At supper that night, Marion couldn’t remember the last time she saw Robin so confused and preoccupied. As one of his closest confidants, she wanted to believe that Robin would tell her of anything bothering him. But then, maybe it was truly personal. It could have even been another woman for all she knew.
Marion shook her head to clear the unreasonable thoughts. Of course, there was a natural alarm. Perhaps it was woman’s intuition. With the mysterious events of that morning dabbling with Robin’s strange dream and absentmindedness, Marion thought she had cause to believe something was up. She tried to join in the conversation around the fire, but all she could concentrate on was Robin’s lack of group interest. This was definitely out of his character.
It was an unusually warm night, so dinner was conducted around a bonfire at sunset instead of in the meal tent. Friar Tuck had prepared a scrumptious meal of rabbit with wild mushroom sauce. Ironically, everyone dug in. But Robin, in his state of mind, hardly touched a bite. Stranger still, before dinner was even through he abruptly announced his retirement for the evening.
"Goodnight, everyone," Robin said as he rose. He ignored the curious gazes of the warriors and campers as he stalked off to his tent.
His odd manner did not go unnoticed in the least. Long after the other campers had finished dinner and retired, as the silver moon show bright in the sky, the warriors sat around sipping raspberry ale and discussing about the events of that evening.
Little John, being a lovefool, stated his theory straight. "I think he’s having girl problems." He winked.
Marion gaped. The Friar stifled a giggle. "No," Marion said as she folded her arms in annoyance, "I don’t think that’s what it is."
Little John shrugged. "You have nothing to do with it, Marion?"
"No," she snapped. Well, then I have no idea what it is".
"We must find out, though." Friar Tuck pointed out. "He’s our friend and leader, you know. He would do the same for us."
"Well, some people get depressed sometimes for one reason or another," Marion stated between sips of her ale. "I mean, it could be anything."
"Well, do you think we should stay out of it?" Little John asked.
"Perhaps. Yes, probably so." Marion said, although she really didn’t believe it.
"I am sure Robin will tell us when the time is right." Tuck agreed.
* * *
Long into the night, Robin lay in his tent watching the shadowy glow of the bonfire as it slowly died down. Exhaustion and fatigue crippled his body and threatened his reflexes, but the warrior fought the urge to sleep. He wanted to be alert enough to sense approaching danger should this mysterious wizard choose to attack that night. If he did, Robin figured he would have better defenses in reality than in a dream. But as the sun slowly came up the next morning, Robin’s anxiety turned to anger. Nothing happened at all, no premonitions, no visitors. The natural fighter in Robin wanted to be rid of the danger and be done with it. How could he when he didn’t know where to start?
Robin slid out of bed after the sun had risen high in the sky. He dressed quickly and on tired, wobbly legs, made his way outside for breakfast.
The camp was already teaming with the day’s activities. Robin made his way over to Tuck’s tent where the meals were usually cooked, ignoring the greetings he received from passers. When Robin entered the meal tent, the Friar saw his friend’s poor condition and immediately tried to inquire what was wrong. But Robin silenced him gravely.
"Friar, I know I missed breakfast. Is there anything left over?"
Tuck frowned. "Not really, Robin. Well, there is this bowl of Senberries," He held up a small wooden bowl containing a few clusters of bright red blobs that resembled raspberries. Robin grabbed handful and popped a few in his mouth. The berry juices stained his hand, but if he cared he chose not to show it.
Robin glowered at the Friar for a few seconds as he ate the remaining berries, then turned on his heel to leave. "Robin! I can make you something else!" Tuck said. The warrior didn’t reply. He left the meal tent without saying another word.
All day long, Robin barked out orders left and right to anyone he could find who wasn’t busy. He made sure that the whole camp was protected in case the enemy wizard made any attempt to attack. He instructed Little John to begin making new weapons and repairing the old ones. He told Marion to round up the horses in one area in case they would be needed for an emergency. Even the children were ordered to stand guard when the adults grew tired. Marion, Little john, and Friar Tuck were curious and worried about Robin’s behavior. It had gone on long enough. After rounding up the horses, Marion cornered Robin next to Tuck’s tent and began to drill him.
