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Robin Hood: In Nottingham 9


News of the Shrove Tuesday carnival did not pass by the greenwood unnoticed; many of the wives took their children to church and Father Cedric was promoting this year’s festival with unusual fervor. The children especially wanted to attend. It seemed living in the woods had its attraction for children, but the prospect of sweets was hard to pass up. Holy days were considered a general amnesty for outlaws not wanted for heinous crimes. People would come from the entire shire and though the outlaws were many, they were a small percentage of the entire countryside. Tom was on the mend, and he and Robin were determined to take place in the festivities. “You could win the archery contest, hands down.” said Tom. Robin had been teaching the men of Sherwood Forest to shoot as well as make their own bows and arrows. He didn’t fancy trying to feed the whole forest. He had gained quite a reputation in the greenwood.
“Archers like me are common enough.” said Robin. “But I will be happy to give it a go.”

Most things needed by man can be made from nature, and the people of the greenwood had little need to venture into town, save one: it was their rightful home. There was a degree of shame that came with being an outlaw. That you were outcast. With the new found pride and comradery that the people of the greenwood felt, much of the shame they had felt, dissipated, and they began to venture into the neighboring towns. Tom wanted to go into town to obtain some cloth for his wife and children to have new clothes in time for the festival. He and Robin ventured into Nottingham one cold and windy February morning. In the marketplace, there were several weavers; some with stalls, others had shops. Robin preferred the stalls, but Tom liked the shops, and as it was cold, they lingered inside examining fabrics they would never buy.
The door opened with the wind forcing its way in ahead of the woman. The lanterns flickered a bit in the breeze. The new customer lowered her hood and shook her hair. She brushed it out of her face with a hand that had long, delicate fingers. Her cloak was deep blue, and her dress underneath was a blue so pale that it was almost white. Her auburn hair was somewhat windblown, stray hairs danced in the breeze. The effect was that of an intimacy; to be seen in an unguarded moment.  Her face was flushed from the cold and the color in her cheeks resembled a nimbus. Her eyes were the blue of a cool pond reflecting the evening twilight. Robin heard music playing somewhere nearby. She met his gaze coolly and walked past him to the counter.
The proprietor was an elderly woman with her hair in a bun and a knit shawl around her shoulders. She beamed at Marian though she could barely make her out. Her vision had been waning for years and she relied mainly on instincts to substitute, and for her this worked quite well. “Good Morning, Marian!” the old lady said in a paper thin voice.
“Good Morning, Gladys.” Said Marian.
Robin had been transfixed by Marian from the moment she walked into the shop. The music he heard was heard by no one else. He heard birds singing too, though it was only February. Tom walked up to Robin and whispered, “Close your mouth before something flies into it. And don’t stare! Your worse than Henry.”
Robin Blushed and turned to Tom to retort, but the music stopped. Confused, Robin turned back to Marian, and sure enough the music started again. a fife and a lute, and birds.
“What brings you here today, dear one?” asked Gladys of Marian. The old woman looked like a shrunken apple come to life and had a rosy complexion that came through in her personality as well.
“I will have to cancel my order for the new fabric, Gladys.” said Marian.
“Whatever for?” said Gladys.
Marian bit her lip trying to decide how much to reveal to Gladys. “The money is needed for the festival.” she said. “The children need it more than me.”
“Posh!” said Gladys. “That fabric was made literally for you! It’s deep blue, like the night, just after the last of the light has gone. Why it’s your color, dear!”
“Gladys, I can’t.” said Marian.
“How much is it?” interrupted Robin.
“I will thank you to mind you own business!” The girl said. “This is a private conversation. Why, I don’t even know you!”
“Allow me to introduce Robin of Sherwood.” said Tom.
“And you are….?” asked Marian.
“This is Tom.” said Robin. He looked to Gladys as if for conformation. She continued to beam at them. Robin produced some coins from his purse at his belt. “Will this be enough?” he said. “And for the orphanage.” he said producing more.
Marian looked Robin up and down, taking in his ragged yeoman’s clothes that had spent the winter in the forest, and she looked at the money he was offering. “You’d best be careful with your purse, sir. There’s thieves about.”
“Is there?” asked Robin.
“Aye. They live in the forest.”
“We’ll keep an eye out Ma’am.” said Tom.
“It’s Miss”
“Miss?” said Robin. “Miss what?”
“Miss me every time.” said Marian.
“We should be going.” said Tom, who thought it was a bit early for spring. He pulled Robin by his arm.
“Wait.” Robin said. “Here, Miss. Miss Marian. Take it. Give it all to the orphanage if you won’t take it for yourself.”
“Give it to them yourself, Sir” said Marian and turned back to Gladys.
“Let’s Go.” said Tom. “It’s a bit stuffy in here.”
“But…” protested Robin. Tom pulled him outside. “But she’s beautiful!” said Robin.
“Aye.” said Tom. “She’s trouble, that one.”
Back inside the shop, Gladys said, “Oh, he seems nice.”
“Gladys, your blind as a table leg. He was a vagabond.”
“Even a blind table leg knows it can’t hold the table up by itself.” said Gladys.

“Where should we go now?” asked Tom.
“Why, to the orphanage, where else?”


