Robin Hood, formerly known as Robert of Locksley, was enjoying one of his few free moments playing a game of blind man’s bluff with a group of children. He smiled as little Sarah nearly caught one of the other players. As he played with the children he started thinking how much fun it would be to have some of his own. He tried to push that thought away because he knew where it would lead. It was a subject that he had spent more and more time thinking about in the past few weeks. Marion, It seemed whenever he thought about having children of his own he thought about her. It was getting to the point where he wasn’t nearly as comfortable in her presence as he had been before. He tried to cover that up, but he wasn’t sure how he was doing. He hoped he was doing good enough that Marion, or anyone else, hadn’t guessed what he was thinking.
Marion smiled as she saw Robin playing with the children. Her smile broadened as she watched Robin let himself be caught by Sarah when she began to get frustrated. ‘He’d make such a good father.’ she thought as she continued walking to the wagon that she was helping to prepare for the supply run she and Friar Tuck made monthly. They planned on leaving the next morning before daybreak so they could travel as far as possible before there would be any chance of someone loyal to Prince John seeing them.
As she helped prepare the wagon she thought about Robin. The two of them had always been close friends. She was in love with him, and she thought he loved her as well, though neither of them had ever said anything about it to anyone else. Recently, however, Robin seemed to be pushing her away. He never said anything to her about it but she had the distinct impression that he was trying to avoid her and was now beginning to wonder if he really did think of her only as a friend and had guessed her feelings towards him. He was the kindest man she knew and would never say anything that would hurt her but if she was right it was perhaps best if she gave him some more space.
The next day a dreary and overcast one in Nottinghamshire. The sky was a mottled Grey without the slightest hint of blue or white to be seen. The clouds hung low in the sky promising rain in the sear future.
Guy of Gisborne’s mood matched the weather to such a perfection that one might wonder if the two variables were somehow linked together. Nothing seemed to be going right for him, one of his favorite riding horses was sick, it was time for him to pay a tribute to Prince John (in theory to be handed over to pay for the Crusades, in practice it would go to pay the prince’s debts), and raising his villein’s rents to pay for it didn’t seem possible at the moment since he had just raised them a month before and if he did the miserable serfs would appeal to Robin Hood and his outlaws who would in turn step up their highway robberies which would cost him even more money than the tribute. This brought Gisbourne’s thoughts to his greatest problem: Robin Hood. Gisbourne’s greatest problem wasn’t Robin’s pathetic band of wolves’ heads, though they did cause him some headaches, it was one certain outlaw, one named Marion Fitzwalter. Gisbourne had grown up with Robin Hood and Marion. He had always had a rivalry with Fitzsooth, but it hadn’t been anything too serious until both of them had decided they were in love with Marion. Gisbourne knew that he was destined to marry Marion Fitzwalter, he had decided that when he was still a very young man. Marion just didn’t seem to understand this. She kept rejecting his attentions, his offers of marriage so she could remain in Sherwood with Fitzsooth. Couldn’t she see that if the man meant business he would have asked her to marry him years ago? Couldn’t she see that Robin Hood was just a common outlaw who would never be able to give her any of the riches she deserved?
Guy needed a plan to make her understand this. He had tried various ways and means in the past and none of them had worked. Marion should be more careful he thought, one of these days I will grow tired of her coquettish games and then she will see what she has missed.
"My lord?" one of Gisbourne’s servants approached him. Gisbourne glared at him but allowed him to continue speaking. "My lord, a man has just come to the front gate, he insists that he speak with you. He says to tell you that he may have the solution to your greatest problem."
"Not likely," Gisbourne said, then he thought again and decided to listen to the man, "show him in."
"Yes, my lord." the servant bowed and rushed out and then returned a few minutes later with a humbly dressed man who appeared to be slightly younger than Gisbourne.
"Out with it." He commanded.
"My lord, I have heard of your great dilemma. You wish to have the Lady Marion Fitzwalter, and she stubbornly insists on remaining in Sherwood."
Gisbourne frowned, how well known were his romantic problems?
The man continued, "I know a way to make her stay with you."
"Really?" That sounded interesting.
"Yes, my lord. I am the son of a sorcerer. When I was a lad he gave me a page that he ripped out of Olwyn’s magic book. On it there is two spells. One that we can use to link Lady Marion to you, your estates, or both. She will feel unable to leave your lands without you and when she is off your lands she will feel it necessary to remain within a mile of yourself."
Gisbourne raised his eyebrow; this was sounding to good to be true. "What if she does go off my lands with out me? Then what will happen?"
