Lying there, half unconscious, Robin realized he was becoming weaker from all the blood he lost. He knew he had to do something soon, or it would be too late to escape. Quickly, he recalled the conversation he had overheard the guards having, concerning not killing him. Remembering, he wondered why the Captain might have need of him. No! It was Jacobi the Captain wanted! What need could a Captain of Prince John's guard have of a known murderer? Could it be a repeat of the last time Robin had encountered Jacobi, when Warden Brice assisted six convicts to escape, ultimately planning for those convicts to rob FOR him? Robin remembered Brice had planned to take them all to France. But Brice was dead!
What Robin found most disturbing, was the fact he had been sure Jacobi was dead. Yet, he mused, he had been in a hurry. The other five convicts had returned too quickly for Robin to double check, and make sure Jacobi was dead. What if the man lived? He also hated being confused with Jacobi. That last time, Robin had impersonated the convict willingly. This time, he wasn't as willing. But the only other option, was to declare himself as Robin Hood, the most wanted man in all of England. That, he decided, was not exactly the answer either. No matter, he would have to play this out again. He had to ALLOW himself to be recaptured, and hope for another chance to escape, after he found out what was really happening.
"Thanks, Olwyn." Robin muttered, realizing this was probably what the old sage had meant by "instincts". Oh well, at least he knew he was supposed to be kept alive. Sighing because of what he knew must be done, Robin reached over and untied the rough bandage from his arm. Raising his other good arm, he clenched his fist, gritted his teeth against the pain he knew would follow, and slammed his fist down, directly into the wound. An involuntary moan escaped his whitened lips, and the blood again began to flow freely. After smearing it down his arm to make the wound look even worse than it was, he wiped the excess off his hand, right on the corner of his mouth.
Hopefully, the soldiers would think he was really in horrible shape, and that this would lessen their wrath when they finally caught up to him. He slid his body a little to the left, and lay his head down against a pile of nearby rocks, waiting for the soldiers. "This had better work, or I'm a dead man," Robin told himself as he closed his eyes, and pretending to be unconscious. It seemed an eternity before the soldiers charged through the trees. Robin lay very still, h is arm still throbbing in time to the beat of his heart.
"Over here," one of the soldiers shouted, and soon they were gathered around him. One of the smaller soldiers kicked Robin hard in the ribs, but Robin bit down on the inside of his lip, and refused to show any reaction.
"Is he dead?" He heard one of the men ask.
The smaller soldier dropped to his knees, placing his ear on Robin's chest. "No. His heart still beats."
"Thank God - you two men, pick him up and put him over the black stallion. We'll bring him to the Captain. He'll know what to do"
Carefully, the two younger soldiers lifted the limp Robin from the forest floor and carried him to the horse, draping him across the front of the saddle. The smallest of the men swung up in the saddle behind Robin, placing one hand on his back, holding him in place. Attempting to make up for lost time, the soldiers urged their horses forward, first into a canter, then into a gallop.
To Robin, the incredibly rough ride was the final straw. Slowly, he let himself succumb to the waiting darkness.
Marion ate her breakfast slowly, waiting for Robin to finish bathing and dressing. She looked up, and through the bright rays of sun, could see Robin crossing the compound, wearing the royal blue tunic she had seen him in a thousand times. He went to the cook tent and a few minutes later emerged with a large plate of food.
"I see you are feeling better," Marion stated, looking at Robin's overflowing plate, trying to act as casually as possible.
As he placed the plate down on the table at the far end from where Marion was sitting, again she examined his right forearm and confirmed what she suspected she saw earlier. It was completely void of any distinguishing marks. It was at that precise moment that Marion decided to keep this knowledge to herself, and not inform Friar Tuck or Little John of her discovery. She was going to find out, for herself, just who this man was, and what he had done with Robin!