St Anne’s Orphanage was a series of wattle and daub  buildings on the outskirts of the property of St. Mary’s Church. It was run by the monks and nuns who also maintained quarters elsewhere on the vast acreage of St Mary’s. St Mary’s had been around since before the Normans, and it was rather large for a church in the midlands. Whereas in neighboring Derbyshire there were churches in each village within the shire, St Mary’s was the main church for the county. To be sure, there were churches in each village in Nottingham, they looked to St Mary’s for festivals, holidays and large gatherings. The monks had elected Cedric to the position of Vicar since the death of the previous vicar nearly ten years past.
There was a boys dormitory on one side and a girls on the other. The office, school, and cafeteria were in the middle. The entrance to the grounds on the south side led to the office, and at the other end past the cafeteria was a garden. beyond that was a field for games. Beyond the field at the north end was the greenwood. Sherwood Forest proper was in the north of the county, but the primeval woods of which it was a part extended throughout the county (and indeed throughout the midlands). The greenwood was a term that referred to the whole area of wilderness.
The path leading to the office had a lawn on either side and was officially off limits to the children. Presently, two boys were running around on the lawn, chasing each other. The one being chased was taller, had a shock of red hair and was named John. The chaser was a runt. A little blond boy who made up in ferocity what he lacked in stature. His name was Eric. After some valiant zigging and zagging, there was an “oof!” followed by a thud and some rolling about. After a moment the boys got up, laughing and covered in the dead grass of winter. Eric looked up and stopped laughing and John looked up to see what had caused the suspension of antics and stopped laughing too. There were two specters of men standing there looking at them, older versions of themselves.
“Well don’t stop on our account.” said Robin. “We were just looking for the office.” The taller boy shook his head as if such information was not to be given out, while Eric pointed to the obvious building that the path the men were on led to. Johnny cuffed Eric on the shoulder and shot him a look. Eric cuffed Johnny back and it was back to rolling on the lawn.
Inside the office, there was a rotund young tonsured monk sitting at a desk, making every effort to fill in a ledger. At the sound of the two men coming in he endeavored to finish his entry lest he have to start again. When he looked up, he saw Robin and Tom waiting patiently, their hoods down and smiles on their faces. He returned the smile.
“What can I do for you fine gentlemen?” he asked.
“We would like to make a donation.” said Robin.
“We understand the orphanage is in need.” said Tom.
“A recent robbery.” said Robin.
At this the monk’s smile faded, which is not what you would expect from an offer of a donation. “There has been no robbery.” said the monk. “I didn’t get your good gentlemen’s names.”
“This is Robin, and my name is Tom. We didn’t mean any disrespect. If you don’t need the money, we’ll be on our way.”
“Maybe that would be for the best.” said the monk and returned to his ledger which, if you could read it, would say that any donation would be greatly appreciated.
“Wait.” said Robin. “Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot.”
The monk looked up and regarded the men for a moment. “Where did you hear we had been robbed?”
“A young lady. Miss Marian.” said Robin watching for and seeing recognition in the monk’s eyes.
“Shut that door.” said the monk. He himself locked the door behind him after checking that there was no one behind it. “Marian told you we had been robbed? How do know Marian? When did she tell you that?”
“We were in the dress shop…” started Tom. and the monks eyebrows went up.
“His wife needs a new dress. We were shopping for cloth” said Robin. “And in comes this vision.”
“Marian.” said Tom.
“At Gladys’.” said the monk.
“Right.” said Tom.
“And she says she has to cancel her order, because the orphanage needs it.” said Robin.
“Because we had been robbed?” asked the monk.
“No.” said Robin. “I offered to pay, and she said to be careful of robbers.”
“She was implying that WE are robbers, Robin. Can you blame her? Look at us.” said Tom.
“Why didn’t you say that before?” said Robin.
“I thought it was obvious.” said Tom.
“Because we have money? And look like this?” Robin was getting angry. There’s nothing like a time released insult to get to you.
“So you’re not robbers?” said the monk.
“What? No!”
“How is it then, that you look like that, and yet have money to give away?”
“I didn’t get Your name?” said Robin.
“Tuck. Friar Tuck; at your service.” Tuck smiled. “So, you’re not robbers then?”
“You know, I wasn’t really there.” said Tom. “Let’s hear it again.”
“Tom! I was on an errand for your Maggie!”
“And I am grateful.” said Tom.
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the sheriff’s taxes, would it? And certain Parishioners having a few extra coppers come Sundays lately? Would it?”
The two stopped and looked at Tuck with eyes that were impressed when they saw a bulls eye. There was a bit more checking that there was no one listening at the doors and then Tuck poured them all a glass of wine.
It was getting dark when the three men emerged from the office. Tuck had sent to the cafeteria for lunch. “Well, what’s to be done?” said Tuck. “We will just have to raise more money.”
“Or…” said Robin. There will have to be another robbery. This time on purpose.”

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Robin Hood: At The Church of St. Mary’s 8

Maggie did indeed make a speedy recovery. Some thought the old hermit employed magic, but Wulfhere just said; “Magic is only something which you do not know the recipe to.” He showed them the ingredients to the potion and shared his idea about it being a desert, and there was no more talk of witchcraft.
The days turned into weeks and in the spirit of making the forest a cherry or, as others would have it; a merry place, some began to build homes. Robin decided to build his in the trees to make it harder to see and others followed suit. Still others built theirs in the ground and disguised them as bushes. Some were quite simple and others were veritable warrens with rooms and tunnels and cunning chimneys to diffuse the smoke. Robin found a large oak, and started with a deck that soon had a roof and then walls sprang up with little windows to let in the north light and overlook the forest.
Many looked to Robin as a leader though some refused to have a leader or wanted to be in charge themselves. Robin offered advice when asked, voted when there was a vote and argued his point when necessary but never forced his will on the others. He wanted the forest to be a place of liberty and not another place where dissenters could be banished from. The story of the gold came out, but Robin, Will and John were considered its owners and they did indeed decide to distribute it among the poor of the shire. What had seemed like a fortune was spread miserably thin in that way, and as the boys were spoiling for some action, plots began to be hatched in the usual way: they were sat on, nurtured and kept warm until their time was ripe.

