Unable to carry on without getting lost or possibly fall asleep in midstride, Marian waited until she came upon a dense copse of alders and made a quick and hopefully silent turn to the east, hopefully straitening out her path. She had no idea how far behind her pursuers were, but she new tracking was harder at night, unless you were some kind of hunting animal. After about a quarter mile she found a tree that she could climb quickly. When she got high enough, she waited to see if her hunters would track her here. If they wanted to kill her, they could climb up after her, but she thought she could probably jump down on them, thus taking them with her. If they had bows, it would be harder, but not impossible. She would be a difficult target, straight up a tree in the dark was not an easy shot for anyone.
After a time, two men came by. They had a dog with them. So much for losing them. The hound stopped at the tree, sniffed it, pissed on it, and sniffed it some more. Essentially, the hound had masked her scent with his own piss. Now the dog was confused. it circled the area, and found the scent that had led them here. The dog wanted to go in this direction, and after circling around in the dark, the hunters didn’t seem to realize that they were going back the way they had come. If they were any good at tracking, they would take their bearings when they got to a clearing and could see the stars. At this point, they would realize they had doubled back and come back for her. Marian remembered a stream about a mile south. She climbed down and doubled back to the stream and took of down the shallow stream bed approximately going North by North East. She hoped she wouldn’t slip in the slick stream bed in the dark.
John approached the door to the heavily fortified manor house known throughout Nottingham as the Castle. There actually was a Nottingham Castle, but it belonged to King John, and only visiting royalty or their guests ever stayed there. The sheriff’s house was smaller than Lincoln’s manor house, but was bigger than most of the houses in Nottingham. It was structured like a castle, with heavy stone walls, and crenellated sentry towers, though they formed only a third story.
The heavy wooden door was barred but there were no guards in sight. Unsure how to proceed, John knocked at the door. After a time with no response, John knocked again. He half expected the sheriff to answer the door in his nightshirt. A small window opened at eye level in the door.
“Who goes there?” demanded a tired an angry voice. John couldn’t tell if it was the sheriff or not. John, unsure how to respond stepped back a little hoping that he couldn’t be seen in the dark. “Who the bloody hell is it? You pounded on the door loud enough a minute ago! What in bloody blazes on earth do you want?!”
“It’s Little John, of Sherwood forest!” John said with an air of authority he didn’t feel. “Open up in the name of Robin Hood! We’ve come for the hostage!”
“He says he’s here on behalf of Robin Hood!” said the voice to else someone inside.
“Well, that will mean Robin Hood’s around back waiting for us all to poor out the front!” said the second voice. The little window shut with a little slam on little John, and he could hear footsteps and shouts heading for the back of the house.
“No it doesn’t!” shouted John at the door. “Bloody Hell! They know Robin’s in the back! Get back there!” John yelled to his companions. He took off himself to get around the house. Will blew a horn, signaling trouble.
People storm castle’s but rarely does a castle storm people. The sheriff’s men came rushing out of the castle’s rear and side doors as if it was on fire. Except they had their swords out, their pikes raised, they were armed and armored. They were wildly incoherent. They hadn’t actually thought Robin Hood would come knocking on the sheriff’s door. Robin took one look at the oncoming hoard and turned and ran. He never had a chance. If the sheriff hadn’t repeatedly made it abundantly clear that he wanted Robin Hood taken alive, they would have killed him for sure. As it was they captured him to within an inch of his life. The surprise attack was on the other foot. All the men waiting to come to Robin’s aid rushed in alas too late. A few of them weren’t as lucky as Robin and met their makers that night. Guards on the towers picked off the outlaws easily. The retreat was sounded, and the merry men carried off their wounded and made their way back to Sherwood considerably less merry.
Marian was still some way off from the inn when she heard the hounds. To her credit, she never stopped. Beaten, hungry, bruised, scratched and scared, she stumbled on to the last. Only as they overcame her did she lose her nerve and fall to the ground, sobbing. There, covered in mud, shaking and spent, she gathered the last of her resolve, pulled her two daggers from their sheaths, struggled to her feet to face her pursuers; only to fall once again to her knees upon seeing who it was that had been on her heels all this way.
Tuck and Wulfhere the hermit stared in disbelief at the wraith at their feet. “Saints be praised!” Tuck said. “We thought we’d never find you. Come lass, the Sheriff has a hostage and if it isn’t you, then it’s probably a trap for Robin Hood.