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.