Night fell again on the tiny camp and Marion was bone tired. She work extra hard today trying to wear herself out hoping she would fall into an exhausted, dreamless sleep. Before heading to her bed she sought out Tuck. He was standing in front of his hut talking with Robin. "Great." She thought to herself. "The last thing I want is Robin finding out about this." Knowing if Robin discovered her troubles he would be concerned and she didn’t want that. He had enough on his mind without her adding to it. She waited in the shadows a few moments till she saw Robin take his leave then went to see Tuck.
He smiled when he saw her and went inside his hut. When he reappeared he was carrying a mug. Handing it to her he said. "Here, drink this tea. It is my special blend and it should have you sleeping like a babe."
Marion took the mug and gave it a sniff. She crinkled her nose at the foul odor the tea gave off. "It smells awful."
"You’re not suppose to smell it, you’re suppose to drink it." He admonished. Raising his hands he motioned for her to drink.
Giving him one more dirty look she drank the concoction down. "Awwww, it tastes as bad as it smells." Wiping her lips with the back of her hand, she handed the mug back.
"Good girl. Now I want you to go to bed and have a good night’s rest. Let me know in the morning if it worked."
A huge yawn formed on her mouth and she covered it with her hand. "I sure hope this works. Thanks again friar." Turning she headed for bed.
Marion awoke the next morning from a dreamless sleep, feeling refreshed. She stretched on her pallet with a smile. It felt wonderful to have slept straight through the night. Leaving her hut she went in search of Tuck. She only had to look as far as Miranda’s breakfast table. There he sat finishing off a plate of eggs and brown bread. She took the seat opposite him and waited for him to swallow the last of his meal.
Once he was finished he gave her a smile "You look much better this morning. The tea worked I see."
"It sure did. I slept like a rock." Grabbing a piece of bread from a platter she continued. "That stuff sure tastes awful but it works."
"Good. Hopefully that was all you needed, making your nightmares a thing of the past."
"I feel fine now. I think it was just exhaustion, but I’m rested and ready to go." She stood taking the bread with her. "In fact I’m going to get started now." Taking a bite of her bread she walked off.
Heading for the outlying woods she planned to spend the day practicing with her knives. Things had been so busy she hadn’t had time lately to work with them. Although proficient with whip and sword, she also wanted to add knives to her arsenal. These days one could never have enough protection.
Locating a large oak tree in a small clearing she stood a good twenty paces away and eyed her target. Going to her waist where four small knives where sheathed she took one out. Holding it by the blade she held it up and with a flick of her wrist sent it flying. It hit the tree with a thud and she quickly withdrew another then another till all four were logged in the tree. Striding over she pulled them out and did the same thing all over again.
So engrossed in her efforts she lost track of time. When she looked up at the sun she could see it was late afternoon. "Oops, I better be getting back before they send out the search party." She commented to herself.
Carefully she placed her blades back in their resting-place at her waist. As she turned to start back she gave a small cry of alarm. There in the trees stood the dark figure from her dreams. She closed her eyes briefly and shook her head. When she opened them again he had moved closer, allowing her to see more of him. He was tall and dressed in dark clothing. He was very attractive with thick black hair that ran well past his shoulders. His handsome features surely set young maids hearts a flutter. As she looked into his eyes her heart stopped. They were the same black eyes she remembered from her dream. They seemed even colder now, more menacing. His lips curved into a slight smile as he continued to hold her with his gaze.
Marion stood there transfixed by his stare, desperately wanting to move, but unable. He reached out a ringed hand to her. "Come my dear, it is time."
Raising her hand she walked slowly to him. Her eyes never leaving his. Their fingertips touched when a rustling in the trees broke the moment. Marion jumped at the sound, dropping her outstretched hand. Blinking a few times, she looked again to the strange man, only to find him gone. Trembling she wrapped both arms around herself. The rustling sound came again then stopped as Robin came into view.
"There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you." When she didn’t answer, his dark brows dipped into a frown. "Marion? Are you all right." She continued to stand there hugging herself. He walked over and put a hand on her shoulder. She jumped at his touch and turned with frightened eyes. Alarmed he grabbed both her shoulders tightly. "Marion, what is it? What’s wrong?"
As she gazed into his gentle brown eyes her own lost some of their fright. "Robin? Oh Robin!" She threw herself into his arms, holding onto him so hard he let out a slight gasp.
Deciding to remain quiet Robin held her in his arms waiting for her to stop trembling. After a few moments passed he could feel her start to relax. She pushed out of his embrace and looked up at him. "Robin......I didn’t mean......I’m sorry......" Still too upset she couldn’t seem to string more than a few words together.
