Trudging through the dense forest, the group soon found themselves at the edge of the tree line. The backside of the castle visible and only a few yards away. Guards were patrolling the high walls surveying the grounds below. The three outlaws and their companion hunched low, studying the area. Without uttering a sound, Allison pointed to the left corner of the stone tower, denoting where the camaflaged door was located. All they had to do now was get past the guards undetected. Keeping a watchful eye on the guards routine they knew they could slip past unnoticed, but the timing must be precise. Patiently they waited for the exact moment and when it came they made a mad dash across the grass. Reaching the side of the wall and plastering themselves against it, biding their time to see if they were spotted. When no alarm was sounded the group inched their way to where the hidden door should be.
Allison was the first to push on the wall, but nothing happened. After a few more fruitless attempts she look at the others in despair. "It won’t budge." she mouthed.
Marion and Tuck looked to Little John. The blonde man gave them a big smile, handed Tuck his quarterstaff and went to work. Pushing with all is might-his face flushed and contorted from his efforts. Still the stones did not move. Stepping back slightly, inhaling deeply he shoved against the wall again. At last he felt the door give way with a grinding noise as stone rubbed against stone.
The opening was not large and they had to crouch to enter. Once inside, John closed the opening behind them. It was pitch black inside and a stale odor engulfed them. Allison gagged at the smell and then gave a small yelp as something brushed past her feet.
"It’s just rats." remarked Marion. "Well I can’t see a blasted thing. How are we suppose to know which way to go?" Wishing they had brought torches.
Allison trying to ignore the smells and rats answered. "I think you just keep going straight until you run into a door that leads to the storage room above the dungeon."
"You think!" hissed Marion. "What do you mean you think. I thought you knew the way."
"I said I knew of a hidden entrance. I’ve never actually been in here."
"Wonderful." Marion snapped.
Tuck decided to interfere. "We might as well continue on since we’ve come this far. Let’s hope this does indeed lead us to where we want to go."
With Marion on point the troupe very carefully felt their way along the narrow passageway. The walls were damp to the touch and Allison stumbled a few times on the uneven ground. They had gone a good distance when Marion bumped into a wall. Placing her hands against it, she felt around when she brushed a handle. "It’s a door." She pulled on the iron ring but the door remained closed. "John can you open this?"
Gently he made his way from the back of the group stepping on everyone’s toes as he went. "Sorry" he apologized. Fumbling in the dark he found the ring and gave it a yank. The door slowly opened making a loud scraping noise. Everyone froze! When no one came to investigate the sound, the group ventured into the room.
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Down in the cell below, Robin had been quietly going over his options. If his friends didn’t rescue him soon things could get ugly. When Prince John got the news of his capture, someone would be sent forthwith. Robin figured he had a day or perhaps two before he found himself bound for the Prince. Standing up he stretched to ease his sore muscles. The stone floor was uncomfortable and cold. In fact the whole cell had gotten chilly, telling him evening was approaching. He started pacing the tiny area trying to keep warm. Even his long sleeve tunic could not keep out the damp temperature. Back and forth he walked when all of a sudden he stopped in mid stride. "What was that?" he wondered. It sounded like a door squeaking above him. Looking up at the ceiling, he paused to hear if the noise came again. A few moments passed and all was quiet. He gave his shoulders a quick shrug. "Guess it was nothing." and returned to his pacing.
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Upstairs Allison was first to peek out the door of the storage room. She scanned the corridor to see if anyone was about. Glancing back at the others she waved her hand and they all filed out behind her. It was a short way when they came to a set of stairs which lead downward. "This will take us to the weapons room which is next to the dungeon." she explained.
Quietly the rescue party descended the stairs stopping at the entrance of the room. Voices could be heard coming from inside and they all held their breaths. Marion closed her eyes briefly then look at Allison. "What now?" she asked silently. The other woman gave her a smug smile and headed out into the room before any of them could stop her.
"Hey, who goes there?" demanded one of the guards. "Oh , Lady Allison forgive me, I didn’t realize it was you."
