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

Chapter Three

The next morning dawned dark and gloomy. It matched the mood of the three men being led out into the yard. There were guards everywhere along the castle walls. Archers were poised with arrows cocked and aimed at the trio. Guy was taking no chances as he witnessed the event from one of the high walls. A sense of elation consumed him as he watched Little John and Tuck mount their horses.

As Robin reached his horse he paused, turning to look up at where the black knight stood. He uttered not a sound but the look in his eyes said it all. I will be back, let there be no doubt.

Interpreting the outlaw correctly, Guy inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the challenge of the unspoken words. Robin gave a curt nod in response and vaulted himself onto his saddle. Taking the lead he and his companions headed out. A few soldiers followed till they were sure the three were off Guy’s property.

Marion had been observing from the window of her room. She noticed Robin and Guy’s exchange but being too far away could not fathom its meaning. She maintained her vigil till her friends were mere specks on the horizon. Then walking to her bed she laid down. In two days time she would be married and her life with Robin over. She would survive, but her heart would not, for in its place stood an empty void. All she felt now was a cold hatred for the man who was to be her husband. Keeping her feelings under wraps would be the hardest task she ever faced. She would do it though, she must, Robin’s well being depended on it.

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By the time Robin and the others reached the safety of Sherwood and their camp it was late afternoon. Tuck rushed to write his note to Marion, letting her know that they were safe and not followed. Signing it always Michael he then sent it with a messenger back to the castle.

In the meantime Robin, not speaking to anyone, located a piece of leather and a charred stick of wood. Finding an open table he sat down and began to draw rapidly but carefully. Everyone in the camp sensing his urgent mood kept their distance except for Little John. He was beside his friend quietly watching.

After a while John began to get antsy, finally breaking down. "So what are you doing?"

Robin didn’t look up but did answer. "I’m making a map."

"I can see that. Does this mean you have a plan." making it a statement rather than a question.

"Yes, I’m going to get Marion and bring her home." as he continued to sketch.

"Well count me in! Boy you sure had me worried." "Oh, why is that."

"You never said a word the whole ride back, I thought maybe you were going to let Sir Guy win."

"I was thinking John."

" Now you have a plan right?"

Robin finally looked up at his friend and gave a big smile. "Yes I do, and in the morning we’ll put it into action."

John was thrilled to see Robin’s smile. "You’re smiling! I feel better already, so what’s the plan?"

"Go get Tuck and I’ll tell you all about it."

It was later that evening when all the arrangements had eventually been made. It took some doing but they were a resourceful bunch. Robin was alone leaning back on a chair looking up at the stars. The plan was risky, but hey risky was his middle name. It didn’t matter how dangerous it was, he was going to get Marion back and that was all there was to it. "Hold on Marion." He whispered to himself. "I’m coming."

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The castle was a buzz early the next morning as the preparations for the upcoming wedding had everyone scurrying. Everything had to be just perfect of face the master’s wrath. So flowers were gathered, food was being prepared and plenty of wine and ale would be served.

Guy was outside with his Captain of the Guards. "Make sure you and your men keep a close eye on anyone who comes through those gates. I know Robin Hood will try to rescue my future bride." He gave the captain an evil grin. "I just want to make certain we are ready for him when he does. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Yes sir!" Nodded the captain. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint Sir Guy. Not if he wanted to keep his head.

Making sure he had taken all the proper precautions, Guy looked around one last time. Now it was time to check the progress of the staff inside and wait for Robin to appear. It was not a matter of if he’d show up, but when. Robin’s last look before he rode out was all the proof he needed. Actually his return was not unforeseen. He knew Robin would never abandon Marion, he had counted on it when the plot was first devised. It was all going as he had hoped, soon Robin Hood would be dead and Marion would still be his. He was a genius he thought to himself and smiled.

At the main gate four soldiers were posted with strict instructions to inspect any who came through. The job was tedious since a steady stream of people had been arriving for the wedding along with many deliveries meant for the feast. After a few hours the guards began to get lax, if nothing looked suspicious they let it pass.

In the long line waiting to gain entrance sat an old wagon filled with barrels of wine to be used at the celebration. Escorting the wine were three friars, the driver was heavy set, next to him was a larger friar and a third sat in back. All had hoods up, shadowing their faces. In a remarkably short time the wagon had made its way up and was now next to be inspected.

"Next!" Yelled one of the soldiers.

"What have we here friars?"

The driver responded. "We’re delivering the wine Sir Guy had requested for the upcoming nuptials, my sons. He did tell you that we would be arriving today?"

