LIFE IS BUT A DREAM

By Shelly Quinn


Chapter Two

Marion sat beside Robin as he slept. She was worried that Little John might have hit him too hard, for he didn't stir at all. But Tuck assured her that Robin would awaken soon. She just wasn't sure she believed him. "What's wrong, Robin?" Marion whispered, knowing that he couldn't hear her, but needed to ask. Little John had explained to her how Robin had screamed her name and tried to run into the burning building. What she didn't understand was why he had thought she was in there. It didn't help when Tuck told them about Robin's nightmare the night before. Then Little John confessed to waking Robin when he had dozed off at lunch time. Marion didn't understand what it all meant. Was it connected? Was Robin hearing spirits again, as he was wont to do at times? Maybe Olwyn was involved somehow.

"Marion?" Robin whispered her name as he shifted on the bed, unaware that she was keeping watch over him.

"Robin...I'm here," she said softly, reaching out to touch his face.

Robin gasped and sat up with a jolt, instantly regretting it as pain lanced through his head. "What hit me?" he groaned, as his fingers brushed over the sore spot at the base of his skull.

Marion grimaced in sympathy. "Little John," she replied, then she quickly explained what had happened. "Robin...why did you think I was in the church?" Marion asked, when she had finished.

"I...I'm not sure," Robin replied, regretting the lie. But how could he explain something that he didn't understand himself. Just now, he had pulled himself out of another nightmare. A repeat of the first one where he was holding Marion in his arms and she was dead. Only this time blood stained her white gown and dripped from her hands.

"Are you hearing...spirits...again?" Marion prompted. "In your dreams...I mean."

Robin sighed, then moved to slide out of the bed. But he sat on the edge for a moment when dizziness washed over him. "I'm okay," he said softly, when he saw worried shadow Marion's face. But when he stood up Robin felt himself turn pale and his knees buckled.

Tuck and Little John entered just in time for the blond giant to help Marion ease Robin back to bed. Marion covered Robin up with the blanket then smoothed a lock of hair out of his eyes. "Take it easy," she beseeched him.

"Good advice," Tuck stated, as he moved to the side of the bed. He had a cup of herbal tea which he held out to Robin. "Drink this," he ordered, his tone of voice brooking no argument.

"No frogs in it?" Robin teased, as he accepted the cup and took a sip. He was remembering another time he had been hit on the head and the concoction the Friar had made him drink.

Tuck laughed, pleased that Robin was feeling up to making jokes. "No frogs, dead or otherwise," he promised. "Now drink up." Tuck reached out to tilt the cup to Robin's mouth to insure that the young man swallowed every drop. The tea contained special herbs that would make Robin sleep, without dreaming. "Good boy," Tuck commended him, when the cup was empty.

Robin grimaced. "Easy for you to say," he drawled. "That tastes terrible."

"You know what they say...if it tastes bad it must be good for you," Tuck countered. He fussed with the blankets for a moment, then grew serious. "Rest for a bit, Robin," he said softly. "We don't need to be on the road until morning. We've got plenty of time to reach Billingsley.

"That's right," Little John added. "Plenty of time. You rest and feel better, Robin. Oh....and I'm sorry I had to hit you." Little John felt terrible about that.

Robin smiled at the giant. "It's okay, my friend. I know I didn't give you any choice." Robin was willing to admit the truth, for he remembered how he had flipped out, desperate to reach Marion and oblivious to the searing heat of the flames. He'd be dead now if it weren't for Little John. "I owe you my life," Robin acknowledged now, in gratitude.

Little John patted Robin's shoulder. "I'm just glad I was there...to help," he replied. Then he looked over at Tuck who was gesturing for them all to leave. "Sleep well, Robin," Little John whispered, then he followed Tuck out the door.

"I'll be back," Marion promised, as she bent down to brush a kiss to Robin's forehead. She could see that his eyes were growing heavy and his breathing was starting to change. Sleep would soon claim him and she hoped it would help him to heal.

"Marion..." Robin whispered her name. He wanted to say more but darkness washed over him and he was swept away.
 
