ARROWS OF FIRE

By Shelly Quinn
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Chapter 2

Robin had intended to find Olwyn, but something told him to head back to camp first. He wanted to make certain that everything was all right there. And so he raced back and, as soon as he had cleared the gates, Robin was off his horse and looking for Tuck. But even as he spotted the Friar, Robin was drawing his dagger, just to be on the safe side. After what happened with Marion and Little John, it seemed likely to Robin that Tuck might be affected as well.

Tuck was sampling the cobbler he was making for the wedding feast when he spotted Robin approaching. He smiled at the young man and waved him over. "Try this," Tuck invited, offering Robin a spoonful of cobbler.

"No thanks," Robin replied, even as he tightened his grip on the dagger. He had no intention of hurting Tuck, but he was prepared to scare him off, if need be.

"Robin...what's wrong?" Tuck queried, dropping the spoon when he saw the wary look in the outlaw's eyes, and the dagger clutched in his hand.

Robin stared hard at Tuck and was relieved to see that the Friar's eyes were not glowing red. Heaving a sigh of relief, Robin resheathed his dagger then stepped forward to take Tuck by the arm. "Let's talk in your quarters," Robin beseeched.

Tuck could sense that something was terribly wrong. "Of course," he replied, leading the way. Once there, Tuck gestured for Robin to sit, but the young man was too nervous. So Tuck sat while Robin paced and explained about Marion and Little John.

"It has to be magic related," Robin concluded.

"I'm sure you're right," Tuck conceded. While Robin had been talking, the Friar had risen and fussed about, pouring water over herbs in a wooden cup. Now he turned and held out the cup to Robin. "Drink this," he entreated. "It will help you to relax."

Robin reached for the cup without thinking, and was about to take a swallow when he happened to glance up and saw that Tuck's eyes were now red and glowing. "Not you too!" Robin groaned, as he dumped the contents of the cup and tossed it aside.

Tuck stalked Robin. He now had a dagger in his hand. "The master awaits you, Robin," he droned. "Come with me."

"Maybe some other time," Robin countered, as he headed for the door, only to find his way blocked by Tuck.

"Don't be afraid, Robin," Tuck whispered, even as he backed Robin into a corner. He would not hurt the outlaw, but he would take measures to ensure that Robin did not escape.

Robin didn't want to hurt Tuck either, but he knew he had to escape and find Olwyn. So he let his knees buckle, feigning a collapse. When Tuck bent over him, Robin shoved him away by pressing both feet to Tuck's chest, then he rolled towards the door, jumped to his feet and was off. Robin's stallion was where he had left him and Robin leaped into the saddle and raced for the gate. Whatever was infecting Marion and the others, be it magic or otherwise, Robin was determined to discover the cure.
 
 

It took him two hours to reach Olwyn's caves. Robin knew several shortcuts but went a different route entirely just in case Little John or Marion, or even Tuck, would think to follow him. Not that they would be able to find Olwyn, unless he wanted to be found. Sliding down from his horse and letting the Stallion wander off to find water and rest, Robin headed into Olwyn’s chambers. The dragon which was an illusion conjured by magic awaited Robin and he ran through it, skidding to a halt inside the archway of the main chamber where Olwyn could usually be found But the chamber was empty.

"Olwyn?" Robin called out, turning in a circle to see if

perhaps the Magician were in hiding. But it didn't take Robin long to determine that Olwyn was not at home. "Great...now what?" Robin muttered aloud as he dropped onto a nearby bench. After allowing himself a moments respite, Robin jumped up and prepared to head out. He would have to face Marion and the others on his own. But there was a shimmer of light before him and a figure appeared. "Mortiana..." Robin whispered.

The ancient sorceress inclined her head. "Good day to you, Robin Hood," she replied.

Robin frowned. "What are you doing here?" he challenged.

Robin knew that Mortiana and Olwyn had been close once, but now the sorceress worked for Prince John and therefore Olwyn did not keep company with her.

"I've come to help you," Mortiana replied, then laughed to see the stunned look that crossed Robin's face.

"Help me in what way?" Robin countered, once he had recovered from his surprise.

Mortiana shrugged. "You've been having some difficulties with your.. friends...haven't you? They've become rather...zombie-like."

Robin nodded. "How to you know about that?" he queried, his eyes narrowing with suspicion. Robin wouldn't put it past Mortiana being the one who had cast the spell over Marion, Tuck and Little John. After all, she had been the one to send Alexander the Great's Legion of the undead after Robin a few months ago.

"It's my business to know these things, Robin," Mortiana drawled. She glided forward and sat down in Olwyn's favorite chair. "Do you want to know who's behind it, or not? I've better things to do with my time than dillydally here with you."

"Tell me," Robin requested, sitting back down on the bench to the right of the sorceress.

Mortiana smiled at Robin, admiring his caution, yet amused by attitude of reluctant acceptance of her presence. "His name is Hedrek," she began. And then she went on to explain about the Dark Circle and Hedrek's banishment. And that in order to reclaim his place he must first claim the soul of light.

Robin raised his hand at this point to interject. "What does that have to do with putting a whammy on Marion and the others?"