In Nottingham, Candlemass came and went and the sheriff had received word that his latest shipment had never arrived, and the lads guarding it had disappeared likewise. There were only two possibilities as Bill saw it. either the guards had made off with the gold, and gone to London or some other place where three men with money could disappear into, or they had been waylaid at some point along the path by highwaymen. Either way, that money was gone and would have to be remade. There was little realistic chance of getting anything substantial until spring through taxation of peasants, but people always gave to the church and he had three of those going, all well outside Nottingham so as to have the veneer of legitimacy.
The local church, St Mary‘s, named for the Virgin, was where the gentry and the peasants went to pray for their miserable existences. The abbot, as St Anne’s was also a monastery, a certain Father Cedric, had long been a friend of Bill’s and gladly paid the sheriff for the protection the sheriff was supposed to provide by royal decree. Bill decided to visit his old friend and see if the basket could be passed a second time under some pretense.
The sun had begun to show a little more every day, turning snow into ice as it melted during the day and refroze at night, making the path treacherous. Bill liked that word, and saw many things as treacherous. That bleak morning, the light shone on the old Saxon tower of the crossing, yet the ground remained in shadow. Inside the church, the sheriff found the church was already inhabited by to figures; one in the nave and one in the presbytery. The monk at the alter was tending to the candles in some ceremony unknown to the sheriff. The woman in the pew was deep in meditative prayer. Bill belatedly knelt and crossed himself and feigned prayer in the back pew for a moment so that he wouldn’t be seen as impious. He was, after all the benefactor of three wealthy monasteries. He had expected to see the priest at the alter and not some friar. He decided he had completed the required pretense, and strode down the nave toward the alter, armed and wearing his feathered hat.
Surely the monk saw him, but he went about his ritual as if God were more important than the sheriff’s business. These monks had to learn their place he felt. Clergy of any office or responsibility knew how the world worked but monks and nuns seemed to think they had only God to answer to. It was utterly ridiculous and irritating beyond measure. When the sheriff had reached the alter and the monk still did not offer to be of service, the sheriff cleared his throat. The monk looked up and the sheriff saw the most amazing transformation take place: The monk’s eyes went from open and smiling to deep, cavernous pits of wrath such as the sheriff had not seen since he was a child.
“Your hat, sir!” Said the monk. “And your sword and dagger! This is a house of God and none shall come bearing weapons!” The sheriff removed his hat and sword belt and cast about looking for a place to put them, like a broom corner.
“I’m here to see Father Cedric.” whispered the sheriff, head bowed.
“He is in the garden, taking the air.” said the monk, dismissively.
The sheriff turned and left and it wasn’t until he got outside that he realized he had been scolded by a beggar. That’s what monks did, was it not? They were lazy and shiftless, and had no manners and no schooling. He put his hat back on and his sword and with each step became more and more furious. No one spoke to him that way. Even his mother was afraid of him. He was High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire! He had the kings business to conduct! He was so lost in thought that it was some time before he found Cedric, who was preoccupied with two parishioners. As he drew closer, the sheriff realized that they were in fact the same two who had been in the church. Had they come to tattle on him? How had they beat him here? It was outlandish! He hurried up to the group as if he were late. He would get his side in before it was too late.
“And there will be games and food…” the woman was saying.
“And wine and beer!” said the monk.
“We will have an archery contest, and a dance, and raise money for the children of St Anne’s” the woman said.
What? they weren’t talking about him at all? That seemed odd. What were they talking about? Some kind of celebration?
“Ah Sheriff; have you come to help with the Shrove Tuesday plans?” Said Cedric. Unlike the monk, Cedric was tall and skinny and had a full head of hair, though it was white as new snow.
“Shrove Tuesday?” said the sheriff.
“The day before Ash Wednesday?” said the monk helpfully, again as if he were addressing a child.
“I know what Shrove Tuesday is!” said the sheriff with such force that the three just stared at him with bewilderment.
“Well, it’s coming up, and the first chance for the townsfolk to have an outdoor gathering since winter.” said the woman. Did these people think he was an imbecile? “There will be music and pies, and a puppet show for the children!” The woman was quite excited.
“Marion, it’s wonderful that you care so much for the orphans.” Said the monk.
“Aye, sure you will make a wonderful mother yourself, one day” said the priest. The girl blushed, and smiled; the rose on her cheeks like a nimbus, her eyes dancing with sparkling liquid, then fluttering into a lashed veil, casting a shadow on her vivid blue eyes which were enshrined under her burnished, brown hair. She turned lyrically to the sheriff, perhaps expecting a third compliment from the third man. She realized her mistake immediately. The magic and grace fell from her face revealing the uncomfortable fear Bill was used to seeing.
“Well, make sure there isn’t too much drunkenness.” said the sheriff. “I have more important things to attend to than …” the sheriff searched for correct term.
“The safety of the common tax payer?” the monk offered helpfully.
The sheriff shot the monk a look that unleashed the full scorn available face practiced at withering, penetrating, glaring stares. The monk seemed not to notice.
“The trivialities of common peasants.” spat the sheriff, glad to have been able to sufficiently word his disdain. Again, the monk seemed not to notice.
Now the girl, whom the sheriff caught beaming at the monk, turned back to Cedric, effectively turning her back on him. She said, “Well, Father, I look forward to it. I shall begin picking berries for the pies and tarts.” She bowed to the priest, in his black frock, and turned to the monk in his brown robe. She smiled genuinely at him, placed her delicate hands in his plump, generous ones and said, “Let me know if I can help in any way, Friar Tuck” He smiled in return, and she spun away in such a fashion as to avoid facing Bill at all, and seemed to glide away down the path of winter hellebore in her pale blue woolen dress.
Having watched her departure the three men turned to face one another, and after an awkward moment, Tuck said, “well those children will no doubt be plotting to overthrow the orphanage, if I stay away any longer.” With that he went first the opposite direction of Marion, thought better of it, and came back down the path, stepping awkwardly between the two older men, and made his way somewhat less gracefully than Marion had.
“Well, now that it’s just us adults, perhaps you can find a moment to tear yourself away from your flowers for a moment to discuss matters of some importance.”
“Let adjourn to the rectory where we can talk in comfort and in private.” said the priest.

