The Greatest Warrior
By Virginia Cavazos
Chapter One
A Fateful Decision
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4
Part One

A lone hooded rider rode along a dark and dreary road. His head bobbed up and down, as he made his way in the darkness. The rider’s name was Robin Hood. He was a man who fought against the tyranny of Prince John. A noble man by birth. His land was taken away from him as a youth. He now fought a battle for the poor and oppressed. Tonight he was returning to his home…Sherwood Forest.

He was checking on a rumor that Prince John had started an unfair tax on a small village. He found the rumor had proven false. A greedy mayor blamed Prince John to fill up his own pockets. Upon arriving at the village, Robin was able to see through the Mayors ruse. Overpowering the mayor, and exposing him to the other villagers. Robin left the village in the capable hands of the town’s leader. Secured that the villagers were now safe. Robin Hood was now making his way back to his refuge.

He was at least two days ride away from the protected hideout. Shifting in his saddle he tried to get some feeling back in his backside. Clucking, he urged his mount to ride on. He was on the road for 2 days now. Robin was feeling a little homesick. It had been a week since he left Sherwood Forest. A long time of staying away from his friends. A long time for Prince John to start some evil plan while he was away. He hoped that nothing happened in his absence.

Thinking of Sherwood, he opened his vest, pulling out the silvery blue scarf that he brought for Marion. They were fighting about something the day he left. Though he couldn’t think of what it was at the moment. He left in anger. Wanting to do something to try to make it up to her, he purchased the scarf. Smiling to himself he knew once he saw it that Marion would love it. The lady at the shop told him he didn’t have to pay for it. After all, he helped to expose the mayors pilfering of funds. But Robin, being an honest man insisted on it. The shop owner took the money reluctantly. As he gazed at the scarf, it made Robin want to return to Sherwood as fast as he could.

He then made the fateful decision to ride through the night, to try to pick up some time. Stuffing the scarf back in his vest He rode on into the darkness. His horse however had other ideas. He wanted to rest for the night. So as they rode through the forest, the horse would stop along the way. Robin would kick its side, to spur it to ride on.

It was near the middle of the night when Robin’s head began to slowly start falling towards his chest, as sleep started to invade his eyes. The rocking of the horse’s gait and a warm night breeze that blew on his face, only aided his sleepiness. Slowly his eyes started closing. He was finding it harder and harder to keep them open. Finally he succumbed to it. His head fell to his chest. Only the many years of riding a horse kept him from falling off.  Feeling its master’s limpness in the saddle, the horse stopped in it tracks. Waiting for a kick to its side, it realized that his master was asleep. The horse then slowly bowed its head and joined its master. The two slept on in the middle of the dark road.

*** *** ***

Ralph ran through the dark forest as fast as he could. He sucked in ragged breaths. Checking back to see if anyone was following him, he tried to maintain the fast pace. He had to get away. He swore they wouldn’t catch him this time. He would rather die than go back. He jumped over a group of fallen logs. Tripping on one he fell flat on his face. Quickly standing up he ran on. Feeling a pain in his hand he looked at it. There was a large gash in the center of his palm. Great! He thought to himself as he wiped the blood on his clothes. Now the dogs would surely find him if he left a blood trail.

Searching ahead, he could just make out a road through the trees. He sprinted towards it. Perhaps this will lead him to a small village? He broke out of the forest and ran to the middle of the road. Skidding to a stop, he searched up and down the small dirt road. In the darkness just ahead of him he spied a hooded man sitting on a gray horse. Neither one moved. After a few seconds, Ralph realized that the man was asleep in the saddle! Finally! He sighed in relief, 'A lucky break'. Quickly he ran towards the sleeping rider. The horse totally exhausted from the long ride failed to notice the man approaching them.

As Ralph came upon the slumbering man, he searched for something to incapacitate the rider. A large branch was lying alongside the road. Perfect! He thought. Quickly he picked it up as he approached the lone rider. Coming up from behind, he drew the branch back and jumping up hit the hooded Rider square on the head. The rider fell to the ground with a sickening thud. Ralph then ran up to the rider. Opening his cloak he surmised that the man was in his early 30’s. He noticed that he was a handsome man, with long dark brown hair.

Searching the rider Ralph found he was heavily armed. He had a bow and quiver of arrows. In addition, he found a long sword, and a deadly looking dagger. Removing the long hooded cloak that the rider wore, he searched him for any coins. None were found. Ralph then checked for any serious injury he had inflicted. Bringing the head up he examined the back, parting the long brown hair he could see that there was just a little blood from the blow of the branch. He sighed in relief. He really didn’t want to kill the man. Just take his horse. Placing the head gently down on the ground. He wiped his cut hand on the handsome stranger’s tunic. He hoped that this would keep the dogs from following him. Rising, he thought aloud.

"You should be all right…for now." He rubbed his eyes in exhaustion Turning he then walked to the side of the sleeping horse. Searching through the saddlebag, he found a small bag of silver. Tucking it in his tunic, he donned the cloak that the rider wore. He would need a disguise if he wanted to stay hidden from his pursuers.

Realizing that the others might not be far behind, he prayed that perhaps they'd accept this stranger in his stead. If not, at least it would give him a chance to escape from the hell he had run from.

Grabbing the pommel of the horse’s saddle he jumped up on the gray stallion. Reaching out he grabbed for the reins that had fallen when he hit the rider. Pulling back on the reins, the horse became fully awake. Looking down at the lone rider, the man sadly shook his head.

"I’m sorry, but I would rather die than go back to that hell hole!"

Jerking his head he heard the sounds of the hounds coming. Giving the attractive man a last glance, he sadly sighed.

"Those looks won’t last long where you’ll be going."

He then pulled on the reins and kicking the horse’s sides he rode off. The Dogs howls were growing louder. He had to get as far away and as fast as he could. He made a silent prayer to god that the stranger would satisfy them.

The end of Part One

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