The Dance Lesson
By Mary Tassone
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Chapter Two

The morning sun rose high. Guy awoke from a wonderful dream. He dreamed that he was swimming in gold. Oh, what a dream. And he would get some of that gold today. He could feel it. Then he heard a sudden commotion and rushed out of his tent.

A soldier said, "Sir, they are gone!"

Guy raced to the tent pulling back the tarp. Sure enough, only the blanket lay there. Robin Hood had escaped and he took the girl with him. Guy growled.

"How did this happen? You were stationed so close together they shouldn't have been able to breathe with out you knowing it! Get on your horses. Never mind packing the tents! They couldn't have gotten far. We are going to find them!"

The soldiers mounted their horses and rode off into the forest, each in a different direction. Guy was with them, fuming at having lost his prey. Little did they know how close they had been to their captives.

The sounds of soldiers faded as they rode away. Robin waited until they were out of ear shot before coming out of hiding. Slowly, he sat up, pushed back the blanket, and rose out of the shallow hole he had dug. Willow lay beside him. She was not looking well. Robin could see clearly in the morning light how pale she was. Her face lacking all healthy color. She was shivering violently and her lips were turning blue. Robin hated to make her lay on the cold ground for the past few hours, but his options were minimal.

Now the soldiers were gone. Robin proceeded to wrap Willow up in the blanket. It was plain to him that she wasn't strong enough to walk. She could hardly lift her head. Her skin was frigid to the touch, as if she were slowly turning into an icicle. Robin wrapped her tightly, trying to keep her as warm as possible until he could get them away. Once they were far from the soldiers, he could build a fire and hopefully keep her from getting frostbite.

Only one thing did not make sense to Robin. He was not cold. He was definitely not warm after spending half the night laying on the cold earth, but he was not suffering from such a loss of body heat. It wasn't even that cold outside, normal temperatures. Why was Willow reacting so violently to the lack of heat? Or was it just that Robin's inner heat was keeping him warm?

Whatever the answer, Robin couldn't dwell on it then. He lifted Willow into his arms and slinked away. Being careful to avoid leaving tracks, Robin made his way through the forest. The soldiers were all around them, but they had still not discovered the whereabouts of the captives. Several times, Robin had to suddenly stop and hide he and Willow behind a tree or in a gully to avoid being seen by the patrols.

Guy of Gisborne called his troops back in at dusk. Slowly, the soldiers regrouped and all made their way back to camp. Guy could not fathom how Robin Hood could have gotten away. How could he leave camp with soldiers sleeping all around him? He would have made some disturbance, enough to wake one of them. Even the soldiers who were up all night didn't see anything. Guy had quickly run them through for their insolence. Had they been awake ALL night, they would have seen the outlaw leave.

Upon returning to the camp, Guy slowly paced, thinking. He noticed a soldier heading for the tarp where Robin Hood should have been. "Get away from there! You've created enough trouble all ready. They aren't there." The soldier looked anyway and then spun around excitedly. "Sir! Sir! Come! Look!" Guy walked over to the tent, saw the hole, and growled with all his might. "He was here all along!"

Dusk came and Robin decided a fire was a good idea. He gently put Willow down and gathered some wood from the area. He left for a few minutes, content that Willow wasn't going anywhere in the state she was in. When he returned to the camp, she still lay there, but she was not alone. A raged, old man sat beside her, feeling her forehead. He looked up and regarded Robin. "She is very ill."

Robin dropped the wood and walked over, kneeling opposite the man. "What's wrong with her?" The old man pried open one of Willow's eyes and then her mouth. "She is ill. She needs shelter. Pick her up and follow me." With that, the old man stood up and began to walk. Seeing no other alternative, Robin quickly scooped Willow up again and followed.

The old man led Robin to a cave deep in the forest. The cave's mouth was obscured by vines and trees, making it almost invisible. The old man pulled back some of the vines and helped Robin through. Willow still hung limply in his arms.

The cave resembled Olwyn's. It had a pot and fire pit, a bed with woven blankets, a few chairs, books, and plants all over the place. The old man motioned toward the bed. "Put her there and cover her. I'll stoke the fire." Robin obeyed. He gently lowered Willow to the bed and covered her with all the blankets. Her face looked paler than he had ever seen before and her lips were very blue in color.

