CHILD'S  PLAY

By Shelly Quinn
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Chapter Five

Little John came awake with a jerk, sensing that something was wrong. His eyes flickered over Marion's still form, then over to Robin's bedroll. It was empty. "Marion....wake up!" Little John hissed, as he jumped to his feet and turned circles. He was searching for Robin, but he was no where to be seen.

Marion stirred, but was reluctant to open her eyes. She wanted to drift back into sleep and the lovely dream she had been having of her and Robin. They were swimming in a lake and he was waist deep in the blue water, his chest bared to her warm gaze, his dark hair in wet waves about his beautiful face. Then Robin was walking towards Marion, where she stood on the shore, and more of his magnificent body was being revealed to her. But just as Robin was about to reach Marion, Little John had interrupted and the dream shattered.

"Robin is gone!" Little John shouted.

"What?" Marion scrambled to her feet, feeling suddenly wide-awake. And a bit embarrassed as she remembered her dream. Thank goodness Little John couldn't read her mind. "Gone...where?" Marion prompted, as she joined the giant.

Little John turned to glare at Marion. "I don't know!" he hissed. "I woke up and Robin was gone."

Marion glanced over to where the horses were grazing. "Well...wherever he is...he went on foot. Think you can track him?"

"Of course I can," Little John replied, feeling a bit indignant that Marion would have to ask. But then he felt guilty at the tone of his voice. "Sorry," Little John apologized. "I'm just worried about Robin."

"I know," Marion replied, patting Little John on the arm. "Me too. But we'll find him." She forced a smile. "Maybe it was nature's call," Marion suggested. And it seemed logical enough.

Little John grew hopeful. "You're right, " he conceded. He was studying Robin's footsteps near his bedroll and realized that they led off into the woods to the east. "He went that way. If we wait a minute or two, he might come back on his own."

Marion nodded. "Exactly," she confirmed. To pass the time she rolled up her blankets, and Robin's then she kicked out the embers of the fire. "Time's up!" Marion announced, after several minutes had passed with no sign of Robin.

"This way," Little John announced, as he ran into the woods. It didn't take him long to track Robin down. And the legendary Bowman was not alone. Olwyn was there, but rose to his feet when Marion and Little John approached.

"Softly," Olwyn beseeched as he joined the giant and the warrior woman.

Marion stared at Robin who was cross-legged on the ground, petting a rabbit that rested in his lap. "What's going on?" Marion queried, pitching her voice to a whisper.

Olwyn sighed. "Robin has reverted back to childhood again," the ancient magician replied. "I feared that this might happen, so I've been keeping watch over him. Good thing to, I might add. He wandered off from the camp about an hour ago."

"How old is he now?" Little John inquired. He heard Robin laugh and it was the sound of innocence. Heartbreaking and pure.

"I would say about five years old now," Olwyn replied.

Marion groaned. "Great. Now what do we do? We haven't even reached the Falls yet, and by then Robin should be about what...a year old?" The thought was disconcerting to say the least.

Olwyn turned to look at Robin who was now playing with two rabbits. The young man's dark hair fell over his face as he chased after the bunnies, then caught one and lifted it to his cheek to nuzzle the soft fur. A precious, and beautiful, picture. And one that Olwyn felt captured the essence of the man that Robin Hood was. But now was not the time for such thoughts, as they all knew. "Take Robin to the Falls," Olwyn directed Marion. "I'll see if I can find out who had put this spell on him. If not, then perhaps there's a way I can help him break it. But hurry off now. We haven't much time." As Olwyn spoke he raised his hands in the air and began to shimmer. "Watch over him closely," he warned, then he faded away.

"Great.." Marion huffed. She rubbed her forehead with two fingers to ease the pain that felt like a sudden band clamped around her head, then she forced a smile as she met Little John's concerned gaze. "You heard Olwyn," Marion said. "Let's get Robin back to camp, then we'll saddle up and head for the Falls."

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Little John whispered.

Marion grimaced. "Well...think happy thoughts, Little John," she countered, then she turned and strode over to Robin. Kneeling down beside him, Marion reached out to tuck a lock of sable hair behind his ear. "Robin...we have to go now," she said quietly.

Robin offered a dimpled grin as he snuggled the with the rabbit in his arms. "Go where?" he asked, his voice soft and musical. "To a secret place," Little John interjected, sensing that Robin might give them a hard time about leaving, unless they made it seem like an adventure. All five year old boys loved adventure.

"A secret place?" Robin repeated, rising to his feet in a fluid motion, the bunny still cradled in his arms. His dark eyes shone with excitement.

Marion nodded, understanding what Little John was doing and playing along. "It's a very special secret place," she said, reaching out to take the bunny from Robin. She was relieved when he let her have it and Marion let it run off. "Let's go," she entreated, gesturing for Robin to follow her.

