The Fires Within
By Virginia Cavazos
Chapter 9

Robin stood before his men. They looked to him for leadership, and Robin was a good leader. He knew how to delegate, and to bring out the best in his men.  “We need to come up with a plan on entering Sir Hugh’s manor. Any suggestions?” Robin glanced around, hoping someone would have an idea, a thread of something that Robin and the others would be able to use.  Robin sat silently and listened to each suggestion. As he would hear them, in his mind he would go over their plan, thinking it through. Each new plan would end as Robin would contrive of a way of it failing. As each plan was shot down, more became hesitant to venture a suggestion.

Will also sat silent, but his silence was focused on Chloe. His thoughts were occupied on when she was held in Sir Hugh’s castle.  As each plan was rejected, Will knew there was only one way to enter Sir Hugh’s castle. He was willing to make that sacrifice...for Chloe. As Robin and Little John argued on a way to enter the castle, Will softly suggested, “Sir Hugh does want me.”

Robin and Little John suddenly stopped their heated conversation. Both turned to look at the brooding Will.  “What are you getting at?” Robin asked, his eyes narrowing on Will.

“What if I allow Sir Hugh to take me prisoner? It could set up a diversion for you and your men to sneak into the castle.”

Robin forcefully shook his head. “Bad idea,” he strongly said. “What good would it do for you to be captured? Sir Hugh might have you killed before we even enter the castle.”

Will stood up, he was adamant on saving Chloe. He knew this was the only possible way,  “You know I'm right, Robin. There is no other way.  Unless someone else knows of some secret passage, I think my plan is the safest one.”

“Safe for who?” Robin quickly returned, “Definitely not for you.”

“Well that’s a risk I’m willing to take.” Will stood his ground.

Robin had to pause on his retort. Unless someone came up with a better plan, than what Will had propositioned seemed the best chance to enter the castle undetected.  “Uh, excuse me Master Robin,” a light voice hesitantly asked.  Turning around, Robin was surprised to see it was Agatha. She had been listening to what was being said. She hesitated on interfering. Will had been keeping a baleful eye on her most of the time he was there. Hearing him offer to risk his life, gave Agatha the incentive to speak up. She had made a promise to his mother to look after her children - whether they wanted her to, or not.

“I am no man’s master, noble lady,” Robin gently said. “You may call me Robin.”

Agatha made a small curtsey to the noble outlaw. “Robin, would it be forward of me to make a suggestion?”

Robin took her hand into his, leading her towards there circle.  “Agatha, no one’s opinion is suppressed here.”

Agatha held her head down,  not wanting to make eye contact with Will.  She could feel him staring at her,  “I was thinking...that perhaps you would be able to enter the castle through a section of wall that was repaired recently?”

Robin’s brown eyes opened wide, questions were dancing in them. “Pray tell, what do you mean my lady?” Robin asked.

“A month ago, Robin,” Agatha blushed as she called Robin by his name. She was used to calling most men Master, or sir.

“Go on.” Robin gently urged her on.

“A month ago, Sir Hugh paid a visit to Scatlocke castle. As he was conversing with Lord Geoffrey, his steward needed to be fed. I led him to our kitchen, to serve him lunch. As he ate I noticed his clothes were covered in a white powder. I  inquired why his clothing was in a dirty condition. He stated that Lord Hugh had him make repairs on the castle walls.”

“So?” Will shot back. “What good will that do us?” Robin silenced Will with a threatening look. Agatha cringed as Will chastised her. Robin gently took her hand, his soft brown eyes gazing into hers. “Please continue.”

She felt so comfortable with this man. He was so forceful, yet gentle. His smile was so genuine. With his supportive words he made her feel that what she said was important. Returning his smile, she continued.   “The steward was bragging on how he skimped on the hay used in the mortar.”

“I am still puzzled to your meaning.” Robin informed her.

“You see, Sir.....” correcting herself as Robin gave her a warning smile.  “Robin...the mortar used in repairing the wall is not sound. The wall could easily be breached. He did not wish the lord to know this.”

Robin now realized what Agatha meant. Without the straw in the mortar, the mixture was weak. It should be easy to break into the castle where the repairs were made. A large smile creased Robins face, he grabbed Agatha by her shoulders, kissing her forehead.   “I thank you lady, you may have saved many lives with this information.”  Her face blushed with Robin’s praise.  Her gaze then went to Will. If this information kept Will from risking his life, then it was enough thanks for her.

Will glanced back at her. His face was a mask of confusion. The look Agatha gave him was the same he would receive from his mother. His emotions ran from anger to shame. He was unsure now how he felt about Agatha.

“If you will excuse me, I have to attend to the villagers.” Agatha tried to flee back to her castle, to attend to her new charges, but  Robin held onto her shoulders.  “I cannot let you leave yet, my lady.”

Suddenly Will became defensive of Agatha. She was surprised by it as she noticed it in his eyes. Noticing the fright in her eyes, Robin gently laughed. “We have to know precisely where the repairs were made.”

