By Shelly Quinn
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Robin felt time freeze as he waited for Little John to move. But the giant lay in a heap, not a muscle stirring. Heart in his throat, Robin cast aside his bow and ran to his friend. He knelt down beside the giant and one hand reached out to curl around the arrow protruding from he broad chest. But even as his fingers touched it, the arrow vanished. "Little John," Robin whispered.
"Robin?" The giant blinked his eyes then smiled. "Robin!" he shouted, sitting up and wrapping his arms around the other man.
"Okay...John..." Robin gasped, as he was crushed in his friend's embrace. He patted Little John's back. "You can let go now."
Little John was quick to obey when he realized that Robin couldn't breathe. "Sorry," he apologized. Then he looked around him and frowned. "Where are we?" Little John queried. "And...why are we here?"
Robin grinned at his friend. "It's a long story, Little John," he replied. "I'll tell it to you on the way." As he spoke, Robin was heading for his horse, pausing only to scoop up his bow. He mounted then gestured for Little John to come up behind him.
"On the way where?" Little John queried, as he jumped up behind Robin and wrapped his arms around the slender waist.
"You'll see," Robin replied, then he touched his heels to his stallions
flanks and they were off.
By the time Robin and Little John returned to Sherwood and entered the compound, Robin had told the giant the entire story. About Hedrek, the Dark Circle, Little John, Tuck and Marion being under the sorcerer's control. The Arrows of White Fire, Hedrek's desire to absorb Robin's soul and Mortiana's unexpected assistance.
To say that Little John was stunned by the tale was an understatement. "So...what do we do now?" he asked, as he slid off the stallion.
"We find Tuck and Marion and I shoot them with the remaining arrows," Robin replied, as he slid to the ground as well. Just then he spotted Sean and called him over. "Have you seen Tuck or Marion? " Robin queried.
"No," Sean replied. "I'm getting worried."
Robin sighed. "Me too," he confessed, then he patted Sean's arm. "Don't worry....Little John and I will find them."
Little John waited for Sean to move off to counter, "We will?"
"We will," Robin insisted.
"Do you know where to look for them?" Little John challenged. When Robin shook his head, Little John heaved a sigh. "Me either. I don't remember anything about being a zombie...so I'm no help."
Robin was about to reassure John that everything would work out when a shimmer of light appeared before them. Robin could guess at who it was and he was right. "Mortiana," Robin drawled. "This is becoming a habit."
She shook a finger at him as she fully materialized. "Just don't get accustomed to it, Robin Hood," Mortiana cautioned. "I wasn't going to help you any further, but it would seem you're in need of my assistance yet again."
"You know where to find Tuck and Marion," Robin stated.
"In the Black Woods," Mortiana replied. "Hedrek has called them to him. What you need to do now is find away to get close enough to shoot your friends, yet not get caught yourself." Mortiana threw back her head and laughed. She doubted that even Robin Hood could pull off this one, but it would be amusing to watch. Waggling her fingers, Mortiana shimmered into mist and was gone.
Robin grimaced. "Oh yea of little faith," he whispered.
Olwyn had taught Robin, long ago, that there was no obstacle in life that could not be overcome. It was just a matter of combining faith with creativity, and a pinch of luck.
Little John had been thinking that Mortiana was right to laugh. Breaching the defenses of a sorcerer was laughable. But Little John believed in Robin's ability to do the impossible. Eyes shining with determination, Little John asked, "What's the plan?" When Robin didn't answer Little John became worried. "Uh...Robin...you do have a plan.. don't you?"
"More or less," Robin replied. He hadn't been ignoring Little John, he had just been considering his options. There weren't many to chose from and none of them were pleasant. But time was a factor, so Robin felt he had no choice but to go with the riskiest scenario. It was their best chance at success. Perhaps their only chance.
"Tell me," Little John beseeched.
Robin nodded, then began. An hour later he and Little John were heading out of the compound. They would reach the Black Woods by dawn.
Little John was worried about the plan, but knew it was the best chance they had to rescue Tuck and Marion. What he didn't like was the risk factor to Robin, but he knew better than to argue the matter for Robin could be stubborn as a mule. But he did have a question and he asked it now. "Uh...Robin?"
"Yes Little John?" the outlaw replied.
"How are we going to kill Hedrek?" LIttle John knew that the sorcerer would have to die, other wise Robin would always be at risk.
