Sheriff James Brewer was ecstatic. No one had ever seen him so giddy. It was frightening. The sheriff would look wistfully up into the distance and talk longingly of Robin’s summary execution. Then his eyes would refocus and he would engage people around the room on what kind of tortures to subject Robin to first. They would have to start him out slow, they didn’t want to overdue it too quickly, his pain might become to intense to register further torture. He might expire. The sheriff wanted to see Robin weep. He wanted to see Robin lose control of his bowels, of all his bodily functions. He wanted to clear a field big enough for all of Nottinghamshire to gather to witness the humiliation, lest anyone think such behavior might be tolerated. he’d heard of such public tortures in London. Spies or traitors would be disemboweled in front of their families and the countryside would gather and buy souvenirs to mark the occasion.
There would be a public trial where the sheriff, an expert at trials, would explain how Robin had perpetrated these crimes on the people themselves. Which, when you stop to consider that the sheriff was a public servant and the money Robin stole was the public funds, was actually true. The public would be screaming for Robin’s head. Why, the sheriff would find himself in the awkward position of having to protect Robin from the people of Nottingham. He’d seen such things before with his own eyes.
This was call for a celebration. He would feed the entire shire for a day! He would send to his coffers and get enough petty cash to pay for a feast. He could recoup the cost by collecting a tax. It was all over. It had been a long slog, but there had never been any doubt that the side of law and order would win in the end.
He could dismiss that army of rabble. That was actually a relief. They were never quite under his absolute control. They were always going too far, causing trouble, raping killing. The sheriff was of the mind that a little of that went a long way.
And he had won! Now there would be no more opposition. Ever. The peasants of the shire would think twice before they risked life and limb to stand up to the sheriff of Nottingham! To think he had actually feared Robins numbers. It had been all too easy to capture him after all. Robin was foolhardy. That was the problem with most leaders. They were either too weak and timid, or foolhardy. Not Sheriff William Brewer. He had acted wisely on every count. Why he was undefeatable! He would impose new taxes. New tariffs. He would invent new names for new types of taxes. He would retire early and buy a title, it could be done after all. King John was sure to face rebellion at some point, he was such a weakling. He would simply back the winner, and he would have his title. Until then he could live like a king himself in one of his monasteries. This would actually turn out to favor his fortune in the long run.
It began to rain early before dawn the next morning. The clouds had gathered in a cold, biting breeze. Not a blistering wind, but a gentle breeze that curled around you so that you were chilled to the bone before you knew you were cold. The rain began the same way; a gathering mist, swirling and cold, growing heavy and collecting the folds of your clothes until they were damp and clinging to your gooseflesh. Then a slow gentle drizzle, which had grown by the time the sky had lightened, into a steady, unrelenting downpour.
Marian and Tuck went to an inn to dry off and figure out what to do. Marian was disheartened. It seemed to have happened so suddenly. It had been a dangerous game. Somehow treating it as a game had made it doable. If she had ever cause to take the deadly actions they took to seriously, she found she hardly had to nerve to carry them out. Robin’s plan seemed so fraught with holes. How could he have believed it would work. Was he hurt? Undoubtedly.
This was not the first time she found herself surprised to realize how much she had come to care for Robin Hood. He had barged his way into her life with his swashbuckling ways and without asking he had taken a place in her heart. She had witnessed over the course of the last year, how the entire shire seemed to galvanize with hope. Nottinghamshire had been beaten for so long, they had forgotten what is was like to live a life without tyranny. The sheriff had slowly choked the energy out of the shire. At first it had seemed necessary; there had been truly dangerous outlaws in the greenwood, they had been murderers and thieves. The had molested the women and beaten the men and set fire to the towns. It had been quite similar to what was happening now, only less intense. In fact, in retrospect, realizing that the sheriff was behind the current crime wave, Marian wondered if the first crime wave, all those years ago when she was just a girl, had been the sheriff’s doing; to make the populace accept his heavy handedness. Or was the current set of marauders just a grotesque imitation of a genuine crisis? It mattered little either way.
The sheriff had come in with an iron fist and rooted out the bandits. The shire became a place of law and order. There were many hangings in those days. All that work had been costly. The sheriff had had to levy heavy taxes to cover his expenses. Though the crime had died out, the taxes had continued. The sheriff had to maintain vigilance against lawlessness lest the crime return. Yet the taxes went higher still. To pay for upkeep, cover inflation, and etc.. There had been some call for the sheriff to account for his costs, and those who made those calls turned out to be criminals. The calls soon ceased to be made. Then the sheriff claimed that the crown was calling for higher taxes, yet those who traveled abroad could find no trace of other shires increasing their taxes in like fashion. No one dared complain anymore. It was obvious what happened to complainers. People were taxed out of house and home. They just disappeared. No one knew what happened to them.
Then Robin had come from nowhere. At first he was said to be another outlaw from the forest. The sheriff had never truly rid the forest of them. And as the homes in the shire had emptied, the forest seemed to grow thick with outlaws. What choice did they have? But Robin had been different. From the beginning, there were tails of him robbing the rich and giving to the poor. When Marian had challenged Robin to help at the orphanage, she had never expected him to take her up on her offer. Yet he had. He had taught the children to fish and shoot and live off of the land. Robin had taught boys and girls alike. This was unheard of. Girls were supposed to learn to spin and keep a household, not to handle hunting tools. Robin had said that the children of the orphanage were not likely to grow up to be lords and ladies and ought to learn to take care of themselves as best they could. This had impressed Marian as much as anything else. It had been her own assessment of matters as well. She taught girls as well as boys to read and write, and math and history. Father Cedric had not cared for this but it was never his place to say one way or another. Tuck also supported her in her teaching methods.
Then Robin had risked his life to save the orphanage. That had taken some daring. She still had the ribbon from that day. It seemed so long ago, yet whenever she took the ribbon out to look at it, it was still bright yellow. Somehow with all that had happened, she expected it to be faded and frayed. Her arrest and escape. She had not been surprised to see him there ready to rescue her. She had never been one to wait for someone to rescue her. Since then her life in Sherwood Forest seemed Idyllic and tranquil, although at the time, it had seemed anything but, what with the raid on Lincoln’s castle and all. Robin proved himself again to be fearless and selfless. Finally, and most recently, she had risked her own life initially to return to teaching, but ultimately to spy on the sheriff. It had been in an attempt to rescue her once again that had gotten Robin captured. Since Robin had become destitute he had committed himself to rescuing people it seemed. She had learned of the story of Tom and his little girl. Now Robin needed her help, and she wasn’t enough. There was no hope.
She refused to believe that. If Robin had taught her anything, it wasn’t about archery or living in the forest, or swordsmanship. It wasn’t even about helping others. It was that there was always hope. As long as you still breath there’s hope. She would think of something. If she had to dig a tunnel to get Robin out, she would do it. And if she had to do it herself, she would do that too.