The evening proceeded with one joyous moment after another. Robin and Marion danced and danced with Robin finding himself holding Marion tighter and tighter. Even at 16 years old, Marion had already achieved an incredible beauty both inside and out. As Robin knew was coming, after they danced for hours, Marion slipped him a piece of velum with the words, so beautifully written to a poem. THEIR poem where she pledged him her undying love. He looked at her, eyes filling with tears and did something a bit different this time than had occurred 11 years ago.
Through these tear filled eyes, he looked at this fair maiden with the music softly playing in the distance, the smell of jasmine in the air and everything at peace in his world. Robin took Marion gently into his arms and pulled her tightly against him. He reached down with his finger tips and slowly turned her face up to look at him and looking deep into her green eyes, tears now spilling down his cheeks he lowered his head and softly, gently pressed his lips to hers. Her arms reached up wrapping themselves around his waist and he could feel her hands on his back pulling him closer. At that split second in time, Robin knew he never had nor could ever be as happy as he was right then. Robin broke the kiss putting his face against the top of her head drying his tears on her auburn hair arms still tightly wrapped around her.
"Robin, are you all right" she whispered against his chest.
"Right as rain Marion" he replied with a laugh, "Just very happy".
"I think we see a wedding in our children’s future Anthony"
Robin's head turned towards the doors to the banquet hall at the sound of his fathers voice.
"You never know what the future holds" Marion’s father said with a smile.
"I do" whispered Robin. Marion giggled not realizing the hidden meaning in
Robins statement but happy thinking he was being romantic.
"Come children, the rest of the guests are thinking you are angry with them and Queen Elenore is asking for you both" the Earl said in good spirits. "Oh! Guy of Gisborn is also inquiring after you, you'll have plenty of years ahead of you to be alone" his eyes twinkled after the last statement.
"Guy"! thought Robin in wonder. Is this a battle that could be changed in history? A chapter that could be rewritten? He remembered the words from his great grandmother that history COULD be changed. Perhaps this chapter could be rewritten so the outcome between him and Guy could be one of friendship instead of mortal enemies. It was certainly worth the effort! The two older gentlemen retreated back into the dining hall and Marion reached up and whispered in Robins ear:
"To you I promise my first kiss, and with it swear we'll never part".
The closing line to their poem. Robin looked down at her and claimed one more kiss before saying something he never had said in all time but always felt. "I love you Marion" Now it was her turn to cry. "I love you too Robin" She turned wiping her face on his tunic before the two left this place of warmth and love.
They returned back through the double doors to the gaiety within.
As the evening progressed Robin saw friends and acquaintances he hadn’t seen for what felt to be an eternity. Friends that had or were to die in the Crusades, his fathers friends that would not live to see the year out. Every dance found him being asked by a different young lady but he gracefully declined having eyes for only Marion.
At the conclusion of one dance, the couple stopped and Robin felt a tap on his back and heard a familiar voice ask "Robin, old friend, allow me one dance with this beautiful lady". He felt his body stiffen as he turned finding himself face to face with Guy of Gisborne. Reminding himself of the pledge he had just made to him self to correct the past, he turned with a forced smile.
"I will leave that decision to the young lady, Guy" he replied cordially "I am just her consort".
"And how would the lady feel about taking a turn on the dance floor with a handsome debonair young gentleman such as myself"? Guy asked with a stately bow.
Marion looked up at Robin and Robin gave a slight nod. She turned back to face Guy now standing immediately to Robins left and gave a slight curtsey accompanying him onto the dance floor. As the couple danced around the room, Marion kept looking helplessly back at Robin very obvious that she wished to return to his side. Robin smiled and shrugged his shoulders trying to convey the message that the song would soon be over. As he stood thinking, he couldn’t remember Guy dancing with Marion 11 years ago. He had hopes that this small gesture might work towards correcting their relationship.
"So what are your plans for the future, young Robert"? asked Lord Manchester, his fathers closest personal friend.
