Robin was surprised by what the Master did next. There were no fits of rage, or ranting. She just smiled up at him, laughing gently she said. "I knew you were special. But not that special."
She spun around on her heels. Her eyes darted back and forth, as she calculated how much his worth just went up.
Prince John was thrilled, Robin Hood had been in Ian's keep for almost a month now. He relished thinking of the torture he must have endured, it was to bad he wasnít here to enjoy it.
"Dear cousin, I think we shall make a killing at this years tournament!" Prince John enthused.
Ian agreed, "Yes cousin, and it will be our little secret. Do we understand?" Ian threw a threatening look at the three. They all agreed, no one was to know that King Richard was Robin Hood.
"Good," Prince John said with a satisfied grin. "Now I wish to take a nap before the fights begin. Everyone leave!" Giving Robin a slight bow of his head, he said. "I shall see you later, dear brother," he howled with laughter.
After bowing to Prince John, The Master told Cho, "Take him to his room. I want him to stay there until the first fight."
Cho grabbed Robinís arm and pulled him out of the room. When the door was opened, Robinís four guards were waiting for them. Alan had been silently listening to all that was saidÖhe was speechless. He numbly headed back to Robinís room. During the past few weeks, he had grown to respect King Richard. Now that he knew that he was Robin Hood, things were suddenly different.
Cho walked briskly back to Robinís room. Robin walked with his head held high. He had a different look about him. Alan wondered how he could have missed it. He was different, special. Cho knew it all along. Looking back at Cho, he saw that he wore the most satisfied grin on his face. As they entered Robin's room, Robin walked to the center. Turning he faced Cho, he stood his ground. Cho stopped in front of Robin.
"Why did you not tell me you were Robin Hood?"
"I asked you why you didnít want to know my real name. You said it wasnít important." Cho recalled that night. A large smile started to form on his face.
"I knew when I first saw you that you were special my Warrior. Now when I return to my country I will return with a legend." Cho was very proud.
Robin said in a deep threatening voice. His eyes stared at Cho intensely. "Know this. You will have to kill me before I go to your country." Cho cryptically smiled at his warrior. Stepping up to Robin, he suddenly grabbed him by the neck, applying a pressure to the back of it. Robin suddenly went limp, he felt every muscle leave his body. As Cho held his still body in his arms, he gently stroked Robinís hair.
"You do not know me as well as you think you do, my Warrior. When you win this Tournament, I will take you back with me to my country. There you will bring honor back to my family." Robin felt helpless in Choís arms. Once again, he had to prove to Robin who was the Master. As he released the pressure on his neck, he let Robin go. Robinís limp form fell to the ground, Alan ran to help him.
"Let that be a warning to you. You will always be mine. I am and will always be your master. Know this too Robin Hood, there are still many things that this old man can do to you. Do not every threaten me again." With that ominous warning, he stormed out of the room.
Alan held Robin in his lap, waiting for him to recover from whatever Cho had done to him. It frightened Robin how sudden, and easy Cho was able to make him so helpless. If he was to escape from here, it had to be soon. He hoped his friends had come up with a plan. The tournament ended tomorrow. As Robin waited for the numbness to go away, he could faintly feel Alanís arms that embraced him.
Alan stayed with him until he fully recovered. He still found it hard to accept that he held Robin Hood in his arms. He felt a great honor being with him. He never told Cho, but he always liked King Richard as a friend. Now he knew why. He was Robin Hood, his hero. As Robin slowly recovered, Alanís mind raced, trying to come up with a way to help Robin Hood escape.
*** *** ***
Kemal raced ran into the room, slamming the door loudly. It caught the attention of everyone.
"Weíre in trouble," he panted. He was out of breath from running back to the room.
"What kind?" Marion asked. She had been sitting near the window, looking out at the Mongolians. Standing up she rushed over to the distressed Kemal. Concern etching her face.
"Prince JohnÖhe's here!"
"Oh my god. Has he seen Robin? Does The Master know?"
"That's the funny thing Marion," Kemal told her. "I heard he hand an audience with him. Even after that, the fight is still on. No word that King Richard is Robin Hood."
Marion was now confused. Why hadnít Prince John announced that King Richard was Robin? It was Tuck who had figured it out.
"Just like Prince John," Tuck chuckled.
"How's that?" Little John asked Tuck, confusion coloring his voice.
"I would hazard to make a guess that Prince John is keeping Robinís identity a secret for his own gain. During my tour of the monastery, I heard that what brings the Mongolians back here is the money they make from betting on the fights. Theyíve never lost a tournament here, so the bets have become quite large."
Little Johns eyes showed understanding. "Oh I see. So Prince John is keeping Robinís identity a secret, to make a large bet with the Mongolians."
Marion nodded her head, as she also realized what Prince John was up to. "Yes Little John, that must be it. Why else wouldnít he recognize Robin?"
