Part 13 & 14 / Part 15 & 16 / Part 17& 18
Marion and her companions entered the castle walls without a problem. Prince John allowed the peasants in once every two weeks to display their goods to him, and today was the usual day, so he saw nothing amiss. In fact, he was awaiting them in the courtyard, a smile on his face, for he had just received word that Robin Hood was in the dungeon, trying to free Lord Drake, and his soldiers would be locking him up any minute now. It was truly a glorious day.
"Buy a dagger, sire?" asked a female beggar.
"A dagger?" Prince John repeated, with a frown. He saw that the piece she held in her hand was quite nice. Certainly of a better quality than any peasant should possess. Prince John reached for it only to find a heavy hand on his shoulder, then he was lifted off his feet. "Whaaaaat!" Prince John screeched. Then he fell silent as a steel blade was pressed to his throat. The woman holding the blade yanked of her kerchief. "Maid Marion!" Prince John gasped, as he recognized the warrior woman.
She grinned at him. "At your service, Mi Lord," she replied, offering an insolent curtsy. "Little John, put him in the wagon," Marion ordered the blond giant.
Little John did as she bid. "My pleasure," he replied.
"Now...Prince John," Marion drawled in his ear, still holding the dagger to his throat. By now soldiers had gathered with swords and bows notched with arrows, but Marion was unconcerned. She and her companions used Prince John as a shield. Still smiling, Marion said to the Prince, "Call off your men, or I slit your throat."
"Right away," Prince John replied, knowing that she meant it. "Back off!" he shouted to his soldiers.
Marion let the dagger blade press against Prince John's throat. "Now tell them to throw down their weapons."
Prince John obeyed. "Now what?" he queried, once the soldiers had done as he bid.
"Where's Robin?" Marion beseeched.
"In the dungeon," Prince John was quick to reply. "Shall I have him brought to you?"
Marion laughed in the face of Prince John's eagerness. "Please do," she allowed.
Prince John nodded, swallowed hard, then shouted, "Have Robin Hood brought to me immediately!" He watched as Barkley ran off to do his bidding. "Can I go now?" the Prince asked, hopefully.
"Not yet," Marion replied. "After we get Robin back, and not a second before." And she tapped the dagger blade against Prince John's throat to remind him to behave.
Robin knew that his situation was hopeless, but he refused to give up without a fight. Turning a deaf ear to Lord Drake's pleas, Robin attacked the guards who reached for him. He took out two with the rake head, then he slammed the end into the ground and grasped the handle to lift himself, feet kicking into the chest of another guard, and pushing him back into the two who followed. Five down, about a dozen more to go.
The tide was turning, and the guards had Robin backed against the wall, when Barkley came running down the corridor. "Let him go!" he shouted, waving his hands in the air. Barkley pushed his way through the guards until he was standing in front of Robin Hood, acting as a shield. His chest was heaving as he gasped for breath, but Barkley managed to gasp out, "Prince John wants to see Robin Hood. Right now. And he doesn't want him harmed."
Immediately, the guards backed off. Robin watched them, a smile curving his lips. "Why does Prince John want to see me?" he challenged Barkley.
Prince John's aid shook his head. "You'll have to ask him yourself. Let's go."
"Release Lord Drake and his daughter," Robin ordered, holding his ground. He locked eyes with Barkley, daring the old man to defy him.
"Release them!" Barkley ordered, knowing that now was not the time to argue.
The moment Johanna was free, she ran to Robin. She blinked back tears as she felt his arms go around her. "Are you all right, Robert" she asked.
He nodded. "I'm fine. But call me...Robin," he requested.
"Robin," Johanna repeated.
"What's going on, son?" Lord Drake questioned, as he joined his children. Nothing that had happened had changed his feelings. In his heart, Robin Hood was his son.
Robin shook his head. "I have no idea," he confessed. "But…knowing Prince John as I do, it should be interesting. He made to go but a voice called him back.
Girard banged his hand on the bars of his cell. "What about me?" he demanded.
"What about you?" Robin countered, leaving Johanna's side to confront the other man.
"Let me out of here!" Girard shouted, his eyes flashing daggers at the outlaw.
Robin smiled. "I don't think so," he drawled. "You betrayed Lord Drake and Johanna. And you tried to kill me when I was defenseless. You deserve to rot here, Mi Lord. And consider yourself lucky."
