Part 1 & 2 / Part 3 & 4 / Part 5 & 6
Robin recovered quickly from his injury. The day after the party, despite lack of sleep, he was eager to join Lord Drake and his male guests on a hunt. It was quickly apparent to all that *Matthew* was a skilled hunter. He rode as if born to it, and was an expert tracker. He found signs of a wild boar, and walked through the forest as silent as a shadow. Not only that, but when the Earl handed his new son a bow and arrow, Robin took aim and let fly, imbedding the shaft into the boar's heart. The beast dropped like a stone.
"Incredible!" Lord Drake exclaimed, leading the men in a round of cheers and clapping.
"Lucky shot," Robin replied, modestly. He was as stunned as the others by what he had done. But a bow and arrow felt familiar...and comfortable...in his hands. While the servants were spitting the boar to be carried home, the hunters took a rest, munching on bread and sipping at wine. Robin, however, felt anxious. He was certain that danger was impending and he found himself slinging his bow over his shoulder so that he could scamper up a nearby tree.
Lord Drake watched his son, a frown on his face. "What are you doing, Matthew?" he called out. He was afraid that his son would get dizzy again and fall. But Matthew appeared secure on the limb he was squatting on.
Robin dropped down so that he was hanging by his hands from the branch, then he swung to get moment before releasing his grip and turning a somersault in midair. He landed on the ground, light as a feather, a smile on his face. But the smile soon faded. "Riders are approaching, Father," he announced. "They look like mercenaries."
"What?" Lord Drake was stunned. "What would mercenaries be doing on my land?"
"I don't know," Robin confessed, then he pointed. "They're coming in from the southeast. Who lives in that Hamlet?"
The Earl made a face. "Baron Remington!" he hissed. His family had been enemies with the Baron since his grandfather's time.
Robin was studying the other Lords, debating what action should be taken. He doubted that they would be able to put up much of a fight. "Maybe we should head back to the castle," Robin suggested.
"Run...like cowards?" Scoffed a voice. It was Girard. He had a sword in his hand, but it was mainly for show. He wasn't much of a fighter, or an archer. He hired people to do that sort of thing for him. But he vowed to save face in front of Lord Drake, especially after Matthew's display of hunting prowess. "I say we stand and fight!"
"Here...here!" Proclaimed another Lord, and his cry was echoed. Seeing Matthew's vitality had revived their own and their blood was stirred. They were feeling their oats.
Robin took Lord Drake aside to speak frankly with him. "Father...I admire everyone's spirit, but there are six riders coming, all heavily armed. I'm afraid we're outnumbered."
The Earl scowled. "But we're twice as many," he protested. Unlike the other Lords, Drake took pride in keeping fit and active. He was skilled with a sword and a bow, as well as a knife. Danger was not something he was used to facing, but he longed to test his mettle. "We stand and fight, Matthew," he proclaimed, loudly enough for the others to hear. "Those Mercenaries are trespassing on my land. If they come in peace, so be it. But if it is a fight they've come for...then we will not deny them."
More cries a assent filled the air and Robin sighed. He was hoping that the mercenaries were just passing through, but his gut told him they had been sent to create trouble. But he also knew he wouldn't be able to change his Father's mind, so he tossed aside his bow and moved to stand at Lord Drake's side. "As you wish, Father," he declared. He would fight at the Earl's side, protecting him with his life, if necessary.
It didn't take long for the mercenaries to reach them. The biggest one, and they were all large, was the leader. He bulged with muscle and had a baldhead. He slid off his horse and took a stance before Lord Drake. "You the Earl of Cleveland?" he queried in a voice that was deep and scratchy.
"I am," Lord Drake replied, after a moments hesitation. He hadn't expected these men to be so big, or so fierce. Suddenly he began to doubt the wisdom of wanting to face them.
The giant grinned, revealing rotten teeth. "Well my lord...I've come to deliver a message to you, from the Baron," he drawled. And, so saying, drew his sword.
Robin took action then. He faced the giant, his own sword in hand, and offered a cocky grin. "And what, exactly would that message be?" Robin challenged.
"He wants to wish Lord Drake a happy burial!" roared the giant, and then he attacked. He lashed out at Robin, expecting to cut the smaller man in two, so he was stunned when a foot slammed into his midsection and he doubled over.
