They were two days out of Sherwood when Marion suddenly stopped her horse. The others rode on until they realized that Marion hesitated. Kemal looked back, noticing her distress.
"What’s wrong?" he called out. His long dark locks flew as he turned
his head. Kemal was a nubile warrior from a far off land. His dark skin
made him the most conspicuous of the small group. He had become a friend
of Robin when his love, the Princess, was taken from him. Kemal had chosen
not to join Robin’s band but remained a friend to him. Kemal pledged to
help Robin when he was needed. But would still keep a vigil on finding
Marion somehow felt something was wrong. She shook all over, as a chill ran through her.
"I don’t know Kemal. I feel something..." Looking up her, eyes were wet with tears. "Robin’s hurt, I know it." She cried, closing her eyes. She could see a vision of him, being tortured. His cries of pain were as real to her, as what was in front of her.
Opening her eyes, she saw three sets of concerned eyes staring back at her. She smiled warmly at her companions, trying to calm their fears. She could feel the love they had for her. She wished that she could convey that love to Robin. To help him endure whatever he was going through. Little John rode back to Marion. Halting his horse at her side, he took her small trembling hand into his large hand, he gazed into her eyes. He could see the pain she was feeling. Little John was slightly jealous that she was able to feel something, that he always wished he could do. There was a connection now between Robin and Marion. John tried to reassure her fears.
"Marion, don’t worry about these feelings you're getting. As long as you have them, then we know that Robin is still alive." His sky blue eyes smiled at her. She smiled back at him.
"Your right Little John!" Her hands trembled less. Reaching up she gently stroked his cheek in thanks. John blushed at her soft touch.
"Thank you!" she said, looking to the others. "Thank you all. I don’t think I could have done this alone."
"My Child," Tuck said. "We understand fully. We love Robin as equally as we do you. Now lets us continue our trek. It is at least two days ride until we reach the town that Robin went to."
Marion had a warm feeling inside now. With her close friends helping her, she knew they would find Robin. As they rode on, she felt the chill run up her spine again. John cried a warning to her.
"Watch out for that branch in the middle of the road Marion." Little John pointed down at where the branch lay.
"Looks like there was a fight here!" Little John said as he surveyed the area. "Hope no one was badly hurt."
Marion pulled her horse to the side, to skirt the branch. The chill went away as she left the area. They then made there way down the small dirt road.
*** *** ***
The next several days became a blur to Robin. His only gauge of night and day was the relief he had in the nights. This was when Cho pulled the picks from his back. At night, Cho would feed him soup for nourishment. Water was given to him when he needed it.
His days were filled with pain. It was the now the only thing he knew in his waking moments. Marion’s vision was so real to him; that she was constantly standing by his side, giving him encouraging looks. The more he concentrated on her, the more the pain would go away. Each day Cho would start him at a higher level. Each day Marion would be there to help him fight the pain. Robin would transfer it all into Marion’s vision. If not for her, Robin knew he would have gone insane from the torture he had to endure. It wasn’t until the sixth day that Cho made a fateful decision. He decided that he was going to take Robin beyond the level he had originally planned.
As he came in that morning. Cho gave Robin a peculiar look. Robin’s head cocked to the side as he wondered at this look. He hung loosely in the chains. His wrists were raw from the constant pulling from the sessions he suffered each day. Each night, after a session, Cho would bathe Robin off. Making sure his charge was clean and healthy. Coming up to Robin that morning, Cho started checking him over bodily. Looking into his eyes, he checked to see if they were clear and strong.
Robin knew the routine now. He remained still as Cho examined him. He was still there mentally. His mind was clear. He had learned to cope with the pain, using Marion. He now looked forward to it. Knowing that Marion would be there to help him. Robin was now able to accept the pain and channel it into his vision of Marion. He fooled Cho into thinking that Robin was using hate and anger to fight the pain. Where in reality he was using the love he felt for Marion. Cho reached up and felt Robin’s head for fever. He smiled when he found Robin cool to the touch. Yes, he nodded to himself. He would try it today. As Cho walked behind him, Robin waited for the picks to be inserted in his back. He readied himself by staring at Marion’s scarf, still kept hanging on the hook.
Cho began to hum again. It was a tune that Robin had heard continually as he tortured him. Cho placed the mouthpiece in Robin’s mouth. Robin had stopped fighting him days ago. He opened his mouth and accepted it. Tying it back, Cho then prepared himself to bring Robin to the highest Level. Taking in a deep breath Cho began. Robin felt him prodding his back in an area he had never done before. A chill ran through him.
Cho was going to do something different! Robin knew that now by the look he had given him when he came in that morning. His body tensed. Cho felt Robin stiffen, as he tried to find the mark that his master had showed him so long ago. He hesitated, thinking, perhaps he should tell his warrior what he planned on doing. Prepare him for what was to come.
