He found more than he had bargained for. Marion and Little John were facing off. To Robin's amazement the warrior woman and the giant had weapons drawn and were about to attack each other. Robin leaped in between them without thinking, only to feel the blade of Marion's sword slice across his left bicep. Robin hissed in pain but held his ground.
"Robin!" Marion cried, shaking her head as if coming to her senses. She saw the wound on his arm and watched as blood dripped onto the ground.
"What's going on here?" Robin demanded, as he glared at both of his friends.
Little John seemed to come to his senses as well and he was upset to see Robin bleeding. "I'll get Tuck," he offered, turning to run off.
Marion went to Robin, her eyes filled with tears. "I'm sorry," she whispred. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Well...it sure looked to me like you intended to hurt Little John," Robin replied. But his tone was soft for he hated seeing Marion upset. Especially if he was the one who caused it. Robin touched one hand to Marion's face, brushing away a tear.
"Marion...what's going on?" he beseeched. "Why were you and Little John fighting?"
"I don't know," she replied, shaking her head. "I was just so angry at him." Marion sighed. "I just don't know, Robin."
Tuck and Little John came running over. The Friar grabbed Robin's arm and studied the wound. "Needs a few stitches," he said. "Come into my quarters, Robin," he instructed, pulling the young man along.
Robin followed Tuck, mainly because he wanted to talk to him. But he sat down on a stool willingly enough, as the Friar pulled out herbs and potions, along with squares of white linen. "Tuck...do you have any idea of what's going on here?" Robin queried.
"What do you mean?" Tuck countered, as he pressed a linen to Robin's arm to stop the flow of blood.
"What do I mean?" Robin repeated, frowning. "Tuck...Marion and Little John were ready to fight each other, with weapons. And I had to break up a fight between Sean and Daniel. What is going on?"
Tuck's eyes suddenly flashed and he snarled at Robin. "What are you asking me for?" he raged. "I don't have all the answers you know! And what makes you think I care, anyway? Hmmmm..?"
Robin stood up and backed away, sensing that it would be best to leave. Tuck was obviously not himself, and Robin knew he was out of his league here. There was only one person who might be able to help him. Olwyn. So Robin left Tuck's quarters, unmindful of the blood dripping down his arm, and mounted his stallion. A moment later he was heading for Olwyn's cave.
The ancient magician was expecting Robin, he even had herbs and linen set out to bind Robin's wound. "Come sit," he said, gesturing Robin over to a stool.
"You know what's going on," Robin commented as he did as Olwyn bid. He had learned, years ago, that it was best to simply obey his mentor. Made things easier on himself.
"It's not a demon, per se, that is causing this wickedness," Olwyn replied, as he cleaned Robin's wound with a potion. A healing potion. "And the darkness has just begun, my boy."
Robin sighed. "Well...you sure know how to cheer me up," he drawled. "Olwyn, everyone seems to be affected by it...but me. Even Marion...and Tuck."
Olwyn nodded, but his eyes were on his handiwork as he wrapped a strip of linen around Robin's bulging bicep. "I know. The reason for that is simple," he whispered.
"Great," Robin replied. "Could you explain it to me?"
"The darkness and evil that is spreading is free to do so because there is now only one unicorn left in the world."
Robin blinked, then shook his head. "I don't understand."
Olwyn patted Robin's arm, his work was done. Then he moved to sit in his favorite chair, across from his former pupil. "As you well know, the Unicorn is the symbol of goodness and light. But it goes much deeper than that, Robin. The unicorn symbolizes....innocence."
"Okay," Robin said softly. "I think I get the idea. But...why is there only one unicorn left? What happened, Olwyn?"
"His mate was killed, by Gal," Olwyn explained, his gaze intent on Robin's face. It was of the utmost importance that the young man understand, and accept, what he was about to tell him. "Gal is the assassin of the Underworld, Robin. And he is now hunting the last Unicorn. If he succeeds and the Unicorn dies, all innocence dies with it."
Robin caught his breath. "Then...all goodness and light would die with it as well," he whispered.
Olwyn smiled. He was pleased, for Robin understood. "Yes. Only wickedness and evil would remain. The world would be shrouded in darkness."
"So...what do we do to stop Gal?" Robin queried, jumping to his feet. He was anxious to do what needed to be done and put things back to right.
"It's not that simple, Robin," Olwyn replied, his eyes reflecting the sadness of his heart. "In order to save the unicorn, you must believe in it's power. In the power of good and innocence."
Robin considered for a moment then said, "I do believe."
Olwyn nodded. "I think that you do, but it is not enough."
"It has to be!" Robin insisted. Then a thought occurred. "Olwyn...you said that if the Unicorn died then innocence would die with it."
"That's right," Olwyn confirmed.
Robin knelt before his mentor, his eye shimmering with hope. "But...what about the children, Olwyn?" he beseeched. "The children are innocent."