"Oooo...that's gotta hurt.." Robin drawled, but then he was on the move. Another mercenary ran forward to attack and Robin met steel with steel. Robin knew he couldn't match the other man's strength, but he was quicker and more agile. He spun around, kicked the guy in the head, and when the mercenary fell to his knees, Robin rolled over his back then whacked him over the head with the hilt of his sword. "Tie him up!" he ordered the other Lords. They were standing about, looking stunned. But Robin didn't have time to worry about that. The giant had recovered, and the other four Mercenaries had joined in the fray.
Lord Drake covered Matthew's back, his sword skills getting a work out, but he was holding his own. He wanted to keep an eye on his son, but couldn't afford to glance away, so he kept attacking his opponent with a vengeance.
Robin was preoccupied as well. He found himself facing two opponents, so he put his acrobatic skills to use and jumped up to grasp a tree branch, swung his legs up and over, the kicked back and dropped down, delivering a slamming kick into the heads of both men. They went down for the count. "Three down, three to go!" Robin huffed, as he snatched up his sword, pausing to twirl it in his hand before jumping back into the fray. One of the mercenaries had engaged
Girard in combat and the young man was in dire straights of losing his head. Robin was certain that Johanna would be distraught should that happen, so he rushed in to rescue his...brother-in-law...to be.
Girard was relieved when Robin suddenly appeared, delivering a kick to the back of his opponent’s head. The man roared and turned to face his new attacker. Girard fell back against a tree to watch.
"Pick on someone your own size!" Robin taunted his foe. Then he laughed, for the man was not only tall, but wide, and layered with muscle. "Oops.." Robin drawled. "I bet the odds on finding someone else your size are slim to none. Guess I'll have to do." With that he swung his sword, but found it blocked by steel. He pulled back to swing again, but a fist connected with his jaw and Robin staggered back, seeing stars. Before he could recover, a foot slammed into his ribs and Robin went down with a groan. But just as the mercenary was about to stomp on his head, Robin pressed down with his palms by his ears and kicked up and out as he pushed off his hands. His feet slammed into his opponent’s chin and the big guy crumpled and lay still.
Robin rested his palms on his thighs, trying to catch his breath. His ribs burned with pain and he felt light-headed, but the battle wasn't over yet. The leader was coming towards him, fury flashing from his eyes. Robin straightened up then raised his sword. He grinned at the giant. "Tell you what," he offered. "Put your sword down and I'll let you ride away. You won't have to get hurt."
"You're the only one who's going to be hurting...boy!" the giant roared.
"I already am!" Robin hissed, then he jumped back as steel whooshed by him. His own sword felt heavy in his hands and Robin knew he didn't have the strength to battle this man. Just then he spotted two daggers in the giant's boot tops and an idea formed. "If you can catch me...you can kill me!" Robin taunted. Then he dropped his sword, turned, and ran.
The giant stared after him, confused. The fool was heading right for a tree. Then he shrugged and followed. An easy victory.
Robin heard the heavy footsteps behind him. He turned to see how close the giant was then slowed his pace a bit. He would have to time this just right or he would be dead. When the other man was only a yard behind him, Robin sped up and headed straight for an oak tree. He didn't know that all eyes were upon him, didn't care, as he ran up the side of the trunk, then pushed off, doing a backflip over the giant. The big guy couldn't put on the breaks fast enough and he slammed into the tree, face first. Robin didn't stop motion for he knew his opponent would only be stunned. He snatched the daggers from the giant's boot tops then stepped back.
The mercenary was only stunned. With a shake of his mighty head, he roared a battle cry then spun around to face Robin. "You're dead!" he snarled.
"No....you're dead!" Robin hissed, then he threw the daggers. One impaled the giant's heart, the other the imbedded itself in the giant's throat. Gurgling blood, the mercenary toppled over and lay still.
His comrades were scattered, and the four who were still conscious were stunned. The one fighting Lord Drake stopped and shouted, ordering the others to retreat. They collected the dead and wounded and rode off.
Lord Drake ran to his son. "Matthew...are you all right?" he queried, seeing that the young man was pale.
"Right as rain," Robin replied, even as he swayed on his feet. Even as he lost consciousness he had a flash of dejavu. Sometime in his past, he had said those very words. But then the though fade as he was engulfed by darkness.
The gates of the huge grey castle walls swung open. Fire was burning everywhere and screams of pain filled the air.
"Run" a deep voice said.
"Father no" Robin cried in return
"Do as I say" came the return.
Robin ran towards the woods and in the haze and smoke saw a man run up and run a broadsword into his father’s side.
"No"! screamed Robin watching his father fall limply from his horse and with that he turned and ran into the woods knowing he was being pursued and his life depended on his outrunning his adversaries.
