The name ranged through the halls, Barkley cringed at the sound. Prince John was feeling particularly bad this past week. He just seemed to get worse as the days wore on. Barkley really didn't know what to do anymore. Everything he tried to do to make his Highness happy just didn't work anymore. Slowly he made his way toward the yelling. Opening the door to the Princes bedroom he saw the Prince in front of the mirror. Turning at the sound of the door his face was enraged.
"There you are Barkley where have you been?"
"I'm sorry your eminence. But I was on the other side of the castle when you called. I came here as quick as my legs could carry me."
"Well looking at those legs I'm surprised you made it here today!" Barkley bit off the reply he so wanted to say.
"What did you need your highness?" He bowed to create a more humble effect.
"I want to go hunting. I need to pick out something to wear."
Barkley cringed at this. Now he knew why the Prince was so upset Lady Eleanor had promised to go hunting with him weeks ago. Lately more of the aristocrats had been avoiding the Prince. Most were afraid of him, some coveted his position. This had taxed the Prince’s patience lately, along with the trouble that the outlaw Robin Hood had plagued on the Princes tax collectors. All in all not a good week for the Prince. Barkley slowly helped the Prince pick out an outfit and dress him. As he helped him the Prince mumbled out.
"I don't know why the others are treating me like this. After all I'm the Sovernty of England. I rule this land." He suddenly fell silent. "You know Barkley sometimes I miss Richard." he said in a low voice.
Looking at his Prince, Barkley saw a side of him that others have not seen. It was times like this that made it worth the trouble that the Prince gave him. "Why is that milord?" he asked as he helped him button his coat.
John gazed into the mirror. "Because he was at least my equal. Every one who tries to be my friend has an ulterior motive Barkley. But Richard, he always treated me on equal terms. There were times when we were the best of friends. I miss those days." Prince John sighed.
Barkley stepped back to give the Prince a chance to be alone in his thoughts. After a while the Prince softly said. "It would be nice to have a friend like that. Someone to think of me on equal terms. Someone who doesn't grovel at my every word." His head becoming full of these melancholy thoughts, he then shook his head. "Silly thoughts eh Barkley. Let’s be off." With a wave of his hand they headed down toward the stables. Perhaps a good hunt would clear his mind?
*** Later in Sherwood Forest***
Robin and his men had the same idea as Prince John, but with a more humane reason. Game had been scarce in the forest that month; they had to go farther out to feed the camp. It was risky but they were running out of food fast. Riding up to the top of a hill Robin saw a large stag standing in a clearing. Enough to feed many families, he silently thought. Pulling out an arrow, he aimed it at the stag. Before he was able to pull off the shot, his horse suddenly bolted. Caught off balance he was thrown from the horse. To Marion the action seemed to last for hours, but in actual time, it was over in a couple of seconds. Robin landed on the ground with a sickening thud. Jumping from her horse Marion ran to where Robin lay. Tuck, Little John and Kemal were quickly at her side. Gently rolling him over they could see a growing bruse on his forehead.
Tuck listened to his heart. It was beating quickly but strong. Closing his eyes, he breathed in a sigh of relief. "He’s all right, he just hit his head hard."
At that good news, Little John went to get Robins horse. Searching around he spied what had spooked the horse. He found a snake slowly crawling away into the brush. This particular horse had always been afraid of snakes. As he turned with the horse Little John suddenly spotted some soldiers in the forest, he ran back to the others.
"Soldiers, coming this way!" he cried out. Marions thoughts began to race, she had find a way to protect the helpless Robin. "The three of you lead them away." She quickly ordered them. "I'll stay with Robin until you return."
"Right" Kemal agreed. The three of them jumped on their horses making sure the soldiers spotted them as they led them away from Marion and the injured Robin.
After the soldiers were out of sight Marion examined Robins wound more carefully. She propped him up on a tree, taking out a scarf she tried to brush away some of the blood on his forehead. The bruse had grown quite large. Searching around she remembered seeing a small brook not to far from where they were.
Marion gently stroked the long sable hair from Robins still face. "I'll be back my love." she whispered to him, giving him a peck on the cheek. Making sure Robin was securely propped up, so he wouldn't fall from his sitting position, she made her way toward the brook. As Marion left Robins large brown eyes suddenly popped open. Clutching his forehead he let out a moan of pain. His head felt like it was going to split open. Slowly he stood up, he glanced around trying to remember where he was, a puzzled look grew upon his face. Hearing a noise coming from ahead of him, he made his way toward it. Maybe they would be able to help him?
Prince John was more furious than normal if that was possible. His hunt had been ruined with the sight of Robin Hood’s men. Now he was alone and unprotected in the middle of the woods.
"Are you all right Sire?" Barkley asked.