Friar Tuck had got about halfway to the orphanage when he remembered that he had been discussing the matter of the supply of spirits at the festival. He’d be damned if he would see lent come without a proper supply of wine to say goodbye to. Well, it was really good bye to meat, that’s what carnival meant in Latin: “carne” for “meat” like “carnivore” and “vale” meaning “farewell.” It was vulgar Latin to be sure, never-the-less. There were those that made the jump to “farewell to the flesh” meaning all worldly things, but the good Lord surely didn’t mean wine, why that was the sacrament. Unfortunately, the Abbot, Friar Stephen, thought monks should set an example. When Tuck became a monk, he gladly became celibate and taking a vow of poverty was no great jump for him, but sobriety? Where was that in the vows?
He was contemplating these matters of the spirit when he came upon the rectory of Father Cedric. He was about to knock on the door when he heard the sheriff’s voice inside. He did not care for the sheriff. Tuck believed that we are all God’s children, but the sheriff seemed to think that as sheriff he was above all that. Tuck believed that men of God should be as Godly as they could, and that likewise, men of the law should be as lawful as they could.
“I don’t understand how your missing chests of gold should be the burden of St. Mary’s or St Anne’s” Cedric was saying.
“I will tell you how, my dear Father. Those thieves are still out there. And it is up to me to catch them. How can I devote my full time to such an endeavor and keep your precious parish safe from these murderous bandits if the funds I depend on to do so are missing!”
“But the money raised at the festival is for the orphans!” pleaded Cedric.
“Bah! Orphans! They will grow up to be the next generations murderous bandits!” said the sheriff. “Besides, I only ask a small percentage of the days take. If you get more people to attend, you won’t even notice I’ve taken anything. It’s no extra work for you at all.”
“Extra people means extra work. It means extra everything!” said the priest. “How much is ‘a small percentage’?”
“Half.” said the sheriff.

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Robin Hood: The Dream 7

The journey back to Sherwood started off normal enough; the four men spent the night at the hermit’s cave in the woods of Derby. Wulfhere, the hermit needed to get his medicines and things for the journey. It was generally believed that once the healer arrived at the burgeoning community, he would choose to join them. But that night, Robin had a strange dream. He dreamed he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary, and that Pontius Pilot was chasing him through the woods. Deeper and deeper into unknown territory he ran. He couldn’t lose his pursuers because he was leaving a trail of gold coins everywhere he went. The Virgin Mary kept telling him to feed the poor, but the game in the woods was becoming more and more elusive. Although he was unable to help the poor, who were multiplying in numbers and were impeding his getaway even more, they loved him and wanted to help him and sing his praises. This only resulted in Pontius Pilot hating him more and using the cheering of the poor to locate Robin even more easily.
Robin woke up in a sweat, despite the cold. He turned over to shake away the nightmare and saw Wulfhere staring at him, wide awake himself.
They left before first light, in a dense fog and journeyed in silence for hours. Robin was unsettled by his dream, and kept turning it over in his head, trying to figure it out. By midday, the fog had not cleared, and the terrain was overgrown and dense, making it difficult to tell if they were making good progress or even going in the right direction. The hermit seemed to dose most of the time and Robin wondered how he stayed on his horse. Will and John were unusually quiet also, as if troubled by dreams of their own.
“We should be in sight of Sherwood by now.” grumbled John.
“Aye.” said Will. The journey would take about a half a day by foot by road. They were horseback, but traveling through the woods, and they were taking a different rout to avoid showing the stranger any hint of the gold about which they had told him nothing.
“I would have thought experienced forest dwellers such as yourselves would know the way.” said the old man. He was sleight and weathered. His coarse woolen clothes were the color of dirt. Robin wasn’t sure at first if they were just dirty or dyed that color, but after seeing how fastidious and clean he was at his cave, Robin realized the hermits clothes were like that on purpose. It was as if the man wanted people to think he was dirty and reclusive and crazy, when he didn’t really seem to be any of those things at all.
“We know where we are, old man.” said Will as if he hadn’t just admitted the exact opposite. A moment later there was a surprisingly bad bird call from the trees just ahead. It sounded exactly like a person who had no idea how to make a bird call making a bird call.
“Sounds like a cuckoo.” said Wulfhere.
“That’s our man.” said John. “He’s signaling the others that we’re here.” As they walked on, people began to appear out of the woods.
It had been about a week since people had decided to bring their families and make a more permanent home in the forest, and some of the wives and children had begun to arrive. It was an odd tableau; not unlike a scene in Robin’s dream. In fact, since he had woken from it, it had been hard to shake. The journey home, the memory of the gold, the eyes of the hermit all seemed tied to the dream somehow, and now these smiling faces, so glad to see him as if he had wrought this community from thin air all on his own. Were they the poor from his dream that he was unable to feed and yet seemed to love him for things he couldn’t quite take credit for?
Presently, Tom, Audrey, Maggie, Bridged and Hank met the four horsemen. Audrey handed Maggie to Robin, who kissed her forehead, noticing the fever that burned there, and he handed her gently to Wulfhere. Wulfhere looked from Robin to Audrey to Tom and surveyed the crowd. Finally, he gave his attention to Maggie.

The hermit took in the way they all looked to Robin, and Robin’s own expression was not lost on him. As he turned his attention to the babe, he wished they had gone into a tent or somewhere private to carry out the examination. He had seen far more civilized looking crowds turn ugly at an unsuccessful healing. These people looked like murderers to begin with. The child had a high fever, her nose was red and runny, and she looked miserable. Her eyes were sunken and dark as if she hadn’t slept. She had no lesions. There was nothing to indicate she had anything other than a cold, though it was clearly a severe one. He handed the child back to her mother and right there on his horse began to mix a concoction from pouches he had with him. It was mostly honey and an bark like herb from the Indies called cinnamon. He asked for some fresh goat’s milk and mixed the potion in with the milk. He tasted it and thought it would make a fine desert. He hoped his experience with these mixtures held true, for this cured most colds. He gave instructions to feed it to the child, promised to make more, and said to give it some time.
“That’s it?” asked Robin. the hermit shrugged.
“We will see. She should respond well to the potion, but if the sickness persists, we may have to try something else. All we can do now is pray.” Then he changed the subject. “So, are you the leader of this band of outlaws?”
“Aye. That he is.” said a man that Robin didn’t even recognize.
“And we came the way we did to avoid the scene of your latest crime, eh?” Robin and John exchanged guilty looks. “Well, you’re not exactly living extravagantly here. What do you do; Rob from the rich and give to the poor?” Robin and John exchanged looks once again.