Robin helped her out. "It’s okay, take your time." Leading her to where a rock jutted out from the ground he sat them both down. Giving her a few moments to compose herself before he asked. "What happened? You looked like you saw a ghost."
Staring out to where she encountered the dark figure she whispered. "Maybe I did."
"Excuse me?" He questioned, positive he did not hear her correctly.
Still not looking at him she went on. "There was a man here, he appeared out of nowhere. The same man from my dreams."
Confusion clouded Robin’s features. "A man? What man? What dreams?" He grabbed her shoulders forcing her to face him. "What dreams?"
Embarrassed by what she said she looked away. He put a finger to her chin forcing her look at him. "Marion, you can tell me. I want to help."
Staring into his soft brown eyes she drew in a steadying breath and proceeded to tell him about the strange dreams she had been having. Explaining how Tuck had given her a tea to help her sleep and finally what she experienced in the forest just now.
As Marion spoke Robin never let his eyes leave hers. By the time she was finished his confused expression changed into concern. "Why didn’t you tell me all of this before?"
Giving a small shrug she said. "It was just bad dreams. I thought it was just from exhaustion." She sent him a wan smile. "I’m not even sure what I saw here today was real or my mind playing tricks. I starting to wonder if I’m going crazy."
"You’re not going crazy. Something is going on and we’ll find out what it is." He gave her a reassuring smile and stood up giving the bottom of his green tunic a tug. "Let’s get you back to camp and we can talk more about this."
Nodding her head in agreement they headed into the forest towards camp. As they left the small clearing neither saw the dark imagine that reappeared. He watched as the two withdrew into the dense woods, a smug look upon his face.
Marion stayed within the small camp’s boundaries the rest of the afternoon. The familiar surrounding making her feel safe and secure. As night came upon them her anxiety increased. Robin, Tuck and herself decided she would not take any of the tea this night to see what happened. Robin would station himself outside her door during the night just in case she needed him.
Sitting by the fire she stared into the golden flames, in no hurry to find her bed. Robin approached and leaned down to her. "Are you going to stay out here all night?"
Looking up she answered. "It’s a tempting thought."
Smiling at her comment he held out his hand. "Come on, it’s time for you to get some sleep."
Taking his warm grip into her own she let him lead her to her hut. Once there he let go and gave her arm a squeeze. "Everything will be all right. I’ll be just outside your door the whole night. If you need me- all you have to do is call."
Putting on a brave front she smiled and nodded her head. "Thank you Robin." Pulling back the drape that acted as her door she stepped into her room. Squaring her shoulders she went to the bed and stretched out. Gazing up at the grass ceiling she tried to relax, letting the tension drain from her body. Slowly her eyes began to close.
After Marion had gone inside, Robin sat down reclining his back against one of the post to the hut. He had taken off his sword and placed it across his raised knees. Keeping himself alert for anything, he settled in for the night.
As the evening progressed things remained quiet. Marion had long ago drifted into a deep sleep. Suddenly her mind was awakened and again she was visited by the dark image. He looked just as she remembered him, but his presence felt stronger this time. She could feel him touching her as he stroked her face. She tried to avoid his touch but to no avail. Gently he caressed her face with cold fingers. "It is almost time." He whispered. "Soon you will come to me."
Feeling helpless she let out whimper. "No, go away." Throwing her head from side to side she screamed. "Leave me alone!"
Robin remained on guard outside the hut, his eyes continuously scanning the area for anything out of the ordinary. Then he heard Marion’s cry. Catapulting to his feet he rushed into her room. She was lying on her pallet, eyes close tight thrashing from side to side. Her hair and skin damp from her actions. Again she cried out. Going to her he shook her attempting to wake her from the dream. "Marion! Wake up, it’s me Robin." Still fighting her dream she struggled with him until her eyes snapped open. He could see the terror within there blue depths.
Finally she focused on him. "Robin?"
"Yes it’s me." He reassured her.
"Robin." She collapsed in his arms sobbing. He held her tight trying to chase away her fright with a protective embrace. They continued holding each other until Marion calmed down. He waited till he felt her trembling decrease, pulling away just enough to see her face. Her beautiful features were marred by tear marks which had tracked their way down her face.
Pushing her long auburn hair from her face he asked. "Are you all right?" Not able to form words yet she simply nodded her answer.
Robin didn’t want to push her but he needed to find out what happened. In a gentle tone he said. "Was it the same dream as before?"
Marion swallowed before she replied. "Yes, just like the others but....."
"But what?" He prodded when she didn’t go on.
Grabbing his arms she looked directly at him. Her eyes reflected the panic she was feeling. "This time he felt stronger. I could feel him touching me. His fingers were so cold." To empathized the point she wrapped her arms around her waist.