Smiling sweetly she replied. "Of course you didn’t. I don’t usually visit this part of the castle."
"Is there something you needed my lady?" he inquired a bit nervously. Never having spoken with the master’s daughter before he felt a bit intimidated.
"Well now that you asked, I could use you and your friend’s help with a tiny matter." as she threw the other guard a smile as well.
Eager to be of any assistance the first man agreed quickly. The second man was not so enthusiastic. "We both can’t go my lady, one of us must stay and guard the prisoner."
Her smile dropped from her lips and was replaced with annoyance. "I don’t think the prisoner will go too far considering he is locked up tight in his cell. Besides this won’t take but a few minutes and then you may return to your duties." Her tone held a slight command to it and the guard reluctantly agreed. The two men followed their mistress out a door at the other end of the room.
Marion and the others listened to the exchange and when they heard the receding footsteps they came out of the shadows. "We have to find the keys quickly." she urged.
The interior of the room was typical of it’s kind. Various weapons hung on the walls or were scattered in corners. A crude table was sitting at the far end where swords of different sizes lay. Buckets of grease, used to clean weapons, were under the table. The left wall had a door which led to the dungeon, and an iron spike protruded from it. On the spike, a ring of heavy keys hung.
Discovering the keys, Tuck rushed over and snatched them. "Got them!"
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Robin was still pacing when he heard the familiar sound of the dungeon door opening. Assuming it was one of the guards, his face lit up in delight when he saw it was Tuck who entered the room. Marion and Little John were right behind him.
"Well it’s about time you got here, what took you so long?" he asked in an amused tone.
Tuck went to the lock, inserting the key. "Well I see you’ve maintained your sense of humor through all of this."
John was leaning against the bars, at Robin’s comment he stood up. "You wouldn’t believe what we’ve been through. First we had to hide in the woods, dodge guards, then the secret doors were stuck and there were rats......" He would have go on but Robin put a hand on his large friend’s shoulder.
"John I was only kidding. I appreciate all you did to get in here. I really didn’t know how you were going to breech the castle." The cell door opened and out he stepped. "So how did you manage to get in here?"
"It was Lady Allison." answered the friar.
A look of disbelief crossed Robin’s face. "Lady Allison helped you?"
"Yea, she showed us a hidden entrance to the castle with a passageway that brought us here." Marion said, grudgingly. "We better get moving, because even as we speak, the lady is keeping the guards occupied."
Robin gave a big smile. "Well then, let us depart." He followed the others out of the prison, through the room next door and to the foot of the stairwell.
As they were about to ascend, Allison’s voice could be heard. "Come back here this minute! You have to try again."
That was followed by boots clicking on the stone floor. "We’re sorry my lady, but we have been away from out post for too long already. Get someone else to help you." The guard had just finished the sentence as he came into the room. He stopped short when he spied the four outlaws. In the spilt second it took for the guard to recover, the other party had their weapons drawn. Not having his sword or bow, Robin grabbed a blade that was hanging on the wall.
The other guard had also entered and immediately yelled for help. Not wanting to fight the reinforcements too, Robin and the others went on the attack. Using his staff John landed a blow to the mid section of the first guard. The man doubled over clenching his stomach. Before he could stand up again, the staff caught him underneath the chin sending him flying. Slamming into the wall behind , landing on the floor unmoving.
Robin was doing battle with the second man. Both with swords in hand, the sound of clashing steel filled the room as the blades made contact again and again. Being the better swordsman, Robin with a flick of his sword tip, disarmed his opponent sending the other man’s blade to the ground.
With his back up against a wall the man sneered at the outlaw. Giving him a mocking smile Robin raised his left arm and backhanded the man across the face followed by a right. The guard slowly slumped to the floor.
By now, four more soldiers, having heard the alarm, entered the fray. Marion took the first on coming soldier. With whip in hand, she wrapped it around the fellow’s ankle causing him to stumble to the floor. He managed to get halfway to his feet when she took a large wooden chair, smashing it over his head. The man lay unconscious at her feet.
