Robin followed Olwyn deep into the forest. Olwyn didn't speak a word until they were far out of camp. Robin faced him, eager to hear the magician's explanation. Olwyn glared at him. "Well young man, you seem interested in what I have to say." Robin nodded. Olwyn slowly lowered himself to the ground, feeling the creeks and groans of old age. Robin sat beside him, still saying nothing.
"Well, it's like this," Olwyn began, "Willow is the daughter of a young woman and the god Pan." Robing gasped, "What?!! You can't be serious." Olwyn nodded. "I know it is hard to believe, but it is true. Think about it for a moment. You know that it is true." Robin had to admit that it cleared up a lot of mysteries about her. The powers she possessed, her non-existent family.
Olwyn continued. "She is only half-god. Their kind are called deities. Each god or goddess is allowed to have one living on earth at a time. Pan has Willow/Elizabeth. Before her, he had a son named, Ryden. Ryden, and all his brothers and sisters before him, live in Avalon, a city of gods. In order for young Willow/Elizabeth to be allowed passage to Avalon as well, she must be tested." Robin rubbed his chin. "Tested for what? Bravery? Power?" Olwyn shook his head. "No, she possesses all those things all ready. The test will cause her to, shall we say, grow up." Robin looked puzzled and worried. Olwyn consoled him. "Don't worry, Robin. All deities go through this. It is all a part of growing up."
Robin looked him in the eye. "So why are you telling me this? What do you need from me?" Olwyn began to stand. "Well, Robin. A stipulation of this test is that a mortal must accompany the testee through the trial." Robin looked taken aback, but he nodded. "I'll do anything asked of me. Is that what they call this test, a trial?"
Willow stepped from behind a nearby tree. "It is called 'The Trial of Doors', whatever that means. I'm ready find out. Are you?" Robin nodded. "Ready and waiting." Willow started to walk down a hidden path that Robin had not noticed before. Olwyn leaned toward him. "Willow/Elizabeth knows the way. Follow her. Don't let her out of your sight."
Robin turned to him. "Did Willow choose me to be her accomplice?" Olwyn shook his head. "No. Pan chose you. He wants only the best for his daughter." With that, Olwyn disappeared.
Willow and Robin walked briskly along the forest path, each hardly saying a word. The silence between them made Robin very uncomfortable. He glanced at Willow intently about every minute or so. She didn't look at him. She kept her eyes forward and marched down the path like a soldier. Her long, brown hair had caught an array of leaves and twigs during the course of their march, but she didn't seem to care.
Finally Robin couldn't stand the silence any longer. He thought carefully and decided to comment on the unseasonably warm weather. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Willow broke suddenly into a run. Stunned by her movement, it took Robin almost five seconds to start running after her.
Willow plowed through the foliage, ignoring branches that thrashed at her face and arms. Robin plowed after her, but found it hard to keep up. For one so short, she was fast! "Willow!" he cried. "Stop! Wait for me!"
He blindly burst through a patch of leaves and plowed full thrust into her. They both tumbled to the ground. After recovering from the momentary disorientation of being knocked flat on her face, Willow jumped to her feet angrily. "What did you do that for?! Don't you know how to stop?" Robin climbed to his feet and brushed himself off. He glared at her. "Me?! You're the one who took off like a wild stag! How was I supposed to know that you had stopped there?!"
Willow growled. "I didn't ask you to come along in the first place!" She turned away from him. "Why don't you just-" He voice drifted off and her mouth dropped wide open. Robin looked around, but saw nothing. "What?"
Willow pointed in front of her. "There! A portal! Don't you see?" Robin traced her finger, but saw only trees and shrubbery. "I don't see anything. What are you talking about?" He stepped up behind her, but his perspective remained the same.
Willow suddenly spun around and grabbed his hand. Before he could protest, she touched his hand to her medallion. Suddenly a light began to filter through the branches. The light became a door. The door was open, beckoning to them. Robin stared in awe. "How? What?" He didn't have time to get answers to his questions. Willow pulled him through the door. Then all went black.
Robin felt like he was falling, but he had no fear. He felt like a feather, slowly floating down to where ever. He couldn't see anything. Everything was pitch black. Invisible air blew at his brown curls and shook his clothes lightly. It was as relaxed as he had been in a long time, floating aimlessly into an abyss. Something told him that he had nothing to fear, so he feared nothing. He just enjoyed falling.
After a while though, Robin began to feel lonely. He began to long for a companion to fall with him. He couldn't hear anything either. All was totally silent. He didn't even hear air pass his ears. He sighed and tried to busy himself with thinking. His mind replayed the events that had recently taken place. His mind strayed until he came upon the memory of holding Willow in his arms after her fall and the trauma with whatever she saw. He remembered how she felt in his arms, like she belonged there. He remembered how she clung to him for support and safety. It had seemed right to him, even though he hated to see her in pain.
He thought of when he burst through the trees and knocked her down. She had yelled at him angrily, something he couldn't recall her ever doing before. He had yelled back, but out of hurt feelings more than anger. He had been trying to help her and she seemed ungrateful. That thought made his heart ache. He never intended for this trial to come between them.
That thought struck him like a slap in the face. There was nothing between them to begin with. Or was there? No. He only cared for her as a friend, nothing more. Didn't he? Why was he thinking this? Why did her cold stare and angry words stab him like a blade, right through the heart? Why did his heart ache?
