By Virginia Cavazos
Robin's heart was beating hard as he pushed the door to the tavern open. He really didn't know what to expect. Marion had read a letter meant for him and now she was in the trap set for him - and a more devious trap Robin had never seen.
Marion was standing on a small platform supported by a rope that ran up to the ceiling and down to another small platform. On the second platform was a mound of black powder; an evil thing brought in by Master Ika.
Guy barged into the room behind Robin.
"My God!" he exclaimed in horror.
"Robin!" Marion screamed out in fear.
Robin rushed to the platform. "Marion, don't move!" Analyzing the trap, he followed the rope that held Marion's platform. It ran through a complicated series of pulleys, its center just inches from a lit candle. Any lower and the black powder would be set alight
"Master Ika at his best." Robin spoke his thoughts out loud. "We'll make this easy." Robin jumped up and grabbed the rope above Marion. The rope lowered closer to the candle.
"Robin, look!" Marion cried out.
Glancing back, Robin could see that the rope was touching the candle's flame and realized that Marion was the counter weight. He had to find something he could exchange for Marion.
"How much do you weigh?" Robin asked.
"Seven stone six." Marion blurted.
Robin gave a questioning look. "That's all?"
"Robin!" Marion replied impatiently.
"All right, all right" Robin said. Looking around, he found a sack of grain. "I need two of these," he told Guy, who nodded agreement.
"Are you sure?" Marion asked. Her face a mask of fear.
Robin cocked his head. "We'll find out soon enough."
Guy found another sack of similar size and handed it to Robin. He then knelt in front of Marion's platform.
"All right, step out, slowly" Robin warned.
Marion brought her foot forward, carefully placing it on Guy's knee. As her weight shifted, Robin placed the first bag on the platform.
"That's it, careful!" Robin again warned.
Guy held on to Marion's hand as she slowly lifted her other foot. Robin countered with the other bag of grain. "And go!" Robin released the bag as Marion left the platform. They anxiously waited to see if the platform would balance.
It held for a few seconds, but then it slowly started to rise again.
"Mar-i-on!" Robin sung out.
"All right, eight stone!" Marion returned.
Robin grabbed two pots on a nearby table and placed them on the sacks of grain; he smiled to himself for his cleverness. The platform balanced, then one sack shifted and a pot tumbled down. The platform quickly began to rise.
Robin jumped up and grabbed the rope. "GET OUT!" he yelled.
"Robin, no!" Marion refused to leave.
"Go!" Robin shouted. Nodding his head towards Marion, Robin pleaded to Guy "Get her out of here!"
She resisted Guy. In desperation, he grabbed both her hands, and physically pulled her out of the building. She dug in her heels looking back at Robin struggling with the platform trying to bring it back down.
The rope was now on fire, and it would only be seconds before the black powder would ignite, and explode. Robin knew there wouldn't be time for him to flee through the door. Desperate, he searched around and found a sign of small hope. A trap door, in the far corner of the store, stood open.
Robin released the rope and flew into the small hole, pulling the door shut behind him, he steeled himself for the impending explosion.Just before everything went black, he heard Marion cry out.
The explosion and following fire kept Robin trapped in the small tomb. Stunned from his fall, he drifted in and out of consciousness. His mind drifted back. Remembering, remembering back to when he fell in love with Marion - to when Guy started to hate him; back to his first big adventure ... so....long...ago....Robin......Robin.....
* * * * *
"Robin...." Robin come along!"
Robin was laughing as he stood watching a family of chipmunks playing along the side of the road. Hearing his teacher's voice, he turned to see Master MacGregor impatiently waiting for him up the road.
"Hurry up, Robin, were late!"
"Coming, Sir!" Robin yelled back.
He pulled on the reins of his brown pony, then kicked his sides, urging him to catch up to where Andrew MacGregor was waiting. Stopping his pony next to MacGregor, Robin looked up at him and squinted against the particularly bright sun. He put his hand over his eyes to shield them.
Andrew MacGregor gave him a look of disapproval. Clicking his tongue, he slowly shook his head. "Robin, if you are to be a knight, you must not be distracted by small things."
Robin sighed sadly. "I'm sorry." He seemed to be saying that a lot lately.
