A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

I dared say that man has long believed his God can be bought with gold....


Friar Tuck chewed on a leg of venison and belched loudly.

Do you have to be so crude?” asked Marion, sitting next to the leader of the band of outlaws and holding Robin Hood by one hand whilst stroking a lock of his hair with the other.

But it’s so … belchworthy,” grinned the Friar. “The Bishop of Lincoln in all his finery and with an army of cooks slaving away at his command can’t be eating as well as this! Fine king’s venison roasted over an open fire and with a draught of good cider to follow it down!”

Only he’ll have wine from Normandy and the carcase of a chicken,” murmured Robin Hood. “But, my dear old friend, be quieter with your blasting, will you? The Lady Marion is too refined to find anything but revulsion in your belches!”

Even a friar can appreciate his meat with gentility,” suggested Marion.

Friar Tuck stood up and bowed theatrically. “I am for ever at your service, madam, and will subdue the gases that flourish deep within me, though I warn you, the good Lord must expect me to expel them and they may well come out the other end, picking up noxious odours on the way!”

Anyway, what of the Bishop of Lincoln?” asked Will Scarlett, “it is said that he is to journey through Sherwood on his way to the sea and a ship on which he to entrust a great wealth of plate and gemstones, sending it on its way to Rome, where it will be used to fatten the Pope and his mordant mates.”

They cannot feed on silver!” laughed Robin, “or they may well suffer indigestion as a consequence!”

Silver can be sold, and so can gems, and what the Bishop carries is worth is more than the wealth of all the men for many miles around us in town and village, when all is added together into one sum,” pointed out Much the Miller’s son. “It is far from being fair. I’m all for waylaying the scoundrel and using his goods to bring peace of mind to poor men who will either starve or hang, if the threats of the sheriff are to be noted. And remember, Robin, how you helped me once, when my situation was dire?”

Robin nodded and blew the least of kisses onto Marion’s head before replying. “I recall that well, my friend,” he said. “and I was happy to solve your troubles for you, just as I was happy to welcome you into my circle of good friends. And yes, Much, it is so wrong that a Bishop and his cut-throat entourage of so-called holy men...”

Hang on! All are not bad!” protested Friar Tuck.

At least you’re not, Tuck,” agreed Robin, “but I was referring to the little Christians who will profess their belief in pious words and then behave contrary to the sense of them. They are not so much men of God as men of the devil, and I have no patience with them. And it is that gang of pretenders who accompany the Bishop with their swords unsheathed and their shields before them!”

And they are coming this way,” pointed out Will. “Rumour has followed them along the forest roads from Lincoln.”

And rumour has come to my ear,” agreed Robin. “And so it must be said, this very afternoon I will seek out the cruel convoy as it makes its way to a sea port on the North Sea, and I will formulate a plan that will make the treasure they have in a fancy chest bound with iron come safely into our hands.”

And what will you do with it?” asked Marion, “food for the poor cannot be bought with rubies or emeralds but with coin of the realm!”

But there are men who can convert the one into the other, at a price,” sighed Robin. “I know of one who will be my friend, for he has been poor himself, and I was able to set him on his feet with a gift of coin, and he still knows the meaning of gratitude.”

So what shall we do, Robin?” asked Little John, who was standing separate from the rest and gazing thoughtfully into the dense undergrowth that bordered the outlaws’ clearing.

Eat up and follow me,” ordered the leader, clad almost elegantly in green sackcloth. “We have a task before us, but please, leave the parleying to me, and kill only at need. A man should not lose his life merely because of his affection for Bishops and wealth.”

In very short order the outlaws, a hardy band of men if ever there was one, and in the company of Marion, Robin’s lustful woman, set out on secret paths through the forest, moving with almost uncanny silence as their ears were tuned to receive warning of their intended foe.

I’m glad that you resist killing, Robin,” she whispered.

Life, my love, is sacred,” was his brief reply, “now hush, my dear, and let us use every fibre of our senses to discover the whereabouts of the Bishop and his thugs!”

She smiled at him, and nodded.

