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Robin Hood: Cedric & Hilde 28

All of Sherwood Village was glad to see Martha return safely home. She arrived with her mother to a celebration filled with joy and feasting. Everyone had to hug her and tell her how glad she was safe. Robin’s reputation grew as the story of his lone venture into the Manor house, the rescue of the girl and his near capture was told and retold. None among them saw that Robin himself kept a reserved humour to himself. Robin knew the early relatively care free days of Sherwood village were over. The sheriff had seen what he was up against and would act quickly and decisively. There was a chance that the Earl would also seek revenge to assuage his wounded pride.
As the sun set on the forest revelers, their song carried on the evening breeze, and was taken up by the birds of Spring as they whirled among the treetops. The scent of roast mutton and venison wafted into the forest as well. The shadows stretched out to greet the coming night and a single man walked carefully and silently to where he had tied his horse, well away from the outlaws, lest it be found. He mounted heedless of his own hunger. He was a vagrant huntsman who had been arrested two night ago in Nottingham for drunk in public and failing to pay his considerable bar tab. The sheriff had shown uncharacteristic leniency toward the itinerant huntsman. The sheriff had even offered the man a job. Now, having followed the girl and her mother to their destination, he had found and monitored his quarry, and thus returned to Nottingham to deliver his findings.

The daily task of running the orphanage and seeing to the children in its care had suffered since Marian had been arrested and Tuck had taken it on the lam. Despite the danger, the two felt the needs of the children were more important than hiding in the woods. Robin could not argue with bravery, so in typical Sherwoodian fashion, he helped them devise disguises. The women of the greenwood helped Marian bleach her hair and cut and fashion it to look more like a Dane. They also lent her Danish clothes. Marian’s dark hair worn either down and loose or up and under a wimple was now blonde and braided into the famous Valkyrie style under a white linen scarf.
Tuck had grown a beard and his tonsure had also grown in. Though he didn’t look drastically different, just putting on layman’s clothes was enough to throw anyone who didn’t know Tuck well, off the scent. They were snuck back into St. Anne’s in the middle of the night, and in the morning, everyone was so glad to see them, especially the children, that a celebration broke out.
It seemed that in their absence, Father Cedric had come snooping around and been cajoled by the nuns into helping out around Saint Anne’s. He was currently teaching a class about the politics of the Church. It was a subject to which he warmed. Never mind that the class had previously been a math class taught by Marian. Marian had chosen the name of Hilde as her Valkyrie disguise name. She was a great admirer of Saint  Hildegard of Germany, who had been a great herbalist, doctor, poet, composer, artist and seer who had lived during Marian’s parent’s lifetime.
Marian returned to her classroom expecting to see the children learning math from one of the nuns, and was caught completely off guard to find Father Cedric teaching her class. Since the priest was responsible for getting her arrested, she had fostered a deep and growing hated of the man, whom she  viewed as a toady and a coward. Father Cedric was also surprised to see Marian, though he failed to recognise the woman he had callously had imprisoned; so convincing was her disguise.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, and then, remembering to add a thick Scandinavian accent, she added; “My pardon, Vader, Ich had nein idea dat you vere teaching dis class!”
“Your apology is unnecessary, my young, blonde beauty!” Cedric said, lighting up in a way that Marian had never seen in a priest and certainly not in Vader, uh Father Cedric before. “Come in, come in!” he said. “My name is Father Cedric, and I am just selflessly filling in since the poor children’s previous teacher has become a most base outlaw and a fugitive. It is for those of us working for the greater good of these pitiful urchins to give of ourselves, when wayward souls shirk their duties to become wanton criminals.”
“Ach, well, pity you had not seen fit to give of yourself until your hand was forced by da fates, ja?” she managed to say in a flirtatious voice despite the stinging content of her words.
“Yes, well, my duties are many and varied as I oversee St Mary’s and have lately become a deputy of the sheriff. I hardly have time for these young scalawags, yet I am ever answering the good Lord’s call for more it seems.” Cedric seemed to be trying to impress the lovely young blonde lady before him with his important offices and tireless good deeds, but his self importance and disdain for the children is what shone through. “And who might you be?”
“Ja, I am Hilde the math teacher. I am from, uh, Derby. Ja Derby is vere I am from, und I have come to be a substitution teacher for the children.” Cedric mistook Marian’s blushing for shyness. She wished she were better at dissembling.

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Robin Hood: Interim 27

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.

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Robin Hood: The Tale of Martha and Robin Hood 26

Wulfhere’s cave had many unique features. Not the least of which was a natural chimney which allowed for fires for cooking and warmth without fear of asphyxiation or detection from outside. The small band of outlaws had an uneasy night as Robin and John tried to get some sleep and Tuck, Marian and Wulfhere stayed up at the fire discussing the history of Druids, their philosophy & religion, and the legacy they have left for England. Tuck was fascinated both by Wulfhere’s extensive knowledge on the subject and the voracious appetite Marian had for the subject. Tuck was surprised to find how much Marian already knew. In fact, she was able to clear up some mysteries for Wulfhere, whom everyone had decided was a Druid, though the old hermit was typically enigmatic on the question. Though Tuck was a monk and devoted to God and the Church, he was not the type to cast aspersions on the beliefs of others. He knew that nobody had all the answers to life’s mysteries and he enjoyed learning ideas that were new to him. He was surprised to learn that Marian’s Grandfather had schooled her in archery and sword fighting when she was a little girl. He had heard the tale of her escape from captivity and was scarcely able to believe it. His already tremendous admiration for her grew as he learned things about her which were not apparent. Not only were they not obvious, but they were obscured, as she had hid them from everyone just to fit in as a woman in society. She vowed to be herself from that moment on, come what may. Will Skarlett had speculated that her addition to the group would weaken it, but Tuck could see the fallacy of that thinking here in the firelight on Easter night.
Dawn found Robin awakening to see Wulfhere and Marian still talking, though Tuck had fallen asleep where he sat and was snoring softly. He went outside to relieve himself and as he returned, one of Tuck’s rock doves arrived bearing a message. The group exchanged grim looks as Tuck fumbled delicately with the bird to get at the note. These messages were rarely good news. “The Earl has returned to Lincoln, but one of the children had gone missing.” Read Tuck.
“Who?” said Robin.