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Robin Hood: The Tavern 6

“We can’t take the cart through the forest, the wheels need to be on a road; And we can’t take the road or we’ll be seen.” said Will.
“These boxes are too heavy to carry without the cart.” said John.
“We’ll bury the men in the woods. We’ll take apart the cart and use it for firewood. We’ll take some money and bury the rest, and come back for it later. We have to get to Derby to find the hermit. We will take the horses and sell them there. Let’s get going.” said Robin.

The journey to Derby went with no further incident. John and Will were at times animatedly regaling each other with ever more vivid and exaggerated renditions of the adventure of the day, and at times quiet. Robin was fairly grim the rest of the journey. He was not by nature moody person, but he had never killed anyone before and he was sure that nothing but trouble could come of that gold. There had to be a way to be rid of it.
Upon reaching Derby, the party visited Audrey’s sister, gave her some of the money as she was as nearly destitute herself. They traded the horses for three fresh mounts. Dierdre, Audrey’s sister, wasn’t sure exactly where to find the hermit, but told them where the wood could be found where he was generally believed to live.
After a short time in the Derby wood, the party became lost and decided to head back to town to see if they could find better directions in the tavern. None of them had been to a tavern since they had been outlawed and they were all looking forward to a tall ale. Neither the innkeeper, nor his wife knew of the hermit and there was only one other patron there besides themselves, and he seemed surely, so they decided to enjoy a hot meal and a pint of ale and wait for more customers to arrive.
Robin enjoyed his ale as much as the next man, but didn’t want to waste the afternoon drinking when they were on an errand after a sick little girl. He approached the lone patron nursing his beer. “Hello, friend.” he said. “I wonder if you can help me?” The man looked up without lifting his head or otherwise moving at all. “My friends and I are looking for a man who lives in the wood….”
“Then you should be looking in the wood, no?” replied the man.
“We were hoping he might help us to heal a sick little girl.” said Robin.
“Ah so you’re drinking the afternoon away, eh. You must be quite concerned about your sick little girl” came the response.
“Well, we looked in the wood, but as we were unsure where about in the wood to look, we thought there would be people here who might know the man.”
“Am I so fierce that you had to finish your pint to screw up the courage to talk to me, then?”
“Why are you wasting your time talking to that tattered old man?” said John from across the room.
“Least I don’t smell like a bear that ate some bad eggs, anyways” grumbled the man. Robin couldn’t help but chuckle at that, but John did not find it humorous in the least.
“You had best be careful who you through your insults at!” said John.
“Me? You said I was ‘tattered!'”
“Well, you are tattered!”
“And you really do smell!”
“All right!” Robin said. “Calm down! The both of you! You are like children!”
There was a moment of silence, then the old man said, “What’s the matter with the child?”
“It started as a cold. High fever, sneezing, coughing. But it has gone on too long. She’s not sleeping through the night. Her parents are worried they might lose her.” Robin said.
“‘Her parents?’ What do you mean? None of you is the father? Why would you come all the way from Sherwood for someone else’s baby?”
“How did you know we were from Sherwood?” John asked.
“You are not the only ones who come to the tavern to hear the gossip.” said the man.
“Look, do you know where to find the hermit or not?” said John, exasperated.
“Isn’t it obvious?” said Will. “He is the hermit.”
“That is ridiculous!” said John. “A hermit in a tavern? Hermits like to be alone!”
“Aye and I was alone, until you lot showed up.” The three looked at the old man incredulously. “What? Where am I supposed to get my ale, eh? I live in a bloody forest! what would you know about it?”
“That is a story that might surprise even you, old man.” said Robin. “We all live in Sherwood Forest.”
“What the baby too? No wonder it’s sick.”
“Aye, the baby too. Though she was sick before she moved to the forest.” said John.
“Will you come to have a look at her?” said Robin.
“I reckon I will.”

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Thieves & Murderers 5

That first night, they built several campfires in a big clearing. There was no organization, and many of the outlaws hadn’t met each other. Until now, they had lived solitary or in small groups and gave each other a wide berth. Like Robin, they didn’t really think of themselves as outlaws and imagined all the others were dangerous criminals. They had all suffered at the hands of the sheriff, some simply for helping friends or relatives who had been outlawed. They feasted on what they could all bring to the circle. As in any such event, what had not seemed like much by itself turned out to be more than enough when taken as a whole. Robin thought this was probably true of the people as well.
That night the men of the forest had their first taste of fraternity in a long time. To be an outlaw was akin to banishment. They sang songs and drank ale that had been squirreled away and forgot their cares for a time. Though Robin and John had called them out together in the clearing, it was Tom that bound them together. He became a symbol of what they had all gone through to come to live in the forest. Some lived in caves, but most were afraid to stay in any one place for any length of time. Seeing Tom with his family gave others hope that they might be united with their families. Any wives and children had been sent to live with relatives or friends, because the forest was thought to be too dangerous. Now with the idea of a community blossoming in Sherwood Forest, many openly spoke of their longing for their families for the first time since coming to the forest.
Bill checked the locks on the chests a final time that cold winter morning. Some of the money he collected had to be sent on to the crown as a small portion of the taxes he collected were legitimate. He kept a good portion of that for himself with the ongoing explanation that the people were either too poor to pay the king, or were holding back on the crown. The lion’s share of the money he collected went to a monastery in Mottisfont in Hampshire, which Bill founded as shelter for his wealth. That is where this shipment of money was going. It was a long journey, and Bill could not afford for himself or his men to be away from the large Nottinghamshire for the length of the journey. He had hired professional couriers from Hampshire to make the journey. He contracted these couriers to make deliveries to all three of the monasteries he endowed and all his businesses throughout the realm. There were three chests weighing nearly 100st all together. they were placed on a two wheeled cart, which was then covered with a plank and sealed with a lock.
They would take the old Roman Road south to Hampshire.

