I didn't like the dungeons. They weren't supposed to be welcoming but they sent shivers up my spine as I walked past the barred wooden doors, all staring at me threateningly. Jon and Eliza and Katrina could have been behind any one of those doors. I didn't like to think about it.
I felt vulnerable, more so than I had at any other point since I'd arrived in Handrin. It felt like at any moment the Queen would turn on me and order James to lock me up. It wouldn't take him much effort to throw me into a waiting cell.
I wished that Sebastian was here. I was desperately feeling the need for his protection and guidance; he would know if I could trust James and the Queen. And Hurst.
He'd sent a message from the garrison to say he didn't have clearance to access any information about the prisoners held at the garrison but he was going to stay until he found any information that might be helpful. I didn't know if Hurst was telling the truth or not but at this point I had no other choice but to trust his word.
"This way," the Queen ordered, opening the door at the end of the corridor, expecting myself and James to follow.
"After you," James said, holding the door open for me like a proper gentleman.
"Thank you," I said flatly as I walked through the doorframe, only glancing quickly at James before turning right to follow the Queen down another corridor.
None of us spoke. The only sound was the click of our shoes on the stone floor. It made the whole place seem big, intimidating and eerie. It scared me.
The Queen finally stopped walking when we reached another door. She knocked with surprising force, opening the door without waiting for an invitation in. I automatically followed her, not thinking about what I might be walking into.
There were four men sitting around a table in the room, all big guys with large muscles in their arms. They looked like they could kill me just by breathing too hard. They looked like they would as well. They were rough, one had a scar across his cheek and another had clearly broken his nose at some point. You didn't want to mess with these guys.
"Your Majesty," the one with the scar said, rising from the table and inclining his head towards her. "Do what do we owe the honour of this visit?"
"I'm here to see a prisoner," the Queen said sharply. "Olivia St James, but you might know her as Eliza Frances."
"I'm afraid we have no-one under that name here," the man, who I now assumed was a jailer, replied. "She was moved from her cell to other quarters."
"On whose orders?"
"I couldn't tell you your Majesty," the jailer replied. "I just do what I'm told."
"Very well. Thank you for your help."
We all filed out of the room the same way we had come in and I caught the Queen's arm before she could start walking away.
"What are we going to do now? Where is Eliza?"
"She'll have been moved to rooms in the palace. As the daughter of a noblewoman she will be treated better than other prisoners. And I'm sure my husband has realised that she will be of more use to him alive than dead."
"So what are we going to do?" I asked insistently. "We can't just leave her."
"I know we can't," the Queen replied as forcefully as I had asked the question, "but at the moment there is very little I can do to get her out of the palace. She'll be under even tighter guard now she is out of the dungeon; I doubt we will even get to see her."
"So what do we do then?" I asked, looking first at the Queen, then at James who had remained silent throughout this exchange.
"We wait," the Queen said simply.
"I can't sit around waiting when my friends are in danger!"
"We wait for a message from Hurst, then we can act. Now come with me." It was very clear by the Queen's tone that this conversation was at an end and there was nothing I could say to get her to talk any more on the matter.
So once again James and I followed in the Queen's wake, this time towards the exit. It felt so good to be back in the normal bright surroundings of the palace instead of in the dark imposing corridors of the dungeon.
I continued to follow the Queen towards her room trying to ignore the eyes that watched us as we passed by. I was glad when we had reached the Queen's quarters and the door was shut against the watching eyes.
There was a quiet tapping sound at the window, which I noticed as soon as I stepped into the room. The Queen had noticed it too, going straight to the window and letting the pigeon inside. She untied something from its leg before letting it fly outside again.
"What is it?" I asked eagerly, not wanting to be left in the dark about anything.
"It's a message from Hurst," she replied. "He says that three prisoners were transported to the dungeons." She looked up at me from the piece of paper in her hand. "I think we've found your friends."