“Martha, daughter of James.” said Tuck. He was unfamiliar with Sherwood’s tightly knit community.
Just as the incident with Tom’s girl, Brigid mobilized the community, news of Martha’s disappearance brought Sherwood to move as a unit. Months of living together in the forest virtually cut off from the rest of the world, living in fear of detection had caused the community to think quickly and as if there was a leader giving them direction, even when they were all separated from each other. They had been drilled to assess information in such a way as to discover the root importance and determine the immediate action needed. These reactions could be refined and modified as need be, but in an emergency the entire community’s existence hung in the balance of making the correct decision and arriving at it quickly.
Given Lord Lincoln’s reputation of having a predilection for young girls, and the timing of Martha’s disappearance, it wasn’t difficult to figure that she was his captive. Other possibilities were considered and dismissed. Perhaps an animal had attacked her. If so there was likely to have been some sign; a struggle, clothes, blood. None of those things were found. It was quickly determined that Lincoln was still in Mansfield, and the outlaws of Sherwood were drawn there as sure as if there had been a trail. As the community recoalesced in the woods surrounding the grounds of the Lincoln estate, they slowed there pace a bit. Earls in England were historically the leaders of armies and wielded tremendous power. It would be dangerous to just storm the property; both to the outlaws and to Martha. A scout was sent to the main property to try to determine Martha’s exact circumstances. By the time Robin and the group form Derby joined them, the scout had not returned. Robin was not the official leader of the group, though they all looked to him for guidance. As for himself, Robin was the first to admit, he had hardly the experience nor the inclination to know what to do in every situation. There were men among them who had fought in wars, and men who had once been knights and gentry themselves, only to turn outlaw mostly due to the egregious tax situation, but there were other ways for good men to fall low.
There were no titles among the Sherwoodsmen, but experience was well respected and the grizzled old warriors that had been lads in Richard’s crusades devised a plan whereby one or two fleet footed lads would sneak up to the house in the dark of night and crawl in through an open window. (windows were shuttered in the winter to keep out the cold but otherwise had no kind of barrier, other than that they were usually exclusive to upper floors.)
“Who’s going to be fool enough to take that job?” Robin wondered allowed, and when he found all eyes upon him he realized that it would be he.
The scout returned shortly before dark. He was famished and the men fed him rations of bread and plied him with questions. There could be no certainty that young Martha was there, but he had overheard talk of the need for an extra guard in the aft tower.
The Earl of Lincoln’s Manor look moor like a castle than the Sheriff’s. And well it should. It had a gate house and a brick wall surrounding a front lawn that was as big as the main house itself. There was a guard’s walk along the top of the wall and crenellations around the perimeter. There was a tower in the front and back of the house; built square in the Norman style. There were only a few guards as no one would be stupid enough to try an assault on Lincoln’s house since he was a well known sadist and crazy person.
In the end, Robin elected to go alone, reasoning that he could move with more stealth by himself, and that no one else need be in danger. The plan was that if he was not back by dawn, They would stage an all out assault on the property from every direction. The problem with the execution of such an assault was that unless it was well coordinated, whoever lagged or went early would make it easier to target a few attackers at a time, so a careful timing system had to be worked out, or as in this case a signal; there would be a flaming arrow shot over the roof so that all could see it and attack en masse.
Sometime after midnight, the household seemed to have gone to bed. Robin had argued against waiting for fear of the harm that might befall the young maiden. After some discussion, Robin was convinced that it was just too dangerous to go before the household was abed. This point was brought home when a hunting dog came bounding into the thicket where Robin and his councilors were drawing their plans in the dirt. The dog, far from the vicious brute one would expect from the house of a lunatic, was surprised and happy to see so many new people. He barked and wagged his tail and licked the faces of everyone hunched over the dirt. Then, from a ways off came the call of a teenage boy. “Lucifer! Here boy! Come on Lucy! Don’t make me come looking for you!” Clearly torn, the hound looked in the direction of the boy and back to the men huddled around him in the dark. Then he looked at Robin, sniffed him one last time, and bounded off.
Now, by starlight, Robin skirted the perimeter of the property. The scout had said he had gotten close to the wall and listened to the gossip of the guards on top. The guard wall terminated near the front of the of the house, but the crenelated walk continued around the house itself. The tower at the rear protruded from the rectangle of main building.The tower itself was the rear entrance to the house, where deliveries would be made and the help would come and go by. Although the door was locked, it was not a complicated design, and Robin was able to use his dagger to throw the bolt without much noise. Once in, he let his eyes adjust to the near total darkness. He could make out a doorway to his right and made his way in that direction. Beyond the door was a square hallway. To the left, leading into the house, was a door to the kitchen where there was still a faint glow from the embers of the hearth. To the right of that was an even blacker doorway which Robin suspected led upstairs. He felt his way toward the doorway, practically blind. There was the scent of embers and bread coming from the kitchen and a musty smell of damp stone coming from the stairwell. He climbed the stairs and when he came to a turn, he was at last in total blackness. He listened carefully and heard only the light scrape of mice scurrying somewhere nearby.
Robin listened to the sound of his footfalls and concentrated on making them as quiet as possible. He had learned to be stealthy when hunting and if he could sneak up on a deer, he felt confident he could move with relative silence. This environment was different than the forest, though. And if he even allowed himself to think for a moment of the danger he was in, it seemed to far outway anything he had done in front of the sheriff. He barred the thought of danger from his mind, and proceeded up the stairs carefully.
