Sacrifices
By Virginia Cavazos

Part 4

Since the heavy tax levy was posted Robin soon turned into a very busy outlaw. Marion and Little John had their hands full trying to keep him in sight. The Princes tax collectors were relentless. It seemed he had hired any man who was willing to collect taxes to pay the ransom for King Richard.

He was very indiscriminate in his hiring. Hiring any riff, raff that roamed the streets. Some had taken to using the Princes authority as a excuse to tack on their own taxes. The people, fearing the Princes wrath, paid the outrageous amount.

The small outlaw band were following a heavily loaded tax wagon. There were twenty guards protecting the lumbering wagon. It rocked back and forth on the unpaved road. Jeremy shook on the reins. Trying to urge the tiring horses on. The wagon was beyond what the horses were used to pulling. Jeremy was determined to have the gold delivered to the Prince. King Richard’s life depended on it.

Robin was squatting on a large tree branch. Little John was at his side. Robin gave out a silent hand signal that the outlaws had devised to be able to talk to each other. Little John nodded at what Robin had signaled.

As the wagon rolled under the tree that Robin was perched on he fell into the wagon. As he landed he quickly picked up a large sack of coins. Throwing it over the side. It split open, coins began tumbling out. Robin knew that the guards greed for money was stronger than there loyalty for Prince John. Some of the men jumped off their horses. Falling to the ground, they clutched at the gold that spilled on the ground.

Little John jumped on one of the guards pearched on a horse. Hitting the man on the top of his head, the blonde giant then threw the man down. Raising his staff Little John rode into the guards. Using the staff like a javelin. He pushed the guards off their mounts.

As Little John worked on diminishing the guards numbers, Robin lifted another bag of coins. Throwing it behind him as the horses pulling the wagon, rode on. More guards loyalties shifted as they headed for the lost coinage, along with Jeremy, he dived off the wagon. Clutching at the thrown gold. The men would later say that Robin Hood had taken the coins. Witn no one left to guide it, the wagon rode recklessly down the road. Bracing himself, Robin pulled his sword from his back. He knew, no matter how tempting, there would still be home men loyal to Prince John.

In answer to his reasoning a young man jumped from his horse, to the collected tax filled wagon. Sword pulled out, he started dueling with Robin. Justin had always wanted to make a name for himself. Killing Robin Hood would make him a hero in many eyes. Robin brought his sword up to block Justin’s blows. He was a rough swordsman, but with youthful exuberance behind him. His energy seemed endless. The tight surroundings of the wagon. With the unsure footing of the bags of coin, had put Robin and Justin on a even level. Robin tried to jump up, to get out of the way, as Justin swept his sword across.

Justin smiled as Robins jump failed and Justin was able to knock Robin off his feet. Robin landed on his back, his head hitting a hard sack of coins. Robins sword fell from his hand as the blow stunned him. Justin quickly kicked the sword away. He grinned from ear to ear as he brought his sword up. Prince John had said dead or alive. Justin preferred dead.

Robin could see the sword coming down at him. He brought his hands up as a weak defense. Better to be without a hand than without a life. Before the sword plunged into Robin, an explosion was heard. The horses bolted. Running away with Robin and Justin in the back.

Robin knew instantly what the explosion meant, Black Powder! The sound of it brought a flash back for Robin. He could see himself holding onto a rope in the tavern. The powder ready to ignite. Robin flew into a small cellar under the tavern. He steeled himself for the impending explosion. The sound was deafening. Robin never told Marion that he felt like he died in that hole. The smoke from the fires. The heat, and the force of the blast. He was very surprised to wake up to only bruises.
Hearing another explosion brought him back to the present. Robin could hear Marion crying out to him.

"Robin! Quickly, its Master Ika."

Justin had fallen on his backside when the horses bolted at the loud explosions. Robin jumped up. Searching for his sword, he found it, picking it up he sheathed it on his back. Robin jumped on the horse that Marion held for him.

"Lets go Robin. Before things get to hot here."

