Ralph was slapped on the head for the third time that morning.
"Get your lazy butt out of that bed!" Marion yelled at him.
She had been trying to get him out of bed for the past half-hour. He refused to listen. He rolled over, holding a pillow over his head. Marion sighed out in frustration. "Little John?" She pointed towards Ralph.
"My Pleasure!" Little John growled. Grabbing the straw mattress Little John lifted it up, he dropped Ralph unceremoniously on the floor.
"All right already, I’m up!" Ralph groaned. He rubbed his head, a small bump was beginning to form - he fell hard on the floor.
"Ralph, we need you to look outside," Tuck called out. He was standing by one of the windows. Taking his time to stand, Ralph stormed to the window where Tuck was standing.
"What is it Friar?" Ralph gazed outside the window. He could see many red and white decorated wagons lined up in the courtyard.
"Must be the Mongolians," Ralph said casually.
"Are they the ones coming for the tournament? The ones you spoke of before?" Kemal asked. He was standing by the other widow.
Kemal had spotted the Mongolians first. They started arriving long before dawn. It was a colorful sight, their wagons had lighted lanterns hanging from the sides. Kemal watched closely as they piled out of the wagons. He saw men leashed like dogs, being dragged out by their masters. Kemal hated to see any man treated in such a manner.
"That must be them Kemal," Ralph answered him. "Cho told me of his countries colors. Even showed me an outfit one time, a bright red leather. Said it was for his Greatest Warrior."
"What's that?" Tuck had been looking out the window at the bright spectacle.
"Something that Cho’s been looking for his whole life. Said his old master told him of a Great Warrior, someone who had the soul of all ancient warriors. He would be the greatest fighter in the arena. Anyone that was his master, would be a very powerful man."
Tuck pondered on this. "Marion?" he called out.
"What is it Tuck?" Marion crossed the room to stand by the window, as she began to look out the window, Tuck grabbed her arm.
"Marion, last night. When we were walking around, we heard the other fighters talking, about King Richard and Cho. I could swear I heard one man mention that Cho was happy about finding his Greatest Warrior."
Ralph stood up straight when he heard what Tuck had said.
"Friar, I didn’t hear that," Ralph said with concern evident in his voice.
"You were farther up ahead of us Ralph. The men wouldn’t talk in front of a Lord. Now Kemal and I, we’re harmless common men."
"If that is right Friar, then we have to get Robin out of here, as fast as we can." His voice had a desperate edge to it.
"Why is that?" Little John asked. Anything concerning Robin also concerned Little John. He walked to the other window where Kemal was, he glanced out into the courtyard.
"Because Cho told me, that when he found his Greatest Warrior. He was going to return back to his country, with HIM!"
"Then we have to try and get him out of here before that happens." Marion firmly said. She looked out the window, looking at the bright red and white colors. The Mongolians walked in and out of their wagons. Marion was reminded of Master Ika. He too came from that exotic land. Bringing with him...
"BLACK POWDER!!" Marion exclaimed, as she pointed outside.
All four men looked to where Marion was pointing. They saw a man carrying a small keg of black powder. A mysterious element brought in from china.
"We could use it to help get Robin out of here!" Tuck exclaimed.
"How is that stuff going to help?" Ralph asked.
"Trust us Ralph," Marion said. "That is pretty powerful stuff. Now if we could only figure a way to get some."
"Seems pretty well guarded" Kemal noted. He saw two very large Mongolians guarding the wagons. They needed to come up with a plan to steal some of that powder. It would have to be someone sneaky, like a thief.
"Ralph, when was the last time you practiced your trade?" Marion gave Ralph a sideways look.
"I didn’t take it Marion, I swear!" Ralph pleaded.
Marion tried to calm Ralph down. "No Ralph. I want you to practice your trade. On those wagons out there." Marion pointed towards the wagon that held the black powder.
"Ohhhh that's what you mean. Well it has been a long time, but I think I might be able to borrow some of that black powder for you. Whatever that is," he mumbled.