After another turn, there was a cross shaped window in the wall which let in the meager starlight. Finally, Robin came to a door. The stairs led on to the roof and the guard walk. Robin had no way of knowing if Martha was on the other side of the door. Hadn’t that scout said something about a guard being posted outside the door? There was no use in debating questions at this point. If there was a guard, he might return at any moment. I hope he has a torch and a key, thought Robin ruefully. He knelt at the door, and felt for the keyhole, it was much smaller than the one that he had picked with his dagger downstairs. He looked through it. Darkness. He smelt it but smelled only metal and grease. Robin thought for a moment, and then had an idea. He pulled an arrow from his quiver. The point was smaller and more narrow than his dagger. It didn’t quite fit, however. Frustrated, Robin forced it creating a scraping sound that in the preceding silence seemed loud enough to wake the house. Silence ensued again and Robin listened for movement on the stairs. Perhaps the guard was right outside talking to the guard on the roof to pass the time. After a moment, Robin jostled the arrow again and this time it went in. He heard a rustling on the other side of the door. Was it the Earl? Probably not; the Earl would be demanding to know who was there. He twisted the arrow, turning it, trying to throw the bolt.
There was a sound again from the other side of the door. Was it a gasp? A sob? “Martha!” he whispered in a hoarse kind of voice that didn’t carry through the door, but seemed too loud all the same. Just get the door open, he told himself. Finally he felt the bolt release and the door opened. Robin realised that is was so dark, they couldn’t see each other. “Martha?” he said.
“Who is that?” she whispered back. “Is that.. Is it Robin?” she sobbed again, and stumbled into his arms, sobbing, trying to be quiet, but unable to control herself.
There was a loud slam that came from up the stairs and a blinding torchlight. A guard came down the stairs. “What the devil is going on down here?” The guard, still quite a ways up the stair drew his sword. Now he had a torch in one hand and his sword in the other.
“Get down the stairs! Now!” Robin commanded Martha, who didn’t need to be told twice. Arrows are only an advantage at a distance, so Robin moved fast before the guard could close on him. Robin had his bow from off his chest to in his hand and an arrow fit into it so fast, it was like a magic trick. Robin shot the torch, hoping to extinguish it. Although it was knocked out of the guard’s hand, it remained lit and fell down the stairs, toward Robin and past him, coming to a stop where the stair turned. The flickering falling light had been disorienting, but Robin moved even as it was happening. As he sprang up the stair, he dropped his bow and drew his sword. The guard was still trying to process the last few moments when Robin knocked the sword out of his hand, and moved past him up the stair. Once behind him, Robin kicked the guard hard in the back, sending him sprawling down the stairs. When Robin reached the door to the roof, he shut it and noting that there was a wooden bar to seal the door against attackers, he slammed the bar home, locking out any guards outside. Robin turned back to the guard to find he had regained both his sword and the torch.
The guard rushed Robin in the same fashion, turning the tables on Robin, but, Robin was ready and had the high ground. He attacked downward, forcing the guard down the stairs. As the man backed up in the dark on the steep stone steps, in the dark of the guttering torchlight, he slipped and fell. Robin reached down and grabbed the torch, noting that the man had hit his head on the sharp corner of a stair. Robin wasn’t sure if he was dead or just unconscious, but didn’t have time to find out. He raced down the stairs and caught up to Martha. By now, the rest of the house was waking up, and dogs were barking. There was the sound of people yelling in confusion. Robin and Martha were at the bottom of the stairs when one of the dogs leaped at them. The dog barked but didn’t attack.
“Lucifer?” Robin tried. The dog growled and barked again. “Lucifer! Stay!” Robin commanded. Robin and Martha made it to the door leading to freedom just as the dog leaped at them. Robin met the attack by soundly smacking the hound on his nose. The dog was unabashed and bit Robin’s hand. But now he and Martha were out the door, where they were safe.
Except that they were met by Lord Lincoln and a large retinue of his men.
“Thief!” shouted the Earl. Robin saw that there were at least twenty men with arrows trained on him. It was at that moment, Robin realised that he had left his bow on the stairs.
“What have you to say for yourself, scum!?” shouted the Earl.
“I’ve come to rescue Martha!” said Robin proudly.
Rescue her? From me? It is I who rescued her from the woods.” said Lincoln. “Who would abandon a child in the woods? Not I. Was it you? Are you her father? I rather doubt it. Look at you. You aren’t old enough. You aren’t much older than she, are you?” the Earl smiled. It was a wicked leering smile. “What exactly do you intend to do with her?”
“I’m going to return her safely to her father.” Robin said.
“I doubt that very much.” said Lincoln, examining his gloved hand for imperfections in the stitching. “Kill him. Put the girl back in her room.” he said in an offhand manner.
“There will be no killing here tonight.” said a new voice.
“My dear sheriff!” cried the Earl with apparent delight. “What on earth are you doing here?”
“The girl’s mother came to me. Sobbing. Told me she was probably here. You can hand the girl over to me. I’ll see she gets back to her family.” said the sheriff.
“What about this trespassing brigand?” said the Earl petulantly. “Surely I can have some fun with him?”
The sheriff looked at the two of them for a long moment. It would be a bright tomorrow if they killed each other. The very term outlaw meant that Robin was beyond the protection of the law. But there was something admirable about the way Robin had rescued that girl. And he didn’t like the Earl.
“Not in my jurisdiction. This is Nottinghamshire. I’m the law here. Not you.” Grudgingly, the sheriff realised that Robin had saved him the trouble of demanding to search the house for the girl. The sheriff began to see a way out of this mess.
“You say you rescued her from the woods. What does the girl say?”
“Who cares what a girl says!” spat the Earl. “And a child at that! I’m the Earl of Lincolnshire! I’ll have my men run you through, blame it on this filthy young thief, and that will be the end of you. You are on my land and you are outnumbered.”
Lincoln had a point. The sheriff had brought only a handful of men. To have brought an army would have been unseemly, and unrealistic. And it would have been asking for trouble. This was a point the sheriff had been hoping to avoid.
“He’s not outnumbered. You are.” said yet another new voice. There along the perimeter of the woods, emerged what looked to be a wall of torches. It was hard to see how many were there in the dark but it was more than enough to overpower the Earl’s assembly.
“Well played, sheriff. I have underestimated you capacity for strategy.” said the Earl icily.
The sheriff, for his part, was getting his first look at the men Robin had rallied to his side. This was not a bright tomorrow. This was the exact opposite of that. For now, though he had stepped in to protect Robin and Martha, and Robin’s grim looking horde were returning the favor.
“My, what a merry lot.” said the Earl sarcastically. “Very well. You win. Take your merry men and begone with you.”
Martha went with the sheriff to be reunited with her mother, and Robin turned to go and then stopped. “My bow.” he said. “I’ll have my bow returned to me.”
“To Hades with your damn bow!” said the Earl.
“You’d do well to fetch him his bow.” said the man who had announced  the army.
“Oh, very well; get him his blasted bow!” Even in the dark, the red of humiliation was evident in the Earl’s face.
With his bow in hand, Robin walked to the band of merry men, where there was a horse waiting for him, mounted, and like the mist, they vanished into the night.

