker. These were all the words that he could spit out.
"I'm sure you think that you haven't but in fact you have, or else you wouldn't be down here with the other naughty men." He turned his head slightly around and looked behind him. "Gwendolyn!" Moments later Tucker noticed a serving woman walk up to him. She was six foot three and had long blond hair with stunning blue eyes. She was very beautiful and Tucker instantly thought that it was a shame to have a woman of that beauty in such a horrible place like this.
"You called?" replied Gwendolyn as she bowed a little to Mathew. He was no lord but she didn't want to anger him and find herself in the torture devices. The only one she experienced on a regular basis was the rack like the other serving women. When she had first come to the castle almost a year ago she was a hair above six feet but her diet, elixirs and forceful stretching had increased her natural height by a full three inches and it was still an ongoing process.
"Yes, is the Red Chair ready?"
"It is, as you commanded." She was putting on a brave face but Tucker could tell that she was sad inside. Mathew had chosen her out of all of Lord Nostory's serving because he liked blondes and her beauty had been her curse. She was in charge of making sure that the torture devices were ready for use, she would have to clean them when they were finished with and sometimes even clean up the inmates if he commanded it. The one thing that she did take comfort in was that he never tried to rape her, the torturing was all the sexual needs that he wanted.
"Good I want to make our friend here as comfortable as possible. You did clean it from the last use?"
"I did but some of the marks are stained."
"Not to worry my little friend, I'm sure that our guest here won't mind there still being some bloodstains there." He turned back to Tucker and continued to smile down at him. "Today will be the hardest but believe me, it'll get easier."
Before Tucker could say another word he was dragged to the far corner of the room and while he was being dragged he could see what was before him. He could see himself being dragged closer and closer towards what looked to be a chair that was somewhat painted in red, it wasn't until he got even closer that he realised that it wasn't paint, it was dried on blood. He wanted to resist but the grip on his arms was too strong for him to break but he couldn't see Mathew walking just behind him with an evil smile on his face.
Moments later Tucker was forced to sit on this chair and his hands and feet were strapped down to it and with that the two guards moved away leaving only Mathew behind. Tucker could see a little of Gwendolyn but she was remaining behind. She didn't like to see men get tortured so she would try and block it out as much as she could, sometimes this was impossible and she would have to watch the full horror unfold.
Tucker tried to break free of his restraints but he didn't have the strength. He could see Mathew standing over him but now he had a small knife in his hand. It looked very sharp and more than capable to slice through flesh and bone. Tucker's shoes had also been taken off at this point so that his feet could be seen clearly by the demented man.
"Now let's see," said Mathew. He looked at Tucker's hands and toes, he was happy with what he could see. "Let's play a game shall we? I ask you twenty questions, oh but not in the traditional manner of course. Each question you get wrong will lose you either a finger or a toe. We can see how many you come back with, I once had a man who was so stupid that when I was done with him he only had one piggy toe left. I hope that you can do better than him, for your sake of course."
Tucker sat there and said nothing. He would have thought that Mathew had been joking but he could see the man before him was deadly serious. He could also see some more blood stains on blade of the knife and it was only further proof that Mathew was being serious with his threats.
"The silent treatment eh?" asked Mathew with a chuckle in his voice. "That'll just allow you to lose your digits that much faster. Now first question, which of these cities are furthest north Calf Heath, Featherstone or Willenhall?"
Tucker was silent for a moment as he began to think. He didn't want to play this game but he much preferred to play rather than losing his fingers and toes. He couldn't imagine that a knight would be able to have a very good grip on their sword if they had lost a few of their fingers. He had to remember what he had seen on his map before he had lost it and along with his other belongings. He didn't know the exact answer for sure and he knew that most likely he would have to make a guess.
"Featherstone," answered Tucker without much confidence to his voice. "The answer is Featherstone." He could see Mathew standing there still with the knife in his hand and he didn't know whether the madman would ask another question or slice off a finger or a toe. Nothing seemed to be going his way at the moment so he wouldn't be surprised if he had answered incorrectly.
"Lucky guess, you get to keep your little finger but believe me I might just take it anyway, just for fun." He laughed at himself and his laugh went through Tucker like a sword driving into his very soul. "Second question, which is longer, a metre or a yard?"
