<===<< The Bargain >>===>
By Debbie Szabo

Chapter One

The sun filtered through the trees of Sherwood Forest and onto a small camp nestled inside. The camp was full of activity as the morning rays fell upon them. Robin of Locksley, or Robin Hood as he was now called, stood with Marion, Little John and Friar Tuck. All of them were laughing as a small boy tried to twirl Little John’s quarterstaff.

"Edward, the staff is bigger than you are." chuckled Little John. Edward frowned and tried once more, but the staff got stuck in the mud yet again.

"I can do it!" Edward demanded. Little John just shook his head.

"That’s right Edward, you keep trying. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t." laughed Robin. Giving Robin a big smile the boy tried again. Little John was about to say more when he heard the sound of a horn blowing.

"It seems we have company." Said Tuck.

"Robin!" Thad called as he rode into camp. Robin strode over to where Thad had dismounted.

"What is it?"

"I’ve just come from the village of Kenton. Sir Guy was there and burned most of the huts and frightened the farmers. Everyone there is terrified."

"Why would Guy waste his time with such a small village?" Asked Marion. Robin just shook his head.

Looking at Robin, Little John said. "So when do we leave?"

Robin smiled at the larger man "Let’s get the horses and see if we can help."

"I’ll gather some food and supplies as well." replied Tuck. "I’m sure that there will be a need for both."

Robin turned to Thad before going to his horse. "Are you sure that Guy is gone?"

"Yes, the villagers said he rode away as soon as his men had finished."

"Good, I just don’t want any surprises." With that he mounted his horse and they were off.

<===<< <===<< <===<< <===<< <===<< Billowing smoke could still be seen coming from the charred huts of Kenton as Robin and his friends approached. The outlaws slowed and Robin surveyed the outlying trees, keeping a steady watch for any sign that Guy was still nearby. Knowing Guy the way he did it would be foolish to second-guess the knight’s next move. He didn’t trust him any father than he could throw him.

"What a mess!" Exclaimed Marion, covering her nose against the foul odors that assailed her. Everywhere she could see the people attempting to clean up. The stench of burned wood and thatch as well as partially burned livestock was overwhelming. Even the sweet scent of the surrounding forest could not hide the sickening smell.

A man looked up and noticed the new arrivals. "Robin you came." He was a farmer, his face blackened by the smoke and blood ran down the side of it, silent testimony of the recent fight.

1

Still mounted on his gray, Robin glanced around uneasily. Even his horse seemed to sense something and Robin had to pull on the reins to quiet the beast. "What happened here Charles?"

"It was Sir Guy and his men. They just rode in and started burning anything in sight. Then they began chasing us and knocking down anyone who got in their way." Just gazing at all the destruction he let out a long sigh.

Tuck was the first to dismount. "Charles I brought some food and other supplies. It will help a little."

"God Bless you Friar."

Marion was looking at Robin. "Well are we going to get down and help or what?" Robin was still feeling wary. Something just didn’t feel right but he was at a loss to put his finger on it.

"Robin?"

"What?" Turning toward her.

"Are we going to help or stay on our horses all day." And proceeded to get off her mount. Seeing her, Little John dismounted as well and waited for Robin.

Lifting a leg over the front of his horse Robin jumped off his horse with ease and gave the animal a pat. "We will help of course. I just wanted to make sure it was safe that’s all."

Marion was securing her horse to a tree. "You worried about Guy? You know he never hangs around. He’s more of the destroy and run type of guy."

"Yes, I’m sure you’re right." No sense worrying her or John on what was just a gut feeling.

The three of them entered the main part of the village. Tuck had already distributed the food he had brought and was now tending to the injured. Little John noticed one man struggling with a broken piece of fencing. "Here, let me help you with that." In one swift movement the fencing was put back into place. Brushing his hand together and smiling he asked. "So what’s next?"

Walking over to where Tuck was washing out a wound Marion looked around. Most of the injured had only suffered cuts and abrasions thankfully. Taking a bit of cloth and a bowl of water she knelt down beside a young woman and began to cleanse a nasty gash on the women’s forehead. After it was cleaned she wrapped a bandage around the cut and said "You will be fine now, just take it easy for awhile." The woman gave a grateful smile and Marion moved onto to the next patient.

Small fires were still burning amongst the rubble where Robin stood. Spying a bucket filled with stream water he picked it up and tossed the contents onto one of the hot spots. Going over to a larger barrel filled with water he scooped another bucket full and did the same thing again. He and others continued this task till all the blazes were snuffed out and smoke no longer filled the air.

As the day went on much was accomplished and the weary group sat down to rest and have a cool drink. They would relax here for a short time before heading back to camp as it was getting late.

Robin had just swallowed the last of his water and was setting down the cup, when a sensation came over him. The feeling made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

2

Tuck had turned to tell Robin something when he noticed a change on his friend’s face. "What is it Robin?"

"I’m not sure." Swiveling in his seat he glanced sharply around the village. Nothing seemed unusual, most of the farmers too had taken a break from the grueling day and were seated here and there. Shaking his head. "I guess it’s nothing, I’m just a little on edge whenever Guy is involved."

Just as he started to relax again he heard it. The sound of several footsteps on the forest ground. Catapulting to his feet he grabbed for his sword and in one quicksilver motion the blade was unsheathed. Standing, legs spread far apart and his muscles tense, causing the material of his green tunic to stretch taunt across his back.

Before the others could react there stood Sir Guy with twenty or more soldiers and swords drawn. They must have been patiently hiding in the woods all this time just waiting for the right opportunity to pounce. There was silence as each side took stock of the other. The only sound made came from the villagers as they scrambled to take cover.