Robin was so excited that he ran off ahead of her. "Are there pirates in this secret place?" he called over his shoulder.

"There might be pirates," Little John allowed, as he ran to catch up with his friend. Robin might be acting like a five year old, but he still had the strength and speed of an adult man and Little John didn't want him running off on them. He reached Robin's side then took the other man, firmly, by the hand. Setting the pace, Little John waited for Marion to catch up with them.

"You'll like it, Robin," Marion said, as she took his other hand. "There's treasure waiting for us."

Robin's eyes sparkled with excitement. "Treasure?" he echoed. "What kind of treasure?"

Marion glanced over at Little John, wondering if they might get lucky and Robin would remember the ring. "All kinds of treasure," she replied, for good measure. But then her voice deepened as she added, "But we're looking for something in particular. Something of great value. A ring."

"A gold ring?" Robin countered, as he skipped between Little John and Marion, swing the hands that held his.

"Yes," Little John whispered, feeling a surge of hope. "A gold ring with a dragon on it. And an emerald stone."

Marion came to a halt and stared into Robin's eyes. "Do you know where the ring is, Robin?" she questioned, holding her breath as she awaited his response.

Robin grinned at her, his dimples out in full force, then he shook his head. "Nope." He turned to Little John. "Think we'll see any dragons?" Robin asked.

"I don't know, Robin," the giant replied, feeling deflated. With heavy hearts Little John and Marion guided Robin back to the camp. They saddled the horses then rode off. The day was bright and warm, the sky clear and blue. A beautiful day to be sure. But only

Robin seemed to appreciate it. He hummed a pretty lullaby as the trio headed east.
 
 

From the shadows that lurked in darkness, Liesel watched them. She was delighted to see that her spell was back in full effect. Soon his legend would be shattered, and Robin would be blamed for the blood that stained the English soil after Lord Drake and Prince John slaughtered the Saxon people, and claimed the throne of King Richard for their own. Life was good, Liesel thought as she dispelled the image of Robin and his friends. The image of Winifred flashed before her now. "Robin Hood will pay, sister dear," Liesel whispered. Then she vanished into a haze of darkness.
 
 

Olwyn was in his chambers when Mortiana appeared before him. "What brings you here?" he demanded, but he was rather pleased to see the witch. They had been companions for over five hundred years, even though their loyalties were divided.

Mortiana glided over to the table in the corner and waved her hand over the flame of a single candle. From it emerged an image of a woman with red hair. "I thought you might find this interesting," Mortiana declared.

"Who is it?" Olwyn queried.

"Her name is Liesel," Mortiana replied. "Her sister, Winifred, was a witch. Robin destroyed her not too long ago."

Olwyn suddenly understood. "The spell," he whispered.

Mortiana nodded. "I know about Lord Drako," she said softly. "He must not be allowed to unite with Prince John."

"Why not?" Olwyn hissed. "You're his witch, yet you would see him betrayed?"

"I would not see England divided by greed," Mortiana shot back. "Nor ruled by foolish men."

Olwyn studied her, seeing proud disdain in her eyes and her manner. "Why do you linger in the darkness, Mortiana?" he beseeched. "There is goodness in you. Come join with me, and Robin Hood."

Mortiana threw back her head and laughed. "Do not insult me, Olwyn!" she drawled. "I am not a fool, and I do not join causes. I stand alone."

"Then why come here and tell me about Liesel?" Olwyn persisted.

"Because it amuses me to do so," Mortiana replied. Then she waved her hands and was gone.

Olwyn stared at the place where she had been, remembering how they had once worked together. But then he shook his head. Time was precious. He had to find Liesel and force the sorceress to remove her spell over Robin, before England became flooded by a river of blood.
 
 

Robin and his companions reached Glengarry Falls by midday. For all the good it did them. Robin slid off his horse and went chasing after a butterfly. He had no interest in the falls, or in the ring. Even after Little John caught Robin and sat him down, and he and Marion questioned the outlaw, Robin still didn't remember the ring. But he was interested in playing pirates and hunting for treasure.

Marion remembered what Robin had said about the ring being hidden somewhere inside the falls, and that they would have to swim to get to it. "Let's go down to the river," Marion suggested, exchanging glances with Little John. She was hoping that maybe seeing the Falls up close might trigger a memory in Robin. So, she took Robin's hand and they headed off.

Little John kept a close eye on his outlaw friend as Robin skipped rocks over the water. "He doesn't remember," Little John declared, heaving a sigh of frustration. He turned to Marion. "What do we do now?"

"I wish I knew," Marion replied. She echoed Little John's sigh then glanced skyward. "We have to rely on Olwyn and that he finds whoever put this spell on Robin and gets them to reverse it."

"We don't have much time," Little John pointed out. "Lord Drako will be close to Sherwood by now. Too close."

