The men of the village of Arden fought bravely against Sir Guy's soldiers, but there were simply too many soldiers to fight. Some of the women took up arms as well; the rest gathered their children and tried to hide them as best they could. Prince John's men loaded all the grain and other foods onto wagons that would end up in either Gisbourne's or Prince John's storehouses by the end of the day. Arden fought a losing battle against its enemies.
The Outlaws arrived and surrounded the village, fighting their way toward the center of town. Robin fought hard, looking all the while for Sir Guy. He figured Sir Guy wouldn't be fighting at all, rather he'd be overseeing the fighting and the plundering from a strategic position. Little John used his size and strength to disarm as many soliders as possible. Marion's whip pulled the earth itself out from under many soldiers, and Tuck did his best to find all the women and children trapped in their homes and lead them to safety. All the Outlaws fought bravely and well.
Robin found a soldier carrying a torch, who was about to set fire to one of the houses. Robin charged him and chased him down a path towards the barns. There he found Sir Guy and Prince John's Lieutenant.
"Decided to do a little shopping, Sir Guy?" Robin quipped, trying not to show the exhaustion of battle in his casual demeanor.
Sir Guy tossed his long black hair and laughed. "I've decided to corner the market."
"It would be nice of you to leave something for the rest of us."
Sir Guy's smile melted. "If you hadn't noticed, I'm not nice."
Robin's smile also disappeared. "I was afraid you'd say that."
Robin raised his bow and sent both horses rearing, unseating Sir Guy and the Lieutenant. When the horses came down Robin used the bow to smack both animals on their rears, sending them galloping across the field.
"That makes this a little more even." Robin watched both men warily, waiting for their attack.
"That's as even as it's going to get." said the Lieutenant. In a flash he'd drawn his sword and lunged at Robin. Robin back-flipped to avoid the blade. He was feinting blows from both Sir Guy and the Lieutenant, making himself dizzy keeping track of where both enemies were at all times. It was a long and difficult fight, but eventually Robin was outmatched. Sir Guy tripped him and Robin went sprawling on his stomach, only to find himself face to face with the Lieutenant's blade. Sir Guy's boot on the back of his neck forced Robin face down in the dirt.
"I've been looking forward to this Robert, for quite a long time." Sir Guy gloated.
"Anticipation is much better than the reward, or so I've heard." Robin managed to grate out from under Sir Guy's bootheel.
"And you know what I'll take as my reward, don't you? I've wanted Marion since we were children, and now she'll be all mine. I can see her now waiting for me on our wedding night...." Guy was almost giddy at the thought.
"You rude boy, hasn't anyone taught you not to count your chicks before they hatch?" Sir Guy's head jerked up to find himself face to face with a red-haired green-eyed woman, possibly a farmer's wife. She hadn't been there a second before.
Guy set his jaw in anger. "Someone should have taught you not to speak unless you're spoken to, witch." He raised his fist to strike her, but his hand was caught midair by a warrior wearing leather armor and a wolf's head helmet.
"What did you call my sister?" asked Zindara. Sir Guy fell to his knees from the painful grasp she had on his hand.
"I called her a witch." Guy attempted to rise up and push her back with both hands, but Zin caught the other hand as well. Zindara kicked him in the jaw with her knee.
"That's what I thought you said. And wouldn't you know, you were right?"
Zindara planted her foot firmly on Guy's chest and shoved him backward with all her might. He flew several yards before he crashed into a tree. Zin then leapt to her saddle and rode into the thick of the battle, sword drawn.
"Up you get!" Zaranin helped Robin to his feet. It was then Robin noticed the Lieutenant lay unconcious as well, propped up against the fence. "Gee, and I didn't get you anything." Robin managed to say while coughing up dust.
"Later you can pay your respects. For now we have work to do." Zara retrieved Robin's bow and quiver and they ran forward into the fray. They saw Zindara in the midst of the fighting, still on horseback high above the heads of the soldiers, the vicious blade of her sword flashing golden fire. The soldiers that had been loading the wagons had joined the battle and still outnumbered the villagers and the Outlaws.