Robin looked up at the older man remembering how he would die in two years of a broken heart when he would learn of his sons death in the crusades. Robin gave a little chuckle thinking of the irony of his question then said with a smile, "I am going to Marry the Lady Marion and fill Locksley Castle with children’s laughter" replied Robin watching Marion watch him.
"I cannot think of a finer goal" Lord Manchester replied seeing the love in Robins eyes. As the dance concluded, Guy asked Marion to sit with him for dinner much to Marion’s surprise.
"I am already promised to Robin" she replied bluntly.
The smile quickly vanished from Guys face and his eyes clouded over as he studied Marion’s eyes. "You love him don't you" he asked very seriously.
She paused a moment picking up a cut rose from the sideboard table they besides. She delicately fingered the red petals then looked up into his dark eyes "I guess I always have. I am sorry Guy".
"But I have so much more to offer a lady of your social standing" he argued.
"But I love Robin Guy. I don't care if he was a peasant living in the woods" she smiled and took his hand "You are right. You do have a lot to offer a lady and there will be many ladies in the shire more than willing to be your wife. Don't waste your time on me. I belong to Robin".
Just as she finished speaking Robin glided up to the couple, smiling brightly, eyes fixed on Marion. He managed to pull his eyes away from Marion to look at Guy and was startled to see not joy from the last dance but extreme hatred directed at him.
"I thank you for allowing me that dance with your lady, Sir" and he spun on his booted heels and left the room.
Robin stood in stunned silence looking after Guy as he trounced through the main set of doors and headed up the stairs to his bedchamber.
"Oh don't mind him Robin" Marion brushed off the incident as dinner was announced by the page. "Promise me you'll sit with me as we dine"?
Still without a smile, Robin replied "Is there anywhere else I would consider sitting"?
And he reached out his arm to her which she anxiously slipped her arm through
and they joined the large group congregating around Queen Elenore.
The joy and happiness had fled Robin for the moment. He was beginning to realize that even though he was making subtle changes in history, the ultimate results were coming out the same. He encouraged Marion to dance with Guy to appease him but he fled this ball in anger the same way he had 11 years ago.
Come morning Robin would have to convince his father and Andrew MacGregor to go on a trip with him. Get them away from the castle when the invasion occurs. Now Robin's deepest fear was that his being there was making things worse. And this fear overshadowed the rest of the evening.
Merlin closed his eyes and hung his head...
It had begun.
End of Part 65
By Shelly Quinn
After returning home from the gala, Robin should have sought his bed. The festivities had lasted until dawn so no one attending had slept. And now it was heading towards midday and Robin was wide awake. He thought about his plan, about getting his father and Master MacGregor away from the Keep. Robin wanted them safe when the invasion occurred and Loxley fell. Wanted them in his life to watch him grow. But he was afraid. Afraid that too much was changing. That the hell he had suffered through the first time was nothing compared to the hell he was creating. Robin fell to his knees in the middle of his chamber. "Olwyn..." he whispered. "I need you now, more than ever. Please...come to me.!"
"And if he were to come, would that not change things as well, young Robin?" questioned a soft voice.
"Who....who are you?" Robin asked, jumping to his feet and reaching for the dagger in his belt.
A shower of silver sparks lit the room and then an image appeared. "I am Merlin."
Robin was stunned. Olwyn had talked about the mighty Merlin, but Robin had never imaged that the greatest sorcerer of all time would ever seek him out. He fell to one knee. "I am honored," Robin whispered.
"As am I," Merlin replied. "I have long wished to meet you, Robin Hood."
"Merlin...why have you come to me?" Robin asked. "To help me?"
Merlin reached out, taking Robin by the arm and pulling him to his feet. "I have come to listen to your fears," he allowed. He guided Robin over to the bed and made him sit.
Robin felt relief wash over him. He was not alone anymore. Merlin would guide him. "Can I change the future?" he questioned, his eyes locking on Merlin's kind face.
"You can, and have already done so," Merlin replied. He patted Robin's shoulder. "You can save your father, young one," Merlin declared. "But keep in mind what you must become. Without Robin Hood, the people of England will have no hope."
