"You will never get me!"
He looked over his shoulder and though the soldiers behind him grew smaller. After some feints and some detours he was able to disappear unseen into the forests and to ride back to the compound.
Robin Hood had just returned from one of his well-known raids once again. He had a good run. The moneybags of those rich Norman lords were heavy-weighted and Robin’s horse had to carry a heavy load. And so it was really no wonder that it was very thirsty for some fresh water, one of the grooms was there at once to water it.
"Already been busy today?"
Marion was relieved that Robin returned safely. She didn't like the idea that he went out alone once more, but the man of her dreams was sometimes really very stolid and to fight him with this was absolutely impossible.
"Yes! Milords and - ladies must have emptied their treasuries this morning. And we can be glad about that. Ours stock for the poor are well filled again now."
"And who will be the lucky ones this time who'll get a gratuity?"
"Well, we'll have to see about that. I have enough for today. For now I need to rest. Some of Prince John's soldiers are more than obstinate today, as you might think."
"That's right. Just go. I'll take care of the rest."
Robin's bed did not remain neatly made for long as the afternoon came. The long ride exhausted his spinal muscles strongly and he felt as if he hadn’t slept for weeks, though it was more quite in the past times than it usually was. When he pulled his tunic off he saw some grazes and effusions of blood on his chest.
'Thank God that Marion doesn't see that' he thought out loud. He loved her, no doubt about that, but sometimes she was just too careful in his opinion. He had to live with such injuries especially when he was earning a living in such an dangerous and unusual way. For the people of England Robin Hood was a hero. And heroes were thought to be invulnerable. But a bad injury that almost paralyzed him proved that it wasn’t like that. During a fight with a very obstinate soldier of Prince Johns', he was thrown hard against a huge rock. His back was gravely injured then. It had swelled to a size that pressed against his spinal nerves. He found he couldn't walk for some weeks. But now everything was okay again except the tiredness in his eyes. A few moments later he was laying on his soft bed, eyes closing to sleep. But he found his sleep was very uneasy. The scenes of this day entered his dreams.
They grew worse as he saw scenes of his own past. It seemed as if his sleep wasn’t under a bright star. Before his inner eye everything happened one more time. The murderer of his father, his dying mother, Marion enclosed in Guy of Gisborne’s arms, kissing him. Robin couldn't think of a worse nightmare. Bathed in perspiration he sat up in bed. Slowly he began to realized that this has been only one more of his dreams. As so many times before. Through leather covered window the first light of day came streaming in.
So morning had already broken. It must have been very early. No sounds from outside came into the small wooden hut. So Robin put his tunic on and went outward. He enjoyed breathing the fresh air of that morning. It brought a breeze of silence and peace over him. But the English mornings were always cold so he reentered his hut and took a dark cape. Wrapped up in it he made his way through the compound towards Marion’s hut. He expected her to be still sleeping but she was sitting outside, also wrapped in a cape, enjoying the silence of the early hour.
When she saw Robin coming towards to her a smile curved her beautiful face.
"Good morning! Leave your bed so early?"
"Shhhhhhh", Marion pressed her forefinger against her lips.
"Don't you hear it?"
"The song of the larks. Don't they sing most beautiful?"
Robin watched the sky and then sat down next Marion in devout silence. But this peaceful silence didn't last for long. From the masked main entrance of the compound the signal sounded that mentioned visitors. Robin and Marion stood up and went towards the call. Patrick Barkley rode into the camp. A stranger was sitting behind him and he seemed to be badly injured and exhausted. His face was covered with bloody wounds. It was a sight of misery and Marion ran away to get Friar Tuck.
"Patrick, what happened?"
Robin had already an idea whose work this was.
"Prince John's men attacked the village where this man lives. Leaving a picture of destruction. He seems to be the only survivor. I think you should ask him what had happen."
"What's your name dear friend?"
"Peter Churchman." It was hard for him to press these two words through his swollen lips.
"Ok, Peter Churchman. We'll take you to one of our huts where Friar Tuck can examine your wounds. You can tell me everything when he finishes tending to you."
He signed Patrick to take this man to the friar. Meanwhile Marion had returned to Robin’s side.
"What has happened?"
"I don't know exactly. But Patrick Barkley told me that this man seems to be the only survivor of another massacre by Prince Johns' men. Searching into the poor boy’s sad eyes I can imagine what must have been going on in his village. This time Prince John has gone to far. He will pay for it. I have been too patient with him for too long. Now it's time to strike back."
Marion saw wild resoluteness in Robin's eyes. She had also seen the man from the village and she could understand Robin's rage very well. But she saw things more the way they were as Robin did.
"How do you want to fight him? We don't have enough men. We could never stand against his armies."
"You know my opinion about that: a man who fights for what he believes in is one hundred times stronger than a man who fights for pay. And we have something that Prince John doesn't have with all his advisers and soldiers - brains!"
"So you want to use our heads as kind of rammers or what?" Marion asked
sarcastically. Robin didn't answer her as he went to Friar Tuck and his new patient. Tuck had just ended his treatment and Peter Churchman was asleep.
"How is he?" Robin wanted to know.
"He will be alright again. What do you plan on doing?"
"I’ve had enough. Prince John has to pay his price now."
Tuck had never seen Robin such enraged. In some way it made him afraid. He thought of Robin as a man who always was clear thinking and never made decisions too quick.
