Will wiped his brow as he pulled himself on a small island in the marsh. Searching ahead, he let out a sigh of relief. Jacobi was in sight! Tired from his journey through the thick mud, he pulled up extra energy to drive him towards the fleeing killer.
Jacobi struggled to pull his foot out of the mud for the hundredth time. Every time he managed to get one foot out, the other would sink into the marsh. A squishy plop was heard, as he extricated his boot from the swamp.
"You're comin' back with me," Jacobi heard someone yell.
Glancing behind, he saw a tall, thin man ten feet behind him. He held a long hunting knife in one hand. From the way he held it, Jacobi knew this man was no stranger to killing someone.
"Wot am I to you?" Jacobi shouted. Slowly, he began to inch away.
"You needs to get back to that castle," Will answered. He tried to stay away from the holes made in the marsh by Jacobi.
"You'll 'ave to drag me carcass back there," Jacobi cursed.
"Either way, you're goin' back," Will shouted, as he quickened his steps. Leaping in the air, he grabbed a low hanging branch of an old tree. Swinging his legs several times, he released his grip. Flying in the air, he landed inches from where Jacobi was standing.
Jacobi whirled around, pulling out his own knife, he slashed it at him. Will kept his knife in front of him. Jacobi stopped just short of the knifes reach.
"It's a shame I left Marion back there," Jacobi rumbled, as he slowly licked his lips. "I've been wantin' to taste 'er lips."
Wills eyes blazed in anger at the mention of Marion on Jacobi's lips.
"Once I get's you back there, your never goin’ to get your ‘ands on ‘er!" Will hissed.
"It’s not me hands I want to get on her." Jacobi wickedly laughed.
This was all Will had to hear. Quicker than lighting, he threw his knife towards Jacobi. Jacobi jumped as the knife imbedded itself in his thigh. He let out a snarl. Wrapping his fingers on the handle, he pulled the blade out with a jerk. Quickly turning it, he threw it back at Will. He deftly caught the blade by the handle.
"I'll make you pay fo' that!" Jacobi roared.
Clutching his own blade in his hand, he trudged his way towards Will. Will obliged him by meeting him half way. As they met they slashed at each other with their knifes. Will managed to get in some nicks on Jacobi's arms - but his advantage didn’t last long. His legs were becoming stuck in the marsh. He was only able to use his upper body to protect himself from the savage assault by Jacobi. Will stopped fighting when he felt the cold mud on his calves. He ducked several slashes from Jacobi, as he struggled to pull his legs out of the muck.
"If you'd stop tryin' to tear me 'eart out, you'd realize that we're in troubles," Will shouted.
Jacobi held off his assault. Taking in deep breaths, he glanced down. Due to the force of the battle, his legs had sunk almost to his knees in the sticky mud. "Look wot you've done!" Jacobi snarled.
"I've done?" Will laughed. "I’m just as stuck as you are."
Both men struggled in the grip of the marsh. With both legs trapped in the mud, they lost the leverage they needed to pull themselves out.
"Oh well that's just bloody marvelous," Will shouted. "I'm going to end me life next to Robin's ugly twin."
"Fo' the last time, I am not Robin…'ood!" Jacobi screamed. He stretched out his hands to grab Will's neck. Leaning back, Will managed to stay out of his grip.
"At least I 'ave some entertainment before I die," he said with a taunting chuckle.
"I know I am enjoying the show," Will was shocked to hear MacGregor say.
Twisting around, he was surprised to see him sitting on his horse. They were standing several feet away.
"Great, now that you're 'ere, you can 'elp me get out o' this mess," Will said
"But I'm just an old man," MacGregor innocently said. "What help would I be to such two strong young men?"
"I gives up, why isn't 'e sinking?" Jacobi asked.
"Because 'e's bloody full of…" Will began to say, until MacGregor cut him off.
"You never would have been in this mess, if you'd listened to me back on the hill. I was going to tell you that I noticed that there has been a drought in this region. I saw several dead trees on the eastside of the marsh. I recall one campaign, where we were able to cross a marsh, because it had hardened on the edges. This old man rode his horse on the baked mud, while two foolhardy young men traveled in the sticky center. I've been waiting here for some time for the two of you to arrive," he explained.