"Who recognized Robin?" Ralph asked. He had just walked into the room. As David, he was checking out the Mongolian wagons in the courtyard. He yanked his beard off, scratching where it was.
"Prince John is here," Little John informed Ralph.
Ralph stopped scratching. "He's here!" he cried out.
"Donít worry Ralph. He hasnít told anyone that King Richard is Robin."
"Oh, yes, that's good Little John," Ralph still looked worried.
"You set for tonight Ralph?" Marion asked him.
"Yes I have everything set." Ralph still looked concerned. "They're going to have something called fireworks tonight, after the fights. I spoke to some of the other lords, they said that it has a lot of noise. I hear it's quite a spectacular show. Iíll try to steal some powder then."
Marion had a satisfied smile on her face. Finally, they were doing something to help Robin. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Marion motioned for Ralph to put his beard back on. He tried to, but it wouldnít stick. As the door slowly began to open, he dived for the window.
"Johnny, Elizabeth may I have a word with you?" The Master hesitantly walked into the room. With his head hanging out the window, Ralph was emptying his stomach out.
"What on earth is wrong with him?" The Master asked.
"His liquid breakfast disagreed with him," Marion made a disgusted face.
The Master stared at Ralph as he heaved outside the window. She really didnít know what to say. She decided to inform them of the announcement.
"I came here to tell you that the tournament is beginning tonight."
"Tonight!" Marion gasped. She quickly changed her face to a look of happiness, to try to cover her alarm. "Oh that would be great. But why the change?"
"We decided to start it early because Prince John has arrived."
"I really wanted to see more of our men fighting," she pouted.
"Oh donít worry Elizabeth. Youíll see a lot of fighting. The best youíll ever see in your life. Unfortunately you wonít be able to sit with me Johnny." The Master gazed up into Little Johns eyes. She had a look of genuine sadness, Little John tried to hide his look of relief.
"That's all right, I understand. My sister and I will sit farther back then."
As far from Prince John that they could possibly sit, he thought. Hopefully, he wouldnít spot them.
The Master walked up to Little John. Placing her hand on his chest, she stroked it slowly. Looking up into his face, she sighed.
"That doesnít mean we canít meet after the first part of the tournament."
"This is only the first part?" Marion asked The Master. If that was so then it gave them another day to work with.
"Oh yes Elizabeth. Four fights today. The rest to be held tomorrow."
Gently patting Little John on the chest, she whispered to him.
"Iíll see you tonight then." She threw him a kiss. Little John blushed. His Blue eyes sparkled as he whispered back, "See you tonight."
The Master giggled. She stumbled to the door, having trouble opening it she walked out. Forgetting to close it, Tuck obliged her.
"You can stop now!" Tuck called out to Ralph.
Ralph brought his head back into the room. Looking back out the window, he called out. "Sorry!" Grinning to himself, he said. "How unfortunate for one of the trainers to be right under me!"
"You heard what she said. We have until tomorrow to get Robin out of here. That means you must get some of that black powder tonight Ralph." Marion tried to stress. Their plan would not work, unless Ralph stole the black powder.
"Donít worry Marion. Iíll get it for you."
*** *** ***
Robin sat in his room, waiting for Cho to come in and take him to the Arena. The door opened, his mood was gloomy. He really wasnít anxious about fighting these Mongolians. As a man entered the room Robinís face lit up in joy, it was Jean! He entered the room, with Alan right behind. Robin ran up to him, taking his hand, he lead Jean to his chair.
"It's good to see you Jean," Robin told him, as he sat him down.
Gently sitting on the chair, Jean reached up to touch Robinís face. Robin squatted down in front of him.
"Alan Ďas sneaked me in Mon Ami. I wished to speek to you about the tour-na-ment. I want to geeve you tips on Ďow to fight the Mongolians."
Robin looked up to Alan. "Thank you." Robinís face was flushed with gratitude.
"Your welcome Robin," Alan answered back. Robin gave Alan a warning look. He spoke his name in front of Jean. Jean just smiled at Robin.
"Do not worry Mon Ami. Alan Ďas informed me of Ďoo you are. I always knew you were something special. I did not know Ďow much."
Jean shook his head in wonder. "To think we Ďad the great Robin Ďood Ďere een our midst all thees time. I think the others always knew you were sometheeng special, Ďeh Mon Ami?"
Robin softly smiled. "I have never thought of myself as special." Robin humbly said. Jeans finger went under Robinís chin. Bringing it up, he stared at Robin with his blank eyes. "That ees a sign of a very special man. ' E does not realize Ďow special Ďe ees."
Robin blushed, he was humbled in front of the two men he had made close friendships. "Now Mon Ami listen very carefully. These Mongolians are dif-fer-ent. They live for one thing - to fight. Eet ees all they know. They are excellent een all ways of fighting. I know, I lost my eyes een the last tournament."
Alan sadly smiled down at Jean. He stood behind him, placing his hands on Jeans shoulders, Alan proudly said.
"Jean went the farthest of any fighter."