Deep in his thoughts Robin went to his place of meditation. But he wasn't able to. Too much was going on inside of him. Prince John had enslaved the people of England for too long. He had lived for too long as an outlaw hidden in the forests. Prince John had killed parts of his soul much too often. Robin had seen enough. He would show the prince what it was like to have Robin of the Hood as an enemy.
Robin's reaction was not a wonder at all. What was left for him after this tyrant had taken away everything that he had loved. Melancholy he remembered the pretty days of his youth. Those times when King Richard used to sit on his throne here in England Robert of Locksley could expect a great future. There was nothing he had to be afraid of. One day he would have inherited a whole county and married a beautiful woman who would have given him children and after a great lifetime he would have died as an old man in his bed.
But after the attack this dream flew away. Or at least it seemed so. In the past times the wish grew inside Robin that King Richard would return and make the conditions in England right again and first of all giving Robin his freedom back. But this all was too far away. And Robin's forces grew fewer. He didn’t know anybody to who he consult with about his fears, sorrows, and miseries. Not even Marion. So he tried to work out everything himself by meditating. But lately this didn’t work at all. The happening of the past day showed that clearly. Prince John had done much too far and Robin was not ready to watch more innocent blood running. Now it was Prince John's turn. After a while sitting there silently he returned to Friar Tuck's hut where the man from the village laid.
"You are awake, that's good. Now tell me everything that had happened today."
Peter Churchman started to tell his terrible story. Robin sat and heard the atrocities of soldiers raping women and killing the elderly and children. Peter also knew of men who were killed in a agonizing way. Even the knowledge of soldiers forcing some to kill their own family didn't stay a secret from Robin's ears.
Meanwhile Marion had entered the hut, she listened intently to the stories of murder and death. She was absolutely shocked, she could now understand Robins anger and she was also determined to punish Prince John in a way he wouldn’t forget. Robin and Marion left the hut as Peter was still very weak and he needed rest urgently.
"What are we doing now?" Marion asked.
"Well, I don't know. But I'm sure that we'll have an idea soon."
"We? Usually Robin Hood creates his plans alone."
"Why should I do everything myself when there is someone beside me who is extraordinary clever and also beautiful?"
Robin grinned and Marion's cheeks became a little bit red.
"First I'll go to see Olwyn. Then we can go further with out plan of attack."
Marion didn't say anything because she knew what Olwyn meant to Robin. But she never had any sympathy for the ancient magician. Robin was aware of this but sometimes he would against Marion's wishes when he felt it was right.
The way to Olwyn led him through dark forests, broad rivers and stony impassable areas. As usual first the magic dragon welcomed him that Olwyn had dropped into the cave before the entrance to his home. Robin smiled up at it and then went through it. When he entered Olwyn's cave he had to search some time until he saw the direct descendant of Merlin.
"Olwyn, I need your help."
"I know that, young one."
"Why else would you be here? Olwyn always knew everything before Robin was even able to speak it out.
"So, what do you think I should do?"
"First of all be careful. Don't do any thoughtless acts against Prince John. He is stronger than you and he could easily defeat you. Think well of it what you are going to do."
"I don't want to be ungrateful. But don't you have any other advice for me? You have only told me things, I knew before."
"Don't be so hasty, young man. I haven't ended yet."
Robin rolled his eyes. Because Olwyn had paused for some few moments in thought. Waiting for him to finish his thoughts.
"Robin, you can't defeat Prince John alone this time. You'll have to trust in your friends and people in the camp and take them with you to fight. That's your only chance. Go now. You must attack Prince John before he realizes it."
Robin hurried out of the cave.
"Young one, I see something terrible coming up to you. We'll have to get help for you. I'll have to visit my friends there in Avalon."
Olwyn knew that he had no chance to stop Robin and that's why he let him go. So he went to get some support.
Robin rode back to the compound in a wild gallop. There Marion and Little John already expected him.
"So, what's the result of your trip to Olwyn?" Marion wasn't convinced about that at all.
"Well, in fact nothing that we hadn't known before. But you can send out the alarm to all here in the compound who wants to fight. We'll make ourselves ready for war against the tyrant of England."
Robin went into his hut. He closed the leather cloth behind him and fixed it on the doorpost. He really didn't need any disturbance. Now he wanted to make a some kind of plan. Not wanting to look foolish to the villages with empty hands. But that wasn't as easy as it seemed to be.
About one hour later he went outside again with a more or less good plan behind that could need some improvement. Robin sat down in front of his hut and waited for Marion and Little John to get back with the inhabitants. He didn't have to wait for long.
"You all have known what had happened and you are all there to fight Prince John. Tomorrow before day is dawning we'll make our way to his castle. Marion, Friar Tuck and I will enter it through a secret entrance. When we are inside we'll sign you to break into the castle. You have the necessary weapons and tools for this. Go to bed early today so that tomorrow you will be fit."
When Robin ended the people went their ways. Everybody prepared himself for the next day.
"Robin, what exactly are your plans?" Marion, Little John and the friar watched him expectantly.
"Tuck, you, and I will go to get Prince John. You Little John attack the castle with the other ones from outside. You are the strongest and they will really need your help to break onto the gate."
"Ok. I'll go now to prepare myself. I’ll see you in the morning."
With that said Little John and Friar Tuck went their ways. "Do you think your plan will work?"
Robin couldn't give Marion a satisfying answer because he had no idea himself. "I hope so. Well, we'll know that tomorrow. Good night!"
Marion wanted to have more than just this few words but she saw that Robin
was absolutely thrilled.
End of Chapter One