8. THE GENTLEMAN OF COLOUR -1

8. THE GENTLEMAN OF COLOUR -1

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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Robin Hood in the company of the lovely Maid Marion meets an old friend unexpectedly.

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When I’m with you, Robin,” whispered Marion, “when I’m with you I feel safe.”

So you should, my dearest,” replied Robin Hood tenderly passing one hand through her lovely long hair, “for a man is not a man at all if he doesn’t care for his woman!”

Am I your woman, Robin?” she asked.

You must know the answer to that!” he exclaimed, and laughed out loud, “after the things we did only last evening as the sun was setting and the world was quiet!” he said.

I was hoping it wasn’t a dream,” she murmured.

That it wasn’t! But whoa, what or who is coming here with such a clutter and a clang?”

There was a loud snapping and creaking as of one forcing his way through the greenwood, one who had little experience of forests and moving through them.

I hear it too,” whispered Marion.

Come, swiftly, behind this thicket,” hissed the outlaw, and he pulled her by one hand until they were both concealed by a clump of dense thicket, and only just in time.

A figure came crashing into sight as if fleeing from the very devil himself. At first all Marion noticed was the man’s face, for rather than the ruddy weathered complexion of a woodsman or the slightly fairer skin of a city dweller (and that latter type were few and far between in her limited experience) he had a face as black as ink, so black, indeed, that the whites of his eyes shone almost as if illuminated from within.

Marion gasped when she saw him, for he was dressed after the manner of the city folks whilst the men of the forest, the Merry Men as they liked to be called, wore the garments of the countryside and the rural working man. But attire aside, she had never seen a man like this one and her first instinct was to feel fear. But this instinct was not within her man, apparently.

For Robin stood up showing himself in plain sight and Marion saw, from where she crouched, the broad and warm smile on his face. He obviously knew the stranger and liked him, yet she had never seen so strange a figure in all her life.

Why Merek, well met!” he exclaimed in warm, hospitable tones, “I never thought that I would greet you in the greenwood, not in a million years of wanting to!”

The stranger paused, and a wide smile changed his face so that struggle became affection and despair became hope.

At last, Robin, I have found you!” he called to him. The accent was not of the forest or the lands about. It was strange as though the inflection of every syllable had been moulded by the use of a very different tongue.

Robin Hood strode from his place of hiding and rushed to greet the man called Merek warmly, putting his arms on the man’s shoulders and almost hugging him.

Come, Marion, and meet the man who saved my life!” he called.

Robin had never spoken much about the time he had spent abroad, amongst knights and brave soldiers in a crusade meant to wrest the Holy lands from the Muslim hoards who had, according to all accounts, taken it. It had been a savage war, one that he had hated in much the same way as he now hated the corruption that he perceived to be at the heart of local government in his own land, and many cruel deeds had been done in the name of both sides. And on one occasion he had been in the grip of a posse of savage thugs, men who fought in various campaigns and who were not particularly interested in who they were fighting for, and why, just that they gave their arms in return for coin.

It was at the point when one of them, jeering and mocking what he saw as an effeminate Englishman, was about to pierce his heart with a crude spear that the black-skinned Merek had come on the scene. He was a soldier in the pay of the Turks, though his own homeland was south in the vast continent of Africa where, he often said, the lands were verdant and the people prayed to more natural and peaceful gods than the warlike deities of the Muslims and Christians, and white or pale skins were unknown.

Merek, though not a big man, was an intelligent being, and he single-handedly managed to prevent Robin’s demise by ruse and trick, and afterwards, when the thugs had raced off to seek simpler prey, the two had sat together on a stump with a vessel of French wine between them, and had formed a close and abiding friendship, one that is usually dependant on both mutual respect and gratitude.

And it was this same Merek who, miles from his own shores, was blundering about in Sherwood Forest as though all the hounds of Hell were behind him.

You saved Robin’s life?” asked Marion, smiling.

It was little more than chance,” said Merek, “for Master Hood had a spear at his throat and the holder of the spear had no idea I was anywhere near. So when I passed a chance comment about the bluntness of his weapon and the shabby state of his underwear the thug spun round to see who was offending him whilst his comrades laughed at my wit, and with a single stroke I separated him from his life. That released Robin from the danger that had been threatening imminent death and the two of us made such a hurrah and fuss that the thugs beetled off in fear of their own lives!”

You were bolder than you make out, my friend, and more may well be said of it ere long,” laughed Robin warmly, “but tell me … what brings you all the way from your happy homeland and the woman you love to this green and somewhat troubled patch of woodland?”

You recall how we conversed once the thugs, as you named them, had run off?” asked Merek, “how we said that we were apparently fighting on opposite sides when those opposite sides were as like as two peas in a pod, with a belief in gods at the heart of the wars and both sides ruined by excesses of cruelty by a few zealots? Both sides, we said, were barbaric and we both decided, there and then, to return to our homelands and do what good we could to counteract the evils we had unwittingly been part of?”

Robin nodded. “And that I have done,” he said quietly. “I have with me here my lovely Marion, and yet I lead a company of men whose one task is to rebalance the wealth of people, for there are very few people holding in their hands most of the wealth of our nation, and many who can barely afford a crust for their stomachs. And I would change that so that, maybe in a thousand years, there is equality and greed is banished to Satan in his Hell!”

A noble cause, my friend,” said Merek, “and I returned to my homeland with similar intents, though my cause would be different, for back in the country of my birth it wasn’t wealth but power that divides our people. And that power, allied to a mysterious and false mysticism that has nothing to do with the real world and everything to do with the grabbing of control over others through fear and superstition and brought to us by strangers, was ruining a happy land. But I was too late and Ayleth was dead.”

Ayleth dead?” asked Robin, shocked, for he knew that Ayleth was Merek’s woman-wife.

She was killed in the name of a god that had nothing to do with our homeland,” muttered Merek, “and everything to do with the strangers come to wrest what little we have from us. And those strangers came from this island of yours, Robin!

They came in the garb of Christians, and they came to steal and kill.”

TO BE CONTINUED





© 2017 Peter Rogerson



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Added on October 9, 2017
Last Updated on October 15, 2017
Tags: Robin Hood, Marion, Greenwood, black man, crusades


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 73 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..

Writing