A tremendous crack of thunder terrified the soldiers. The clouds roiled and darkened to nearly black. Lightning crashed repeatedly and a powerful wind howled through the center of town. Zelkinane and Zonnaliese strode hand in hand into the center of the village square. They were shortly joined by Zindara and her wolf. Standing back to back with hands joined, the three raised their voices to the gathering storm, the sound made unearthly by the high wind.
"The man who strikes out against his neighbor with no just cause shall fall before me!" called out Zelkinane.
"The man who strikes out against one unable to defend himself shall fall before me!" cried Zindara.
"The man who terrorizes the innocent and helpless shall fall before me!" Zonnaliese declared.
"The man who deprives his neighbor of his living and support shall fall before me!" added Zaranin as she joined the circle.
Zindara's wolf howled in accompaniment to the chant and the wind. Sherwood's wolves chimed in, making a thrilling choir. The ground rumbled and the Outlaws were stunned to see a herd of deer galloping towards the village, making a circle around the town. Prince John's and Sir Guy's soldiers dropped their weapons and ran from the four witches, chased by the stampeding deer as they fled from Arden. The villagers and Outlaws were awestruck at the spectacle. When the last of the soldiers and the deer were gone the wind died down. Robin, Marion, Little John and Tuck stared in amazement at the four sisters, their arms around each other, laughing as the storm clouds disappeared and the sun came out again.
"Wow! I've never seen anything like that before." said Little John.
"It was just a little flash and glamor." Zaranin explained. "Just enough to scare them out of their wits and send them packing."
"Just a distraction to divert the soldiers from their original objective." Zelkinane giggled ever so slightly.
"A strategic ploy,... a gambit,... a chess move." Zindara winked at Friar Tuck.
"And it worked just like that!" Zonnaliese squealed as she jumped up into Little John's arms, hugging him around the neck as he held her a foot above the ground.
"Ladies, I'm amazed. An hour ago you were barking at each other and now you're....happy!" Robin smiled so wide his dimples showed beneath the dust on his face.
"They saved your hide too." Marion said so only Robin could hear her.
"I'm aware of that." he answered out of the corner of his mouth.
"It's the nature of sisters, Robin. We fight, and we make up. That's what we do." Zaranin danced in place between Zonnaliese and Zelkinane. She reached out her hand and pulled Marion into the circle. "Come on, share some of this energy with us!" Marion linked arms with Zara and Zel and felt the energy leftover from their illusion bubble through her.
Zel held out a hand to Robin and he joined the circle. John let Zonna down and they also joined the embrace. Zindara spotted several women and a passel of children cautiously returning from the woods. Tuck was among them.
"You too, Friar. Come join us." she said. Tuck completed the circle and their laughter floated up on golden rays of sunlight.
As the sisters prepared to go home they promised Olwyn and the Outlaws they'd help to keep the weather cooperative until the end of the harvest.
"Oh I have enough to keep me busy for the next several months. I won't be bothering Zin with any earthquakes. They'd upset the little one on the way." Zaranin patted her middle with a contented smile.
"You too? Oh isn't that wonderful? Two little ones on the way!"
Zonnaliese jumped up and down, then stopped immediately to hug her sister.
"That would make three. Argon left me a little companion on the way to keep me company in his absence." Zelkinane confided. Three sisters clasped hands, then cast their eyes curiously upon Zindara. Zin was packing her armor in saddlebags and realized her sisters were watching her expectantly. She heaved a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes.
"That's four then. Won't that be fun?" she chuckled.
"Four pregnant witches with the power to warp the weather and cause natural disasters?" Robin pondered.
"It boggles the mind, doesn't it?" asked Friar Tuck.
"Oh just wait until there are four little witches going through the terrible twos. That's what I'm really afraid of." Little John shuddered at the thought.
Robin looked sideways at Marion. "You don't suppose that tickly bubbly thing we did in Arden?....." he asked.
Marion gave Robin an arch look that turned his blood cold. "No." she said as she turned on her heel and gave him her back.
"Hmmm.... are we sure there are only four witches in Sherwood?" Robin laughed to himself.
Chap One Chap Two Chap Three
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