"A metre." This was something that he did know for sure. As a blacksmith he had been given measurements for swords by different customers. Some would give him the measurements in metres while others gave it him in feet, inches and sometimes even yards. This question he knew that he had gotten the right answer. "A metre is about thirty eight inches give or take and a yard is only thirty six."
"Ok I gave you an easy one there but you won't get many of the others. Here's the third question, what time did I wake up this morning?"
How the hell am I supposed to know that?" He was beginning to see that this was a very unfair game and that he was only moments away from losing one of his digits. He would try and close his eyes when this happened as he knew that he was most likely going to get it wrong.
"You don't but if you're right you keep your middle finger. If not I'll keep it in a jar and look at it every night before I go to bed. Now tell me your answer or else I'll go cutting anyway."
Tucker began to stutter as he tried to think of a decent answer but all he could really do was try to take a stab in the dark and he knew that it would most likely lose him his middle finger. He was about to stutter out his answer when he heard a bell ring within the dungeon. He saw Mathew turn his head towards a single bell that was in the corner of the room. He looked a little annoyed and at first he wanted to ignore it but he knew what would happen if he did and he quickly turned back to Tucker.
"Well my friend it looks like this is your lucky day," said Mathew as he went to walk away, before he did he looked over to Gwendolyn. "Call the guards and make sure our guest here goes back to his cell."
"As you wish," replied Gwendolyn as she slowly began to walk towards Tucker. He could see the sadness in her eyes and yet she did nothing to truly help him. He felt sorry for her in a way but he was still in a life and death situation.
Mathew walked out of the dungeon and moved onto one of the upper levels. He quickly stopped in what seemed to be a mirror and quickly made sure that he looked a little more presentable. The serving women that he walked passed each didn't like the look of him and tried not to look at him. They all remembered how much he would laugh when he began to stretch them on the rack. He would send shiver down their spines but they made sure that Mathew didn't know that they were intentionally trying to avoid him. If he knew then he would likely make their next rack session more painful.
Mathew didn't stop walking until he reached the great hall. There he saw Lord Nostory sitting in his seat and there was one other woman sitting next to him. This woman was Jessica and although she was sitting down she still towered above him. She still looked blankly at Mathew as she watched him bend the knee to Lord Nostory and bow his head to show his respect. Lord Nostory himself was wearing an outfit that many would think were his finest garments but in fact they were average to him. Jessica was still wearing the same dress that she had worn almost every day for the last five years but until a suitable replacement could be found she would have to make due.
"My Lord for what do I owe the pleasure?" asked Mathew as he continued to bow. He didn't want to rise up again until he had been given permission. If he did on his own accord it would be a sign of disrespect.
"You may rise again," replied Lord Nostory. Mathew stood back up to his full height and looked at Lord Nostory. "As you can see I have found myself a woman who will soon be my lady wife. I have been introducing her to all my staff here and that includes you as well. You have been in my service for some time now and you have never truly disappointed me, I think that you won't disappoint her."
"I will not my Lord." He had to remember what he was to say next. He had barely looked at her and he had to give her a compliment. "Your soon to be lady wife is very beautiful my Lord."
"Yes she is and she's very tall. The tallest person in Angleland I believe and she is no short of surprises either. You will do whatever she tells you to do unless they either undermine my authority or are not within my best interests. Whenever you see her you will bow to her and kiss her hand."
Mathew took the hint and he walked up to Jessica and bowed to her before kissing her hand. She was now wearing a large ring on her middle finger and her hand was the largest that Mathew had ever seen. He hadn't seen her in person before but he had been told by the guards that she was extremely tall. She was sitting down but he could still tell that he was much taller than probably the tallest man that he had ever seen.
When he kissed her hand Jessica gave him a small nod to show her gratitude and he backed down immediately so that his actions didn't anger Lord Nostory. He admitted that Jessica was beautiful and he could see why his lord would pick her. He thought that she would have been prettier if she was blond.
"My lady it is an honour to meet you and be in the presence of your beauty," said Mathew, he didn't like having to act like this but he knew if he didn't do what he was told he would be the next to have a public execution but this time people would be cheering to see his legs swing in the air.
