When Kemal awoke he found that he was not alone. It was barely dawn and his head ached abominably. Sitting up slowly, Kemal stifled a groan, then rubbed his eyes. He saw that Robin was putting out the fire. Suddenly the memory of last night, and his actions, came rushing back to Kemal, and he was ashamed. "Robin.." He whispered, but then he fell silent. Not knowing how to say what he was feeling.
"It's all right, my friend," Robin replied, moving to kneel beside him. "I know you didn't mean it. It's forgotten." He patted Kemal's shoulder, then made to rise. But a strong hand grabbed his arm.
"You have a good heart, Robin," Kemal said softly. "You find forgiveness for men, when they do not deserve it."
Robin shook his head. "We all deserve forgiveness, Kemal," he countered. "None of us are without sin."
Kemal smiled, and it was genuine. "Sometimes, Robin...I think that you are the one man among us who is without sin."
"Don't believe that for a minute," Robin countered, with a laugh. He rose to his feet pulling Kemal with him. "I have to go, my friend."
"On your quest?" Kemal inquired.
Robin nodded. "Yes. To save the last Unicorn."
Kemal touched the wound on Robin's bicep and felt remorse for the pain he had inflicted on his friend. "Would you like some company?" he queried.
"I would," Robin allowed, offering a dimpled grin. "But I think that this is a journey I must make alone. I would ask a favor of you though."
"Anything," Kemal beseeched.
Robin was pleased. "Would you go to Sherwood for me, and check on Marion and the others. I'm worried about them."
Kemal was more than happy to oblige. "I'll leave for Sherwood right now, Robin. And I'll watch over your friends. They're my friends too."
"I know," Robin replied. He shook hands with Kemal then moved to his stallion. Once mounted, Robin waved then rode off. The center of storm was still a good days ride away.
Olwyn watched Robin in his crystal and a smile lit up his face. He was proud of his pupil. Robin had learned well. "Merlin...you made the right choice," Olwyn whispered. Then he felt a soft breeze brush his face and heard the echo of rich laughter fill the chamber. And in that momen Olwyn knew that Merlin was watching over Robin as well. And he felt his heart lighten.
As Robin continued towards center of the storm, he came across a village. He heard screams and shouts and the cries of children. And he saw friends and family, men and women, locked in deadly combat. Bodies were scattered about, chaos was everywhere.
Robin made to slide from his horse when he heard a voice whisper in his head.
"...you cannot save them, Robin. You must save the Unicorn..."
"I can't just leave them, Olwyn!" Robin protested, wishing that his mentor would appear.
And so he did, in a shimmer of light. "You must choose, Robin," Olwyn replied. "The greater good. The many over the few, even though they are innocents. If you do not, all will die."
Robin shook his head, his eyes on the village as he watched a man stab a women in the heart with a knife. Blinking back tears, Robin faced his teacher. "How can I save the many if I can't even save the few?" he beseeched.
"You can if you believe, Robin," Olwyn declared, firmly. "If you believe in yourself, and in the light."
"I do believe," Robin whispered, but he felt his destiny weighing heavily upon him. He was afraid of failing. Not himself, but those who relied upon him. The innocents who needed him.
Olwyn understood Robin's fears. Always have. "If you cannot believe, then go home," he said shortly.
Robin's eyes flashed gold sparks. "I can't do that!" he hissed. And it was true. Robin would not run away from danger or death. He always faced the enemy, be it one he knew, or the unknown. He would not turn his back. Digging his heels into his horses flanks, Robin shouted, "Hiya!" Then he galloped off, heading for the center of the storm.
"Well done, young man," Olwyn whispered, as he faded away. But the echo of his words remained.
Kemal headed to Sherwood, as he had promised Robin. Only to find that Marion and the others had gone. He considered following him, but there was so much chaos that Kemal decided to remain. He would do what he could to protect Robin's home, and the people he called family.
Little John smiled. He now knew where Robin was heading. Towards the center of the storm. He looked at Marion and Tuck who were still asleep by the fire and was pleased. It was barely dawn, and Little John would ride off on his own. It was for the best. If he had to stay with his companions, he would give in to the urge to kill them. Only a little voice in Little John's head beseeched him to let them be. A voice that sounded alot like Robin's. And for the sake of his friend, Little John would listen. Even as he rode off to join the outlaw of Sherwood.