Not answering the guard along with the others began to look over the cart for anything amiss. As the men looked closely inside the friar in back lowered his head even more. A guard noticed the slight move, looking more closely he was about to question the hooded man, when a coughing fit overtook the friar.

Speaking again the driver said. "Forgive me my sons, but Brother Gilbert is not feeling well today. We pray that it is not serious or perhaps even contagious. We would really like to get these barrels unloaded so we may get him home."

Finding nothing out of the ordinary and not wanting to catch whatever the sick monk had, they let them pass. The wagon rolled into the inner yard and halted close to the castle. The friar in the back quickly jumped out and the wagon continued on.

Using a side door the robed man slipped in undetected. Inside was a mad house, with servants rushing to and fro, making sure all was in readiness. It was easy to blend into the chaos. Keeping his head down and knowing his way around the friar soon found himself at the foot of the staircase. As he put a booted foot onto the step he heard footsteps coming down. Moving swiftly he stepped back into the shadows and out of sight. In a hurry Sir Guy made his way down the steps pausing just inches from the shadowed figure. The black knight glanced around as if he was searching for someone. Holding his breath and mentally crossing his fingers the concealed man waited. Guy stood there a few moments longer then continued on his way.

Making sure the knight had disappeared before he revealed himself, then hastened up the stairs. Reaching the top he turned left and navigated his way down the long hall and to his ultimate destination.

In her chamber Marion sat on a chair gazing out a window lost in thought. Tomorrow she would be married to Guy and her stomach knotted again at the thought. Even now her wedding gown was draped on the bed, waiting for one last fitting. She heard all the preparations being made downstairs but had little interest. Refusing to think about Robin, for the pain was too great, she mentally went over Tuck’s note in her head yet again. It gave her comfort to know that Guy kept his word and her friends had made it back home without any interference. All she could do now was sit and wait for the dreaded day.

Still gazing out the window past the castle walls Marion let her mind wander. Her back was to the door so she never saw it silently open and close. So immersed in thought she jumped when a raspy voice said. "You don’t appear to be very happy my child."

Twisting in her chair she was surprised to see a hooded friar standing there. By the sound of his voice and hunched position he must be an elderly monk who had gotten lost.

"Friar you startled me."

"I’m terribly sorry my child, that was not my intention."

"That’s okay, but I believe you have the wrong room." Then to herself muttered. "Although last rites seem appropriate right now."

Laughing the friar came closer. "Last rites is the last thing I’m here for. How about a rescue instead?" With that he pulled down his hood.

Marion’s eyes went wide. "Robin!" She couldn’t believe he was here.

"Who else would come to your rescue?"

Her face turned white when she realized what this meant. "Robin you have to go, Guy knew you would come back. He has guards everywhere with orders to kill."

He merely gave her a crooked grin and tossed her a bundle of clothes that had been hidden beneath his robe. "Really Marion, your confidence in me is overwhelming. Now put on those clothes I gave you so we can be on our way."

She tossed him a frustrated look, but he just tilted his head indicating she should do as he said. This is never going to work she thought but did what he had requested just the same. She had almost finished dressing when there was a knock at her door. The two froze!

"Marion my dear, I need to speak with you." Guy’s voice sounded from behind. Robin and Marion looked at each other then around the room for a hiding place. Spying the bed Robin made a dash to get behind it.

It was too late, before he could make it behind the bed Guy was in the room. "Marion you will not keep....." The words fell away as he saw Robin. Recovering quickly from the shock he sneered. "I knew you would come. How did you get past my men?"

Robin gave him a big smile. "Piece of cake."

Drawing his sword Guy replied. "No matter, just as long as you never leave!" He then made a lunge for the outlaw. Moving quickly Robin ducked and reaching for a chair, threw it in the other man’s path. In the time it took to step over the obstacle Robin had drawn his own sword. It too had been tucked inside his robe. He sliced the air a few times. "Now this is more like it."

The two men cautiously began to circle, their eyes locked in combat. Guy was the first to attack but Robin neatly blocked the on coming thrust. Clashing, the sound of steel against steel ringing in the room as many exchanges were made. Guy had continued on the offensive backing Robin against the foot of the bed. With a backwards somersault Robin rolled across the bed landing feet first onto the floor. Lifting his sword high Guy swung trying to take off the other man’s head. Ducking and moving under the swing Robin ended up behind Guy swatting him on the backside. Letting out a ROAR Sir Guy face his hated enemy.

The blades were at chest level, circling as each tried to find a weakness that could be exploited. Both men were excellent swordsman, the difference lied within. Robin was calm and focused while Guy’s face was a mask of fury showing the anger inside.