"She will fall asleep, the spell says that the only thing that would wake her up would be to have her brought back to your lands. But she will never willingly leave your lands unless you order it."
Gisbourne nodded, "and the other spell?"
"In good time. I have not finished telling you all that the first spell will do. It will make her want you."
"You mean it is a love spell?"
"No, there is no such thing as a spell that will bring about true love but this spell comes as close as they get. She will feel some admiration for you, it won’t allow her to remember anything bad about you, and she will be willing to do whatever you ask."
Guy figured that was probably close enough. "Is that all that spell does?"
"Yes, my lord. The second spell is simpler. All it will do is that she drinks a certain potion and then you tell her the names of one person, one place and one thing, she will then forget them. This spell you can only use once though. If she is given the potion a second time she will remember the things she was told to forget the first time and the potion will never work on her again. I will put her under both these spells, and lure her out of Sherwood for a small price."
"One hundred gold pieces."
"I was thinking more along the lines of eight hundred gold pieces."
"Four hundred and fifty gold pieces to be paid to you at my wedding to Marion."
"How about two hundred when I bring her to you and the remaining 250 at the wedding."
Robin and Little John were hunting in Sherwood Forest when they saw a man coming through Sherwood.
"He’s strayed rather far from the path hasn’t he Robin?" Little John commented.
The man had no yet seen them. They looked him over. He was obviously of peasant stock and his clothing was somewhat the worse for the wear. There was a large rent in one of the sleeves of his shirt, he was shoeless with rags tied around his feet to shield them from the February cold, and his hair was poorly cut.
Robin and Little John moved so they were behind some trees as they watched the man walk around. He didn’t seem to know which way he was going, though he seemed to be looking for something. ‘Probably us,’ Robin thought as they watched him come closer.
"Hello, my friend." Robin said when the man was but a few steps from the trees. The man had been looking the other way and turned sharply when he heard Robin address him. "What are you doing so far from the beaten paths of Sherwood?"
"I am looking for Robin Hood or one of his followers, I wish to join his outlaw band." the man answered.
"Why did you tell us this?" Little John asked. "We could be Prince John’s men."
"You do not have the look of foresters or soldiers and if you are, my life is over already nothing that you do to me can hurt me."
The man seemed so in earnest. Robin nodded, "how is it that your life is over?"
The man looked at the ground as if he were gathering his thoughts and then looked up again. "I was a yeoman farmer in the village of Leland. I had a beautiful wife and three young children. We had a bad harvest last fall and we were short for our rent last month. Our lord’s bailiff told me not to worry and I thought that he meant that the rest of the rent would be forgiven or that at the least he would let me pay it back at a later time, since I had always paid my rents on time before and never caused any trouble. We wouldn’t have been short except one of the children was ill that month." The man paused. "That was not what he meant. The next day when I was working in my field I saw some of my lord’s guard pass I decided to stop my work and go back home and see what was going on, but when I arrived it was too late. My two youngest children were killed. One of the soldiers held my oldest little girl, Emily with a knife at her throat. The captain was forcing himself on my wife and I ran to pull him off of her. It erupted into a brawl. The soldiers captured me and held me so I had to watch them kill Emily and my wife. They let me go then. Emily was dead, I tried to help Rachel, my wife, but there was nothing I could do and she was dead shortly after the soldiers left. That night after I buried them I decided that I would come to Sherwood Forest and see if I could join Robin Hood and his outlaws in their fight against the Norman’s."
Robin and Little John looked at each other and nodded. "I am Robin Hood. If you wish you may come with us to our village."
"Thank you," the man started sobbing. "My name is Dalton."
"Well come with us Dalton and you will have your share of the outlaw’s life."
When they took Dalton back to camp he was instantly made welcome. He was naturally a friendly person and soon he was friends with everyone in the camp. He was willing to do any job given to him as well as to help others with their jobs.
One day while Robin was eating breakfast he saw Dalton and Marion come out with their meals. He motioned them over to sit with him. Robin half expected Marion to sit next to him. She always had until they brought Dalton to camp. Now she almost seemed to avoid him. Marion only sat next to him at meals now when there was no where else for her to sit. Now she sat next to Dalton, across from Robin.
"Good morning." he said as the two sat down. Marion was laughing at something that Dalton had said.
"Robin, you have to hear this story Dalton just told me its hilarious." Just then Little John came to the table and sat next to Robin.
