Because of the rainfall Robin wore a loose, white, shirt instead of his tunic, for the suede was wet. He wore the shirt unlaced and the sides fell back, baring his chest to the cool breeze. Robin's hair was a damp tangle around his face as well, but he didn't care. The air was sharp and crisp, yet the night was warm and welcoming. He was content. So much so that he nearly dozed off, for he trusted his stallion to take him home. But a sudden ripple of sound jolted Robin awake. That, and the fact that his mount suddenly reared up, nearly toppling Robin to the ground. But he held on with his thighs until his horse had settled down. Barely.
"What is it boy?" Robin queried, as he slid off the stallion's back and moved to pat the long nose. "What was that noise?" Robin wondered to himself. He listened hard but only familiar night sounds reached him. "Strange," Robin drawled. He was about to mount up again when the stallion reared, his front hoof slamming into Robin's shoulder and knocking him, hard, to the ground. The moment the Stallion's front legs hit the ground, he was off and running.
Robin made to rise, to give chase, but the wind had been knocked out of him and he was slow to move. By the time he had gained his feet, the stallion was long gone. "Wonderful!" Robin huffed. Now he would have to walk home and that would take him at least a day and a half, if he didn't stop to rest. Of course, once his horse returned to camp without him, Little John and the others would come looking for him. Robin let that thought cheer him as he shrugged the shirt off his shoulder to check the damage.
"Let me help you..." A soft voice whispered, almost in Robin's ear.
He jumped and whirled around, but no one was there. Then he felt fingers in his hair and raised his hand, but he grasped only empty air. "Who's there?" Robin demanded, turning in a circle and searching the shadows, but he saw no one.
A ripple of silvery laughter seemed to dance on the wind, and then she appeared. Dressed in shimmering white softer than silk, her fiery hair a halo of curls that fell to her waist. "Don't be afraid, Robin," she whispered, as she glided towards him.
"I'm not afraid," Robin replied, curbing the instinct to back away from her. "How do you know my name?" he demanded, as she reached him. He caught his breath to realize that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
"I've been waiting for you for a very long time, Robin," the fiery-haired beauty replied. "My name is Jackquel."
Robin shook his head, finding it difficult to concentrate as he stared into her eyes. They were golden pools that seemed to burn from within with luminous flames. Robin felt as if he could drown in her gaze, happily.
"Waiting for me?" he repeated, as he blinked hard and tried to focus.
Jackquel reached out and one, pale, hand cupped Robin's face. "You are the chosen one," she whispered.
"Are you a friend of Olwyn's?" Robin countered, for her words were reminiscent of the magician's. As he spoke he realized that the hand on his face was ice-cold.
"I am not magic, Robin," Jackquel replied, as her fingers now moved to tangle in his thick, dark hair. She felt him try to pull away and laughed as she yanked him towards her, effortlessly.
Robin was more than a little surprised by Jackquel's strength, he was also a little put out by her boldness. And her reluctance to give him a straight answer. "Who are you?" Robin demanded, one hand lifting to curl around her slender wrist, with the intention of making her release him. But it was his wrist that was grabbed, and his arm twisted up behind his back so that his bare chest was pressed against hers.
Jackquel was nearly Robin's height, lacking only an inch, but she was reed-slim and fragile looking. Still, she held him easily, then bent her head to claim his lips.
"No.." Robin protested, trying to pull his head back. But Jackquel's free hand was still tangled in his hair and she held him still. Robin froze she was beautiful, and desirable, but he liked to be the one in control in this kind of situation. So Robin raised his free hand to push her away. Only when he pressed agaisnt her shoulder he discovered a rock would be more easily moved. Jackquel never even flinched.
"What are you?" Robin challenged, for he could sense that she was not mortal. Her beauty was surreal and her lips, like her skin, was icy-cold. Add to that the strength of ten men and he was pretty sure that some kind of magic was afoot.
"Do not fear me, Robin," Jackquel beseeched him, even as her fingers left his hair and glided over his face. She gripped his chin in her hand, forcing him to lock eyes with her. Then she smiled as the fire in her gaze brightened and glowed. "Sleep sweetly, pretty one," Jackquel whispered.
Robin felt a heaviness suddenly invade his limbs and darkness wrapped it's arms around him. He shook his head, trying to fight it off, but it dragged him down. With a sigh, Robin collapsed.
Jackquel caught him against her, then lifted Robin into her slender arms, as easily as if he weighed no more than a small child. As she carried him off into the shadows, Jackquel sang an ancient lullaby that spoke of dark angels and guardians of the night. Not a child's lullaby, but that of an immortal creature whose heart beat in a silent rythmn and whose kisses were hot with the blood of innocence.
Robin awoke to feel cold, hardness, beneath him. He sat up and felt muscles protest, but he supported himself with the palms of his hands as a wave of dizziness washed over him. When it had passed, he focused on his surrounding. It didn't take long for Robin to realize that he was in a crypt and sitting on a tomb. A chill danced up his spine as he slid off the stone to his feet. Then he took several deep breaths to calm his racing pulse.
