The Greatest Warrior
By Virginia Cavazos
Chapter Four
Ralph's Return
Part Fourteen

Robin gazed longingly out the small window in his room. Sitting in a chair near the windows edge, his arms lay on the widow sill, his chin buried in the crook of his arm. The room the Master prepared for him was sparse. There was a small bed off to the side, a table, and a small window. Although the window had bars, Robin was able to look out. The view outside the window was of the courtyard. There had been an endless procession of carriages that day, bringing in the local lords and ladies to the Monastery. It had been two days since the incident in the arena. Robin found out later, from Alan; that the Master had Ox killed. He was of no use to her now. The other fighters that Robin injured would not be ready for the main tournament.

Robin was, Cho had made sure of that. He rubbed Robin with his special ointments and lotions. Made him drink bitter teas, telling him it was going to help him heal and make him stronger. The Master was a constant presence, asking if Robin would be ready for the fight. Cho would tell her not to worry. That King Richard would be ready for the first battle. Each time she came into the room, Robin’s heart sank. She was always wearing Marion’s scarf around her neck.

"You excited about the fight today?" Alan asked.

Alan had been a constant companion to Robin lately. After the fight, something changed with him. The look in his eyes towards Robin spoke more of respect now. He began to treat Robin as if he was a human being, and not a slave.

Robin sat by the window. He lay his head on his arms. He didn’t say much lately. There really wasn’t much to say. He was more of a prisoner now than before. Two guards were constantly watching over him. Nero and Caligula were never out of his sight; Cho made sure of that. The two dogs lay now at his feet. "Should I be?" Robin sighed.

"Well Cho certainly is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this excited since I’ve been here."

Robin just stared out the window, not answering…not caring. Alan was standing near Robin’s bed. His bed was better than the one in Cho’s room. Some things here were better, but in other respects worse. Here he felt more enslaved. Cho and The Master both had big plans for his future. "His future!" Robin thought. He buried his head in his arms. What future did he have? Here there was none.

"Cho said he's making you something special. I wonder what it is?" Alan tried to start a conversation with Robin. He wasn’t succeeding very well. Robin ignored any attempts Alan made.

"King Richard if you really want..." Alan started to say. He was interrupted by Cho barging into the room. He held a black leather vest in his hands.

"Come King Richard. I want you to put this on."

Hearing Cho’s orders, Robin listlessly stood up and walked to where Cho waited for him. Cho ordered him to raise his arms. He numbly complied. Robin stood still staring at nothing, as Cho fitted the vest on him. He laced it tightly in the back.

"This will protect your injuries inflicted on you King Richard."

As Cho finished the lacing, he ordered Robin to drop his arms. His arms fell limply to his side. Cho tested the tightness of the vest. Nodding his approval, he was satisfied it would do the job.

Cho whirled Robin around to face him. Robin’s listless eyes stared back at Cho. "Your first battle will be in one hour," Cho told him. "We will show these lords and barons how a true warrior fights."

Smiling, Cho looked into his warriors face. He frowned as he saw that Robin’s eyes were blank and spiritless. The spark that was there when he was brought into the monastery was gone. At first, Cho was glad. He thought his warrior would become a better fighter. But it was during some sparing that Cho had done that morning that made him realize something was missing. His warrior no longer had the fighting spirit in him to win. That was what excited him when he first saw this man. He knew that this was the Greatest warrior that he searched for, for so long. This man had the look of a true warrior in his eyes. One that Cho had seen only from those in his own country.

It was gone now, Cho needed to do something to get that look back.

"If you’ll excuse me I have to do something," Alan said as he quickly left the room.

"The fight will start soon, you be there Alan," Cho yelled out as Alan was closing the door. Alan peeked his head back in. "Don’t worry Cho, I wouldn’t miss King Richard’s first arena fight for the world." The head was then pulled back and was gone. Cho was in agreement with Alan. This was going to be special tonight.

"Are we ready?" a joyous voice asked. The Master rushed into the room. She was wearing something that Robin never thought he would see her in, a dress. She was dressed in a blue shimmery gown. The top was a tight bodice, the full skirt ran to the floor. Her black hair was not braided, but down. It ran just past her waist. Robin searched the masters neck for Marion’s scarf. She wasn’t wearing it.

"Is he ready Cho?" She asked. Her smile was so big. It was all she could do to contain it.

"He is ready Master," Cho bowed to her.

The Master walked up to Robin.

"He’d better be," she warned Cho, looking up at Robin.

"I have a lot of lords and barons here to see him. I let the word out of a new fighter."

She scraped her long nails on Robin’s chin hairs. Robin stared passively ahead. "I even informed the baronesses and ladies of our handsome King Richard. Many came to see him." She brought her nails across Robin’s chest. Robin remained still. "You're going to make me a lot of money King Richard. By the time this week is over, I’ll have every lord and baron kneeling before me. Because I will have all their money."