And that is how the sheriff of Nottingham teamed up with Robin Hood.

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Robin Hood: Easter 25

Marian had not missed an Easter mass in her life. Neither had Robin, and of course Tuck usually celebrated Easter mass with his brother monks. Wulfhere was not an avid church goer, but considered holy days of all faiths to be sacred. Even John had always enjoyed the community of church even if he wasn’t overly religious. Tuck officiated a mass for the small party at Wulfhere’s cave, but everyone felt melancholy for not being at Saint Mary’s with the rest of the Shire, dressed in their finest, looking forward to a huge feast, all worries put off for the day. They could pretend that they were fine and life in the forest was splendid, and indeed most of the time it was; but on a holiday it brought home that the lives they had taken for granted was gone and might never return.
Robin felt that his plans to make war on the sheriff were petty and infantile, that he should give up and not endanger other people’s live for his own grandiose plans. He tried to hide his feelings; he didn’t want Marian to think he was full of doubt about his future. He thought he should be overjoyed that he was spending time with her. He had long dreamed that if only she could see what he was doing, she would see how gallant he was. So brave and noble. Now that she was here with him, they were fleeing away from all their friends, like cowards and thieves, which Robin had to admit, they were. The daily toil of survival made working toward a grand goal seem like an insurmountable task. His frustration made it difficult to even carry on polite conversation, thus increasing his frustration even more.
Wulfhere usually had some words of wisdom that could cheer up anyone from anything. But the old hermit’s wisdom extended beyond platitudes and he felt that in this instance, each moping member of the troupe should be allowed to mope for a bit. Words of cheer were worthless if the person wasn’t ready to be cheered. Besides, sometimes being in a bad mood led people to take action to remedy their situation that they wouldn’t take if they felt things were ok just the way they were. Wulfhere had had a vision of someone like Robin years before. A man mistreated by the system with the right character to retaliate in such a way as to change that system. He had sensed it in Robin that day at the tavern, the way he was with his fellows; they had coin, but it didn’t rule them, it was incidental to them. That was unusual. Wulfehere was a man like any other when all was said and done; however, and just now, he was feeling down himself. Some days are down, and others are up.

The Earl of Lincoln celebrated Easter with a grand picnic in Sherwood Forest. He considered it his personal garden and he set out a lavish spread. There were tents for shade and pigs roasting on spits. There were games and feasting and the forest was transformed into a park for the Noble rich of England. The day was glorious; there was a fine breeze, scuttling clouds across the sky, flowers burst everywhere in a cacophony of brilliant color, even in the trees; making them look like a party of dancing maidens with flowers in their hair. Musicians played and the carefree wealthy danced the afternoon away in lovely Sherwood.
Gilbert strode through Sherwood with two lackeys. He had feasted upon boar and fish, capers tomatoes and artichoke in a wine sauce, goose with sausage cooked with rosemary and an eel soup. He had with him his bow and one of the lackeys carried a quiver of arrows. Ostensibly, he was hunting, but he was on foot and there were no other noblemen to join in the sport accompanying him as they were all back lounging after the feast, getting drunk. Gilbert was of a mind to see the sights of the forest and felt he could get drunk while he did that. It was not unlike him to walk alone, he sometimes assessed land he wanted to own, sometimes it just helped him think. He was in the middle of a ribald joke, when there was a movement in the underbrush. He held out his hand for a lackey to hand him an arrow and aimed in the direction of the sound. He was not a noiseless hunter like the yeomen who provided most of the game for his feasts and had no idea that he frightened away every beast long before he came within range of it. Even so, he was surprised at his luck to literally stumble upon some unwary creature this fine, lush, luxurious afternoon. “Come you deer!” he commanded, only half joking. There was a moment of silence and then a rustle in the brush, and then amazingly, spectacularly, there emerged a young woman. She was filthy as if she lived here in the forest and tattered. Her eyes were like a wild animal’s and her movements were furtive. She was really just a girl, not yet fully grown. Her dirty red hair had leaves in it and her pale, freckled face was smeared with mud. She looked half starved. She curtsied.
“Yes, M’ Lord.” she said.
Without lowering his bow, the great Earl of Lincoln signaled his lackeys to spread out to block her escape. “Come hear, Dear.” he said.

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Robin Hood: The Earl & The Sheriff 24

Everyone has someone they have to answer to and William Brewer, High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire was no exception. In theory, the High Sheriff answered only to the king, who trusted his representatives throughout the kingdom. In reality, King John had ascended to the throne only after recovering from having all his holdings taken from him by his brother, Richard the Lion heart, when he had been king. This was punishment for John’s attempt to usurp his brother’s throne. King John trusted no one.
The Earl of Lincoln, Gilbert de Gant, had his eye on Nottinghamshire, as there was no Earl in the shire at that time, and Gilbert believed it would make a nice addition to his peerage. Gilbert spent most of his time at court in London currying favor with John, but from time to time came up to his shire, and the neighboring counties, where he felt, like many in his position, that he was defacto sovereign in the kings stead, and acted accordingly. That is to say, if by accordingly one means with complete self absorption and utter contempt for those beneath him, which was everybody.
An earl is a nobleman and a sheriff is an appointed representative of the king. Each man thought his position to be the superior one, and they quarreled regularly. Invariably, they had to come to a truce in order to avoid outright hostilities towards each other. It was soon after Marian’s daring escape that the Right Honorable Earl of Lincoln decided to visit Nottingham on his way home from court.
Gilbert had an number of properties in Nottinghamshire, most notably Mansfield, where often came with a writ to hunt in Sherwood Forest. Gilbert arrived with a retinue of servants, looking for all the world like royalty himself. Dressed in the finest fashions of the day, he had a reputation for availing himself of the hospitality of the peasant girls wherever he went; many of whom were never heard from again.
Upon hearing of Lincoln’s arrival in his jurisdiction, the sheriff temporarily forgot his abject rage and obsession with Robin Hood, knowing that the vagabond would still be there when the matter of the meddlesome Earl had been seen to. Robin Hood was an embarrassment to the sheriff and he had no intention of letting the de Gant become aware that there was a common thief at large in Nottinghamshire that was proving to be irritatingly elusive. Whenever the Earl came to the shire, the sheriff did all he could to give the appearance of an orderly, well run, docile and prosperous community. The county of Nottingham would be all of these things if it were not for the egregious over taxation methods employed by the sheriff.
The whole of the county followed the sheriff’s lead and turned their attention to de Gant, which is no less than the good Earl expected. As is the way of rivals and adversaries employing stealth, cunning and espionage, the sheriff sent a few men to Mansfield to welcome the Earl with gifts of wine, cheese and venison, which the sheriff had a permanent dispensation to hunt in Sherwood. It was in fact, nothing for peerage and gentry to obtain permission from the crown to hunt in Sherwood, as this was a major means of sustaining them. In reality it was only the peasants who were prohibited from hunting deer in the royal forest. There were other woodlands in the county, but the sheriff treated the prohibition of hunting in Sherwood forest as if it extended to all the wilds of Nottingham. This made it easier to fine people and charge them with breaking the law. They might contend that they were not in Sherwood, but in the sheriff’s court he could not be gainsaid. Not by a peasant at least.