Maggie had taken a turn for the worse and the moral of the new community at Sherwood Forest was down. There was a consensus that something should be done. Audrey had an aunt in Derby, who talked often of an old hermit who lived in the woods of those parts who was a healer of some renown. Immediately feeling camaraderie for a fellow forest dweller, the entire population voted unanimously to seek out the hermit and persuade him to come to Maggie’s aid. As it was winter, and Maggie was such a wee lass, time was of the essence, and in what was to be the first of many journeys through out England, Robin and John set off at once. With them was a young outlaw by the name of Will Scarlett.
They had started before sunset and there had been a blanket of mist covering the wood. None had a horse of their own, but in the spirit of community, three horses were donated for the purpose of the journey from the outlaws. They were all three nags, each one worse than the last. As the sun came up behind them, they fell into easy company, talking when they had a mind to, but quiet for the most part.
“Where did you learn to shoot so keenly?” Asked John. “I’ve heard of a man fishing with a bow, but that was the first I’d seen it.”
“My father taught me.” said Robin. “He fought for Henry Plantagenet. He preferred this longbow over the common bow of the day.” Robin’s face took on a wistful look at the memory.
“I prefer a regular bow,” said Will. “It’s faster.”
“Aye. a bit.” said Robin. “But the longbow has better range, is more accurate and is powerful enough to pierce armor. I’ll keep my longbow.”
“Could you teach me to shoot it?” Asked John.
“I’ll teach you to use a short bow!” said Will. “It’s faster. Don’t believe that hogwash about armor. No arrow can do that.”
“I was asking Robin to teach me.” said John.
“I’m as good an archer as Robin!” said Will, hotly. “I’m as good as anybody!”
“Quiet!” Robin commanded with such urgency that the two who had been arguing gave each other a look that said, ‘Well, look who’s king now.” but they did become quiet.
Robin stopped his horse, and so did John and Will. In the silence, there could be heard two men arguing and the clip clop of two horses. “We’re too close to the road!” whispered Will. “We’ll be caught!”
Robin held up his hand, and just then, the team came into view. They were dappled geldings with sandy manes, probably brothers. They pulled a cart with two men at the front, and a third on a horse bringing up the rear. They wore second hand armor and were heavily armed. The cart passed, and the outlaws were out of danger. That is they were, until Johns horse snorted, and he automatically said, “Bless you.” at this, the rear horseman stopped, cocked his head and turned. With a trained eyes he scanned the woods. Robin tried to disappear into his hood, but it was too late; they had been spotted.
“Bandits!” Shouted the man. He pointed his horse directly at Robin and charged as he drew his sword. Robin had only his bow, which he had in his hands in an instant. However, John chose that moment to charge and spoiled Robin’s shot. John Had a staff; his weapon of choice. Will charged after John. Robin cursed, and followed them onto the road.
The horsed guard met John and each man swung mightily. They clashed and wheeled their horses, the man with his muscled and armored horse, John with his nag. The one horse nearly laughed at the other and actually reared up to waylay the nag. John’s nag fell under the attack and John leapt to his feet. Now the guard had the advantage of height.
Will loosed an arrow as he charged but it went wild. Now the cart had stopped and its riders kept their posts but turned to assess the situation. The guard who had been riding protector to the driver had a crossbow and leveled it at Will. He shot. The arrow hit Will’s horse in the chest and the horse reared up and fell backwards nearly on top of Will who scrambled out just in time. The guard protector began to methodically reload and the driver laughed and pulled out his own crossbow. He saw Robin and noted that he was out of range and therefore not a threat. He aimed carefully at Will.
The horseman loomed over John once again using his horse as a weapon pulling on the reigns to cause him to rear up and attempt to trample John. John sidestepped to get a better shot at the rider and instead of swinging the staff, he thrust it like a spear striking the guard in the chest and unhorsing him. The man landed on his back, but sprang to his feet surprisingly fast. He came at John with his sword raised. Now John had the advantage as his staff was longer than the sword. He swung before the guard was in range and knocked him down.
Will saw that the driver had him in his sights and he furiously scrambled for an arrow as his quiver had spilled when he was unhorsed. It was too late. He knew he was dead. Then there was a loud buzz by his ear, and at first he thought the driver had missed, but then the driver fell, and arrow in his chest. and Will turned to see Robin fitting another arrow in his bow.
The guard that John had knocked down sprang to his feet again and came at John again. They engaged with John blocking a series of lightning attacks. The guard was unhinged at the prospect of being beaten with a staff and flailed crazily at John. John kept his wits and finally saw an opening and whacked his opponent heavily in the head.
The protector had reloaded, seen his leader killed and now aimed at Robin. He fired and the arrow fell short by a few yards. Will had collected a few arrows and now loosed them one after the other at the protector. They found their mark. Will was a good shot after all.
John picked up the sword and put it in his belt. They surveyed the scene and approached the cart. “What do you suppose is in here?” asked John.
“Jewels!” said Will. “What else could it be?”
“Our taxes” said Robin grimly as he took his dagger and pried the clasp off the lid rendering the lock useless. The Chests inside were made of sturdier stuff, and John Broke one with the butt of his new sword before Will found the keys on the dead leader to open the other two.
“What do we do?” said John.
Well we are thieves and murderers now.” said Robin. “We can’t let anyone find us with this or we’ll be hanged.”
“We can’t take the cart through the forest, the wheels need to be on a road; And we can’t take the road or we’ll be seen.” said Will.
“These boxes are too heavy to carry without the cart.” said John.
“We’ll bury the men in the woods. We’ll take apart the cart and use it for firewood. We’ll take some money and bury the rest, and come back for it later. We have to get to Derby to find the hermit. We will take the horses and sell them there. Let’s get going.” said Robin.

