The blackness of the twisting passageway was almost suffocating. The granite walls seeped with moisture lending a musty scent to the thick air. Following a curving path, the tunnel to the cave wound deep into the heart of the mountain. Slowly a faint glow disturbed the darkness. Farther in the brighter the light became as torches lined the walls. Their flames licking up at the rock, casting dancing shadows on the walls. Abruptly the narrow passage opened up into a large cavern. More torchlight’s were scattered about illuminating the huge room in an eerie afterglow.
Along one side of the room stood small finely carved mahogany tables, where various books were stacked. Another wall held a larger table made in the same fashion as the smaller ones. This table held beautifully crafted goblets made of gold and precious stones. A wine bottle accompanied them. Toward the back of the cave a small ribbon of crystal clear water trickled down the stone wall collecting in a small pool.
In front of the little pond stood a majestic chair. It- like the other furniture was exceptional. A cloth of deep burgundy with gold thread strewn through, was draped over it. Lounging in the chair was a man, he wore a bored expression on his handsome features. Jet black hair hung in straight tresses past his shoulders. His hair framed a finely chiseled face. High cheekbones, a thin straight nose and well-formed lips gave him an aristocratic quality. These attractive features were undermined by coal black eyes which held no emotion. They were not- human eyes.
He was dressed in a gray tunic, black trousers that encased well-muscled legs and black well polished boots. A silver belt was cinched around his lean waist. Although the clothing plain in style, they were made from the finest cloth.
Shifting position the man rested his chin on a fist and stretched out his long legs in front of him. His emotionless eyes staring out at nothing. Suddenly he sat up straight lifting his right hand to his face. On the third finger he wore a ring. It was an unusual ring, for it was a small glass dome set in silver. Inside the dome was a swirling mass of colors. Changing from pale yellow to every color of the rainbow till it became a midnight blue where it stayed.
Standing up the man walked to the small pool. Closing his eyes he slowly waved his ringed hand over the clear liquid. Tiny ripples began to appear on the clam surface, while images began taking shape on the watery canvas. A beautiful woman’s face came into focus. Opening his eyes he looked down at the lovely image, a small smile coming to his lips.
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There was confusion all around as soldiers attacked the helpless village of Fellsburg. Peasants were running everywhere trying to avoid being cut down by pillaging soldiers on horseback. The screams of victims could be heard as they scrambled to take cover. Already most of the structures were burning, the smell of burnt thatch permeated the air. Smoke engulfed the area and swelled high into the sky blocking out the sun’s rays.
A man was fleeing from an oncoming solider when he slipped and fell into the dirt. When the mounted man brought up his sword for a killing blow a whistling sound was heard followed by a thud. The solider slowly slid off his horse, falling face first to the ground, an arrow protruding from his back. The villager looked in the direction from where the arrow originated. There in the distance was a dark haired man on horseback. A bow in his hand he was methodically picking off soldiers with deadly aim.
Three others joined the archer, they too were attacking the intruders. A big man with long blonde hair jumped off his horse. Armed with a quarterstaff and a smile he ran up to a group of soldiers and started swinging. Using the long staff he cut two men down at the knees and when they fell he finished them with a blow to their chins. With one end of the stick he jabbed another in the stomach and felled him with a hit to the back of the skull. As two more came at the large man, he swung first the right end of the staff then the left, catching them both on the side of the head.
A woman and a portly friar who accompanied the blonde giant also got into the fray. The woman unleashed a whip that hung at her waist. With a flick of her wrist it snapped to life. Letting the thin leather strap curl around a chair she raised it and hurled it into an attacker. As the chair splintered over his head the man tumbled to the earth unmoving. She turned as another approached her from behind. He was too close to use the whip effectively so she unsheathed her sword. Dropping her whip she waited for her assailant to make the first move. As the man went for her, she neatly block his attack. Pushing his sword down with her own she released one hand and landed a fist at his jaw. While the man was dazed she finished him with an uppercut, sending him sprawling.
Not to far from the lady warrior the friar was involved in his own battle. Since he carried no weapons he relied on anything he could get his hands on. At the moment he was defending himself with a broom handle. It already showed numerous cuts and threatened to split apart on the next hit. The soldier knowing this, gave the friar an evil smirk as he lifted his weapon up for the fatal blow. As his arms were raised high the other man twirled the handle, using the end of the stick he connected with his opponents mid section. When the man doubled over a large wooden soup ladle came down on his head. With the ladle still in hand the friar looked over to a woman standing near. "Thank you my dear." And handed the utensil back to her.