"There is a reasonable explanation for this," Robin told himself, as he moved to the nearest wall. The light in the crypt was mellow, that which was given off by a few, flickering torches. "There has to be a door here..somewhere," Robin muttered, as his hands glided over the damp, stone, walls. He found a crack and ran his fingers the length of it. The door was three-side and squared. But no matter how hard Robin pushed against it, it would not budge. He was well and truly trapped. Knowing that he had no choice but to wait, Robin moved to the far corner and sat down.
He had no idea how much time had passed, when he found himself awash in curiosity. Robin rose to his feet and glided over to the tomb. Morbid or not, he wanted to see what was inside. However shifting aside the heavy, stone, slab was no easy matter, but Robin refused to give in. He was covered in a sheen of sweat and his hair dangled in his eyes, but he managed to push aside the corner. Enough to peek inside.
"Whoa!" Robin hissed, as he recognized Jackquel. She lay, still as death, eyes closed and hair a brilliant red about her face. Swallowing hard, Robin reached out, pressing fingertips to her pale throat. She was cold as ice and there was no pulse. "Dead..." Robin whispered, feeling himself grow pale. "She's...dead."
Remembering Jackquel as she had been last night, Robin wondered if he had seen a ghost. But then he thought of Percy. His friend hadn't been solid in form, whereas Jackquel's touch, though cold, was real. "What are you?" Robin wondered, once again.
"A creature of the night..." Jackquel whispered. Her eyes flew open, glowing red. She awoke with hunger burning deep with in her, but Robin was not for her. Still, she could not resist brushing a fingertip across his warm skin, smiling to herself at his stunned expression. When he tried to back away, Jackquel curled her fingers in his hair. She held him still even as she used her other hand to shove aside the slab, as if it weighed no more than a feather. Then she slipped out of her bed.
"Magic.." Robin breathed, as he found himself drowning in the crimson glow of Jackquel's gaze. Reflected there were shadows, and images of blood and death.
She snarled with laughter, then shoved Robin back till he hit the wall. Then she pinned him there with her slim body. "No magic, Robin," Jackquel whispered against his sensual lips. "I told you that before. I am...immortal, a child born of blood and darkness."
Robin didn't even pretend to understand. "What do you want from me?" he asked, even as he strained muscles in an attempt to push Jackquel off him. But he couldn't budge her.
"You are the chosen one," Jackquel reminded Robin. "You will be the Prince of Darkness. To rule with our Queen as her mate."
"That's a really nice offer," Robin countered, smirking at her to hide his sudden fear. "But...I already have a job. Prince of Thieves and defender of the innocent. It's very...time consuming."
Jackquel could smell Robin's fear and admired him for not giving in to it as most mortal men did. He would make an excellent mate for Queen Ahava, for he would be her equal. He was a superior mortal and would be a superior immortal as well. His purity, light and innocence would be absorbed by the shadows of the night, and once he had been inititiated by blood, Robin would become the ultimate force of darkness. But that was only part of what Jackquel admired, for Robin Hood was truly beautiful. She pressed her lips to his neck, licking the warm skin, feeling the beating of his heart against her chest.
Jackquel smelled the heady scent of his blood and her teeth scraped against his artery. But then she remembered herself and drew back. Robin was not for her. "I'll return shortly," Jackquel hissed as she glided over to the stone that acted as the door. She heaved it aside and slipped out into the night.
Robin pushed himself away from the wall and ran for the opening. But even as he reached it, Jackquel shoved it back into place. "NO!" Robin shouted, pounding his fists against the stone. But after a moment he stopped, knowing that his efforts were futile.
He couldn't move the stone, and there was no one to hear his cries. The dead couldn't help him. Returning to his corner to wait, Robin wrapped his arms around his knees then rested his chin on his forearms. Nothing he could do now, but wait.
Little John studied the tracks. He felt Marion and Tuck watching him, but rose to his feet and shook his head. "The tracks stop here," he announced. "It's as if Robin...vanished."
"That's not possible," Marion declared, her eyes tracking the woods. She didn't know that they stood in the spot where Robin had met Jackquel and had been carried off. "He can't have just disappeared," Marion insisted.
"We'll find him," Tuck said firmly, reaching out to pat the young woman's arm. "Robin can take care of himself." He offered this for his own comfort as much as for Marion's. Not for anything would the Friar admit how worried he was. He couldn't shake the feeling that something, unnaturalm was afoot. That night was falling fast about them made him more nervous than he cared to consider.
Little John studied their surroundings. "My guess is that Robin is nearby," he said with a show of certainty. It was more wishful thinking than anything, but Little John was in need of action. He wanted to keep moving. It was the only way they would find Robin.
Marion shook her head. "I don't know," she confessed, with more than a little reluctance. She wanted to believe that Little John was right, but she sensed that Robin was far from them and the thought frightened her. "I think we should go see Olwyn."
"Maybe you're right," Tuck allowed. He had been thinking along the same lines, but was more than a little surprised that Marion had suggested it. She was not fond of magic. Nor Magicians. Be they Robin's friend and mentor, or not.
"Let's go," Marion declared, mounting her horse and heading off to the east. A moment later she heard the sound of galloping hooves close behind her.
End of chapter One