"You know Sir Guy if you let us go I won’t have to humiliate you further."

"Let you leave, after all the trouble I’ve gone through, I don’t think so. Soon you will be dead and Marion will be mine!"

Robin sent him a sarcastic smile. "Oh, and who is going to kill me for you this time?"

Not missing the insult, the black knight’s ire grew and he made a swift lunge for the outlaw’s heart. Emotion clouding his judgment the attack went wild and Robin stepped to one side. The momentum of the advance took Guy flying past and falling against a table. Landing hard and dazed he never saw the clay water jug come crashing over his head.

Marion was standing behind the table, brushing her hands together and smiling. "I’ve wanted to do that for a long time now."

Robin walked over to the fallen knight and check his breathing. "He’ll live but I don’t want to be around when he wakes up." He looked up at her a little annoyed. "You know I could have finished it."

" Sorry I just couldn’t resist and I feel so much better now."

Standing up Robin went to the bed curtains and took the ties. "Let’s make sure he stays out of commission for awhile." He then bound Guy’s hands and feet then stuffed a handkerchief in his mouth.

In the meantime Marion had put on the last of her disguise, tucking her hair under a cap. She then took soot from the fireplace and rubbed it on her face and hands. She was ready. They both spared Guy one last look.

"I should kill him." Robin said as he pulled the hood over his head. "I just can’t seem to do it."

Marion touched his arm. "I know, for now let’s just worry about getting out of here." Robin couldn’t agree more.

They opened the door and peeked out to see if the coast was clear. Leaving the room closing the door behind them they slowly descended the stairs. Staying to the outer edges of the main hall and making it to the same side entrance Robin had used earlier.

As they reached for the handle the door swung open and in came a guard, almost knocking them over. The man looked at the two but quickly dismissed them. He then bellowed. "Has any one seen Sir Guy?" When he got no answer he ventured farther into the room.

Robin and Marion took advantage of the situation and fled out the door and into the bright sunlight. The yard was full of carts, wagons and people, it was nearly impossible to move about. Finally they spotted a wagon with two very fidgety friars nearby and headed for it.

As they got closer one of the friars looked over to them. "Thank God, you made it."

Getting into the wagon Robin said. "Not yet Tuck, let’s get going. Marion you better lie down in the back just in case."

The wagon began moving toward the main gate and Tuck took a deep breath. "Here we go." He had nothing to worry about, the guards barely gave them a glance.

They were a good distance away from the castle when Tuck said. "We did it!"

"You had doubts?" questioned Robin.

"Well it was risky, you have to admit."

"No confidence, no confidence at all." He replied a bit hurt.

 

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It was evening and the soft glow of a fire lit up the tiny camp. Most of the camp occupants had gathered around telling stories or talking quietly among themselves. Tuck and Little John sat at a table with all the children around them. Tuck was showing them a new trick he had learned.

A little ways away from camp stood Marion. She stood quietly looking up to the stars. It felt good to be home she thought to herself. To breathe the fresh air and hear the gentle breeze blow through the trees. The sound of the children laughing brought a smile to her face. She was back where she belonged, with her family. Footsteps sounded behind her and she knew who it was without turning.

"See anything interesting?"

"Not really." She didn’t want to talk about the stars anyway. Turning she looked up at him. He was smiling and her heart felt like it would burst. "Thank you Robin. Thank you for rescuing me from Guy."

"Did you think I wouldn’t?"

She didn’t answer him because the look he gave made her insides turn to jelly. She simply stared, lost in his gaze. Time stood still neither daring to break the spell. Then in a slow movement his head began to lower. His eyes no longer on hers instead they focused on her lips. Her heart started pounding in her ears. This was it, the moment she had dreamed about since she was a young girl. Closer his head came, she could feel the heat that radiated from him. Soon his lips would brush hers and she tingled with anticipation. In her head she cried YES!

"Hey Robin! Where are you!" Little John’s booming voice was like a bucket of coldwater. Standing only a breath apart the two jumped back at the interruption. "There you two are, I’ve been looking for you."

Robin was the first to recover, although his voice was still a little shaky. "Well it looks like you found us."

Marion had turned away to hide the blush that covered her face and try to steady her racing heart. This could not be happening. Not again.

Not having any idea what was going on the big man went on. "Wait till you see this new trick Tuck learned. You have to come." He put an arm around the shorter man leading him back toward camp. Over his shoulder he said. "You have to come too Marion it is really amazing."

As he was being led away Robin looked back at her, giving a half smile and a shrug. She did the same in return and the three of them all headed over to see this wonderful new trick of Tuck’s.

 

<===<< The End >>===>
Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three
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