As more and more soldiers went down, their companions noting the odds were no longer in their favor, called for a retreat. Quickly they hastened to their horses and rode out in a flurry.
The four who had come to the villagers rescue watched the fleeing soldiers disappear, smiles splitting their faces. Those smiles vanished as they turned to survey the damage that had been done. Small fires still burned, fences were torn down and the injured littered the grounds. A villager came up to the foursome, he had a gash above his right eye. The blood from the wound ran down mixing with the black soot and sweat that covered his face savage poof of the recent battle. "Thank God you were here Robin." Pain and exhaustion interlaced in his tone.
Robin shook his head in response his brown eyes filled with regret. "I wish we could have gotten here sooner Garrett, maybe we could have prevented all of this." His hand swept the demolished area.
"You did your best Robin. We’d all be dead if you hadn’t." Garrett began to sway and would have fallen if not for the large arms that caught him. Little John put one arm under the smaller mans legs while the other supported his back. Lifting Garrett in his strong arms he walked over to were the other injured lay. Robin followed close behind watching silently as John laid the unconscious man down.
The rest of the day was spent trying to repair the devastated village. It would take more than one day to put it to rights but with the help of the outlaws it was livable. Robin wished they could stay and help longer but they had been away from camp for too long as it was. They needed to get home. Before departing they left some gold and a few provisions they had with them. The people were grateful for even this small gift and told the outlaws not to worry, they would rebuild their village.
It was late when the weary group returned to camp. A lone campfire burned, next to it sat Sean. When he saw his friends he stood up and strolled over. "Where have you been? We expected you hours ago." Concern etched on his face.
"Sorry Sean. We had a little unexpected excitement earlier." Replied Robin as he went over to get a cup of water.
Little John clapped a big hand on Sean’s shoulder. "Yeah, you know- the usual. Soldiers terrorizing villagers, wrecking the place and us wrecking them." The last said with a proud smile.
"Well I’m tired and dirty." Interrupted Marion. "All I want is a bath and a goodnights rest. No, correction, forget the bath. I’m so tired I’m just going to wash up then get some sleep." Not waiting for anyone to comment she strode off in the direction of her hut.
Sean watched as Marion disappeared into the night then turned back to the others. "I’m just glad you all made it back safety. I was starting to get worried."
Giving a tired smile Robin said. " As you can see we’re fine. I for one am going to follow Marion’s lead and get some rest.’
"I couldn’t agree more." Tuck joined in, a hunk of bread in one hand and a piece of meat in the other.
Marion had washed up quickly in the small pond by camp then headed right for bed. Her eyes closed as she lay down on her straw pallet, sleep overtaking her the moment her head hit the pillow. Her deep slumber was disturbed by a vision floating in her subconscious. Her mind struggled to bring the image into focus. Slowly the vision cleared and a face appeared. At first she thought it was Robin, but the man’s hair was darker, longer. Then she noticed the eyes, they were black as night and cold. He was speaking to her. She couldn’t make out the words at first. Concentrating harder she tried again to understand what he was telling her. His voice was hypnotic as he spoke to her. This time she understood. "Mine....soon you will be mine." Over and over again he said these words in the same arresting tone. Then as suddenly as the vision came it vanished. She woke with a start, sitting straight up in her bed. A fine film of sweat covered her body. She pushed her damp hair from her face as she glance around her hut. Nothing was there. "It was just a dream." She whispered to herself. "It was just a dream." Her heart was still pounding as she laid back down but sleep alluded her. The dream would not vacate her mind as the early morning hours passed. When the sun started to rise Marion left her hut, determined to put the unsettling dream out of her mind.
She made her way to where the others were breaking their morning fast. Sitting down next to Tuck she pour herself some water. Robin and Little John were in the middle of discussing what needed to be done this day. Both stopped to greet Marion then went back to their conference. Sipping her water she scanned the camp taking in the activities. A small yawn escaped her lips and she quickly tried to cover it.
Tuck noticing the gesture, lifted a questioning brow. "Didn’t you sleep well last night?"
Another yawn slipped past her lips as she answered. " No I didn’t. I had a dream and it kept me up most of the night."
Robin hearing this looked over. "Are you all right?"
She gave him a slight smile. "Yes I’m fine. It was just a dream." Wanting to change the subject she asked. "So what’s on the agenda for today?"
