Sacrifices
By Jeannie

Part 17

The Outlaws were moving quickly away from Guy’s village when Will suddenly pulled up on his horse’s reins, mumbling to himself.

"What is it Will" asked Friar Tuck.

"It’s my servant, Dirk. In all the excitement I forgot about him. He is still at Guy’s castle. I must go back for him." The rest of the party refused to let him return alone. Robin, however, was in no shape for any extra jostling. They decided to leave him in a well-hidden area. Chloe agreed to stay with him.

They quickly headed back to Guy’s castle. Once near the castle, they had to proceed very cautiously. They could not afford to get caught now; not after all they had been through to free Robin and Marion. Will dismounted as he told the others to wait for him in the shadow of a group of trees. He was slowly approaching the side entrance when he spotted Dirk sneaking out the gate. He whistled a signal that brought his horse to him. Will quickly mounted and charged forward grabbing Dirk’s arm, pulling him up behind him as the horse continued to move. He turned back to join the outlaws as they came out of the trees. The group then headed back to Robin and Chloe.

The outlaws knew they must hurry away. Friar Tuck’s surprise at the cave, the fake explosions and the Prince’s quick departure served to buy them a little time; but Guy’s soldiers would soon rally and be in pursuit. Kemal lifted Robin into Little John’s arms. Little John settled Robin on his horse as comfortably as possible.

"I know this will not be a pleasant experience for you, my friend" mentioned Little John, "but we must ride hard and fast back to our camp. Your leg needs tending and Guy’s soldiers will be in pursuit."

"Worry not for me, Little John. I will be fine. Now let us go." The tired, but happy group hurried for home with two new welcome additions to their family.

Meanwhile, Guy’s guards quickly escorted Prince John to the stables that housed his carriage. Barkley hurried in his wake. He rushed past the guards and the prince and climbed into the carriage. Prince John came up to the carriage and leaning in the door yelled,

"What are you doing you fool?"

"Why preparing to leave, your majesty."

"Get out. Get out at once."

"Why ever for your majesty?"

"So they can pull the carriage out and harness the horses for one. Besides you must return to the castle and get Lady Claudia. Then see that our belongings our packed and brought to my castle."

"But your majesty, that will take some time. I thought you were in a hurry to leave."

"I am leaving as soon as Claudia arrives. You can return in the cart with my trunks."

"But your majes..."

"Barkley!"

"Yes your majesty. Right away your majesty." Barkley hurried off to do Prince John’s bidding, mumbling all the while.

"I will see Robin Hood imprisoned. I will make him an example for the people. They will see how he suffers for what he has done. No one steals my gold. I will hold a public execution. He and his outlaw friends will pay dearly." The Prince continued these ramblings as he waited. The horses were soon set to harness and Prince John entered the carriage to await Lady Claudia. His thoughts turned to Sir Guy’s double-dealing and the loss of his ransom money. He swore to make someone pay for this day’s work.

The door to the carriage flew open and Barkley climbed in. "What are you doing here? You couldn’t have possibly seen to the packing already and where is Claudia?"

"Well, your majesty, Sir Guy’s man, Henry, has already taken care of the packing of your trunks. Sir Guy is at this moment escorting the Lady Claudia here."

"That traitor, she is to have nothing to do with him. Why aren’t you there to watch over things?"

"Well everything seemed to be going smoothly and I had to make sure that you were comfortable sir." With a half nod, the Prince replied

"That is as it should be Barkley." The Prince sat back in his seat as Barkley fussed over him.

Once again the door opened to Lady Claudia and Sir Guy. The Prince’s ill humor quickly reappeared. "You shall pay for your actions Guy. I will see you stripped of your title and all your holdings and arrested as a traitor to the crown."

"False accusations, all" claimed Guy.

"I will hear none of your denials. Guards, guards, arrest this man."

"Again I say it is not true your majesty. Those were nothing but lies spread by Sir William Scatlocke and Robin Hood. It is Sir William who masterminded the whole escape plan and Robin Hood who has stolen from you. Why even now Sir William is gone off with Robin Hood and his outlaws."