"Whose money?" A light voice asked from the doorway.

With out turning The Master said in a tired voice. "Our money Ian!"

Ian entered the room. He wore a bright red velvet waistcoat, and red pants. His shirt was a light pink with ruffles at the cuffs and neckline. He was the picture of elegance. He walked gently into the room. Gazing around he sniffed.

"So this is where you’ve been hiding him."

"For his protection Ian. I haven’t been hiding him," her voice was laced with intolerance.

Ian walked around the room. There really wasn’t much to see. He was back at the door in a few seconds.

"Well I’m off to greet my guests. I hope he puts on a great show."

With that said, Ian left the room. The Master tugged at Robin’s beard bringing his head lower. He didn’t’ resist her.

"I want you to put on a good show. Do you hear me King Richard? I want you to dazzle them. Give them their moneys worth. When this fight is done, I want all the Lords and Barons announcing that they will be coming back for the Main Tournament. Because this year we’re going to win it!" Robin looked down at the Master with his eyelids half-closed in indifference. She let him go with a push of her hands. Still Robin remained abject. The Master eyed him up and down. He was ready on the outside. She had never seen a man in more excellent condition. But was he prepared on the inside?

"If you don’t win that fight King Richard," the master warned him. "If you don’t give it your all. Well what Cho did to you that week is nothing compared to what I’ll do if I get my hands on you. Is that clear?" Robin silently nodded his head.

"Good my pet," she cooed, patting him on the chest. "Then I’ll see you at the fight." She whirled around with a flourish, and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Cho spit on the ground as the door closed.

"I hate that woman. She said she has plans for you. Well you're my warrior. Don’t worry King Richard." Standing behind Robin Cho patted him on his back. "I’ll take good care of you. Now come let me do your hair."

He grabbed Robin’s Hair. Taking out a leather tie Cho braided it along with Robin’s hair. "This will make it strong. So your opponent can not use it against you." He hummed as he braided Robin’s hair tight. As he finished tying off the end, he pulled on it to make sure it was good and tight.

"There, that is how my master taught me. That is how a true Kenosi warrior wears it." He stepped back admiring his warrior. Still Robin was silent. Cho started feeling uneasy with the silence.

"Let us go now. They’re waiting to see My Greatest Warrior." Cho was grinning to himself as he walked towards the door. Robin silently followed him - as always. The two dogs were behind Robin. Cho opened the door to the room. There were two guards waiting in the hallway.

"We go now," Cho told them.

The guards led the way down the hallways. Robin kept his eyes down, staring at Cho’s heels ahead of him. As they walked on, he heard a familiar voice.

"’Ello Mon Ami."

Robin’s head shot up at the sound of Jeans voice. As they were turning a corner, Robin found him leaning against a wall, waiting for them.

"Eet ees your big day, no?" Jean smiled in Robin’s direction.

Robin remained silent. He was out of the room now. He had to ask permission to speak. Cho granted it to him, without him asking.

"I’m fine Jean. How are you?" Robin smiled warmly at Jean. Taking Jeans hand in his, he shook it briskly.

"Ees eet all right eef I walk weeth you to the arena?" He asked Robin. Robin looked at Cho in earnest. The guards seemed uneasy with the blind swordmaster there.

"It's all right Jean." Cho grunted his approval. "You can tell him what to expect in the arena." They then resumed the long walk to the main arena.

Robin took Jeans hand in his, leading him on.

"I missed talking to you Jean," Robin began.

"And I to you Mon Ami. I ‘ad ‘erd what ‘appened to you." Jean shook his head. "Poor Ox. ' ee never should ‘ave listened to Curtis." Robin also shook his head in sadness. It was a useless death.

"But ‘ow are you feeling King Richard? Are you ready for your first beeg fight?" Robin softly laughed. The sadness was evident in his voice.

"I don’t know Jean. I just don’t know."

Jean pulled Robin’s head down so he could whisper softly to him.

"There ees something dif-fer-ant with you Mon Ami. I can see eet."

Robin jerked his head up in surprise. Jean tenderly laughed.

"I may not be able to see with thees," Jean pointed to his eyes. "But I can still see with thees." He pointed to his heart. Robin brought his arm around to Jeans shoulder giving it a squeeze.

"I’m all right," he reassured him.

"No Mon Ami. There ees something def-fer-ant. Something that I felt when I first met you. Eet ees no longer there. You ‘ad a fire in your ‘eart. I felt something from you, that I ‘ad not felt in a long time. I felt ‘ope."

Robin’s smile was one of pain. He had given up hope. For the past two days, he felt himself falling deeper into a black pit. Being with Jean was the first bright light he had seen in a long time.

