By Virginia Cavazos
Little John was standing by a flowing river. He patted his horse’s neck, as it drank from the cool fast waters. Looking up into the blue sky, he took in a deep breath. He had been searching for Dukesburys men for most of the night. It was not until morning that he caught up with Marion and the others. Marion was squatting by the waters edge. Dipping her hand into the cool waters, she splashed some on herself. She used it to clean her eyes of the morning sand.
"Where do you think Robin is?" Little John asked Marion.
Marion stood up. Running her wet hands through her long brown hair, she shrugged her shoulders in reply. "I don’t know Little John. Back at camp?"
"That’s where I’d like to be. I’m hungry!" Little John moaned.
Tuck patted Little John on the back. "After we catch up with Robin, I’ll whip up some of my famous scrambled eggs."
Little John closed his eyes. He smacked his lips, as he could almost smell the eggs now. His stomach rumbled at the recollection. Kemal clutched at some grass. Handing it to Little John, he said with a chuckle.
"Here Little John, have some of this. Your horse loves it."
Pushing Kemal’s hand back, he growled. "I’m hungry, but not that hungry!"
Noticing that his horse was finished drinking, Little John mounted the large stallion. "Well, let’s go and find Robin," he insisted.
Tuck pulled himself onto his steed. "What’s the hurry Little John?" he asked, as he settled into his saddle.
"I want to get back to camp as fast as we can, that grass is starting to look good to me!" Little John chuckled. The others followed his lead. As they rode on a small-unused road, Little John searched into the distance. He pointed towards the west.
"I think I see another fire." He called out to his companions. Marion stopped her mare next to Little John. Her eyes squinted, as she tried to make out where the smoke came from.
"Tuck, is there a town in that direction?"
Tuck pulled out his leather skin map. Examining it, he shook his head. "No Marion, I don’t see one. The only thing in that direction is the Castle Richardsons."
As Tuck was putting his map away, he heard Little John cry out.
They quickly split up, heading into the forest. Hiding behind the foliage, they waited.
Nick was having a hard time holding on to his horse, as it galloped down the road. But he had to hurry, he just had to find Robin Hoods friends soon. He bounced up in the saddle. It was just to big for him. As he rode on, something burst from the dark forest. He was suddenly surrounded by three men and a woman. One of the men, a tall blonde grabbed at the reins of his horse. Pulling on them, he brought the horse to a halt. The large man wrapped his arm around Nick. Lifting him bodily from the saddle, he placed the small boy in front of him. Nick kicked and screamed all the way.
"Leave me alone, or I’ll tell Robin Hood. He’s my friend!" Nick opened his mouth, to bite into the arm that held him.
"Ow!" Little John yelled out. He shook his hand, releasing Nick. Nick fell to the ground. He pulled out his bow and arrow. Cocking it, he said in a threatening voice.
"Leave me alone and no one gets hurt."
Little John jumped off his steed. He placed his hands palm up, to show he held no weapons. "Now, now, were not going to hurt you son."
"My names Nick!" he announced.
Marion came at Nick from the other side. "That’s a nice name Nick," she said in a soothing voice. "You said you were friends with Robin Hood?" Nick slowly nodded his head, keeping the arrow cocked. "Yep, he’s my friend. I’m suppose to find his friends, because of the marauders storming the castle. He’s there with my brother and father."
Tuck warmly laughed. "Sounds like Robin to me. Out of our sight for one day and already he’s protecting a castle from invaders."
Nicks eyes went wide as he looked more closely at the strangers.
"You’re a friar!" Nick exclaimed.
"Yes my son. Tuck is the name." Tuck gave Nick his most benevolent smile. Nick pointed at Little John. "And you’re Little John. I saw you at the Game of Death." Nick looked curiously at Marion. "Are you Marion? You look different."
Marion cryptically smiled. "My hair was more curly then."
"Ohh." Nick said. He then eyed Kemal. He had never seen a dark man before. His father had told him of such men. Kemal bowed his head to the small boy.
"I am called Kemal, little one."
Nick returned the bow. " I am Nicholas Richard’s."
Marion slowly walked up to the boy. He brought his bow down. He let out a relieved sigh, he had found Robins friends. "Where is Robin?" Marion asked the boy.
Nick ran to his horse. Kemal was holding it for him.
"We have to hurry. The fighting’s just starting." Nick then tried to mount. Kemal had to help him up, on the large horse, he nodded a thanks.
"Well come on." He tried to hurry them. "We’re going to miss all the fun." Little John gave out a hearty laugh, as he mounted. "I’m starting to like this boy."
Nick spurred his horse. "Hurry, we have to sneak in before Dukesbury’s men find out I went to get you." Nick then galloped down the road.
