Marion awaited Robin outside Tuck’s hut, concern filling her eyes. She stopped the outlaw as he pushed his way outside, heading for the pond. "Robin…it was an accident." She gasped, seeing the annoyed look in the dark-haired man’s eyes.
"Marion, she is a child. Shouldn’t you have taken it a little easy on her?"
"Robin…I really didn’t mean it. It almost seemed as if she wanted that to happen," Marion babbled, trying to get Robin to pay attention to what she was saying.
"We’ll discuss this later," Robin replied, scooping a bucket of water and heading back to the hut, leaving Marion standing there, just watching as he strode away.
Quickly he pushed back the tarp to Tuck’s hut and joined the Friar as he was bandaging Cassi’s arm.
"It’s not that bad, Robin," the friar said calmly, seeing the concern in the outlaw’s eyes. Once he had completed his task, Tuck smiled, saying he was going for more firewood and would be right back.
"Are you ok?" Robin asked gently as he sat on the edge of the pallet.
Cassi looked down, pausing a moment then burst out in tears. "Oh, Robert. It was awful! From the moment we began to spar, I knew Marion was angry with me. I told her I could not understand why she was so angry. She accused me of being up to something, claimed I had an ulterior motive for being here. Then she injured me when I denied it." She dropped her head, tears streaming down her face and mumbled, "Perhaps it was a mistake-me coming here."
Robin reached down, and lifting her face, dried her tears with his fingers. "It is not a mistake, Cassi. I have enjoyed having you here. I missed you, these past years."
She looked up into his warm brown eyes, staring deeply into them before she leaned forward and kissed him.
Marion had just worked up enough nerve to come in and apologize to Cassi. Stopping at the door, she was shocked to see Robin’s lips meeting this young girl’s as they sat on the pallet. Quickly, she exited the hut, without either Robin or Cassi noticing her presence.
Robin broke the kiss and jumped to his feet. "While I am very flattered by your gesture, Cassi," he told her gently. "I must let you know something." Robin looked at the young girl and his face flushed. "Marion and I have an agreement. And while you are a lovely girl…"
"You think of me as a sister," Cassi finished for him. She waited a moment, looking into Robin’s expressive eyes before she got to her feet. "Look, I don’t think I can face you right now." Pushing the fur back, Cassi looked over one shoulder at Robin, then ran from the hut to the horses. Robin followed, worried about her, but halfway across the compound, Tuck stopped him.
"Let her go, Robin. She looks like she needs some space."
"But she’s hurt!"
Tuck laughed. "Not that badly. Her pride is hurt more than anything. That was just a scratch."
"Marion told me. And knowing you as I do, you tried to let her down gently."
Cassi quickly mounted her gelding and rode towards the gates, which opened for her. Marion watched from the side of the stables, knowing once again, this girl was up to something. She quickly decided to follow her, from a safe distance.
Cassi quickly rode to the lake where her brother was buried, and dismounting, went to his grave. Upon arriving, she noticed some wild flowers growing alongside the lake, and scooping them up with a big smile. She skipped over to the graveside and knelt down, placing them by the marker.
"Oh Jason, it is working so well. Robert is going to help me get our lands back, and you don’t have to worry any more about me being alone. I am sure I will have Robert love me by the end of the week." She giggled. "He is so stupid. He doesn’t have a clue about what I am doing. But he turned out so handsome, Jason. I will enjoy being his wife."
Marion was stunned. She had known Cassi was up to something, but this? Even this was more than she could have imagined. Totally overwhelmed, Marion burst through the bushes to confront a shocked Cassi.
"I don’t believe you honestly think this could work, Cassi." Marion looked into the young girl’s eyes. Instead of shame, she saw only anger.
"And I will succeed, Marion," Cassi hissed at the warrior woman. "He can be mine as easily as he can be yours. Do you honestly think you have some magical hold on him?"
"Cassi! He doesn’t love you!"
"Not yet, but he will," she laughed.
Marion watched, shocked anew when she saw the cold look in the young girl’s eyes. "Not if I can stop it!" she exclaimed before turning away. She ran for her horse, mounted quickly, and turned it toward the compound.
"I don’t think so, Marion." Quickly the young brunette ran toward the path, and jumping on a rock, leaped through the air as Marion’s steed passed by, knocking Marion from the saddle. As the two women’s bodies hit the ground, Marion’s head struck a large rock, knocking her unconscious. Cassi watched as blood stained the stone and Marion lay still beneath her.
At first the young girl was alarmed, shaking Marion by the shoulder and getting no response. Then this fear turned to pleasure as a smile slowly creased her lips. Her problem was solved. Unsure how long it would take Robin’s true love to bleed to death, she dragged her limp form into a patch of bushes just off the beaten path, covering her with leaves and branches. She brushed off her gown and went to Marion’s horse, whacking it on the butt, sending it further down the path away from the compound.