Dalton told them his story, as they ate breakfast interrupting it only when Friar Tuck joined them at the table. It was a funny story but Robin wasn’t thinking about that so much as he was thinking about Marion. Could she be falling for Dalton? She seemed to enjoy his company more than Robin’s lately. He was a nice guy, though Robin thought that since his family had been killed only six weeks before it was too soon for him to have any sort of relationship. Despite his original opinion that Dalton was okay Robin now thought that there was something odd about the man though he couldn’t decide what it was.
Later that day he decided to ask Little John and the friar what they thought about Dalton.
"He’s a fine man. Very helpful everyone likes him." Tuck said.
"Robin, you aren’t reconsidering your decision to let him join our group?" Little John asked. "Just because he’s friends with Marion. Both of them are adults and can chose their own friends."
"I’m not jealous of him." Robin told John. He was, but he hadn’t admitted that even to himself yet, let alone someone else. "There’s just something wrong about him."
Little John shrugged, "if you want I’ll keep an eye on him."
Robin shook his head, "not until I can decide what it is. I’m probably just imagining it."
Marion was in the makeshift barn several days later when Dalton came up to her. "Marion, I need to show you something, outside of the camp."
Marion followed him outside the barn and looked around, Robin and Little John were out with the three teenage boys from camp, teaching them how to hunt. Friar Tuck was preparing a poultice for a little girl who had just burned her hand everyone else was busy. "What is it?" she asked. Dalton had her horse and another one saddled. I saw two children out in the forest, lost. They look scared and hurt."
Marion nodded as she mounted her horse. "Show me where they are."
The two of them rode out into the forest. After traveling for nearly an hour Marion asked if Dalton was sure he knew where they were going.
"I’m sure, the children were just about another half mile from us." He spurred his horse to a gallop and Marion followed suit.
Finally Dalton stopped his horse and dismounted. "If we come in on horse back we might scare them even more." he explained. Marion nodded and dismounted as well. She followed Dalton to where he was looking at something behind a bush. "There they are." he pointed.
Marion moved to stand in front of him so she could get a better view and tried to follow his gaze, but all she saw was a clearing, no children. Then she felt it. A cold knife next to her throat. "I do not suggest making any noise my lady or I may be forced to use this on you." His other hand came up and he stuffed a gag into her mouth. Marion tried to move away from him but found that he was to strong for her and the blade seemed to be closer to her throat.
Next he forced he to the ground and used his weight to hold her while he tied her hands. She attempted to struggle again but couldn’t get free. She was terrified about what was going to happen to her. She felt him shift his weight, he still had her pinned down under him, and then felt her ankles being tied together.
"Now my lady, we are going to have a pleasant ride to Sir Guy’s castle, just the two of us. He mounted his horse and pulled her on in front of him. Still struggling Marion was beginning to think that it was hopeless. Dalton was much stronger than he appeared and he had a tight grip on her. Her hopes sunk even further as he one-handedly tied her to the saddle. "Just to make sure you don’t accidentally fall off." he assured her as he headed off to Gisbourne’s village.
Robin, Little John and the boys that they had taken hunting with them were tired but happy as they headed back to their camp. Two of the boys had shot deer and the third had killed several smaller animals, in combination with what Robin and Little John had killed, there would be plenty of meat at the village for two to three weeks. As they got nearer to the camp they heard a rustle in the bushes.
"Robin, isn’t that Marion’s horse." One of the boys asked.
Robin looked where he was pointing; the horse had Marion’s saddle on it but was riderless. "Yes, that is." A knot formed in Robin’s stomach.
"We’ll take her back to camp and then we can find out what happened to Marion." Little John said as he took the horse’s reins.
When they got back to the camp Robin went up to David who had been the sentry guard that morning. "Do you know where Marion is?" he asked.
"Marion and Dalton left early this morning, about an hour or so after you did. Dalton said that he found some children who needed to be helped and asked Marion to go with him." David shrugged. "Said he thought they’d be less scared if a woman was there to help as well."
"Has either of them come back yet?" Robin was becoming even more worried.
"I dunno. I don’t think so. Is something wrong?"
"Possibly, I just found Marion’s horse riderless just outside the compound. Did he say where exactly they were going?"
"No, he was in a hurry."
"Thanks." Robin walked away. Little John was waiting for him.
"I just heard. Marion and Dalton went somewhere and they aren’t back yet." Little John shook his head. "That horse doesn’t wander. I think something’s wrong."
"Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking too." Robin hit the side of his hut. "We don’t even know where to start looking." The sun had already set and it looked to be a dark night. "First thing tomorrow we’re on the trail of that horse, if we can find where she got separated from Marion we may be able to find out what happened to her."
End of Chapter One
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