A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

An old pilgrim on a broken time is in search of a precious shrine


The following short story was originally written for a community magazine distributed through Rainworth and Blidworth in Nottinghamshire, and the two villages, with different spellings, are in it, together with the main pub in Rainworth, “The Robin Hood.” It is, of course, set in what I hope is the very far future. A bindlestiff is an ancient word for a tramp and his rolled up possessions, and I have used it to describe the traditional bundle-on-a-stick that he might carry with him.

The Pilgrim paused and wiped his head on the back of his hand, wearily lowering his tattered bindlestiff to the grey roadway. The sun beat down with its Cyclops ferocity, scorching his sore and burnished head and filling the very air he breathed with shimmering splinters. He looked this way and that and shook his head. He was old, he thought, and the road was long.

He was on a pilgrimage of love and that very love soothed his aching muscles and weary mind. So, surely very soon, he would be at the shrine of his Master, the deity he had worshipped all his long life. On a sudden impulse he whispered a brief prayer.

“Take me to your green and loving heart, my Lord. Give me thy … they eternal love and everlasting Green….”

Suddenly, from nowhere, he was greeted by a voice, almost, it seemed, in reply to his prayers.

“Wherefore do you go, old man?” it called. “And what ya whisperin’ ‘bout?”

He looked around, squinting through the shards of light. “Who’s there?” He couldn’t keep a sharp edge of fear out of his voice as he searched around, fading eyes blind to detail. In these later days the traveller had to be wary, for gangs of half-mad brigands roamed where wise men rarely went.

He heard light footsteps and with a jump and a skip she came into focus. It was a child, a girl of perhaps nine summers, her face an angelic smile and her eyes bright like eyes used to be long ago before the changes came.

“I’m making to Reynuth, near Blydduth,” he replied.

“Reynuth? What’s so special about Reynuth, or Blydduth for that matter? There ain’t nobody livin’ there no more.” Her voice was puzzled and he knew instinctively that she wasn’t mocking him.

“It is written, child,” he whispered, “it is written that the last temple … the last Temple dedicated to the Master of the Green lies in Reynuth. And it is in me to worship there, at its holy shrine, before I die.”

“Don’t you go talkin’ ’bout dyin! It ain’t nice!” she chided him, her face growing suddenly pale, the light in her eyes dimming.

He nodded, accepting the chastisement. He knew too well that in these latter years Death was all around and should not be spoken of too lightly. But, unlike his beating heart, the subject couldn’t die. Not like that, with no more than an abject nod.

“Are y’ really an’ truly gonna die?” she asked.

“My days are short,” he mumbled. “It’s the sun, child. The sun has burned my soul and even now I am waiting at the Master’s gate.”

“Then y’d best get to Reynuth or Blydduth or wherever sooner than soon, ‘cos the sun ain’t gonna go away. Not t’day and not any day any more.”

He nodded again.

“Y’ go down there f’r maybe a mile or maybe two. Then y’ come to a turnin’an’ if y’ go that way, t’ th’ right, y’ll come to Blydduth. F’ Reynuth y’ keep straight on an’ y’ll get there.”

Then she was gone, suddenly, as if she had never been there. He knew why: the sun was so fierce and even the young soon wilted under its malevolent gaze. He sighed and picked up his bindlestiff and plodded on.

He had needed this pilgrimage for longer than he could remember. Oh, for years he had dreamed of searching through the wilds for the Master’s home. But he had been a husband and a father, had watched his wife die, her head one crazed sore with the flesh running like a turgid lake from her precious skull. And his youngsters too had passed away of the same vileness. He had wept for them even though death was no stranger in these enlightened days, when to have lived at all was looked on as a blessing when it wasn’t being cursed as an agony. It came down upon young and old alike, rising the skies of Earth in rays of burning sunlight. He had mourned for too long, had wept too many tears, and now here he was on the sacred road to Reynuth, at last on the threshold of all that dreaming with the Temple of his Master a mere few miles away.

The broken road was broad and he picked his way along it with relative ease. The debris of the old world lay around and sometimes he had to make a brief detour in order to move around this pile of crumbling masonry or that shattered rift in the hard surface beneath his feet, but mostly he could just walk, almost careless of where he planted those feet.

He came to the child’s promised right turn to Blydduth and his heart beat swiftly as he noted s sign pointing that way. The spelling was strange, but then it often was on writings left over from folks who had lived long ago in the life of the world.

The road deteriorated soon after that. It narrowed and the debris of broken buildings often blocked it completely. But he clambered over the worst mountains of crumbling bricks, grazing his already battered limbs more than once, and eventually stood at the head of the hill that ran down into Reynuth.

Then, like a miracle he was outside the Temple. His old eyes suddenly shone when he thought of the shrine that he knew he would find inside. Then his eyes caught sight of the ancient painted sign and he gazed at with the fondness felt by all travellers who have journeyed far to live through one particular moment. It was just as he had seen it in the old books.

“The Robin Hood”, he whispered to himself through cracked lips. “At last, my lord…”

He pushed the door, and it creaked open.

It was almost dark inside and rodents scurried away as he stepped in. But he didn’t see them or wonder at their being in that wonderful place. For he had reached his destination, and that was all that mattered.

His heart was labouring as he slumped down into a rickety old seat at a dusty table. It had done enough. It had brought him here to the last shrine on all the Earth dedicated to he who, some said, had taken from the Rich and given to the Poor, the mighty Robin Hood who had spent all his days living a good and Green life. What a pity there hadn’t been more Greens, more men and women like Robin Hood…

“Things’d be different if you were still with us, Lord,” he whispered, and as if in reply to his aching loneliness his eyes lost their sight and his ears their sound. But there was nobody left in that old corner of the world to see, or wonder why, or even recall earlier days when its rooms had been filled with more than the silence of decay.

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 3, 2015
Last Updated on October 15, 2017
Tags: pilgrim, pilgrimage, Robin Hood


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 74 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..


A Chapter by Peter Rogerson