"You have to be aware of everything around you, Robin" MacGregor lectured to his young student. He shook his head in disappointment; Robin's head dropped in shame. He hated to disappoint Master MacGregor.
When MacGregor saw Robin's chagrin, he smiled. Robin lifted his head and MacGregor quickly changed his smile into a stern frown.
"Sir, what harm did it do looking at a family of chipmunks?" Robin was always eager to learn anything new.
MacGregor was ready to answer any of his thousands of questions.
"While you were looking at those chipmunks could you see me?"
Robin slowly shook his head.
"If I had been attacked by marauders you would have had no time to react. He let his student think about his words for a moment, then continued. "You, must be prepared for anything to occur. Even the most innocent things can prove fatal in the right circumstances."
"So the next time I want to look at something, I make sure you're in my line of sight. "A knight must be prepared to go in battle to help his fellow knight," Robin quoted.
MacGregor smiled at his protege. So young, yet so wise.
"Well, lets go, fellow knight. We have a ball to attend."
MacGregor urged his horse into a trot and Robin rode along side. In the past year, Robin had come to think of MacGregor as a second father. Indeed he was with him more now than he was with his own father. They were now making there way to Gisborne's castle. "Do we really have to go?" he whined.
"Now, Robin, you are a son of an earl - with that comes certain responsibilities. Fulfilling your social obligations is one of those responsibilities."
Robin frowned. "I'd rather be practicing my bow."
MacGregor chuckled. "My boy, believe me you are far better at shooting a bow at twelve than many grown men. Your skill won't suffer from missing one practice. Besides," he teased, "You spend far to much time with that bow. You even sleep with it."
"I don't sleep with it, at least... not every night."
MacGregor chuckled and shook his head. "Of course you don't, boy"
Robin scoffed. "Besides, I think it's more fun than dancing."
"Robin, you'll have plenty of time for practice." MacGregor explained patiently. "Now, you must act as ambassador for your father while he is off on estate business. Any practice you get now, will stand you in good stead when you're a man. Now sit up straight. We're nearing the castle and I want my you to look your best."
He smiled proudly at Robin, and Robin, squinting, smiled back at the man who was the embodiment of everything he hoped to be someday. Andrew MacGregor had taught him so much, and it was a honor to have the King's former Captain of the guard teaching him.
For Andrew MacGregor the decision to stay with the Earl of Locksley was an easy one. The Earl, and his son, lived by a code of honor as did MacGregor. He could not respect anything less.
Early on, he had seen something special in Robin, something he had not seen in many years. The boy was eager, smart and, had a natural talent. But, most important of all, he had courage and strength of character. When Robin grew into man, MacGregor knew he would be the finest knight in England. And, besides, he willingly admitted, teaching the boy was a joy.
Robin sat proud in the saddle, his shoulders set back. As they rode, Robin's long hair flew out behind him. In a few moments, they stopped outside Gisborne castle. It was an impressive place - well kept and expensive. A blue and white flag waved atop each turret, welcoming the guests.
MacGregor brought his hand down, stroked the boy's head and pulled on a long strand.
"We're going to have to cut this before the ball."
Robin frowned again. "I hate hair cuts."
"A knight must be well groomed. Your hair can't get in the way of your vision.
Robin looked stubborn; haircuts were something Robin didn't like to discuss, so MacGregor allowed the subject to drop, for the time being.
The gates were being opened when MacGregor turned back to his pupil. Remember to greet people as I have instructed you."
Robin nodded his head. "Don't worry, I'll do it just like you said."
"Good, then lets go in."
Clucking, MacGregor hastened his horse over the lowered drawbridge. Robin followed close behind on his pony. The two rode in through the open gates leading into Gisborne's castle. The horses hooves echoed in the courtyard as they clacked on the cobblestones.
The Earl of Gisborne was there waiting for them. He brought his hand out as MacGregor and Robin dismounted. A tall fair haired man took the horses from Robin and MacGregor.
"Be sure to feed them, man," MacGregor ordered.
"Yes, Sir!" The stranger answered. He slowly began walking away from the small group. Adjusting some strapping on the horses, he stopped and lingered for a few moments listening to the conversation.
"Andrew MacGregor, what brings you here?" asked Gisborne joyfully.