"Guess that leaves you free, Robin," she laughed, mounting her horse and turning her toward the compound. "Now it is just a matter of time."
Dusk came and after the eighth or ninth trip to the gate, Robin went for his horse.
"Where are you going?" Little John asked anxiously.
"Marion should have been back long ago."
"Where was she headed?" Tuck asked, joining the group.
"No one seems to know," Robin whispered, deep in thought. "They said they saw…" He stopped mid-sentence, then, spinning on his heel, he headed back into camp with Tuck and Little John running to catch up.
"Robin?" Little John shouted, stopping when Robin turned toward him, an angry look on his face.
"Where is she?"
"Where is who?" the blonde giant asked, totally confused by Robin’s attitude.
"Cassi! Where is Cassi?"
"In her hut. She said she didn’t feel good and her arm was bothering her. Robin, what is this all about?"
"Marion headed out of camp just after Cassi left. The lookouts told me she headed in the same direction." Robin’s eyes narrowed as he looked back at his two friends. "Something has been up between those two, since Cassi first entered the camp."
Tuck smiled as he touched the outlaw’s arm. "You honestly don’t know, do you, Robin?"
"Know what, Friar?"
"They are jealous of each other, lad." Tuck stated as if all knew but Robin.
"Jealous? Of what!"
"You really don’t see it, do you? Cassi has fallen in love with you, Robin. Even Marion saw that."
Without saying another word, Robin turned, bursting through the door to Cassi’s hut. "Where is she?" he blurted out to the young lady.
"Where is who?" she asked, batting her eyes and walking over to Robin.
"Marion. She hasn’t returned yet, and you were the last one to see her," he told her, his voice elevating in anger as he spoke.
"I was the last one to see her? I haven’t seen her since lunch," she quickly replied as she rubbed her fingertips up and down the length of his torso.
"Cassi, don’t!" Robin grabbed her wrist.
"Why, Robert? Tell me you don’t feel it too," she whispered, looking deeply into his eyes.
"Cassi. Stop! Marion is missing and I’m worried about her. Please tell me if you saw her."
"Marion is a big girl, Robin. I’m sure she’ll find her way home. Besides, this finally gives us a chance to be alone." Her voice was sensuous as she rubbed the back of her other hand across Robin’s cheek.
"Cassi, you don’t understand. I love Marion. I have since we were children. When the crusades have ended and Richard rightfully returns to his throne, we will marry. We have both always known this. She has my heart and soul-I can love no other."
Cassi’s hand slipped from his face as her eyes filled with tears. "You are mistaken, Robert. You are just confused. It is I you love. Even when I was a little girl, I knew once I grew up we would be married. Jason used to speak of such constantly, how perfectly matched we are. I’ll not let Jason down, Robert. You will help me regain my lands and we will be married. Then you will take care of me the rest of my days."
Robin shook his head, looking down into the tear-filled eyes. "I am sorry, Cassi. Really."
"Well, it’s okay, anyway. I don’t think I have to worry about Marion anymore,’ she whispered, then her head jerked back as she realized what she had said. Staring up into Robin’s eyes, she flinched when she saw the angry fire that flashed in them.
"What! What have you done!" Robin shouted, grabbing her roughly by her arm.
"Nothing! I didn’t do anything, Robert!" she winced in pain as Robin squeezed her arm.
"My God, Cassi!" Robin turned and ran from her hut, heading for the stables. Little John and Tuck watched Robin for a quick moment, then struggled to catch up with the frantic young man as he raced across the compound.
"Robin, what’s wrong?" Little John finally caught up with Robin, stopping him by grabbing his arm.
"It’s Cassi! I think she has done something to Marion!"
"No…she wouldn’t," John gasped.
"She would," Tuck exclaimed, running ahead of Robin.
The three quickly mounted and rode in the direction of the lake, remembering that was where Cassi had gone, and where people had said Marion was headed. Robin scrambled down from his gray when he reached Jason’s gravesite. "Marion!" he called out into the still evening air.
All that could be heard were Tuck and Little John’s approaching horses.
John slipped from his saddle, quickly examining the ground around the gravesite. "Robin, there are two sets of prints here," he told him.
"I know, John. She admitted as much…somehow, I know she did something to Marion!"
John glanced around, pausing as he gazed into the surrounding woods, noticing broken branches where someone had forced their way into the resistant brush. "Robin! Over here!" he shouted over his shoulder.
Robin and Tuck ran to his side while he showed them what he found. Following the trail of broken branches, they found a mound of leaves and twigs. Upon reaching it, Robin heard a moan beneath.
"Marion!" he cried, dropping to his knees and pawing away the leaves and twigs, only to find her lying still, blood matted in her hair.
