As promised, the warriors left for the dark castle at sunset. The sky was unusually pink, and Robin felt creeped out as déjà vu washed over him. He hated that feeling, especially one so closely associated with a bad dream. But he ignored it the best he could and went on with the mission.
As promised, Marion was there. Although she was alert and on guard as the mission progressed, she was withdrawn when it came to the group. When Robin tried to speak to her, she cut him dead. Little John, who hated meddling in people’s personal affairs, kept his disappointment to himself. It was so hard to work with each other when there was so much animosity.
The horseback ride to the dark castle in the east was long and grueling. But what was strange is that the sky never changed color at all. It never got dark, nor did the sky change its eerie shade of pink. Long after night should have fallen, the warriors still had sky to guide them, as well as Little John’s map. A little more than a third of the way to the castle, the warriors were greeted by a thunderclap.
"We’re close," Little John told the others as they stopped to rest.
After each warrior satisfied himself with a drink from a cool stream, the group pressed on. Soon, stone towers blocked partially by dark clouds came into view. Even Robin was amazed by the massiveness of the castle, and for a moment a chill ran through his heart. But he shook it off, gathering strength from some unknown source. He guessed that Olwyn was with him the whole way, and a gut feeling confirmed this.
When the group reached the massive castle gates, they descended their horses and tied them to a railing nearby. Then the four warriors tried with all their might to open the gate, but all attempts failed.
"I remember, the lookalike didn’t come through this way," Little John said.
"Did you see her enter through a secret doorway?" Tuck asked.
Little John nodded. "I think it was around this way." He lead them around the east castle walls, but there was no odd looking panel to be seen. Soon the group was back at the castle gate, having gone all the way around the massive fortress.
"I don’t understand it," Little John said. He scratched his head. "We’ve got to circle once more."
The other 3 warriors groaned, but followed Little John as he headed in the eastern direction around the castle walls. When they traveled around the castle once again, they found themselves back at the castle gate again.
"Darn!" Little John said, and kicked a rock nearby. Good luck must follow him, for at that moment a hidden panel right next to the castle gate opened up, leading into the courtyard.
"Good going, Little John!" Robin called. He hurried the male warriors into the courtyard, then stopped to let Marion go before him. "Ladies first," he said with a smile. Marion shot him a dirty look and entered the courtyard.
The courtyard of the castle didn’t look any different than the outside. No castle entrance was visible, and the large area was void of an objects or people.
"Well, what now?" Tuck asked. He drew his sword.
Robin adjusted the bow strapped to his waist. "Well, we have to find an entrance I guess. But if we cannot find a door, we may have to scale the walls." Robin looked up to where the castle walls disappeared into the dark clouds and a sick feeling hit the pit of his stomach.
"NO!" Tuck cried. "Absolutely not! I WILL NOT scale that wall so you better just put that idea out of your mind."
Robin shrugged. "What if we have no choice, Friar?"
Tuck looked away stubbornly.
"Ok, that’s a no-go," Robin stated. Tuck smiled softly, happy that he had finally won out on the wall-scaling plan. "But if we cannot find a door into this place, it’s up to you to get us into this castle, Tuck."
The group walked around the castle, but there was no entrance that they could see. The warriors pushed on miscellaneous stones and kicked rocks at random, but there was no obvious way into the castle. Tuck’s spirits fell.
Robin smiled mischievously. "Well, Tuck, any bright ideas?"
I don’t think we need any bright ideas, Robin," Marion said. She pointed to the middle of the courtyard, where another group of warriors had gathered. They were, presumably, on the side of the enemy.
As the group drew closer, they gaped in shock. The other warriors looked exactly like they did. "Look-alikes! Little John shrieked.
Each of the groups looked at their double in amazement. "Wow," Robin said to his double. "You’re not that bad looking there!"
The double smiled. "Well, Robin, there’s only room on this earth for one of us handsome devils." He drew his sword. The courtyard fight was on.
Each warrior fought the other with such force. Ironically enough, as each good warrior fought hard with each bad warrior, each bad warrior fought harder. It was clear after awhile that the good were losing.
Robin, for one, felt his strength draining quickly. This fight was unlike any other. Every time he slashed his sword, the double would slash harder. Every time he back flipped, the double back flipped higher. Every time he was struck by the double, he shed blood like raw meat. But every time he struck the double, his sword seemed to pass right through. Robin and his warriors held steadfast, but they all knew that they were losing a slow and painful battle.
It reached a breaking point when Marion’s double, Ronna, stuck her so hard that Marion fell to the hard ground. Robin glanced down long enough to see the long cut across her fair cheek dripping blood. White-hot anger burned in his soul at the site of his beloved lying on the ground bleeding.
Ronna threw back her head and laughed cruelly. "One down, three to go!" She cried. A charge of adrenaline raced through Robin’s veins. He fought off his double with all the energy and anger he could muster. But even as he grew stronger, his double became stronger still. And he wasn’t the only one. Little John and Friar Tuck were fighting their doubles with no success as well. Robin resisted the horrifying thought that he was going to lose the fight for good.
Robin made a big mistake and took his eyes off the double to sneak another glance at Marion to make sure she was all right. By that time, Ronna had bound her arms and legs. Robin’s double used that time frame to strengthen his attack on Robin. He swung his sword with such force that it landed against Robin’s head, knocking him unconscious on impact. Robin fell backwards to the horror of the other warriors. "Gods, no." he thought before slipping away.