Marion nodded. "I know." She rubbed her eyes, then focused them back on Robin. Only he wasn't there. "Where's Robin?" Marion questioned, glaring at Little John.

The giant searched the river bank then shook his head. "I don't know." He began calling Robin's name, shouting at the top of his lungs. There was no reply.

"We have to find him!" Marion hissed. She turned in a slow circle, shading her eyes from the sun. But she saw nothing. No sign of Robin. But then, turning back towards the falls, Marion detected a motion. "It's ROBIN!" she shouted, grabbing Little John's arm. "Look...by the falls."

"What's he doing over there?" Little John wondered, even as he began running. But then he remembered what Robin had said about swimming beneath the falls to reach the caves. Maybe Robin remembered the ring.

Robin waved his hands as he saw Marion and Little John running towards him. "Hurry!" he bid them, as he resumed treading water. Robin watched them dive in and swim towards him. When they had reached him he offered a dimpled grin. "Follow me," Robin told them. "I found the pirate's lair." And, so saying, Robin dove under the water and swam off.

Little John and Marion exchanged glances, then followed.

Robin led the others through an underwater tunnel, then broke the surface inside a huge chamber. It was a beautiful place with stones that shimmered like frosted ice. But as they pulled themselves out of the water and Little John touched the stones, he realized that it was moisture that made them shimmer, and the they color was a part of the rock itself.

"Quartz," Robin whispered, in response to Little John's unasked question.

"How did you know that?" Marion beseeched, as she stared at Robin in amazement. She had the sudden hope that Olwyn had broken the spell and Robin had reverted back to adulthood. But her hope was short-lived when he scooped up an old, wooden, sword and waved it at her.

Robin advanced on Marion, sword in hand. It was a relic from his childhood and rotting away in pieces. But to his mind, it was a shining blade and Marion was a pirate Queen out to nab his treasure. "Stand fast!" Robin ordered, a wicked glint in his eyes.

Marion rolled her eyes. "Robin, put down the sword!" she ordered. "We don't have time for games."

"This isn't a game!" Robin shot back, and he was upset with her for spoiling his fun.

"Marion is right," Little John acknowledged. He came up behind Robin and relieved him of the toy sword, tossing it into the water.

Tears filled Robin's eyes as he watched the sword sink. "You bully!" he shouted, then he launched himself at Little John, tackling the giant at the knees.

Little John was unprepared for the attack, so he hit the ground with a thud, Robin lying on top of him. He grabbed the other man's wrists when Robin went to smack him with one fist. Then he rolled and pinned the smaller man beneath him, easily holding him while Robin struggled to break free. "Now what?" Little John asked Marion, who was standing over them, hands on hips.

"There's another opening to the left," Marion replied, pointing at it. "Let's try it and see where it leads. Maybe it's the chamber where Robin hid the ring."

"Righto," Little John replied. He rose to his feet, hauling Robin with him. The younger man was still struggling and Little John shook his head. "Sorry about this, Robin," he apologized in advance, before bending his knees and tossing his friend over one, broad, shoulder. When Robin squirmed and kicked, Little John smacked him on his backside.

Robin cried out in pain but stopped moving. He hung, limply, over Little John's shoulder as the giant carried him off. A pout clung to his lips, but no one could see it beneath the fall of his dark hair.

Marion led the way down the tunnel, but stopped when it branched off. "Which way?" she pondered outloud.

"Left," came the muffled reply, from Robin.

"Left," Marion repeated. She doubted that Robin was back to normal, but gestured for Little John to put him down anyway. She saw the pout on Robin's face and couldn't hold back a grin. He looked adorable. "Why left?" Marion asked as she tucked a wet lock of Robin's hair behind his ear.

He shrugged, still pouting. "Don't know," he mumbled. "Just wanna go left."

Little John locked eyes with Marion. "It can't hurt," he said.

"You're right," she allowed. "Left it is." Marion reached for Robin's hand. "You want to lead the way?" she asked him. Her reward was a dimpled grin that was brighter than the sun.

"This way!" Robin shouted, his voice echoing in air. He ran off but looked over his shoulder to make sure the others followed him. When he was sure that they were, Robin continued on. In a short time he reached another chamber. Smaller than the first and the walls seemed to glitter gold.

Marion was stunned. "It's beautiful," she whispered, as she gazed about in awe.

Little John nodded in agreement, but then he spotted something that gave him hope. It was a tarnished, silver goblet, such as the son of a Saxon lord might steal from the kitchen. And there was a spoon and what looked like the tattered remains of what had once been a fine, wool blanket. All things that would suggest that this was Robin's secret place from childhood. "Marion...look," Little John, beseeched, as he held up the goblet.

"This must be the place," Marion whispered, her eyes shining. Then she turned to speak to Robin to confirm, but once again, Robin was gone.

End of Chapter Five

Chapter One
 Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six

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