Tuck knelt beside their friend, quickly examining the wound. "She’s all right, Robin, I believe she’s just concussed. Let’s get her back to camp."
Stepping from behind a tree appeared Cassi, tears still streaming down her face. She held a bow with an arrow notched at Robin’s heart. Sobbing uncontrollably, she looked deeply into the outlaw’s eyes. "If I can’t have you, Marion won’t either!" she cried pulling the arrow back.
"Cassi! Wait!" Tuck gasped, seeing her intent.
With the sound of approaching hoof beats, Cassi swung the arrow to face the oncoming riders. It was too late for anyone to try to get away though. Before long, Prince John’s soldiers had the band completely surrounded.
She lowered the bow with contempt in her eyes, watching as the soldiers dismounted and walked toward Robin. "Ah, at last. The infamous Robin Hood. Prince John will reward us well, lads," the Lieutenant said, turning to his officers.
"And what makes you think you will ever see one coin of the reward money?" Robin asked, hands on hips.
"Five heavily armed soldiers, outlaw," came his reply.
That was the cue Robin needed as he spun kicked the crossbow out of the Lieutenant’s hands. Tuck and Little John joined in, fighting the unexpecting soldiers as they struggled to pull the two of them to the ground. That still left three armed soldiers, though.
Cassi watched as one dismounted and walked around his horse to aim his crossbow at Robin. Just as he was prepared to release the bolt, she screamed, running toward Robin. She threw herself into the path of the oncoming arrow, and it impaled itself in the center of her back, throwing her into Robin as he disposed of the lieutenant. He caught her as she fell silently into his arms, and the two dropped to the ground.
Shocked by this outcome and seeing their Lieutenant dead, the three other soldiers quickly mounted, leaving this horrid scene behind them as Robin held Cassi close to him.
"Robert, I never meant you to get hurt," she hissed as he turned her on her side.
"Shh. I’ll get you to camp where Tuck can fix you up." Robin smiled down at her as his eyes filled with tears.
"No, Robert. It’s over. I just wanted to be your wife-wanted to bear your children. I loved you, Robert," she gasped as she trembled in his arms.
"This shouldn’t have ended this way," Robin whispered, tears spilling out onto his cheeks.
"It was the only way for it to end, Robert. I love you…" and with that, her eyes slowly closed and her head went limp in his arms.
Robin looked down at the lifeless form in his arms and sobbed as Tuck and Little John came over, taking her from him.
"We’ll bury her here, next to Jason," Robin said softly, managing to get to his feet.
The three quickly dug a shallow grave and laid the young woman next to her brother. Tuck said some prayers before Robin looked up and dried his cheeks with the back of his hand. "We have to get Marion home and tended to, Tuck."
"You ok?" the friar asked.
"No, but I will be."
"She’s with Jason, Robin," Little John said with a sad smile. "And I don’t think she ever would have made it in this world. She needed help, Robin, that none of us could give her."
"I know. Now, she has it."
Robin sat all night next to Marion, holding her hand. He still shed tears, but now out of concern for his lady. "Please Marion, I can’t lose you, too." He dropped his head, kissing her hand as his tears dripped down on her palm.
"You’ll not lose me that easy," came a soft voice next to him.
"What did you mean, too?" she smiled at her love.
"Cassi is gone. She died, trying to save my life," Robin softly replied, so happy to have her big hazel eyes looking into his.
Genuinely sorry, she squeezed Robin’s hand tightly in hers. "I am truly sorry, Robin."
"Yes. Me too." He reached over and took her in his arms and hugged her tightly. "But we will always be together, Marion. Always!" He sighed, content in the knowledge that Marion was all right.
The next day, Tuck and Little John looked everywhere for Robin, but couldn’t find him anywhere in the compound.
"I think I know," Tuck smiled at Little John. "Follow me."
The two mounted their horses, and with Tuck leading, they rode out of the compound. Riding up the hill to the lake, they found Robin exactly where they knew they would find him, standing between Jason’s and Cassi’s graves.
"You ok?" Little John asked, noting he didn’t look up from the flowers he was holding.
"I’m fine. How is Marion?"
"She’ll be fine. I’ve ordered bed rest for a few days, but she’ll be back to her old self by week’s end." Tuck smiled at the outlaw, but could see how serious he was.
"Tuck, she died because of me," he said softly.
"No Robin. She died because she wanted to see you live. She loved you, and that is not your fault."
"I should have saved her." He looked up, and now they could see his tear stained cheeks.
"Robin, you are not God. You cannot save the world, although I’ve not seen anyone try harder. She is in a far better place, and you must go on with your life, young man."
Robin looked down at the freshly dug grave and stooped to place the flowers he was holding on top. "Good bye, Cassi. I did love you as a sister." He looked up and smiled at Tuck and Little John. "Let’s go home."