Part 1 & 2 / Part 3 & 4 / Part 5 & 6
Robin trusted his stallion to follow the path as he released the reins for a moment so that he could stretch. The afternoon sun was warm on his skin and the air was sweet with the scent of wild flowers. It was a perfect day. A smile curved Robin's lips as he listened to the bird songs, there was no sound more beautiful.
He was heading back to Sherwood after a few days away visiting some friends in a distant Hamlet. The others weren't expecting him back yet, so Robin was in no hurry. He would spend the night in a nearby village, then be back in Sherwood by nightfall of the next day. Meanwhile, he was content just to be out and about. But his serenity would not last for a shrill scream rent the air. Robin gripped the reins and turned toward the sound. A moment later he was galloping across the plain. It was then that he heard the thunder of hooves and more screams. To his left came a crashing and Robin saw a carriage careening along behind a pair of black steeds. There was no driver.
But the worst part was that the carriage was headed towards Doverman cliff, and it was a sheer drop of three hundred feet to the river below.
Digging his heels into his stallion's flanks, Robin raced after the carriage. He guided his mount beside one of the steeds and then he leaped out of his saddle and onto the other horse's back.
Bending low over the neck, Robin reached for the reins then used all of his strength to turn the beast. The cliff was fast approaching and the stallion was frightened, but Robin managed to turn his head. Once they were moving away from the cliffs, Robin leaned back to slow them down. Finally, they came to a halt. "Good boy," Robin said in praise, as he patted the stallion's sweaty neck. Then he slid off the broad back and walked towards the Cliffside. They hadn't missed it by much.
The two footmen, who had been clinging to the back of the carriage, now stepped down and opened the door. From out the luxurious depths came Lord Drake, the Earl of Clevelend. And his daughter, the Lady Johanna. Johanna saw the cliffs and let loose with a piercing scream.
The horses, who were still skittish as it were, reared up at the sound. Robin had backed up towards them and when he turned to calm them, one of the iron hooves struck him in the temple and the world went black.
Lord Drake shook his daughter to stop her screams, then he ran to the
young man, whom he knew had saved their lives. He knelt beside the still
form and brushed sable hair off the pale face. There was a bruise already
forming at the temple and a trickle of blood. Lord Drake pressed his silk
handkerchief to the wound then shouted for his footmen to carry the lad to
the carriage. He would take his savior home with him, for Lord Drake had
the finest physicians on staff, and they would be able to help the young
man. He owed him at least that much.
Lady Johanna stood beside the young man's bed, studying his handsome face as she watched her father use a damp cloth to cool his fever. A day had passed and he was still unconscious. "He's very beautiful for a peasant," Johanna commented.
"Indeed," her father replied. Lord Drake had ascertained that the young man must be farmer or peasant, given his clothing. Yet, he had the fine features, and bone structure of an aristocrat. However, the strong, muscled body belonged to a laborer, not the soft and idle rich. "He is an enigma," Lord Drake drawled.
"Will he be alright?" Johanna queried, for about the dozenth time. But she felt guilty that it was because of her scream that the one man had been injured.
Lord Drake turned to smile at his beautiful daughter. "The doctor assures me that he will recover. He's young and strong, and the fever will break soon. Don't worry, my dear." Lord Drake patted her arm. "You're betrothal ball is in one week, and we're having the family dinner in two nights. I don't want you getting sick over this. Do you hear me? Go to bed, Johanna. All will be well."
Johanna nodded, feeling relieved, then raised on tiptoe to press a kiss to her father's cheek. "Goodnight," she whispered, then she lifted her skirts and left the chamber.
"Now...don't make be out to be a liar, young man," Lord Drake beseeched,
as he rewet the cloth, rung it out with his strong hands, then pressed it
to the sleeping man's face.
Robin felt as if he were drifting through a dense fog and he had to fight his way to the light that seemed to glimmer in the distance. Pain rippled through him as darkness called him back, but Robin was determined to see the light, so he gritted his teeth and forged ahead. A moment later he opened his eyes and blinked. As the room came into focus, he turned his head and groaned as pain lanced through his skull.
Lord Drake heard the sound and was on his feet in an instant. He had dozed off in a chair by the bed, but he was fully awake as he smiled down at his guest. "Rest easy," he beseeched as he pressed the young man back down into the mattress when he made to sit up. "You're safe and well."
"Where....where am I?" Robin frowned as he studied the man who was smiling at him. A stranger to be sure. Or so he believed.
"You're in my home," Lord Drake replied, then he introduced himself. "And who might you be?" he queried.
Robin frowned at the question, then he shook his head. "I don't know..." he whispered, feeling panic wash over him and his heart began pounding in his chest. He moved to sit up again but strong hands held him down. "I don't know who I am..." he breathed.
Lord Drake could understand the young man's fear, but felt it wasn't all that surprising. He had come across amnesia in his past. In fact, his physician had warned him that it was a probability.
"It's all right," he said softly, his voice low and soothing. "You took a hard hit to the head and your disoriented. It will pass in time. For now...I'll give you a name. My brother's name. Matthew."
