The Greatest Warrior
By Virginia Cavazos
Chapter Eight
Betrayal, and unrequited love
Part Thirty Two

Marion raced into the darkness. The others followed as best, as they could, she could actually feel Robin within the forest...they were so close. In the distance, she spied a dark body lying on the ground. Marion hesitated, Little John ran ahead of her. Turning the body over he called out.

"Its Lu Chang."

Marion let out a sigh of relief. She then raced on. Robin was still out there, somewhere. Little John quickly jumped up as Alan and Kemal pursued Marion. Clearly, she knew exactly where she was going.

They spotted another body in the brush. This time Alan ran on ahead.

"Its Cho!" he informed them. "His throat is torn out. Must have been Nero. They have to be around here somewhere." Alan searched into the dark forest.

This time Marion hesitated. She glanced around, Robin was somewhere near by. She knew it, could feel it; but where?

"Do you know where he is?" Little John gently asked Marion. Marion brought her hand up to hush Little John. She listened intensely to the sounds of the night. Straining, she faintly heard it. Someone was humming softly; she knew it was her Robin.

Running into the brush, they found Robin lying next to a tree. Nero's head lay in his lap. Robin was calmly stroking the dogs head. Humming a tune, his eyes were empty as they stared ahead.

"Oh Robin, we found you!" Marion cried out in joy.

She ran to Robin. Kneeling in front of him, she embraced him, but he did not return the embrace. He slowly stroked Nero's head, humming to himself.

Feeling something was wrong, Marion drew back. "Robin! What's wrong?" Panic laced her voice.

Little John kneeled down on the ground. He shook Robinís shoulders.

"Robin we're here now. Donít you know us?" Little John choked at his words, still the lifelessness in Robinís eyes remained.

"I have seen this before," Alan sadly said.

"What have you seen?" Marionís head jerked to look up at Alan. Her eyes filling in tears. She clutched at her throat as she felt it constrict.

"Sometimes this happens to a fighter. All the pain proves to much for them. Iíve seen it many times in the training of warriors. I thought that Robin was stronger than this. I hoped he was, but sometimes they just give up."

Alan hung his head down in sorrow. He never would have thought that the great Robin Hood would be reduced to a broken man.

Marion strongly shook her head in denial. "No! Not Robin! He would never give up. Heíll get better, youíll see."

Marion turned her attention back to Robin. She brushed a stray lock of hair from his lifeless eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes of his, so expressive. They always told her so much of what he was feeling, but now they were so vacant.

"Youíll be better Robin," she whispered to him. She tried to sound positive. "All we have to do it take you back to Sherwood. You need to sleep in your own bed, and Tuck can take care of you." Smiling at him, she leaned over and pressed her lips on his, kissing him warmly. Robin never returned her kiss. His lips were as cold and lifeless as his eyes. This frightened her even more.

Little John placed his hands under Robinís arms and knees, gently lifting him up. His face grave as he hefted Robinís limp form in his arms. He Rolled Robinís head to lay on his chest. Holding back his tears, Little John headed back to the main road. He strained to keep his head up high, as he carried his brother back to where they left the horses. Marion silently followed after him.

Alan squatted down next to Nero. He could see he suffered a grave injury in his calf. He would be unable to make it back on his own.

"Kemal, can you help me with Nero?" Alan called out.

Kemal looked down at the Noble dog. He risked his life to protect Robin. Kemal placed his arms under Nero's legs, Alan held onto his chest. Lifting the large dog, they slowly followed Little John.

As they reached the road, Little John gently sat Robin next to a tree, alongside the road. Marion kneeled down, sitting on her heels, next to Robin.

"Think maybe Tuck can help him?" Little Johns voice broke.

With Robin in the condition he was now, Little John wanted to cry. He felt more grief inside now that what he had ever felt, as he witnessed what was done to Robin in the arena. At least there, Robin was whole, but with his mind lost? Little John brushed the tears from his eyes, suppressing a sob of anguish. Robin just had to get better!

Marion could hear the distress in his voice. "Donít worry Little John. Robin will be all right." Marion gently stroked Robinís face with her hand. "You always have my love." Marion whispered to him.

Marion began to examine Robin more closely. He was covered in fresh cuts. Her heart was breaking in two. She never imagined in her worst nightmares that she would see Robin in such a state. She searched around for something to use to clean him up. Remembering the scarf, she pulled it off. Balling it up, she started dabbing in on Robinís cuts.

"Look at you." She sternly said to him. Hoping he would hear her, he would respond to her. "You're just a mess Robert of Locksley. What am I going to do with you?"

