Prince John paced the great hall while yelling for Barclay.
"BARCLAY, BARCLAY" he screamed as he opened the door. Barclay fell into the room, his helmet clank, clank, clanking as it rolled along the floor.
"Yes your majesty?" he said.
"What is all that commotion in the outer bailey?"
"I think it’s a messenger from the King of Austria to see you, your highness."
"You think it’s a messenger from the King of Austria to see me. You THINK? You don’t KNOW?"
"Yes your majesty, I mean no your majesty."
"Well which is it?"
"Yes, I think it’s a messenger from the King of Austria; and no, I don’t know for sure."
"WELL FIND OUT!"
Yes sir." Barclay grabbed his helmet and ran out of the room. Prince John began his pacing again wondering what the King of Austria would want with him. It couldn’t be good.
Soon Barclay returned. The messenger handed a rolled parchment to the Prince. Breaking the seal, Prince John quickly scanned the message.
"THIS IS AN OUTRAGE", he bellowed as he threw the parchment at the messenger.
"What is it your majesty?"
"It appears my brother, King Richard, has been captured by the King of Austria’s men as he returned from the crusades. Now the King is demanding an outrageous sum for his release."
Prince John began to pace the room, his head bent dejectedly. He knew he must keep his face hidden for fear of showing his true feelings. Demand a ransom indeed. The benefits of this situation were numerous. If he planned it just right, this could definitely work to his advantage. But how? He needed to be alone to think. He halted in front of the messenger.
"Go back to your king and tell him I will secure the ransom for my brother’s release but it will take time. Now, EVERYONE GET OUT!"
Once alone, John began to savor thoughts of the situation: Richard held prisoner and a true King’s ransom in gold. He had no worries as to how to collect the gold. He would simply announce that he was raising the taxes but only for the sake of his brother’s safe return. Richard’s loyal subjects couldn’t possibly complain. They all prayed for him to hurry home.
The safety of the king was in their hands. The Prince slouched back on his throne rubbing his hands together, a cynical smile on his face, a pensive look in his eyes. So deep in thought was he that he did not hear the door open.
"What has you in such a good mood?" asked the Lady Claudia.
"Ah, there you are my dear. Come to hear my news on this beautiful day?"
"What are you talking about John? The air is chill, the sky is darkening and the rain has begun to fall."
"Oh but my dear it is a glorious day. My dear brother, Richard, has been captured by the King of Austria who is demanding a huge ransom. Just think, all that money and the throne too."
"But John, how can you keep the money without the people rebelling?" "That I must ponder. Don’t worry, my dear, I will contrive."
The next morning found the Prince ready for action. He gathered his soldiers and instructed them to go out among the people and proclaim the news of Richard’s capture.
A decree was to be read announcing that "henceforth all taxes will be increased threefold in order to ensure the King’s release".
The soldiers quickly did their Prince’s bidding, going from village to village with the news. Friar Tuck was speaking with the Widow Wilson about her apple cobbler recipe when one of the soldiers came to the village. Upon hearing the news, Tuck said a hasty goodbye and hurried off to camp to inform Robin and his followers of the King’s capture.
It was business as usual at the campsite when the horn sounded, signally Tuck’s entrance. Robin and Kemal ran toward Tuck who was standing with Marian and Little John.
"What news Tuck", Robin asked.
Tuck was leaning against a tree, head down, chest heaving, trying to catch his breath. "King Richard has been captured by the King of Austria. Prince John has tripled the taxes to raise money for the King’s ransom."
Robin, his brow arched, looked at Marion. "So Prince John wants to secure his brother’s freedom?"
Marian looked at Little John who turned to look at Kemal. Kemal looked at the Friar who looked back at Robin.
"NEVER" they said in unison. "I wonder what our good prince is up to now," said Robin. Marian asked Robin what he planned to do. His reply "Nothing" caused shocked gasps among his friends.
"Nothing yet, that is."
End of Chapter Two