Robin nodded agreement. It had planned that if any trouble arose that they would split up and head back separately to Sherwood Forest. Marion was determined to stay with Robin. They rode on into the forest. Robin was upset that Master Ika was still around. He had hoped that the Mongolian had left England. There was no such luck. Again Marion was threathened by the explosions caused by the black powder that Ika brought in. Robin glanced back at Marion, he would die if she was harmed by the explosions.

Even though Robin was upset at Marions overprotectiveness, he was also touched. Marion sensed his uneasyness.

"When we get back we’ll have to make sure that Little John stays closer to you. That was a close call." Marion lightly told Robin.

Robin pulled on his reins. Stopping his mount. Marion stopped hers also. Robin’s eyes were ablaze.

"Whats wrong?" Marion asked innocently.

"Marion this has to end!" Robin said, his voice came out angryer that he had wanted. But he was really getting upset at the way Marion and Little John were treating him. He was the leader of an outlaw band. He had responsibilites. He felt stifiled at being coddled by his own people.

"Robin we’re only trying to help." Marion tried to explain.

"Marion it would help me if you would just let me do my job!"

Marion tuned her horse away, so Robin could not see the tears forming in her eyes. He was truly angry with her. Robin only dropped his head in frustration. It seemed that Marion no longer trusted him as their leader. Not wanting to debate it any longer, Robin pushed his heel into his steeds sides. Urging it on. After a few moments, Marion followed after him.

( This next part is by Kathy B.)

They rode together in silence, each deep in thought. If one drew ahead, they would wait for the other. No words were spoken. Each knew that they must quickly return to camp. Marian was so lost in her thoughts; she started to lag behind. She felt the muscles in her neck tensing. There it was again, that feeling that she was being watched. She pulled tightly on the reins and drew her horse around. She quickly scanned the area but saw nothing but trees and the occasional bird flying overhead. Everything was peaceful in this part of the forest just now, too peaceful for what had just occurred. Still, she could see or hear nothing out of the ordinary.

"What is wrong with me? Why can’t I shake this feeling?" she thought not for the first time.

"Marian", Robin called as he headed back her way, "What are you doing? We need to get back to camp before it becomes too dark. We’ll never make the camp at this rate."

"Please, don’t let me hold you back" she replied with a mixture of anger and sarcasm.

"Marian?"

"Robin, can we please just get going", she asked and then took off in the direction of their camp.

"Hey are you going to leave me behind unprotected?" He knew that would get a reaction from her.

Much to his surprise, her only response was to spur her horse on. Apparently their disagreement had upset her more than he realized. Robin followed Marian; sorry that he had upset her, but he needed this overprotectiveness to cease, as much for his sake as for Marian’s.

Her behavior of late was not typical of Marian. She seemed distant and brooding so much of the time; but if he questioned her about it she denied any problems. Marian seemed to be shutting him out. It was as if she was trying to protect him from all worries. Things should have been better between them now that he let her know how much she meant to him.

Granted, he never spoke those three special little words to her; but after showing her the poem he had kept all those years she should know how special she was to him. They had almost kissed that night in Guy’s castle. Didn’t she realize what those gestures were meant to convey? Instead of getting better though, things seemed to be getting worse.

Up ahead, Marian was worrying and more than a little hurt. How could Robin be so cruel? Why couldn’t he understand her fears? She had come so close to losing him. Life without him was unthinkable. That horrible scene in the tavern kept playing itself over and over in her mind. She couldn’t live through something like that again. If Robin thought she was hovering, he would soon have to learn to deal with it.

How to deal with his anger was another thing entirely. They had many disagreements over the years, but never had Robin been so angry with her. Marian tried to focus on that special moment in Guy’s castle when Robin returned to her after the explosion. She could still hear him reciting the words from that poem she had given him so many years before. And then to find out he had kept it with him always brought her indescribable joy. Could he not see that all that had happened only served to deepen her love for him thus increasing her fear of losing him?

And now this new worry, this sense of being watched. If asked, Marian would be unable to say why she felt this way but a terrible sense of foreboding was descending upon her. Oh if she could only share this new worry with Robin as she did so often in the past. Things were just too strained between them for her to be able to open up to him. Consumed by these thoughts, Marian began to lag behind.

End of Part Four

Part Five
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