The Greatest Warrior
By Virginia Cavazos
Chapter Seven
Men of Honor...

Parts Twenty Seven

"It must be Alan," Cho quietly explained. "The rules of the final battle are dictated by the majority of the fighters. My people have the majority. Lu Chang has dictated that all fighters must wear the slave collars in the final battle. There is nothing I can do." Cho stepped back as they prepared Robin to be collared.

Lu Chang smiled evilly at Robin, as he pulled at the men holding his arms. His eyes grew wide in alarm, as Lu Chang was handed the slave collar. This was the final humiliation…to be collared like a dog! He felt one of the Mongolians tightly grip his head. Bending it down, they held his head still. Lu Chang wrapped the collar around Robin’s neck. The coldness of the metal stung him, he bucked in the Mongolians hold. Stretching him out further halted his protestations.

Lu Chang held the collar in place, as the blacksmith walked up to Robin. Using a pair of pinchers, he was carrying a hot bolt with him. Inserted in the collar, it would be used to lock it in place around Robin’s neck. Alan could see that the bolt was glowing a bright red. The men that held onto to Robin’s arms stretched him out further. Robin groaned at being pulled beyond his limit. He could feel the heat of the bolt as it came near his neck. A muffled cry was heard as he felt it burn as the bolt was placed in the collar. He squirmed in the men's grip, the heat of the bolt searing his neck.

Lu Chang pulled the collar tight as the bolt slowly cooled down. He wanted Robin to suffer. Cho quickly searched around the stables, picking up a bucket of water, he threw it at Robin. The bolt hissed as it was cooled by the water.

"You coddle it," Lu Chang hissed. "I would have let it suffer more."

Cho kicked at one of the men holding Robin’s arm. Jumping up he whirled and hit the other man with his leg. With Robin released; he fell to the ground, throwing his hands out to land on them. One hand reached up, clawing at his new slave collar.

"Now it is a proper warrior," Lu Chang coldly declared.

Alan ran to help Robin get up. Robin clutched at the gag in his mouth. Pulling it out, he threw it at Lu Chang's feet. He looked at him defiantly; even though he now wore a slave collar.

"We shall see how great a warrior it is tonight," Lu Chang challenged.

"All will see Lu Chang," Cho proudly said. "Let us go now my warrior. We have things to do." As Robin turned he could the stable doors were left open; he saw his friends looking into them. Clutching at his slave collar his head fell down in dejection. They saw him collared! He was unable to look into the eyes of his friends, in such an abject condition.

Marion had to hold herself back as Robin walked by her. Little Johns face was scarlet with anger. It literally took Kemal and Tuck to hold him back when he realized what the Mongolians were going to do to Robin. It was torture for him to see his closest friend collared like a dog. Little John then made his decision. As Robin disappeared back into the monastery, Little John sadly announced.

"I’m going to talk to The Master. We have to get Robin out of here, NOW!" Little John left his friends. They knew there was no talking him out of it. It was the only way Little John knew of to help his best friend. No, not just his friend, Robin was a brother him. If there was a way for Little John to help, his brother leave this ungodly place. No matter what it was, he was going to do it.

Marion leaned back on Kemal, he held her up. It was pure agony to watch Robin treated so cruelly. She now had an idea of what he had lived through all his time he was held here. To see the way the Mongolians treated him, as if he was an animal. Her poor Robin, the look on his face as he walked by. It was too much for Marion to bear. She felt Tuck put his hand across her waist.
"Come on Marion. We have to make plans on helping Robin escape."

Marion silently nodded. This was even a larger cross for her to bear. In order to help Robin escape, Little John would have to give up his freedom. She swore that once Robin was safe, they would find a way to help Little John. For now, they had to concentrate on one thing at a time. They had to help Robin escape from the hell he was living in.

The five of them headed back towards the Monastery.
"Wait!" Kemal cried out. He pushed them off to the side. They heard an old familiar voice.

"Cousin, it is a most glorious day. I wish to spend it outside for a while."
Marion cringed; it was Prince John. He strode out of the monastery with Ian beside him. They had their backs turned to Prince John as they walked by. Sighing in relief, they then headed into the Monastery.

"I’ll be there in a minute," Ralph called out. "I think I see someone familiar." Tuck glanced back at Ralph. "Be careful Ralph. We don’t want you being recognized."

"Don’t worry about me!’ Ralph called out. He turned to walk back to the stables. Noticing something, Tuck called out.

"When we return to the room I want to look at that injury you have."

Ralph limped away. "Oh don’t worry Tuck. I’ll be fine."

Prince John stood in the stables. Ian was showing him his new white stallion. He had purchased it with the winnings from last nights battle.

"Hmm yes Ian." Prince John said in a totally bored voice. "That is a nice horse. Look, is there anything else you have here that I might be able to ride?"

"Let me check cousin," Ian said. He quickly left to ask the stable master. Prince John was left to himself. As he examined the white stallion, he heard someone whisper out to him.

"Prince John."

Prince John jerked around. He could make out a man standing in the shadows. As he walked out, he pulled a fake beard off. Prince John immediately recognized the man.