Agatha let out a nervous laugh. “Oh, yes, sorry, I’ll tell you exactly what the steward told me....”

It was near midnight when Robin and his men approached where Agatha said the repairs to the wall were made. It had taken them an hour just to ride around the castle. Sir Hugh had prepared for Robin’s arrival. There were guards posted along the perimeter of the castle. None were placed near the newly repaired section. Sir Hugh was falsely confident that the wall would not be breached there.  Robin had chosen a small group of men to break into the castle. Marion, of course, was with him, as were Little John, Kemal, Will, and Roger.  Robin was reluctant to make him part of the group, but he had warned Robin. If he wasn’t allowed to find his daughter, then he would go off on his own.

The horses were tied off in a thick part of the forest. They made the rest of the way by foot. It was fortunate there was a clear sky that night. The shabbily repaired wall was easy to find. Little John laid his shoulder against the wall.  Giving a mighty heave, he felt a large block move.   He nodded at Robin with his eyes. Robin stepped up next to Little John and they placed their hands on the block. Both men began to shove the loose stone. It groaned as it began to move. First one side, then the other, inch by inch, they walked the stone out. Then they shoved hard on one side, making an opening large enough for one man to crawl through.

Taking his dagger out, Robin whirled it in his hand. Raising his eyebrows, he smiled in glee at Marion. She let out an exasperated breath. Robin was at his best, when his life was in the greatest danger. With Little John’s assistance, he entered the castle first. He slid through the opening.  Flying through, he landed on the floor on the castle, in a squatting position. Knife in hand, he was prepared to defend himself. Robin almost laughed as he realized that he was in a store room. There were clothes strewn all over the small room. “It’s safe.” Robin whispered out. “Come on in.’

Marion was first to enter the small room. As the others began to pile in, Robin walked towards the only door in the room. He waited until everyone was in, before attempting to open the door. Placing his finger to his mouth, he motioned for everyone to remain quiet.  Slowly opening the door a crack, Robin glanced out of the room. He listened carefully, for sounds of anyone approaching. The hallway was empty.  Opening the door further, Robin stuck his head out, searching first one way, then the other. He was relieved to find that there were no guards to be seen in the dark hallways. Sir Hugh had made the mistake of sending most of his men outside of the castle to watch for Robin Hood’s arrival. He had not counted on Robin being able to break into the castle so easily.

Robin carefully closed the door. He walked to one of the piles of clothes. Finding some old uniforms, he threw a pair to Will, whispering, “Put those on, we'll need a disguise, so we can find where they’re keeping Chloe and Meggie.”  Roger grabbed at a uniform. Robin quickly clutched his hand. The deadly look in his eyes froze Roger.  “You are to stay here Roger,” Robin said in a glacial whisper.  “If you don’t like it, take it up with Little John.”

Roger, at first, wanted to debate Robin, but with Little John standing over him, he thought better of it.  Robin and Will donned the soldiers clothing.  Robin made sure to hide his sword and knife within the oversized uniform.  “Let’s go then,” Robin said to Will, as he gave Marion another wink.

"Robin Hood!" She hissed, "You be careful!"  Robin threw her a kiss, whispering, "Love you."

Before she answered him, he opened the door again, boldly walking out, with Will in tow.  Both men fell in step next to each other. Will had been in Sir Hugh’s castle before. He knew his way around the large castle. They had previously decided to make there way to the dungeons first. Surely Sir Hugh would be keeping Chloe there.

It didn’t take them long to find the dungeon of Beauforte Castle. It was a dark and dank place. Robin approached a lone guard, that sat at a wooden table. He seemed to be waiting for something.  “We’ve come for the captured woman and young girl,” Robin stated.

“What woman?” the guard asked.

“The one that was recently taken.” Robin tiredly explained to the dim guard, with a roll of his eyes.

“Ain’t no woman here,” the guard angrily returned.

“Sir Hugh told us that she would be here." Robin's voice now grew impatient. "We were given orders by the Lord to bring her to him.”

The man nodded his head, his eyes glowed in understanding,  “Oh, I understand now.”  The man snickered.  “She worked here before. I bet Sir Hugh is happy to have her back. He was really angry when she ran off like she did. After all, most women here are used to being taken by the Lord. Why should this one be different?”

Robin felt Will push up against him. Glancing back he could see that he was straining to control himself.

“What do you mean taken?” Will said through clenched teeth.

“You mean you haven’t heard about that one?.”  The man snickered again. Will wanted to wipe that sickening grin off the guard’s face. “Chloe, I think her name was. Yep, I remembers, the Lord had forced himself on her. He took her while his wife was away. She was a feisty one. Sir Hugh had trouble explaining the scratch marks on his face. When she first run away, he had me looking for her for days. That’s how much he liked her. Even said if I found her I could have a try with her. Only after he was tired of her.”  The guard snickered again. “Yep, I was really glad when she was found. Unfortunately Sir Hugh wants her only for himsel....” the guard never finished his statement. Will’s fist seemed to have found its way to the guard’s nose. He broke it with one blow. The man held onto his face, screaming out like a woman.