"Yes, I was good," Jean chuckled. Touching his eyes he sadly sighed, "But not good enough."
"Jean, how can I possible hope to beat them if you didnít? You are the best swordsman I have ever seen." They could hear the anxiety in Robinís voice.
"Because you also Ďave something that their fighters do not Ďave. You Ďave this." Jean tapped Robin on his head. "Their fighters do not know Ďow to think for themselves. They are like poor Ox was, very stupeed. You Robin Ďood are very smart. You see, eet ees a good thing that my eyes were taken, for my last memories were what I saw on those last days. I Ďave played their battles over and over een my Ďead. Eet ees all I see now. Een those five years I Ďave analyzed the way they fight. With your wits and what I Ďave remembered of the fights, you will be able to beat those Mongolians. Now listen very carefully. Alan and I Ďave a plan."
Alan squatted next to Robin as Jean told him of their plan. Alan prayed it would work, it was Robin's only chance; that is if Jean was right. Finished with their planning, Jean quietly left the room. Robin hugged the blind swordmaster as he left. Jean kissed Robin on the cheek, he told him he hoped to see him after he won the tournament.
As Alan led Jean around the corner, the door to Cho's room opened. He entered Robin's room carrying his mysterious chest. As he placed it on a small table in the room, Robin stood up and walked to the center of the room. This time Cho took his time checking on Robin. He made sure the outfit he wore was on right. Taking his hair down, he re-braided it. Not a word was said as he prepared Robin for the upcoming battle.
When he was satisfied, that Robin was ready; he stood in front of him. He stared at him for a few moments, Robin began to feel uncomfortable. He stood his ground, not flinching. Cho stepped back and gave Robin a respectful bow of his head.
"This is what I have trained you for my Warrior," Cho told Robin. "You must fight now with every thing I have taught you and more. Use your mind, your wits your skills. Remember to use what I taught you about blocking out the pain. For now, you will know why I did what I did to you. It is fortunate that it was done a short time ago. It is still fresh in your mind. I will try to help you when you are in the arena. But once the battle begins you are on your own."
Robin nodded his understanding. His head was full with the plans Jean and Alan talked about, he was as prepared as he could be for the upcoming fight. Cho smiled mysteriously at Robin. Walking up to his small chest, he unlocked it. Opening it, he searched inside for something special. He had the same mysterious grin when he found what he was looking for. Robin saw him pull out a wide red belt. Closing the chest Cho walked back to Robin. Carefully, gently; he handed the belt reverently to him. Robin turned the belt over in his hands. It was made of thick red leather. He saw carvings etched along the surface of the belt. Five Mongolians were shown in battle. Each one portrayed a different type of fighting skill, being waged on the belts face. Robin turned in it hands; he showed it to Cho.
"What is this?" Robin asked in wonder. The marksmanship was remarkable.
"It is a belt from the Kenosi clan, My clan! It was made only for a Greatest Warriors to wear. After many years of searching, I have finally found someone who deserves wear it. Put it on, Robin Hood." Cho whispered, as his face glowed in pride. Robin placed the belt across his waist. Taking the ties that hung on it he pulled on them tightly. Cho watched Robin in rapture, he wanted to help him put the belt on, but waited patiently. Robin finished tying the belt on, the setting sun's rays accentuated the deep etchings on the belt.
"Now we are ready to face my people." Cho stated, he spun around so Robin couldnít see the tears in his eyes. This is what his whole life has been for, why he spent twenty years of his life in this godforsaken country.
It was what his ancestors had trained for, for centuries. His warrior would be the victor in the tournament. He would return to his homeland a hero. He would bring honor back to his clan. Placing his hands together, Cho bowed deeply at the waist. He held the bow for a few seconds. Robin could hear him mumbling a prayer, standing Cho turned and gave Robin a warm smile.
"Let us go King Richard, the tournament awaits us."
Robin was as ready as he could possibly be. Cho walked to the door, opening it up he saw four guards waiting to escort Robin. Sensing something special, Nero and Caligula made sure to stay close to Robin. Two of the guards led the way, Cho followed with Robin in the center. Two other guards followed behind Robin. Alan told Robin he would wait at the Arena for them to arrive.
They walked through the empty hallways. It was strange to the corridors empty, all were in the Arena now. This is what they had waited for five years, to have the greatest fighters from two great countries pitted against each other. Robin could hear the crowds roar as word was sent out that Englandís greatest chance to win the tournament was coming to the Arena.
The noise grew louder as they neared the Arena. Robin closed his eyes as he walked on, saying a silent prayer. There was no hope of escape for him now, he had to fight in this tournament. He prayed that he would be able to defeat the Mongolians. If anything, to give Marion time to help him escape. He would never forget her words to him that they would get him out of there. He just had to buy them time. They finally came to the Arenas entrance, the crowd let out a roar that echoed down the empty corridors. Swallowing hard, Robin steeled his shoulders, it was time!
End of Part Twenty Two
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