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Robin Hood: Back at the Inn 31

She had been careful to avoid drinking excessively at the dinner. She had been glad of the company, but unprepared to answer so many questions. She basically modeled herself after the saint she had named herself for, leaving out the majority of her namesake’s accomplishments. She told them she came from Bingen and was schooled in a convent there. She feared Cedric would recognize her ruse, but he seemed to have little interest in the accomplishments of women. The others were happy to talk about themselves, and everyone was interested when Hilde questioned Whitehand about the sheriff’s pressing plans. Everyone had some gossip to add to the story which was that the sheriff had been shocked at the army of outlaws attending Robin Hood (whom they seemed to admire and fear simultaneously), and was making preparations for “rooting him out of his nest in the woods”. This involved gathering an army. since none seemed to be rallying around the sheriff out of local patriotism, he was hiring brigands and riff raff from all over England and even abroad. They were presently trickling into the shire, with the sheriff carefully keeping them spread out in various townships throughout the shire. This presumably would keep Robin Hood from finding out about them. The sheriff was going to great lengths to keep his plans secret from the general population for the same reason. The select few at the table tonight, it was thought could be trusted.
Soon, they would be flooding in and it would be a problem for the sheriff to keep the shirefolk from noticing. There had already been some incidents of drunken brawling and thievery attributed to these mercenaries, but it couldn’t be helped and would only get worse. Nottinghamshire was to become a warzone but first it would have to endure the ravages of its “protectors”. The nobles felt secure that the sheriff could keep the army from accosting the wealthy and merely harass the poor, which seemed acceptable to all at table.
After the dinner, Cedric had one of the monks escort Hilde to her room at the inn. Hilde was tired and had dropped her fake German accent earlier, but most of the guests were drunk and didn’t notice. She thanked the old friar and sent him back to St. Mary’s.  Her plan was to collapse on the bed and fall to sleep before her head touched her pillow. There was a movement in the shadows, and with a start she realized that she wasn’t alone in the room! She was prepared to flee into the night, when Robin stepped into the light of the window. She was relieved but furious at him for putting such a fright into her. She flew at him in a rage as her resentment for being in this whole mess came to the surface. On some level she blamed Robin for her troubles. After all, it had been in pursuit of Robin Hood that she had been arrested in the first place! It had been his actions that had caused the sheriff to come after St. Anne’s coffers. She knew she had to keep silent or they would be found out, so she released her pent up anger at him by pummeling his chest with her balled up fists. Marian was no shrinking wallflower, she had stabbed two guards and had practiced armed and unarmed combat in secret since she was a child. Robin could only take it for the space of a few seconds before he grabbed her by the wrists to stop her. They stared at each other in the dark, in that strange room on that awful night in their silly costumes, chests heaving, blood pumping.
Suddenly, they were kissing. Nearly as violently as the interaction a moment before. After a moment they stepped back and looked at each other again. Marian burst into tears, and Robin pulled her close and kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her nose. He kissed her lips again, tenderly and briefly this time. She lay her head against his chest and he stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. He smelled her hair, and felt her body against his. He felt her breathing. She looked up at him and they kissed again, and didn’t stop.
Afterwards, when they had discarded all disguises, they lay entangled on her bed. She told him about the dinner, and the gossip of the sheriff’s plans. Moonlight streamed in through the window, bathing the room in a blue glow. Marian starred out through the window into the night and watched the moon make its lonely journey across the sky amid the innumerable stars.
Robin melted back into the forest well before dawn, silent as a ghost. He reached his home and his fellows just as the sun crested the horizon, painting the sky watery yellow and pink. A few were up starting fires for breakfast or getting water. They nodded to Robin as they went about their morning chores.

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