"I will check into this and if what you say is true, Sir William will pay for what he has done. I will see him die along side his new friend Robin Hood. You will soon hear from me, Guy of Gisbourne. Now stand away from the carriage, we must be off. Oh, and Guy, the next time you invite me to a wedding, be sure the bride plans to attend." Guy stepped back and bowed to the Prince as the carriage departed.

When the carriage passed through the gates, an infuriated Guy returned to the castle in search of Henry. Henry soon came to the hall to report to Guy. "The Prince and Lady Claudia’s belongings have been packed and loaded on the cart. I have assigned several guards to escort the cart so that all the Prince’s things are returned without delay."

"Good man, Henry, now I have another, more important job for you. See if you can discover Will Scatlocke’s destination. He chose the wrong man to befriend. If not for him, I would soon be a happily married man. I will see him pay for what he has done to me. Also, has there been any word from Brian Little? I must know about Marion. Robin Hood will never have my intended wife. Never! Use as many men as necessary. I want answers." Henry left to do his master ’s bidding. Guy brought his fists down on the table before him and said in a soft, menacing tone "you will rue the day you crossed me Will Scatlocke."

After hour upon hour of grueling riding, the outlaws finally reached camp. The horn was sounded and the branches hiding the entrance were pulled back. The outlaws entered camp to loud cheers and applause. A hush came over the crowd as they saw Little John hand Robin down to Kemal’s waiting arms. Little John dismounted and took Robin back from Kemal. Everyone’s faces revealed their concern for their leader. Robin, exhausted and in some pain, lifted his head and smiled to his followers.

"It is good to be home with my family. With the attention of so many wonderful friends, I will soon be my old self." A sound like a huge sign, rippled through the crowd. Little John then carried Robin to his tent where Marion joined them. Friar Tuck went to his quarters to gather his healing herbs. They would soon have Robin well again.

While Robin was being tended to by his friends, Will slipped away to do some thinking. He knew his way of life was now a thing of the past. After aborting Sir Guy’s efforts to steal the ransom money and destroy Robin Hood, he knew he was a hunted man, hunted by both Sir Guy and Prince John. He remembered the look in Guy’s eyes when he knew Marion was lost to him. It was a look of pure anguish that quickly changed to one of absolute hatred and promised revenge when turned on Will.

Prince John was also very unhappy. He had Robin Hood in his grasp but thanks to Will’s intervention, he lost him again. Will expected retribution from that quarter. He did not worry for himself, but rather for his father and his people. Prince John would  probably revenge himself on Will through these people. These fears were very disturbing to Will. He must find a way to focus the Prince’s thoughts strictly on him. He sat on a fallen tree trunk and began to plan how to make this happen. Will was so involved in trying to solve this problem, he did not hear the approaching footsteps until they were upon him.

Startled by the sound of crunching twigs, Will looked up. Many days of having to constantly keep up his guard had Will wary. He was surprised to see Chloe approach him. Will stood as Chloe came nearer.

"Planning again Sir William of the Red Coat?" Will was taken aback by her words and the sarcastic tone of her voice. What had he done to warrant this from her?

"Planning? Why would I have a need to plan?" Will was truly perplexed with Chloe’s attitude. From the first moment he saw her standing in the entrance to Little John’s tent, this woman fascinated him. He thought her a sweet and gentlewoman, someone willing to do what was necessary to help her friends. Although they had not spoken a great deal during the trip to Guy’s castle, he had found her to be a kind person. They had barely spoken since their arrival at the castle and he could not understand what had transpired to warrant this attitude. She had seemed in fine fettle since the rescue and return trip.

"Well?"

"Well, what?" Looking as if she wanted to stomp her foot in exasperation, Chloe asked him again, "What are you planning now? Oh wait, that’s right, you won’t tell me, I’m just a woman." Aha, thought Will, here is the crux of the matter. She is upset because we left her out of our plans.