Olwyn reached out to pat Robin's head. He was proud of the young man, but he had no choice but to dash his hopes. "Unicorns exist because children believe in them. They believe in hope, and have faith that is pure and incorruptible. Yet they are imperfect and become adults, and it is the adults who refuse to believe." A smile curved Olwyn's lips as he studied Robin. "Well...most of them," he ammended.
"Tell me what I must do!" Robin beseeched. "There must be something. Whatever it is...I'll do it!" Robin couldn't bear the thought of the world being shrouded in darkness and evil. He remembered his loss of innocence and the pain that was a part of him forever, because of it. It was a fate he could not accept befalling upon the world.
"You must ask your friends if they believe, Robin," Olwyn replied. Then he shook his head and sadness filled his eyes. "I would guess that not even the good Friar Tuck believes in Unicorns. And if they don't believe..."
Robin sighed. "Then they give power to Gal."
Olwyn nodded. "Yes."
"How can I stop Gal?" Robin beseeched.
"By truly believing, Robin," Olwyn whispered. As he spoke he waved one hand in front of the young man's face, then watched as he collapsed into a heap.
Robin had watched Olwyn's hand and then he had fallen into darkness. But the darkness soon shimmered into light and Robin opened his eyes to find himself in a beautiful place. Everywhere he looked he saw a golden shimmer, like the reflection of the sun off the surface of a lake. And there was a river before him with sapphire blue waters that seemed luminescent, and the soft grass that cushioned him was emerald velvet. Robin rose to his feet, feeling awed.
"Olwyn..." he whispered, and he heard the echo of his voice dance on the wind like a melody. "What is this place?" Robin wondered, out loud. But he didn't really expect an answer. He could guess that Olwyn had sent him here for a reason, and that he was supposed to figure that reason out for himself. So Robin gazed about him, searching for a side, or a symbol, to guide his way. But, for once, the sign came to him.
To Robin's left was a rushing waterfall and from out of the spray came a magnificent, white, unicorn. A golden aura seemed to shimmer around it as it reared up on it's hind legs. Robin was entranced. All the more so when it fell back on all fours and raced towards him. He didn't move a muscle as the unicorn cantered in a circle about him, then stopped. The regal head lowered so that it was eye to eye with Robin. Holding his breath, Robin reached out and his fingertips brushed the satiny coat. The unicorn allowed the caress, huffing air from it's nostrils as if to say it approved.
Intuition guided Robin to take a handful of mane and pull himself onto the broad back. The unicorn stood at least twelve hands higher than his own stallion, and Robin felt as if he were miles from the ground. But then he tightened his thighs about the muscled flanks and unicorn raced off. Robin clutched handfuls of the silvery mane and lifted his face to the wind. It tangled in his hair and he had never felt more free. The unicorn ran with a speed that no horse could match. To Robin it felt like flying.
They raced along the river bank and soon the lush grass gave way to a silver-white beach. The water now a shimmering turquoise as the Unicorn's hooves splashed through the dancing waves. Robin felt a spray of mist dampen his skin and laughter bubbled out of him. He had never known such happiness and joy. It was as if all the pain and sadness of his life had disappeared. But his joy was to be shortlived.
A rumble like thunder cracked through the air and the sky shaded to black. The wind rose, becoming so fierce as to steal Robin's breath away. The Unicorn stopped and reared up, but Robin held his seat. Suddenly, before him, a creature appeared. Part man, part beast. Robin knew who it had to be. Gal. The assassin of the underworld held a bow in his hands. As Robin watched, Gal knotched an arrow then pointed it at the stallion. Malicious laughter danced echoed in the wind as the arrow was released. From the Unicorn's back Robin cried out. "NO!" And then he fell into darkness.
Robin opened his eyes to discover himself lying on the ground. Little John and Tuck were kneeling beside him. Robin tried to sit up but caught his breath as pain rippled through him. "Take it easy, Robin," Tuck cautioned him. He nodded at
Little John and the giant lifted Robin into his arms.
"Put me down!" Robin protested. "I can walk. Little John!" But his pleas were ignored as his big friend strode across the compound. Robin sighed and fell silent, finding the ease with which Little John carried him a trifle disconcerting. A moment later Robin found himself gently placed on his pallet in his quarters. "Thank you," he said, quirking an eyebrow. The minute Little John stepped back, Robin slid off the pallet and stood up.
Tuck grabbed Robin's arm. "Lie down," he ordered.
Robin offered a dimpled grin. "Tuck...I'm okay," he said firmly. Then he frowned. "Um...by the way...what happened?"
"You don't remember?" Little John queried, worry shining in his blue eyes when Robin shook his head. "You came riding into the compound and lightning struck close by. Your horse reared and you fell off. You hit the ground hard, on your back, and blacked out. You don't remember that?"