"That's a great story, now 'ow about 'elpin' me out o' this marsh?" Will asked.
"Wait a bloody minum, wot about me?" Jacobi said.
"Oh my ears," MacGregor groaned. "Never have I heard the kings English be abused as much as by the two of you."
"Wot's 'e talkin' about?" Jacobi asked.
"I think 'e's been sittin' on 'is arse to much. 'Is mind 'as gone numb." Will mumbled.
"One more insult, and this old man will leave the both of you there to become permanent residents of the swamp."
"I'm sorry," Will quickly shouted. "But we don't 'ave time fo' this. We need to get 'im back to that castle."
"I told's you before, I ain't goin' back," Jacobi growled. He let out a vicious snarl, as a rope fell over him. Tugging it tight, MacGregor pinned Jacobi's arms to his side. "Now that I have one skunk tied up, I have the other to extricate," he said, with a chuckle.
Pulling out another rope, MacGregor tied it to his bow. Swinging it around, he threw it at a branch over Will's head. Sailing over the branch, it landed next to Will. Quickly he gripped the wooden bow with both hands. Clicking his heels on his mount, MacGregor slowly urged his horse to back up. In seconds he managed to pull Will out of the mud. Will slowly moved over to Jacobi. He used the rope that was wrapped around his body to secure him. Holding Jacobi with one arm, he held onto the bow with the other.
"Go ahead old man, I got 'im." Will urged him.
This time MacGregor's horse had to work harder on pulling Jacobi out of the mud, because of the added weight of Will. Slipping several times, he managed to pull out the killer.
"If I get out o' 'ere, I'll cut your 'eart out!" Jacobi snarled, as Will threw him over his shoulder.
"Keep quiet!" Will shouted, as he slapped him on his backside. Jacobi eyes flew open in shock. "No one 'as ever 'it me there. Not even me mum."
"Well then, I think your long over due."
"I heartily agree," MacGregor said. "Quickly now, I'll ride the three of you back to your horse. We must hurry, the sun will be rising soon."
Will threw Jacobi up on MacGregor's mount. Jumping up, he sandwiched Jacobi between himself and MacGregor. Turing his horse around, MacGregor traced his steps back to the hill where Will left his mount. Once he reached it, Will placed Jacobi on his mount.
"We 'ave to ride 'ard," Will panted. He whipped the reins on his mount.
"I pray we're in time," MacGregor softly said.
"We can't last much longer," Thomas panted. Already the bodies of the undead army was piling up so much, it was pushing Robin and his companions back towards the exit door to the castle. Olwyn, and the two demons of the castle were forced to retreat, as they maintained their spell.
"I don't think they are going to last much longer either," Little John said, as he pointed to Olwyn. It was clearly evident that he was straining to maintain the spell. The demons, however, showed no signs of weakening at all.
"Robin, Thomas is right. We can't keep this up 'til morning," Marion pleaded with him.
"We won't have to," Robin grunted, as he slashed his sword towards a long dead Germanic soldier. Clipping it in the knees, it crashed into the ground. "If Will and MacGregor is unable to get Jacobi back here before the sun rises, there won't be anymore mornings for England."
"There is a way," Lillith offered.
"Yes, there is a way," Lucius agreed.
"NO!" Olwyn shouted. His concentration was momentarily broken by his excited cry. For a second, the spell placed on the dead army was broken. Robin and his companions quickly rushed back, as the soldiers were at full power. Grasping his staff, Olwyn continued with the spell.
"Don't…listen to them," Olwyn grunted. His brows knit, as he concentrated on the holding spell.
"If that man is not brought back before dawn, Wizard, you know there is no other way," Lucius barked.
"Tell me," Robin demanded. He began to back up into the corridor that led out of the castle. With the dead army slowly advancing, they tried to use this time to catch their breaths. Olwyn and the demons followed them into the corridor.
"A sacrifice," Lucius purred. "Of a soul so pure, so true. Its virtue will break the curse put upon this castle."
"And release all the evil that dwells within," Olwyn growled.
"What choice do we have?" Robin asked.
"The lesser of two evils, Robin Hood," Lillith purred. "The demons that dwell within this castle, or release the mindless army that can destroy your homeland."
"An army that you created," Thomas shouted.
"When you are trapped within this tomb for so long, you need something to keep you busy," Lucius innocently replied.