Robin stared blankly at her, unresponsive to her touch.

"Now donít you think this will get you out of cleaning day. You will still have to wash your own clothes," Marion scolded him.

Marionís heart pumped in her chest so hard she could hear it in the night. Her Robin Hood was no longer there. Her thoughts raced; what if he never returned to her? She shook her head of such silly thoughts. Of course he would return, Robin was a strong man, the strongest she had ever seen. He just needed to see some familiar surroundings. That would break him out of his blank state.

As Marion continued to clean away the blood from Robinís face, she heard a thump behind her. Quickly turning around she saw Little John lying face down in the middle of the road. Dropping the bloody scarf in Robinís lap, she ran to Little John.

"Iím sorry I had to do that. I really got to like the big guy." A voice came out from the darkness. Marion immediately recognized the voice.

"Why Ralph?" She hissed, as she bent over Little Johns body to check on how hard Ralph hit him.

Ralph slowly walked out of the darkness. He held the nun-chucks in his hand.

"Nothing personal Marion. Just something that I have to do."

"What is that?" Marion asked as she slowly rose.
"You see, the day I was captured by Cho and his people, I was on my way to see Robin. I was on my way to kill him. Prince John paid me handsomely for the job. Its what I do. Once paid to do a job, I always make sure it's done."

Ralph glanced passed Marion, to Robin. "You know, it's funny. I really did want to join his cause at one time. But the money offered to me from Prince John was just to tempting.

I was diverted for a whole year by that damned Mongolian!í He spat out. "A year of my life taken by that man!" Ralph composed himself. He had a job to do. Smiling at Marion, he continued. "Now I have a chance to fulfill on the contract." Marion started backing up, towards Robin.

"I wonít let you do it Ralph." She warned him, murder in her voice.

"My dear Marion, I donít want to hurt you. But a contract is a contract."

Ralph brought the nun-chucks up; Marion stood her ground. Ralph would have to go through her, to get to Robin.

She gave a Ralph a crooked grin. "It seems youíve forgotten something Ralph."

"What's that?" Ralph asked.

"Me!" Kemal jumped into the air, knocking Ralph down with a hard kick to his back. Ralph rolled on the ground and immediately stood up. Alan was standing by Kemal's side. They placed Nero on the side of the road. Sneaking up behind Ralph as Marion diverted his attention.

"I have to warn you guys," Ralph said. "You donít know what you're getting into. I was trained for a year by Cho. And I was a professional assassin before I even met him."

"Am I suppose to be impressed?" Kemal scoffed. He flexed his muscles. Flinging his shirt to the side, Alan remained by Kemal's side. He was prepared to fight Ralph also.

"Remember, I warned you." Ralph brought the nun-chucks up. He then went into the attack. Kemal met Ralph first. He jumped into the air cart wheeling, using his feet to block any hit inflicted by Ralph. Ralph deftly avoided Kemal's hits and went straight after Alan. Alan had no experience battling against the nun-chucks. He tried to recall the way Robin fought against them with Cho. Attempting to duck the weapons as they flew back and forth, Alan tried to occupy Ralph as long as he could, so Kemal could come back into the attack. Ralph was used to battling more than one man. He leaped into the air, landing behind Alan.

Alan whirled around, but it was not in time. Ralph brought the deadly weapon down on Alan, quickly knocking him out. Ralph grabbed the unconscious Alan and used him as a shield against Kemal.

"You are a coward!" Kemal spat out contemptuously

"I do what I can to win." Ralph returned. Using Alan as a shield, Kemal could not get a hit into Ralph. As Kemal tried to get in close, Ralph threw Alanís limp form at Kemal. Kemal pushed Alan out of the way. As Alan fell to the ground, Kemal jumped into the air, whirling around, he tried to block the impending hit he knew was coming.

Ralph swung the weapon around. He made a glancing blow on Kemal's leg. The hit stung, Kemal fell to the ground. Clutching his leg, his eyes were on fire as he gazed up at Ralph.

"I never trusted you. Now I know why. You have no heart!"

Ralph coldly smiled down at Kemal. "With the money Iíll get for killing Robin Hood, I can buy one." He flung the nun-chucks towards Kemal. Kemal managed to block most of the hits, but Ralph was relentless. In the end, Kemal joined Little John and Alan. With the three men taken care of, Ralph returned his attention back to Marion. He searched around for her. Robin still sat by the tree. His head hung down to his chest, but where was Marion?