MacGregor shook Gisborne's hand. "The Earl of Locksley sends his regrets. He cannot attend the ball but his son, Robert of Locksley will attend in his absence."
MacGregor moved to the side and Robin realizing that was his cue stepped forward and gave the Earl a courteous bow. MacGregor glowed with pride.
"I thank you for inviting the Locksley family to the Spring Ball, Lord Gisborne."
Gisborne smiled down at the boy. "You're very welcome, Robert of Locksely."
As Robin stood up a lock of hair fell on his face. He blew it out of the way. Gisborne laughed, then turned it into a cough when Robin stiffened. "Robin?" He quietly asked.
"Wouldn't you rather be with the other children? Guy and Marion are playing in the garden."
Robin looked up at MacGregor. "May I, Sir?"
MacGregor shrugged his shoulders. "It's up to you, Robin. You can do what you wish, you are representing your father."
A small knowing smile grew on Robin's face. "I am, aren't I." He bowed again to the Earl. "Then by you're leave, Sir."
The Earl returned the bow. "Granted." He replied seriously.
Straightening, Robin ran in the direction of the castle garden. MacGregor and Gisborne looked at each other and laughed.
"Ah to be young again eh, MacGregor?"
"Indeed. If I knew then what I know now."
"You would probably do the same things all over again!" Gisborne laughed.
"I probably would." MacGregor agreed.
The two men walked towards the castle. The fair haired man holding the horses smiled to himself, he then took the horses to the stables.
Robin ran as fast as he could to find Guy and Marion. He had heard that Guy had gotten some new horses and was anxious to see them. As he entered the garden, he saw Guy sitting on a stone bench. His bowl cut blond hair glistening in the sunlight. Robin watched as Marion bent down to pick flowers.
Turning back to Guy, he was surprised to see Guy was watching Marion in a very strange way. Guy was, after all, a few years older than either of the other two, and Robin realized that he was changing. He seemed to be interested in different things these days. Robin contributed it to growing pains and hoped he wouldn't suffer from them.
Approaching the bench, he loudly greeted Guy. "Hi! When can I see you're new horses?"
Guy sleepily watched at Marion, a strange smile on his face. Robin put his hand in front of Guy's face waving it. "He-llo-o! You there, Guy?"
Guy blinked, finally seeing Robin. "Oh, Robin. Didn't see you. Want to see my new horses?"
Robin laughed. "I just asked you if I could." Robin paused. "Why are you staring at Marion like that?" Robin then started to stare also. Perhaps he was missing something.
Hearing Robin's question, Marion straightened and gave Guy her sweetest smile. Surprised, Guy returned the smile. She then stuck her tongue out at him. Guy turned a bright red and tried to pretend he was looking at something else. Marion stormed towards Guy, shaking her finger.
"Guy of Gisborne, I know what you're up to. You just stop or I'm going to teach you a lesson."
Robin laughed and flipped over the bench, and across the grass, stopping by a tree trunk. He jumped up and started swinging from a branch.
"And she's just the one who can do it!" Robin laughed.
Guy gave Robin a severe look. "Would you stop jumping around. You make me nervous."
Robin jumped down from the branch and did a cartwheel. He landed beside Marion and gave her a smile. She blushed and went back to her picking flowers.
Puzzled. Robin shrugged his shoulders and walked back over to Guy. "Master MacGregor says I have a lot of energy. He says I need a way to get rid of it, so I do a lot of jumping." To prove his point he flipped his body backwards, then did a head stand.
Marion stopped and stared at Robin, wide eyed. Guy noticed Marion's fascination and gritted his teeth.
Flipping back on his feet, Robin grinned from ear to ear.
"So, Guy, let's go looking at those horses?"
Guy, glad to change the subject answered. "They're in the stable. Follow me." Standing up, he started towards the stable. Robin ran after him.
When Robin caught up with Guy, he stopped and turned back to Marion. "You want to see them, too, Marion?"
Marion smiled "Yes," she replied. "I would."
"Race you there!" Robin said, and Marion giggled.
The three ran to the stables. Guy was taller than the three but Robin was much quicker. When they arrived, Robin was already there, leaning against the building.
"Persons in our position should not run," he said with dignity.
