The rain seemed to be subsiding, much to Robin Hood's delight. When he finally surveyed his location, he found himself on top of one of the mountain's peaks he saw before he had entered the cave. He sighed, even though he realized he had at least lost the soldiers who were so anxious for his blood. Unfortunately, he was still quite a distance from the safety of Sherwood Forest.
Robin rose to his feet, tossing his dripping hair out of his face. A wave of unexpected weakness hit him, and he staggered back a couple of steps. A quick glance at his arm showed the blood still dripped out from underneath the suede belt, and he decided he had to find a better way to bandage it soon.
Unconsciously, Robin wiped the blood from his arm with his wet hand, and proceeded slowly down the slippery wet slope. The sun was now setting, and the cool breeze that whipped his damp hair about and chilled his wet body was weakening him further. The steady blood loss scared him, and he knew he had to get back to the encampment soon, or risk fever. He trudged along stubbornly, keepin to a slow, steady pace. Robin didn't dare stop. The soldiers were still too close, and he was now in no condition to fight them off.
After what seemed like forever, Robin stopped to catch his breath. Glancing back toward the way he had come, he was dismayed to see how little distance he had actually traveled.
"I'm never going to make it back home tonight," he sighed to himself. "May as well make camp here."
Robin glanced around, looking for a possible site to hide in. It had to be sheltered from both wind and sight, for he knew he needed a fire. A strong tremor ran through his abused body, and Robin knew he had to get warm soon.
A few hundred paces to his left, he saw a close-knit group of tall trees. Quickly gathering a handful of twigs and leaves, he slipped into the hidden grove, and attempted to start a small fire. Shivering from both cold and loss of blood, he found it difficult to strike the flint properly against the rock to make the necessary spark. After many futile attempts, a small glow appeared amongst the dry leaves and twigs. Heaving a sigh of relief, Robin bent to gently blow on it, until flames finally danced among the twigs. He quickly added some small branches he found nearby, and began to slowly peal the wet tunic off, hanging it over a nearby branch. He placed some branches that must have blown down in the day's storm in a small pile, making a suitable bed for the night, close enough to the fire to warm his sore body.
Robin sliced off a bit of material from the bottom of his wet tunic, and painfully tied it around the wound on his arm, grabbing one end in his teeth to pull it tight enough to stop the blood from dripping. He released it, cradled his sore arm, and fell back on his bed of leaves, breathing heavily.
"Must be worse than I thought," he muttered as he closed his eyes and
fell into an exhausted sleep.
Marion ran across the compound, shaken by what had occurred in Robin's hut. She reached her own hut, and stood outside her door, trying to decide whether she should talk to Friar Tuck about Robin's odd behavior, or forget about it for the night. Deciding this was probably just a once in a lifetime situation, she passed through the fur door and sat down on the edge of her pallet. Robin had never done anything like this before, and Marion decided to forgive him for his strange behavior.
"He did complain he did not feel well," she rationed to herself. "And maybe his headache is affecting his thinking." Wiping her tears away, she felt better after thinking things through, and lay back against the soft furs, letting herself drift off to sleep.
Her rest was not comforting, for Robin invaded her dreams with that same cynical expression in his eyes, repeating the same sentence over and over again. "Things are not what they appear to be my pretty Marion. Things are not what they appear to be."
Marion woke with a start, bolting up in her bed. She slipped off her pallet and left her hut, walking over to a water bucket to gently washed her face. In the moonlit shadows, she could just make out a dark form slipping across the compound. Thinking quickly, she ran back to her hut and grabbed up her sword. Slipping quietly up behind the person sneaking around the camp, she watched silently as the moonlight revealed the person make his way to the various storage boxes, lifting lids and sorting through its contents. Slowly, without making a sound, she snuck up behind the form.
Marion stopped for a moment when she got close enough to recognize Robin, now dressed in his own tunic. Then she shrugged, and stepped into the light. "You couldn't sleep either, Robin?" She asked, leaning on her sword.
Jacobi jumped and swung around to face Marion, reaching automatically for the dagger stuck in his belt. His hand relaxed when he realized Marion was making no threatening gesture with her sword, and he looked down at the ground as he spoke. "Just hungry."
"Ah, then you must be feeling better." Marion smiled.
"Listen, Robin, I don't know what happened back there in your hut, but I am sure it had something to do with your not feeling well, so I'm willing to forget it ever happened."
"Yeah, whatever . . . " Jacobi mumbled.
"Robin, is there anything wrong? Are you mad at me about something? You're just not acting like yourself." Marion put her hand on Jacobi's shoulder, trying to convey her worry.
Instinctively, Jacobi pulled away from her and looked up quickly into her eyes.
Marion gasped, sure she noticed something different in those large, brown eyes. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something about his look seemed strange and drastically wrong. Was he in some sort of trouble he wasn't sharing with her? Shaking her head, Marion tried to smile.
"Robin, maybe you should get some sleep. I'm going back to sleep, too. Good night."
"Night," he said bluntly, kicking at the packed dirt.
Marion watched as he turned away from her and headed back toward his hut without another word or gesture. Feeling a little hurt and confused, Marion slowly made her way back to the door of her hut, and watched as Robin ducked through the door of his hut.
Exhausted by all the strange emotions of the day, Marion sat for a while,
and thought about what had transpired that day. Finally leaning back, she
slowly slipped back into a more restful sleep, forgetting the bizarre evening.
Robin awoke slowly, hearing voices. Still in that spot of twilight between sleep and wakefulness, not quite able to differentiate dreams from reality, he reached up to wipe his eyes, using his wounded arm. He let out a small groan, then reality crashed in on his world, and he felt cold steel against his bare chest, the point slightly piercing his side.
