"Olwyn...help..." Robin's head tossed back and forth on the pillows as his body moved around in restless sleep. "Tuck...go for help" ... Andrew MacGregor pressed another cold compress to Robins head as the troubled young man continued to mumble in his sleep "Little John....don't let him...don't..."he cried out bolting up right in the bed, face and chest glistening with sweat.
"Easy Robin, you must have been having quite a dream" MacGregor said with a gentle smile.
Robin closed his eyes reaching behind his head rubbing his blood caked hair.
"Andrew...what happened"? Robin winced asking still a little groggy.
"Your father stopped you from leaving" Robins teacher explained reaching up and wiping Robins face again with a cloth.
Robin swung his legs over the side of the bed pushing away Andrews efforts.
"I'm fine" he stated standing quickly then staggered back a couple of steps, his vision swimming before him.
"Sure you are" Andrew said laying Robin back down with a forceful push from the palms of his hands. The older man sat silently for a moment watching the boy shudder under the pain he knew he was experiencing from the blow. Finally he broke the silence.
"Robin, while you slept you called out names. Names I never heard of before"
Robin's large brown eyes fluttered open as he focused on his old friend.
"Yes. Names like Tuck and Little John" the older man stated with a sigh.
"Its a very long story Andrew and you wouldn't believe me if I told you" Robin replied closing his eyes with a smile.
"I can't. You'll report to my father that I've gone mad" Robin sighed as if it came from the very depths of his soul.
Andrew MacGregor stood looking down at Robin, face very serious. He placed one of his large strong hands on the young mans shoulders and said with his thick Scottish accent, "Your not joking lad - something is wrong. I'll not be a tellin your father".
Robin turned to face his teacher leaning his back against the great stone wall weighing his chances of entrusting the future of England into the hands of the man he loved as a father. His eyes met Andrews staring deep into the very depths of the older man and watched as he gasped in disbelief.
"Robert-something has changed in you lad. You are different".
"That is because I am 29 years old" Robin stated, watching his instructors eyes widen and he settled back knowing he had a lot of explaining to do. After several hours of recounting events to the point of his voice beginning to crack, there came a knock at the door.
Robin looked up, eyes wide. "I don't want to speak with him until I devise a plan...help me Andrew"
Master MacGregor looked back at the door then at his pupil and on that split second knew he had to help this young man. The fate of England depended on it.
"Lie down, close your eyes and follow my lead" he whispered.
Robin did as instructed and felt a cold cloth cover his forehead as he heard the door unbolt. He heard his fathers voice ask "How is he"?
"He is still unconscious milord. I hope you didn't hit him too hard" MacGregor returned.
"He left me no choice Andrew. He spoke foolishness." Now his voice changed to one of concern as he spoke to the servant instructing him to fetch his physician for his son and requested Andrew to continue with the compresses. Andrew agreed and Robin heard the door close and bolt.
"He's gone" Andrew said quietly reseating himself next to the young mans bed.
"Well Robert of Locksley, that is quite a story but I can see some of your words ring true. I had wondered at the time lad, why you were so desperate to get your father and I out of the castle the day of the siege. I marveled at our luck that we were not struck down dead like the others," he smiled and looked into Robins eyes. "Your eyes, they do not reflect the knowledge and maturity of a 17 year old boy. I believe you son. And with that belief I realize I must betray my long time friend and help you to escape"
He watched Robin slump back against the wall behind him in relief. Between
Andrew and Merlin, everything would be alright. But if only he knew what
the great sorcerer knew the future truly held.
By Shelly Quinn
Andrew was the one who devised the escape plan. They would use the blow to the head that Robin had suffered as an excuse to get him out of the Keep. The plan was simple. Robin pretended to remain unconscious, except for occasional bouts of fevered rantings. The physicians reported to Robin's father that the boy was ill and they did not possess the knowledge to help him.