The welcoming party was received with the suspicion and false gratitude it deserved and expected. The sheriff had instructed his men to snoop around for any sort of impropriety that the lawman could use as leverage against the noble. In the past, there had been minor infractions, but not enough to blackmail or arrest even a lackey on, and these had ceased to become observable long ago. Lord Lincoln was insidiously fastidious on matters of propriety. In the sheriff’s view, this alone should be enough to convict the pompous bastard of something.
As to the feast provided by the sheriff, Lincoln told the sheriff’s messenger’s to relay the message that his household staff would enjoy the modest gift and he hoped that the good sheriff had not fallen on such dire straits that he was reduced to bestowing such meager gifts to visiting neighbors. The sheriff was sure that the Earl had tutors as a child training him in the art of barbed correspondence and admired him immensely for his ability to injure so deftly with mere words.
Sherwood Forest itself felt the presence of the Earl as he and his entourage hunted in the forest. When the local gentry hunted, they did so in relatively small bands, and predominately to feed their households. Lincoln was here for sport, with food as an aside. There were servants to do the cleaning and dressing and cooks who set up little tents and camps to cook food brought to the hunt from the house.
The outlaws closed up their various homes and made sure they were concealed properly and quit the forest for the duration of the hunt.
Robin and Marian, couldn’t quit the forest as easily as the others. Along with Friar Tuck, they were wanted for High Crimes. Tuck proposed a return to cave in Derbyshire, but Marian did not like the sound of that. Wulfhere and Little John caught up with the trio on their journey East. Marian wondered how they had been found by their mates, and Robin told her half jokingly that Wulfhere was a Druid with mystical powers. This seemed to pique Marian’s interest.
“So, You’re a Druid, are you, Mister Wulfhere?” she asked.
“Miss Marian, there are no more Druids in England.” said the old hermit. “We are all Christians here.”
“It’s his cave I had proposed we go to. You’ll see. It’s big enough for a community to hide in indefinitely. It is a magical place.” said Robin.
“Aye, it is enchanted.” agreed John. “It gave me odd dreams.”
“You get used to that.” said Wulfhere. “I had even come to look forward to them. In fact, it is what I miss most about the place.”
“Are you saying Mister Wulfhere, that Christianity and Druids are incompatible?” said Friar Tuck. “I believe that many druidic bards were in fact Christians.”
“Aye, that’s a fact.” said Wulfhere. “Bards are the masters of lore. They make the best teachers and are often brought to royal courts as councilors, tutors, historians and various other clerical roles. They are customarily sworn fealty to king and Christ. There’s the rub. Swearing fealty to Christ is not the same as fealty to Christianity.”
“We have to be careful what we say.” said Marian. “This isn’t France. Witchcraft isn’t celebrated at court here as it is there.”
“Surely we are among friends here, Marian.” said Tuck.
“Are we?” Marian said. “What I know for sure is that I spent night after night in Gaol because of my supposed connection to Robin Hood.” Here she pointed to the man escorting her in case there was any doubt. “He is the confessed thief of our own taxes and murderer of the guardians of that money.”
“I was there when that took place, Miss, and I can tell you it was self defense. We were merely on our way to get a doctor for a sick child, when the sheriff’s henchmen took us for thieves and attacked us. Robin saved our lives! He saved my life! He saved that baby’s life! And we returned that money to the people from whom it was wrongly taken!”
“Is this true?” Marian asked of Robin.
“Not at all.” said Robin. “John was doing fine. I saved Will Skarlett. And Master Wulfhere saved little Maggie.”
“Ah, so he’s a Wizard, you’re a murderer, John is an accomplice at best and a thief and murderer in his own right at worst; and you say I’m ‘among friends’? Is that about right?”
“Well, you did stab those two guards and escaped from prison, so I’d say you fit right in.” countered Robin.
“Well, so long as I fit in, then.”

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Robin Hood: Whipped 23

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.

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Robin Hood Marian in Gaol 22

Robin and Tuck made the hermit’s cave before nightfall. They found it much as it had been when Robin left it last with Wulfhere in the winter. The cave was situated facing south and its entrance was covered by bushes. In the late afternoon light, Robin had nearly missed it. They tethered the horses in an enclosed thicket nearby that Wulfhere had shown the boys on their first visit. The whole layout was well planned and well concealed and Wulfhere contended that it had been used by druids in Roman days. Many in Sherwood said that Wulfhere was a druid. And one from Roman days as far as that went. Wulfhere would laugh good-naturedly at that and Robin suspected he took it as a compliment.
There was a place to build a fire where the smoke would escape though the roof of the cave. There was storage space that was still filled with dry goods safe from weather and vermin. There was space enough for thirty or forty men. Robin could well imagine the original Britons had used it to hide and fortify themselves against the Romans.
Tuck had sent quick note to Sherwood during a short rest earlier that said, “Sheriff coming! Hide!” Now that he had time, he explained in more detail (as much a note would allow and still fit around the ankle of a pigeon.) Robin began a plan to harry the sheriff further. He didn’t want to give the sheriff time to think of a strategy to come at them. Meanwhile, now that the sheriff had a face to put to his adversary, he would be doubly careful. If Robin wanted to bankrupt the sheriff by robbing all of his shipments, it would be much harder now. Robin realized he was at war; and he was at War with the law of the land. He was at war with England herself.

The sheriff had tracked Robin to St. Anne’s. It didn’t take a genius to see that though the hoof prints disappeared at the edge of the woods, that Robin was headed for the orphanage. He had been trying to assess Robin’s motive. At first the sheriff believed it was simply revenge for being driven out of his home. He had finally had a vague recollection of Robin of Sherwood. A Yeoman who basically tended the forest. The sheriff had indeed targeted such worthless foresters out of their homes. They collected a living from the king, but did no work and were basically self supporting. What kind of a society could thrive on peasants who didn’t live in fear of starvation due to lack of work?
William Brewer could see now that Robin was working with the orphanage. But why? was he besotted by the girl. He must be. Why else had he risked his neck for her today? Well, he wouldn’t release the girl so quickly. Clearly she was useful leverage against the outlaw. Had Robin perpetrated these crimes himself? Probably not. They required too much planning and execution. The first one had seen the murder of three experienced soldiers. Robin was barely a grown man. It was unlikely that he had dispatched the couriers unaided. Was he paying the others? What was he doing with the money? What kind of robbers stole all that money and continued to live in the forest? Had Robin really given the money back to the orphanage? That was insane in the sheriff’s opinion. Why would you risk your neck for nothing? No woman was worth that. Was he one of these fools who believed in honor? Did they really exist? The sheriff doubted it.