The others quickly mounted. "Not only is Robin protecting a Castle, its
against Lord Dukesbury. Must be that Locksley luck!" Marion laughed, as she
followed Nick. Tuck looked concerned at Kemal.
"Let’s hope its good luck for Robin." Kemal nodded his agreement. Quickly they tried to catch up with Nick and Little John.
Lord Dukesbury entered Richardsons Castle. He found it to be in terrible shape. It would take him a long time to make it livable.
"See Milord. It’s just like I told you." MacGruder groveled at Dukesburys side. Dukesbury walked up to Robin. It took four men to hold him still.
"So, this is the Great Robin Hood."
Standing up straight, Robin grinned down at the Lord. For he was a small man. Shorter than Tuck. Robin laughed out loud.
"So, you are Lord Dukesbury. Why is it the smaller the man, the more he wants?" Robin eyed the lower extremities of the diminutive Lord.
Realizing the blatant disrespect, Dukesbury pulled his hand back and
slapped Robin across the face. A cocky grin blossomed on his bruised face.
"I’m sorry, was that suppose to hurt?" This infuriated the diminutive Lord even more. He spun around on his heels.
"Tell me MacGruder. What was it you heard about Robin Hood’s men?"
MacGruder slunk to the Lords side. "I heard Robin telling the two boys to go find his friends and bring them back to the castle milord."
Dukesbury then slowly spun around to look at Robin. An evil grin set on his face. "Sooo, your men are coming here," he purred. "I think we should have a nice welcome for them, don’t you?" Robins grin fell, as he realized that his friends were going to be walking into a trap. He pulled harder at the guards that held him. They only gripped him tighter.
Finished, for now, in torturing Robin, Dukesbury turned his attention to Richard’s. He recalled knowing the Knight when he was a boy.
"Sir Ian, do you remember me?" Dukesbury asked the ailing man.
Ian gazed down at the Lord. "I’m sorry Captain. Do you have any orders for me?" At first the young Lord looked puzzled. Then he had a look of revelation.
"Yes I do soldier, yes I do. We are going to have some very special visitors coming here."
Ian pointed at the campfire. "You mean here in camp?" he asked the captain. The lord nodded. "Yes, here in camp. I want you to great them. They’re guests from England. They came to the crusades to greet King Richard. I need you to welcome them. Think you can do that?"
Ian stood up straight, saluting the Captain. "It would be my pleasure sir. Let me dress for the occasion."
"But you are dressed," Dukesbury informed him.
Ian looked down, he saw that he was formerly dressed.
"Then where shall I meet them sir?"
Dukesbury pointed to the center of the courtyard. "Why out there, on the parade ground, of course."
"Ian don’t listen to him!" Robin called out. One of the men slapped Robin in the back of the head. "You shut up!" he yelled at him.
Ian gazed at Robin. He saw the man that King Richard had sent to him, being held prisoner. He struggled to remember his name.
"Please father, don’t listen to that man!" Eric tried to appeal to him.
"I want them silenced." Dukesbury ordered his men. One of the men that held Eric pulled out a rag, he stuffed it in his mouth, pulling it tight to quiet him. The same was done to Robin, but it took the men that held him a little longer to gag him. When they were done. Two men were gripping themselves in pain where Robin had managed to kick them. They would be hurting there for sometime.
Dukesbury ordered the men to bring Robin outside of the castle. They dragged him out into the courtyard. The Lord searched around for an ideal spot. Finding one, he ordered his men where to place Robin.
"That looks like a great spot to view your men’s death, oh and woman’s too. The fair Marion," Dukesbury sighed.
Robin pulled and tugged at his escort, as they dragged him to where the Lord had pointed out. He struggled to break the hold they had on him. One slammed the hilt of his sword in Robin’s side. He doubled over in pain, as he hit him near the broken rib. The pain was excruciating. He squeezed his eyes tight, fighting off the nausea he was feeling, distantly he heard the Lord order a man to keep a watch for his men.
Opening his eyes, he saw Ian was standing in the middle of the courtyard. He was calmly waiting for the special visitors. He did not see the Lord placing men around the courtyard. They hid in the shadows, waiting for Robin’s people to arrive. Robin groaned in frustration, when Marion and the others entered though the hole, they would be walking into an ambush.
Robin moaned as he again tried to break the hold. Hearing him, Ian turned to find where the sound came from.
"Look at the man!" Ian heard Clarence exclaim.
"What’s wrong Clarence? You jealous because I was the one picked to greet the visitors."
Ian saw Jack standing next to him. "Ian," Jack sadly said. "Look into that brave mans eyes and tell me what you see?"
"All right Jack." Ian relinquished. He could never refuse his friends. Besides, the visitors would be coming soon.
