Gut Instinct

By Thornedbud

 

Chapter Four

 

Upon reaching the ruins of the campsite he dismounted and walked around for a bit. He ambled around waiting for the soldiers to arrive, fighting back and intense desire to leave the ghost town and never return, but he knew he couldn’t, many things had yet to be done. As he walked he saw a speck of yellow-gold shining out from a pile of ash and dirt. He approached the pile, unsure if he wanted to know what lay under there, after all he had just eaten, and his stomach was lacking the strength it needed. Curiosity got the better of him and he began to slowly clear away the ash; his weary fashion made it appear that he was truly afraid that little spark might jump out and kill him. But it didn’t take long for him to clear enough away so he could identify the object; an object he knew well.


It was a tiny amber heart on a thin leather strip. It was the same necklace he gave Marion for her birthday, and he clutched the heart to his chest like a lifeline. (Note: That is the only part of season three that I will acknowledge.) The little heart was now smudged with ash, and the leather strip appeared to have been torn. Robin quickly cleaned the heart off and retied the string. He stared at the little heart a while longer, memories flooding back to him, and then slipped the necklace over his head and tucked the heart inside his shirt. The sound of hoof beats caused him to suddenly look up and he saw what appeared to be at least a dozen soldiers heading toward the camp. As fast as he could, he mounted his grey and took off, knowing that they had seen him and therefore they would follow.


As he raced through Sherwood the wind whipped through him chilling him to the bone and causing him to shiver. Over rocks and fallen logs, through streams and under low branches Robin took the unwilling soldiers on a whirlwind tour through Sherwood; they didn’t even realize he was taking them in circles. When Robin finally decided they’d had enough he took the longest, most confused path to leave Sherwood, in a direction totally opposite of Thomas and Iris’s castle. As they were approaching the end of Sherwood Robin veered right road till he hit a small river and rode that for a sort time before coming to a cave that he entered with Deigh . Robin waited in the cave for maybe an hour before leaving for the castle. He had maybe another hour of light left, and since he was in the opposite side of Sherwood he’d need a few times that to get to the castle. He was in no hurry though, if he went slow he would be safe, and he didn’t like the thought of telling Iris he may have gotten her cousin killed. Four hours later he rode over the drawbridge up to the castle where it seemed someone waited to take his horse to the stables. With the demeanor of a man about to be executed Robin allowed himself to be led into the castle and a frantic Iris.


“Robin! Thank heavens, we were all so worried about you!” She said this as she wrapped him in a hug, which he half-heartedly returned.


“Robin, why don’t you sit and rest while.” Thomas appeared a led the way into a sitting room, where they sat in silence for a while.


“I assume Tuck or Little John told you about Marion?” Robin was confused about his warm reception and decided to open the topic that they were all dancing around.


“Yes and about the camp,” she paused and looked into his guilt-stricken eyes, “Robin we don’t blame you, you know.”


“I expected you too,” he paused anguish radiating from him. “I blame myself.”


“Robin—” Robin was spared a lecture by the sudden appearance of Little John and Tuck.


“Robin you alright, everybody was worried about you.” Little John made no attempt to hide the worry he’d felt.


“I’m fine, how is everyone, are they sleeping.”


“The children have mostly fallen asleep, but worry kept everyone else awake.”


“Where are they?” Robin looked from Tuck, who had answered his questions to Iris and Thomas.


“We put them in some spare rooms to the back of the castle. For now they are safe, and warm. Winter is setting in, it is starting to get cold, and you can stay until you are back on your feet.” Iris and Thomas had discussed this after everyone had been settle and decided that there was no other choice, but to help Robin’s people. Robin,
Marion , Tuck and Little John helped them not so long ago, so now it was time for them to return the favor, and they couldn’t leave so many people out in the cold.


“I appreciate it very much, you have saved our lives at the possible expense of your own. We won’t forget your generosity.” For the first time
in days he smiled, one worry was out of his mind, now only a hundred others remained.


“Consider it repayment for your help with a certain amateur witch.” Thomas replied with a smile, the bizarre event was still fresh in his memory.


“That was all
Marion .” Robin smiled for the second time recalling that day, and he wished in vain he could have her by his side right then, even just to hear her gloat about that day.


“Well Robin I think everyone would like to see you; they are anxious to find out your plan.” Tuck ripped Robin from his thoughts before he could go to deep with them. In response Robin nodded and extended his hand gesturing for Tuck to lead the way. With a last thank you to Iris and Thomas they were soon off down another hallway.


