Famine, war, and disease had taken a considerable toll on the population. There was very little food for his own subjects; and next-to-none for the English prisoners they were having to feed. One day while pondering how to obtain Rais treasures to pay his army, the solution came to him.
“Why not kill two birds with one stone?”; The King exclaimed to his advisors. “I will offer the Englishmen freedom in exchange for loyalty to French Sovereignty and a solemn promise to volunteer. That way there will be no risk to our own men. If any of them die in the recovery effort, it will serve to ease overcrowding in the Bastille.”, He concluded. The idea seemed fool proof.
There were surprisingly few ‘volunteers’, considering the horrific conditions they existed in. Most had heard of Rais’ atrocities from prison guards, or had been informed of the dark legend by other prisoners. The more intelligent ones realized it would be better to be alive in misery; than free and dead.
Regardless, the allure of freedom has a powerful draw on desperate minds with no future. King Charles himself remembered Gilles last words but wasn’t afraid of any dead man’s hollow threats. He saw them as empty bluster or morbid gallows bravado. Regardless, morale for the strength of his kingdom was low. He felt that he had to restore his reputation among his subjects as a fearless ruler. Only by ignoring Rais’ grim epitaph and accompanying the men into ‘the lion’s den’ could he do that.
The journey to the castle lasted three days. The six English prisoners were shackled together because the king suspected they had no intention of keeping their bargain. One was caught trying to escape and was executed as an example to the others.
With one less volunteer; they arrived at dusk and set up camp by the east wall. No man; even threatened with death, would set foot inside the castle archway after dark. The night was cold and the howling wind made it even more unbearable. The villager’s eerie tales of whispering souls seemed true as nightingales whistled inside Rais’ sacrificial tower. Their caws were like unearthly screams of the restless dead. Sleep was fitful and elusive as the screeching echoed throughout the night.
At dawn, the royal trapper set out to ensnare game for the morning meal. After eating his rations, one of the prisoners overpowered a guard and escaped; bringing the number of reluctant explorers down to just four. Of the remaining nine men present, only one would live long enough to eat again. Another prisoner wearing leg shackles accidentally fell into the moat and drowned in the lifeless black water. Perhaps that manner of death was better than what lie ahead.