Ian gazed into Robin’s eyes. He saw his brows were knit in pain. Something that Ian saw many a time in battle. He searched deeper into Robin’s dark eyes. They did look familiar. He could see a deep hurt in them.
As he stared at him, it suddenly came to him. He had seen that look before. It was the same look he saw many times in the mirror. That same look he saw that fateful day.
The day he lived over and over again..........
With his friends.........
Back in the crusades...................
>===> >===> >===> >===>
"Where you going Ian?" Jack called out.
"On a special mission!" Ian returned. He was just packing his horse for a short reconnaissance. "I’m going ahead with Ahmed. We’ll send the okay for the others."
Jack patted Ian on the back. "Great! I’ll let Clarence know."
Ian pulled himself on his battle horse. "We’ll be back in camp tonight, complaining about the cooking."
"I like the food," Jack smiled up at Ian.
"You’ll eat a horse, if it’s cooked right!" Ian laughed.
"Only if there is some good ale with it," Jack returned.
Ian spurred his horse on. It started off as such a good day. The sun was shinning brightly. There was not a cloud in sight. He could not have possibly thought it would end so deadly.
Ahmed led the way. He was very well paid to track for the English Knights. Ian trusted the man with his life. They had fought many battles together.
Ahmed stopped his stead, he hesitated near an outcropping. Suddenly he dismounted. Ian quickly rode up to where Ahmed was stooping down, examining the ground. He seemed to be searching for something on the road.
"What’s wrong Ahmed?" Ian asked. Ahmed looked up at the brave Knight.
"I am sorry Affendi, for what is about to happen."
Ian let out a gasp, as he felt hands grabbing him from behind. They pulled him off his horse. They tied his hands behind his back, then gagged him. Ahmed talked over to some of the men that now surrounded them. Ian was held fast, as they spoke. When they were finished, one man rode off, Ahmed walked over to Ian.
"Your men will be coming here soon. We will wait for them. When they are in position, my men will kill the invading Englishmen." Ian looked wide-eyed at Ahmed, he let out a groan of protest.
"You are the invaders here my friend. This is our land. This is war. We do what we must to win."
Ahmed then ordered his men to hide in the rocks. They were in a boxed canyon. None of Ian’s men knew this area. He knew it would be a slaughter. Ahmed held Ian close to him.
From a distance the English Knights would not know he was his prisoner. Not until it was to late. Ian pulled at his bonds. Somehow, he had to warn his men. The ropes proved to be to strong. He couldn’t break loose.
Ahmed waited for the crusaders to enter the small canyon. It was hours later the sound of the horse’s hooves clopped on the solid rock.
Soon the Knights would be there. Standing near the end of a bend in the canyon, Ahmed knew, by the time, they saw him, it would be to late. Ian moaned out loud. Ahmed poked him in the back to silence him. Then Ian saw his men. They were coming around the bend.
Clarence and Mark saw Ian standing next to Ahmed. Ahmed made the signal for the all clear. Mark waved his men on.
Ahmed smiled in joy. Today would be a great victory for his people. He waited until all of the soldiers entered the canyon. Ahmed then whooped out! His men came pouring out into the canyon. The English Knights were taken by surprise. Ian tried to run to his men, but Ahmed held onto him. He saw his men slaughtered in front of him. His eyes knit in pain, as he was unable to help them.
He grimaced in agony, as he saw Mark killed before his eyes. A sword pierced his heart. Clarence put up a good fight. It took five men to defeat him. In the end, he was also killed. All his men slaughtered before him, and he could do nothing to save them. Ahmed held him tight, he forced him to watch the slaughter. When he wanted to turn away, Ahmed gripped him tighter. He would not release him until all his men were dead. When the last man was killed, only then did Ahmed cut Ian’s bonds.
As Ian removed the gag, he choked, "Why? Why did you let me live?"
"Yours is a worse fate Affendi. You will have to live with the fact, that your men died thanks to you." Ahmed left Ian with his men. He ordered his men no to touch the last Knight.
Ian ran to his men. He kneeled next to Mark. His dead eyes staring up into the sky.
"I’m sorry Mark," he whispered. "There was nothing I could do." He looked at Clarence’s accusing look.
"My fault," he whispered, "I should have helped, it was my fault."
Witnessing the mass destruction that day, and unable to go down fighting with his fellow companions snapped Ian’s mind.
From that day forward, he never left that battlefield. He would relive it every day, each time it would end with the death of his friends. His head slowly turned, to glance at a shield. He saw a sad pair of eyes staring back at him.
The deep pain.......
Robin now had that same look. It was going to happen again! ‘NO!’ Ian thought, as he grabbed for his sword. Not if he could help it!
End of Chapter Nine
Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter
Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five
Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten
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