"I don't even remember coming home," Robin muttered beneath his breath. And in that moment he realized that Olwyn had given him a vision, and that it was up to him to find Gal and stop the underworld assassin from killing the last Unicorn. Now he had to explain that fact to his friends. Robin grimaced. "Where's Marion?" he questioned.
Little John answered. "She's helping with the wash." It had been his turn but Marion had felt bad about her earlier fight with him and so had offered to do Little John's chores. Since he hated wash day, Little John had accepted.
Robin laughed, knowing how Marion hated wash day as much as he did. As much as Little John did. "Would you get her for me?" Robin requested.
"What's going on, Robin?" Tuck asked his young friend, after Little John had run off to fetch Marion.
"I know why mayhem and wickedness is abounding," Robin replied, as he moved to the doorway to watch for his friends. He refused to say more until Marion and Little John had joined them. Robin then moved to the center of the room and crossed his arms over his chest. With as much detail as he could, Robin told the story that Olwyn had told him. About Gal and the last Unicorn, and the darkness that would befall the earth if innocence and light died. As Olwyn had predicted, his friends didn't believe Robin. He sighed with frustration, addressing his attention to Tuck first. Robin knew that Marion distrusted magic, so she would be a hard sell. But Tuck was always open to new and endless possibilities. "You believed in the horn of the unicorn, my friend," Robin reminded the Friar. "Remember how it helped me to free Marion from becoming the Devil's bride?"
"I remember it well," Tuck acknowledged. But then he shook his head. "That was different, Robin."
Robin swallowed back his disappointment. "But why is it different?" he challenged. "Look about you, Tuck. Darkness and evil are everywhere. It's invaded Sherwood...our home. It's set us against each other. Friend against friend. How can you see all that and not believe?"
Tuck shrugged his plump shoulders. "Unicorns no longer exist, Robin," he insisted. "They're extinct. And have been for well over a thousand years." Since Tuck believed himself to be a learned man, he felt certain of his facts. Yet he could see that Robin did not accept his reasoning.
"Prove it!" Robin shot back, feeling anger well within him. And he knew that it was partially the wickedness shadowed within the darkness, that was firing his rage. So he dampened it and took a deep breath so that calm washed over him. But he still wanted Tuck to prove to him that he was right about the unicorns. Since Robin knew that they did exist. He had seen one. "Tuck....Unicorns aren't extinct," he said soflty. "Not yet. But they will be...if we don't stop Gal."
"Robin...I think you must have hit your head when you fell," Little John interjected. He was trying to help by offering a reasonable explanation for the chaos that surrounded them. Little John believed in magic, but not even he was willing to believe in unicorns.
Robin refused to get angry at Little John's words. But it saddened him that the gentle giant refused to accept the truth. That even he would not believe. "My head is just fine," Robin said soflty. Then he turned to the woman who had been his friend and soul mate since childhood.
"Marion...what do you think?"
She sighed, seeing in Robin's eyes his desire for her to believe in him. But she couldn't. Not this time. "I'm sorry, Robin," Marion whispered. "I'm willing to believe that something evil is in the air. But I can't believe that the entire world will be shrouded by darkness and ruled by evil and wickedness, based on the whimsy of the last unicorn dying. It's just a fairytale, Robin. You've got to stop letting Olwyn fill your head with such nonsense."
"Olwyn said that you wouldn't believe me," Robin said, in response to Marion's words. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Robin reached for his sword and sheated it on his back, slid his dagger into place on his belt then reached for his bow and a quiver of arrows. He then headed out the door.
"Where are you going?" Little John shouted, following Robin out. He ran to catch up with his friend and grabbed at Robin's arm. "Answer me!" Little John persisted.
Robin locked eyes with the giant. "I'm going to stop Gal," he replied, then he waited for the inevitable response. It was quick in coming.
Little John shook Robin. "Gal doesn't exist!" he declared, certain now that his friend had hit his head.
"Prove it!" Robin shot back, knowing that he was reacting a bit childishly. But it hurt that his friends didn't believe him. He shook off Little John's hand. "Look...either come with me, or get out of my way."
"Robin....be reasonable!" Marion pleaded, as she ran up to him. "Come back to your quarters and rest. In the morning you'll be better able to see reason."
Eyes flashing, Robin shook his head at Marion, then he turned and stomped off towards the stables. He heard his friends following him, but even before they reached the fence Robin heard them begin to argue amongst themselves. And they did so, seemingly oblivous to the fact that others around them were acting the same way. Robin had dodged to fights along the way as it was. As he entered the stables Robin forced himself to concentrate on what lay ahead of him. The only way to help his friends was to follow his heart. And his heart, as well as his faith, would lead him to the unicorn. With that thought in mind, Robin quickly saddled his stallion then mounted. A moment later he was riding out of the compound.
End Of Chapter One