"Where the hell have you been? I paid you over a year ago to kill Robin Hood!"

Ralph humbly apologized. "Sire I was detained here for a year. I had only just been able to escape three weeks ago."

"I gave up on you man!" Prince John bellowed. "I thought you said you were the best hired Assassin in England. Well Robin Hood is still alive!"

"Sire, once hired on a job I always fulfill on it. I did try to kill him last night, but failed." Ralph reached up at his sore jaw. A red mark was present on it.

"Tried to kill him last night!" Prince John roared.

"Yes Sire, I’m sorry," Ralph apologized profusely.

"Well it's a good thing you didn’t man! I have a lot of money riding on tonight’s fight!"

Ralph looked up at Prince John. "Never fear sire, I will try again, and I assure you, this time I will succeed."

"Of course you will my man, of course you will. Only after Robin Hood has won this tournament! Is that clear?" Prince John bluntly told Ralph.

"Yes Sire," Ralph said, bowing to his Prince. "After he wins the tournament, Robin Hood will die by my hands."

A satisfied grin grew on Prince Johns face. "Good. Then Robin Hood will help me win all that lovely riches. And you will help me rid myself of Robin Hood." Prince John rubbed his hands with glee. "I love it when a plan comes together."

"Yes sire. Don’t worry, it will be done." Ralph stuck his beard back on. Hiding the blow Robin made on him last night. Excusing himself, he quickly ran into the Monastery, to catch up with the others.

As Marion entered the arena, she spied Little John talking to the Master. From the smile on the Masters face, she could tell that she was a very happy woman. From the look on Little Johns, he was quite the opposite. They conversed for a few minutes. When the master was finished, she reached up and hugged Little John. His arms remained hanging at his sides. Kissing him on the cheek, she quickly left the Arena. She still had arrangements to be made. Little John slowly walked back to the others. Kemal searched about the arena. Robin was training in the center ring. Robin knew his friends had arrived in the arena, but he was to ashamed to meet their eyes. He constantly tugged and pulled at his slave collar. It seemed to weigh a ton.

"Its all set," Little Johns voice was almost a whisper.

"We provide a distraction after the tournament is done. She will arrange for Robin to be brought to us. We're to wait in her quarters. You will be escorted to the stables, and I will remain here." Little Johns head hung in despair.

"Little John, you know we will find some way to get you out of here." Marion tried to encourage him.

A small smile appeared on Little Johns face. "I was hoping you would say that."

As Marion patted Little John on the shoulder, they heard someone quietly ask.

"Are you friends of Robin ‘ood?"

Marion flinched. They were careless, someone heard them say Robin’s name. She turned to see the speaker, a small man stood silently before her. Marion guessed him to be in his 40’s. His clothes spoke to her that he was a prisoner here. The man walked up to the small group. His hands fanned out to find them. Little John immediately went up to help the man. They realized that he was blind.

"I thank you Mon Ami," Jean said. "Now then, you are Robin’s friends, no?"

"Yes, we are Robin’s friends!" Little John corrected Jean. Tuck laughed.

"Little John he means yes."

"Then why did he say no?" Little John asked, confused.

"Jean its you!" An excited voice exclaimed. Jean felt a man hugging him. He ranked of liquor. "I am sorry Monsieur, you ‘ave me at a dis-ad-vantage. ' Oo are you."

"Its me Jean, Ralph." Jean brought his hands up to touch Ralph’s face.

"Ralph, Mon Ami! What are you doeeng ‘ere? And ‘ow did you grow a beard so fast?" Ralph chuckled as he gave Jean a warm hug.

"We're here to help Robin Hood escape," Ralph whispered in Jeans ear.

"And ‘oo are thees people?" Jean asked.

"This is Marion Fitzwalter," Ralph introduced Marion to Jean.

"Oh the ladee that ‘as Robin’s ‘eart." Jean took Marion’s hand and gently kissed it. As Ralph introduced the others to Jean, Robin looked on from where he was practicing. He saw Jean talking to his friends. An idea came to him, that perhaps they would be able to tell him of their plans to help him escape?

"You are not paying attention," Cho yelled out to Robin. "I must see how slow you are after that injury."

Robin had to find a way of reaching his friends. As Cho came up to him, trying to land a punch, Robin feigned the wrong way. Cho’s punch ended up on Robin’s jaw, he fell to the ground. Alan rushed up to help him up. As Alan helped him, Robin whispered to him.

"Alan, the people that Jean’s talking to are my friends please do this for me..."

Marion looked on to where Robin was as Ralph introduced Jean to the others. She grimaced as she saw Robin fall, taking a blow from the man called Cho. Another man ran up to Robin to help him up. Marion had noticed him before. He was a pleasant looking young man. In his early 20’s, his strawberry blond hair flew as he ran to help Robin. She could see the deep concern for Robin in his green eyes. As Robin spoke to the man, he pulled something out of his shirt, handing it to the man. The young man stuffed the object in his shirt. Robin rose from the ground, trying to avoid Marion’s sad eyes; he proceeded with his training.

The young man casually made his way towards Marion and the others. Marion backed up towards Ralph. Grabbing his arm, she whispered.

"Be quiet Ralph. Someone is coming."