At the other end of the room Tuck had been cornered behind the table, two men ready to attack across from him. Ducking as one of them made a lunge, he picked up the bucket of grease that lay at his feet. He then proceeded to toss the contents at the lunging guard. The oil burned the man’s eyes, covering his face he ran blindly for the door. The second man had been watching his comrade’s flight , now he turned back to the friar. Raising his blade ready to strike, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning he saw a large man grinning at him, then all went black as an equally large fist connected with his nose.
"Than you Little John." smiled Tuck
There was only one guard left and Robin took care of him with kick to the side of the man’s head. When he was finished he surveyed the area, bodies were strewn everywhere and the room in shambles. In one of the corners he noticed Lady Allison cowering and strode over. Standing over her he extended a hand. She looked up at the outstretched hand, grasping it with her own, she stood up.
"Are you okay?" he asked tenderly. Allison just nodded her response. Turning to the others, "Well we better get going before we get any more company."
"Sounds good to me." smiled Little John with Marion and Tuck seconding his thoughts.
Robin hesitated, still holding Allison’s hands, he gave them a slight squeeze. "Thank you for all your help, we couldn’t of done it without you."
Gazing up at his smile, she felt a hundred emotions run through her. Finally she spoke. "You shouldn’t thank me, I was the one who got you into this mess to begin with." and she bowed her head in shame.
Placing a finger under her chin, Robin lifted her face so that she was looking up at him. "It’s okay, I’m free now and I think you’ve learned a very valuable lesson. You can’t manipulate people’s lives to get what you want." He gave her an amused look before he went on. "That includes tricking unsuspecting men into your bed."
Giving him an impish grin in return she said. "Maybe, but it was all worth it to be able to wake up in your arms for even one morning."
It was his turn to be embarrassed, his face reddened and he tilted his head to one side arching an eyebrow. "Allison, stop."
She ignored his plea and continued. "You truly are an extraordinary man Robin Hood. If my father could find a man like you for me to wed, I’d not give him the slightest bit of trouble." Then rising to her tiptoes she pressed her lips to his.
Marion, Tuck and Little John had been witnessing the whole scene with amusement from the foot of the stairs. However when the kiss occurred Marion thought she better do something or the little minx might gobble Robin up. "Excuse me, but don’t you think we should get going? I don’t know about you but I’d rather not run into anymore guards if we can help it."
Robin was the first to break away at the sound of Marion’s words. He was still facing the woman before him. "Allison, do me a favor, talk to your father." When she would have argued he hurried on. "No, I mean really talk to him. Don’t argue, don’t give him ultimatums, just tell him the truth. Tell him how you feel and why you did what you did. I think if you are honest with him you can work things out. Will you do this for me?"
She didn’t want to, but he gave her such an earnest look she had no choice but to agree. "I’ll try, but only because you asked."
"Good girl. Well, we’re off." The four made their way up the staircase and into the storage room. In no time they had navigated the dark passageway and stepped out into the cool night air. The cover of darkness aided their sprint to the forest and once inside the security of the woods they began to relax.
Breathing in the fresh clean air, Robin remarked. "It’s good to be out in the open air again. Have I ever told you how much I hate cells."
"Stop compromising young women and maybe you won’t get yourself into trouble." teased Marion.
He looked at her with an injured expression. "Marion really, I was set up. I would never dream of seducing some young lady. Now a woman with auburn hair, who can wield a sword and whip, well that would be a whole other matter." With that said, he hastened his pace to catch up with Little John and Tuck.
Marion just stood there in astonishment her jaw hanging open. As his words sunk in a faint blush crept up her cheeks. The thought of Robin seducing her made her tingle all over. No doubt about it, she thought to herself, being in a compromising position with him definitely had it’s merits. Looking up the path she realized how far a head the others had gotten. Pushing her thoughts to the back of her mind to be explored at a later time she ran to catch up.