Robin was fatigued and still bitter about the fight that evening, but his thoughts were mostly with Marion. When the warriors returned to the camp a doctor immediately looked over her ankle. It appeared she might have had a fracture in her bone, which meant staying off her foot for a while. The pain was too great for Marion to handle normally so Robin had her sedated by the doctor using Henneh berries. Now Marion slept soundly while Robin discussed her condition with the camp doctor outside Marion’s tent.
"I’m sorry, Robin," he said sadly, "but she’s going to be off her feet for awhile. I know how hard it’s going to be but maybe you can find a temporary replacement for her in case of an emergency. The best thing you can do for her now is comfort her and don’t make her feel guilty. She feels bad enough as it is about all this."
Robin nodded but said nothing.
"Let her rest. She’s asleep right now, partially thanks to the Henneh," the doctor continued. "I left a note beside her bed concerning the doses. When she wakes up, give her another dose to help with the pain. After a week in bed, she should be back on her feet, walking with a cane. Please come see me again if there is a problem."
Robin thanked the doctor and headed into Marion’s tent.
Marion’s hair was tangled and her face pale. Nevertheless, she was still vibrantly beautiful. At times like that Robin realized how much he really loved her. Of course, on normal days he rarely admitted this fact, even to himself. But he knew he had to face it.
Robin knelt beside Marion, who was fast asleep in bed. She emitted a small noise from her lips, scrunched up her face like a baby, and then settled down.
Robin took her limp hand. "I’m here, Marion," he murmured. "Don’t worry, you’ll be ok. I promise."
He looked to the small desk by the cot where the doctor had left the Henneh dosage instructions and found a small mirror next to the parchment. Funny, Robin had never seen Marion with a mirror like that before. It was round, about the size of his palm, flawless and incredibly clear. Robin held the mirror up to his face, expecting naturally to see himself, but the reflection in the mirror he saw left him horrified.
It wasn’t his face he was seeing, but the face of another. Whoever it was, she was ugly and evil looking. White smokes swirled around the lady’s face. The hideous old crone appeared to be glaring at Robin from the other side of the mirror. She looked back with surprise at Robin and her bloodshot eyes grew wider as Robin continued to study the reflection attentively. It’s almost as if she, whoever "she" was, knew Robin was there. Sheer terror sliced through Robin’s body like a sharp dagger.
He threw the mirror down to the floor so hard that he expected it to shatter into a thousand pieces. Instead, it clattered harmlessly and remained intact.
Amazed, Robin reached for the mirror and again looked into it, using every last nerve he had to resist the fear he felt. But when he looked again, he saw himself. No ugly crone, no white smoke, just Robin and his goatee.
All the warrior could do was look in disbelief. When he glanced back to Marion he suddenly remembered when she came back to camp the day the castle soldier disappeared with her hair fixed for a wedding and showed up at breakfast dressed for a Princess’s coronation. The pieces were starting to fit together. The mirror had to have something to do with her unusual behavior.
Robin pocketed the mirror. "This calls for a visit to Olwyn," he declared.
*** *** ***
Robin found himself wandering for hours the next afternoon looking for Olwyn’s dwelling. The cave itself where he lived was never in the same place twice and Robin often had to spend a great deal of time finding it. Of course, it was all a part of the gallant process of proving one’s self. Robin always managed to find Olwyn at the last minute and it seemed as if the wise old man set it up that way.
When Robin finally found Olwyns cave, he entered the icy outer region. Olwyn always had a defense set up in case someone else stumbled onto the cave. Sometimes that defense was in the form of a fire-breathing dragon, and at other times it took the form of a huge man-eating plant. Of course Robin knew better. The defenses were just illusions. Today the defense consisted of the image of a Monder troll, a half-man, half-elf being that, according to legend, lived in large clans underground in Northern England. Nobody has ever seen a troll and lived to tell about it personally, but documents had been found in the hills with strange sketches on them. Created by venturing believers who never came back alive. Most people believed that Monder trolls kidnapped these people and either kept them for slaves or ate them whole. In any case, Robin had seen some of the Monder troll sketches and the illusion fit the mold perfectly.
Anyone who had seen a troll like this one would have turned and ran for his life unless he was purely foolish. Instead, Robin pressed on through the cave trying to keep in mind that the troll wasn’t real. Still, he was slightly nervous. The troll, dressed in leather coveralls and wearing a straw hat, was wandering through the cave looking around at the ice-covered, brightly-lit cavern with the curiosity of a human child. When he saw Robin, he tipped his small hat respectfully with a smile and allowed the warrior to pass through. Robin was surprised but managed a weak smile back. If those things are real, he thought, I sure hope they are that courteous some of the time.