"Wake up, Jacobi." Three voices laughed heartily.
Slowly opening his eyes and attempting to focus his blurry vision, Robin began to sit up, hesitating only a moment until the largest soldier removed the point of his sword from Robin's side. A small trickle of blood slipped from where the sword had pressed, and the soldier gave Robin a cruel smile, noticing his handiwork. Carefully, Robin sat up, reached over to support his wounded arm, then struggled to his feet.
The sun was shining brightly now, and Robin made a mental note how late it was, cursing himself for sleeping so long. Had he gotten up as usual, the soldiers might never have caught up to him.
"Now, if you don't mind, the Captain's waiting for us, Mr. Jacobi, and I believe we've made him wait long enough," the smaller man said, squinting at Robin and throwing him his tunic. Robin caught the dry material, then the large guard grabbed his wounded arm.
"You'd better hurry. You've held us up long enough." Robin gasped in pain, trying to pull away as the three guards laughed in delight.
"Let that be a lesson to you, Jacobi." Again the group laughed at Robin's reaction.
Robin slowly raised both arms over his head, and slipped the tunic on, tying the belt around his waist. He reached for his bow and sword, only to have the smaller soldier kick it out of reach and smack him in his sore arm again. Groaning as he tried to shelter his wounded arm, Robin looked up and saw the soldier laughing.
"You honestly thought we'd allow you to get them, Jacobi?
We've heard all about your skill with weapons."
The largest man grabbed Robin's wrists and pulled them in front of him, binding them together with a piece of rope he had drawn from his belt. Robin closed his eyes for a brief moment as he felt a stream of blood run down his arm and drip off his elbow.
"Pity you lost that beautiful stallion, Jacobi. Guess you'll just have to walk back to Wellsley."
Again, the soldiers laughed cruelly, liking their little joke. They mounted their horses, and one of the soldiers kicked Robin in the back, encouraging him to start walking, heading back up the mountain Robin had fought so hard to get down last night.
"How far to the meeting place." He heard one soldier ask.
"About five miles," was the reply.
Even in his weakened state, Robin knew any move he was going to make would have to be made before they met up with the remainder of the soldiers' party. Deliberately, he tried to slow his pace, making his injury appear worse than it was.
"Move it, Jacobi." One of the men shouted again, kicking him hard, connecting with his head. Robin paused, raised his tied hands to his head, and sank to his knees, sneaking a look at the reaction of the soldiers through his thick hair.
"Can't kill him yet, Justin. Captain has plans for this one." The large soldier looked down at Robin. Dismounting, he walked over to him.
'On your feet," he firmly stated, reaching down and grabbing Robin's hair. Robin swung over onto his back and kicked the large soldier in the chest, sending him sailing through the air, into a tree. Leaping to his feet, he ran for the cover of the forest, running as fast as he could as the two remaining soldiers set off in pursuit. He almost laughed when he heard one of them say in disgust, "Not again..."
Running away from, instead of toward the mountains, Robin did his best to put some distance between him and the soldiers, but in his weakened state, he was finding this very difficult to do. Hazarding a quick glance back over his shoulder, he realized they were rapidly gaining on him. Before he could turn back to face where he was going, Robin tripped over a log, falling forward. Unable to catch his balance with his hands tied, he fell head first, into a pile of brush.
As he lay there groaning, a thunderous voice sounded in his mind. "Robin! Trust your instincts. You must rely on your inner abilities."
"Olwyn . . . " Robin mumbled, closing his eyes against the pain.
"Trust your instincts, Robin." The voice faded away.
Marion rose the next morning, still deeply puzzled about what had occurred the night before. What could possibly have happened to Robin while he was away on his hunting trip, to give him such a hostile look in his eyes. Marion had known him since childhood, and even her deep feelings for him didn't explain the distant look and unknowing eyes were a total mystery to her. Perhaps over breakfast she would find some answers.
Quickly changing and brushing her long, reddish hair, Marion headed out into the bright cool morning. Looking toward Robin's hut, she watched as the fur pulled back, Robin stepped out, barechested, yawning and stretching. Even that seemed strange to Marion. Robin, a rather quiet and reserved nobleman by birth, was very shy about being seen without proper attire. Again, his current behavior was a puzzle. She watched in amazement as he strutted across camp, carrying his tunic under his arm, heading toward the stream.
Slowly, Marion followed from a distance, deciding the only way to shed some light on this situation was to observe Robin from afar. By the time she reached the stream, he was already waist deep in water, washing his long, dark hair as the sun reflected off every strand.
"No matter whatever else has happened, he still looks the same," she said in utter fascination. She grinned as he cupped handfuls of water, watching as he let the cold liquid flow down his arms and chest, both glistening in the sunlight. Marion's eyes grew wide as she noticed something different about him, the next time he raised his arms over his head. Surely she wasn't seeing properly. As he again raised his arms, she leaned forward, staring in shock at his right forearm.
Missing, was the large scar Robin always referred to as the "Mark of the Dragon." She distinctly remembered Robin telling her, when he was sixteen years' old, Olwyn had given him the Dragon Sword, the ancient symbol of purity and truth. Robin had to prove his worthiness for the weapon, removing the sword from a circle of fire. And Robin had told her, when he grabbed the sword, the hilt touched his forearm, burning the symbol of that dragon into his flesh for all times.
Examining that arm now, Marion shook her head in disbelief. "Who is this man?" Marion did not know.
End of Chapter Two
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