He suddenly felt something grab him by the tunic and jerk him up. A light blinded him. "Robin!" a voice called to him. "Robin! Wake up!" The light began to fade. His eyes focused on green eyes, white skin, and brown hair, leaning over him. They belonged to Willow and she looked down at him worriedly. "Robin, are you ok?"
Robin looked around him. He was laying on a floor and was surrounded by a hallway lined with huge oak doors. Willow was holding him by the tunic and shaking him. "I said, 'Are you OK?!'" Robin clutched her hand and she released him. "Yes, I'm fine. Where are we?"
Willow stood and helped him to his feet. "I think we are in the testing area. See, doors are all around us." She motioned toward all the different passages. Robin looked at them suspiciously. He reached for his sword, but his weapons were missing. "What do we do now, Willow?"
She shrugged and began to braid her waist long hair. "I guess we go into the different doors and they test me. That's how I would do it." She tied a piece of leather string at the end of her braid and walked toward the closest door. "Are you ready?" Robin took her by the hand, and stood beside her. "Ready and waiting." Willow lifted her medallion to the door and it slowly opened.
Robin and Willow stepped through the doorway. The room was completely dark. Then a blinding light came out of no where and Robin found himself laying on a rafter in the ceiling of a familiar room. He examined the room. It belonged to a castle he hadn't visited in years- Fitzwalter Castle.
Willow felt small. (Smaller than usual. She was considerably shorter than most of her friends.) She looked down at her body. Her arms and legs were short and stumpy. She was wearing a blue dress. A DRESS?! She hadn't worn a dress since-. Willow suddenly understood. She looked around her, she was standing in a corridor near the kitchen. She knew this place. Quickly she ran down the hallway until she spied a mirror on the wall. She gazed into it and confirmed her suspicions. Her reflection was her seven-year-old body.
Robin lay there trying to understand what was going on. He was pretty sure he was looking down upon the Fitzwalter's Receiving Room, where they met guests. But why had he been sent here? What purpose did it serve for him to be here? Laying there was uncomfortable. He tried to move, but he was stuck fast. A voice and footsteps alerted him to someone coming. A door on the far side of the room opened. In walked.... Marion!
Willow stared at her reflection. It was her all right, just shorter. She knew that she was in some kind of memory test, but the point evaded her. She remembered very little of her childhood. Most of it was hidden in her subconscious, where she kept it at bay, pain and all. She couldn't really remember being seven. "Hey Elly!" A voice called her from the kitchen. Willow turned and saw Iris, her partner in crime, walking out and holding a delicious looking pastry in each hand. Willow's sever-year-old spirit took over and she ran down the hall happily. Iris handed a pastry to her. "This one is for you. Come on. We better leave before the cook comes back." Willow nodded her agreement, taking a big bite of her pastry. Just as they were turning to leave, a dark form appeared at the end of the hallway. "How dare you?!!!!" Isabelle screamed. Willow and Iris ran down the hallway with Isabelle in pursuit.
Robin stared as Marion walked into the room followed by a servant woman. "See that my laundry is taken care of Agnes. Make sure that dinner is ready when I return from riding. Oh, and if Guy comes by again, please tell him I am not interested." Agnes nodded. Marion went for another door, then stopped and turned around. "Also, make sure you warn Elizabeth and Iris to stay out of the kitchen. They have mischief written all over them." Agnes nodded again. Marion left the room and Agnes did so also.
Willow and Iris ran as fast as they could. Willow looked back behind her. Isabelle was close in pursuit and gaining on them. In an effort to slow her down Willow threw her pastry back at her. Iris did the same. Iris missed her target by a long shot, but Willow hit Isabelle right between the eyes. Isabelle screamed with rage, but she continued to catch up to them. Willow saw a door up ahead.
Robin laid there, contemplating what had just happened. Marion was here, but it wasn't the Marion he knew. She was younger, about Willow's age. In fact, she had looked a little like Willow, except for the dress she wore. Willow hated dresses. Just then, he heard footsteps and shouting. Two little girls, a blonde and a brunette, burst through the far door followed by a young Isabelle. The brunette looked six or seven and the blonde was around ten. They didn't look happy.
Willow suddenly grabbed Iris's sleeve and stopped short. She never ran from a fight. Isabelle stumbled when they stopped and almost fell flat on her face. Willow and Iris faced her, knowing a punishment was coming. Isabelle grabbed each girl by an ear. "All right. I've had enough of you two! Now tell me whose idea this little escapade was!" Willow saw Iris flinch as it had all been her idea. A flood of memories came to Willow. Iris's parents would be summoned. On route to the castle they would be robbed and murdered by marauders. Willow knew what the test was. Before Iris could speak she shouted, "It was me!"
Robin's mouth dropped open. He knew that defiant voice anywhere. He watched as Isabelle released the two girls. "Iris, go to your room. I must deal with Elizabeth." Iris protested, but left. Willow stood there, awaiting her fate. Isabelle walked to the wall and took a leather belt from where it hung on a nail. Robin watched in horror as Isabelle beat Willow down with it. His heart wrenched as he heard her scream. Then a darkness fell over the room again.
Willow sobbed into a strong chest, the pain still shaking her body. Strong arms wrapped around her and held her tightly. After a while the pain subsided and she looked around her. She and Robin were back in the hall of doors. Robin still held her tightly. "Why did you take the blame?" he asked. Willow shook her head. "It's a long story." Robin didn't ask further. He just held her close to him until she found the strength to continue. With that, they made their way to door number two.
End of Chapter Two
To be concluded....