Marion waited till she was sure Little John was gone before rising and shaking out her bedroll. She quickly saddled her horse and mounted. She would follow the giant, knowing that he would lead her to Robin. And that was where she belonged. At Robin's side. Without looking back, Marion rode off. "I'll be with you soon, Robin," she whispered in her heart.
Friar Tuck waited for silence to fall before opening his eyes. Then he rose and quickly saddled his horse. Tuck stamped out the fire and mounted, knowing that he would have no trouble tracking Marion, for Little John had shown him how. A smile curved his lips as he headed out, munching on corn bread and an apple. And he whispered a prayer for the Lord to guide his way, to Robin Hood.
As Robin neared the center of the storm, the wind picked up. Robin had to tie his hair back to keep it out of his eyes, and he wore his cloak to ward off the bitter chill. But the ends were twisted around him due to the force of the wind. The sky had darkened to pitch as well, blotting out the sun, and Robin had no concept of the time of day. It appeared to be nightfall, but he knew it could not yet be dusk. He touched his heels to his horses flanks to move closer, but his stallion reared up in protest.
Robin dismounted, reaching for his bow and arrows. Then he patted his horse's nose. "Find a safe place boy," he beseeched the magnificent beast. "Wait for me." With that he sent the stallion off. Then it was time to face his destiny. The wind threatened to blow Robin over, for it pressed against him like a heavy hand on his chest. And the band holding his hair back was ripped away, blowing sable strands into his eyes. But he forged ahead till he had reached the eye of the storm. It was a thing of beauty. A funnel of silver-blue water twisting up into the sky. Robin reached out with one hand and touched it. To his surprise it felt like warm velvet, not cold and wet as he had expected. But his fingertips tingled and liquid heat spread through his veins. "Wish me luck, Olwyn," Robin whispered, as he stepped forward to meet his fate.
"Good luck, young man," Olwyn replied, his voice a whisper in the wind. But Robin didn't hear him, for he was gone.
Little John was close to the center of the storm. He saw the darkness up ahead and knew that he was just a few hours behind Robin, if that. He'd made up for lost time with his shortcut. The wind had been heavy and the sky fierce, but as Little John slid off his horse to stretch his muscles, silence suddenly fell about him. He frowned and listened hard, but heard nothing. There was only complete stillness. Throwing back his head, Little John shouted, "ROBIN!" He waited and strained, but heard nothing. Panic rippled through Little John. He must have gone deaf. Yet even as he had the thought, darkness fell as well, blinding him. But if Little John screamed, he didn't hear that either.
Marion reached the line of Oak trees that led to the clearing where she knew Little John had gone. She guiding her horse into an easy canter, then gazed about. Little John was no where to be seen. "That's odd," Marion muttered to herself, as she dismounted. She left her horse and entered the clearing to search for tracks. But even as she knelt down she heard silence fall. And it was like a heavy weight. Marion gasped, but before she could react further, darkness claimed her.
Tuck was walking his horse. He had no worries about finding Marion for Little John had shown him how to track. For now he was happily munching on berries. But as he neared the clearing he felt a change in the wind. It seemed to ruffle his hair, like a caress, then it fell still. Silence became defeaning, and Tuck grasped his cross in one hand and whispered a prayer. But he could not hear himself. And then darkness fell upon him. Tuck ducked, but could not evade it, as it reached for him with cold hands.
Robin found himself in the world that Olwyn had shown him in his vision. Only now the sky was dark and lightning flashed about him in quicksilver succession, crackling in the air. The wind bent the branches of the trees and stirred the flowers in the fields, but to Robin's surprise it didn't touch him. His cloak hung about him in soft folds, and his hair fell about his shoulders. Robin realized something else, that he was weaponless. "Must be a test of my creativity," he muttered to himself as he shed the cloak. In spite of the darkness and the fierce winds about him, the air was warm. So Robin let the cloak fall to the ground. He tucked a strand of hair behind his ear as he turned in a circle, gazing about him in search of the path that would lead him to the Unicorn.
"The waterfall," Robin whispered, as he spotted it in the distance. And then he headed out, guided by the light of his soul.
He did not know that the eyes of darkness watched him.
Little John picked himself up off the ground. To his immense relief, he discovered that he could see again, and he shouted to ascertain whether or not he could hear. He winced at the loudness of the echoes that were carried back to him. He could hear.
