Will had found it amazingly easy to leave Guy’s castle without detection.
He owed it all to the chaos caused by Master Ika’s attempt to kill Robin.
As everyone had come running to see what was happening, Will managed to slip in, saddle his horse and then slip back out under cover of darkness. He did have a moment’s worry when he heard one of the guards returning to the side entrance but he managed to slip out the gate before the guard returned.
Will was now more determined than ever to find Robin’s friends and bring them back with him to Guy’s castle. His first concern was how to find them. He had a general sense of where to go from his many discussions with Robin. Those very same discussions also made him aware that he would only find the campsite if they wanted him to find it. This was highly unlikely, as they knew little or nothing about him. What they might know would certainly not lead them to trust him. Will knew that his association with Guy was enough to make them wary. This was a problem he pondered throughout the night on his journey to Sherwood.
Will rode for hours, unsure if he was even remotely close to his destination. He knew not how long it had been since he left Guy’s. It had been a long day and Will was tired both physically and mentally. He prayed he would come near to Robin’s home soon. Will knew he must stay alert to any lurking dangers. However, as the hours passed and exhaustion began to overtake him, he became less aware of his surroundings. He was startled awake by a yell and then suddenly he was on the ground with what felt like the trunk of a tree on his back. His hands were jerked behind him and bound. A cloth was then placed across his eyes. Will was brought to his feet in one quick jerk, then flung into the air to land with a thump on his stomach. He was momentarily breathless and disoriented. As his breathing returned to normal, he realized he must be lying across his horse. Suddenly he was moving. Before he had time to speak, he was again startled by a strange sound, like a horn. He felt it must be some type of signal. This was a development Will hadn’t anticipated. He decided to remain silent and see if he could learn anything.
Little John was up preparing to begin his search for Robin and Marion. He wanted to leave at first light. He came running out of his tent at the sound of the signal. Could Robin and Marion have returned? He did not anticipate the signal sounding at Kemal’s return as he was expected. The sun was slowly rising now and he could make out Kemal coming towards him leading a horse with a man draped across the saddle.
"Who’s your friend, Kemal?"
"That is a question I cannot answer for we have not yet been properly introduced. Shall we find out together?"
Will felt himself being lifted off his horse. He was feeling a little bruised yet quite elated for he had found them, Robin’s friends. It may not have been the introduction he was hoping for but at least he had located them or rather they had located him. His blindfold was removed but his hands remained bound.
"Who are you and why are you lurking around Sherwood?" This giant must be Little John he thought. The one Robin referred to as his dearest friend and brother. The other man would be Kemal.
"I am Sir William Scatlocke. I have come from your friends Robin Hood and Lady Marion Fitzwalter." This response caused quite a stir.
"Where are they?" "Are they hurt?" "Why didn’t they come themselves?"
"How do you know Robin and Marion?" "Something must be wrong if they sent you." Questions were flying past Will like arrows. He didn’t know who or what to address first.
"Please unbind my hands and let us sit. Then I will tell you what I know." Little John waved him towards the direction of a log situated near a roaring fire. "I think we will keep the hands tied just a little longer. How do we know you are telling the truth." They made their way to the log and sat down. There a portly man, dressed in a monk’s robe, joined them. This could only be Tuck. Kemal quickly explained the situation to the Friar.
Will saw the Friar’s eyes narrow at the mention of his name. "You are a friend of Sir Guy of Gisbourne, are you not?"
"Yes I am" was Will’s simple reply. A low rumbling passed through the crowd that had gathered. "Please let me explain before you come to the wrong conclusion." He knew they would not easily be convinced, especially Friar Tuck. Will felt the need to explain his ambivalence toward his way of life since the death of his mother. He talked of his restlessness and the gnawing uncertainty he faced with each passing day. Will knew that if he could let them see that his decision to help Robin was the culmination of many factors, then maybe he would be believed. Will then began to relate, in great detail, the events of the last week starting with the discovery of Marion’s horse up ending with Robin’s most recent injury and the planned wedding. The telling of these events took quite a long time due to the many interruptions, both in question and denial.
Will’s throat was dry and his voice sounded raspy. Tuck told Little John to cut the bindings on Will’s wrists while he went to fetch him some water. Little John was reluctant to do this, as he still did not trust this man called Will Scatlocke.