Robin thrashed around with his head in Lord Drake’s lap. The Earl attempted to awaken him but felt his brow and realized the fever had returned and he kept reaching for his side.
"I think he has broken his ribs" Lord Drake stated looking up at Girard,
"Please ride back to the castle and get the doctor."
Girard looked disgusted at the attention 'Matthew' was continuing to receive from his new father.
"Hurry" shouted Lord Drake seeing Girard’s reluctance to obey his wishes. With this Girard spun on his heels and ran for his horse. Lord Drake looked down at his son, tears in his eyes. "I have just gotten a son and I have no intention of loosing him as a result of Baron Remington."
Lord Marcus, his life-long friend, stood by his side with his hand on his shoulder.
"Whatever is Gods will my friend" he said with a whisper.
"I am not a leader...I am not a leader" Robin cried turning his head from left to right.
"Shhhhh...there, there" Lord Drake said softly brushing the hair from Robins forehead, "I wish Girard would hurry with that doctor"
Just as he completed his sentence Robin’s eyes flew open and he attempted to sit up shouting "No"!
He grabbed his side with his strong hands and winced lying back again. "Easy Matthew, the doctor is on his way" Lord Drake assured him relieved to see his son awake.
"It was a dream"...Robin sighed looking up at Lord Drake and smiling said, "I am fine father" again he tried to get up and not wanting Lord Drake to see his discomfort, forced himself into an upright position and onto his feet despite his fathers attempts to keep him down. He gritted his teeth as the searing pain shot through his side and locked his knees to keep from falling but turned to Lord Drake smile firmly in place and returned "See, I'm fine". Just as he reached for the branch of a nearby oak to steady himself, a wagon approached from the castle. Girard hopped down from the seat with a older man in tow running towards the group.
"I think my son has sustained several broken ribs" Lord Drake spoke directly to the doctor ignoring Robins prior statements, "and has received several blows to the head."
"Father..." Robin began
"Let’s have a look young man" the doctor commanded walking towards Robin, "This is becoming a habit" he said looking up with a smile. "I am fine" he repeated realizing no one, again, was listening. The doctor placed the palm on his right side and pressed gently with Robin pulling away but not emitting a sound.
"As I suspected, bring him back to the castle and we'll bandage those ribs. He'll be fine" the doctor reassured Lord Drake Despite Robins insistence that he ride his horse back to the castle, Lord Drake had him ride in the back of the wagon so as not to do any further damage to the broken ribs. Upon their arrival, Johanna rushed from the door to the side of the wagon crying "Matthew" upon reaching the side.
Robin slowly sat up and looked at her with a warm smile. "It is nothing Johanna, just a little sore"
"And a couple of cracked ribs. Thank God it not be more...Johanna you should have seen your brother" Lord Drake raved smiling with pride. "He took on the entire lot of them and left them scurrying for their very lives"!
"Matthew, you could have been killed" she gasped in horror. "He didn’t do anything any man couldn’t have done" Girard replied in disgust at his fiancé’s response afterwards realizing how ridiculous he sounded.
"Girard, he was using moves I've never seen used in all of my years. Son, where did you learn to fight like that"? Lord Drake asked helping Robin down from the side of the wagon.
"I don’t know, it just seemed like the thing to do" Robin replied lightly.
"Of course you dot know, I am sorry son" Lord Drake looked down realizing that he had reminded Robin of handicap. As they slowly walked to Robin’s room, Robin relayed the dream he had had while unconscious.
"Father, it seems every time I fall asleep I see a part of my life before I came to live with you and Johanna. I am quite concerned as it always involves some type of violence. And this time I saw you killed outside castle gates..."
Robin stopped walking and stared at the floor, "No....it wasn’t you...yet I called this man father. I...I couldn’t make out his face in my dream! "
His voice sounded so tense and as he reached for his forehead Lord Drake placed his arm around his shoulder.
"Son...you are trying too hard to remember. Let it come back naturally. Other-wise you are just facing frustration and heartache." He smiled warmly at the young man. "Now come, let us get those ribs tended to" Robin smiled back thankful for the reassurance and followed his father into his room.
Below in the Courtyard Girard paced back and forth staring up at Robin’s
window. "This man is going to make off with my portion of the inheritance
and my woman", he said softly, his voice filled with hatred, "He must be
stopped at all costs" Already he worked diligently on a plot to illuminate
'Matthew' from the picture and with 'Matthew's willingness to lay his life
on the line for his 'family', this should not be such a difficult thing to
End of Part 4
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