Incarceration for the purpose of penal attribution was not a common practice in those days. Criminals were generally fined, subjected to a form of physical punishment like whipping or having ones hands cut off, or they were executed. Imprisonment was utilized for those awaiting a trial, but prisons were not full of felons carrying out a sentence.
Marian had not actually formally been charged with a crime. The sheriff had used her to draw out Robin Hood, and though it had worked, Robin Hood remained at large and therefore, Marian would remain locked up. Her cell was indeed in the sheriff’s keep. Though the famous castle was at the southwest corner of town, the sheriff’s was right on the market place. The stockade, as it was known, was an annex in the rear, away from the market place. Marians cell had a small window on the north side that let in a square of sun. There was little else in the way of light. The door to her cell had a small, barred window that gave a view of the hallway which led to the gaoler’s room. The door to that room also had a small barred window, and if the outer room was occupied, some of the light from the lantern within that room spilled into the hall, and subsequently into Marian’s cell.
After several tries, Marian could stand upon her water bucket and jump, and thus catch the bars to the window set deep into the thick stone. Then, she could pull herself up and see out into the ally behind the gaol. There was not much to see. Even if there had been no bars, the window was too small for Marian’s slight frame to climb through, and if she could, the drop to the street outside was much farther than the floor of her cell inside. She would survive it, but probably not without injury, thus making escape impossible. As she was the only prisoner presently, there was no full time guard on duty. One of the sheriff’s men brought her a meal once a day near dusk. It was not awful. It was whatever was leftover from the sheriff’s dinner. There were no utensils provided with the meal.
Marian recited bardic legends to herself to keep herself sane. She had been taught them by her grandfather. He taught her the old ways. Customs before the Normans had come. Before the Saxons had come. They were the ancient tales of Druids and secret, sacred ways of the fey; of the dark haired people who had been on the island before the Romans. Her grandfather told her she was descended from the ancients, when women led armies against the Romans, and were held in high esteem as leaders, rulers and priestesses. Marian, named for the Virgin, had loved the stories her grandfather had told her. She kept them secret as she was told and they kept her strong.
They were tales of the Lady of Lake, known in Arthurian legends, Vivian, the High priestess of Avalon, the Isle of apples some say was at Glastonbury. They were tales of Boudicca, Warrior Queen who led the Britons in revolt against the invading Romans in ancient days. These women would laugh if they saw Marian despair at her situation. She examined the mortar between the stones, but even if it were soft, she had no tool to dig it out. Part of her told her to be patient, that she would be released; the townspeople would not let her remained caged. Where was Tuck? Rumors were that he had fled for fear of being captured also.
Then, one day, there was a voice outside. Finally! Someone had not forgotten her! She positioned her upturned pale under the window, climbed up on the meager surface, and leapt up to the bars of the window, not quite catching them, slipped and caught hold of the angled sill. She pulled her self up and peered out to see two children. Adam and Eric.
“Marian! It’s us! We’ve come to visit you!” said Eric an attempt at a whisper that could be heard by anybody.
“Bless you, lads! I am so happy to see you! You didn’t bring any weapons or shovels, did you? Saws, files, hammers, anything like that?” She was giddy with delight that these boys had come to see her.
There was a brief conference of recrimination where each lad claimed to have wanted to bring something, but thought the other wouldn’t approve. “I’ve got my knife, Marian!” Said Eric.
“Me too! Except mines a dagger!” said Adam. “Stand back!” Marian dropped to the floor and stood against the windowed wall as two knives came sailing in. One fell to the floor at her feet and one clattered against the far wall. Each came through the tiny window high above the young boys on the first try. Marian gathered them up and hid them under her dress in case someone heard the clatter.
“Thank you boys! Thank you! How are you lads holding up without me? Is it true Tuck has fled St. Anne’s?”
“We’re all right, Marian.” Said Eric. “Sister Martha has taken over most of your duties. She’s mean. Not like you.”
“We’re fine, Marian. Don’t worry about us!” Said Adam. “Robin came and took Friar Tuck with him after trying to get you free. They’ve been gone a few days and no one knows where. When Robin finds out they didn’t let you go, he’ll be awful mad. He’ll come get you!”
“That is exactly what the sheriff wants!” Marian said. “If you see Robin, or Tuck or any of them, warn them that the sheriff has vowed to kill them on sight! Tell Robin to stay away!” Marian’s arms were getting tired, and she wanted to plan how to use her new “tools”. “You boys get along before someone sees you! Bless you boys for coming! Visit me again soon! Make sure no one sees you, or the sheriff will have your hides! This is no game, lads! People will die before this settles down!”
“We know, Marian! God keep you, Marian! Take good care of yourself! We’ll have you out of there in no time!” and with that, they were gone.
The sheriff was furious at having let Robin Hood get away. He announced that there would be a new round of taxes to make up for lost revenue and the cost of pursuing the murderous Robin Hood. Anyone caught aiding and or abetting Robin would be arrested for treason. The sheriff and his men began to terrorize the shire, whipping and beating those that couldn’t pay. Those who seemed to have more money than the sheriff thought they should had it worse. He couldn’t believe Robin had returned the taxes back to these peasants! What was his game? Was it to infuriate the sheriff and make the lives of the poor even more miserable, because if it was then; well done! If not, well that was the result! Still there was no sign of that coward, Robin Hood.
John, Wulfhere and Tom had ridden to Derby to meet Robin and Tuck as soon as they had received news of their whereabouts. Wulfhere knew that Robin would do something foolhardy. It had been smart not to lead the sheriff directly to Sherwood Village. It had been smart to take Tuck. He would have been in danger as he was connected to St Anne’s. Everyone else at St Anne’s was free from contact with Robin, his few archery lessons not withstanding. It had been smart for them to contact them by carrier pigeon. But it had been damn foolish to name himself to the sheriff’s face in the heart of Nottingham. It had been sheer luck that they had escaped. If they were to avoid further bloodshed, they would have to plan and be more careful.