"With so many of us present, he can do no harm Little John. Release him." Little John got up to do the Friar’s bidding. As he walked over to Will, he caught a movement on the other side of camp. It was his cousin Brian trying to sneak back in.
"Brian" he bellowed. As Brian turned toward Little John, Will happened to look up. "That is the man who has been reporting to Guy," shouted Will as he jumped to his feet.
A look of fear came over Brian that spoke to the truth of this statement more than words could. Brian started running with Little John in pursuit. Little John easily overtook Brian and brought him down. As they struggled, a bag of coins fell from Brian’s tunic pocket.
"Well, well, what have we here?" asked Little John as he grabbed the bag with one hand while holding onto Brian with the other. Little John dragged his cousin over to the fire and pushed him down on the log previously used by Will.
I should have known you were up to no good. I even talked to Robin about your usual behavior. He said to give you a chance because people can change. I guess you aren’t one of those people. This man" he said as he turned to Will,
"Claims to have seen you talking to Sir Guy of Gisbourne." Brian vehemently denied knowing Sir Guy. Will spoke up stating that it took place at Sir Guy ’s castle shortly after Robin and Marion were brought there. He saw Guy pass the man a pouch of coins. When he questioned Guy, he was told that the man was cousin to Little John and had been spying on Marion for him. "Guy is determined to have Marion for his own. He will stop at nothing."
Little John yanked Brian up from his seat and shoved him towards Thad.
"Lock him up and see that he does not get away. I will deal with him when I return." Little John then called for Kemal, Will and Tuck to join him in his tent to make plans for rescuing their friends. It was decided that they would leave immediately as planned but hole up just outside Guy’s castle. Will needed to get back into the castle undetected. It would probably be midday before he could get back into the castle. He also needed to come up with an explanation of his whereabouts in case Guy had been looking for him.
"Well, once we get to the village….". Soon five riders took off for Guy’s at a furious pace.
* * *
"Will you get out of my way you bumbling fool". Barclay, with a sweeping bow, allowed the Prince to pass into the chamber.
"Lady Claudia tells me a messenger was here. Who sent him and what did he want?" As Barclay fumbled to retrieve the document, he replied
"The messenger brought this from Sir Guy of Gisbourne." He handed the message to Prince John. The Prince immediately opened the note and began to quickly scan the page. Prince John began to laugh and told Barclay to fetch the Lady Claudia. Upon her entrance the Prince said in a voice wrought with elation,
"Prepare to leave immediately, my dear. We are going to a wedding."
"A wedding? Who is getting married, pray tell?"
"Sir Guy of Gisbourne will be wed this Friday and his bride is none other than the Marion Fitzwalter." Barclay, looking puzzled said,
"Marion Fitzwalter, hmm, Marion Fitzwalter. Isn’t that Robin Hood’s friend?"
"Yes, and all he asks for a wedding gift is that I take Robin Hood, who is currently recuperating at his castle, and keep it hidden from Marion. Now that is a present I cannot deny him. Hurry and prepare, Claudia. I am anxious to be on my way."
Little John and company were making good time in their quest to reach Guy’s castle. They spoke little on their journey, rather concentrating on what lie ahead. After hours of riding, stopping only briefly to water their horses, they finally came to the outskirts of Guy’s village. Will led them to the cave where Robin and Marion had sought shelter.
"I think you three can safely wait here until morning. You know what to do then. Good luck my friends. I will see you tomorrow."
"Good luck to you two and remember" he said to Will’s companion,
"Don’t let Marion see you."
"Little John, don’t worry. I will be fine."
"Don’t worry? You are about to go to the castle of a man who hates Robin and his followers, dressed like the village trollop and you say I shouldn’t worry. I’m sorry Chloe, but I can’t help myself."
Will and Chloe arrived back at the side entrance to the castle. As he had feared, the guards were back at their posts. He looked at Chloe and reminded her to keep her hood up and try to keep her face in shadow as much as possible.
"Let me do the talking." The guards called to them to halt.
"Oh it is you Sir William. We were not informed that you had left."
"Well I’m back now so please let me and my ‘ah’ guest pass."
"Certainly, Sir William." The guards opened the gate and let Will and Chloe in.
"So far so good, Chloe. Now if we can just get you to my chamber before Marion sees you. Let us hurry." With that said, they quickly entered the castle and headed for Will’s room.
End of Part 14