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Robin Hood: Outlaws of Sherwood. 4

Tom’s House was unusually quiet, when Robin came to visit. Robin had decided that he would try to maintain friendships in town, and if people did not want to be seen with an outlaw, that was something he could not blame them for. So far, he had had better luck than he expected. The townspeople hated Bill and cursed him for taking their money and filling his pockets with it. The Stanhopes had fed Robin and told him how they had planned to open a tavern but now could not because the sheriff had found out about their savings and taken it on the pretence of a fine for selling ale without a permit. Villagers throughout Edwinstowe had similar stories. Robin began to form a plan for getting his land back. He did not say anything to anyone, because it was dangerous and illegal and probably treason. He would need help, and he had an idea where to start to look for it.
Tom was the last friend on his list, before heading back into the forest. He knew Audrey was ill and so was the baby, and he was loathe to put them out. A visit required an offer of a meal and pleasantries that Robin was sure Audrey was not up to, nor could Tom afford. Robin knocked at the door. Through the thin walls, he heard muffled movement, and Audrey shushing their oldest, Bridged. “It’s me Robin.” He said through the door. “I can leave and come back tomorrow if that’s better. I’ll bring you some fish if you like.” Robin mentally berated himself for not thinking to bring them something.
He heard little Henry say, “It’s Robin!” and scramble to open the door. Robin’s face lit up at the sight of little Henry. Henry’s dirty face showed the boy felt the same.
“Oh, Hank! You are a sight for these eyes!” Robin scooped the boy up in his arms. “Is your Da at home, Henry?”
“Da got hurt.” the child pointed to a dark corner of the room where Audrey, Bridged and Maggie sat over Tom who lay on a straw pallet. The breath went out of Robin as he put down Henry and went to Tom’s side. Tom had bruises all over his face; his lip swollen, his eyes both blackened and his cheeks were raw. His clothes were ragged and bloody and every inch of skin that showed through was covered with cuts, abrasions, bruises and scabs. Tom tried to force a smile for his old friend.
“Bill?” asked Robin. Tom nodded.
“They are going to take our home and kill us!” wailed Audrey who had been holding it in until now. Now she let her fears out. She needed someone to know. “They beat poor Tom just to show him they could! They had no call! He’s done no wrong!” She was sobbing uncontrollably now. Robin took her in his arms.
“Hush, now Audrey, nobodies going to hurt you or the children. Tom and I will see to that.” Robin said to be soothing.
Now Audrey became suddenly angry. “How can you make such a claim?!” She yelled. They run you off; they took your home. They will take ours too as sure as the Virgin’s in Heaven!” The children were all crying now as well, and Tom tried to sit up to reign in the situation.
Robin scooped up Henry and Bridged. “I said we’d see to it!” he said, trying not to be caught up in the emotion. “Maybe they will take your home, for now; but we will all be gone from here! Get your things. Tom, can you walk? We’re leaving right now!”
The Outlaws of Sherwood

As dusk found Sherwood Forest, the sun turned the sky orange behind the silhouetted trees, and the whole forest was in shadow. The quiet was broken by a loud call. “John!” said the voice. “Little John! Where are you?”
Finally, John came out into the clearing. “Robin! Stop your shouting!” Then he saw that Robin was carrying two children and had their parents and a baby in tow. “Blessed Mary, Mother of God!” said John, getting a good look at Tom. “What’s the meaning of this?” said John.
“Where are the rest?” said Robin.
“The rest of what?” said John.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Little John. The rest of the outlaws; where are they?”
“We are here.” said a burly man emerging into the clearing with several others. They came to stand around Robin and Tom. No one needed to ask what had happened to Tom. They had all experienced the same treatment. Men were still coming into the clearing. Robin could not believe how many. He knew there would be a lot, but he had not taken into account all the towns in Nottinghamshire, the number of years it had been going on, nor the size of the sheriff’s greed, nor the size of his evil. Robin thought, the good of the forest seems big enough to overcome the evil.
“Damn that man!” said Audrey seeing all the pain she felt in all these men’s eyes.
“They have seen us all together.” said one of them to another.
“They belong with us now.” was the reply.
“Is that true?” said the first man to the newcomers. “Will you not give us up to the sheriff? Will you swear to not give away our location? Can we trust you?”
“Aye.” Said Robin. “We are all in this together, no? The sheriff drove us out of our home once, we will not allow him to do it again!” The crowd gave a resounding “AYE!” Robin felt it was enough for now. First they would accept him. He would show them what they had. He would show them that they were an army with a common enemy.

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Robin Hood: The Sheriff and old Tom 3