"Where am I?" Little John wondered out loud, as he turned in a circle. He didn't recognize his surroundings. He knew for certain that he wasn't in Sherwood anymore. Didn't look like any place he had ever been. It was like being in a giant room with four walls that were white-washed, and the sense of a ceiling, although he didn't see one. He didn't see anything above him except gray. More the impression of color than a distinguishable shape. And about him danced shadows in a silver-gray mist. And from the mist emerged a figure. A man, very tall, dressed in a cloak that enveloped him. "Who are you?" Little John challenged the newcomer. Then he gasped as the dark hood was thrown back to reveal the mirror image of himself.
The other Little John replied, "Why have you come here?"
Shaking his head, Little John countered, "Where is here?"
"You lack faith," said his other self. "You doubt your...strength."
"What are you talking about?" Little John hissed. But in that moment he understood. And his other self was right. Little John did have doubts. And fears. One in particular. That his strength would not be enough to protect his friends. Especially Robin. Little John often had nightmares where Robin died because he wasn't strong enough to save him from one danger or another. And Robin always seemed to attract danger. All too often he tried facing it alone. Little John had declared himself Robin's protecter, but what if he failed? Then the nobleman turned outlaw, who was defender of the innocent, and champion of all England would be no more. And the Saxons would fall beneath the tyranny of the Normans. King Richard would return from the Crusades and have no throne. And it would all be Little John's fault. So he faced himself and nodded. "I do doubt," he conceded. His other self sighed. "If you do not believe in yourself,
Little John, then how can you belive in the Unicorn?"
Little John shrugged. "But I do believe in the Unicorn," he replied, with simple sincerity.
"Why is that?" his other self prompted.
"Because Robin believes," Little John declared. And it was the truth. Had always been so. Little John's faith in Robin was unshakable.
His other self began to fade away. "Robin Hood believes in you as well, Little John. Never doubt that...or yourself."
Little John watched his other self disappear, then he realized that the mist and shadows about him were fading as well. As the mist cleared he saw before him the eye of the storm. "Beautiful," Little John whispered. Then he found himself running towards it, not stopping till he was inside the eye.
Tuck lay where he was, feeling disoriented. But after a time he opened his eyes, then he studied his surroundings. He gasped as he realized that he was in a church. More or less. He couldn't quite see the ceiling through the silver-mist which seemed to cling in the air, but he could see arched windows, and crosses, along with rows of pews. "A church.." Tuck whispered to himself, as he rolled over and stood up. Just then he noticed a figure in black approaching, seemingly having stepped out of the mist.
"Hello," Tuck said in greeting. "I was wondering, could you help me please?" he queried. "I seem to be lost."
"Not lost," replied the figure in black, pushing back his hood.
Tuck's eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he stared at himself. "Who are you?" he demanded.
His other self laughed. "You know me. But do you know why you're here?"
"I do not," Tuck allowed. Then he glanced around uneasily. "Of course, I don't know where HERE is either."
"You have doubts," his other self whispered.
Tuck opened his mouth to deny it, but couldn't. Nodding he allowed, "I do. My faith should be stronger," Tuck confessed.
His other self smiled. "Your faith in God? Or your faith in yourself? Perhaps your faith in your friends?"
"Robin.." Tuck whispered the outlaws name without realizing it. But then he sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't believe more deeply. And without question."
"Would you die for Robin Hood?" asked his other self.
Tuck didn't hesitate. "Willingly," he replied.
His other self nodded. "You cannot see God, yet you believe. Do you not?"
"Of course," Tuck replied, feeling a bit indignant. His faith in God was indisputable.
"What about yourself," His other self prompted.
Tuck sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice." By that he meant in becoming a Friar. Tuck feared that he would fail God. And his friends.
His other self raised the hood again to hide his features. "Do you regret following Robin Hood?" he asked.
"No!" Tuck shouted. "I believe in Robin, and in his cause. He is truly a good man."
"Then....I cannot help you," his other self whispered, and he faded back into the mist.
Tuck took a step after him, then stopped. In that moment he understood.
He had doubted Robin. Doubted the young man's belief in the Unicorn. And
Tuck should have known better. Especially after Percy's ghost. It wasn't
Robin's failure, it was his own. Tuck knew that Robin would never doubt him.
God was a prescence not seen, but Tuck knew he was there, watching over them.
Magic also had it's place in the world, and Tuck did not doubt it's powers.
So why not a Unicorn? Like a man tossing aside a cloak, Tuck threw aside his
doubts. The mists about him faded away and he saw the center of the
storm. With no doubts to impede him, Tuck ran forward and entered the eye.
End Of Chapter Three