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Robin Hood: The Chase 21

The sheriff’s horse was tied in the stable, but there was a farmer nearby sitting his own horse. Authority figures have probably been commandeering the transports of standersby for as long as there have been transports and authority figures; however, this is the first time the sheriff took it upon himself to do so. He pulled the poor farmer off his mount and was in the saddle before Robin’s dust had settled. The horse was skittish with its new rider; however and wasn’t keen for the chase or the spurs in its side. Eventually, the poor steed got the idea and took off after Robin. This was the chance the sheriff had been waiting for! He knew that Marian had nothing to do with the robberies and didn’t need her whimpering protestations to convince him. He also knew as sure as day that however Marian had gotten hold of that coin, the real culprit had somehow put it there. It didn’t take a genius to realize that the fool would come running as soon as he found out that Marian had been taken into custody. That didn’t stop the sheriff from counting himself a genius. It had worked perfectly. Of course it would turn out to be that cheating Robin Hood! He should have known! Well he would be dead before Easter and that would be reason to celebrate. Why had he thrown the money to the crowd? If he expected them to protect him from the law he was mistaken. Those cowering dolts wouldn’t cross the sheriff to save their own mothers let alone for a few pennies from a forest thief!
The sheriff had plunged headlong into the woods heading north toward Sherwood where he knew the outlaws made their homes. but he had expected to have sighted Robin Hood by now. He was simply galloping deeper and deeper into the woods. Alone. Where were his men? Surely they had gotten their mounts by now. He reigned in the nag he was on and noticed she was quite winded. He’d have been better off getting his own horse and tracking the outlaw more methodically, but the idea that he was within the sheriff’s grasp had been too much for him to resist. So he had chased after the thief without hesitation. Now he was stuck in the woods on a strange horse and he was in fact, lost. He might have been riding into a trap. Robin Hood could have had a group of outlaws waiting in the woods to ambush whoever gave chase! That was probably why he had ridden off like such a coward! He heard hoof beats in the distance! Perhaps it was they coming for him now! What should he do? It was too late they were upon him. He drew his sword to fight it out even though he was obviously outnumbered. He would kill every last one of them there would be no doubt!
It turned out to be his own men finally catching up to him.
“Where the devil have you dolts been, for God’s sake?” He yelled, not sure if he was relieved or disappointed that it was them.
“We had to get out horses, Sheriff.” said one of the newer men. “We brought yours as well. The one you stole, uh borrowed, looks as though it wouldn’t make it far.”
“Aye and the damned beast has misled me as well!” said the sheriff dismounting. “If he’s heading for Sherwood, he’s not going this way.”
“If it were me, I wouldn’t lead us back to my hideout.” said the new man whose name was Hugh. “I would probably go to the stream to hide my tracks and through hounds off the scent.” Hugh had a mop of black hair and bushy black eyebrows and looked like he always needed to shave.
“You sound as if you have evaded the law before.” said the sheriff, but headed toward the stream, nevertheless.
Having reached the stream, they backtracked until they found where Robin had entered the stream, just as Hugh had conjectured. They followed the stream north under the assumption that he would eventually come out and make for Sherwood.  It was only because there was not room for them all to travel on the east side of the stream that Mace happened to spot fresh tracks coming out of the stream on the western bank and seem to double back toward Nottingham.
“Why would he go back to Nottingham? It’s probably someone else.” said Roland. The sheriff crossed the stream to examine the tracks. He dismounted and checked them closely.
“They’re very fresh.” he said. “And whoever it is, they are riding full out. How many men are running their horses through this stream today, I wonder. It must be him. We can catch him still, whatever his game may be. Let’s not waste anymore time!” He jumped on his horse and led the way.

Robin arrived at St. Anne’s and Adam directed him to where Tuck was working in the garden. “Tuck, I need your help!” he said. “I’m going to Derby and the sheriff is fast on my trail!”
“What on God’s green earth could I do? Just name it and I’ll do it!” said Tuck. He had known that there was going to be a day coming soon when all this would come to a head. When he heard that Marian had been taken into custody, he suspected that today might be the day.
“I don’t want to lead them to Sherwood, but I need to warn the people there that the sheriff is on the rampage. We will need your rock doves!”
“Aye! I’ll get them! Adam saddle my mare, the one with the white sock; she’s the fastest.”
“Yes, sir! Can I come with you, Robin?” said the boy.
“Not right now. We’re on the run from the sheriff.” said Robin. “Now go! We haven’t a moment to spare!”
After he  had gone, Tuck said, “How is Marian? Did you see her?”
“No, I didn’t. I demanded her release in front of the whole town. If he has any dignity, he will release her, but he is spending today chasing me.” They were making for the cages where Tuck kept the pigeons. They were behind his sleeping quarters. Tuck grabbed his bedroll and crowded two birds into a cage. Adam brought the horse and Eric was with him.
“Is there anything we can do?” said Eric.
“Make sure the shire knows that Robin is not a villain. He robbed the sheriff, but only to return what the sheriff took from us.”
“You’re the one? I knew it was you!” said Eric.
“That’s ridiculous!” said Adam. “You did not!”
“I did! Marian said she didn’t know how we were getting by, and I said I bet it’s that Robin Hood. That made her smile.” Robin wasn’t sure if the boy’s story was true, but he was glad to hear it.
“You boys, keep low and stay out of trouble.” Said Robin. “I don’t want to have to break you boys out of jail.” That made the boys laugh to think of Robin coming to get them out of the stockade.
“We had best make haste!” said Tuck. “I don’t want anyone to have to break me out of jail either.!” With that the two rode off for Derby, leaving the boys behind.
“What should we do?” asked Adam.
Eric looked around, trying to think. “Let’s erase these tracks!” he said. The boys found some nearby branches and erased the tracks all the way to the woods.

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Robin Hood. Robin & the Sheriff 20