"You do me a kindness," replied Jessica with still not much emotion in her voice. There was still a sweetness in her voice that was soothing to all those that could hear it.
"See isn't she a catch," said Lord Nostory happy with the fact that Jessica belonged to him and no one else. "And I take that her former friend is still in your care."
"He is my Lord," answered Mathew. "In fact I was playing a game with him before you requested my presence. I had to end it before we have some fun."
"If you would my Lord I would like to see him," said Jessica which caught Lord Nostory by surprising. He had not commanded her to see Tucker and yet she was requesting to see him. "He has been my friend for a good number of years and I would like to see him."
"I would love to but this is a request that only Lord Nostory can authorise."
"That is fine," replied Lord Nostory. He thought that it was odd that she had made this request but he could see no harm in allowing her to see him. He would have his guards all around them so that Tucker couldn't try and escape and he was confident that the spell on Jessica's necklace didn't allow her to do anything that would cause him harm. The connection between her and Tucker seemed to be much deeper than he expected but he thought that it would be soon severed as his influence over her increased. "If my love wants to see her former friend then let it be. Bring him up here by dusk and make sure that he looks presentable. I do not want my soon to be lady wife seeing her friend covered in blood and his own excrements."
"As you wish my Lord. I will have him within your presence in the requested time. Do not worry, he is still whole."
"Good now you may leave and carry on with your work. There are three maids that still need their sessions today. The shortest one Elyssa needs extra time, her height increase has been less than satisfactory."
Mathew bowed and walked out of the hall. Lord Nostory continued to sit on his seat and he turned to Jessica as he held onto her hand. He was extremely happy to have her at his side and he felt that he had won his ultimate prize. Winning the castle and the city of July paled in comparison to the woman sitting next to him. She was unique in Angleland and he would start a war for her.
"Why do you want to see your friend?" asked Lord Nostory out of curiosity. "He didn't want us to be together."
"I do not know why my Lord," replied Jessica. "I cannot explain myself my Lord but something inside me is telling me I must see him. He has been my only friend for many years before I met you my Lord."
"Hmm I see." Lord Nostory thought that part of Jessica's subconscious was still active and it was what had caused her to request Tucker's presence. He would humour her for now but he wanted to make sure that something like that wasn't going to happen again. If there was the slightest chance that she would be free of him then he would be in big trouble. "I will do anything in my power to make you happy. Now shall we get you ready to introduce you to the citizens of July?"
"I would like that very much My Lord."
Mathew walked back down to the dungeons in some haste and stopped himself right in front of Tucker's cell. The man himself had not noticed his would be torturer standing there and it wasn't until he began to bang on the bars that Tucker realised that he was there. He was surprised to see Mathew but he thought that nothing good would ever happen from having Mathew's attention.
Tucker had a lucky escape earlier. He had been on the verge of losing one of his fingers but Lord Nostory had wanted to see his chief torturer and it had been the only thing that had saved him. Now it seemed that there would be nothing that could save him for whatever Mathew had in mind for him.
"You won't believe how lucky you've been today," said Mathew as he glared at Tucker. "Not only did Lord Nostory more or less save you from my fun but it seems that his soon to be lady wife would like to see you."
"Jessica wants to see me?" replied Tucker with some surprise. The last he had seen of her she seemed to be completely under the control of Lord Nostory. The fact that she wanted to see him was surprising indeed.
"Was that her name? Oh well, Lord Nostory has ordered me to clean you up and make you look more presentable. When I say me I really mean my assistant Gwendolyn. But if you try anything funny I'll have you back in that chair and I will cut off every part of your body that isn't vital to your survival. So no more hands, no more legs, no more ears, no more nose and no more cock either."
"This isn't some kind of trick is it? Something to sap away my will even further until I'm nothing more than a shell of what I was."
"It could be a trick but then again it couldn't be. In the brief time that we've known each other have I ever lied to you?" There was an evil grin and Tucker didn't answer the question. "My assistant and a few guards will be here in a few moments to clean you up. Just be sure to behave yourself."
