Tuck turned a worried face towards the dark horizon. The storm was one
of the most violent he had ever been in for some time. Tuck and his companions,
were sheltering against the force of the storm - under a large tree. Hoping
to escape its wrath, but Tuck knew this was a dangerous position. He pulled
on Robin Hood's arm getting his attention. The wind howled so loudly, the
taller outlaw had to bend down to hear him. His long, chestnut brown hair
whipped in the wind, slapping him the face, as Tuck shouted out to be heard
over the howl of the wind.
"We're going to have to find some shelter soon. It's to dangerous staying under this tree. We have the possibility of getting hit by lighting."
Robin nodded his approval. Glancing around the dark forest they were standing in, his dark eyes stared off into the distance.
"I think I see something. After that last lighting strike over there." He pointed a gloved hand off to the west.
Tuck searched into the darkness, as a bolt of lighting flashed, he did indeed see a large, dark shape looming in the distance.
"Let's try to make it over there," Robin continued.
"Anyplace has to be better than this!" Tuck agreed, informing the others, the four outlaws led their horses into the storm. As they headed toward the dark-shape, they could make out what appeared to be an old castle. It was hard to tell, the local foliage had overgrown on the crumbling structure, obscuring it from the sight of an untrained eye. They were able to find an old barn, to put up the horses for the night. Running in, they shook the rain from their clothes, the horses began to shake from the cold they felt being wet. Unfortunately for the outlaws, there was no room in the barn for both men and horses.
Tuck nodded toward the castle. "Aren't we going into the castle? I'm sure it's much dryer and warmer than this drafty old barn."
Robin just stared blankly at the castle. "In a minute," he whispered. He seemed to hesitate. Something felt wrong. Shaking it off, he said, "Let's go in. "
In the castle, a strong wind blew in the dark hallways. A voice could softly be heard. "He is here. A Locksley has returned." Another also sounded. "Yes, he is here. He is here!" The voices echoed in the dark, empty corridors of the old castle, speaking over and over again "He is here - at last!"
Marion stared at Robin, a deep concern was etched on his expressive face. Gently touching his arm, she looked up at him. "Robin, is something wrong?"
He looked down and gave her a confident half grin, "No," he sighed. Then laughed – saying, "Now I know how a duck feels. It'll be good to be dry again. Let's go." Taking her arm, they slowly walked towards the castle.
They came upon the great door that led into the castle. Tugging on it, they realized it was stuck. A half smile parted Little Johns lips. "Let me try it." Pooling his strength, he pulled on the door with all his might. Slowly the doors began to open. He pulled harder until one of the doors was fully open. Bowing, he quipped,
"Thank you kind sir," Marion smiled, as she daintily stepped over the threshold, John and Tuck followed her in. After some hesitation, Robin entered the dark castle. As he entered the crumbling structure, he noticed a foul air about the place. They found themselves in a huge, dark entranceway. To the right, was what was left of a great, winding staircase. It wove to the upper floors. Large rooms could be seen to the left and in front of the great doors. This Robin was able to make out as light appeared through boarded up windows, from lighting flashes. Searching the large entryway, they were able to find some dry torches. They lit a few with some dry flint, and placed them about the great hall.
Marion let out a whistle of wonder, "This looks like it was some castle in its prime."
"Yes," Robin agreed, walking forward, he slowly spun around. From what he could tell, the castle had been abandoned for hundreds of years, and yet it seemed as if it had not had many visitors during that time. He wondered why? He stopped his spinning, when he spied a crest hanging above the door of the entrance. He also let a whistle escape from his lips, saying, "So the legends were true."
The others turned and looked up at the crest. "Now why does that look familiar?" Marion wondered aloud.
"It should," explained Robin. "It's the crest of the Locksley clan. This is THE castle. The original Locksley Castle." He started pacing up and down thinking aloud.
"My father told me of the legend. Something happened here, and the original castle was abandoned, but the reason was forgotten. It was said to have happened about three hundred years ago. I suppose I'm the first Locksley to step foot in this castle in all those years."
From the head of the staircase, a moan was heard. "Yes…he has returned."
Robin's head jerked at the sound of the voice. He looked at the others, but none acknowledged the sound.
Marion gave a nervous laugh. "I wonder what happened to cause your ancestors to flee from this castle?"
Looking at Robin for an answer, they saw that he was staring up at the staircase. His face turning pale, whirling around; he asked them, "Didn't any of you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Tuck asked.