It was bitter cold that winter. There was not much work to be found with all the snow. The Fitzsimmons household had three little ones and barely enough food to go around. Tom, the father of the children and husband to his wife, Audrey, spent most of his time patching the house, but the wind couldn’t be kept out. Wood was becoming scarce and spring was a long way off. The baby and Audrey were sick. Tom wasn’t feeling altogether hale, but he needed to find something to augment the turnips that would be their dinner. There were still fish in the creek, but most game had gone to ground.
Coughing, he headed out the door and made his way to the creek. He would use an old scrap of clothing as a net as he’d had luck with this method before. The winter air was quiet so he heard the horses before he saw them. He knew it was Bill, there weren’t any other groups of horses in this area; the nobles were either castle bound for the winter or had gone to London to be at court.
Danny Pecke walked his black horse slowly in front of Tom’s path, the horse blowing steam from its nose. It’s gate said, “You cannot get away.” There were two more deputies walked up slowly one on either side. Bill himself came up from behind as was his way. Tom craned his neck to see them tower over him atop there horses. He felt as if he were in a pit.
“You are a hard man to find, Tom” said Bill from behind. “Thought you might be shirking you duty. You are far behind on your payments.”
“Bill, I have not a dime to my name.” said Tom. “There is no work to be had until spring. You know that.”
“Well, I require payment year round.” Said Bill. “You should not have been so frivolous with your money when you worked Gisborne’s land last summer. You know that.” The boys laughed at that. They were eager to laugh. They wanted to have some fun.
“Now, Bill, Let us be reasonable.” said Tom.
“I have been too lenient with you, Tom.” said Bill. “The other folk will think I am soft, and will expect me to be lenient with them.
“ I am not a lenient man, Tom.”
“I am aware of that, Bill. Yet it makes no sense to tax a man out of his home.”
“That is not my concern. I’ll have your hovel and sell it to a man more responsible than you.”
“My wife and little Margaret are deathly ill”
Bill spat. Two less mouths to feed he thought. He knew better than to sound so heartless in front of his deputies. He had had to get new deputies before for being so free with the thoughts in his head. “That is not my concern.” he repeated. “You need to vacate that land by the end of the week, and I don’t want any trouble from you.” Bill removed a coiled whip from his saddle and held it up. Tom had turned to face Bill as they talked and now the color drained from his face. He looked like a ghost.
“Show old Tom how we handle trouble, boys.”

Tom knew it would go worse for him if he put up a fight. He put up a fight anyway.

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Robin Hood: Robin Catches a Fish 2

When Robin woke in the morning, he wondered if he had dreamt the incident, but there in the soft dew covered ground, was the unmistakable deer track. From that moment on, whenever doubt or fear entered Robin’s head, any uncertainty about the future; he remembered that night and that provisioned him with such courage as to forge ahead, no matter the odds.

As Robin cooked a spitted fish over a fire for breakfast he though about finding a place to stow his belongings so he could move more freely about. He could sustain himself indefinitely, by creating new arrows and even a new bow when he needed. There was plenty of game, and wild nuts and berries. The forest would provide everything he needed to survive. However, Robin wanted more than to survive. He wanted his land back. He wanted to get rid of that fat sheriff and live among people. He wanted coffee, beer, and fellowship. He had been runoff unfairly. The more Robin thought about it, the more it had seemed deliberate, as if the taxes were set too high, so he would have to forfeit his house. He wasn’t the criminal, the sheriff was. Robin wanted justice.
Just then, Robin heard a twig snap. Whoever was watching him was no woodsman. He had been making noise ever since Robin had arrived. Robin got up and pretended to clean up his breakfast. His brown hair was due for a cut and it was uncombed and blowing in the morning breeze as he crossed the camp with the bones of the fish. Suddenly, in a fluid movement, Robin dropped the fish, picked up a long branch that lay across the camp and lunged at a bush at the edge of the clearing.
“Oof!” said the bush.
“Who’s there!” demanded Robin.
“John.” said the bush.
“Well, John, you must be a little fellow to be hiding behind that bush. Come out if you don’t want to get hurt.” From behind the bush stood a man. He had been crouching and as he stood, he just kept standing up. Up and up. He was quite large and in fact towered menacingly over Robin. “Well, that’s quite a lot of John to be hiding behind such a tiny bush!” said Robin. Robin held the branch up defensively to keep the giant at bay.
John grabbed the branch and deftly poked Robin in the stomach with it. “See how you like it!” John said.
“Why were you spying on me?” Robin demanded, aware that without the branch and dwarfed by John he was in no position to demand anything. ‘That is precisely when to make demands’ Robin always would say.
“I wasn’t!” John Lied.
“What were you doing, then?”
“That fish smelled good. I was hoping for a bite.” John said truthfully. “If you had killed that deer, we could feast for days.”
“So you saw that, eh? That wasn’t exactly a hunting situation, was it? I think that deer was welcoming me to its forest. Which is more than you have done.”
“Well it didn’t give me a welcome when I got here.” John complained.
“Maybe he thought you would eat him, eh?” said Robin.
“Maybe.” agreed John.
“So if it was the fish that attracted you,” Robin said, “How did you know about the deer?”
“You ask too many questions!” John said, poking Robin with the branch. Robin grabbed the other end of the branch and they began a tug-of-war, which culminated in John lifting Robin off the ground as he clung to his end of the branch while John tried to shake him off.
“I give! I give up! You win! Damn, Little John, you are too strong for this outlaw!” At that, they both fell to laughing.
“Let’s get you a fish to eat.” Robin said. They went to the stream and in two shakes, Robin had put an arrow through a couple of fish for both of them.
As they ate, John asked; “How did you come to be an outlaw?”
“They taxed me out my home.” Robin said.
“The sheriff is a thief.” said John.
“Aye. That he is.”
“I’m a thief too” said John.
“Really?” said Robin. “You’re so noisy; I don’t see how you could be any good at it.”
“Not by trade, really. I was sick, too sick to work, so they docked my pay and I couldn’t afford to eat. So I stole a loaf of bread.” said John.
“Aye, you’re a thief alright.” said Robin.
“Well, all the game in the forest belongs to the King, so I guess you’re a thief too.” said John.
“That’s a fact.” said Robin. “In that case, everyone I know and me; we’ve all been thieves all our lives.” Robin thought about this. “It doesn’t leave a man a way to make due for himself, does it? You have to buy bread, we’re not supposed to kill the King’s deer or aught else I reckon. If you can’t work, you can’t eat.” Robin thought some more. “I’d like to steal my land back.” he said. “And all the taxes sheriff William has put in his pocket!” Color came into Robin’s face. John nodded agreement.
“That’s what we should do. Steal it back. It was ours to begin with.”
“Aye.” said Robin. “That’s just what we should do. What can they do; outlaw us again?”