He looked up from his plate directly into Marion's eyes, and mumbled something about being hungry, then sat down and began to devour everything in front of him, as if he hadn't eaten a good meal in some time. As he looked up again at Marion, she found it amazing that two people could look that identical. But looks was where it ended. Once she had realized that this was not Robin, she had began detecting so many things. Their movements, mannerisms, and habits were so totally opposite. She decided to talk to him, and try to get him to trip up on something. Maybe he would reveal something he shouldn't - some hint of who he really was.
"So, Robin," she started, sliding down to the other end of the table directly across from him. "What are your plans for today?"
"Not sure," he responded, looking down at his now empty plate. Everything was always said in two word sentences, she observed, frustrated that he wouldn't say more. Marion sighed as the man who looked so like Robin stood, and walked back to the cook tent.
By this point, the whole compound was coming alive with activity, and everyone greeted him as he walked over to the food. Jacobi barely looked up, and would either nod in response, or just mutter something under his breath. Marion sighed again, and leaped up from her seat, hurrying to catch up with Robin. Laughingly, she commented, "Boy, Robin, you are hungry! I don't think I've ever seen you eat like this before."
He stopped dead in his tracks, quickly looking up from the ground, and stared directly into her eyes. It was a cold and icy gaze, but proved very effective. Marion felt a shiver run through her. Quickly, she continued. "I mean, it's good to see you eat this way."
He broke the gaze and continued walking. Whew! She covered herself this
time, but would have to be careful. She did not want him to suspect she
knew something was wrong. Marion walked back to the table, and dropped
down onto a stool, taking a couple of deep breaths.
As Robin slowly regained consciousness, he realized the horses were slowing their pace. He also noted that for the most part, the sun had dipped behind the mountains, leaving just an orange streak across the grey sky. He tried to lift his head enough to see where he was without allowing anyone to detect he was awake, but could only see the forest-lined road, and the horses closest to the one he was on.
"Halt," he heard shouted in the distance.
"It's McBride," came a return shout.
"Proceed," returned the first voice.
They soldiers moved slowly and cautiously from this point on. The further up the hill they proceeded, the more voices Robin could detect. Keeping his sore body limp to maintain the illusion that he was still unconscious, he felt himself becoming more and more nervous. Finally, the soldier seated behind Robin drew his horse to a stop and slid from the saddle, making sure Robin was secure before leaving him. Robin kept his eyes shut and listened carefully, trying to place where the men were going. He knew the soldiers hadn't gone far, for they were close enough for Robin to hear every word they were saying, despite the pounding headache he now nursed, and the continuous throbbing of his injured arm.
"I trust you've found and brought back Jacobi. I need him to complete my plan," came an exceptionally gruff voice.
"I've found him, but he was injured trying to escape," replied the man know as McBride.
"Not too severely I hope! This could ruin my plans!" The gruff voice now showed a certain degree of stress.
"He'll require immediate medical attention," McBride stated nervously. "But it was not my fault!"
He must have pointed to where Robin was slung over the saddle, for Robin could now hear the group approaching him. Forcing himself to stay relaxed, Robin stayed limp.
"Looks pretty bad, McBride. You assured me quality material," the voice was obviously upset. "Clark and Johnson, come here and take this man to the Sims for treatment," Pausing to peer closely at Robin, he continued, "Perhaps I should withhold payment until I'm sure he'll live."
"That will not be necessary," McBride replied hastily, "He'll be fine - you'll see."
"Well, let's just wait and see."
Robin silted his eyes open and glanced around as much as he could without moving. He could see black uniform pants and exceptionally shiny boots, but didn't dare look up enough to see who was talking. He saw two other men draw near, and allowed himself to go limp again.
The two slid him from the horse, one taking him under the arms, and the other lifting him from under the knees. They carried him carefully into a tent, holding him gently enough.