Robin grinned at his friend, his inherent optimism shining in his dark
eyes. "We'll worry about that later. First things first...we rescue Tuck and
Hedrek was pacing in his main chamber. It was dawn and no sign of Little John and Robin Hood. He glared at Tuck and Marion who were standing off in one corner and was considering popping out to check on Little John in person, when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Heavy footsteps. Turning towards the entrance of the chamber, Hedrek laughed with delight.
Standing in the archway was Little John. Slung across his back was a bow and a quiver filled with arrows. Two arrows. The Arrows of Fire. And cradled in the giant's mighty arms was Robin Hood. "Well done," Hedrek whispered as he glided across the room. He reached out to touch Robin Hood's face. The young man was pale and obviously unconscious, but his heartbeat was strong. Hedrek could feel it. And when he touched Robin, he felt the hum of his life force. The outlaw of Sherwood was truly powerful. Once Hedrek absorbed Robin's energy, he would rule the Dark Circle...and then the world.
"Put Robin Hood on the table," Hedrek ordered, pointing to a stone slab in the center of the chamber. He watched as the giant obeyed, then glided over while Little John faded into the shadows. Hedrek's eyes gleamed as he studied the Outlaw of Sherwood. He reached out and pressed one hand against Robin's chest, over his heart. "The time has come for me to claim my proper place within the Dark Circle," Hedrek whispered. "How ironic that it is the symbol of goodness and light who will give me my birthright," he drawled. "How amusing indeed."
"Funny...but the humor escapes me," Robin replied. He saw Hedrek gasp and jump back in surprise, and Robin took advantage of the moment to sit up, spin around and kick the sorcerer in the chest sending Hedrek reeling back to crash into the far wall. "Little John!" Robin cried out, as he jumped to his feet on the slab.
The giant appeared from the shadows and tossed Robin his bow and the quiver of arrows. "Good luck!" he shouted.
Robin nodded as he notched both arrows and pointed then at Tuck and Marion. They stood in the corner, unmoving. But just as Robin released the arrows, Hedrek zapped him with a bolt of magic. Robin moaned and collapsed onto the slab. But his arrows hit their targets, imbedding themselves in Tuck and Marion's chests, piercing their hearts.
"Robin!" Little John cried, running to his friend, but he yelped in pain as Hedrek zapped him in the back. Little John felt his legs go numb and he collapsed into a heap on the floor, unable to rise. He glanced over at Tuck and Marion but they were unconscious, not having recovered yet from the Arrows of Fire.
"Your soul is mine, Robin Hood," Hedrek snarled, as he glided over to the slab where Robin lay. He placed his hand back over the outlaw's heart and tapped into the young man's soul.
Robin felt himself jolted out of darkness. Pain washed over him but it wasn't like anything he had ever felt before. It seemed to come from deep inside him and it was as if his soul were being ripped out of him. In that moment, Robin realized that Hedrek was trying to absorb his lifeforce. And there was nothing he could do to stop him.
Just then Mortiana appeared, but only Robin's mind. Only he could see and hear her. "You can defeat Hedrek, Robin Hood," Mortiana hissed. "You must."
"I...can't..." Robin whispered, each word an effort to speak.
"GET UP!" Mortiana shouted. "Do it!"
Robin wanted to ignore Mortiana, but she would not allow it. So he forced his muscles to obey his commands. His hands lifted, fingers circling Hedrek's wrist in an attempt to break the Sorcerer's hold on him. "I can't...do it.." Robin gasped.
Mortiana was furious. "You will do it!" she snarled. "Olwyn told me that you never give up, Robin Hood. Prove it....show me!"
"Olwyn..." Robin breathed, even as he moved. His body felt as if it were on fire from within, but Robin managed to push Hedrek back as he sat up and slid off the slab.
"Impossible!" Hedrek hissed, as he watched Robin Hood rise up and stand. He was still absorbing the outlaw's soul, but suddenly he felt a tingle in his flesh, as if his powers were backing up on him. "How can this be!" Hedrek wondered out loud.
Little John was wondering the same thing, but he was thrilled to see Robin up and moving. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Tuck and Marion had risen and were staring about them in confusion. Until they noticed Robin and Hedrek. "Stay back!" Little John cautioned them.
Marion grabbed Tuck's arm, but her eyes were on Robin.
"What's happening?" she whispered.
"I don't know," Tuck replied. "But my money is on Robin." However, he did send up a quick prayer for his friend.
"You are mine!" Hedrek repeated, as he focused all his concentration on absorbing Robin Hood's soul.
Pain rippled through Robin and he fell to his knees. But even as he considered letting darkness claim him, he heard Mortiana's taunting voice.