"If they are your creation, then why can't you command them?" Little John asked.
"Because your man broke our hold on them!" Lillith screeched. "He gave me his word, that he would stay after the dawn. Within this castle, when you give your word, it is a bond broken only by death."
"Then you end up a part of this dark army," Little John mumbled.
"Little John, you may have something there," Robin said.
"What did I say?" Little John asked. He wanted to know how he was able to help Robin figure out how to end this nightmare.
"Why are you here?" Robin demanded. "Clearly you are not one of the creatures that inhabit this castle."
"We don't have time for this," Lucius growled. "Perhaps you've forgotten, there is a dead army trying to break out of the castle."
"Have you forgotten about your pledges?" Lillith said.
"Yes, why is it so important that Robin or myself stay here?" Marion asked. She felt Robin was close to finding out what dark secret that the two demons were keeping from them.
"We don't have to tell you why," Lucius said, with indifference on his lips.
Robin suddenly dropped his sword. "You said a bond spoken here is only broken by death. What will happen if I allow your dark army to kill me? Will that release me from my bond? What then will happen? Will my breaking of my word by my death, cancel out Jacobi's escape?"
"Nothing, will happen," Lucius murmured.
"I think not," Robin said.
"Don't!" Lillith shouted. "You pledged yourself to me," she pleaded with him. "You gave me your word that you would stay."
Robin noticed that the dead army began to slow down. With Lillith and Lucius' attention towards him, they were beginning to stop.
"Robin…" Marion whispered to him. "I see it too," he whispered back.
"Thomas," Robin said. "What do you know about this castle?"
"Are you crazy?" Lucius shouted. "A mindless army is about to tear your land apart, and all you do is ask about the curse of this castle!"
Robin took a few steps back down the corridor. They were half way down now. At this rate, they would soon be in the courtyard.
"Thomas?" Robin asked.
"All that I've heard, is that it travels around the world," Thomas said. "Open to any evil that exists in the land. It stays in that land for only a day. Once the dawning sun's rays touches its walls, it leaves that land, to go to another."
Robin gazed at the advancing army. Studying them more carefully, he saw something that he hadn't noticed before.
"I see an army of men and some women, close to my age," Robin said. "I've never seen women in an army, and I'm sure older people have entered this castle. Why is that?" Robin asked.
"Old men do not fight well," Lucius quickly replied.
"But they're dead," Robin countered. "What does it matter if they are old? Dead is dead. And you still didn't answer my question, why do you have women in your dark army?"
"I tire of this game," Lilith sighed, as she stepped away from Olwyn.
"As do I," Lucius said. With the two demons standing back, Olwyn dropped his staff, releasing the holding spell. All were surprised to see the dead army did not advance, but remained frozen where they stood. Lillith remained standing in the center of the corridor, her eyes sadly gazing at Robin.
"For thousands of years, I have been trapped within this tomb with her," Lucius growled. "You wanted to know why we made you pledge to stay here? I'll tell you why. Because I’m bored! Bored of being held prisoner in this castle, my only amusement when someone stumbles inside. It was not just Pandora, that opened that box!" he said, with a mad giggle.
"What do you mean?" Tuck asked.
"We saw her close it," Lilith explained. "We only wanted to see what she found."
"We heard something inside of the box pleading to be released," Lucius said. "We made a deal with a creature that was left inside. He promised us immortality! Only if we released him," Lucius lamented.
"Once you released him," Olwyn said. "It forced you to remain here."
"Our price for immortality," Lilith sadly said. "We must remain within this castle. Some of the creatures released by Pandora did not like the outside world. They soon began to join us, in our prison. The castle was saturated with evil. It became so abhorrent that no land wanted it. Until one day, we appeared in another land. But the new land could only tolerate the evil within this castle for a day. And so we traveled this world."
"For a thousand years, Lilith and I rejoiced in seeing new lands," Lucius said. "Soon we were tired of our gift. We tired of…ourselves," he sighed. He looked at Lilith with disgust. "Our love for each other grew cold, with each passing century. That is when we decided to start our game," he happily said.
"Oh yes, the game," Lilith madly giggled.
Robin felt a breeze flow across his face, he noticed they were now standing in the courtyard. Lilith and Lucius hadn't noticed that they exited the castle.