 
 
 

Outside of Robin's room, Tuck gathered the others about him. He felt that they needed to discuss their young friend and his current, emotional, status. "I believe that Robin might be seeing spirits again," the Friar declared, as he sat down on a stool. "Like he did Percy's ghost."

Little John frowned. "But...no one's died," he pointed out.

"True," Tuck conceded. "But I don't know what else to think."

"Maybe....maybe he's just a little stressed," Marion countered, hopefully. That's what she wanted to believe. She locked eyes with Tucked and willed him to accept what she was saying. "Robin is under so much pressure, all the time. We are a family in Sherwood, but he still leads alone. He's the one that makes all the decisions, and the one who feels guilty when things don't go as planned, and people die. He's been doing this for eleven years. It has to be taking its' toll."

Tuck sighed as he considered Marion's words. "You have a point," he allowed. For certain, he would not want to be in Robin's shoes. "Maybe it is stress."

Little John looked from Marion to Tuck then queried, "So what do we do? How do we help Robin?"

"I'm not sure," Marion replied. "But let's all of us keep a close eye on him. Don't let Robin out of your sight, no matter what," she cautioned. Marion didn't want a repeat of the Church scenario.

"Agreed," Tuck concurred, then he smiled. "It's getting late. We should all get some rest." He headed for the pallet laid out in the corner, and was followed by Little John.

Marion bid them goodnight then returned to the bedroom, to keep watch over Robin as she had promised him.
 
 

The herbs that Tuck had given Robin so that he would sleep without dreaming were very strong, but not foolproof, for dream Robin did. It was like the other dreams, only this time Marion was dancing in a field of wildflowers. Still dressed in white, her laughter floated in the summer breeze. Robin watched her and smiled. Then she turned and saw him, calling his name. They ran towards each other, then clasped hands, and turned circles. Robin then wrapped his arms around Marion's waist, lifting her and spinning around until they were both dizzy. Robin stopped and lowered her back to the ground, then Marion's arms wound around his neck and her lips were a whisper away from his. Then they kissed and time stood still.

A heartbeat later, Robin felt Marion slump in his arms. He looked down at her and saw that she was dead, but not a mark stained the purity of her gown or her skin. She was beautiful, but lifeless and Robin let go of her in horror. Then he felt wetness on his lips.

He touched his fingers to his mouth and they came away, stained crimson with blood. "NO!" he shouted. "MARION!"

"Robin..." Marion was by his side, her hands cupping his face to wake him from his dreams. She could feel him shaking and his breathing was labored.

But Robin was trapped in his nightmare. Darkness closed over him and he was alone, the echo of Marion's laughter taunting him. He screamed her name again then felt a stinging pain in his cheek. In that moment the darkness faded to light. Robin opened his eyes and saw Marion gazing at him, her eyes filled with fear. "You're...alive.." Robin whispered, one hand lifting to touch her face. Her skin was warm, but Robin shivered.

Marion blinked back tears. She had slapped Robin, hard, to bring him around, yet he still wasn't with her. Marion could sense that though his eyes were open, Robin was still trapped in the horror of his dream. And she knew that it was terrible for fear and pain were reflected in his velvet-brown gaze. "Of course I'm alive," Marion replied, as her fingers smoothed a lock of sable hair out of Robin's eyes.

"I thought....I..." Robin broke off, closing his eyes briefly then moving to slide out of bed.

"Robin.." Marion began, wanting him to lie down and rest but sensing that sleep would be impossible for him now. Besides which, it was just dawn and Tuck and Little John had gone to check on the horses, as well as the villagers. They would be on the road again soon.

Robin reached for his tunic, pulling it over his head and smoothing it down his chest with hands that still shook. He took a deep breath, then turned to face his friend. "Marion...I don't know what's going on...why I'm having these dreams." He saw that she as still worried for him and wished that he could allay her fears. But the most he could do was try to convince her that he was all right. Robin forced a smile as he reached for her hand. "Olwyn says that our dreams mean many things. Sometimes they remind us of the past, or are a vision of the future. And sometimes they're a warning.."

"A warning of what?" Marion interjected.

"I don't know," Robin replied, and it was the truth.