"If you can get it for us Ralph, we’ll know what to do with it." Marion smiled to Tuck. Tuck nodded his approval, he knew exactly how to use the volatile material. They all stared quietly out the window.
"I’ll borrow some tonight," Ralph quietly said.
"Good," Marion answered.
"You didn’t take what?" Little John asked, giving Ralph a stern look.
Ralph slunk back to the bed, hiding his head under the pillow.
*** *** ***
Robin practiced most of the morning under the scrutiny of Cho’s countrymen. Cho made sure that he and Alan gave him a thorough workout. He was exhausted by afternoon. When they stopped practicing, Robin noticed that most of the Mongolian fighters exercising had ceased as he went through his routines. Even Lu Chang stopped training his fighter to try to gauge what type of fighter Cho had. Cho made sure not to let on to all of Robin’s talents. He wanted to keep some a secret for when the tournaments began.
The Master had been talking to Lu Chang for most of the morning. When Robin finished his training, she came over to talk to Cho.
"Cho, how would you feel about starting the tournament tonight? Is King Richard ready for it?" The Master nervously clicked her nails. Robin noticed that Ian wasn’t with her. That was unusual, he was always around her when it concerned the tournament.
"Tonight, tomorrow, it does not matter, he is ready now," Cho stated.
"Good Cho, you see we have a special guest that just arrived. He was coming to see the fights. But with the Mongolians already here, I wanted to start the tournaments early. We will do four fights tonight, and the final battles will be tomorrow. Does that sound good to you? Lu Chang has already agreed."
Cho glanced over to where Lu Chang stood. He had his arms crossed, giving Cho an insidious grin.
"If my people are ready then so am I." Cho agreed to start the tournament early.
"Very well, the other fighters have also agreed. We can start the tournament tonight." Cho bowed his head in agreement. As he straightened out, he noticed that the Master had something else on her mind.
"What else?" Cho asked suspiciously.
"Ian's special guest wants to see King Richard."
Cho shook his head in exasperation, not another rich guest.
"Cho, that is not a request, it's a order." The Master snapped her fingers. Four guards immediately surrounded Robin, forcing Alan and Cho away from him. Cho was furious! Before he was able to complain to the Master, she raised her hand for him to be silent.
"I know he is your Warrior Cho, but this guest is very special. There is no argument here, he is going!"
Leading the way, The Master motioned the guards to escort King Richard down a little used passageway. Cho had to run, to keep up with the small entourage. Alan walked behind his sister, questioning her on the way as to who they were going to see. She just smiled and cryptically replied, "Someone who is very close to King Richard."
They walked on in the corridors until they came up to an elaborate door. The Master opened the door, she entered first; followed by Alan. There were two guards in front of Robin and two behind him. As the dogs entered, the large room Robin heard a familiar voice bellow.
"Who let those mongrels in here?"
Robin suddenly balked, the two guards, still walking behind him, bumped into him. Robin could hear Ian say.
"Here he is now cousin."
The two guards in front of Robin parted. Robin froze as a familiar face stared back at him.
"Well, well I think I shall enjoy this tournament more than I thought, dear cousin."
Prince John had been sitting on a large chair in the middle of the room. He was dressed in a regal purple jacket and vest. His thigh high leather boots were pulled over his pants. He sat on the chair with one leg pulled over a chair arm. His leg non-chalantly swung back and forth, he saw the guards slowly part. He was stunned to see Robin Hood standing before him.
He was dressed from stem to stern in bright red leather. Prince John was amazed at how good he looked. He was in better shape than when he last saw him; in excellent shape for fighting. He wondered what had happened to him? He hadn't had any trouble from him for almost a month. Now he knew where he had disappeared, Ian had him as a slave in his Arena. Prince John swung his leg down and sat on the edge of his seat.
This was positively the last person he had expected to see here. He was about to call Robin by his name when Ian said.
"Cousin this is King Richard, the fighter I told you about. He's the one that is going to win the tournament for England this year."
Prince John choked back on his words, a plan started forming in his evil mind. Standing up, he strolled towards Robin. Stopping in front of him, he was grinning from ear to ear. He slowly inspected Robin, examining him as he slowly walked around him. Robin remained rigid, he waited for Prince John to call him by his name. As Prince John finished circling Robin, he whispered to him.