Girard stared at Robin as if he had lost his mind. "Lucky?" he countered.
"That's right," Robin whispered. "If you were free, I would challenge you to a fight. And today you would die." With that, Robin turned on his heel and followed Barkley up the stairs.
Marion's attention was on the archway from which Robin would appear. Or so she hoped. She was beginning to become suspicious when she spotted Barkley. And right behind him was Robin. Tears of joy filled Marion's eyes and she blinked them back. "Robin..." she whispered.
Prince John heaved a sigh of relief. "May I go now?" he requested.
"Not yet," Marion replied, applying pressure to his throat with the dagger. "What happens to you will be up to Robin," she announced. Just then Marion noticed that Robin was not alone. A beautiful young woman walked by his side, their hands collapsed, and Marion's heart skipped a beat.
"Look," Johanna said, pointing to the wagon, where Prince John was held captive by a very tall man and a lovely, dark-haired woman.
Robin felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight of his friends. "Marion.." he whispered. Then he found himself running forward to greet them.
Little John was ecstatic. "Robin...Are you all right?" he asked, wishing that he could release Prince John to give his friend a hug.
"I'm fine, Little John," Robin replied. Then his eyes sought Marion's face. "How did you find me?" he asked.
"Doesn't matter how," Marion replied. "All that matters is that you're okay. But we should save the reunion for later," Marion pointed out, as she suppressed the surge of strong emotion that rushed over her. They were still in danger and needed to get out fast.
Robin knew what Marion meant, and she was right. He easily fell back into his role as leader. "Everyone fall out!" Robin shouted, gesturing to the peasants. Then he turned to Lord Drake and Johanna. "Into the wagon," he ordered them.
Prince John was worried. "What about me?" he demanded, glaring at Robin Hood. "I'm letting you go, now free me!"
"Not quite yet," Robin replied, as he pulled himself up into the saddle of the horse that one of the peasant men brought him. "We need to do some negotiating, Prince John," Robin said, with a smile. Then he waved his hand so that Tuck would drive the wagon back across the draw bridge. Turning his horse, Robin faced Barkley. "You and your men will not follow us. Once we're over the bridge, you raise it again and stay put."
"What about Prince John?" Barkley beseeched.
Robin laughed. "He'll be safe enough. I'm just going to talk to him, and he'll be returned to you at dawn. So long as you follow instructions. If I see any soldiers, Prince John will suffer. Do we understand each other?"
Barkley nodded. "We do." He waved at the soldiers. "Everyone stay put!" he ordered.
"Nice doing business with you, Barkley," Robin drawled. Then he offered a snappy salute. "Until next time." With that, he urged his horse into gallop and crossed the bridge.
Robin and his companions parted ways with the peasants once they had entered the outskirts of Sherwood Forest. Lord Drake, Johanna and Prince John were blindfolded, for their own good, before the group entered the compound. Once there Little John took Prince John to Robin's quarters and bound him to a chair. Then he stood guard over him from the corner.
After sliding from his horse, Robin went to Marion, who had already jumped down from the wagon. "Thank you," he told her, lifting one hand to brush a piece of straw from her hair.
"I thought we had lost you," Marion whispered. She wanted to hug him to her, fiercely, but was conscious of eyes upon them. Those of the other woman, Johanna, burned like a flame. Robin had introduced them to his companions on the ride to Sherwood, and had explained what happened to him as well. With Lord Drake filling in some of the details. Marion realized they were lucky that Robin had survived.
"You'll never lose me," Robin whispered. With those words, he wrapped his arms around Marion's waist, hugging her to him. It felt good to hold her, and to inhale her scent.
Marion blinked back tears as she wrapped her arms around Robin's neck and buried her face in his hair. "I'm going to hold you to that," she whispered in his ear.
Off to one side, Johanna watched Robin hugging Marion and her heart shattered. But she didn't let what she was feeling show.
Lord Drake was watching Robin as well, then he looked over at his daughter and knew that she was in pain. He took her hand, then bent his head to whisper, "It will be all right, darling. You haven't lost him. Not yet. I'm not letting him go so easily, and don't you either. Robin belongs with us, Johanna. And somehow, someway, we're going to prove it to him."
