The outlaws made their plan and rode out with Little John in the lead. It took them little more than an hour to find where the men they were following had made camp. Once they settled the horses, Jacobi climbed a tree for a better view; there seemed to be four men guarding the women. He could see that Elizabeth still lay unconscious in the wagon; he could also see that the men were drinking heavily. He forced himself to stay calm.
One of the villains was angry. "What ya done to her, Peck? " he roared.
"If them Amazons think that we hurt their healer in any way...."
"Don't worry so much, Hal, she'll be fine. She is a little beat up and will be sore, but not badly harmed." He let out a roar of laughter. "The valarian mix I gave them all will just make them sleep a while yet."
"You just remember to keep yer hands off her. She's worth more untouched"
Peck tested the ropes that held each of the women fast, "I told you not to worry. Besides, " running his fingers down the side of Elizabeth's face." This one owes me. "
Suspicious, Hal watched him for a moment then joined the other men. Peck laughed at his retreating back, then followed. Soon, the wine had its inevitable result, and the men began drifting off to sleep.
Jacobi continued to watch from his perch in the tree. At present,
Elizabeth was fine, but he did not feel confident that she would stay that way long, for he recognized Peck as the man who had tried to molest Elizabeth the day he had rescued her. He swore to Peck would never again have the opportunity to hurt anybody, and he had an idea how to make that happened.
When he was positive the men were asleep, Jacobi climbed down. It only took a few moments for Jacobi to describe to the others what he had seen and heard. He then laid out his plan.
A first skeptical, Robin finally agreed that this might be the best way. He reminded himself that while he could see many differences between himself and Jacobi, most others could not tell them apart - even Little John had been fooled enough to ask Jacobi a question intended for Robin.
"Let's do it," said Robin.
The outlaws quietly moved closer to the sleeping men and once there positioned themselves strategically with Robin on one side, and Jacobi directly across. It had to be this way for the plan to work.
Peck was curled up on his side, snoring peacefully. Robin crept up to him and tapped his shoulder.
Startled, the big man opened his eyes. Peck shook his head a little when he saw Robin. 'Huh?'
"'Hello there," grinned Robin.
Peck closed his eyes in disbelief and when he opened them, Robin was gone. Relieved that he had been imagining things, Peck turned onto his other side and settled himself more comfortably.
Jacobi picked up a small stick and tossed it at Peck. It landed on his head. Peck brushed away at the offending twig and opened his eyes. Jacobi smiled at him. "Remember me?" Jacobi asked.
Peck again closed his eyes then opened them again. Jacobi was gone. Peck sat up and looked around, when he didn't see anybody, he gave himself another small shake. "Must have been the wine."
"I doubt that very much," said a voice behind him.
Peck jumped to his feet. "Where are you?"
Hal woke. "Shut up," he said belligerently. "Can't you let a body sleep?"
"Shut up, nothing! Didn't you see him?" he bellowed.
"See who?" said one sleepy voice
"Jacobi you idiots! He's here!"
Hal snorted. "Get ter sleep, Peck. You're having a nightmare. I saw you kill Jacobi myself." The man turned on his side and saw Robin.
"The news of my demise was premature? " drawled Robin.
Hal screamed and got quickly to his feet, the others doing the same. "You be a ghost?" asked the terrified man.
Peck went for his weapon. Jacobi grabbed hold of his arm, spun him around, and hit him fully in the face with his fist. Peck stood for a moment, then fell straight back. Jacobi turned, and shook his stinging hand. Robin laughed. Shaking, Hal lifted his sword, Robin kicked the sword out of his grasp took aim and dropped kicked him mid-chest. Hal stumbled back, then went down, hitting his head on the hard earth.
"Well," said Robin, "at least those two won't be giving us any more trouble."
"You got a smart mouth," jeered another of the men. "Why don't you try that with me?"
Marion stepped out from behind the trees, and brought him down with her whip. "Was that good enough for you?" she asked.
