The poor guard never saw it coming. Little John crossed the tavern floor in a matter of seconds and grabbing him by the throat, dragged him across the table. "Where is he" John thundered at the terrified man.
"Here...here" the man in uniform stuttered handing a piece of vellum over to the giant. Little John let the trembling form drop to the table top with a thud. By this time Tuck, Marion and Kemal had reached his side as he broke the wax seal easily recognizable as Sir Guy of Gisbornes. The eloquent script and beautifully worded sentences did nothing to mask the nobleman’s intent. Tuck took the document and began to read"
"Outlaws of Sherwood I have in my possession this day, Robert of Locksley, otherwise known as Robin Hood. I will exchange in tact, your leader for the woman you hold prisoner, Lady Marion Fitzwalter."
Marion interrupted "Woman you hold prisoner? Guy has really lost his mind this time"
Tuck continued: "I will give you until sundown of the Lords day, this week, to bring the lady to my gates before I hang your outlaw in my court yard and return his body on that morrow". Tuck paused before confirming its origin as Sir Guy of Gisborne.
"I will tear him limb from limb if he hurts one hair on Robins head" John exploded.
"If we leave now we can be there before sundown" Marion's voice was deep and monotone, void of emotion. She spun on her heels pulling Robin's sword from under the stunned guard and headed out the door of the tavern. Kemal and John stood looking at each other but Tuck knew what was going on and hurried out after the warrior woman. He stood in the bright sunshine looking around until he saw her standing besides a large oak in the distance.
As he approached her, he could see she was clutching Robin’s sword to her chest as she starred off into space sobbing quietly.
"Marion. Fear not child, we'll get Robin back" the Friar said gently placing a pudgy hand on her shoulder. She turned to face Tuck tears streaming down her cheeks. "Tuck. Do you remember the look on Guy's face the last time we saw him? I can still see him on the floor of his castle where Robin threw him, the look of humiliation in his eyes.
Tuck...that was exactly one year ago. He has got to be hell bent on revenge. He may have killed Robin already" she threw herself against Tucks shoulder burying her face in his Friar's robes crying uncontrollably.
"There there...I am sure he has not killed Robin. For some reason he is trying to lure you there and it would not serve his purpose to destroy his bait."
Tuck gently said tipping Marion’s tiny face up to him. He dried her tears with his sleeve. "Come child, we have to return to the others and see if we can piece together what is happening here and devise a plan to rescue Robin".
"And we WILL rescue him Tuck if I have to kill Guy with my own two hands" said Marion, hatred blazing in her green eyes.
Sir Guy paced the floor outside Robin's room while Master Ika sat in a nearby chair nursing a headache, a gift from the legendary outlaw. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the door swung open and the doctor emerged drying his hands on a square of linen. The doctor looked up at Guy with a smile.
"Your prisoner will live - for now".
"Is he awake"? Guy inquired.
"No – I gave him something that will knock him out for a few hours. He has a couple of broken ribs that will have him experiencing a lot of pain but from what I can establish, has not caused any internal damage" he paused, then continued. "Another beating like that though and I can guarantee you'll have a corpse on your hands".
"No - I can guarantee you no more beatings" Guy glared at Ika. He dropped a pouch of gold coin into the physician’s hands who gave him a curt nod and strode down the hall.
"You fool! You almost destroyed all of my plans" Guy hissed at Ika who never looked up at his accuser.
"He asked for it" Ika snapped in reply as no more than the age of a schoolboy.
"Don't you see? He was trying to do exactly what he did. Get you to release him so he could make good his escape! If I hadn't noticed what was going on he may have very well succeeded" his anger being very apparent. "You'll get your chance to kill him Ika, but at the appointed time".
Guy left Ika sitting in the hallway nursing his bruised chin and entered Robin's bedchamber. He walked to the side of the outlaw’s bed looking down at his swollen bruised face as he slept.
"Will you ever learn Fitzsooth"? Guy asked talking more to himself, "Even when we were children you were stubborn" the aristocrat sighed a deep long sigh thinking back to boyhood days. There were times in their youth they could even call each other friend. But by age 16 a line had been drawn that could not be crossed.
A constant and continual competition. Or at least that is how Sir Guy saw it.
Robin grew more and more handsome having all of the young maidens cluster around him at the balls. He became an expert marksman with a bow and could handle a sword with the precision of any of King Richards Royal guard.