"Matthew..." Robin repeated, liking the sound of it. But he saw pain in Lord Drake's eyes. "What happened to your brother?"
"He died in the crusades, fighting beside King Richard," the Earl replied, a touch of pride coloring his tone.
Robin felt a sense of relief. He might not remember his name, or his past, but he remembered the King. "You're a Saxon Lord," he whispered.
Lord Drake nodded. "Loyal to the King, enemy to his brother, Prince John." He laughed as he saw the look in the other man's eyes. Matthew's eyes. "You're loyal to the King as well?"
"Aye," the newly named *Matthew* replied. "I don't remember who..or what...I am, but I know I serve the King."
"Then...you don't remember where you're from?" Lord Drake queried.
Robin shook his head. "No. Nor what I do," he allowed.
Lord Drake sat on the side of the bed. "What do you remember?" he prompted.
"The carriage and the cliff," Robin replied, readily enough. "Not much else." He found himself blinking rapidly for his vision was beginning to blur.
"You need to rest," Lord Drake said, seeing that Matthew was exhausted. "Sleep, we'll talk more in the morning." Even as he rose to his feet, he saw that the young man was deep in slumber.
It was the night of the dinner party and Lord Drake had invited Matthew to attend. Johanna had approved, but she was a bit worried. After all, her friends, family, and her fiancé’s family would all be in attendance, and a peasant would be out of place. She doubted that he even knew the proper silverware to use. But decided that she would guide him through the proper etiquette after seeing Matthew enter the drawing room with her Father.
Lord Drake had helped Matthew to bathe and dress in clothes that had once belonged to his brother. Formfitting black trousers were tucked into shiny, black hession boots, that showed off long legs to perfection. An ivory, linen shirt covered by a black satin vest, embroidered with gold thread and a snowy-white cravat were an elegant touch beneath an emerald green frock coat. Matthew's hair had been washed and brushed till it flowed over his shoulders like sable silk.
"My word..." Johanna breathed, gliding forward to greet the men. Her eyes were locked on Matthew, but her words were for her father. "He looks like a lord-born.
"Indeed," Lord Drake replied. "The looks and, I think, the manners. Most certainly the speech." The Earl had discovered that Matthew was well read and vastly intelligent as well. No question but that he was not a farmer or a peasant. But that didn't explain his course clothing.
Robin felt embarrassed beneath Johanna's intense gaze. He vaguely remembered her and sought now to distract her by introducing himself. He took her hand and gave a courtly bow. "I am pleased to make the acquaintance of such an exquisite rose such as yourself, Mi Lady," Robin said softly.
Johanna was utterly charmed and curtsied in response. "The pleasure is all mine, Mi Lord," she replied, with a touch of shyness.
"Would you like a brandy, Matthew?" Lord Drake inquired, as he moved to the side table.
"I…don't know," Robin said, with a frown. He tried to remember if he had ever had brandy, and whether or not he liked it.
Lord Drake understood Matthew's dilemma. "A touch of cognac then," he countered, pouring two measures into crystal goblets, then handing one to the young man. He then poured a measure of sherry for his daughter before lifting his own glass in a toast. "To friends and family...old and new," he declared, a smile curving his lips.
Robin clinked glasses with the Earl and his daughter as he whispered,
"Here...here." He didn't remember his past and he couldn't foresee the future,
but for the present, he was content with his lot in life. And he sensed that
Lord Drake was someone he could trust.
As the night wore on Robin found himself getting progressively more and more nervous. As the Page would announce the arrival of the next dinner guest, and the Lords and Ladies took their positions around the table Robin became aware that all of the newly arriving guests starred at him in awe and amazement. Robin rose and bowed as each new guest arrived confirming the Lord Drake and his daughters assumption that he was not a peasant but added to the confusion of what his upbringing exactly was. They stood around the large hall talking and drinking wine, Gaiety and laughter in the air. After thirty guests had arrived the Page shouted above the din Sir Girard of Landsborough and all quieted down and began to applaud. Robin seeing that this is what must be called for at this moment joined in. He looked over and saw Johanna rise and glance in his direction then join Girard placing her hand on top of his and accompanying him to the table.
"Girard is Johanna's betrothed" the Earl leaned over shouting to Robin above the noise, "He is from one of the finest families in England"
"Congratulations" replied Robin with a smile.
"Thank you son" replied Lord Drake.
Robin watched the couple cross the floor through the cheering crowd and seat themselves across from Robin. At this the rest of the crowd joined the couple taking their places at the long table and in the background a lute and piccolo could be heard playing. "Is this something I've ever experienced before" Robin thought in puzzlement putting one hand to his forehead.
"Are you alright son"? Lord Drake asked noticing Robins movement.
"Just a bit of a headache" Robin replied with a smile, "I'm fine" he looked up to observe Girard involved in a conversation with Johanna. He was an attractive man as far as looks could be described. He was tall and slender, perhaps too thin, he had short red hair and a red moustache. Full eyebrows with shining green eyes below and a very hearty laugh from a slight man. But the more Robin observed this man, the more he ascertained that there was something wrong with him. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was something he didn’t like about him. Robin also kept noticing that despite Gerards attempts to keep Johanna totally to himself, the fair haired beauty kept looking up from Gerard to glance over at Robin and sneak an occasional smile.