"What game?" Robin asked. He motioned his friends to go towards the exit. The Sons of William the Conqueror quietly rounded up their horses.
"Why, to find someone that will take our place, of course," Lilith replied.
"If we could get someone of virtue to give us their word, to stay within the castle after the dawn, then the curse would be broken,"
"But they had to be someone special," Lucius said, with a frown. "Someone that was close to our ages."
"That's why the army is male and female," Robin said. "You were searching for someone to take your place."
"It took us thousand's of years. We were able to get them to give us their word to stay, but there was to much evil in their hearts. We needed someone whose pure heart and soul was the opposite of our evil," Lucius said. "But our patience has paid off." With a wave of his hand, the portcullis slammed down. Effectively cutting off, Robins escape.
"So sorry, but you can't leave," Lillith hissed. She turned back into the dark spider.
"I didn't make a deal with you," Sir Guy cried out with fear. "You said you needed only Marion and Robin, why keep us here?"
"Traitor," Little John hissed.
"The demons within this castle must be fed," Lucius sweetly said. "All of you will suffice."
Robin gazed up to the skies. He saw an orange glow beginning to form in the distance. Dawn would soon be arriving, he had to find a way of escaping from the castle.
"What happens if you leave this castle?" Robin asked.
"What do you mean?" Lucius said.
"You have resided within these walls for thousands of years," Olwyn said. "Have you not thought of the consequences of all those years?"
"What he means is, will you step out of here, looking young and beautiful? Or will you revert to your true age?" Marion asked.
"That would be a dust pile, I think," Thomas said.
"No, that will not happen," Lilith said. "Will it?" She turned to Lucius.
"They are just trying to talk their way out of their pledge," Lucius said. "I told you, this was the only way we could get out of our prison."
"But what if he speaks the truth?" Lilith said. She immediately turned back into a human. She began to touch her face. "I've lived so long, being young and beautiful, I don't want to lose that."
"You said you were tired of me!" Lucius growled. "Tired of living this way. This was our only way to escape from here."
"But I want to live," Lilith gasped.
"You call this living?" Lucius spat out. "Do what you want, I am leaving this castle when the sun rises!"
"Lilith," Olwyn said. "Were you together, when the demon gave you immortality?"
"Yes, he said we would live together, forever. It was what we wanted."
"Then ask yourself this," Olwyn said. "What will happen to you, if he leaves this castle? If he dies, would you follow him?"
"Don't listen to him!" Lucius said. "Robin Hood pledged himself to you. You won't die."
"But what if I stay?" she asked. "I don't want to die. I can't loose my beauty…"
Lucius let out a cry of outrage, as Lilith leaped on him. Changing into a spider, she began to wrap a web on him.
"Don't do this," Lucius shouted. "You can't make me stay!" he screamed. "I have my way out of here, you can't stop me."
Lucius suddenly changed into a hideous, dark spider nearly equal in size to Lilith, they began to battle. With their attention away from the outlaws, they worked on raising the portcullis.
"Hurry, before they realize that dawn is nearly hear," Robin urged his companions. Finding the counter weight for the portcullis, they began to lift it up. They raised it just high enough for the horses to ride under.
Robin waited by the exit, he saw the two former lovers still fighting. He realized this was a battle they had been raging for thousands of years. With a roar, Lucius plunged his jaws into Lilith's throat.
"Let's get out of here," Robin said.
As he turned to leave, he suddenly saw Marion fall to the ground. Something pulled on her leg, dragging her back to the battling lovers.
"Not yet Milady," Lucius said. "You must keep your pledge."
He had attached a web to Marion's leg. Robin and Little John grabbed Marion, they fought to keep her from being pulled back into the castle. Lilith lay, wounded on the ground. With the sun close to rising, Lucius knew he had to get Marion back into the castle. It was his only chance to escape the curse of immortality.
As Little John and Robin felt Marion begin to slip from their grips, they were joined by another.
"Hold on Fitzsooth," Sir Guy grunted. "We can't allow that demon to get her."
"Glad you finally found your courage," Robin said, as they held onto Marion.
Robin noticed the sky brightening, soon the sun's rays would be shining on the castle walls. He had to get Marion out of the castle before that happened.