He scrambled to his feet, and she brought him down again. He lay there as she walked over towards him, coiling her whip. He grabbed for her leg; she swung with her whip coil, and caught him on his temple. This time he didn't get up.
"Hey," said Little John, carrying a man by the back of his shirt. "This
one was trying to sneak away."
Marion laughed. "Now, why would you want to do that?"
"I didn't. He's lying. I was just going to check on them ladies."
Little John gave him a shake then dropped him to the ground. In a moment, he trussed him up with his rope and put him across his shoulder. "You can come with me now to check on the ladies."
"I guess we're finished here," grinned Robin. "Come on, big guy," he said to the still unconscious Peck. "I've got to get you tied up."
Jacobi waited till the last man was tied then rush to Elizabeth's side. She stil slept. Jacobi swallowed, and gently touched her bruised cheek.
"Elizabeth," he whispered. In a moment, he moved his hands to lift the blanket, but was stopped by Marion.
"Better let me have a look first. We don't want you to get in to any more trouble. " Jacobi hesitated.
"Why don't you go and help the others." She gave him a reassuring smile.
Jacobi nodded and went to help release the women. He picked up the Amazon, whom he had met at Elizabeth's cabin, and carried her to the wagon, laying her beside Elizabeth, then watched as Marion and Tuck examined them.
When they finished, Marion walked over to him. "They all seem to be fine. A few bruises, and a headache or two, but that is it."
Afraid to ask, Jacobi closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath.
When he re-opened his eyes, Marion was watching him closely. "Elizabeth?" he managed.
Marion touched his arm. "Elizabeth, too."
"Promise?" he asked?
"Promise," she smiled.
Jacobi returned her smile.
By the time they began their journey back to the castle, it was nearly light. Little John and Kemal rode in front, the others slowly following. When they arrived, Jacobi jumped off the wagon to carry Elizabeth inside.
He was brushed aside by one of the Amazon guard waiting at the castle.
"Inform the Queen of their arrival," she barked to another guard, who saluted briefly and went to do as she was bid.
"We'll take care of her," the Amazon said to Jacobi.
"Let, me just carry her inside," he asked. "I promise to leave when you tell me."
Recognizing his distress, Marion joined them. "It's okay, Val," she assured the woman.
Val stepped back. "Be careful of her."
Jacobi nodded agreement and gently cradling Elizabeth, took her into her room. Once there, he left her to the care of the Amazons, waiting outside the door till they were finished.
Shortly, the Queen swept past, the door closing firmly behind her. Jacobi sat on the floor to wait. In a while, the door opened and Marion and the Queen stepped into the hall. Queen Eleanor stood beside him. "I want to thank you for bringing my daughter safely back to me."
"I love her," he replied. "What else would I do?"
She lowered her head and again swept past. Marion paused long enough to give him an encouraging pat.
He propped his elbows on his knees and rested his forehead in his hands.
It was going to be a long night. He had just dozed off when Val opened the door and beckoned to him. "Marion has said you are to be trusted with her. She says we are to let you sit beside Elizabeth if you so choose." She paused, unsure how to say what she wanted to say. In a moment she continued. "Do you so choose?"
He nodded his head, and she stepped aside. "Come in, then."
Jacobi followed her in. "Sit here," she ordered. "Just open the door if you want anything. I will stand guard."
When she was gone, Jacobi sat and took Elizabeth's hand in his. He watched her for a while, then exhausted, lay his head down. When he woke he felt cool fingers on his brow. He opened his eyes and smiled at Elizabeth. She held out her arms to him and he tenderly returned her embrace.
She lay for a few minutes, thinking he had gone to get her breakfast, and when he didn't return, she tried not to worry. She decided to get up, and found that she was a little stiff, but not as bad as before. When the door opened, she turned around expecting Jacobi - instead, the Amazon Leader, Caroline, and her blond guard, Virginia, came in with her breakfast tray.
"Where is Jacobi? " she asked.