She whispered in Robin's ear. "If Hedrek succeeds you have failed England and her people. Your friends....your father....Olwyn. "It was hitting below the belt and more than a little unfair, but Mortiana felt she had no choice. And Robin Hood was a man of honor, who would find the strength to succeed where other men would fail. And she wasn't disappointed. Robin rose to his feet.
"Fire.." Robin whispered, as he suddenly realized how to kill Hedrek. Behind the sorcerer was the pit of magic flames. Ignoring the pain that was all consuming, Robin pushed Hedrek backwards, towards the pit. Darkness was rushing over him, but Robin found the strength to send the sorcerer into the fire by collapsing upon him. "Ashes to ashes," Robin hissed, as he and Hedrek both fell into the pit.
"ROBIN!" Marion screamed. She rushed toward the flames but a hand on her arm held her back. Tuck. And not a moment too soon for the fire exploded, shooting up to the ceiling. The heat sent Marion and Tuck reeling backwards, arms up to shield themselves.
Little John scuttled back as well, as best he could since his legs were still useless. Then, in the blink of an eye, the fire died. "It's gone," Little John whispered. And in that moment he realized that he could move again and he rose to his feet.
Marion ran to the pit and stared down. Lying in a layer of silver ash was Robin. Of Hedrek, there was no sign. "Little John! " Marion cried out. "Get Robin out of there," she ordered, when the giant reached her side.
"Careful," Tuck cautioned, as he watched Little John step into the pit.
"It's okay, Robin," Little John whispered, as he lifted the outlaw into his arms. "I've got you. You're going to be just fine."
Marion bit her lip as she watched Little John step out of the pit then carry Robin over to the slab. Once he was laid out, Marion pushed Little John aside and ran her hands over Robin. "He's not burned," she said, in wonderment.
Tuck was examining Robin as well and grimaced. What he had to say was not good. "He's not breathing," Tuck announced. His guess was the Hedrek had managed to suck the life out of Robin before he died.
"NO!" Little John shouted. He grabbed Robin by the shoulders and shook him. "Wake up!" Little John ordered. "Do you hear me, Robin?"
"He does not," drawled a soft voice, as Mortiana appeared before them. She ignored the others and focused her attention on Robin. One hand glided over his chest as she whispered an incantation. Then Mortiana closed her eyes and a shimmer of light enveloped Robin. A moment later it appeared to be absorbed into him. "Well done, young man," Mortiana whispered, so softly that only Robin could hear her.
And he did hear her. Robin's eyes fluttered open and he stared up at Mortiana's smiling face. "What are you doing here?" Robin demanded. His memory of the events that had just occurred were fuzzy at best.
Marion was the one to answer Robin's question. "Mortiana saved your life," she announced.
"I guess I owe you.. two.. favors," Robin stated, as she sat up and slid off the slab. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Mortiana replied, then her eyes twinkled. "And I intend to collect, Robin Hood," she whispered, then she disappeared in a shower of silver sparks. But her laughter lingered in the air.
Little John enveloped Robin in a bear hug. "You're all right!" he enthused.
Robin hugged the giant back. "Of course I am," he replied. "Was there ever any doubt?"
"What's going on here?" Marion interjected. She was totally confused and one look at Tuck confirmed that the Friar felt the same way.
"It's a long story," Robin said, as he left Little John and went to Marion. "We'll tell you all about it on the way home." Robin's eyes locked with Tuck's. "Don't we have a wedding to attend?" he queried.
Tuck felt a moment of panic. "My word, yes!" he exclaimed. Then he frowned. "What day is this?" It seemed like a hundred years ago since that day.
Robin laughed. "The first day of the rest of our lives," he replied, reaching out and taking Marion's hands. As her strong fingers closed over his, Robin knew that all was right in his world once more. "Let's go home," he suggested. Since there were no objections, Robin led the way out.
"Are you all right, Robin?" Marion asked, as she walked by his side, there hands still clasped. She had come so close to losing him that Marion was reluctant to let Robin go.
"I'm fine," Robin replied, offering a dimpled grin. And, to prove it, he bent his head and kissed Marion.
She was stunned, but pleased. And when Robin broke the kiss, Marion was a bit breathless. "What was that for?" she asked.
Robin shrugged. "It's just something that I've always wanted to do," he replied, not adding that he had come so close to dying that he was afraid to wait. Afraid that the moment might pass him by and they might not get another chance. Seeing the strange look on Marion's face, Robin expected her to chastise him. But she didn't.
Rising on tiptoe, Marion kissed Robin back, then she whispered against
his lips, "Me too."
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