"Mistress Chloe, are you upset because I chose not to tell you of our change in plans? I only did this to protect you." Chloe closed her eyes. When she reopened them, Will saw the fire of anger in them. She is beautiful when angered he thought.

"Protect me! You think I am incapable of defending myself? Well you think wrong Sir William. Had it not been for me you would still be trying to get into the castle." Will’s mouth turned up in a half smile.

"This is absolutely true, my lady. Yet I learned from Tuck that you do not go off and fight with Robin and thus decided I must keep the danger you faced to a minimum. I could not live with myself if through my carelessness and disregard for your welfare you came to harm. Please forgive me if I have offended."

Chloe was taken aback by this admission and apology. Did she judge Will to harshly? "Well you did sir. I trust you will see that it doesn’t happen again." The sparkle in her eyes and the way her mouth turned up on the one side gave lie to the stern tone of her voice. Relieved not to be the recipient of her anger, Will gave a sweeping bow as he replied.

"Upon my honor, Mistress Chloe." Chloe could not help but smile and shake her head at his antics.

Chloe walked over to the log and sat down. Will asked if he could join her. Chloe quickly nodded her assent then asked.

"Am I wrong in thinking you were sitting here planning something?"

"No in this you are correct. My plans are for my future and that of my father and our people."

She asked him to tell him of his plans. If asked, Will would not be able to say just why he was able to open up to Chloe, he just knew it was right. Will began to tell Chloe of his life. He spoke of his father and recently deceased mother. Chloe could hear the love he had for his mother in his voice. Will talked of the people who depended on his father for their livelihood. He was very honest about his former life, the drinking, the gambling and his history with women. Will continued to speak for a long while. Chloe said nothing just let Will speak.

When Will spoke of his recent stay with Guy, he became a little hesitant. It was almost as if he could not find the words to express his conflicting emotions. Chloe questioned him on this hesitancy.

"You seem unsure of your recent decision to change the way you live your life?" Will quickly turned his head toward her. It was as if she had startled him out of his reverie.

"No" was his almost indecisive reply.

"No" he said again with more conviction. "I am very sure of the rightness of my decisions. It is the result of these decisions that has me worrying. Sir Guy and Prince John are vengeful people when thwarted. I am sure they will both seek retribution of me. What form this retribution takes concerns me. I fear the Prince will levy such high taxes against my father and his people that they will be left with nothing. Guy will probably settle for nothing less than my life. It is my father, though, that concerns me the most."

Chloe suggested to Will that perhaps discussing this with his father would help. Will was most adamant in his reply.

"I cannot return to my father’s manor. It would only serve to draw the Prince’s attention there. Guy would probably hunt me there and I fear someone will be hurt or worse. No, I must stay clear of that entire county and work to draw both the Prince and Guy’s attention to me."

"You must let your father know of your decision. And what of your faithful servant, Dirk. Is it fair to keep him from the home he has known? Does he have family there? Can you feel good about separating him from them? I say it again, you need to speak with your father."

Will jumped up from his seat. "Do you think I haven’t been over all this? This is exactly what I was thinking about when you approached me. I know how loyal Dirk has been. I would never reward that loyalty by asking him to stay." Will began to pace as he continued speaking. "Dirk shall return home taking with him a message for my father. Now I need to contemplate the words I must write my father, words that will convey my regrets and sorrow, regrets for my past behaviors and sorrow at the loss of my family, friends and home."

Chloe stood as Will walked to where she sat. He took here hand and brought it to his lips.

"Thank you for hearing me out. I have never spoken of my feelings to anyone and it has helped me to see things more clearly." Chloe smiled, a gesture which Will thought enhanced her beauty.

"It has been my pleasure, Sir William. Thank you for trusting me to listen. Now I will leave you to think of what you must say to your servant and your father." Chloe headed back to the center of camp leaving Will to his thoughts.

End of Part 17

Part Eighteen The Conclusion
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