Since they had been absent from camp for so long, many tasks needed to be attended to. The day passed quickly and before they knew it night had descended. Having finished her dinner Marion sat at the table the side of her face resting on her palm. Every so often her eyes would close then pop open again.
Robin, observing her for some time now, spoke when it looked like her head would drop to the table. "Marion, go to bed before you pass out on the table."
She started at his words, looking at him with a dazed expression. "What...." Her voice was fuzzy.
Sighing he restated his words. "I said go to bed, before you pass out on the table."
Sitting up, she gave a small stretch. "I guess I am tired. Probably would be best if I called it a night." Standing up she walked around the table heading for her bed.
"Sweet dreams." He called out after her.
Waving her hand above her head she continued on. When she entered the hut her eyes went to the bed. It looked very inviting. All she wanted to do was lay down and sleep non-stop the whole night. Resting her head on the pillow she thought about her dream then gave her head a mental shake. She would not think about it again and she closed her eyes letting her mind drift in happy thoughts.
The vision came again, but stronger this time. There was no focusing this time, the imagine was well defined. It was the same man, speaking in the same hypnotic voice. His eyes seemed colder as they penetrated into the center of her very being. She gave a shudder at his intense gaze. Then the words came again. "Mine.....soon you will be mine." This time she answered back in her mind. "No I won’t! Who are you? What do you want?"
He gave her a knowing smile. "You will be mine, there is no escape. When the time is right you will come to me."
Panic began to fill her at his words. She thrashed her head back and forth trying to drive the image from her head. "I will not! Who are you? Why are you doing this?" Her voice laced with terror.
"Soon, my love. Soon you will know everything. For now sleep and dream of me." The vision was gone.
Marion found herself staring up at the ceiling of her hut, again covered in perspiration. She sat up shaking. Wrapping her arms around herself she rocked back and forth. Her mind racing in thought. This was more than a dream- she talked to this dream. She could almost feel his breath on her while he spoke. Who was he and more importantly what did he want with her?
As the morning light crept across the sky, Marion step out her door, her eyes searching. When she spied her quarry she was off at a brisk pace. Tuck was sitting on a tree stump with a few children seated around him. He was telling them a story but stopped when he saw her approach.
One look at her face and he knew something was amiss. Standing up he told the children that he would have to finish his story another time. The children grumbled but got up and went to play in the nearby meadow. When they were out of hearing Tuck turned to Marion with a look of concern. "Are you all right?"
She gave him a shaky smile. "I’m not sure."
Tuck’s concern grew. "Why don’t we sit down and you can tell me about it." He indicated for her to take a seat on the stump while he sat on a large fallen log. He waited patiently for her to begin.
Marion scanned the immediate area to make sure no one was nearby. When she was finished she turned to Tuck. "I’ve been having dreams."
Folding her hands in front of her she looked down at the ground. "Yes, dreams of a man."
When she didn’t continue he said. "Most young women have dreams of men Marion. I take it this is somehow different?"
Not lifting her head she nodded. "This man is different.....frightening in fact. He has these eyes......" She finally looked up. "His eyes are black as night and cold, very cold. It’s like he invades the deepest depths of me. His voice is smooth, calming, almost hypnotic."
"Does he speak to you?" Tuck asked when she paused.
Again she nodded her head. "Yes, he says the same thing over and over. Mine.....soon you will be mine."
The friars brows rose at this. "Nothing else just those words?"
"Last time he told me that soon I would come to him, that I could not escape. He told me to dream of him." She sat up straighter and gazed off into the surrounding trees. "At first I thought it was just a bad dream, no big deal. Then it happened again and it felt so real. When I woke I could still feel him in my hut." A slight shudder went through her at the thought. "Do you have any idea what is going on? Is this just a dream or is it real?"
Tuck shook his head, a puzzled expression coming over his round features. "I’m not sure. Usually dreams do not repeat one right after the other. It is also unusual for you to remember it so vividly. After time the dream fades and we are left with just fuzzy images."
Marion stood up. "What am I suppose to do? I haven’t slept in two days because of these dreams." Rubbing her eyes she glanced down at him. "I’m getting a little scared too. If he isn’t real then I’m loosing my mind, neither are comforting thoughts."
Tuck sent her a compassionate look. "Tonight I’ll give you something to help you sleep. Maybe you’re just exhausted and you mind is letting you know by way of these dreams."
"At this point I’ll try anything." She bent down and gave him a brief hug. "Thank you."
When she stood up again so did he. "Well, let’s hope it works."
End Of Chapter One