As the first course of dinner was served, everyone was chatting amongst themselves still observing Robin in curiosity. Finally Lord Drake rose to give the traditional toast and clanged his dagger on his golden goblet. All hushed their conversations and looked forward.
"First, I would like to thank all of you for coming this evening to my lovely daughter, Johanna's and her lovely betrothed’s pre-nuptial dinner party. It is also my honor and pleasure to announce an addition to my family. I have, to my right, my son...Matthew"
The gasps were audible all over the hall, everyone stood and stared but clapped none the less. Robin looked up at Lord Drake in amazement as he reached down and helped Robin to his feet and shook his hand. "Welcome to the family son" he said softly embracing his hand with all of the warmth and love of a father. Johanna looked at Robin smiling and eyes twinkling while Girard looked very put back. He remained seated looking at Robin in puzzlement.
"Say something to the Lords and Ladies, Matthew" Lord Drake encouraged.
Robin looked shyly at the crowd and looking down at the table said softly
"I am truly honored this day to be accepted into such a noble family" and looked up through his long lashes at the group and smiled. Again the applause was deafening and Robin quickly retook his seat. "So, I am to understand you are the one who saved my Johannas life" Girard spoke to Robin with his mouth full of food.
"I was in the right place at the right time milord" Robin returned modestly.
"And for that I give thanks" Girard replied looking at Robin void of anything resembling a smile Robin looked back, nodded, and continued eating.
The meal continued as is usually the fashion with chatter abounding and different platters of delicacies being changed and recharged for better than the one before. As the meal concluded the music began again and the Lords and Ladies left their seats and began to dance.
Girard sprang from his seat requesting the first dance with Johanna. She took his hand and curtsied but the entire time her eyes were on Robin. At the end of the dance, Johanna hurried to Robin’s side.
"Please Matthew, allow me to have the first dance with my new brother" she said bubbly as she noticed every young maiden headed in Robins direction. "I don’t think I know how to dance Mi Lady" Robin replied again looking down "Then I will assist you" and with that Johanna took Robins hand and pulled him to his feet.
The two whirled around the dance floor with such expertise that all other dancers quickly exited and watched the beautiful couple. She spoke with him easing his tension until he found himself enjoying this dance. They laughed and circled the floor the entire time Girard sitting to the side becoming quite distraught.
"Brother...entitled to what" Girard mumbled under his breath.
Lord Drake was thrilled with his "two" children’s performance before his favorite friends and was none to quick to relay this information to them when the dance had concluded. For the rest of the evening Robin danced every dance with a different young lady each more enthused than the last to be dancing with the most handsome man in the shire. Finally after hours of whirling around the dance floor Robin sat to the side, ladies crowding around him as he held one hand to his head. Lord Drake quickly came to his rescue .
"Tired son"? he asked placing a hand on Robin’s shoulder.
"I fear the headache has won the battle Mi Lord' Robin looked up at Lord Drake with half a smile.
"I fear you still have not made a full recovery from your accident, allow me to assist you to your bedchamber. These ladies will have another chance to dance with my son at the ball" Lord Drake said assisting Robin to his feet addressing the group of beautiful women.
Johanna again left Girard to rush to her father’s side as she noticed him assisting Robin across the hall towards the stairs.
"Is he alright father" she asked with concern.
"He has a headache my dear, I fear this was all too much for him so quickly" Lord Drake replied.
"I am fine Lord Drake" Robin insisted,
"Father" Lord Drake replied with a smile.
"Father" Robin corrected returning his smile.
As Robin lay in his more than comfortable chambers against soft feather down pillows he kept having the same re-occurring thoughts. Even though this was all wonderful and he was enjoying Lord Drake and all of his kindness, this all felt unnatural. Like this was not the environment, he belonged in. Rubbing his forehead again, he mumbled to himself, "I have to find out who I am. Where I belong...but without hurting Lord Drake".
He could hear the sounds of the festivities below but the throbbing in his temples caused his eyes to close and eventually he drifted off to sleep. There was no relief in his dreams though. Over and over he could see soldiers chasing him through the forest hell-bent on his destruction. He rode and rode but could not seem to thwart their pursuit with arrows whizzing along side his head. Just as one of the arrows would have struck him he made out someone shaking his shoulder shouting at him.
"Matthew…wake up" came a voice through the din.
His bed shirt soaking wet and shaking Robin sat breathing heavy with Lord Drake hugging him.
"Its alright son, it was only a dream" he reassured Robin gently, "Lie down and go back to sleep. I don’t think those demons of the night will follow you into your dreams again"
"Thank you" Robin returned lying back against the pillows but found himself afraid to go back to sleep.
As soon as Lord Drake retreated from his chambers he stood and walked around the cold stone floor in the moonlight.
"It was only a dream, but why am I dreaming such things" he pondered until the early morning light cut the dark sky.
End of Part 2
Part 1 & 2 / Part 3 & 4 / Part 5 & 6
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