By Shelly Quinn
Friar Tuck sniffed at the fistful of herbs as he listened to the story to that Little John was telling Robin Hood. It was about a dream Little John had had the night just past. He was running through the forest being chased by a beautiful woman in pink silk, riding a white stallion.
"What do you think it means?" Little John asked of Robin.
The legend of Sherwood Forest shrugged. "I really donít know, Little John," He confessed. "Dream interpretation is not my forte. Olwyn would be more the one to ask."
Little John pouted. "But I canít ask him. Besides which, he would probably laugh at me."
"Olwyn wound not laugh at you," Robin countered firmly. But he knew that his friend was disappointed, so he looked to the Friar for assistance. "What do you think about Little Johnís dream?" Robin queried, hopefully.
Tuck was caught off guard by the question, but recovered quickly and gave it some serious thought. "WellÖ" he drawled, one finger scratching at his double chin. "I think that it symbolizes Little Johnís deepestÖthoughts." It was a lame answer and he and Robin both knew it. Tuck exchanged looks with Robin and grimaced.
Little John, on the other hand, was satisfied with the Friarís response. "My deepest thoughts, he echoed. Then he fell silent as he contemplated just what those thoughts might be.
"How much farther to your friends village?" Robin asked Tuck as the three men headed deeper into the forest. So deep that the sunlight dimmed and the summer air was suddenly cool against their skin.
"About two more miles." Tuck replied as he watched a shiver pass over Robin. He didnít feel the cold as much thanks to the layers of his robes. But Robin and Little John wore sleeveless tunics. The Friar could almost see the goosebumps rising on the skin of their arms.
Robin quickened the pace a bit and noticed that neither of his companions complained. But then he came to an abrupt halt as he sensed rather than heard, a sound. "ShhhhÖ" Robin Whispered holding up a hand when Little John would have spoken. Eyes searching the trees and straining to see beyond the thick, shadowy foliage, Robin turned in a slow circle. He knew that someone was out there, watching them. He could feel an intense gaze burning into him. "Get ready to scatter," Robin hissed, even as he pulled his sword from the scabbard on his back. He had left his bow and arrows back at the compound, at Friar Tuckís request. Robin would have given his soul for them now.
Even as Tuck and Little John prepared themselves, men seemed to explode out of the shadows. They were heavily armed and swiftly surrounded the trio. Tuck pressed his back to Robinís and whispered, "Weíre sadly outnumbered."
"I know," Robin replied, his head whipping from side to side as he tried to take count of the opposing force. At least three dozen men, and dressed in strange attire. As Robin lifted his sword, he was glad that he had the foresight to tie back his heavy mane of hair before starting their trek. He couldnít afford to be blinded by the dark locks. Every move he made now had to count. "Run for it, if you can," Robin instructed his companions. "And donít look back." It was his intention to buy Tuck and Little John an opening to escape. He was not concerned with his own safety. Robin cared only for his friends.
But in the moment that Robin spoke, the strangers attacked. The legendary archer and his companions put up a good fight, but the other men were equally skilled and it didnít take long for Friar Tuck to fall beneath them. He wasnít hurt, but one of the strangers held a curved dagger to Tuckís throat.
"Halt!" Shouted the only man who had remained on horseback. His name was Fengali. He smiled as he watched the fat manís friends freeze. Nudging his horse forward, Fengali moved to face the dark-haired man. He was a warrior born. "Drop your weapons," Fengali ordered. "Or your friend dies."
Robin looked at the blade pressed to the Friarís throat, then over at Little John. "Do as he says," Robin hissed, tossing his sword to the ground. A moment later his arms were grasped by a soldier on either side.
Little John was in the same predicament, only his hands were bound behind his back. Friar Tuck was bound as well. Only Robin remained free, as it were.
"Who are you?" Robin demanded, anger flashing in his dark gaze.
"Captain of the guard," Fengali replied. "My Lord is the Sultan Yazid."
Tuck was intrigued, in spite of the danger they were in. "Sultan?" he repeated. "An Arab here in Sherwood?" He had studied Arabic history a bit and found it fascinating.
Fengali nodded. "My Lord likes to travel," He replied, a smile slashing white against his dark skin. His attention returned to the dark-haired man. "My name is Fengali. What are you called?"
"Heís Robin Hood," Little John answered, his look belying his surprise that the other man did not know that.