* * *
Robin woke up hours later in the same place he fell after being struck. At first, he was unsure if he was alive or dead. Upon sitting up and looking around, he saw Marion, Tuck, and Little John. Miraculously, they seemed unhurt. Unless it was Heaven, and they were truly dead. "Oh my goodness," Robin mumbled as he reached to touch his pounding head.
Marion heard him, and signaled to others over to him.
"Oh thank gods you are alright!" She cried as she threw her arms around him. Robin laughed wryly as Little John felt him for broken bones. "Oh course I am. But are you? I mean, last I heard you weren’t talking to me."
Marion shook her head. "I was stupid, Robin. Please forgive me for this. I…"
"Forgive me too," Little John interrupted, "but this isn’t the time or place. We have to figure out how to get out of here." Marion shot him a dirty look.
"Well how long was I out?" Robin asked. He flinched in pain as the other warriors helped him up.
"Only a few minutes," Tuck answered. "After you fell, the enemy warriors suddenly quit fighting and disappeared. We looked around for an exit to this place, but we found none. We couldn’t leave you here either, so we put our heads together and decided to stay and see what happens with the enemy. While you were out, Marion pointed something out."
Marion nodded. "Yes. Don’t you remember Olwyn telling you that you would have fight the enemy like you have never fought before?"
Robin gasped. "Oh, you’re right. Didn’t you notice that as we tried to fight the warriors, they become stronger? It’s as almost as thought they’re doing the opposite of what they should be doing, which is getting weaker."
"Right," Marion agreed. "So that must mean we’re doing something wrong here. But what?"
"I am afraid you won’t be around long enough to find out," came a voice from behind the group. They all turned around to see the enemy warriors standing where they did before. Ronna fronted the group, looking as smug as ever. "Excuse our absences," she laughed. We’re glad we didn’t lose our play mates."
She led the group forward, swords drawn. "Here’s we go again," Robin sighed as he made his weapon ready. But Marion grabbed his shoulder.
"Don’t Robin," she commanded. ‘Don’t draw and don’t fight."
"What are you talking about??" Robin cried.
Little John pointed the enemy warriors coming closer. "We have to, Marion. What other choice do we have? We’ll be killed if we don’t."
"Just this." Marion said. A half-smile spread across her face as took Robin’s sword and tossed it down. "I have an idea. Everybody join hands."
The enemy warriors were so surprised at the gesture that they lowered their weapons in confusion. Little John, Robin, and Friar Tuck looked at each other, puzzled.
"Just do it!" Marion cried. The warriors all joined hands in a semi-circle. "Now sing," she said.
"Sing what?" Robin asked.
"Anything. Anything happy, loving, whatever. But just sing! Pray while you’re at it too!"
The group did as they were told. "Gods, I hope this works," Robin said between lyrics.
Colors appeared out of nowhere and began to circle the group. The enemy warriors backed away in horror. They tried to save themselves, but it was too late. They began to glow in a bright green light.
"It’s working!" Marion cried. "Sing louder"
The warriors were singing at the top of their lungs. The glow that encircled the enemy warriors began to grow brighter. Mellar, who was watching the fight from his study window, became hysterical.
"NOOOO!!!!" He screamed so loud that his voice echoed across the country in a defining roar. The ground began to shake. Glowing balls of light were racing this way and that, between the warriors and around the enemy.
"Don’t stop! Marion cried.
"I’m losing my voice!" Little John yelled back.
"If you stop you’ll lose a lot more than your voice!"
Suddenly the glowing lights became so blinding that the good warriors had to close their eyes. The shaking ground was almost unbearable, and the screams of the enemy were so loud they could burst eardrums. But the good warriors’ singing was louder and more beautiful still.
"We’re almost there!" Marion cried joyfully. "Now Robin, remember what you said outside of my tent yesterday?"
"You heard that?" Robin screamed.
"You were never that great at hiding stuff, Robin. Do you remember?"
"Say it!" Marion shouted. "Say it, shout it, yell it! Trust me, just do it!"
Robin squeezed his eyes shut to concentrate while the other warriors continued to sing. He never dreamed in a million years that he would be yelling his feelings out to total strangers. But he wasn’t one to argue with such a feisty girl. So Robin took a deep breath a deep breath and threw back his head.
"I LOVE YOU, MARION!"
A deafening explosion followed his words.
Robin and the other warriors didn’t talk about the fight or the castle explosion for two days. After the explosion, the warriors found themselves in a large field of wildflowers. The castle and enemies had disappeared. Bewildered and confused, they headed back to camp and acted as if nothing had happened. Finally, Robin paid Olwyn a visit after the third day of silence. He needed to know what happened.
"So let me get this straight," he said to Olwyn. "These look-alikes were feeding off our anger and bad emotions?"
"Exactly," Olwyn agreed. "The anger you felt days before the fight was the extra energy build-up. The enemy used your anger to strengthen up. And during the fight, the enemy used your growing anger to keep strong. Marion was very shrewd to suggest what she suggested. Peace and love was the death of the enemy. One who lives off of evil cannot live of love."
"Incredible," Robin said. He shook his head in disbelief. "I’m amazed. But strangely enough, nobody at camp has brought the subject up. It’s as if it never happened."
"Leave it that way, Robin. Trust me. I am glad that you came to me. But some things are better left unsaid. Now that the peace has been restored, everything should be all right. Each warrior involved has learned his or her own personal and private lesson in this. Of course, there are the universal lessons to be had as well."
"What are they, Olwyn?"
Olwyn laughed. "Simple Robin. Don’t you know? Love conquers all."
"What about Marion? It’s now out in the open, our feelings I mean," Robin said, puzzled.
"Now I have nothing to do with that, Robin. Not part of my department."
"Thanks a lot, Olwyn."