Barkley was ecstatic. He had never seen the Prince in a better mood. He stood behind his prince, helping him put his cape he tried to make conversation.
"Do you think the stag is big enough now your eminence?" The Prince brushed him away.
"Of course it is. it should be a twelve pointer by now." turning he enthused to Barkley.
"I've waited 5 years for this buck to come of age Barkley. My huntsmen has told me of his tremendous rack. And with this!"
Prince John held up the leather device that Robin had made for him!
"I’ll be able to get a buck that Richard will never be able to better."
Actually smiling at Barkley he said "This is going to be the best day of my life."
Turning he practically ran out the door towards the stable. Barkley let out a sigh of relief, hopefully the mood would last long. As Barkley exited the castle, making his way towards the stable, he could see the Prince animatedly conversing with one of the Huntsman. The Huntsman held a small bag in his hands, his face was pale with fear. While Prince John was beginning to get that old look on his face.
"I'm sorry your highness" The huntsman humbly said. He bowed as low as he could go infront of his Prince. "We found this in the royal forest" The huntsman bowed even lower, handing the bag to Prince John.
"What is it?" John Roared out loud. The doors to the stables rumbled at the Princes bellowing. The Huntsman cringed at the intensity of the Princes anger, he stammered out.
"Yo..your highness. Its all that is left of the Buck that you wanted to hunt."
Prince John quickly opened the sack, searching into it. Gazing at Prince Johns face, Barkley could only think. ‘How does he turn his face bright red, so fast?’
"This is all thats left?!" he bellowed out. The stable doors rattling increased.
The man bowed down, apologizing over, and over again. "Yes sire. It was all that was left of the animal!" Throwing the sack at Barkley he spit out.
"Look at this Barkley!" he sputtered.
Barkley opened the bag, he saw a pair of hooves and ears.
"That is all that is left of my magnificent trophy stag." Prince John moaned. "All those years of waiting, nurturing, Gone!"
"What happened?" Barkley meekly asked.
The huntsman said in a hushed tone. "A wolf."
The prince turned violently on the man. Grabbing him by his shirt he pulled him to him. The man shook in fear in the princes hands. Prince Johns face had now grown a deep Chartreuse. He spat out at the huntsman. "Are you telling me that one wolf did this to a 18 hand, 12 point full grown stag deer?!!" John roared out.
The man tried to swallow a large gulp, it stuck in his throat. "Yes sire." He answered in a strained voice. "It was a very large wolf your highness. Never has a wolf of this size ever been seen before. It is said that it killed the buck, and then, just tore it apart. It never ate any of it. It just killed it and left."
The prince released the relieved huntsman. At least he left him breathing. John began to angrily pace back and forth in front of the stables. "This was to be my moment of glory. Taken away from me by a lone wolf. Well I'll not have this. Not in my kingdom."
Taking a deep breath he roared out. "Barkley!"
Wrenching his hands Barkley nervously stepped up.
"Yes your worshipfullness." He tried to look his humblest.
"I want you to gather all of my soldiers together. All of them do you hear me?! I want them to scour the countryside, don’t leave any stone unturned. They are not to rest until this wolf is caught. I want its hide by tomorrow!!"
After taking his fingers out of his ears Barkley stammered out.
"Yes sire. I'll see that its done."
Turning the Prince then stormed back into the castle. Walking towards the soldiers quarters Barkley wondered how such a beautiful day, turned so bad, so quick.
Two days later in Sherwood forest
Robin and John were trying to explain to the blacksmith a idea that Robin had on making a new type of arrow head. As the Blacksmith was informing Robin of the time it would take him to make them, Robin and Little John heard a cry call out from the camp outskirts. A rider was coming in with important news. Quickly they both ran to the center of the camp. They were met by Sean, who was just ridding into the hidden camp, behind him the curtain of trees fell down, hiding there secretive hamlet. Jumping from his horse Sean ran to Robin.
"We've got trouble." he panted out of breath. The tall outlaw took him be the shoulders. "Calm down Sean. Now tell me, whats wrong?"
Sean let out a deep breath. Calming himself down he swiftly told Robin. "The camp is in danger of being found."
Robins expressive brown eyes went wide. "Found! How?"
"Its Prince John." Sean began to explain. "Hes upset because one of his prize stags was killed by a wolf. Hes become so obsessed with killing this wolf that he has all of his men in the forests looking for it. He even put a bounty on the wolfs head. Robin!" Sean gasped out. "The bounty is almost as big as the one he has on you."
Robin grinned to himself, a small dimple appeared briefly. "Well, well I wonder if I'm in good company? " he chuckled.
Little John was quietly standing behind Robin as he heard the last part of what Sean had said he sung out softly. "That wolf." Robin, hearing what he said, turned to face the gentle giant.
"Little John have you heard anything about a wolf attacking local game?" He searched into the deep blue eyes of his most trusted friend.