Robin’s anxiety turned to anger at the thought of someone or something doing this to her. He was going to find out what was going on and knowing just who to see about it. Placing his hand on Marion’s lap he gave her a small smile. "Don’t worry, I’m going to find out who or what’s behind all of this. If your ok, I’m off to Olwyn’s if anyone can give us some answers he can." Giving her leg a pat he stood up and made for the door. "We’ll figure this out. Until then stay in camp. Make sure someone is with you at all times. I’ll be back as soon as I can."
"I will, and Robin?"
Sending her a lopsided grin he replied. "Always." Then exited the room heading for his horse. On the way he stopped when he spied John leaving his hut. Walking over to his large friend he said. "John, I need to go see Olwyn. Marion had another dream, I need to find out what’s going on. I want you to keep a close eye on Marion till I get back."
"Sure thing Robin." And he put a reaffirming grip on the smaller man’s shoulder. Satisfied that Marion would be well looked after Robin unteathered his gray and hoisted himself onto his saddle. With a flick of the reigns he was off to Olwyn’s cave.
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A gray mist engulfed the area surrounding the entrance to the old wizards cave. The only sound was the hoof beats of a lone rider. Robin came into view stopping just short of the cave’s entrance. Lifting one leg over the front of his horse he hopped down. Taking the reigns he secured them to a nearby tree and gave the beast a pat. Making his way through the mist until he came to the opening of the cave. He was a bit surprised to see the dragon, which normally guarded the opening, was absent. Striding through the doorway he entered into Olwyn’s lair. Inside there were books and small bottles scattered about. A small fire was burning at one end of the room. Despite being deep inside a mountain the room was well lit and Robin felt at home.
Locating his friend and mentor by the fire Robin went over. The older man was holding an old worn book in one hand and sprinkling powder into a small pot with the other. "Hello Robin." He greeted with out looking up.
"Olwyn. I need to talk to you." Robin answered back as he stood waiting for the other man to look up.
A few moments passed when Olwyn gently closed his book putting it on a nearby table he eyed Robin. "Marion is having dreams." It was a statement rather than a question.
Stunned Robin replied. "Yes. Do you know what is going on?"
Leaning back in his chair the old wizard folded his hands in his lap closing his eyes briefly. "There is a man, he is unlike any man you have ever encountered. He wants Marion."
More confused than before Robin asked. "Who is he and what does he want with Marion?"
Olwyn regarded Robin with a steady gaze. "He wants her life force. That which makes Marion who she is. Some call it a person’s aura. All living things project a force be it good or bad. This man feeds upon it."
Robin shook his head trying to make sense of what he was being told. "He feeds on it. How?"
"He searches for beings with a strong life force, usually females. Over a long period of time he gradually drains his victims until there is nothing left but an empty shell of what the person once was. He takes their aura to make him stronger. Without it, he dies." Sending the younger man a sad look he continued. "He has targeted Marion as his latest victim. First he will invade her dreams, then he will appear before her. With each occurrence he is closer to victory."
Robin was getting more agitated by each word Olwyn spoke. "How do we stop him? I won’t let him take Marion."
Shaking his head Olwyn leaned forward in his chair. "He can not take Marion against her will. She must come willingly to him. He is weak now that’s why he is after your friend. It may be possible to defeat him while he is in a weakened condition."
"All right, how do I defeat him?" Robin was already moving toward the door. Knowing that time was of the essence.
Taking a deep breath before answering Olwyn said. "I do not know." When he saw that Robin was about to interrupt he put up a staying hand. "I’m sorry Robin, but not much is known of these creatures. It has been a long time since one has surfaced. Once they are done feeding they lie dormant for many,many years, until the hunger plagues them again."
Frustrated Robin paced the room. "Great, then how am I suppose to help Marion."
Rising to his feet Olwyn went to his friend and lay a wrinkled hand on his shoulder. All I can tell you is, Marion must not go to him. If she does all is lost."
Robin’s eyes filled with determination. "Do you know where I can find him?"
Olwyn lowered his head giving it a slight shake then glanced back up. "Robin it is too dangerous for you to confront him. Even in his weakened state he if very powerful. If you go up against him and loose, then Marion will be at his mercy."
"Well I can’t just sit around and do nothing." The younger man exclaimed. "I have to find a way to defeat him. Can you tell me where he is?"
Noting the fierce determination in the younger mans eyes Olwyn relented. "He dwells deep within Kilburn Mountain." Robin turned and swiftly exited the room. Olwyn watched him go his features set in a troubling expression. "Take care young man." He whispered. "Take care."
End of Chapter Two