"I can't stop the fall of Loxley, can I?" Robin beseeched, his mind churning over what Merlin was telling him.
The sorcerer shrugged. "You have it within you to do most anything, Robin. But...saving your lands won't save England." It was a gentle rebuke.
Robin accepted the warning. He knew what Merlin was telling him. That he must become Robin Hood at all costs. And so he would. But he would not be alone this time. His father would stand with him. Robin would see to that. "Thank you, Merlin," Robin whispered. "I know what I have to do now."
"Good luck, Robin Hood," Merlin replied. Then he vanished in a shower of gold sparks.
"Time to go," Robin said to himself as he packed a bag. Then he ran from the room to seek out his father and Master MacGregor. Somehow he would convince them to go on a trek. So when Loxley fell, the two people Robin loved most in the world would be safe.
Robin was happy. He and his father and MacGregor
were safe in the woods. Deep in the heart of Sherwood. Safe from the invasion
of Loxley. It would happen come morning tide. His father wanted to return
come dawn, but the fighting would be over by the time they reached Loxley.
And with that thought in mind, Robin fell into slumber.
"NO!" Raged the Earl of Huntingdon, as he stared at his home. The Keep was overflowing with the Prince's men. Bodies littered the grounds, The Earl's knights and friends. All dead. "I should have been here!" the Earl shouted.
MacGregor grabbed the Earl's shoulders. "There is nothing you could have done, my friend," he hissed. "You would have died, and so would have Robin. Think of that."
The Earl did think of it and turned to embrace his son. "Thank God you are alive, Robert," he cried.
"Alive and well, Father," Robin whispered, hugging him back. Then he pulled away. "But there is much to be done," he continued. "The people of England need us, Father. I know a place where we can go."
"We go to Cromwell," the Earl countered, pulling Robin over to his horse and practically lifting him into the saddle. "Lord Rupert is a friend. He will put us up."
Robin tried to dismount but a strong hand yanked his reins. "Father!" Robin protested. "We must return to Sherwood."
The earl glared at his son. "We go to Cromwell!"
he hissed. "You will obey me!" That said, he mounted his own horse, as
did MacGregor, and the trio rode off.
Once at Cromwell, Lord Rupert was happy to help the Earl of Huntingdon. But that was only the beginning of the surprises in store for Robin. It was over dinner that his father informed Robin that he and Lord Rupert had arranged for Robin and Deborah to be married. Deborah being Lord Rupert's seventeen year old daughter. They had planned to wait for Robin to turn eighteen, but the fall of Loxley was pressing the Earl to force the marriage ahead. The two families would ally with each other. It was the only thing to do.
"No father!" Robin protested, rising to his feet with such violence that his chair toppled over. "I will not marry Deborah!" he declared. "I love Marion, and when King Richard returns from the crusades, I plan to marry her."
"You will do as I say," the Earl roared, rising to his feet as well.
Robin headed for the door. "I go to Sherwood!" he stated. "To my people!"
The Earl was quick and cut Robin off. His hand cracked across his sons face. "You will do as I say!" he snarled.
"I have a destiny to full fill," Robin whispered, one hand lifting to press against his stinging cheek. Never in his life had his father struck him. Robin was stunned. But determined to see things through.
"I have decided your destiny!" the Earl hissed. "Go to your room!" he ordered.
Robin shook his head, his eyes flashing defiance. "NO! I go to Sherwood." Robin turned to go but cried out instead when pain shattered in his brain and he fell into darkness.
The Earl blinked back tears as he lifted Robin into his arms, after re-sheathing his sword. He had knocked Robin out with the hilt. "Forgive, my son," he whispered, then he carried Robin from the room. He knew MacGregor followed him. The Earl needed the other man. "Stand watch over my son," he ordered MacGregor. "Robin is to remain locked in his rooms till he comes to his senses."
"As you wish, my lord," MacGregor replied.
But his heart was heavy. For he sensed that Robin was destined for something
greater than Marriage to Lord Rupert's daughter.
End of part 66
Part 61 & 62 / Part 63 & 64 / Part 65 & 66
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