The sheriff had no intention of avoiding bloodshed. In fact, he considered it a perk; the only upside to having lost Robin Hood after letting him slip through his fingers. The wanton destruction wasn’t baring any fruit, however. The only thing that had worked was arresting Marian. If only he could arrest her again.
The sheriff had never been a popular man among the peasants, but since he had arrested Marian, even the nobles of the shire seemed to have little time for him. Marian wasn’t highborn but she was well liked. Well, well liked or no, she was the only link to Robin Hood he had. Furthermore, since Friar Tuck had disappeared simultaneously with the murderous outlaw, he was likely guilty as well. The fact that they seemed to want to take back the money he had lawfully excised from the orphanage was further proof of Marian’s guilt. If she were a man, he’d have her flogged, just to get some satisfaction, and then he’d torture her to get information on the whereabouts of her erstwhile boyfriend. Hadn’t he given her the golden ribbon that was rightfully the sheriff’s from the archery contest? That Shrove Tuesday was a black day in the sheriff’s memory.
He should have ether flogged anyway, public opinion be damned! In fact, if he did it publicly and announced it well ahead of time, word would no doubt reach the bandit with his misplaced notions of chivalry. This could work in his favor. This time he would be ready. There would be mounted deputies at every road and all throughout the crowd that was sure to gather at the event. He wouldn’t have to actually flog her. Robin Hood would show up just in time to save her and then the sheriff would spring his trap!
Sitting in her darkened, stinking cell, Marian fought the urge to break down and cry. Marian was sick of the sheriff and his plots. He had accused her of plotting with Robin Hood, of aiding and abetting him, of seducing him, of paying him, the list of imagined interactions with Mr. Hood were endless. He had questioned her in depth hour after hour. He had threatened her, promised her release, riches, fine meals, fine clothes. She honestly didn’t believe anything he said. So, when talk of a public whipping started to circulate, she had discounted that as more fantasy made to scare her into confessing something. There had been no trial, no hearing. The sheriff was convinced of her guilt and that was enough. Well she would have a little surprise for them when they came to get her.
Eric had broken into various buildings many times before, especially here at the orphanage, but never into Friar Tuck’s private things. He had fed the pigeons many times in the past, and had in fact been feeding them since Tuck had gone away. He was terrified f them getting away and never coming back. It was a baseless fear as the one he was putting a note on now had returned here from wherever Tuck had gone too. In fact, it had returned from Sherwood Forest after delivering a message from the cave in Derbyshire, but Eric didn’t know that. Still, Eric felt that he had to get word to Robin about Marian before it was too late. The cages smelled of guano and there was a chill on this side of the building as it stood in the shade this time of morning. Eric had goose bumps from the fear that he might get caught, added to the fear that the bird might not even go to wherever Tuck was, or maybe Tuck wasn’t even there any more.
“What’s going on here!?” Demanded Sister Hilde, having heard the pigeons making a ruckus as she made her way to the herb gardens. She was dressed all in black except for her mantle, which was snowy white. A wisp of curly red hair had escaped and sat springy on her fair, freckled forehead.
“Nothing!” Eric lied trying to hide the bird behind his back, making it coo in protest.
“Don’t lie to a nun, Young Man! It’s a sure fire ticket to eternal damnation!” said the sister with a smile.
“No Ma’am! I mean, Yes Ma’am!” he said. He was always very nervous around Sister Hilde. She was quite unlike the others nuns. She was young, and pretty, and played the lute and sang songs to the children.
“Is that a message for Friar Tuck?” She asked, all severity and nun like again.
Eric stammered. He didn’t want to lie to Sister Hilde, but he didn’t want to get in trouble for helping a fugitive from the law either. There was too much riding on keeping Tuck and Robin safe.
“Well if it is a message for Friar Tuck and that dashing Robin Hood, you had better stop dilly dallying and get it off to them before Marian is drug out of the awful hole they are keeping her in and whipped to within an inch of her life! Go on now! Hurry it up!” As Eric sent the bird off, hoping it got to Tuck and Robin in time, he thought to himself, if Sister Hilde thinks Robin is dashing, I want to be just like him!
When the day came, the sheriff let nothing to chance. He posted guards on every road. He himself would administer the flogging. He thought he might actually enjoy that if it came to it, but he was sure Robin Hood would show himself, thus walking right into the trap. The day was sunny. Only a few clouds scuttled across the sky casting fleeting shadows as they went. A crowd had indeed come to watch the event, but they were oddly quiet. No one could quite believe the sheriff was going to whip Marian for nothing. The story of the coin had spread throughout the town and the consensus was that thieves steal money to spend it, thus putting it back into circulation where anybody might innocently come upon it. Besides Robin Hood was no ordinary thief; he had only taken money from the sheriff to return it to the people. Somehow, word that the sheriff had meant to confiscate the money for the orphanage collected on Shrove Tuesday, only to be thwarted by Robin Hood, had gotten out. None doubted that Robin was the hero. Would he come to save Marian? Would he be in time?
The sheriff gave the word for two guards to bring Marian to the market square where public floggings took place. The guards made their way to the goal. The earth was damp with dew and baby grass was shooting up here and there. Inside the gaol, it was dark, and their eyes had to adjust. It was eerily quiet inside the dank building. The air was musty and thick. They unlocked the door to the hallway that led to Marian’s cell. The only sound was the footfalls of the two men as they approached her cell. The greasy haired guard fumbled with the key. The other one was taller and this made him think that he was in charge. He grumbled at the first one to hurry. They had both had their fill of wine the night before. They were not men of honor, but they did not relish participation in flogging an innocent girl. They had drunk to screw up their courage, but their courage had been pissed out of them come the morning.
They opened the cell door to see Marian looking glum and cowed. It was as if she had already been beaten. Sometimes it was like this. There was a resignation. Other times there was fight still in the prisoner. Marian showed no sign of fight. They tied her wrists and led her out of her cell. She had her eyes closed. They walked down the hall, one in front of her, one behind. They walked out into the office. They crossed to the door to the outside.
Marian walked out into the fresh air for the first time in weeks. She stopped. The guard behind her came up along side, the one in front went to her other side. She raised her hands, folded in prayer. The guards looked at her and then each other. The tall one was telling her to come along now when her hands flashed silver. She cut the rope between her wrists and she had a knife in each hand. She swung them both outward simultaneously. She stabbed both men in the gut at the same moment. She pulled out the knives that the two boys had given her and elbowed the guards where she had stabbed them. They each went down to their knees. Marian took off running in the opposite direction from the market square. Towards the woods.
Robin had been watching from the woods. He had watch the men go in. He saw them come out with Marian, and he could hardly believe his eyes when she pulled out two knives and stabbed them and ran. He spurred his horse to her and they both ran flat out for each other. When Robin reached her, he scooped her up and was gone in a flash.
The two men had no alarm to sound. They were left to struggle to their feet. The crowd was a hundred yards off. By the time the sheriff found out what had happened, they were long gone.