When Robin reached the smaller cave in the back of the ice cavern, he spotted Olwyn sitting amongst piles and piles of books. He was reading over something, and at first Robin was afraid of interrupting him. "Come in, Robin," Olwyn called without even looking up from his novel. Robin didn’t question and promptly did what he was told.
Olwyn closed the black leather-bound book he was reading and set it gently on top of a tall stack of books sitting right beside the wooden workbench. Robin maneuvered his way around the books and sat down across Olwyn. Fearing he would knock over the books, Robin made sure to keep away from book stacks but something in Olwyn’s eyes when Robin looked at the old man led him to believe that magic had a hand in calming gravity.
"Don’t worry about them," the old man said. "Magic is a good way to clean up the clutter, you know."
Robin laughed. "That it does, sir, that it does."
Olwyn got serious. "Robin, you’ve come to me for what I suspect is one reason but what I suspect and what I know are two different things."
Robin was confused.
"What I mean is that you came here to discuss with me LeLora, the sorceress that Marion met."
"LeLora? Is THAT her name?"
Olwyn nodded. "Yes, LeLora. Classy, it is. Anyway, Robin, LeLora is your main focus here but there’s more to it then that. The mage convention at Prince
John’s castle is part of this as well I take it?"
"Yes, sir." Robin replied.
"Spill your guts."
The story came pouring out of Robin like wine from a flask. "But that’s not the worst part," Robin exclaimed when he got the retreating part. "Not only was Marion hurt very badly, but we had to run from the fight. I have never, ever had to do it, Olwyn, and it hurts me to think that I cannot live up to what people expect of me."
"You’re only human, Robin," Olwyn said softly, his steely gray eyes fixed on the onyx sword belted to the warrior’s armor. "Even the greatest of heroes must turn away once in awhile. It’s nothing to be shamed of."
"I don’t see why not," Robin muttered. He hung his head in part embarrassment that he was sharing this with Olwyn. But even if he wasn’t, Olwyn could read his mind anyway so there was no point to hiding it.
"You’re right, Robin," Olwyn broke out in a smile.
"There is no point to hiding it. Now, remember it’s one thing to run from a fight by choice but it’s another to run by cause of someone else."
"So are you saying that this LeLora was the reason why we weren’t strong enough to finish the fight?"
Olwyn nodded. "Yes, warrior, she is. And, as I am sure you are aware, she has an obvious tie to Prince John."
Robin slapped his head and made a frog face. "So that’s how we were caught by surprise! LeLora somehow knew we were coming and sent the message to Prince John,"
"Right," Olwyn said. "LeLora can see what’s happening through that mirror you have in your pocket."
Robin stuck his hand into his pocket and fingered the smooth surface of the mirror. He could feel the radiation of evil. "But how does Marion tie into all of this?"
"She’s the weakest, Robin. She’s the first one who will lose her power to fight. You and the others will be next if LeLora is not stopped. You see, Marion was tricked by LeLora to believe that this mirror could make her more desirable to the man she loves."
Olwyn’s words hit Robin like a bolt of light night. "You mean, LeLora is using vanity?!?"
"So that’s why she looked the way she did that day she chased the soldier. And the morning she showed up to breakfast in that gown."
"Yes," Olwyn agreed. "LeLora’s way of draining the energy is through the mirror. Marion must look into the mirror to change appearances. All the while her strength is being drained. That is why the injury she sustained was so serious."
"How do I defeat LeLora?"
Olwyn pulled a small teardrop-shaped bottle out of his pocket, picked up a gold string lying nearby, and attached it to a hook on the bottle. "Just remember,
Robin, ugliness is the opposite of beauty. Evil is the opposite of good. Take this." Olwyn handed the bottle to Robin."
"What is it?" he asked.
"A special serum of mine that I developed on my own. This should help in Marion’s healing. It normally works three times faster than the healing herbs you are currently using. Mix a little in her breakfast each morning for seven suns and she should be back on her feet with no problem"
Robin took the bottle and shook it a little. But the glass was too dark to see thick liquid inside. "What’s in it?" he asked.
"You don’t want to know, Robin." Olwyn grinned.
Robin put the bottle in his pocket and stood up from the table. "Thanks for your help Olwyn, as usual." He said. "I’m glad you could help Marion too. We need her back to defeat LeLora. So long!"
Robin turned and marched out of the cave. Olwyn put on a false smile as he left, but when Robin was gone, his face fell. "More than you know, Robin. More than you know."
End of Chapter Three
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