Spying Alan, Ralph went into his drunk Lord routine again.

"A blind swordmaster!" Ralph laughed. "I know who to place my bet on that fight!" Ralph roared. Alan reached the small group, he looked nervous. He hoped Robin was right. Opening his shirt Alan plunged his hand inside. Holding it there, he bowed to Marion.

"Marion Fitzwalter?" Alan softly asked. He was careful not to say it to loudly.

"Who’s asking!" Little John asked protectively.

Alan stepped closer to Marion, Little John stepped closer to Alan. He quickly pulled out a bright blue scarf from his shirt. Bowing as low as he could he said, "This is a present from a great admirer. He says he hopes you will wear it at the fight tonight. He says he is very sorry for angry words said the day he left, and he hopes you forgive him."

Marion’s eyes began to tear, he still remembered that they had a fight that day. For the life of her, she could not recall exactly what was said. Her trembling hand took the scarf from Alan. She ran it through her fingers. It was a bright iridescent blue, her favorite color. All the time he spent in this unholy place and he still had thoughts of her. Still wanted to make up for the harsh words that were said that day. Marion glanced over to where Robin was practicing.

Robin gazed back at Marion, he saw she finally received her scarf. He could see Marion placing the scarf around her neck…tying it on. Robin quickly returned to his training, working more in earnest. At last, Marion received his present.

"Alan, do you know ‘oo thees ees?" Jean pulled Ralph towards him. Ralph pulled back, Alan was after all, The Masters brother. Feeling Ralph balk, Jean tried to calm his fears.

"Do not worry Ralph. Alan ees a changed man. ‘E wants to ‘elp Robin to escape from ‘ere as much as you do."

Ralph eyed Alan suspiciously. He was with him that day he escaped.

"I don’t know if we can trust this man," Ralph said to Marion.

"What can I do to prove to you that I want to help Robin?" Alan asked the others. They all trusted Ralph’s word more than Jeans.

Alan had to think of something that would convince them. "Look, Robin trusted me enough to give Marion her scarf."
"He did do that Marion," Little John offered.

"Believe me, Jean and I want to do anything we can to help Robin get out of here." Alan tried to plead his cause.

"That is true Mon Ami's. Robin must leave tonight."

"Yes," Alan agreed with Jean. "Cho has plans to leave with Robin tomorrow. After he wins the tournament." Still the others didn’t trust him.

Alan tried to think of something to make them believe he would never turn Robin in., "Wait let me ask Robin." Alan ran back to Robin. The others waited patiently. Alan and Robin conferred as Cho left to fetch some water. Robin looked serious as Alan told him of his friends suspicions. Robin then smiled and informed Alan of what to say. Alan nodded to him, he quickly returned to the small group.

Out of breath, he panted, "Robin told me, 'If a man doesn’t believe in himself, then he has no reason to live.' He said to tell you to trust this man. Because he believes in him, and trusts him with his life."

Placing his hand on Alan’s shoulder, Tuck warmly smiled.

"If Robin has faith in you my son, then we all do.

They all agree that this young man was to be trusted. They confided to him of their plans. He would go back to Robin and inform him of what was arranged with the Master. It was risky, but this was his only chance. Now all Robin had to do was win that tournament tonight. No one seemed to be worried about that except for Robin.

Marion slowly walked back to her room. Kemal and Tuck were setting up the sites where they would use the gunpowder. Ralph and Little John were returning with her to the room. Now all that was left to do was wait. Ralph had Jean with them, to talk over old times.

"How did you hurt your leg, you are limping badly?" Little John asked Ralph, as he limped down the corridors. Jean became concerned.

"Are you ‘urt bad Mon Ami?’

"No Jean, I just injured myself as I was stealing that black powder."

Jean patted Ralph on the arm. "Practicing your trade Mon Ami. I thought you ‘ad said you gave up doeeng that."

"I did Jean, I just took it up again, to help Robin Hood."

Jean nodded. "Then eet ees for a good cause."

Jean stopped as they were nearing the room.

"I ‘ave to go now. I am not allowed to enter thees area." Jean called Marion, she rushed to his side.

"I want to tell you that, that man loves you very much." Marion blushed at Jeans words. Jean placed a hand on hers. Squeezing it gently, he said.

"Alan told me when ee was under that ‘orrible torture for that week, ‘ee would call out your name constantly. I think eet ees the only way ‘ee survived eet." Kissing Marion’s hand Jean whispered gently to her. "’E ees a very special man."

"I know." Marion sighed, as she cupped Jeans face into her hands and gently kissed him on the cheek. Jean blushed several shades of red. "Better not let Robin know that I ‘ave stolen ‘is girl."

Marion quietly laughed. "I won’t tell if you don’t."

Jean smiled coyly at her. "Eet will be our little secret." Turning, he headed back to the arena, feeling along the walls to guide him there.

"A remarkable man," Marion said in wonder.

"Yes he is," Ralph agreed.

"When you go, you’ll have to take him with," Little John said.

Hearing these words as he departed, Jean smiled widely. His heart soared at the prospect of leaving the arena. He could almost taste his freedom now.

End of Part 27

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