The old man walked up behind Robin and handed him a clay mug. "This is for you. You must be dying of thirst." Robin was very thirsty, but he wanted Willow taken care of before himself. "Give it to her. She needs it more." The old man laughed. "On the contrary, she needs this." He produced another mug. "Don't worry. I know what is wrong with her and I can help her. My name is Lionel and you are welcome to sit down." Robin turned and pulled a chair next to the bed. He sat down and reluctantly took a sip from the mug he held. "What is this. It tastes very good." Robin felt his strength returning with just the first sip. Lionel didn't answer. He was on the other side of the bed, mug in hand. Robin watched as Lionel dipped his fingers into the mug and then dripped the liquid onto Willow's lips. Their color suddenly improved, going from ice blue to a pale pink.

Lionel smiled with satisfaction as Willow slowly opened her eyes. "Where am I?" Lionel put the mug to her lips. "Don't worry about that now. Just drink." Willow obeyed. Unlike Robin, she made a twisted face at the taste of her beverage. "Uhg! What is that?" Lionel chuckled. "It will warm you up. That is all you need to know. Now rest." Willow sighed. She felt very tired even though she couldn't remember going anywhere. She closed her eyes and was asleep in seconds.

Robin looked at Lionel. "What is in that drink you gave her?" Lionel shook his head. "If I told you, you wouldn't let her drink it. And then she would die." Robin stared at him. "It cured her though. Right?" Lionel shook his head again. "No. No. It only delayed the fever. The cure is in an herb that you have to get for her." Robin stood immediately. "What is it and where can I find it?"

Lionel laughed whole-heartedly. "Silly Robin Hood. You haven't eaten in more than a day and you expect you can just rush off." Robin didn't budge. "I'll do whatever it takes of me to make her well again. And how could she have a fever when she is so COLD?" Lionel sighed and motioned for Robin to sit back down. "She has an affliction called Blue Fever. Only deities are susceptible to it. It makes their body temperature slowly fall until they freeze. I don't know why it was named a fever, but that is what it is called."

Robin took another sip from his mug, suddenly feeling the fatigue from two days of carrying a hundred pounds. "How do you know who we are and what is wrong with her?" Lionel nodded contentedly. "Very good. Actually Pan sent me to you. Her father. He told me that you would be able to get the herb for her, but that you knew too little about her kind to be able to help her."

Robin tried to understand, but his strength was really lacking. Lionel took the mug from him. "Rest Robin Hood. Gather your strength. I'm making dinner right now. After you have eaten and pulled yourself together, we will discuss the young lady. Don't worry. The tea I gave her will delay the fever for some time." Reluctantly, Robin agreed. As he waited for dinner to be prepared, he sat next to Willow, holding her hand.

Dinner consisted of rabbit stew. Robin emptied every bowl he was offered. Lionel ate with him, not saying much, but being as hospitable as he could. Once Robin's belly was full, he realized that he needed sleep. "Lionel, do you have a hide or rug that I could sleep on?" Lionel shook his head. I only have one and that is for me. There is the bed though. Willow doesn't take it all up." Robin thought about this for a moment. His aching back won the argument. A bed was much better than a cold cave floor. He slowly lay down next to Willow, above the blankets. His inner heat flared again. He crept closer, until he could comfortably rest his hand on her stomach. Then he fell asleep.

At some point during the night, Robin awoke alone. He sat up and looked around. Lionel was sleeping on a hide rug on the floor. As Robin's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw Willow. She was standing at the cave's mouth, peering through the vines. Robin climbed out of bed and walked over to her. She turned at the sound of his footsteps, but faced the vines again when she saw it was him. Robin put his hand on her shoulder. She was cold to the touch once more. He felt the chills going up and down her. He heard her sniffling.

Robin turned her head and saw tears running down her face. "Willow what's wrong?" He moved his hand to wipe the tears away, but she grabbed his wrist. A moment later he realized that is was for support as she began to collapse again. Robin caught her, lifting her gently and carrying her back to the bed. He laid her down and covered her with the blankets. Tears still ran down her face. She looked genuinely afraid.