"He needs them to capture you, Robin," Mortiana replied. When she saw that he was still confused, she clarified. "You should know by now that you are the light, Robin Hood. That your soul is pure, as is your heart. That you have powers, as yet untapped, deep inside you. Powers of goodness and light. And once he has absorbed your lifeforce, he will become all-powerful. Then he will lay claim as Sovereign of the Dark Circle and attempt to rule the world."

"Mortiana, are you a member of this...Dark Circle?" Robin queried.

Mortiana threw back her head and laughed. "Not hardly. I work alone," she declared, her tone a bit chilly for she felt insulted by Robin's query.

Robin grimaced, then sighed, as he considered all that

Mortiana had said. "What is it with evil sorcerer's always wanting to rule the world and shroud it with darkness? Can't they come up with something more original?" When Robin felt the heat of Mortiana's glare upon him, he shifted course. Same church of thought, but a different pew. "So...you're saying that Hedrek wants to claim my soul?" Robin questioned.

Mortiana nodded. "That's right. He has bound your friends to his will. They will not stop until they have captured you and brought you to Hedrek."

Robin found that fact unacceptable. "There has to be a way to break Hedrek's spell over them," he declared, jumping to his feet and pacing in a semi-circle. "Tell me how I can save my friends, Mortiana," Robin beseeched. He stopped pacing to face the ancient, and powerful, sorceress. "Help me...and I will owe you a favor," Robin offered.

"A favor," Mortiana purred. "Tempting. Very tempting," she allowed. "Breaking Hedrek's spiel will not be easy."

"When is it ever?" Robin countered, rolling his eyes. "I suppose I'll have to kill him?" It was not a proposition Robin looked forward too. Killing could not always be avoided, but Robin found that it never failed to make his soul bleed. Even if it was his enemy who died., and the cause was just.

Mortiana rose to her feet. She studied Robin Hood and remembered her words to him a few months back. That it was a pity he was a good man. She still believed that, for if Robin Hood were to join the forces of darkness, his power would be sublime. But she banished such thoughts, for Mortiana was a realist, and Robin Hood was the Chosen of the Light. "Killing Hedrek will not break the spell," she announced.

Robin heaved a sigh frustration, tinged with relief. "What then?" he beseeched, but with a touch of reluctance. Robin had the feeling he didn't want to know the answer.

"The only way to free your friends is to shoot them," Mortiana declared.

"WHAT?" Robin shouted, his eyes flashing gold sparks. "What are you talking about, Mortiana?"

She faced Robin's fury without flinching. "You must find the Arrows of White Fire and shoot them into the hearts of your friends," Mortiana replied. "It is the only way to save them."

Robin shook his head. "An arrow through the heart will kill them," he protested. When Mortiana made to argue Robin declared, "It's a moot point. I won't shoot them."

"Then they will be slaves to Hedrek till mortal death claims them," Mortiana shot back. Then she lifted her arms and made to vanish.

"Wait!" Robin called out, knowing that he needed Mortiana's help. He swallowed his anger and spoke with a modicum of calm detachment. "I'm sorry," Robin apologized. "Explain to me, Mortiana. How can I save my friends by shooting them?"

Mortiana smiled to herself. Robin Hood was a unique man.

Brave, strong and wise beyond his years. No wonder Olwyn was so proud of him. "The arrows of White Fire are magic," Mortiana explained. "They were forged by a God over ten thousand years ago, before mortals were created. Yet he made them strictly for mortal use. But there is a catch."

Robin sighed. "There always is," he drawled.

"Only a good man, pure of heart, can touch the arrows,"

Mortiana explained. Then she smiled at Robin. "You are such a man. With the arrows of Fire you can save your friends."

"Where can I find them?" Robin queried, feeling hope welling up inside him again.

Mortiana's expression became grim. "They're in the bottom of the Stygian hot pools," she revealed.

Robin was surprised, but only for a moment. He knew all the myths about the Stygian pools. How men had died in the murky depths. But he didn't care. "I know where they are," Robin declared. "I can reach them by nightfall."

"Good luck to you, Robin Hood," Mortiana replied. She prepared to leave again.

"Wait," Robin beseeched.

Mortiana glared at him. "What is it now?" she demanded.

Robin offered her a dimpled grin and saw her resistance melt a bit. "I just was wondering something," he confessed.

"What?" Mortiana countered.

"Why are you helping me?" Robin stated, forthrightly.

Mortiana laughed, a ripple of pure delight. "I'm paying my debt," she declared. "I owed Olwyn a favor."

Robin burned with curiosity but didn't ask what the favor was, for he knew that Mortiana wouldn't tell him. Instead he frowned. "Speaking of Olwyn.... where is he?"

"On vacation," Mortiana answered, even as she waved her arms and disappeared in a glimmer of silver sparks.

"Vacation?" Robin repeated, his voice echoing in the sudden emptiness of the cave. But then he shrugged. He could discuss it with Olwyn when the magician returned. Right now Robin had arrows to procure, friends to rescue, and his own soul to save. And all the while the sands of time were scattering to the winds.

End of Chapter Two
 


Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three
 Chapter Four

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