"I won't allow you to ruin my plans," Lucius hissed.
"The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go awry," Robin heard his old mentor shout from behind. Glancing back, he saw him standing near the portcullis, with Will Scarlet, and Jacobi by his side.
"It does not matter," Lucius said. "Once I have the woman, then I can leave this prison."
"Oh, but it does, dear Lucius," Lilith sung out. "For with his return, the army is now under my control!"
Lucius let out a cry, as several of the dead soldiers began to grab him. With his release of the web, Marion was flung into Sir Guys arms. "If you don’t mind," Marion huffed. He quickly stood her on the ground.
"Leave this castle!" Lilith said. "I release you of your pledges."
All were having a hard time standing, as the castle grounds began to shake.
"I think that's 'er subtle message for us to get out of 'ere," Will said.
"I agree," Robin said.
They rushed towards the half-raised portcullis. Robin could already see the sun begin to rise at the far horizon. They raced over the drawbridge. Will didn't have to drag Jacobi by the rope he had tied to him. Jacobi was well ahead of him. They all jumped onto the grass that surrounded the castle. Rolling around, they saw the castle shake, in seconds it began to disappear. Soon it was gone, the only sign it was there, was a flat spot in the grass.
"Did you miss me?" Will said, as they slowly began to stand up.
"What took you so long?" Robin quickly returned.
"We could have been here sooner." Will sheepishly glanced at MacGregor. "If I would 'ave listened to your old tutor 'ere."
Robin let out a knowing smile, "I learned that long time ago."
"What will happen to them, Olwyn?" Marion asked the old wizard.
"I believe that Lucius will continue to look for someone that will agree to stay within those cursed walls," he replied. "And Lilith will continue to try and stop him."
"Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive," MacGregor said.
"That's very prophetic old man," Will said. "Can I quote you on that?"
"One is never to old to learn," he replied. Snatching one of Will's knives, he deftly threw it towards a tree. It embedded dead center, of a large knot.
Will stood dazed, his mouth fell open in shock.
"Now that this threat is over, I will leave," Olwyn said. "By your leave, Milady," he bowed his head to Marion. With her approval, he raised his staff. With a shower of golden sparkles, he dissapeared.
"Robin, what do we do about them?" Marion asked, as she pointed to Sir Guy and Jacobi. They had forgotten, they never would have been trapped inside of the castle, if it were not for Sir Guy having Jacobi pretending to be Robin.
"We have a large cell, where they can stay," one of the sons of William the Conqueror offered. "We will gladly keep an eye on this evil man for you."
"Wot if I don't want to go?" Jacobi growled.
"Didn't they mean Sir Guy?" Thomas said, with a chuckle.
"I would appreciate it if you could have a place that will safely hold Jacobi," Robin said.
"Ain't no prison built that can 'old me," Jacobi growled, as he was placed on a horse.
"Once you see your new home, I believe you will find that prison does exist," a son of William the Conqueror said.
"As for Sir Guy?" Robin said. "He is a member of Prince John's court. Holding him would mean you would have the wrath of his court on you."
"I am glad you remember your place, Fitzsooth," Sir Guy sniffed.
Robin mounted his horse. "How can I forget? You are constantly reminding me."
"Good, now if you don't mind…" he was about to mount one of the horses, until Robin moved his horse forward, blocking him.
"Why Sir Guy, being a member of Prince John's court, I could not possibly think of having you ride one of these disgusting peasant horses! I think it would better if you walked back to your castle."
"But it's miles away!" Sir Guy roared.
Looking up into the sky, Robin let out a deep breath. "Then I think you better start walking, it looks like it may rain."
"Goodbye Guy," Marion said, from her mount. "Have a nice walk."
"Robin!" Sir Guy shouted, as they rode away. "You can't leave me here!" He stumbled, and fell to the ground. Slamming his fist into the dirt, he growled. "Fitzsooth, someday I will have your head on a platter!"
"Not today," Robin called out, as he rode down the road.
His taunting laughter cut into Sir Guy. His anger grew, as he heard Marion join him. Once again, Robin won this battle, but it was a war that Sir Guy knew, was not even close to being over. He may have not won today, but he knew one day, Robin Hoods luck would turn to bad. On that day Sir Guy would make sure he was there to take advantage of it.