The Earl of Huntingdon sat on the edge of Robin's bed. His eyes shimmered with unshed tears as one hand combed through his son's hair. He blamed himself for Robin's condition, and rightfully so. He had struck him too hard and now Robin could die, or so the Earl believed.
It pained both Andrew and Robin to play into the lie, but it was a necessary deceit. Robin had to go to Sherwood and meet up with Olwyn, and time was running out. What worried Andrew was the fact that Robin was feverish, and weakened. But he used his concern to make his words to the Earl ring with truth. "Robin is fading, my friend," Andrew whispered, one hand resting on the Earl's broad shoulder. "But I've heard talk of a woman...a healer...who lives in Sherwood forest. I'm thinking that I should take Robin to her. She might be our only hope."
"Bring her here!" the Earl countered, his eyes sparking. He didn't believe in magic and the likes, but he would try anything if it would save his son. "She won't leave the forest," Andrew declared, having expected the Earl to suggest that the healer be brought to them. "I'll arrange for a litter to be born by coach and leave with Robin at dawn. With your permission, of course," Andrew whispered.
The Earl nodded, as he pressed the palm of one hand against Robin's forehead. The pale skin burned him. "Do it," he hissed, and a solitary tear rolled down his cheek. Turning to face MacGregor, the Earl bid his friend to make him a promise. "Save my son!" he entreated, then he ran from the room.
MacGregor sighed, his heart weighing heavy in his chest as he sagged down on the side of the bed. He pressed his hand to Robin's cheek and gasped. The lad was burning up. Reaching for the basin on the bedside table, MacGregor soaked a rag in the cool water, rung it out, then smoothed it over Robin's face and chest. "Dontcha be leaving me for real, laddie!" MacGregor whispered, as he ministered to Robin. "I’ll be needin’ ya to live. Me and England both."
"Father..." Robin breathed, as his eyes fluttered open. He hadn't heard the exchange that had just occurred between the Earl and MacGregor, for he had been floating in the void between unconsciousness and dreams. Robin's entire body ached and he moaned as he shifted on the mattress. Long fingers plucked at the blankets that covered him. "Hot..." he muttered, head rolling on the pillow. Dark strands of hair were plastered to his damp skin.
"You weren't supposed to get sick for real," MacGregor bemoaned, as he rinsed out the rag again. He needed to bring down Robin's fever.
Robin heard MacGregor's words but they faded away as another voice echoed in his head. A familiar voice…Merlin. The image of the mighty sorcerer shimmered in his mind's eye. "Help me…" Robin beseeched.
Merlin's eyes glowed red. "Tis magic that ails you, Robin Hood," he whispered. "The magic that is within you is too strong for this body. It's burning you up from the inside."
"What can I do?" Robin asked. He knew that were he to die now, England would fall to ruins.
"Go to the Hollow Oak in the center of Sherwood. Enter and within you will find the one who can help you," Merlin replied. "She is a healer, yet much more. Her powers are great. Her name is....Mortiana."
Robin was stunned but too weak to react. "Mortiana..." he whispered. "She is my enemy."
Merlin laughed. "She is your only hope, Robin Hood," he drawled. Then he faded away.
"Robin?" MacGregor grasped the young man's shoulders and pressed him down into the pillows when he made to rise. "Rest easy, lad. You have to rest."
"Merlin..." Robin whispered, one hand reaching out to grasp the fading image. Too late.
MacGregor smoothed dark hair out of Robin's eyes. "Who is Mortiana?" he asked.
Robin found the strength to smile at his teacher. "She's the one who will save me," he replied. "The healer you're taking me to see in the morning." Robin felt darkness waft over him like a mist and knew that it would soon claim him. "Take me to the Hollow Oak," Robin whispered, then he fell back into the void.
"The Hollow Oak," MacGregor repeated. "Aye, laddie. Whatever you say." With that he rinsed the cloth out yet again and smoothed it over the pale skin. And so he would tend to Robin, till the dawn's early light.
End of Part 68
Part 67 & 68 / Part 69 & 70 / Part 71 & 72 / Part 73, 74 & 75
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