"Let me tell you something Monsieur. When I lost my eyes I gave up ‘ope. Who would want a blind swordmaster? The Master was ready to send me to where Ox is right now. But I showed ‘er. I used my other senses to fight. My ‘eart, my soul. Thees old man still ‘as something left in ‘im. As long as ee ‘as a breath to take." He patted Robin on the chest. "And you must always feel that way Mon Ami. Believe me, you ‘ave inspired a lot of men ‘ere who ‘ave given up ‘ope of leaving ‘ere long a-go. You gave them that geeft. Please do not take eet away."

Robin searched around as they walked the dark corridors. The trainers were all there with there warriors. The trainers were still looking at Robin with envy. The warriors, they looked at Robin in a different way. There was faith and hope in their eyes. Their look to Robin was as the one who would help them to escape from here. The look was familiar to Robin. He had seen it from his men in Sherwood. He saw it in the looks of the villagers when he aided them when an injustice was done. Robin closed his eyes in anger, anger at himself. He had forgotten why he had taken up a life as an outlaw. To help those that couldn’t help themselves. These people needed Robin’s help, and he was going to do everything in his power to do it.

"I theenk I feel something familiar eh Mon Ami. Per'aps that old spark?"

Robin smiled down at the old Swordmaster. "Perhaps." Robin softly replied, as he gently squeezed his shoulder.

"Good, because you are about to see something that ‘as not been seen for many, many years. Be ready King Richard. Be strong. You will ween that fight. Not for the Master but for us." Robin heard a soft roar as they approached the arena. Cho’s head was held high. This was a day he had waited for, for a very long time.

"I will leave you King Richard. The Master will not be pleased that I ‘ave spoken with you. But do not worry I will be near. Alan ‘as promised to tell me of your fight." Clutching Robin’s hand Jean shook it strongly.

"Thank you Jean." Robin grabbed his hand with both of his. The hope of freedom was slowly returning. Jean let Robin’s hand go. He waited in the corridor as they walked on.

"Good Luck," he waved to Robin.

"Thanks," Robin called back to him. "I think I'll be needing it."

Robin could see that they were almost at the arena. The light at the end of the corridor was blocked out by the bodies of the packed arena. Many were attending the fight today.

As they walked into the arena a large deafening roar broke out through the crowd. Robin’s two guards shifted position to walk by his side. He was now surrounded, with Cho in front, the guards at his sides and the dogs in the rear. As they made their way towards the center ring, the crowd parted at Cho’s insistence.

"Move, we are here for the battle. Make way for King Richard!" Cho bellowed out. The crowd moved out of the way. Robin stepped over the small lip of the center ring. All around he was surrounded by lords and barons. They wore their expensive jewelry. They had on there velvet dresses and lace shirts. Most sat on elegant chairs, provided by the Master. Searching around Robin spied her sitting next to Ian. She looked as refined as the other aristocracy.

As they walked into the center of the main ring the ladies gasped in appreciation at the new fighter. They whispered to themselves, that he was as handsome as the Master said he would be. Robin stood out in the center ring. The black leather he wore covered him, it clung so tightly that the ladies smiles grew as each one was able to view him better in the center ring. The lords were jealous at the wide-eyed stares their wives and mistresses gave to the new fighter. Cho’s chest could not have swelled out any more. He was about to burst with pride.

After showing Robin off to the crowd, Cho led him off to the side. He searched the crows for Alan. He had to hurry, the fight was about to begin. Already the other fighter was approaching. The crowd parted at the other side. A large man approached the center of the ring. He was a short, stocky man. Sparsely dressed, he held a whip by his side. His trainer stood at his side. With Cho and Robin there, the trainer approached the center of the ring. Cho advanced to the center to meet him. As Robin waited on the side for the two trainers to finish talking, Alan ran into the ring. Panting he came up to Robin.

"Oh good I’m in time," he gasped. He clutched something in his shirt.

"Quickly King Richard, open your shirt," Alan urged him. Perplexed, Robin opened the top of his shirt. Alan came up close to him; he brought out something from the interiors of his shirt, stuffing it down Robin’s shirt. A quick glance told Robin what it was. His face broke into the biggest smile he wore since he entered this horrible place. After stuffing the item in Robin’s shirt, Alan began to close it for him.

"Now you do good out there King Richard, okay?" Alan told him sternly.

Robin’s face felt flush with gratitude to Alan. Noticing the look Alan blushed.

He just started backing up; smiling at him, giving him encouraging words. Robin clutched at his shirt. He felt for Marion’s scarf that now lay hidden under it.

While Alan was gone, he had stolen it from the Masters bedroom. Robin felt a warmness grow in his heart, it was a feeling, thus far foreign to him since he was taken captive. As they prepared to begin the battle, Robin pitied the fighter he was about to face. Searching for the Master, he then sneered at her. If it was a show she wanted? It was a show she would get! Robin Hood was back! With the help of Jean and Alan, he would forget who he was again!

End of Part Fourteen

Part 13 / Part 14 / Part 15 / Part 16

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