“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.”