He quickly found out, as Marion suddenly appeared out of the darkness. Marion kicked Ralphís hand, knocking the nun-chucks out of them. She then tore into him with a vengeance born out of the love for her man. Ralph fell back as Marion fought Ralph with all her heart. She was the only one left now to protect Robin.

Ralph was impressed at how skillful Marion was in fighting. She would have been great in the Arena. As Marion fought on, Robinís gaze fell on her scarf in his lap, the blue scarf that was so dear to him. There was something on it.

What was it?

His mind tried to focus on it. He saw blood on Marionís scarf. Robinís head slowly rose. He could faintly see her; she was fighting someone. Fighting! He closed his eyes in pain. It seemed that his whole life had been to fight, that was all he knew. When was it going to end? Only now, it was his Marion fighting this time. Opening his eyes, Robin reached down, picking up the blue scarf, he focused on the fight ahead of him. Marion was in trouble, he had to protect her.

"You're better than most men Iíve fought!" Ralph praised Marion. "Iím really sorry it has to end this way."

Ralph pulled his hand back. Most men that Marion fought against always held back, now wanting to hit a woman. Marion always took advantage of this, but Ralph was different. He had to much at stake. He slapped Marion across the face, the cowardly blow stunned her. Ralph grabbed her as she stumbled forward. He gently held her in front of him.

"Iím sorry it had to end this way, my dear wife." Ralph joked. Ralph curled his fingers around Marionís neck. As he slowly started squeezing, Ralph felt something being pulled across his neck. He brought his hand up to grab it.

Robin pulled back on Marionís scarf.

"NO MORE!" Robin screamed. He pulled the scarf tighter around Ralph's neck.

Ralph released Marion, she fell still to the ground, stunned. Shaking her head, she struggled to get her senses back. She could hear Robin screaming out hysterically.

"No more! It has to stop! No more killing!"

Marion looked up, Robin had a mad look in his eyes. He almost looked demonic. Ralph was turning blue as Robin twisted Marionís scarf around his neck. Choking the life out of him, Marion jumped up. She clutched at Robinís hands.

"Let go my darling." she whispered in Robinís ear. Robin faintly heard his Marionís sweet voice, but he maintained his grip on the scarf.

Marion slowly stroked Robinís head. Robinís braid came apart. Standing behind him, Marion pulled her fingers through his hair, trying to soothe him.

"It's over now my love. PleaseÖlet go."

She lay her head on Robinís back. Her arms reaching around him, embracing him, holding tightly onto him. Robin felt her warm body up against his. When he shivered in the darkness, he would dream of holding onto her. As he slept on the cold floor in Choís room, Marion was always with him. As Marion held onto Robin, his grip grew weak. He released his hold on Ralph. Ralphís limp body fell to the ground. Robin slowly turned in her arms. His eyes were still wild. They were overflowing with tears, his body trembled in her arms.

He slowly began to slide down to the ground. He was so tired, so very tired of the fighting, and the killing. Marion followed him to the forest floor. They kneeled on the ground together. Marion pulled Robin into her arms. He fell weakly into her embrace. He drew strength from her, she now had enough for the both of them. His head fell into her lap, bending over, she laid her head on his back, containing him in her safe embrace. Robinís arms came around her waist, clutching her tightly, not wanting to let her go. Not believing it was finally over, the horror was at an end. He then began to cry, softly at first, his sobs of pain were heart rending to Marion. She held onto him as tight as she could. Sitting back on her heels, they slowly rocked back and forth.

"It's over now my love. It's all over." Marionís voice broke at her words.

"No more pain?" His voice sounded so hurt, like a small child.

Marion slowly stroked Robinís hair. She rocked back and forth with him, stroking him, soothing him, healing him with her touch, her words of love.

"No more my heart."

She leaned over to gently kiss Robin on his wet cheek. Feeling the warm kiss, Robin looked up at her. His eyes were red with the pain he had to endure the last three weeks. He saw Marion smiling back at him, for she could see they were her Robinís eyes. He was back, it would take time for him to heal, but her Robin was back.

Robin sat up, taking Marion into his arms; they warmly embraced. Both crying for the joy they had in finding each other, returning to each others embrace of love. The love that Robin had for Marion was what helped him to endure all he had gone through. It was Marion who brought him back from the dark depths. He was lost, and his Marionís love led him back. He tightly held onto Marion, not wanting to break the hold. Afraid of waking up and finding it was all a dream. Marion warmly hugged him back. They sat on the ground now, holding onto each other with an unbreakable hold. Marion slowly stroked his head, speaking to him softly. Holding onto him, she whispered to him.

"It's all over my love. It's finally over."