'Alone' he moaned to himself. Suddenly he heard a rustle of leaves from behind a large bush. Pulling Barkley in front of him he cried out "Who's there?"
The leaves of the bush rustled, Prince John held Barkley tightly infront of him. "Who...o..o’s there I say!" Prince John yelled out. Suddenly from out the bushes emerged Robin Hood.
"Guards!" John bellowed out, his head jerking around looking for anyone to protect him from the Sherwood outlaw.
Robin cringed at the Princes bellows. "Please, Sir I just need some help."
John stopped yelling, a puzzled look crossed his face. It was then that he saw the large bruse on Robin’s forehead. "Whats wrong with you man?" John asked Robin.
"I....I'm sorry Sir, but I hope you can help me. You see, I..I don't know who I am, or for that manner where I am. Can you help me?" Robin’s soulful eyes pleaded with Prince John for his help. Prince John searched deep into the eyes of the most wanted man in England. He was startled when he found he could see there was truth there. Robin Hood really didn't know who he was!
Suddenly an evil plan came to him. "You really don't remember who you are, do you?"
Robin looked up in earnest. "Yes sir, can you tell me?"
Pushing Barkley aside he went to Robin, his arms stretched out in a friendly gesture. "Why my dear boy, don't you recognize me?" He asked gently. Robin looked closely at Prince John, nothing seemed to register.
Shaking his head slowly he said. "I'm sorry sir. But your face just doesn't look familiar."
John went up to Robin and placed his hand on his shoulder. "Why we've been looking all over for you my dear boy. Haven't we Barkley" He poked Barkley in the ribs to stress his point.
Barkley taking up on his cue added. "Yeah, we've been lookin for you for hours. What happened to you?" Barkley looked at the Prince for approval, he nodded at Barkley, giving him a sly smile. The Princes aid knew that smile very well, he was up to something.
Robin rubbed his forehead, trying to work the pain out. "I don't know." He softly said. "I woke up to find myself alone. I heard your voices and came here." Looking at Prince John with earnest he asked. "Do you know who I am?"
John placed his hands on both of Robin’s shoulders. "Yes I know who you are my dear man. Your name is Robert. Does it sound familiar?"
Robin pondered on this. "No, I’m sorry to say I can't seem to remember." He thought hard on this tidbit of information, Robert? Was that his name? It just didn't seem to register.
Looking up for more John added. "Those close to you call you Robin." John stopped at this. Waiting to see if this might have brought any memories back. This also drew a blank response from the injured outlaw.
"Robin, a funny name." He then asked "And who might you be sir?"
"Me!" John bellowed. Barkley interjected here
"He’s Prince John the ruler of all England."
Suddenly realizing who was in front of him Robin started to kneel. John held him up. "No, no thats not necessary my boy." He started urging Robin towards where the horses were standing. "My boy you are of royal blood yourself."
"I am?" Robin asked looking more puzzled.
"Why of course you are. You have lived with me these past ten years since your father was killed. I took you in, raised you as if you were my own. Why you have been like a son to me, you still remember none of this?"
Robin thought hard on this new information. Living with the Prince of England? Why couldn't he remember this? "Perhaps when I return home? I might start recalling things." He said in earnest.
"Of course, of course, thats it. Once your back home I'm sure things will come back to you, for now we'll have to get you back to the castle. I'll have my doctor look at your wound. I’m sure he’ll be able to fix you right up, is that All right?" Robin nodded to his Prince. Prince John helped him sit down on a rock near the horses. "Now stay here while I arrange things." He patted Robin on the back.
"Yes sire." Robin obediently said, he smiled warmly up at the Prince. John returned his smile. Turning away from the stricken outlaw, he wanted to have a private conversation with Barkley.
"Your highness, what are you up to?" Barkley whispered when they were out of hearing of Robin of Locksley.
"Don't you see Barkley." Prince John hissed. "He doesn't know who he is. This is the greatest opportunity I could possibly have. It's gone beyond my wildest dreams." It was all Prince John could do to contain his smile.
Barkley still looked puzzled. John slapped him on top of his head. "Think Barkley." He snapped at him. "Robin Hood is the greatest threat to my kingdom. But as of this moment his mind is empty, blank, like fresh dough. Ready to be molded any way I want. Imagine having Robin Hood fighting for ME now."
Suddenly it dawned on Barkley. "Ooohhh, I see. You can make him believe that he’s been loyal to you all these years."
"Not only that Barkley. I can turn him against the people that trust him. Given enough time I'm going to make him in my image."
Barkley thought at this statement. "But sire, he may not remember who he is but he still is Robin Hood, in his heart. I don't think you can change that. He’s not capable of doing any thing evil."
"Nonsense Barkley any man can change. And by the time I'm done. Robin Hood’s name will be as much hated by the peasants as mine is. Now heres what I want you to do."
End of Chapter One