"Love the new outfit."
Prince John waited for Robin’s usual smart reply, he was surprised by Robin silence. His head was bowed down, and his eyes cast down. Prince John was shocked. He was not used to this, not from the nefarious outlaw Robin Hood. He tried to antagonize him again.
"So you are my dear brother," Prince John then chuckled.
Prince John smiled wickedly at Robin, he still remained silent. It was then, that Prince John realized that something was different about Robin. When he first entered the abandoned monastery, Ian immediately informed him of a fighter called King Richard. He proudly said that this King Richard was such a good fighter, that for the first time, England was going to win the tournament. He made a point to stress that would only happen with this fighter. Whom Prince John now knew was Robin Hood. Prince John returned to his chair, his brow was furrowed in thought. He impatiently waved for Ian to come to him. Ian ran to him, bowing his head he listened to Prince John. When he finished Ian's usually placid face, was masked with look of shock.
Standing up he declared, "Master, Cho, Alan and King Richard. I want you to stay. All the rest are to leave!" The guards hesitated. They looked to The Master for approval. By the look on Ian's face, the Master knew he was to be obeyed. She nodded for the guards to leave. There were others in the room, they also left, following Ian's command. When the doors closed, Prince John sat back on his chair. He was grinning from ear to ear, slowly tapping the tips of fingers together in satisfaction. Ian's grin however far out did Prince Johns. The Master was anxious to be in on their little secret.
"What is it Ian?" the Master asked.
Ian walked up to Robin. He stared into his eyes, why hadn’t he seen it before? It was there all the time.
"Do you know who we have here?" Ian asked her. His face flushed in excitement.
"It does not matter Ian. He is ours now." The Master tried to calm him down. Ian shook his head. " Oh, but it does! You see my dear cousin has informed me that this man is the outlaw, Robin Hood!"
Everyone’s face fell in shock, a small smile creased Robin’s face.
"This must stay in this room!" Prince John bellowed. "The Mongolians are not to know that King Richard is Robin Hood."
A knowing smile came across the Masters face. "If they knew that we had Robin Hood fighting," she slowly said to Ian. "Then they would not bet as much." She smiled at her reasoning.
Ian grinned back, "That's my girl."
Cho was totally confused, "What do you mean, King Richard is Robin Hood?" he asked.
Prince John let out an exasperated sigh. "Which part didn’t you understand man. Doesn’t he understand English?" Prince John impatiently asked Ian.
"Yes-he-is-Robin-Hood," Prince John slowly said, as if to a child.
"He is my warrior." Cho slapped his chest, stepping protectively in front of Robin. Crossing his arms, Cho gazed at Prince John; as if daring him to try to take him.
Prince John stared into Robin’s eyes. There was something different in them. The cocky look was gone. He actually looked subservient. Prince John threw his head back and laughed out loud.
"Oh this is absolutely wonderful. Here I have been trying to have you captured for years, and this foreigner not only takes you. But he breaks your spirit. This day couldn’t get any better."
Robin held his head high hearing Prince Johns insulting words. His captivity made him forget who he was, what he stood for. He had taken a vow to fight against Prince John. His insults were like a slap in the face to him. It woke him up, his demeanor changed at the insults. He stood more proudly now. The Master immediately noticed the change in him.
From the look on her face, Robin could tell that she wasn’t at all happy with what she had just found out. She pushed Cho away from Robin, clutching at his shirt she hissed.
"You are Robin Hood…THE Robin Hood?" She spit her words out in anger.
Robin gave her a cocky look, Prince John smiled back as the old Robin Hood emerged. He was worried that perhaps Ian had broken his fighting spirit. He was going become a lot richer with Robin Hood in the Tournament this year. He could make a killing betting against the Mongolians.
Robin jerked out of The Masters grip. Stepping back, he made a low bow at the waist. "At your service," Robin said loftily back to her. He brought his head up, holding it high. They knew now who he was, he would no longer act the slave.
End of Part Twenty One
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