By Lisa A. Prusok
How far do you think we have come?" Little John asked Robin.
"I don’t quite know Little John. It’s the farthest out of Sherwood that I have ever been," Robin said smiling at his large friend.
The two men had been riding for what seemed an endless time.
"Do you think that the stories are true?" Little John asked.
Robin looked next to him, where Little John was riding, "You know John, there are so many strange and wonderful things in this world. I will let my eyes tell me if the story about giant wild animals is true."
"They say that rabbits get to be as big as a fox. And the foxes are as big as wolves!" John told Robin in wide-eyed wonder.
Robin laughed, "We will just have to see when we get further up the mountain. If it is true, then we will have food for the entire camp for the entire winter," he said as he unconsciously pulled his hooded cloak tighter around his neck.
The farther up the mountain they went, the colder it became. At the top, the tallest peaks were snow covered.
"I just hope that we brought enough warm clothes and blankets with us," Robin said with a slight shiver.
It was John’s turn to laugh, "You’re just a little thin skinned Robin, I don’t feel the least bit cold," he beamed.
Robin scrunched up his nose at John, "You always have been a little more hot blooded than I, and I don’t just mean under your skin," Robin said smirking.
It took him a minute, but John understood what Robin meant. "Hey!" he said as he took a swipe at Robin.
"You see what I mean!" Robin laughed as he ducked under the large arm. Using his heels, Robin nudged his horse into a gallop.
Robin loved these hunting trips with just John and himself. He felt closer to John than he could have felt to a brother. Although at times he did feel a little resentment when he stood next to the man. Robin was a good 6’1" tall, yet when next to John, he felt like a little kid. John was almost a foot taller than he and much broader. The width was all muscle and Robin had a very secure feeling when he was with the man. He was his best friend and his protector.
Robin galloped through the forest on the almost forgotten trail. John did not have a chance against him when it came to a horse race. So Robin was way out in front. He held his head high and let the wind whip through his shoulder length chestnut colored hair. The thick tresses were swept behind him as he raced with the wind.
Suddenly a call of help reached his ears. Robin pulled hard on the reins. His horse didn’t want to stop, so it let its master know by rearing up on its hind legs.
This did not phase Robin. He just used his thigh muscles to clamp down harder against his horses sides. He stayed perfectly balanced on the horse as he looked from side to side to try to hear where the cry had come from.
Then he heard it again along with the distinct sound of wolves. He urged his horse toward the sound. Robin was off to the rescue. As he neared the sound, he looked to the side of the path down an embankment. Up ahead he could see a pack of the largest wolves he had ever seen circling the figure of a woman. She had her back up against a tree and was trying to shoo them away with a large leafy branch.
Robin stopped his horse and slid from the saddle. He pulled his bow and quiver of arrows from the side of his saddle. With true aim, he began firing.
Yelps could be heard as his arrow hit their targets. When the pack had thinned to only four, Robin ran down the embankment with his sword in hand and yelling at the top of his lungs.
"AHHHHHHHHH!" he yelled trying to scare the rest away.
The remaining wolves did not want to leave their prey. As Robin neared, they turned their attention to him. Not one at a time, but three at once came at Robin. He slashed his sword at the wolves. Pleased when one of them yelped as it was cut through the fur. But there were just too many legs and razor sharp teeth coming at him at one time.
Robin was knocked to the ground and one wolf sunk its teeth into his right arm in a vise like grip. Robin could not hold back a scream of pain. He grabbed his sword in his left hand and continued swinging. After a few moments he was finally able to kill two of them. The third kept its hold on his arm. Robin could feel warm liquid coating his entire arm as he shoved the tip of his sword deep into the animal. As the sword sunk deeper, Robin felt the pressure easing off of his arm. Then the wolf dropped to the forest floor, dead.
Robin got up. He was out of breath and cradled his wounded arm close to his stomach. The woman he had come to save was curled up at the base of the tree. Robin could see her shoulders shaking as she sobbed into her hands.
Before Robin could reach the woman, he heard Little John coming down the embankment. Turning around, he saw John approaching with knife in hand.
"You missed all of the fun Little John," Robin said trying to smile through the pain.
"Are you okay?" John asked concerned as he approached.
Robin looked down at his arm, "This? It’s just a scratch," he said trying to make light of the wound that he knew was serious. His injured arm was not only covered in his blood, but so was the arm that held it, and the front of his tunic. The blood now dripped down the front of his pants to stop either on his boots or the ground.
"John will you see if she is all right?" Robin motioned with his head to the woman on the ground.
John walked over and knelt next to her. He gently lifted her shoulders from the ground and propped her against the tree.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
The woman just looked at him. She was a little dazed, "I think I am. Who are you? I don’t remember seeing you before."
John stood up next to Robin who had come over and was standing there. "We come from a place a long way from here. We were just out hunting. My name is John and this is Robin."
Robin began to feel light headed. He leaned heavily against Little John for support.
The woman’s eyes went from John to the other man. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she screamed, "NO!"
Before either Robin or Little John could figure out what she was screaming about, the world for both of them went black.
Their bodies settled to the forest floor and lay still.
