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Robin Hood: The Mole 34

When news reached the sheriff that there was a mole within his inner circle, he flew into a rage. To be sure, he was lately ready to fly into a rage a the drop of a hat, but this particular rage had some seething to sustain it. It wasn’t really a surprise, after all. Robin seemed to be able to handle the mercenaries in stride. He obviously had contacts in every village in the shire, why not among his trusted allies? The shire had revealed itself to be almost completely on Robin’s side anyway. The damage the mercenaries were doing both to the shire and to the sheriff’s reputation, his ability to get anything done; not to mention his coffers was becoming more irreparable every day. Yet, it was hard not to believe that if he just persevered with his current course, success was bound to be imminent. Robin would be dead, and all would be worth it. The shire might never return to normal, but the sheriff was planning on retiring within the decade, and living out his life at one of his well, appointed monasteries. The thing about rebellions was; they had to be crushed. The leader had to be made an example of. There was no other course to take.
Now, as to the business of the mole. Who could it be? They were all such sycophants, it could be any of them. Still, it would be unlike the gentry of Nottinghamshire to side with commoners. Robin Hood held a certain mystique that was attractive to various craven buffoons, but admiring the cut of someone’s jib and giving information to the enemy were two different things. When Cedric had posited the idea to him, the sheriff had to wonder how he himself had not seen it earlier. If a cretin like Cedric could see it, it must have been obvious. Cedric had not been especially helpful in this matter since he had become smitten by the Valkyrie, as she was known behind her back among the gentry of Nottingham. In fact, Cedric hadn’t been useful since arresting Marian. Ah, now that had been a stroke of genius. It had actually drawn Robin Hood right into the town square. …twice. If only there was some way of finding out who the mole was, perhaps that person could be used to draw Robin Hood back into town. The sheriff wouldn’t fail again. Of course, Robin Hood wasn’t fool enough to think he could stage another rescue, was he?
The sun raked through the summer leaves in the late afternoon, casting shadows through the forest that stretched out into the evening. Birdsong filled the air and was carried on the breeze. The messenger wasn’t out of breath, he had strolled in with the day’s news as if he had no more than idle gossip. The sheriff knew there was a mole and was setting a trap. Whoever it was, had not long to live. The gossip as to who it might be was all any could talk about. Robin didn’t see it as idle gossip. He had to get Marian out of there. If the sheriff found her out, he might kill her before he had a chance to think better of himself. In many ways, Marian was hated more than Robin himself, because she was from Nottingham. Robin had lived in Edwinstowe, though he had been born near Barnsdale, and still had kin there.
The townsfolk in Nottingham were better acquainted with Marian, and her work at the orphanage was well respected. The gentry saw her arrest and subsequent flight as a betrayal of trust. Never mind that until her arrest, she had done nothing wrong, and that her escape had been merely to save her innocent life.
Robin knew she was in grave danger. His first instinct was to fly down to Nottingham immediately and spirit her away, but he knew that he needed a plan. He gathered Tuck, Wulfhere, John, Will, and a few other trusted advisers.
The rumor was that after Marian’s escape last spring, the sheriff did not trust the gaol. It was said he had the traitor locked up in “the Castle.”
Marian didn’t know who had started the rumor that the sheriff had found and captured a spy who was feeding information to Robin Hood. She was pretty sure that she was the only spy feeding information to Robin. Cedric had been visiting the orphanage when he told her the news. He even took credit for deducing that there was a spy in the first place. He was clearly quite proud of himself. Hilde had gone more pale than usual and had to excuse herself. She had gone to her room, packed her things and left. Marian’s heart was beating so hard that she could barely think at all. In her room, she cut her hair to the nape of her neck, dyed it with henna and changed into her foresting clothes, which were basically the same breeches and tunic that all the foresters wore. They were dark and earthy and looked nothing like the Danish clothes Hilde wore. She walked out of her door and into the woods a hundred yards away. After about an hour walking steadily north towards Sherwood, she realized that she was being followed. She continued North but veered Eastward toward Derby. That was six hours ago. She had no food or water, but she dare not stop. She reckoned whomever was following her was hoping she would lead them to Robin Hood, and so probably wouldn’t molest her en route, but she couldn’t take that chance. She wanted desperately to get word to Robin that she wasn’t a captive of the sheriff, but she couldn’t see how to do that until she could get somewhere safe. She was thirsty and hungry and had gotten pretty scratched up trying to lose her pursuers in a thicket of thorn bushes. She had her daggers with her, but she doubted she’d be as successful with them this time around. It was going to be dark soon. She hoped whoever was following her would stop for the night, knowing that she would have to make camp also. She wasn’t going to. She was going to make for the inn in Worksop.
Robin, John, Tuck, Will Skarlett and several of the foresters had gathered in a thicket just outside Nottingham. They were making their final preparations for storming the sheriff’s castle. The plan was that John and Will would cause a diversion at the front of the castle and draw as many guards out as possible, and Robin would sneak in the back and rescue Marian. The remaining foresters would wait in the shadows and wait until the last minute before joining in. This would make for a double surprise attack. The only problem was, they didn’t know where in the castle Marian was being held. They didn’t even know the layout of the castle.

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