The tension grew as the soldiers drew an even tighter circle around the foursome. Guy was the first to break the quiet. "Well, well, well what do we have here? If it isn’t Robin Hood. This is my lucky day."

Knowing he was outnumbered and not having a single trick up his sleeve Robin slowly put away his sword. Not one to ever admit defeat, he casually folded his well-toned arms across his chest and gave lopsided grin. "Sir Guy, coming back to the scene of a crime. This isn’t like you. Don’t you usually raid and run."

The smile Guy had been wearing grew. "But you see my dear Robin, this pillaging was all for you. Hurt the salt of the earth and Robin Hood comes running."

Marion was now standing along with Little John. "What do you plan to do Guy?"

"Quite simply my lady, I plan for you all to accompany me to my castle."

"And if we say no?" Demanded John. He was ready to take on the whole lot of them if Robin gave the word. He’d like nothing better than to slam a few heads together.

Smirking at the blond giant Guy replied. "You don’t want to know. Anyway you really have very little choice. My men have you surrounded and I plan to take a few of these nice farmers as well. You know a little added insurance just in case you get any thoughts about escaping." At his words five soldiers searched the village till each of them had a hostage.

Robin watched as Guy’s men held onto the farmers and put swords to their necks. He looked back at guy and shrugged his shoulders. "Well if you insist. We would love to visit with you but not for too long now, we have a very busy schedule." He would not give Guy any indication that he was the least bit concerned about the events that just went on. Robin had to stay calm if they were ever going to get out of this.

Laughing at Robin’s response he then instructed his men to bind the four outlaws up tightly. A wagon was brought round and Robin, Marion, Little John and Tuck were loaded in. None of them put up a struggle, there was no point to it for they knew Guy would have no qualms about killing the hostages. The wagon started moving as they started off down the path to Guy’s home and an uncertain future.

3

The castle loomed dark and forbidding before them. The journey had taken a few hours and dusk had just set in when they arrived. Guy was the first to dismount with his soldiers following suit.

"Take them to the dungeon immediately!" he ordered.

"What about the farmers My Lord?" inquired one man.

Waving his hand as if to dismiss such a minor problem. "Take them to the servant’s quarters and put them to work. I’m sure that they can be of some use."

Dragging the villagers from the wagon the soldiers propelled them toward the servants compound. Not being able to do anything, all Robin could do is watch his jaw clenching in frustration.

Suddenly he was pulled from the cart with John and Tuck following. Tuck stumbled and Little John stopped to try and steady him. Bringing up the rear was Marion and she made a move to follow her friends.

Guy put a restraining hand on her bound wrists. "No, you won’t be going with them." He nodded to a guard and handed her over.

She looked over to where Robin had just entered the building. He had no idea that Marion had been detained. Looking confused and a bit wary she asked. "Why not?"

Giving no answer he told the guard holding her. "Take her to the main hall and keep a close watch over her." And then marched into the castle.

<===<< <===<< <===<< <===<< <===<< Inside the dungeon it was dim and dank with a musty odor that clung in the air. Chains hung from the walls and you could almost feel death as you entered. There were three cells all looking like the other. The one far left of the entrance door was occupied, for it held three very unhappy outlaws.

Leaning against one of the damp walls and staring out past the wooden bars was Robin. Tuck had elected to sit on a narrow straw pallet, while Little John paced the small area like a caged animal.

"So what are we going to do?" Asked Tuck calmly.

Robin didn’t move and continued to stare out of the cell. Tuck was about to ask again when Robin shifted his stance and said quietly. "I don’t know."

Little John stopped his pacing. "What do you mean, you don’t know! You have to have a plan. You always have a plan!"

He gave his friend a wan smile. "Well I am fresh out of plans at the moment. We got ourselves into a pretty tight spot this time. I knew something wasn’t right back at the village. I should have followed my instincts."

"It’s not you fault Robin. We were all fooled." Replied Tuck.

"No I should have known and now here we are." He leaned his head against the wall and looked up at the ceiling. Thinking to himself he wondered. Where was Marion? He thought she was right behind them, but noticed her missing as they were put in the cell. He had questioned a guard but the man just gave a knowing leer and said nothing. Guy was planning something and Robin would give anything to know what it was.

A door creaked open and the three captives tensed and waited. It was Sir Guy with a couple of guard’s close behind. Halting in front of the prisoners, he spread his arms wide and smiled. "Oh this is better than all the riches of the Holy Land. I have Robin Hood in my custody. This is just too good."

Robin gave him a quick smile. "Well I’m so glad we could make your day. Where’s Marion?" Hoping he didn’t sound as desperate as he felt.

"Marion is quite safe. In fact some of my men are seeing to her comfort even as we speak."

The smile dropped from Robin’s face and he glared at the black knight. "Just make sure she stays that way, because if she doesn’t you’re a dead man."

Guy looked at him in mocked surprise. "Oh, and how do you propose to do it? I assure you that this cell is impossible to escape from, even for you. Enough talk for now, Marion is safe, she and I have things to......discuss. I do hope the accommodations are to your liking since your stay will be an extended one."

He started turning for the door when Little John rushed the bars as if to strangle Guy with his bare hands. The guards shoved him back, Robin and Tuck trying to calm him. The door slammed shut and Guy was gone.

The cell was quiet, each man lost in his own thoughts, but all feeling that something was about to happen and it filled them with dread.

End of Chapter One

 
Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three
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