"A voice . . . I distinctly heard someone say something, near the staircase."
The others listened intently. After a few moments, Little John broke the silence. "All I can hear is the wind howling. Think that was it Robin?"
Robin felt a little foolish. Standing in the same castle that his father spoke of in ghost stories as a child, spooked him a little. "Uh, yes. That must have been it, Little John. I guess the wind howling in these old hallways sounded like voices." Looking a little sheepish, he added, "I think the first thing we should do, is find a place to stay for the night."
Tuck seemed about to burst, as he quickly added, "I, for one, would like to explore this castle." He looked around for agreement. Seeing none, he tried to plead his case. "We know it to be at least three hundred years old. Likely older than that. Think of the things we could find. I'd like to see if I can find something that can tell us about the past. It's something I've always dreamed of - a place untouched for hundreds of years. Think of the things we might find."
Robin knew they wouldn't be able to change his mind. Tuck only repeated himself when he's deeply excited about something. There will be no talking him out of it. This he knew from experience.
Marion allowed a small frown, "I don't know Tuck. Things here might not be too stable after so many years."
"Nonsense! I'm sure it'll be all right." He then headed for the staircase.
Robin hesitated at the bottom, "You want to start upstairs?"
"Might as well start from the top and work our way down. Coming?" Little John and Tuck carefully made their way up the crumbling stairs. Robin slowly followed, with Marion behind him. Until something caught Marion's eye at the foot of the staircase. She noticed a painting of what must have been the castle in its prime. She was entranced by it. It was beautiful. She would have loved to been here, when parties and balls were held. She smiled at this pleasant thought, remembering when she had first seen Robin at a ball that Queen Eleanor held…
Distantly she heard Robin calling to her. Glancing up the dark staircase, she noticed he was standing at the top, holding his torch aloft, asking her if she were coming up. She slowly started up the stairs, holding her torch with one hand, while bracing herself on the walls with the others. Stepping over a broken step, her body uncontrollably shivered, as she felt a…presence. She could swear someone was standing behind her, yet when she turned - there was no one there. As she quickened her steps, she felt unseen hands reaching out, and grabbing her ankles on the way up. Fear welled up inside her. She ran up the rest of the stairs, calling for Robin’s help. The faster she ran, the stronger the presence felt. Emotionally exhausted, she flew into Robin's arms. Turning quickly she still could not see anything behind her.
Robin smiled pleasantly down at her. "Marion, what's wrong?" he chuckled as he gently grabbed her by the shoulders, looking at her with concern flowed across his dark eyes.
"What took you so long to come up?"
Her eyes knit in confusion, as she asked, "Took me so long?" She tried to catch her breath.
"Yes, you were down there for at least five minutes. You were starring at that painting at the bottom of the stairs. I called to you several times before you finally heard me. Why did you run up like that? As if someone was chasing you?"
Marion tried to collect her thoughts. Running her hand nervously through her long hair, she said, "I swear I felt like something was behind me. Trying to grab me." She let out a quick breath. "It didn't seem like I was down there for more than a few seconds."
She shook her head trying to clear it. "I'm sorry Robin, being in this old castle makes me feel like a little girl again." She laughed nervously. "I was always afraid to go out of my room in the middle of the night. Sometimes, when you’re walking in the night, ancient castles can seem to be alive. I shouldn't let old ghost stories get to me."
"Don't be too sure about that," She heard Tuck say, in a hushed voice.
They both turned, and saw Tuck standing in the middle of the dark hallway, a single candle held tightly in his grip. They both noticed he looked very pale. "You look like you've seen a ghost," Robin laughed.
"I believe I have." He whispered. "Come here." Tuck beckoned them with his finger, pointing to a room, a few doors down from the top of the staircase. "We've found something, that I think the both of you might want to see."
They followed him into the small room, finding Little John standing next to a fireplace, waiting for them to enter.
"Well, where is this ghost you saw, " Marion gave Tuck a skeptical laugh.
"Show them Little John." Tuck pointed towards the fireplace, Little John brought his torch up to a portrait hanging above the mantle. Looking at the picture, it became clear why Tuck was so serious. It was unmistakable, for the man in the portrait, looked exactly like Robin. Glancing at the bottom of the painting, they noticed the frame had a name engraved in it –
Matthew of Locksley!
End of Chapter One
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