With that Mathew walked away and Tucker was left alone for several minutes before two guards came to the door along with Gwendolyn. As the door opened Tucker did nothing to try and escape and he noticed that Gwendolyn was carrying a bucket with a sponge inside. He saw her height but he could also see that she seemed to be very sad. It was obvious to him that she was not here through choice but at least for her he was not the subject of Mathew's torture techniques.
As he felt her skin it felt very soft but he could also feel her sadness. She was washing the dirt that was on his face and she didn't speak to him at all. She knew not to speak to the inmates and she didn't want Mathew's focus to be on her. He suffered enough pain when he stretched her regularly much like all the other serving women in the castle. She had seen one serving woman try to steal from Lord Nostory and he had her stretched until her arms and legs came out of their sockets.
One of the guards was also holding clean clothing that Tucker was going to have to put on. His clothing wasn't too dirty anyway but Lord Nostory had wanted him to be in presentable and that meant clean clothing. How Tucker was being treated he almost felt like he was a baby being cleaned and clothed by his parents but this was something that he didn't want to happen. He was no baby, he was a man and if he were to die soon he would prefer to die a man.
The entire process only took a few minutes but no sooner was he cleaned and clothed he was grabbed from both arms and taken out of the cell. Rather than being dragged he was forced to walk so that he remained clean. He complied only so that he could see Jessica quicker, the last thing he wanted to do at this moment in time was to do anything that would get him thrown back into the cells any quicker. He wished that he had his armour and Juggernaut on his person but alas they were things that had not been given back to him. He didn't know exactly what was going to happen to him but he was sure that it was going to be better than being tortured.
Lord Nostory sat in his great hall with Jessica by his side. He was wondering just how Jessica was able to make such a request, he had thought that while she wore the necklace that she was incapable of independent thought. He didn't mind it happening this time since it was only a minor inconvenience and he wanted to make his future wife happy. It was something that he was going to have to look into however.
Jessica who sat right next to him was oblivious to what Lord Nostory was thinking. She had forgotten everything about the quest and had accepted that she was going to marry him. She herself had no idea why she had even called for Tucker to be brought before her. It was something inside her that had forced her to do this. It was a little person trapped inside her had forced her into doing this.
Both Lord Nostory and Jessica saw the doors to the great hall open and they saw Mathew enter alongside two guards who were leading Tucker. A smile appeared on Jessica's face when she saw her best friend. She felt something else come along her and she sat there with a huge grin on her face.
"My Lord, my lady," said Mathew remembering his courtesies. "I present Tucker Martel as you have requested."
"Very good Mathew," replied Lord Nostory somewhat pleased to see that Tucker was indeed in a presentable manner. He didn't want to see him if he was covered in his own blood and excrements. "My soon to be Lady Wife had requested your presence here today. You have her to thank for being out of the dungeons at least for a short amount of time. If it were up to me I would have left you to rot. But alas it would upset my soon to be Lady Wife so I am giving you as much time as she wishes."
"Approach Tucker," said Jessica somewhat even sounding like a Lady. Tucker was nudged in the back and he began to walk towards Jessica. Two guards stayed by his side at all times in the off chance that he tried anything. In truth there wasn't anything that Tucker could do. He had surveyed the room when he entered and all his exits were blocked by guards. They were all armed with high grade swords and armour while he wasn't armed at all. His chances of escape or even survival were slim. He had an idea but it was risky and if it failed his death was more or less a sure thing.
When Tucker was about ten feet away from Jessica he was forced to bow down to her. He could see the smile on her face but he could also see that there was almost no emotion in her eyes. The spark that had been there ever since they were children was gone. He had to bow his head as well to show his respects.
"Jessica I beg of you," said Tucker knowing that he only had one shot. "Release me, I have done nothing wrong."
"That is completely out of the question," replied Lord Nostory not allowing Jessica to mutter a single word. "You are exactly where you belong and it will be a cold day in hell when you find your way out of that dungeon."
"Upon what crime? I have done no crimes and yet I am thrown in the dungeon. That is no justice there, by the laws of Angleland sent down by King Erik the First and all of his decedents since then I demand to have a trial."
"You want a trial good sir I will give you a trial." He could not refuse such a thing, he was a powerful lord but even he was not above the laws set by the King and Queen of Angleland. "Your trial will take place in three days' time, I hope you are prepared for it.