Upon entering the room everyone had congregated in Robin was greeted with smiles and various ways to say, “We are glad you’re alright.” He nodded and then spoke.


“The plan for tomorrow is simple, we have to finish bury our dead. We will go back to where we have been staying, and Little John and I will chop down some trees to make markers. After we have a few made, some will go back to camp and set them up, the rest will make more. The next day, Angela, Miranda and Jessica will take the little coin we found at camp and trade it for blankets, fabric, or clothes. Thomas, Little John, and I will hunt and bring back everything we can. We can keep the skins for clothes and blankets and some of the meat to eat, the rest Cynthia Carol and Blithe each with Gregory, Sampson or Amanda, I want you to make sure you are all dressed like peasants. You will each take a child and go into the villages and trade for the same things as Angela, Miranda and Jessica, but also bread and fruit. Alexander and Marcus you two will be resting and if necessary helping Tuck look after the children. After that we build a large shelter, that is all we need for now, then we can concentrate on rescuing the rest of the group.” He looked at their faces, not a single person had any doubt in their faces, he was their leader and they would do whatever he told them to, they trusted him without question. This was the same reason he was being eaten alive by guilt; these people trusted him, and where did it get them, separated from their families, who may be hanged or are already dead, and with no home to speak of. He spoke again after a long silence, “Get some rest, we have a lot of work to do.”


The next morning moved quickly. Breakfast was prepared and served, and work began shortly after. Trees were cut down, and made into crosses in which names were dug out. It was dreary, but necessary chores. Everybody was pulling their own weight, and when Robin paused and looked at everyone, he felt, not for the first time, that the task before him was too big for any one man. Olwyn constantly told him that he was the chosen one, but felt it wrong now. Would the chosen one have led his people to death and destruction? His heart broke for his dead friends.

           

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Returning from putting the last post in the ground, Robin thought of the chores that lay ahead. They finished the grave markers earlier than he had thought they would, so they could still get work done. They couldn’t afford to waste any time.


 
“I know everybody is tired, but we have some much work to do before we can bring the rest of our friends to our new home, that we need to work as much as we can.” He looked around at all the dirty, sweaty, tired faces, and he wanted to cry. He wanted to hit himself, to scream, but he had to be calm. He still had to lead them, even if he thought he wasn’t the man for the job, it seemed they still did.

 

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 The next few days went slowly for everyone; the work was hard and constant, and the fear for their friends and families grew each day. By Tuesday they were almost able to call the new camp a home. They had a large pavilion, which had to serve at the moment as the: bedroom for all, cook tent and infirmary, but it had shelter and that was what mattered most. They had gotten a small stock of food and blankets, and enough fabric to get started making new clothing. Tuck had replenished his herb pouch, assuming he would need them when everybody returned home. They had salvaged all they could from their former home, which wasn’t very much, and buried their loved ones with proper Christian ceremony. They sat late Tuesday afternoon under the pavilion, all sewing clothing and discussing the best plan the rescue their friends.


 
“He’ll have extra guards posted tomorrow and Thursday, so it doesn’t matter which day we go.” Little John didn’t like their chances and didn’t try to hide it.


“If we try to hit early in the morning on Thursday while it is still dark, it might be best. Everybody will be getting prepared for the festivities, they will be too busy to pay too much attention.” Tuck shared similar doubts with Little John, but decided to at least pretend to remain positive instead.


“How do we get in?” Angela decided to pose another question, that didn’t seem quite as, well, hopeless.


“We use the grate in the ground.” Robin suddenly spoke after nearly a hour of silence, startling everyone. “All castles have them, so that people can’t get trapped inside. We only have to get past the guards near it, and then we can go in. We go early Thursday. Everybody at the castle will be on edge, and that will make them act stupid. Tuck, you will wait a distance away with a wagon and horses. The kids, we leave with Iris and Thomas. We move as fast as we can, Little John, Alexander, Blithe and Angela will all come with me into the castle. Everybody else, if we get caught, you have to try and get everybody out. In the meantime we build our new home up, and listen for word about the Prince’s plans.” He paused here and took a deep breath. “One last thing, if anybody wants out of the outlaw life, now is the time to leave. I can’t ask you all to stay, when I failed protecting you.”

 
No one moved, and no one spoke. He just asked them if they could still follow him, and none of them would tell him they couldn’t .

