When the maid left, Jenny stood where she was in Royce’s bedchamber, her forehead knitted into a puzzled frown. Unable to come up with any answers, she flung a light mantle over her shoulders and went out to seek answers from the one person with whom she felt free to talk.
Sir Eustace, Sir Godfrey, and Sir Lionel were in the bailey, seated upon a low stone bench, their faces covered in a fine sheen of sweat, their swords dangling limply from their hands—obviously trying to recover their strength after a night of carousing and an afternoon devoted to practice with swords. "Have you seen Friar Gregory?" Jenny asked.
Sir Eustace thought he’d seen the friar talking to the wagoner, and Jenny started off in the direction he indicated, not certain exactly which of the stone buildings clustered around the vast inner perimeter of the castle wall was the one which housed the wagons. The kitchen, easily identified by its high, elaborate chimney structure, was next to the castle itself. Beside the kitchen was the store, the brewhouse, and a lovely chapel. Across the bailey from her was the smithy, where a horse was being shod and where Gawin was busily polishing Royce’s shield, ignoring the stacks of armor and weapons waiting to be mended by less exalted hands than his. The wagon shed was beside it, and beyond the wagon shed were the stables, a piggery, and a large dovecote, which appeared to be empty of birds.
"Are you looking for someone, your grace?" Jenny whirled around in surprise at the sound of the friar’s voice. "Yes, for you," she replied, laughing at her own jumpiness. "I wanted to ask you about… about things," she said, casting a cautious glance at the hundred people about the bailey who were busy at various tasks. "But not here."
"A stroll outside the gates perhaps?" Friar Gregory suggested, immediately comprehending her desire to speak where they’d not be observed or overheard.
When they approached the guards at the gate, however, Jenny received a shock. "I’m sorry, my lady," the guard said with polite implacability, "but my orders are that you cannot leave the castle except in the company of my lord."
Jenny blinked at him in disbelief. "What?"
"You cannot leave—"
"I heard you," Jenny said, controlling a sharp spurt of anger, "Do you mean I’m—I’m a prisoner here?"
The guard, a seasoned soldier with vast experience in battle and none at all in dealing with noble ladies, shot an alarmed glance at the sergeant-of-the-guard, who stepped forward, bowed formally, and said," ‘Tis a question of… er… your safety, my lady."
Thinking he meant that she might not be safe in the village after what happened yesterday, Jenny made an airy motion with her hand. "Oh, but I don’t intend to go further than yon trees and—"
"I’m sorry. My lord’s orders were specific."
"I see," Jenny said, but she didn’t see at all, and she didn’t like the feeling of being a prisoner one bit. She started to turn away, then she rounded on the hapless sergeant. "Tell me something," she said in a low, ominous voice. "Is this… restriction… against anyone leaving the castle, or only me."
His gaze shifted to the horizon. "Only you, my lady. And your lady aunt."
Angry and humiliated, Jenny turned away, and then it occurred to her that Royce had undoubtedly sent Arik with Aunt Elinor—not as her escort but her guard.
"I know another place," Friar Gregory suggested mildly, taking her arm and guiding her back across the wide bailey.
"I can’t believe this!" Jenny whispered angrily. "I’m a prisoner here."
Friar Gregory made a sweeping gesture with his hand that encompassed everything in the enormous bailey. "Ah, but what a glorious prison it is," he commented with an appreciative smile. "Beautiful beyond any castle I’ve seen."
"A prison," Jenny informed him darkly, "is a prison!"
"It’s possible," the priest said without arguing her valid point, "that your husband has reasons, other than those which you think, for wanting to keep you within the bounds of his complete protection." Without realizing where he was taking her, she’d followed him to the chapel. He opened the door and stood back for her to enter.
"What sort of reasons?" she asked as soon as they were within the dim, cool confines of the chapel.
Friar Gregory gestured to a polished oak chair and Jenny sat down. "I don’t know, of course," he said. "But his grace does not strike me as a man who ever acts without good reason."
Startled, Jenny stared hard at him. "You like him, don’t you, Friar?"
"Yes, but more importantly, do you like him?"
Jenny threw up her hands. "Until a few minutes ago, when I discovered I cannot leave the bailey, I’d have answered yes."
Friar Gregory crossed his arms, his hands and wrists concealed by the full white sleeves of his robe. "And now?" he asked, cocking one blond eyebrow, "after you’ve discovered it—do you still like him?"
Jennifer shot him a rueful smile and nodded helplessly.
"I’d say that answers that," he said drolly, sliding into the chair beside her. "Now then, what did you wish to speak to me about in such secret?"
Jenny bit her lip, trying to think how to explain it. "Have you noticed anything—well—odd about everyone’s attitude? Not to me, but to my husband?"
"Odd in what respect?"
Jenny told him of seeing the maids cross themselves whenever Royce was near, and also mentioned she’d thought it strange when no one cheered their returning master in the village yesterday. She finished with the story of the maids’ amusement when she inadvertently confirmed the rumor about damaging his clothes and blankets.
Instead of being scandalized by Jenny’s destructiveness, Friar Gregory eyed her with something akin to amused admiration. "Did you really—cut up their blankets?"
She nodded uneasily.
"You’re a female of amazing courage, Jennifer, and I sense you’re going to need it in future dealings with your husband."
" ‘Twasn’t courageous at all," she admitted with a wry laugh. "I’d no idea I’d be there to see his reaction, since Brenna and I were planning to escape the very next morning."
"You shouldn’t have destroyed the blankets they needed for warmth in any case, but I’m certain you realize that," he added. "Now, shall I attempt to answer your question about the villagers ‘odd’ reaction to their new lord?"
"Yes, please. Am I imagining all this?"
Friar Gregory abruptly stood up, wandering over to a bank of candles before an elaborate cross, and idly righted a candle that had fallen over. "You’re not imagining anything. I’ve been here only a day, but the people here have been without a priest for more than a year, so they’ve been only too eager to talk to me." Frowning, he turned to her. "Are you aware that your husband laid siege to this very place eight years past?"