"Robin Hood," Fengali repeated. He did not know the name, but one thing he was certain of, the dark-haired man was of good blood. Perhaps even Royal Blood. That would please his master and mistress. That, and the obvious. Fengali dismounted from his horse and moved to stand before his captives. He grinned at the fat man. "And what are you called?" he questioned.
The Friar smiled back at Fengali, having to look up to meet the other manís black gaze, for he was taller even then Little John. "Iím Friar Tuck," he replied.
Fengali patted the Friarís stomach. "You are well fed, Tuck," he stated, laughing softly. "Do you know good food?"
"Tuck is an excellent cook," Little John offered, helpfully. For some, strange, reason he found he rather liked Fengali, in spite of the circumstances.
"And you are?" Fengali questioned, moving to stand before the big, blond man.
Little John grinned. "Iím John Little," Her replied. "But most call me Little John."
Fengali was amused. "I see, and you are very strong." He was greatly pleased, for these men were quite a find. A cook, a laborer andÖRobin. He was the true gem and Fengali moved to face him now.
"What do you want from us?" Robin demanded, after withstanding Fengaliís intense gaze for a long moment. The black eyes perused him from head to toe and Robin felt as if he weíre being stripped bare. He did not like that sensation in the least.
"You will all serve my Lord," Fengali replied. He turned to point at Tuck. "He will serve in the kitchen, tempting the Sultan and his mistress with delicacies fit for Royalty. And little John, he will help build the Sultanís palace."
Robin felt anger rush over him as understanding dawned. "You want slaves!" he snarled. When Fengali merely shrugged Robin challenged, "And what about me? What service am I expected to perform?"
Fengali smiled again. He didnít answer Robin yet, but one hand reached out, and behind, the other manís head, untying the rawhide that was holding back the dark hair.
"Donít!" Robin hissed, trying to pull his head away. But he had no leeway since his arms were trapped, and Fengali now used two hands. A moment later Robinís unbound hair fell about his face. He shook it back and glared at Fengali.
"Beautiful," drawled the Arab, as he let his fingers comb through the silky, dark strands. Then one hand gripped Robinís chin so he could study the fine features, before locking with dark eyes. "My mistress will be pleased with you," Fengali said.
Robin yanked his face from the other manís grasp. "Pleased?" He echoed, as he pulled at the hands holding him. He could not escape, but in his anger Robin felt the need to try.
Fengali nodded. "Yes. Men of such beauty as you possess are rare. She will reward me for bringing her such a one as you."
Friar Tuck was beginning to not like the sound of this. He cleared his throat then asked, "Exactly what are your intentions towards Robin?"
"He will be the Sultanaís pleasure slave," Fengali announced. Then he threw back his head and laughed at the stunned expressionís on the captiveís faces. He noted that Robin recovered the quickest."
"I am slave to no one!" Robin declared. "I will die first."
Fengali sighed, then let one hand brush the curve of Robinís face. "Death will not be an option, my friend," Turning to his men, Fengali shouted orders. "Take the slaves back to the palace and do not injure them. Any man who disobeys will be punished."
Little John protested as he was led away, glancing back over his shoulder at Robin. He saw that the Friar was being pulled along as well and it was obvious that they were expected to walk to where ever it was they journeyed.
"What about me?" Robin queried, when he noticed that the men holding him remained frozen. He flexed his wrists to draw attention them. ĎWhy am I not bound?" Robin hated seeing his friends dragged off in bondage. If they could not yet escape, then he wished to join them.
"I donít want youÖbruisedÖRobin," Fengali drawled. He waved one hand and a guard led over a beautiful stallion. "You will journey on horseback, Robin. Unbound," Fengali announced. He saw a gleam appear in the other manís eyes and was quick to extinguish it. "But know that if you attempt to escape, your friends will die. Do we understand one another?"
Robin nodded, "Perfectly," he replied, without hesitation. He would not risk the lives of Little John and Friar Tuck. A nod from Fengali and the hands holding Robin dropped away. He grimaced as he stepped over to the stallion and mounted. Fengali mounted his own horse, and Robin sighed as he followed the other man to the head of the procession, passing by his friends. "Be strong," Robin beseeched them. "Weíll find a way to escape."
Fengali smiled as he listened to Robinís pronouncement, knowing that the young man spoke partially for his benefit. He liked this Robin Hood, for he was a man of integrity and that was precious indeed.
End of Chapter One
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