"Listen, Robin, you’ve been acting so strange today. Something is wrong, I know it is. IS there going to be an attack that the rest of us don’t know about? You must tell me."
Robin, who was looking over a book on root broth healing, didn’t even look up from his work. "It’s a long story, Marion." He said flatly.
"Then I must demand that you tell me the long story. I think you owe it to me and your people."
"I don’t owe you a damn thing," Robin snapped. He looked up glaringly. Marion flinched, her hand flying to her breast as Robin spoke sharply. "Look," he said, obviously trying to be more gentle, "Just trust me on this one. As soon as I am done here, I will gather the warriors together and we will talk about this. Yes, something is going on but I cannot tell you now. Trust me, Marion. Now please let me get back to work."
Marion whipped around and stomped away. Robin smirked as she left. "She can be such a baby sometimes."
At that moment, hundreds of miles away, somebody was plotting against Robin Hood and his merry men. And his plot was unfolding perfectly. His castle was in the clouds. Not the white fluffy clouds that Angels treaded on, but the dark stormy clouds that brought destructive winds and rain to every part of existence. He was a wizard; a very powerful wizard who possessed enough evil to destroy the world. Of course, he had to take it slow. His first plan of attack? Do away with the only man who could stop him: Robin Hood.
The evil wizard, who was called Mellar, dreamed up his plot within the walls of his dark and dank study. This was his favorite room, where he used his dark magic in the dead of night. Now, he remained in his study to see that his plan was carried out. To check up on the progress, he used a magical mirror that could show any corner of the world at his request. He gazed into it now, studying Robin’s camp carefully.
"I see my dear brother has warned Robin of my plan."
The wizard grumbled. "But no matter, Robin has no idea how or where I will attack. He can protect his measly little home all he wants. I have the perfect way to gain entrance into the camp without creating so much a stir. I am so brilliant!!"
Outside the large dark window, there was a crash of lightning. Within that brief second, the wizard turned his head and saw that another person was in the study with him. Her pale face shown of evil in the flash of light "Ahh, my dear. Please come join me." The wizard said. He gestured to his guest.
She was truly beautiful, with dark hair the color of mahogany and lips as red as the rose. She was a warrior, pretty enough to be a queen and evil enough to kill. She was the wizard’s pawn, his trump card in the fight against Robin Hood. But she was also an illusion, nothing more than a thought taken from the mind of an evil wizard. It was magic that gave her true life. Anger and violence was needed to sustain it. "Ronna, love, so kind of you to visit me."
The girl smiled wickedly. "Master, I await your instructions. When will I strike Robin Hood? The warriors are very hungry. We need to feed."
The wizard held up one finger. "All in good time, my dear. Robin is already turning violent. Soon, you will be able to feed on the emotions and destroy Robin and his band of merry meddling men."
"Your plan is brilliant sir," Ronna sighed. "I am lucky to be Robin’s true love…and his death."
"Taking the other Marion out of the way will not be a problem," said the wizard. " Especially since you look exactly like her. Oh, my magic is brilliant. Now you can gain entrance to Robin’s camp and destroy him. No matter how hard he and his men try to fight, you will grow stronger. They will never figure out the secret."
"But Mellar, what of your brother, Olwyn? He has told Robin of you."
The evil wizard Mellar waved a careless hand. "My brother is no worry. He said it himself; he can do next to nothing to help Robin. I cannot destroy my brother, for he is far more powerful than I. But he knows that it is against the laws of wisdom to interfere. He would not take the risk. It is also against the laws for me to interfere, which is why I have you and the others. You will succeed Ronna. I have no doubt about it. As long as anger and fear and hate abound in Robin’s pathetic heart, we will survive. We will win. And then my many evil children will rule the land!"