Neither woman replied. They went to work, helping her dress. Virginia unbraided her long dark hair, and began to brush through the rich strands, something Jacobi had come to love doing the past few days. Their silence worried Elizabeth. "Please, where is Jacobi?"
Virginia finished braiding her hair. "Jacobi has gone to the trial of Peck and his men - it will not go well for any of them. Afterwards, " she hesitated. "Afterwards, the Queen will sentence Jacobi for his crimes."
"WHAT! After what he has done, she is STILL going to sentence him! Why would she do this to me?"
"You? What makes you think the Queen would do this to you?." asked Caroline.
"Shes doing it to keep England safe...." Virginia said
"No she isn't." Elizabeth cut her off. " She is doing it for herself."
Trembling, Elizabeth, grabbing her medicine pouch on the way out the door, headed to the thrown room with Caroline and Virginia following behind. She entered in time to here the Queen read out Jacobi's sentence.
".... therefor I sentence you to banishment from England. You will be taken by boat to..."
"MOTHER!!" Elizabeth shouted as she entered the room.
Startled at her daughter's entrance, Queen Eleanor held up her hand. "Caroline, Virginia, take her back to her room. Now!"
"No," replied Elizabeth, shaking off their hands.
Eleanor got to her feet. "He has to pay for his crimes."
"He has made amends."
The Queen kicked aside her skirt and sat down. "Not enough."
"Sending him away won't help."
"It will remove him from your vicinity. I have been told that he has not left your side these last days. I have been told that you encouraged his familiarity."
"That is what this is really about, isn't it?"
"Elizabeth, you knew what you would have to sacrifice when you took the healer's oath. You have always known! "
Elizabeth looked at Jacobi. "When I took that oath, I did not know how great a sacrifice. How could have known then, what I know now?"
"That is immaterial, Elizabeth. You will honor your oath."
"Mother, please. Don't do this."
"It is done," replied Eleanor.
With tears in her eyes, Elizabeth turned away from the Queen. Spying Tuck, she walked over to him.
"Do you think Sherwood could use another healer? " She asked throught her tears.
"Sherwood could always use healer of your talents. " Tuck smiled at her and gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
Elizabeth turned towards Robin. "Do you think you could live close to one you once hated? "
"Yes. He is no longer my enemy, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth removed her pouch and walked over to her Mother. She held it out to Eleanor. "I relinquish my vow as a Amazon healer." When Eleanor refused to accept the pouch, Elizabeth lay it on her mother's lap. Eleanor knocked it on to the floor, refusing to look at it or her daughter.
Elizabeth went and stood beside the tall man she loved, and took his hand.
"Take me home."
His fingers closed around hers and for the first time, he smiled at her, showing her the two perfect dimples on his cheeks. Her heart skipped a beat and she smiled back at him through her tears.
Robin looked at Marion. "Looks like it's time to go."
He bowed to the Queen, who was unaware of him doing so. Her eyes were locked on her daughter and the murderer who loved her.
Elizabeth returned to her little cottage and Jacobi went to Sherwood with
Robin to return on the day of their wedding. With their friends beside them and Tuck presiding, they were married. Jacobi proud and happy; Elizabeth radiant with her crown of flowers.
Neither her mother, nor the Amazon guard attended the ceremony, but her disappointment was forgotten when Jacobi gave her his wedding gift. She caressed the crudely made medicine pouch. With tears in her eyes, she shyly kisses his cheek. "I love it." She paused for a moment. "I love you."
At the end of the evening, the villagers escorted the two to the honeymoon cottage. The crowed cheered again as Jacobi picked up his bride and carried her inside.
"What a wonderful wedding! " Tuck sighed.
"I have to agree with you, Tuck, " said Little John.
Robin couldn't help but laugh at his big friend. Someone had stuck flowers in the giant's long hair and he looked ridiculous. "Did you have a good time?" asked Robin, removing one stem.
"Yes," he replied unfazed. "Do you think we will see a wedding like that again?"
Robin, looking at Marion could only say, "Hopefully someday soon."