Little John had no idea what day it was, what time it was, or where he was. He slowly awakened with a heaviness and pain in his neck and head. His body lay on the softest surface he thought that he had ever felt. His head was propped up just slightly on a pillow that felt like a cloud. Thick, puffy blankets covered his long frame. He opened his eyes and looked around the room. It was filled with furs, beautifully carved mahogany furniture and a roaring fire in the hearth. John was a little bit surprise when he looked down to his feet. The bed was at least a foot longer than he was. He had never slept in a bed that fit him.
At this point, John did not want to question where he was. He just snuggled down into the bed and turned on to his right side. With a smile on his face he looked across to the other side of the gigantic bed. He took note that there was another body on the other side. Just then, realization sunk in, "Robin!" he gasped.
Robin was tucked in just as John had been. His face was almost as white as the pillow his head lay on. Robin’s right arm was wrapped in a huge bandage and lay across his stomach in a sling. Yet he didn’t make a move. John could see that he was breathing evenly and slowly. He let out a breath of relief himself.
The other side of the bed was so far from where he was, that John had to get out of bed to go his friend’s side. When he sat up, he found that his clothes were gone and he was in a thick cotton night shirt that fell just below his knees. It was a little big, but the fit was other wise good. It felt good against his skin as he stood up.
The stone floor was cold against his bare feet and he wished he had his boots. Looking down at his feet, he noticed a pair of wool lined soft suede shoes, sort of, on the floor next to the bed. There was no hard sole to them. He sat down and slipped them on his feet. His feet now felt like he did when he snuggled in the bed. John didn’t know where he was, but he liked the accommodations.
John hurried to the other side of the bed and Robin. He sat down on the side of the bed. Robin looked so pale, but peaceful. John reached over and smoothed his hair back from his forehead. His skin was very hot to his touch. John knew that he was running a fever. He began to look around the room for water. He wanted to cool Robin’s head with it. Before he could get up, the huge oak door opened.
"What are you doing out of bed?" the woman asked in an accent that John had not heard before.
"I was just checking on my friend. He is running a fever. I need to help him."
"I know all about his fever. You get back into bed and I will tend to him," she ordered sternly.
John just looked at the woman. She was very, very large. Not over weight, just big, as in tall and really big boned. Her hair was gray and twisted up behind her in a bun. Her face was wrinkled and kind. Rosy cheeks and sparkling blue eyes told John that neither he or Robin was in any danger. The woman had a cross look on her face, but he knew that she was not really mad.
John could not help smiling at her, "Yes ma’am I’m going," he said as he got up. As he walked around to his side, he asked, "What is your name?"
"I am called Helga. Now you get under the covers. It is going to be a cold night."
"Where are we?" John asked as he shoved his legs under the wonderful warmth of the bed.
"You are in the castle of the King of Acarnia. I am wife to Olaf and servant to His Majesty King Dirk and Her Majesty Queen Clover."
"I’ve never heard of Acarnia."
"Where do you come from young man?"
"I live in a place called Sherwood forest."
"Well young man, I have never heard of Sherwood forest," she said smiling.
"Point taken," he said blushing a little.
"What are your names?" she asked as she placed a cool cloth on Robin’s forehead.
John figured that since she had never heard of Sherwood, there was a really good chance she had no idea who Robin was. "My name is John Little, my friends call me Little John. His name is Robin Hood," he said then looked to her eyes for any sign of recognition. There was none.
"Why do they call you Little John?" she asked as her brow wrinkled a little.
"It’s because of my size. I’m so much bigger than everyone else," he said with a chuckle.
Helga started to laugh. It was a jolly, full, wonderfully happy laugh.
John’s brow wrinkled this time. "Why are you laughing so hard, it’s not that funny."
Helga wiped a tear of joy that had fallen from her eye, "Oh John! When you see the rest of the people, you will think it funny too. For instance, the night shirt you wear is my son’s..." she paused as she started to laugh again. "...From when he was just 11 years old," she finished laughing even harder.
John looked down at himself. He himself had commented that it was a little too big, "How old is your son now?" he asked not really sure if he wanted to know the answer.
"He is now 25 years old," she snickered. "You will meet him. He is the small one in the family," she snickered more.
John’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. He was not sure he wanted to meet him. "Is he a kind man?"
"He has a heart of gold. Just like his father. Are you married John?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
"No I’m not."
"Did his mother die?" she asked indicating Robin.
"Yes, his mother died when he was born."
"I’m so sorry for your loss," she told him with sad eyes.
"Why do you tell me. My mother isn’t dead," he said confused.
"You mean that you are not his father?" she asked again indicating Robin.
"No! Robin is the same age as me!"
"But he is so little. I thought for sure that he must be your boy."
John laughed, "He’s a grown man! He’s 28 years old!"
"Well then, is there any girl that is special to you?"
John narrowed his eyes a little, "No." he told her with hesitation.
Helga clapped her hands together, "That’s wonderful! I think that you would like my daughter Heidi. She is a wonderful girl. She and her brother Gunter are very close. She too has a heart of gold."
John let his chin fall to his chest. So that’s what she was getting at. He looked up, "I am not really at a point in my life that I am looking for a wife. I have other things that are more important right now."
"Every man needs a wife to take care of them. To cook, sew, and keep them warm at night."
John blushed a little. "I...I..." he could only stutter.
"You can meet her and make up your own mind," she smiled warmly at him.
Before John could say anything else, Robin moaned and moved his head.
End of Chapter One
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