"Yes, Father," Johanna replied, squeezing his hand tightly. All her life he had found a way to give her what she wanted, and she had faith that he would do so again. And what she wanted was Robin Hood.
Prince John sat bound in Robins hut for what felt to him like hours. Little John stood patiently listening to Prince John babble a blue streak of nothing but complaints and whining. "Here I am, ruler of all England, in an outlaws dirty hut bound and left alone to die" he moaned.
"Your not alone Prince John, I'm here" Little John chimed in with a smile.
"Well thank God for small favors" Prince John replied rolling his eyes. With that the flap of Robins hut pulled back and Robin strolled in smiling ear to ear.
"Comfortable Prince John? Is there anything I can get you? A glass of wine perhaps...oops...wait. You cant drink it anyway. Your kind of all tied up"
Robin said asserting his authority, "But if you will listen carefully to what I say, we can conclude our business in a most timely manor and you can return to the comforts of your own castle unharmed."
"And if I don’t listen"? Prince John felt it necessary even under these circumstances to push the limits with Robin as far as he could.
"You may be a guest of Sherwood Forest permanently" Robin replied smiling and raising one eyebrow.
"Then perhaps you should continue"
"Yes...well...it seems my Father and Sister have lost some prize possessions to you in, lets say, not quite so legal a fashion" Robin went on tantalizing Prince John.
"Ah, you must be referring to Girards acquisition of the castle and their lands. And must we still refer to them as your Father and Sister"? Prince John asked. Robin frowned and drawing his sword from behind his back and placing the tip on Prince Johns throat replied calmly, "Until I say otherwise. Now, are they receiving their lands and castle back, no strings attached"
Prince John looked down at the shiny blade afraid to breath as it might slice his neck, "Yes, of course, whatever you say"
"Fine, then you also wont mind signing this paper that expresses that exact thought. I wrote it up before I came in" Robin said with a big smile lowering the sword. He carefully laid out the parchment then swung the sword quickly behind Prince John scaring him to death and with one swish, severed the ropes that bound Prince Johns hands. With an exaggerated bow he handed the Prince a quill pen and had him place his signature and seal on the parchment.
"Always a pleasure doing business with you Prince John. Friar, Little John, why don’t you and some of the men blindfold our 'guest' and give him a ride back to his abode. No sense waiting till dawn, when his soldiers are expecting us"
It was obvious that Robin was in full control of the situation and right back in the leaders position. Little John looked over at Robin with a warm and happy smile, "Good to have you back Robin"
"Good to be back my friend" Robin said rolling up the parchment and heading for the door. Once outside he stopped, unconsciously rubbed his sore ribs and headed towards the cook tent where he found Marion sitting quietly eating with Lord Drake and Johanna.
"I think this will please you" Robin said handing the rolled parchment to Lord Drake.
"What is it son"? Lord Drake beseeched.
"Open it and see" Robin had the look of a child on Christmas day.
Slowly Lord Drake unrolled the parchment and his eyes quickly surveyed the contents and when he looked back up at Robin tears streamed down his cheeks.
"How can I ever thank you son" he whispered his voice cracking on the last word.
"You saved my life father, this was the least I could do for you" Robin said with a warm smile.
"You still call me father" Lord Drake said hesitatingly.
"I lost my father when I was 16 years old. Other than Olwyn and all of my wonderful friends here, I have had no father. I don’t think I am quite ready to loose another one" Robin said looking down.
Lord Drake walked over to Robin and took him in his arms hugging him so tightly Robin struggled for breath.
"And you never will son"
Even Marion watched on with tears spilling down her cheeks.
They sat for hours eating and talking and even Marion was feeling more comfortable with Johanna but the feelings were not mutual. Johanna kept looking over at Robin then at her father looking for a glance or a signal as to what her fathers intentions were. How could she take this famous Outlaw and make him her husband. No longer was it an issue whether he was from good enough stock. She also realized that he was the son of the Earl of Locksley! Now it was all in her fathers lap. And her father toward the end of the day did look at his daughter with knowing eyes...that he had something in store that would please her. After all, Robin could get used to anything, couldn’t he?
The End of Part 14
Part 13 & 14 / Part 15 & 16 / Part 17& 18
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