Robin decided to continue this charade for as long as he could get away with it, realizing people spoke more freely when they believed the other man in their presence was unconscious. He heard a voice he had not heard to this point instruct the two soldiers to lie Robin on a nearby pile of rough furs. The tent reeked of some kind of nasty smelling herbs, but Robin continued the game.
"Remove his tunic, I must get a good look at the wound." The man, whom Robin decided must be Sims, instructed them.
Robin kept his eyes tightly shut, even though every instinct urged him to fight free. He felt one man sit him up, and the other removed his belt and tunic. Somehow, the loss of his belt was worse than loosing the tunic.
"Is this the one they've been waiting for," Sims asked?
"That's what I understand," came the reply.
"Funny, he doesn't look like a killer. Guess you really can't tell by looks, now can you?" Sims muttered to himself.
Carefully, Sims tended the wound first, washing it, then rubbing some kind of mixture of herbs directly into the gash. Robin really had to bite down hard on his lower lip to keep from crying out, but managed to remain still. Sims then proceeded to wrap the injured arm, laying it by his side. Then he washed the numerous cuts on his face and arms, caused by his headlong flight through the forest. Finishing with those, he stood and stretched, inspecting his work with gentle hands. Just as he finished his inspection, the flap was drawn back on the tent and Robin heard the same gruff authoritative voice.
"Well? Should I pay these solders or impale the three of them on the end of my sword?" asked the voice.
"He's lost a lot of blood, but he'll live," Sims replied.
One thing Robin noted immediately, was the sound of disgust in Sims' voice as he talked to the leader of this group. He opened his eyes just a crack to see if he could catch a glimpse of the leader of these men, but all he could see was his back. The man was paying the men who had captured him, handing bags of coin to the three soldiers. He could hear the three thank this man excessively, but still could not see who this man was. As the man turned back toward Sims, Robin closed his eyes.
"Listen," he again heard the gruff voice. "I don't care what you have to do to get this man back on his feet, but do it!" He commanded.
Again, Robin slit his eyes open a crack, and was so shocked by what he saw he almost wrecked the illusion that he was sorely injured. He recognized the large, overweight man. He was Prince John's Captain of the Guard! Robin couldn't help wonder just what was going on!
"We cannot raid the first village until we have the full assembly of outlaws, and you know how Prince John hates to be kept waiting." The Captain continued.
There! His plan had worked! By acting almost mortally injured, Robin
had learned what their mission was, but even he found it hard to believe
Prince John would stoop to using convicted murderers to rob innocent villagers
of their meager income. He would have to remain and find out more details.
But, at least for now, the group was not going any where, so as the Captain
and Sims left the tent, Robin turned his head into the furs, and let himself
fall into a healing sleep.
Marion saw Robin, or whoever this stranger was, come out of the stables, leading one of the prize geldings. Looking around for Tuck or Little John, she realized no one had noticed Robin slip into the stables. Obviously, she thought, he was up to something, so she hurried forward, and leaned against a nearby tree. Quickly she gathered a few flowers, making it seem that was the reason she was here. Jacobi rode toward her, and looking casually up, her hands full of daises, she smiled at him.
"Going somewhere?" She knew she couldn't let him go anywhere without her, fearing he would never return, and she would never find him or Robin again.
"Just out for a ride," he replied. Finally! He had said more than two words, and this time she was able to detect a very strong accent.
"Great!" She replied with a smile. "I'll go with you! I'm bored to tears, and you know how much I like riding, right Robin?"
The glare Jacobi gave Marion when he looked up from under those long dark lashes made her blood run cold. Could she handle this stranger?
"Just let me get my horse and we'll go for a ride together," she stated, trying to hold onto her smile.
"If that is what you want," he replied, looking through his long dark hair with a sly grin, still talking with that same pronounced accent.