"I was going to tell you about it Robin." John said sheepishly, trying to avoid Robins inquisitive eyes. "But I didn't think it was that important."
"Do you know anything about this wolf?" Robin could feel his friends regret at not informing him sooner. He tried to let him know he was forgiven by asking for his advice. It worked, John gave Robin his biggest smile.
"Anyone whos seen it say its the biggest wolf that they’ve ever seen. Its killed live stock in some of the other villages. But its been seen mostly near the Princes prize stock." John hoped the information he gave Robin made up for him not letting him know of the wolf sooner.
"Hmm, seems this wolf has a delicate palate." Robin thought out loud, interrupting Robin Sean added.
"The Princes men are getting close to finding us Robin. The Prince won't let any of the men rest until this wolf is killed."
Robin gazed out into the forest. He started rubbing his thumb along his lower lip. Little John and Sean smiled to each other. They knew when ever he did this he usually came up with his best plans.
A look of revelation came to him. "Sean are they using dogs?
"Yes Robin, why?" Robin slyly smiled at Sean, giving him a wink.
"And do you still have that wolf skin?" His smile growing larger. Sean was puzzled. "Yes?" Sean slowly said.
"Good, then I want you to take some men with you outside of camp and drag the skin on the ground." Finally dawning on him Sean added. "And lead the Princes men away from the camp!"
Robin wily smiled. "Right! It won’t keep them away for long. But hopefully it will give us enough time."
"Enough time for what Robin?" Little John curiously asked.
"Enough time to hunt down that wolf. Ready to do some wolf hunting Little John?" Robin patting Little John on the back.
"Always Robin, I'll go get my things."
Little John practically ran to his tent. He was always excited about going on a hunt. Entering his tent he then searched for the things he would need. Looking around he picked up his staff and a hunting knife. He then stuffed some clothes in a sack, in case they had to stay away for the night. Hefting the sack over his shoulders he left his tent and headed back towards the blacksmith.
When he came back Little John found Robin, and Tuck, already prepared for the hunt. Robin had his large bow and a quiver of his longer arrows. Wolfs were sometimes hard to kill, he also had his sword strapped behind him. Marion was at his side, as always.
John was amazed at how prepared she was for the hunt, in the short time that was given. Marion half grinned up at Little John.
"Are you just taking that!" she pointing to his staff . Her sapphire blue eyes laughing at him. John took the staff and placed it on her stomach.
"Try to get me!" He slyly grinned.
Try as she might she was unable to get close to John, with the staff kept between them. Propping the staff on the ground he proudly said. "See! Keeps them out of biting range."
Robin warmly laughed. "Lets hope Theres just the one. Well if were all ready lets go."
Sean had found the wolf skin. He was also ready to leave camp. Mounting there horses the small band of men and woman headed out of camp. Sean split off with his small group of men. Heading toward the Princes men. Robin and his group rode off to the nearest village. It took them several hours to reach the Village of Gloucester. Twice they had to hide in the forest as they were met by the Princes men. Robins face was lined in worry. For his camp more than themselves. His long brown hair flew in the air as he rode his gray stallion hard towards the next village. As they neared the village, they were confronted by one of the frantic inhabitants. He was screaming down the road, his arms waving frantically.
"A giant wolf! There is a giant wolf in the village!" He screamed out in fear.
Robin brought his horse to a stop. Looking down at the man he tried to reassure him they were there to help "Calm down." He said in a slow soothing voice.
"Now tell me. Where is this wolf?"
The mans hand shook as he pointed towards the outskirts of the town.
"By the butchers. It was horrible. I saw it tearing a whole cow apart as easily as I would a fly!"
"Stay here!" Robin ordered the villager. The man numbly nodded.
Kicking there horses the outlaws of Sherwood pushed their mounts to ride on to the location the man had pointed to. As they came to where the man had indicated he saw the wolf, they saw a lone hooded man, squatting on the ground. closely examining it. Pulling back on his reins Robin brought his horse to a stop close to the hooded man. Dust flew as the horses hooves dug into the dirt. Robin then jumped off his steed. The others following his lead, slowly walked towards the stooped man, who was totally absorbed by his examining of the area .
Robin stopped next to the man, crossing his arms he waited for the man to look up. The man still did not acknowledge their presence. Clearing his throat he quietly asked.
The hooded man slowly brought his head up, his eyes squinted at Robin, they began to squeeze shut. Bringing a large handkerchief out from under his cloak he brought it to his nose and sneezed several times into it. Examining Robin up and down, he sneezed once more and then went back to inspecting the ground. Robin squatted down next to the man. As he examined the ground, he could see what the stranger was looking at. Robins eyes slowly grew wide open, as he saw the tracks of what would have to be the biggest wolf Robin would have seen in his life. He let out a loud whistle, he had not imagined the wolf to be this large. This was going to be more difficult than he had anticipated.
End of Chapter One