“Will!” Robin shouted out.  “You shouldn’t have hit him there! You  have to hit them where they’ll make less noise,” Robin said, as his right arm shot out, breaking  the man’s jaw with one blow.

“Sorry Robin.” Will said with a grin on his lips.

Just then the door flew open. What the guard had been waiting for had arrived. Four men piled into the room. Each was surprised to see Albert lying on the floor clutching his nose and jaw, moaning and groaning on the floor.  “What happened to Albert?” One of the men asked.

“He welched on a bet!” Robin quickly shot back.

The man shook his head. “I told him that someday he was going to cheat the wrong man.”

Robin began to slowly back up, pushing Will behind him. “Well, gentlemen, I won’t take anymore of your time. We’re both off to find that handsome outlaw Robin Hood.”

One of the men on the group stepped forward.  “Wait a minute. I remember seeing you somewhere....”

Robin’s steps became longer as he headed towards the back door of the dungeon. “No you don’t.” Robin laughed. “I have a very familiar face. Most people say that to me.”  Robin warmly smiled at the man. That was when he recognized him.

“You’re Robin Hood! GUARDS!!!!” The man yelled.

Robin’s hand plunged under his shirt, pulling his sword out.  “Fine!” Robin said. Placing the sword in front of him he smiled saying, “I was getting tired of this game anyway.” Robin then ran into the small group, leading with his sword. Will pulled a large dagger out. He followed Robin, as he was immediately met by a clash of swords.  He parried one thrust while immediately blocking another. Jumping into the air he spun around, landing behind a particularly skinny guard. Robin had thought this one to be the weak link of the four, unfortunately Robin was wrong. This man was Sir Hugh’s most skilled swords man. Robin was immediately impressed by the slight man. For each thrust and parry Robin used, the guard was able to expertly defend against it.  Robin needed to concentrate on the lone swordmaster, but the other guards would not allow it. He was met at the side by a long wooden staff.  Robin blocked the staff  with a thrust of his sword.  Spinning around he brought his sword across, blocking a move that nearly took his head off.

Glancing at Will, Robin found him busy trying to keep two men from gutting him. He only glanced at Will for a split second, but it was long enough for the guard to be able to take advantage of it. He thrust his sword towards Robin, as he parried it, the guard took out a long knife,  slashing it at Robin.  He managed to catch Robin by his shoulder. He hissed in pain, as he drew back. He quickly found himself up against a wall. The man with the staff stood on one side. The swordmaster slashed his sword back and forth through the air on the other. Robin had to make a choice, he chose the sword, he managed to block the cutting move, he stumbled, as he was hit on the top of the head with the staff.  Dazed by the cowardly blow, he fell to the ground.

The man with the staff immediately began to tie Robin’s hands behind him. Will continued to  fight for his life. He now found three men coming at him. He slowly backed up, until there was nowhere for him to go. As he hit the wall, his heart sank as four more guards poured into the room.  The swordmaster chuckled as he came closer to Will.  “Looks like we have you now, Will Scatlocke,” the man who had recognized Robin said.  “Or is it Will Scarlet?”

“Will Scarlet is what I go by now.” Will proudly said.

“Right.” The man gave Will an evil grin. “Then I’ll be sure they put that on your head stone.”

“And what should I put on your headstone?” one of the new guards asked.

“What do you mean by that?” the swordmaster asked, as he turned to look at the guard, he was answered by a knife in the stomach. The other guards quickly found themselves threatened in a similar manner.  One of the guards ran to Robin. Pulling her hood down, Marion used her knife to cut Robin’s bonds.

“Are you all right?” both asked each other in unison.  “I’m fine.” they both answered.  Little John chuckled as he pulled his hood down. “I love when they do that.”

Will rushed to the doorway. “We have to find Chloe, before that monster gets his hands on her!”

“Little John grab him!” Robin yelled out.  Little John stretched out his long arm, clutching at Will.

“Unhand me!” Will found it was impossible to release himself from Little John’s iron grip.

Robin walked up to Will.  “First we find out the lay of the land, then we go looking for Chloe.”  His voice was hard but just.  Will knew he was right.  Little John released him as he could feel Will loosen up in his grip.  Robin walked up to one of the surviving guards.  “Now then,” Robin began, “I want you to tell me everything you know about this castle, I warn you, if you lie, I’ll throw you to that man.”  Robin pointed to Roger.  “You see, it seems you have his daughter, and he’s really not a very happy man right now.”

Roger’s eyes were dark with hate. The man cringed at the gaze.  “What do you want to know?” the man whimpered.

“There’s a good man.” Robin laughed. “How many men are left inside the castle?”

“Ten.” the man quickly replied.

“That’s all?” Robin asked.

“Yes.” The man nodded. “The rest are outside of the castle.”

Robin stood up, grinning from ear to ear.  Patting Will on his back, he said, “Will, let’s go find Chloe.”

End of Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

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