"Those who wish Robin dead will soon have their wish,"Ronna sneered. "Prince John will be pleased…pleased enough to hand over the throne to you, master."
"Such a pretty world. I cannot wait until it’s all mine," Mellar laughed. "With doubles of all of Robin’s warriors, it soon will be."
* * *
It was the first time in ages that Marion managed to successfully give Robin the silent treatment, for she was still sore from the confrontation that morning. For the rest of the afternoon, she stuck to her quarters within the campsite, polishing her sword, reading on the methods of meditation, and writing in her journal. Even when Robin came to fetch her for a warrior meeting, Marion kept her distance. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Even Little John and the Friar were aloof and withdrawn during the group meeting in Robin’s tent.
Marion kept to herself, even when Robin finished explaining his dream and the visit with Olwyn and asked for suggestions, but on the inside she knew something was different already. The damage, how little it was, had been done. All the warriors agreed, however, that steps must be taken to protect the camp and themselves.
"Ok," Robin said "so we’ve secured the camp with lookouts and we’ve prepared weapons. I, uhh….I don’t think there’s much more than we can do. I guess we wait."
"It’ll be like walking on eggshells around here," Tuck sighed. "I wish we didn’t have to subject ourselves to this. Or our people."
"So what do we do then?" Robin asked, his tone of voice rising. Marion and Little John tensed up as they racked their brains for ideas. It was so hard to think for some reason.
"We are doing all we can." The Friar said. "But we can do nothing else until this wizard, or whoever he is, strikes. We shouldn’t harm ourselves worrying."
Marion held her breath, afraid that Robin would lash out. But he remained quiet.
"Understood," he mumbled. "Alright, the discussion is over. All of you go back to your post or whatever you were doing, and if you come up with some ideas let me know." Little John and Tuck nodded, then bolted out of the tent, relieved to be away from the tension. But Marion remained seated on Robin’s bed, her posture as stiff as a statue’s. Robin folded his arms in annoyance.
"Marion, is there something I can do for you?"
Marion looked up slowly with total disdain. "Robin, I understand how concerned you are," Marion said. She stretched the word concerned out with straight sarcasm. "But I really must tell you that I detest the fact that you are making the poor children be involved in this. Why must they stand at lookout? It isn’t right, Robin. We’re adults. We can take care of ourselves. And you never did explain why you have such a bad attitude right now. How are we supposed to protect ourselves when you’re in such a bad mood? You’re not helping."
"And YOU, little lady, aren’t helping at all either,"
Robin sneered. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, exaggerating boredom. "These children are in just as much danger as we are and we need all the help we can get. Second, if I don’t maintain a bad attitude, nothing will get done around here. You don’t care, nobody cares. I have to be a jerk to get any cooperation around here."
Marion jumped up from the bed so fast that Robin took one step back, startled. "Look at yourself," she snapped. " In the past 24 hours, you have changed so much. You’re beginning to remind me of Prince John. What the hell is happening to you anyway?"
Robin yawned. "You’re not my mommy, Marion. I don’t need someone to explain me to me. You’re just jealous because I’m paying more attention to this danger than to you."
An appalled Marion glared at Robin in total shock. But he ignored it and continued.
"Perhaps," he said with a dramatic pause, "if I remind you of Prince John then I should hate you back. Someone like you could never love a fool like Prince John. But I could be wrong!"
Marion wasn’t taking anymore of it. Before Robin could get another word out, she reached her muscular arm back, swung it forward, and smacked Robin square in the mouth. Without another word, she ran from the tent. Robin tried to follow her, but she was going too fast.
Marion ran to where the horses were gathered. She yanked her white steed out of the group and jumped on him. Then she rode fast out of the camp, ignoring the branches that hid the entrance. Curious campers watched in wonder. Robin rubbed his face and flinched in slight pain.
"Wow," he said softly. "What’s her problem?"
End Of Chapter Two