 

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There was only one problem. When everybody woke up on Wednesday morning, Robin was gone. Everybody tried not to worry, guessing that he had simply gone to visit Olwyn, but they couldn’t really help it. They continued the work they had been doing all week, assuming that was what Robin would want them to do, but come lunchtime, he still remained missing.


“I don’t like this Tuck, he doesn’t just disappear, he always tells us he is going.” Little John, the ever-protective big brother to Robin was the first to voice his worry.


“Little John a lot different has been happening lately, and Robin is having a hard time with it. He is all torn up inside, and tomorrow he gets one chance to save his friends, and the one person that means to most to him. Can you blame him if he needed to get away for a day?” Tuck finished speaking, and it took a minute, but Little John finally understood what he was saying, and nodded.


 
“I have a bad feeling though, deep in my gut. Robin wouldn’t stay away a whole day now, not with so much to be done. Something isn’t right.”


 
“I’ve had that same feeling for a few days, Little John…but I don’t think it’s for Robin.”


“She is alright, isn’t she Tuck?”


 
“I hope so, Little John, no…I pray so.” They were silent for the rest of lunch, praying that their dear friends would return home soon. The rest of the afternoon chores continued as normal, though everyone was on edge waiting for Robin.

 

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“Do you think that Robin will come for us?” It had been over four days, and still no sign of liberation, and thirteen year-old Alexander was becoming concerned. He was the youngest child grouped in with the adults, and even though he worshiped Robin, much like most peasant boys his age, he was very frightened of dying.


 
“Don’t ask that, you know he is coming, Robin wouldn’t abandon us.” Sean snapped, and immediately regretted it. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was having doubts about Robin coming to, and that hurt him a lot. Night was approaching and they knew it was their last, they were all very on edge. 
Suddenly they heard prison gates squeaking open and saw the guards usher in all the women.

 
“It will be much easier to collect you in the morning if your together, so be good little outlaws and say your goodbyes.” The guard sneered at them and walked away after locking them in. After much hugging and greeting, and fretting about the next day, Will spoke, asking the questions most of the men were thinking.


 
“Where are the children? And where is Marion, wasn’t she captured also?”


 “They are going to sell our children, so they are rooming in the habitable parts of the castle, from what the guards told us. Marion was with us the first day, but the next morning the guards came for her and she hasn’t come back.” Sarah Balisk spoke up, with a terrible uneasiness in her blue eyes.


 
"Lets not start to worry yet, maybe he decided to sell her too, or something." Will spoke words that he had trouble convincing himself of.The or something part was what worried him.

 

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Robin returned to camp in the evening, offering up no explanations, and refusing to look everyone in the eyes. Tuck seeing this behavior was a lot less worried than everyone else. In fact his initial reaction was pity, but there was work to be done, he needed to speak to Robin. He headed near the fire where Robin was stuffing arrows into quivers.


"Robin, we need to talk."


"About what Tuck?" Robin's graze never drifted from the arrows, and his voice held only a veneer of steadiness.


 
"To begin with why you won't look me or anyone else for that matter in the eyes." Robin stopped moving hearing that, and look to Tuck looking all the sudden like the lost sixteen year old he started that camp as.


 
"Robin, nobody blames for what happened, or for leaving. Though in the future a note would be nice, you had Little John in a quite a state earlier." Tuck saw the beginnings of a smile forming.


 
"You are under a lot of pressure, lesser men would have backed out long before now. God knows Robin, your still so young to have such responsibilities, and worries. Nobody thinks any less of you, I promise you that . I think if anything they trust you more now that they did before, even after your lovely disappearing act today. You proved to them that you won't back down, that you'll never abandon them, even if your own heart aches." Those beautiful brown eyes were focused on Tuck again, silently thanking him for his support.


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The entourage stopped still safely hidden in the forest, and the leader dismounted first, motioning for others to follow. It was well before sunrise on Thursday morning, and they were about to begin their rescue attempt. Friar Tuck drove the first wagon, Jessica and Marcus drove the second, and everyone else was mounted atop horses. Robin was in the front, Little John as always close behind him and everyone else was scattered around the wagons.

 
“Okay, Little John, Blithe, Alexander, Angela, lets go. Everyone, if we aren’t back in an hour, scatter and wait for word. I don’t want to lose anymore people than I already have. Be on your guard, you have quivers and bows today to accompany your swords, do not be afraid to use them, I have a feeling you’ll need to. Okay, lets go.” And with those last words, the company disappeared into the words, leaving their friends to wonder if they would ever see them again.

 


End of Chapter Four


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