Then by the age of 15 it was apparent that the fair Maid Marion Fitzwalter, Guy's true love, had fallen for young Robert of Locksley. She wrote him beautiful poetry and danced with him-in Guy's garden! This is what caused the young man to snap and Robert quickly realized that something had changed. It was the following year that Prince John had ordered the confiscation of Locksley Castle because of the Earl's loyalty to his brother, King Richard, and Robert watched his Father run through with a broadsword by Sir Hugo Longcamp.
It was on his 16th year that Robert fled into the woods of Sherwood Forest to become Robin Hood, hero of the Saxon people. Even in the midst of all of this tragedy, Robin came out a champion. As he looked down at his badly beaten face, for a brief moment Guy felt pity on the outlaw knowing what this young man must have endured for the past thirteen years going from living as a nobleman in plush surroundings to the life of England’s most wanted man living in rustic Sherwood Forest. But a the image of Marion's beautiful face appeared and the memory of her sweet kiss a year ago, Guy leaped to his feet determined to see his plan through.
"Sleep in peace while you can Robin Hood, for soon you will surely die" and Guys voice again carried that icy tone.
"How difficult can it be Tuck"? Marion demanded more than asked.
"But what if he sees through your charade"? Tucks skepticism shining through all of Marion’s intent.
"All I have to do is keep playing the escaped hostage long enough for Guy to free
Robin then make good my escape" Marion said folding her arms across her chest.
"Marion-There are so many things that could happen" Little John started.
"We can't let you go alone, Robin would never forgive us" Kemal finished for the blonde giant.
Marion stood up from the bench she was sitting on and turned to face her three friends with a mixture of love and concern reflecting from her eyes.
"Do we have a choice"? She asked, her voice just above a whisper.
As the sun's rays cleared the towers of Gisborne Manor, Little John, Tuck, Kemal and Marion rode onto the drawbridge stopping their horses and sitting in silence.
Marion’s thoughts swirled around in her head much the same way the fog swirled around the water under the drawbridge. She could handle Guy, she had before. And she knew his threats were not shallow, he WOULD kill Robin if she didn’t play his little game. Was it a game? Or had he truly gone stark raving mad!
They could hear the guards shuffling and a voice call to get the Lord of the Manor. As Guy's private guard knocked on his bedchamber door, Sir Guy called entrance wiping the sleep from his eyes and raking his fingers through his thick black hair.
"Milord, there is a party of four waiting on the draw bridge. One I believe to be the Lady you are waiting for". He leaped out of bed in surprise "Already? Faster than I had anticipated! Have the nursemaid awaken and prepare Robin Hood for the exchange" Guy said in delighted shock.
"As you wish Milord" the guard gave a slight bow and backed out of the bedchamber pulling the heavy door closed behind him.
Guy took extra lengths to make his appearance attractive and splashed on rosewater to give himself a pleasant scent. Dressed all in black, he sat before a mirror brushing back the long black strands neatly tying them at the nape of his neck. His day had come. The day he was to be joined with his bride.
He hurried down the hall to where Robin was being held and came in to see the chambermaid struggling to dress the barely conscious outlaw.
"Milord, I cannot get him awake" she gasped holding Robin in an upright position on the bed, his head on her shoulder.
"I may kill Ika right along with Robin" Guy sighed running forward and calling for more assistance. Robin, at the sound of Guys voice opened his one good eye looking next to him at the nobleman fighting to pick his head up.
"Ah, Fitzsooth, you are joining us. My soon to be wife awaits me outside which means you are free to leave" Guy said noting Robin's efforts.
"Never" whispered Robin wincing in pain.
"I'd invite you to the wedding, but...." Guy laughed a deep mocking laugh as the servants finished dressing the injured man. As they finished tying on his leather belt, they went to help him to his feet but he pushed away any assistance swinging his legs over the side of the bed then pausing as sharp pain pierced his side along with wave after wave of dizziness.
"Get him to his feet" barked Guy at the guards standing at the door.
Two men in uniform came and pulled Robin by his shoulders roughly to his feet at which point the outlaw cried out doubling over. The guards proceeded to follow Guy out the door and down the stairs with Robin doing his best to walk behind, pride not allowing anything less. As they descended the front steps into the courtyard, Robin strained his vision through his good eye not swollen shut to see who sat on horseback on the other side of the gate.