Placing the pick back on the table, Cho walked around, to confront Robin. As he looked into Robin’s eyes, Robin stared sadly back at him. Robin knew now that Cho was going to try something different today. Cho looked up at his warrior. Placing his hands on Robin’s shoulders, he gripped them tightly.
"You have been strong theses past few days my warrior," he started.
"You have gone far beyond what I had hoped for…then what I had dreamed of. That is why I am now going to attempt to take you to where no one but those in my land have gone."
Staring into Robin’s eyes Cho saw them well up in tears. Robin knew now what Cho had planned for him. He recalled the first day, when he barely endured what Cho had called the highest level. The pain had always been fresh in his mind…and now! For Cho to tell him, he was going to bring it even higher! Robin’s mind was unable to cope with it. His eyes went wild with fear. Even his vision of Marion would not be able help him block that kind of pain. Robin knew this, but Cho was sure Robin would be able to endure it. To Cho, he was his Greatest Warrior. He grabbed the back of Robin’s neck. Pulling on it, he tried to stress to him how to survive what was coming.
"You must be strong." He jerked on Robin’s neck. "I know you can do it my warrior."
Patting Robin on the cheek, he then moved over to Robin’s back. He took the pick from the table, prepared to send him to the highest level.
Robin’s muscles tensed. He fought against the chains, knowing what was coming now. He pulled at his bonds. Panic now set in. Cho, feeling the fear in his warrior, briskly felt along Robin’s back. Finding the mark, he didn’t hesitate. He quickly inserted it.
Robin screamed out as the pick was inserted. His body convulsed at the pain that coursed throughout his body. Cho ran around to confront Robin. He yelled at him, so Robin could hear him through his screams.
"Give into it! Use the hate! You must use the hate you have felt for me to survive this!"
Robin bucked and pulled at the chains. His back arched inward, then out. The pain became to much for him to bear. He tried to concentrate on Marion’s scarf. He was finding this hard, as he was having a difficult time keeping his eyes open. A red haze began to cloud his vision now. As the pain intensified, Robin felt coldness begin to engulf his heart. Like ice going through his veins.
Slowly the pain began to take him over now. Robin found he could no longer fight it. This pain was just to intense. Closing his eyes, he tried to think of Marion. Through the mouthpiece, he cried out her name! His only thoughts now were of her. Her name rang through his head, repeatedly. Opening his eyes Robin became frightened. If he couldn’t find a way to block the pain, he knew he would surely die. It was then that he felt a warmth start in his heart. It slowly drifted up to his head. Robin closed his eyes. Cho’s screaming at him was now becoming more distant. Marion was now becoming more real.
He repeated her name over and over in his mind.
*** *** ***
The sun had just begun to rise over the distance hills. Its gentle rays fell on Marion as she was preparing to saddle her horse. They were returning from the town that Robin visited earlier. Asking everyone they could, if they knew where Robin was. All repeated the same thing. He left their town four days ago, to return to Sherwood. It had been nearly two weeks now, since Robin departed to the village. The blackness that Marion felt in her heart was now growing stronger. The others tried to convince her to stop worrying. That Robin would eventually show up. But she could see in their faces that they too knew that Robin wouldn’t have been gone this long, without leaving some kind of word as to where he was. They knew that only death would keep him from coming back to Sherwood.
They all made a decision to try tracing back where Robin rode home. Stopping in every village along the way, they asked around if anyone had seen their missing leader. With each passing hour, the hopes for finding him alive grew ever dimmer. This morning was the first time that Marion thought that perhaps something terrible did happen to him. She tried to shake those black thoughts out of her head. It was like a seed growing now.
As Marion started to lift her saddle, she suddenly felt a horrible pain in her back. It felt as if someone stuck her with a hot poker. The pain spread throughout her body. Dropping the saddle, she cried out for Little John. Then she fell to the ground, writhing in pain, clutching at her back.
The others, hearing her plight; rushed to her aid. Little John reached her first. Her face was contorted in pain. Tears ran down her cheeks as she strained to fight it. She looked up at Little John. Her eyes were glassy, convulsing again, Little John clutched her to him. Holding onto her, as if he was trying to take the pain she was in. Tuck carefully examined her. He cried out in frustration, as he could find nothing wrong with her. Suddenly Marion arched her back, crying out Robin’s name. John held on to her as tight as he could. Then she went limp in his arms. Little John’s face flushed white. He gently laid her in his lap. Her eyes closed. She was breathing deep and slowly.
The three companions kept a vigil over her. Watching her, caring for her; it was all they could do for now.
End of Part Seven
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