Word reached Robin of Marian’s imprisonment almost by accident. Robin and Wulfhere were engaged in some kind of exercise that Will Skarlett did not recognize. It was if they were dancing slowly with the wind, in unison. The exercise apparently required great concentration, although Will could not see why. Both men wore serious expressions upon their faces and seemed to be staring at absolutely nothing. He almost didn’t stop to gossip. But, as John was off hunting, and Will wanted some advice, he decided to be patient and wait for a chance to speak when the musicless dance was over. When they came to an end, they faced each other and gave a bow and a praying kind of salute to each other.
“Good Morning, Will!” said Robin. “How are you on this fine day?”
“Fine, fine, Robin. Hope you are as well. Listen, mate, I’ve a question I was hoping you could help me with.”
“I’ll give it a go.” Robin said with a sideways look at Wulfhere.
“Well. It’s about the reward that’s offered for outlaws in Sherwood…”
“Gonna turn yourself in, Lad?” ask Wulfhere.
“No, sir. No, that was not my intention. Though, it’s not a bad idea. What I was thinking was the Bower twins. Now they’re not part of the Village, and I know they’ve been pilfering our ale…” Will hemmed a bit. “So you see, it would really be doing us a favor, and then of course, I’d not keep all the 100 pound to myself.”
“No. No, of course you wouldn’t” said Robin with a smile.
“No. Of course not, so you see; I don’t really see the down side of the plan…”
“He doesn’t see the down side of the plan, Robin.” said Wulfhere.
“Well, there are a few minor down sides.” said Robin thoughtfully. “First of all; they would then tell the sheriff about us. Sort of return the favor you might say. And that wouldn’t do, would it? No it wouldn’t. Then of course, the sheriff will want to know how you know these to brothers, won’t he? Yes. Yes he will. Once he finds out you’re an outlaw, it will be as if you did turn yourself in; see? That’s the sheriff’s plan; to turn us on each other! He knows that someone here is the thief he’s been looking for. He must have found something the night he came into the forest. Only a madman would undertake such a night time raid! He is sure we are hiding here! It’s just a matter of time before someone gives in to temptation like you lad and then we will be in trouble! That will come soon enough; there’s no need to bring it upon ourselves!”
“Aye. You’re right. I see that now. It’s probably too late for the reward anyway seeing as how they already have a suspect in custody.” said Will.
“They do?” said Wulfhere. “Who might that be , Lad?”
“Haven’t you heard? Just this morning. They’ve taken the maid Marian in for questioning. As if she knows anything.”
“What!” Robin thought he must have miss heard.
“Yeah. Marian. Just this morning. Screaming for her life across the yard in front of the whole town, they took her. No one knows why.”
“That’s all you know?” said Robin. “You’re sure?”
“Yes. Yes, Robin, I’m sure.”
And just like that, Robin was gone.
“Where do you suppose he went?” said Will.
“To get himself in more trouble than he can handle, no doubt.” said Wulfhere.
Robin had no plan, but that did not stop him from acting. He knew one thing: Marian was in custody for something that Robin was himself responsible for. No matter how honorable his intentions, he was free and she was not. She had done nothing. Yet She was humiliated in front of the town and all of Nottingham.
Women had only their reputations in this world. Even a baseless accusation could ruin a woman and stay with her for the rest of her life. Robin had seen it happen. These were thoughts that ran through his head so that as he approached Nottingham, he had no memory of saddling his horse, arming himself, what route he had taken or anything else. He came galloping out of the woods at full speed and reigned in his horse in front of the sheriff’s. A crowd gathered around. It was not often a man came thundering into town this way.
“Sheriff William Brewer!” Robin shouted. Presently the sheriff appeared in his door. If he recognized Robin, he gave no sign. “Marian is innocent!” Robin bellowed for all to hear.
“And just how would you know that?” the sheriff said. Robin noticed that the sheriff’s men were positioning themselves to surround him. He wouldn’t have much time.
“Because I am the man you’re looking for!”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” said the sheriff.
Robin knew the sheriff was playing for time. His hand fell to his belt. To his surprise, he found a bag full of gold there. He held it up high. “Here! Here is the money you stole form the people under the guise of tax!”  The sheriff nearly lunged for the bag himself. “It belongs to the people! The taxes, and the money you stole from the orphanage on Shrove Tuesday!”
“You stole that money!?”
“NO! YOU stole that money! I merely took it back! For the people!” with that Robin open the sack and showered the crowd with its contents. The sheriff went pale with shock. You let Marian go and take me instead! If you can!”
“And who might you be?” yelled the sheriff.
“Why I’m Robin! Robin Hood of course!” and with that, Robin beat a retreat back the way he had come.
The sheriff’s men hadn’t been mounted. It had been too quick. They hadn’t know what to expect. Robin knew they wouldn’t be long. He made for the river to lose his scent and rode upstream so he wouldn’t leave tracks. Instead of going to Sherwood, he made for Derby. He meant to hideout in the old hermit’s cave. He didn’t want to lead the sheriff’s men to the Village, but they had to be told what had happened. He realized he was heading right for St Anne’s, so he decided he better stop and take Tuck with him.

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Robin Hood: Marian Arrested! 19

The sheriff burst into the vicar’s chambers furious at being summoned to an inferior’s office. He summoned people, they didn’t summon him! Unless they are the king or quite possibly the pope, and even then… This is exactly what he would say to the priest. That would feel good.
“This had better be worth my while!” the sheriff said, working out how to perfectly frame the whole pope part of his tirade. Then he noticed Miriam and realized that whatever it was, could not possibly be important. Did it involve a needlepoint crime? Where her crochet hooks missing?
“Ah sheriff. I am so glad you could join us. I am sure you will find this most interesting.” said Cedric, anticipating how thankful the sheriff would be when he found out what was going on. Whatever it was.
“I doubt it.” Then to Marian; “Ah Maid Marian, what brings you here on this fine day?”
Before she could answer, Father Cedric said; “We were just discussing this interesting coin.” the priest handed the farthing to the sheriff.
“What of it? Get on with it, man!  I have serious business to attend to!”
“It seems the young maid put this coin into the donation basket yesterday. I recognize the disfiguration of Henry the second. I saw her put it in the basket. You see, I bought a mug of wine with it. …on Shrove Tuesday.”
“What of it? This is a farthing! Why did you drag me into here for… Shrove Tuesday you say? Listen Marian, Where did you get this coin?” asked the sheriff finally realizing what the priest was getting at.
“I don’t remember.” Marian said. She honestly didn’t. Her income came primarily from the orphanage; most of what she did was volunteer, but they paid her for some services such as mending clothes and the like. She also received a stipend from her uncle’s will. It was enough to pay for her expenses and not much else. But the coin could have been change for the purchase of cloth, or food, or something for the orphanage. It could have come from anywhere, and she said so.
Father Cedric had not counted on this alibi. He was sure that somehow she had been involved in the robbery. It was ridiculous, he knew; a woman of Marian’s character, involved in something sordid, but he so wanted it to be true.
The sheriff; however, was not so easily dismissed from the scent. “Come now, Marian; you didn’t get it from the tavern, you didn’t get it from the stables, you didn’t get it gambling. There are really only a few places you could have gotten it from, isn’t that so? Most likely from the orphanage, isn’t that right? Don’t you think so, Father?”
“Yes, that’s why I called her in. I suspect the orphanage of foul play. They don’t seem any the worse for wear for having forfeited the Shrove Tuesday proceeds, how could that be?”
“Are you accusing the orphanage of stealing the money from you that you stole from them? That’s rich!” she practically spat the words out.
“I believe we should take her into custody.” said the sheriff.
“Well I examined the books from St Anne’s and they seem to be in order but…”
“Yes, well, that was rather bold of you. All well and good really, but I think we can get what we need from Marian.” said the sheriff.
“But I don’t know anything!” said Marian. “It’s ridiculous! we are not thieves! we are teachers and monks, and simple people! You can’t be serious!”
“Oh, but I am serious.” said the sheriff. “Spread the word. We have our first suspect in custody!” With that, the sheriff took Marian by the arm and led her out, screaming, into the town centre, across the square to the stockade. Go ahead and scream he thought. the more people who here you, the better.
Marian was born on a cold and moonless autumn evening. The wind vied for attention with the wailing of the newborn baby girl. John and Elizabeth Ackerman loved their little girl. When she was three years old, she wandered into the forest which was adjacent to the farm where her family were tenants. It was only a few minutes before she was missed, but it took hours to find her. The township of Mansfield all gathered to help look for her. When she was found, she was playing with a pack of wolf cubs as the mother looked on. She had charmed even the villains of the forest. Her mother loved to tell her that story, growing up though she had no memory of it. Ever had she been underestimated and thought to be but a fair maiden, and ever had she had something in her that belied the first impression people had of her.