When Little John and the others woke up, they found them still holding onto each other. Ralph lay unconscious by their side. Little John and Kemal decided they would be left like that until they decided to break the embrace. After tying Ralph up, Little John, Kemal, and Alan waited patiently. There was a lot of lost time for the both of them to make up.

Tuck rode up in the carriage with Jean. He jumped down to greet Robin. Little John told him not to, Tuck agreed to stay back, he perfectly understood. Robin had a long recovery ahead of him, but with Marionís and his close friends help, the man known as Robin Hood would return.

*** *** ***

Robin woke up in his bed with a start. It was his bed in Sherwood. He had to look twice because Neroís head lay on his bed. As Robin woke up Nero lifted head, he whined at Robin. He stopped petting him!

"You wouldnít care if my hand fell off would you?" Robin reached down and petted the large dog. Nero's tail blissfully wagged. He heard a rustle as someone walked in.

"Ees bothering you again Mon Ami?" Jean asked Robin.

"Its all right Jean. Heís used to sleeping with me."

Jean called Nero to him. Nero hopped over to the blind swordsman. Once they returned to Sherwood, Tuck had to take Nero's back leg off to save his life. The dog adapted quickly. He managed just as well on three legs as four. Jean stayed rooted by the doorway, smiling happily in Robinís direction.

"So, Ďow are you feeling Mon Ami?"

Robin let out a deep sigh, laying his head back on his bed. He had slept for days now. He was still tired, his body ached from his ordeal. The scars he received would forever remind him of what he went through. In the back of his mind, he knew he would never leave that place. Jean understood more than anyone here. Robin told Marion, when he was well, he wanted to pay a visit to the Monastery. To shut it down forever, Marion agreed, but only when Tuck said it was all right for him to travel.

"I found out something today," Jean said.

"What was that?" Robin eyes remained closed. His hands lay on his forehead in deep thought.

"Before the Master died, she paid a little visit to Ian."

Robinís eyes opened up, turning just his head he asked. "And?"

Jean shuddered. "Let us say that Ian ees now with Lu Chang and Cho."

Robin nodded his head, she was happy nowÖwherever she was. With Ian dead, the Monastery should be easy to shut down. He would still pay a visit though. In case a greedy trainer decided to keep the Arena open. Hearing another rustle Robin looked up to see Marion enter the tent. Her gentle blue eyes warmly smiled at him. She had remained by Robinís constantly since his return to Sherwood. Marion brought her hand down, stroking Nero's head.
"Better not start. He wonít let you stop." Robin warned her.

Marion chuckled. "I know. Who do you think kept me company, all that time I sat up with you?"

Marion slowly strolled across the room. She pulled the chair out that she sat on for so many hours. Nero hopped over to sit by her side. She slept in that chair for many nights. She watched Robin, took care of him, holding onto him as he woke up screaming in the night. Nero remained with her all that time.

"How do you feel?" she asked him. Robin half smiled at her. "With my hands," he chuckled.

"He joked!" Marion thought. She would have been angry with him before, but hearing him joke, almost made her want to cry. Robin was prepared for Marion to make a smart remark back. He waited for it, but it never came. He looked at her and she quickly turned her head away.

Robin rose from his bed. Pulling his legs across, he sat up, his head felt light. It was the first time he sat up in days. His arms reached out for Marion.

Marion looked deep into his eyes. They just stared at each other, recalling that night. The night they held each other so tightly they felt like one. Jean noticed the silence.

"I think I will Ďelp Alan. ' E and Little John are busy trying to make something for me to use to get around camp. I cannot wait to see what they Ďave come up with." Jean said. Marion and Robin still stared silently at each other.

Jean sighed to himself. "The kind of love you Ďave is very rare my friends, very special. I am glad that Robin Ďas a Marion. I would Ďope there was a Marion for me."

Robin and Marion never heard Jean. Noticing the silence Jean laughed. "No I think not, for your love is what legends are written about. I donít think anyone will Ďave a love as special as yours."

Jean quickly left the room. Robin and Marion silently stared at each other. No words were spoken, none were needed to be said. Nero placed his head on Robinís lap. Both Marion and Robinís hand came down, to pet him. His tail wagged merrily, as they both paid attention him. He knew he found a good home now.

As Marion and Robin slowly stroked Nero's head together, they realized what Jean had said was true. There's was a rare love, something that does not come to everyone. They would endure hardships that lie in the future together. They knew that through their, love it would help them to survive.

Robin and Marion would always be known for the deep love they had for each other.

It was a love that would live throughout the centuriesÖfor all time.

The End

Part 29 / Part 30 / Part 31 / Part 32

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