As Marion entered the stable, she quickly looked around for a weapon since she hadn't thought to bring her sword. She noticed a dagger, stuck in a block of wood at the far end of the stable, and quickly ran to it, pulling it free, and sliding it down the inside of her boot. Saddling the horse took only a moment, and grabbing the reins, she led it out, into the sunlight. She was almost surprised to see him seated tall in the saddle, still waiting in the exact position he was in when she entered the stables. Yet, after seeing the look in his eyes, any trace of surprise was gone.
Swallowing hard, she pulled herself into the saddle, and forced herself to smile confidently at this stranger. "Where are we riding to?"
"Over to the pond, is that all right with you?" He was no longer even attempting to conceal his accent.
"That's fine. The meadows are lovely out there," Marion said, feigning a romantic smile. She rode up next to him, handing him the daises she had picked earlier. "For you."
"Thanks, but there's something else I'd really be wanting," he said, again looking up through that long hair, parting his lips just enough to breath. He reined his horse hard to the left and headed out the back of the compound, instead of toward the gate and all the people who were at that side of the camp.
"This is how he must have entered the camp," Marion thought, surprised when he proved to know exactly where to go. The two of them galloped across the meadow, and as Marion looked over at him, all she could think about was if this were Robin, it would truly be a time to remember. Her stomach twisted and her heart sank when she realized she didn't have any idea where the real Robin was, or if he were even still alive.
As they reached the pond, Jacobi slid off his saddle and walked to the edge of the water. The sun shone off his hair as he reached up and brushed it back with his fingers. He reached down and scooped up some of the clear water, and drank from his cupped hands, allowing the water to run down his neck, soaking his tunic. Then he reached down and undid his belt and slipped his tunic over his head, exposing his strong, tanned chest and arms.
Marion just remained in her saddle watching his motions in amazement, thinking how unlike Robin this man acted. Yet, in a way, she could almost wish Robin would act a little more like this stranger. She had to appreciate the fact that this man looked magnificent as he scooped more water. He turned and faced Marion, then sat down on the grass next to the pond beckoning her to join him.
Marion reached down and felt the dagger in her boot, then slid off her horse, slowly crossing the grass to sit down next to Jacobi, keeping as much of a distance as possible without creating any suspicion.
"We don't come here nearly enough, do we, Marion?" Jacobi asked her, his voice deepening as he stared at her.
"I guess not, Robin."
Jacobi lay down in the grass, tunic tossed to the side, and put a piece of grass between his teeth, slowly chewing on it. "We need to be alone more often, Marion" he said in almost a whisper.
"Alone, Robin? Why?"
Jacobi turned up on his side, playing with a dandelion growing in the grass before he slowly reached over and touched Marions knee with his index finger. "Yes, Marion. Alone," he said, smiling the coldest smile Marion had ever seen. "You can guess why, can't you?"
Marion tried to laugh that away. "Have you forgotten that discussion we had the other day already, Robert of Locksley?" Reaching over, she removed his hand from her leg. Jacobi gave her a perplexed look, so she continued. "Remember? We decided to remain just friends so we could keep our minds clear while fighting Prince John." Marion quickly made up.
"But I've decided that was a mistake," Jacobi chuckled evilly, and grabbed her knee again, this time holding her tightly.
Marion gasped, then reached down into her boot and withdrew the knife. Thinking quickly, she pricked his hand with the blade and snarled. "And the last time you tried this I had to cut you pretty badly Robin, or have you forgotten that, too!" Marion had no trouble continuing with the fictitious story as she glared angrily at Jacobi.
He bolted upright, getting ready to defend himself, but Marion was already strutting away indignantly. She jumped back into the saddle and slid the dagger into her boot. "Let that be another lesson to you, Robert of Locksley." With that she rode away.
Looking back over her shoulder, she could see the shocked expression
on Jacobi's face as he stood there, naked to the waist, in the mid afternoon
sun. Sighing, she was slightly discouraged she didn't find out more from
this stranger, but refused to give up Maybe over dinner, she thought. She
knew she could not give up, and she feared time was running out for Robin.
End of Chapter Three
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