The bulk of the residents of the greenwood were concentrated in an area they called Sherwood village. They had sentries posted around the clock and every able bodied man had to take his turn. Robin kept Wulf company one afternoon as the hermit took his watch. Robin found the man gave sage advice even if it could be hard to decipher. The days were growing progressively longer and warmer, and slowly signs of spring were beginning to show. On this particular morning, the golden sun came in at a steep angle and there was enough mist to cast beams through the filtered branches. The two men sat in the crook of branches overlooking the south end of the forest. As Nottingham lay that way, it was considered the most important watch, but there were towns in all directions and trouble could come from anywhere. Mostly people kept clear of the forest as it was rumored to be haunted and brimming with dangerous outlaws. It was also the kings private hunting ground, but all of England was the kings private hunting ground, so at that time little regard was given to that tidbit. King John had never visited and neither had his brother Richard before him. Nevertheless, people wandered through from time to time, and a call was sent out in time for the villagers to disappear into the forest like the ghosts they were feared to be.
So far, all was quiet on this tranquil morning and Robin and Wulfhere were engaged in a philosophical discussion. Wulfhere was impressed with Robin’s facile grasp of abstract ideas. Robin could read and write thanks to his father who had learned in the army, but otherwise he had no formal education. Such was reserved for nobility, and in fact Robin’s father had only learned because his commander had wanted a learned companion to converse with. For his part, Robin wondered how a lifelong forest dweller like Wulfhere had gotten an education.
“Don’t be so quick to judge a person by his appearance, Robin.” said the hermit. “In the East, all the learned men retire to the forest to seek union with the Creator.”
“You mean they go there to die?” said Robin.
“Not at all. They go there to live. They believe that is the ultimate purpose in life. You see we as people believe we are separate from everything else, but the holy men of the East believe that we are all connected.”
“What do you mean, physically? I can see that we are connected by deed. I interact with you and those actions affect everyone here. We go to the festival and our actions there affect all the shire, including the boys in the orphanage and the sheriff. Is that what you mean?”
“That is very perceptive, yes that’s part of it, but it is more than that. We believe that we are suits of armor.”
“We believe that we are these casings of flesh we walk around in. It is the same as if a knight were to believe that he was the suit of armor. Do you see?”
“You are saying that I am not my body?”
“That’s right. Your eyes tell you “this is what you see.” Your ears tell you “This is what you hear” Your skin tells you “This is what you feel” You think the things you see and hear and feel are outside of you; that you end at your skin. Your mind tells you everything outside of your skin is separate from you and that you are not connected to it.”
“Well that is true.” said Robin. “I am separate from you. This tree is separate from us. That’s what separate means.”
“But what about air?” said Wulfhere. We need it to breath. We all know that. We can’t spend too much time in the water or we will drown. At what point does the outside air we breath in become part of us? When does the air we breath out become separate from us?
“You are bigger than just you. Did you hear the crowd chanting your name? Do you see the way everyone hear defers to you? You did not make this happen on purpose. You are part of something bigger. You have taken back the people’s money from the thief who stole it from them twice now. Are you going to let it go at that? Are you going to live in the forest for the rest of your life? There are over a hundred men in this village that would follow your commands. They have sworn loyalty to you in their hearts, they would be honored to swear that loyalty to you out loud. The people of the shire are becoming aware of you as well. Soon the sheriff will know it was not his idiot henchmen who stole from him. Will you continue to hide? How will you use what you are given? You are an exceptional man Robin, now Robin Hood. That is why I came here to live among you.” With that, the old man adjusted his position in the tree, closed his eyes and began to snore almost immediately. Robin finished the old man’s watch for him. He had a lot to think about.
The sheriff had spent hours questioning his men. He was convinced that none of them had anything to do with the stolen money. For a while he became absolutely sure that the monastery was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the money. It made perfect sense; they were the ones who claimed the money was gone. No one else had seen it not arrive. But the cellars were full of money that was untouched. Surely they knew that if they wanted to steal his money they could take that a little at a time and not be discovered for years possibly. Why would they risk deception of this kind? Perhaps the two robberies were not related. perhaps those boys had pulled this off somehow and the original robbery had been done by the couriers as originally suspected. It was infuriating.
In the end, he reinstated Roland, and kept his new batch of men as well. It was well impressed on all of them as they made their journey back, that finding the money and the thieves was everyone’s first priority. The day wore on. It had been gone more that a week since the sheriff had left Nottingham all told and they had not tarried. It wasn’t far from Derby as they entered the last leg of their journey exhausted and dozing on their mounts when one of the new boys had dismounted to relieve himself. He was heard to yelp not unlike a little girl and he came out of the woods with his leggings still down and the color quite drained from his face. Some of the other lads had a look to see what the fuss was about and they all agreed that the sheriff should have a look for himself.
Aggravated at this point by absolutely everything, the sheriff cursed as he dismounted and left the road to see what lay in the bushes that could have these otherwise fearsome men all a flutter.
There, just off the path that each of them had traveled many times over the past few months, was something that a wild animal, probably a wolf, had dug up. Pulled out from where it had been buried, was a human hand and wrist. Judging from the clothing, it had belonged to the captain of the couriers from the first stolen shipment of gold.