It was maybe half an hour later that they heard the first sounds in the air, the crashing as blunt axes tried to sever the stems of saplings and the crude voices issuing foul words and dire threats, with the occasional refined instruction from the Bishop, that the Lord might not appreciate some of their more fruity epithets.

It is them, I swear it,” whispered Much.

And not so pleasant a sound,” agreed Will.

Move towards them, but keep your own counsel, for they must not guess that we are anywhere near,” ordered Robin.

When they were close enough to hear everything the hoodlums said clear as day they paused and Robin, with Will and Much, climbed silently into the canopy of a gigantic oak in full leaf. From there they could see, quite plainly, all that was going on below and yet be invisible themselves. Meanwhile the rest of the merry men and Marion arranged themselves within bow-shot of the almost overgrown path along which the Bishop and his gang were expected to be riding.

And ride they did! At least, the Bishop was riding on a fine stallion complete with richly tapestried blanket and leather harness. The men, those ordered to accompany and guard him, were on foot, their boots clomping noisily on the hard mud that lay beneath the dried turves of summer. And they were raucous, their voices raised in bawdy jest until every so often the Bishop threatened them with ex-communication or worse. Then they became quiet for a while until one brave man started the jesting anew.

The Bishop himself was a fine rotund figure, but not so fine as the chest that was strapped behind him, its steel bands polished until they dully reflected the brilliant sunlight of a summer’s day.

Suddenly, as the party slouched along, a figure in green dropped like a stone from the branches high above the road, and stood, legs apart and bow string taut, facing the Bishop.

My Lord, I have come for your chest,” he said, his voice refined, his eyes sharp, his meaning clear as day.

A rogue and a robber!” shouted the Bishop, “at him, lads!”

One of the guards, a common enough looking fellow with unshaven face and a scar reaching from ear to chin, leapt towards the bowman with a short sword in his hand.

It’s a mistake, son,” he muttered as he lunged towards Robin Hood … and then fell to the hard mud path with an arrow through his neck and blood spurting like a fountain from him. Yet the man in green had not moved a muscle. The arrow had come from elsewhere.

It’ll be the same for any man who dares stand in my way,” warned Robin Hood. “and, maybe, for any who merely stand their ground!”

Having heard that the hoodlums split into two groups, the larger one running back the way they’d come, anxious to get well clear of what they perceived as certain death and the smaller one standing with the Bishop, uncertainty on their faces.

The casket,” said Robin Hood quietly, indicating the iron-bound chest. “That is English silver and gold, and not the property of Rome but payment for food and warmth for the starving come the winter.”

It is for God!” ground out the Bishop, his face twisted in rage. “It is wealth and glory for God!”

I beg to differ,” said Robin mildly, and he stepped forwards, his bow-string still taut, and as he did so one of the remaining thugs made to intercept him. But he stood no chance, not against the true arrow that came his way and plunged with deadly accuracy through a leather jerkin and into the man’s heart.

The poor will be happy to eat next season,” said Robin to the Bishop, “much happier than any pope who already has a surfeit of riches,” he added, and he swiftly undid the cord that bound the chest to its pillion position, and heaved it from the stallion’s back.

Seeing that their mission was lost, and fearful for their lives as the rest of the Merry Men, some from above and most from around in the greenwood, appeared with bows and full quivers, the remaining guards also ran off, leaving the Bishop to his fate.

Which was his life, fortunately for him, for Robin Hood was no killer of the unarmed.

You’d best walk back,” he told the Man of God, and I’ll take your steed, for I know a wench who needs it! Come, Marion, and have a pretty ride!”

The Sheriff will get you,” grated the Bishop, “I’ll see to that! And when he does, you’ll hang, sure as sure, sure as hellfire, sure as Satan’s arse!”

And he turned, seeing that all was lost, and stomped off.

© Peter Rogerson 06.10.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on October 6, 2017
Last Updated on October 15, 2017
Tags: Merry Men, Robin Hood, Bishop, Lincoln, Treasure, gemstones, guards, death


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..