The sheriff traveled back to Nottingham to reunite Martha to her mother. The retinue traveled in silence. At first, the sheriff’s men were quite pleased. They had all participated in the sheriff’s rivalry with the Earl over the years and felt that the great lord had been humiliated.
“Quiet, you fools! Show some respect for the suffering this young lady has had to endure, and take comfort in the fact that we take her to be with her mother. Now is not the time for gloating!” The sheriff’s men had been unaware that there was such a thing as a time that was not for gloating. Especially when it came to the sheriff. What they failed to recognize was that it had not been the sheriff who had humiliated Lincoln. It had been Robin Hood. …and his rather large band of followers. They were organised. They were loyal. and they were legion. The sheriff cursed himself for not foreseeing the possibility of a leader coalescing all the men that had been created outlaws due to the sheriff’s policies into one large group. Tonight they had stood against Lincoln, but they had come together to face one common enemy: the sheriff himself. The sheriff could see it clearly. They would be hard to defeat as a group. The only way to kill such a powerful beast was to sever its head. Robin Hood was more than a thief. He was a threat to the sheriff’s very life. The sheriff would have to devise a new plan. This time, there could be no mistakes.
Robin was not happy with the specifics of the evening. Overall, there could be no argument, that Martha had been saved and since that had been their goal, the night had been a success. However, Robin had not anticipated the sheriff showing up. Nor the sheriff’s actions. The sheriff had acted shrewdly in Robin’s opinion. He had taken credit for saving both Robin and the girl. Robin was now in the sheriff’s debt. Also, the sheriff was now aware of the unity and size of the outlaws of Sherwood. Robin had hoped to surprise the sheriff with this. It would have been an overwhelming tactic to any battle. It could have won the war. Now that element of surprise was gone. It could not have been helped. On top of everything he had agreed to let the sheriff escort Martha back to her mother. All these things were not the end of the world, but they certainly teamed up to leave a bad taste in Robin’s mouth.
Gilbert de Gant did not sleep well that night. He had been humiliated by the sheriff, and that damned burglar! Had the sheriff hired him to break into his home? His Home! Where his household sleeps! How could he feel secure knowing that any vagabond could waltz into his guarded, walled, locked home and steal his new toy before he’d even had a chance to play with it! And the sheriff took the side of the peasants. There had never been any doubt that the sheriff was beneath common decency, but this was just another example of the misguided direction England had taken since Richard the Lion Heart had taken the crown over a generation ago! His damn father Henry II had been just as bad, come to think of it. John was at least trying to return England to the lords to which it belonged, but he was incompetent and the damned lords themselves were on a path to making England an island of commoners. The sheriff was on his way to becoming a baron himself. Gilbert had long dreamt of mustering an army and taking Nottingham by force. This was just the kind of excuse he needed to justify it. Of course, there was much more to consider. Would it be monetarily worth it? Armies were expensive and the crown had a habit of thinking they were dangerous without royal consent or direction. What tripe! Perhaps the army could be brought to bear against John? King Gilbert the first… That had a lovely ring to it. Of course there were others who thought they’re claim to the thrown was closer than Gilbert’s, which was, of course; non existent.
In any case, this whole business with the girl had been rather unpleasant. He would see to that thief and his ragtag band of thugs in good time. And the sheriff could be dealt with in other ways. Right now, the thing to do would be to quit Nottingham where outlaws were under the protection of the sheriff and return to Lincoln where Gilbert was the law. His sheriff could be counted on to do his bidding. Perhaps there was an answer to the conundrum in that. Perhaps the sheriff of Lincoln could take care of the thief. Gilbert gave the command that he wanted to be back in Lincoln before nightfall.