The nausea and dizziness kept hitting Robin, but he stood his ground flanked by soldiers on either side. "Raise the gate" commanded Guy taking his place along side Robin drawing his sword. As the gate was high enough for the four riders to pass through, Guy turned to Robin and placed the blade of his sword against the younger mans throat.
"I see you have come to return my Lady fare to my safe keeping" Guy shouted with a glint of supremacy over the legendary Bowman seeing him now defeated. As the riders drew nearer, Marion let out an audible cry seeing Robin's mangled face, watching him sway as he stood.
"Let him go Guy, I have come" Marion pled dismounting and rushing across the stone floor of the courtyard. "No, Marion, get out of here" Robin cried feeling the tip of the sword bite into his throat.
"If she leaves, you die Fitzsooth" Guy said lightly.
"Help him onto my horse Guy, I will not be leaving" Marion said reaching up to touch Robin's bruised face.
John and Tuck dismounted going to Marion’s side and pushing the guards out of the way and taking Robin.
"John. Tuck. Don't let her stay" Robin pled of his friends realizing he could not fight for his woman.
"It's all right Robin, Marion wants to stay"
"No! Don't let her" Robin repeated as his two friends led him away from the group now headed towards the castle entrance.
Master Ika watched through a slit in the wall of the tower looking down on the scene.
"Pain? You think you felt pain at my hand last time Robin Hood? Now you will feel pain" Notching an arrow he drew from his quiver, Ika sighted the center of Robins back through the narrow slit.
"Now you will die" and he released the arrow.
Marion watched as Robin walked towards the horses with John and Tuck that would take them to safety and then turned to address her problem, Sir Guy. But as she turned to face, her challenge she caught the glimpses of something glittering in the window in the distance. The sun reflected off of something...and as she strained her eyes to make out what it was she noticed the point of an arrow protruding from the tower window...aimed at Robin!
It felt like slow motion. She spun on her heels pushing away from Sir Guy with the palms of her hands running with huge strides and diving headfirst at Robin's back. She shoved him with her hands as hard as she could, both hitting the ground together with a sickening thud as the arrow whizzed over both of their heads burying itself in the ground a few feet ahead of them.
Marion lay atop of Robin for a moment swinging around to look back at the tower just in time to see Master Ika's face pull away from the light and into the shadows.
"Ika" she hissed turning to look back down at Robin who lie unconscious beneath her.
"John-get Robin out of here," she ordered. As if taking command and for lack of knowing what else to do, he obeyed her kneeling besides the outlaw, hoisting the smaller man up into his arms and carrying him towards the horses.
The rest seemed to happen like fluid motion. As Marion could see the three reach the horses, she was at Sir Guys side in two strides, her dagger unsheathed, blade against his throat.
"I should have known better than to have trusted you to let Robin go" she screamed at the black haired nobleman, voice cold as ice, "Now come with me.
"Marion" he started but halted as he felt the tip of her dagger bite into his throat,
"Walk" she ordered inches from his face as they followed Tuck and John. He could see her fury at this point knew no bounds and if he didn't obey her every word, there was no telling what she might do. As he was hustled after Little John and Tuck he glanced back over his shoulder to see Ika appear out of the tower, bow drawn and arrow notched at Marion.
"No" he cried as she nearly pulled him off his feet and watched as Ika relaxed his hand resheathing the arrow.
"You lied" were the only words she spoke as she drug him along, her blade cutting into him just enough to draw blood.
"It was for you" he gasped feeling the heat of the gash in his neck. As she reached her horse and saw that John had managed to get Robin up onto the saddle holding him against his chest. She took the reigns and before swinging into the saddle lowered the dagger eyes softening for a moment.
"Guy. I was not held against my will. I don't love you. I have never loved you.
My heart always has and always will belong to Robin"
John was going to scramble down draping Robin across the saddle in order to help Marion, but quickly saw not only was it not necessary, but that it was obvious Marion needed to do this. Needed to settle some things with the man she had known most of her life. He landed on his back with her leaping on top of him grabbing his tunic in her hands and pulling his shoulders up and off the ground.