Robin made a face at him. "You're just saying that because you came in last."
"Yeah." agreed Marion.
Guy frowned. "Do you two want to see my horses or not?" He angrily pulled open the door and walked into the stables.
"Is this new?" asked Marion wondering around the small room.
"Yes, it's just for me." preened Guy. "These are mine. What do you think of them?"
Robin walked into the dark stable. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, but when he could finally see clearly, he was thrilled with Guy's beautiful animals. One was a pure black stallion; its coat gleamed even in the darkness. Another was a brown mare. Looking around, he saw one tied off to the side. It was a gray bay.
"Why is this one separated?" Robin asked, curious to know if anything was wrong with the horse.
"Oh, that one. He's ah... I was saving him for you Robin. I thought you would like him."
"For me?" asked Robin, a look of genuine shock on his face.
Guy nodded agreement. "He's all yours."
"Thank's Guy!" Robin enthused. He went up to the animal.
Confused, Marion whispered into Guy's ear. "Didn't you tell me one of your horses was so mean that you were going to have it put down."
"Why no, Marion. That horse is as gentle as a new born babe."
Marion watched Guy suspiciously. "You'd better be careful Robin."
"Don't worry about me, Marion. Master MacGregor taught me how to handle any horse!"
Robin walked slowly towards the horse, palms up, "Master MacGregor said to keep your palm up." he whispered, "to show the horse you don't mean to hurt it."
The animal watched Robin approach, eyes wide, ears twitching nervously. He didn't know what to expect; the other boy had been mean to him, maybe this one would too.
Robin kept one palm up while slowly putting his other hand in his pocket. Cautiously he pulled out something. "It's all right, boy. Nobody is going to hurt you." Robin cooed.
The animals ears flickered with every word that Robin spoke. Robin kept speaking softly to the him, trying to soothe away its fears. When Robin close enough, he brought his hand out and placed it under the horses mouth - the animal sniffed. Whinnying with delight he started to eat from Robin's hand.
Robin moved closer and began to stroke the horse's nose. "There, there boy. It's all right. I won't hurt you." Robin turned to Marion and Guy and smiled. "Sugar. I always carry it. My horse loves it."
Marion poked Guy's ribs with her elbow.
"See, Guy, Robin knows how to handle a horse." She then started giggling uncontrollably. "And now you just gave him that horse!" She laughed so hard she had to clutch her stomach.
"I did not!" Guy retorted angrily.
"Oh yes you did, Guy, and I'm a witness! That bay is Robin's.
They turned towards Robin. He was holding on to the bay's head. The bay nudged Robin; he really liked this boy. He hoped he could stay with this one.
"Thanks, Guy. He's great!"
Robin scratched behind the animal's ear. He whinnied with delight. Robin saw that Guy was angry with him about something, but after a moments reflection, shrugged it off. He knew whatever Guy was mad about would blow over soon. He always found something new to be mad about.
"So, are we going riding?" Marion asked Guy.
A smile slowly formed on Guy's face. "Of course Marion, let's go riding."
Robin grabbed the reins of his horse, and lead him out. "Let's go boy."
Guy handed the reins of the brown mare to Marion. Keeping the black stallion for himself. The three walked out into the sunlight.
"Wait here while I tell Master MacGregor where I'm going," Robin said. He handed the reins of his new horse to Marion.
"You're still a baby, Robin. Have to ask permission to go anywhere." Guy teased.
Robin stopped and turned around.
"I'm not a baby!" He crossed his arms in anger and frustration.
"Well then let's go for a ride. We don't need permission. Not if we stay on the estate."
"Are you sure, Guy?" Marion asked.
Guy jumped up on his horse. "Sure, Marion, we won't be gone long."
"If its just on the estate then." Marion said. "I suppose it will be okay." She mounted her animal.
The two waited for Robin. Embarrassed, Robin agreed. "I guess its all right. As long as we stay on the estate."
"If you're scared, baby, I can call Master MacGregor for you." Guy taunted.
"I"m not scared." Robin said boldly said. Taking the reins from Marion, he jumped on his bay. The animal pranced impatiently as it anticipated a nice run. Guy, pulling hard on his reins, shouted, "let's go!"
End of Chapter One
Chapter Five the Conclusion
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