This time Robin did wipe the tears away. "Willow please tell me what's wrong." Willow tried not to look him in the eye. "I'm dying." Robin gently turned her face to his so she could see the sincerity in his eyes. "I won't let you die. You are not going to die." Willow gazed back at him, her eyes filling with more tears. "I'm so sorry." Robin wiped the tears away. "Why are you sorry? You haven't done anything wrong." Willow sobbed. "I'm sorry because I wouldn't talk to you. I'm sorry because I was afraid to tell you how I feel. Now I'm going to die."

Robin shook his head, trying to be more convincing. "You haven't done anything wrong. I am NOT going to let you die." Willow didn't seem to be hearing him. "Robin, please tell Marion that I'm sorry for not listening to her." Robing answered, "You can tell her yourself when we go home." Willow said, "Tell Tuck that I'm sorry for breaking his favorite pot." Robin felt his heart pounding. "That was four years ago." Willow sobbed harder. "If you ever see my mother, tell her I miss her."

Robin grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. "Stop this. Please! What brought this about? Why are you so afraid?" He released her, ashamed for losing him temper. "I'm sorry, Willow. Please, don't talk of death. You are not going to die." Willow swallowed hard. "I'm sorry for you too, Robin. I wanted to tell you that I know I can't have you, but I love you anyway. Please take care of Marion and remember me. Remember that I loved you."

Robin was completely caught off guard. He could think of nothing to say to that. She loved him. He quickly tucked her into the blankets and then rushed to Lionel's side. He shook the old man awake. Lionel gasped, "What? What? Oh, it's you." Robin nodded. "Willow is getting worse again. Tell me where to get the cure. I'm going tonight." Lionel shook his head. "Tonight? You've barely slept in two days and you want to go tonight?" Robin stood. "Just tell me where to go and promise to look after her while I'm gone."

Lionel could see that there was no stopping him. He climbed to his feet and walked to one of his bookcases. He pulled out a book and out of the book a map. "Here Robin Hood. There is a cave to the south. Within it grows a red plant. Bring the plant back to me and it will cure her." Robin took the map. Before leaving he stopped to say good bye to Willow. "Don't worry. I'll be back before you know it. Then we will have a lot to talk about." Willow nodded weakly. "I'll be waiting for you."

Robin rushed through the forest haphazardly, allowing no caution in his steps. He had promised Willow she would live to see the dawn, and nothing would keep him from fulfilling that promise. The map Lionel gave him was simple enough. He just had to keep going south until he spotted a cave. And then he would retrieve whatever red plant lived inside. After Robin had run for almost an hour, the cave was in front of him.

Lionel gave Willow some more of the wretched tea. She hated it. The flavor was close in resemblance to Marion's cooking and it was very HOT! Lionel laughed at the faces she made. "Come now, Willow. Half-god and you can't even stand a good cup of tea." Willow braced herself as she took her final gulp and then lay back down, exhausted from the ordeal. Lionel situated her blankets. "You know, your father sent me to you. He is very pleased with how you turned out. He likes that young man, Robin Hood, very much." Willow scrutinized the old man as best she could. Her eyes cried for sleep. This man seemed so familiar to her. His voice was like a dream. She knew she had heard it somewhere before. "How do you know my father?" Lionel didn't bother answering. She was asleep by the time he opened his mouth to speak.

Robin ventured into the cave, this time using caution and all his wits. It seemed like a fairly normal cave. There were no signs of live anywhere. No footprints, no water, no vines. How could anything live in there? His eyes adjusted quickly to the lack of moonlight. The cave was round in shape with stalactites and stalagmites encompassing it. As Robin ventured farther, he heard the stream that made the cave. So there was water after all. As he turned a bend, he realized that it was easier to see. Another turn revealed more light, until Robin saw its source.

Willow dreamed every night. Her memory was not the best when it came to recalling her dreams, but she knew that dreaming was a regular occurrence. Tonight she dreamed that she was in a cavern. At the center of the cavern was a ring of fire, surrounding a red plant. Willow stared in awe. That was her cure, right there in front of her. She tried to run to it, but her motion seemed to crawl. She growled angrily. "Let me go faster!"

Robin heard a voice come from the direction of the light. Taking no heed for the rocks and stalagmites that surrounded him, Robin broke into a run. He ran into a huge cavern. At the center of the cavern was a ring of fire surrounding the red plant. But where had the voice come from?

End of Chapter Two

Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three
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