Marion wasn't willing to accept that. Not after seeing Robin's reaction to his nightmares. He had been terrified and she wanted to know why. Even now, he was still pale, although his trembling had eased. "What did you see in your dreams, Robin?" she challenged.

He swallowed hard, then lied. "I don't remember." Robin couldn't tell her the truth. Couldn't bear to say the words out loud. He glanced out the window. "We should go."

"You have to eat something first," Marion countered, her tone brooking no argument. If Robin wouldn't sleep, he would at least keep his strength up by eating. And Tuck had found them some bread and cheese.

"All right," Robin conceded, feeling as if he owed Marion this much. So he followed her out into the other room and accepted a chunk of cheese and a hunk of bread. He took a bite then headed for the door. "Let's find the others," Robin declared, after swallowing.

Marion nodded. At this point, she was more than happy to leave this place and the memory of Robin's near death. She proceeded him out of the cottage and they strode towards the stables as the sky shaded from pale gray to gold.
 
 

As they rode on to Billingsley, Robin was aware that his friends kept a close watch on him. Even when nature called, Little John seemed to have to go as well. Robin was a bit irritated by it all, but didn't complain. He knew that his friends were worried about him, and he couldn't them for that. So he bore the smothering without a sound.

The day passed by without mishap. That night they bedded down beneath the stars, laying out their bedrolls around a campfire in a small grove in the woods. Robin was reluctant to close his eyes, even though his body fairly hummed with exhaustion.

Tuck knew what Robin was thinking so he brought him a mug of steaming tea. "I put in some herbs that will help you to sleep, Robin. Stronger than the ones I gave you last night. I'm certain that you won't dream."

"Ahhhh...but will I awake up in the morning?" Robin teased, even as he accepted the mug. He wanted to sleep, and he had faith in the Friar.

"You might be groggy, but awaken you will," Tuck promised with a laugh. "Drink it all," he ordered, as he watched Robin put the mug to his lips.

Robin did as he was bid, then handed back the cup. Already he was feeling a warm lethargy spreading through his limbs. "Works....fast..." he whispered, as his eyelids fluttered closed.

Tuck smiled and pulled a blanket over Robin who was now curled on his side, head resting on his arm. "Goodnight, my friend," he said softly. Then he gestured for the others to lie down as well. They were all in need of a good night's sleep.

Several hours passed when Robin heard a voice whisper his name. He sat up, heart pounding, but no images danced in his head. There was only the voice. A woman's voice, soft as a melody. Tossing back the blanket that covered him, Robin rose to his feet silent as a shadow. His sword lay beside him and he reached for it before stepping away from the fire and his slumbering friends.

Robin ran deeper into the woods, guided by the voice in his head, his way lighted by the silvery moon up above. He was in the heart of the forest and the voice faded away leaving only the sounds of creatures stirring...familiar sounds. Robin sighed and rubbed his eyes, wondering if perhaps if Tuck and the others weren't right in believing that he was going mad. At this point, Robin almost wished that Percy's ghost would return. At least that had been real enough. So to speak.

"What does it all mean, Olwyn?" Robin questioned, as he lifted his eyes to the black velvet sky, which glittered with diamond-like stars. It was more or less a rhetorical question and Robin wasn't expecting an answer, but he did hear a sound that made him whirl around.

Standing before him was a huge, silver-gray wolfhound. Female. Her eyes glowed with an incandescent light and her teeth were bared as she snarled at him. Swallowing hard against the sudden dryness in his throat, Robin slowly reached for his sword. He pulled it from the sheath on his back, but in that moment the voice that had led him to this place echoed in his head.

"I will not hurt you, Robin Hood," it said.

"What?" Robin hissed, for in that moment he realized that the voice came from the wolfhound. "H-how?" he stammered, the sword dropping from nerveless fingers to thud on the ground. Robin was stunned but, surprisingly, not frightened.

The wolfhound moved closer. Her teeth no longer bared but her eyes still glowed. "How doesn't really matter, does it, Robin?" she said, amusement coloring the dulcet tone. She did not speak with actual words and sound coming from her canine lips. She spoke in Robin's head.