"This is for what you did to Robin" she shouted back handing him across the face, "And this is for thinking I ever felt anything for you" and she punched him again , "And this if for how you treat the people in your shire" and she backhanded him again, "and this is for hiring Master Ika"
Tuck scrambled down off of his horse pulling Marion off of the now unconscious man. "Marion...Marion...your going to kill him"!
She looked down at her swollen knuckles and let his head drop to the ground.
"But he almost killed Robin" she said in a whisper climbing off of his still body. The shock now over she looked up at Tuck and began to tremble softly sobbing into her hands.
"Its over child, lets go home" and he helped her into her saddle as the four left Sir Guy’s castle silently crossing over into Sherwood Forest.
Robin felt a very warm secure feeling, something he hadn't felt in a while.
He opened his eyes feeling the thick blanket over him and as his eyes came into focus saw that he was in his own hut. He went to move and was quickly reminded of his injuries and allowed his body to go still. Slowly he turned his head towards the burning candle to see Marion seated next to him, head resting in her arms on the side of his pallet, sound asleep. He recognized by the limited light visible through the door that it must be near dawn and the candle had burned to a small nub, almost out.
"Marion"? Robin gently called trying to move one arm allowing fingers to tangle in her auburn hair. "Marion"...he repeated. She sleepily raised her head smiling at Robin.
"How are you feeling"? she asked voice totally groggy.
"A bit sore, how did I get here"?
"After Guy and I had a ...little discussion, he was more than willing to let you go" Marion said with a wicked grin.
Robin gave a huge yawn, hand going to his side. "Why do I get the feeling that there is more to it than that." But as Marion went to elaborate, she heard Robin’s gentle breathing and realized he was back to sleep.
"Just as well, you really don't want to hear that story anyway" and Marion put her head back down joining Robin in deep sleep. When next Robin opened his eyes it was much later in the morning and it was to find Tuck wrapping his chest tightly in bandages. He flinched as he wrapped the last strip pulling it tight as John held him gently by the shoulders.
"Sorry Robin" Tuck said with half of a smile. He reached up and felt the outlaw’s forehead and sighed with relief "No fever but I wish I had been there to stitch closed some of those gashes on your face. They will leave nasty scars".
"Adds character" mumbled Robin lying down again, "Tuck, perhaps you can tell me how I got back home"
Marion flashed him a look and he smiled at Robin "Cant - been sworn to secrecy".
"Nope, I enjoy having my head remain on my shoulders" the giant replied laughing.
"I remember walking next to John and Tuck and" he turned to Marion, far away look in his eyes "You were coming up behind me. I heard you shout and..... it was you wasn't it Marion!"
"Well, let me put it this way. It will be a long time before we hear from Sir Guy of Gisborne" Marion said with a smirk.
Robin took a large drink then turned again to Marion "What exactly did you do to change his mind" he asked concern in his eyes. "Robin...it was nothing for..." she topped looking at him with surprise. He was sound asleep, breathing easily. She turned to look at Tuck and noticed him smiling. She returned the smile slowly shaking her head
"You put something in the tea" "You are eventually going to have to tell him that you beat his long time adversary to a pulp Marion, but with those ribs, now was not the time" Marion chuckled "How much of that herb do you have friar"?
For now it was enough to know that a message had been delivered to Sir Guy of Gisborne. A very strong message. Perhaps he will forget me this time, thought Marion. All she knew was she had told him in no uncertain terms that she belonged to Robin. And she smiled knowing that she had brought Robin home, alive.
They all relaxed watching Robin sleep. Things were back to they way they used to be and would remain that way......
Or would they?
"Ika! Pay attention! I will pay you four times what I did last time to have you bring Robin Hood to me"
"Will you never learn Guy. How many times do Robin and his band of Outlaws have to outsmart you"?
"Alright! Ten times! I will pay you ten times what I gave you last time" Guy shouted slamming his fist into the table.
"Very well...but I think we will both regret this" Ika said with a smirk turning and heading for the door. As the heavy door closed behind the warrior, Guy dropped back down into the seat grinding one fist into the palm of his other.
"Soon Marion Fitzwalter. Soon you will be mine despite their magic spells. My
Sorceress will break them and you will be able to love me as you have always wanted to" this thought pleased Sir Guy and as he refilled his goblet with wine, he began to laugh. The laughter echoed off of every hall in the grand hall.
"Marion will be mine"......
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