He closed his eyes as if doing so would prove that the wolfhound was just an image Robin could make disappear, but when he opened his eyes he discovered that she had moved even closer. Close enough that he could reach out and touch her soft fur. Which he did without even realizing it. Robin gasped as he pressed his palm to the animal’s side and felt the lungs expanding. "You're real...." he breathed.

"I am," the wolfhound allowed.

"No...this can't be real," Robin challenged, shaking his head.

The Wolfhound laughed. "Do you believe that it's real?' she countered.

Robin felt his heart pounding in his chest but still had his doubts. "Maybe....maybe I'm dreaming..." he whispered. Seemed likely enough given the past few days.

"Life is but a dream, Robin Hood," the wolfhound drawled.

"How do you know me," Robin questioned, feeling a wave of dizziness wash over him but he locked his knees till it had passed.

The wolfhound trotted over to a fallen log. "Come sit, Robin," she invited. "And I will tell you a story. A story of a young man who was a symbol of hope for a world in need of a hero."

Robin sat down but felt shook his head. "You called me out here to tell me stories?" he challenged. At this point, he was more than halfway convinced he truly had gone mad.

"I am here to guide you to the truth, Robin," the wolfhound replied. She moved to sit before him, her eyes locking with his in a way that she knew would unsettle him, yet she was pleased when he did not look away. "Robin Hood is the symbol of freedom to a people who are enslaved by the tyranny of a greedy Prince, and the dark forces who wish to claim our world."

"Tell me something I don't know," Robin drawled, heaving a weary sigh.

The wolfhound laughed. "But it is a heavy burden. You are more than a symbol, Robin. You are a man with a man's weaknesses...in balance to your strengths. For just as there can be no day without night, there can be no strength without weakness."

Robin grimaced. "Why are you telling me all of this?" he beseeched. "What's the point? What does it mean. And...what do you know of my dreams? Somehow, he sensed that she was a part of them, but he couldn't guess how.

"Early in life you learned an important lesson," the wolfhound replied. "That if a man cannot believe in himself, then he has no reason to live. But your life has far more value...more worth...than you realize, Robin. You would willingly die to save the lives of your friends, and the lives of those innocents who cannot defend themselves. But you must be willing to live for them as well. For the people of England...both present and future. Without you, Robin, there is no hope for the future."

"I still don't understand what it is you're trying to tell me," Robin confessed. "Does this have to do with my dreams?"

The wolfhound rose to her feet, head lifting to listen to the nightsounds. Only then did she answered him. "You see Marion's death," she said softly.

Robin nodded. "Yes. Tell me...why?"

"I can not answer your questions, Robin," Said the wolfhound, regret coloring her voice. "You must find the answers you seek within the choices that you make. Choose wisely, Robin Hood. The fate of England rests in your heart...and in your hands."
 
 

Little John came awake with a start. He wasn't certain what had awakened him, but the first thing he did was to check on Robin. When he realized that his friend was missing, he let out a shout that startled the others.

Marion was on her feet, sword in hand, before she realized that Little John was pointing to Robin's bed roll. "He's gone!" she shouted, reaching out to haul Tuck to his feet. "We have to find Robin."

"Let's hurry," Tuck suggested, signaling for Little John to lead the way. The giant would be able to track Robin down. Tuck only hoped that they wouldn't be too late.
 
 

Robin was about to question the wolfhound about her cryptic statement, when he heard his name being shouted. "Marion..." he whispered. And the echoes were Tuck and Little John. Robin jumped to his feet and cupped his hands to his mouth. "Over here!" he shouted back, wanting them to find him so that he could prove that he wasn't crazy. "You can tell them what you told me," Robin said, turning to face the Wolfhound. But she was gone. "Great.." Robin sighed as he combed his fingers through his hair. If he told his friends why he had come out into the woods in the middle of the night without the wolfhound as proof of his tale, then they would send him to a madhouse. But a smile curved Robin's lips as he waited for his friends to arrive. No matter what they believed, he now knew the truth. He just didn't understand it...yet.

End of Chapter Two

Chapter One
 Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four

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