18. A SEARCH FOR MARION

18. A SEARCH FOR MARION

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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Ruth needs to be fully accepted by the outlaws.

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What are your plans, Ruth?” asked Robin Hood as autumn began to shorten the days and a chill wind was blowing through the forest.

She had thought about it. She was supposed to be on a pilgrimage to York, but getting herself lost in Sherwood Forest and meeting the outlaws she had been told in her previous life were little more than murderous desperadoes had all got in the way and she was no longer at all certain what she wanted to do.

You can’t stay here for ever,” put in Marion, a little peevishly, thought Robin.

I … I know,” whispered Ruth, her head hanging.

Now what’s got into you, Marion?” asked Robin, “I would have thought you’d have liked the company of another woman.”

She’s not yet a woman and what will we do when she starts producing a line of babies?” asked Marion. “It could happen. She’s not ugly.”

Are you suggesting that ugly women can’t breed?” laughed Robin.

I’ll go, if that’s what you want,” said Ruth, tearfully, “but not to York nor back to the priory that gave me a roof over my head and firm discipline since I was a baby. I’ll find somewhere, maybe more outlaws like you lot or maybe a prince in his castle who wants a woman to clean his shoes!”

I didn’t say that!” snapped Robin, “as far as I’m concerned you can stay, but there must be full agreement, and that includes by Marion.”

Marion looked at Ruth for a moment, then nodded. “Maybe, until she finds somewhere better,” she said.

Then we’ll leave things as they are,” agreed Robin, “I know the lads all appreciate Ruth and the things she does for them.”

Ruth smiled. The things referred to were mostly domestic chores, but she was used to such things as she’d been little more than an unpaid servant in the Priory whilst ostensibly training to join the nuns when she was older. Domestic chores didn’t trouble her at all.

I’d like that,” she whispered, “and I want some fresh air,” she added.

Then if you’re off out of sight take a bow and some arrows with you,” advised Robin. She smiled back at him and slung a quiver over her shoulder. She had been given a bow and arrows of her own for protection, but had thus far only used them when out hunting for meat. She was gaining in skill and confidence as several rabbits could have testified if she hadn’t killed them, and they had been welcomed by the rest of the outlaws and prepared for the pot.

She wandered off, across the clearing and into the woodland, where falling leaves were already creating a carpet on the ground.

What was that about?” asked Robin of Marion.

She shrugged, then smiled. “No woman likes too much competition, and if you haven’t noticed she’s becoming a very pretty young woman,” she said quietly.

I had noticed, but it’s you my heart sings to when it sings to anyone,” replied Robin, shaking his head.

I know,” she said.

Meanwhile Ruth was wandering through a forest that could no longer be called a greenwood but more resembled a russet one. She knew the area around the outlaws’ camp and never ventured further than was familiar to her. That way her knowledge increased as every time she noted another landmark which extended her range tree by tree.

She came upon a supple evergreen, one she knew she could easily climb since she’d watched Robin and his men seeming to defy gravity as they moved from the forest floor to the canopy in what looked like one easy move. On her own over the weeks she had practised until she, too, could slowly reach into the branches in the sky, and then move, nervously at first and slowly with increasing confidence, from tree to tree, unseen by anyone on the forest floor.

And with no plan in her mind she swarmed up that tree and settled in a crook of an adjacent oak and leaned back, looking down. There were still enough leaves to conceal her from any passing eyes even though autumn was well under way and the foliage was thinning, and she relaxed, happy at her own invisibility.

She was about to descend back to the ground when she heard voices. Two men, talking loud enough for their words to come to her perfectly clear, were sauntering along paths that were dangerously close to the outlaws’ hideaway and she knew that she had to distract them before they discovered it. How they had wandered so far was a mystery, for Robin had selected the clearing on which his base had been built with great care, ensuring that it was many miles in every direction from any beaten path.

She decided to pay attention to what the men were saying to each other.

The w***e is still with the savage Hood,” grunted one of them, “and if we don’t find her soon there will be no reward.”

Not for us, anyway,” agreed the other. “Yet the signs are clear: people do tread this way, not so many and with care, and I reckon we can’t be so far from where Hood keeps her prisoner as all that.”

Who said anything about prisoner?” asked the first. “She is there, I’ve heard, by choice, opening her legs for Master Hood whenever he wants it, which, I’ve heard, is often enough to make a squirrel squeal!”

I sense we’re not so far away, come, let’s keep our mouths shut and our eyes open!”

Ruth’s mind started working overtime. So this was a posse of two in search of a woman, and that woman could only be Maid Marion, Robin’s chosen lover, because she knew that was what they were. And not only were they searching for Marion but they were most certainly close enough to where she was to maybe spot an odd clue … a good scout would easily find evidence that others had passed that way no matter how careful those others had been. Then, having discovered the clue it would be no difficult task locating where the outlaws were. Their site’s position might even blow in smoke on the breeze, for they had to eat and food needed cooking.

Ruth carefully lowered herself to the ground and decided to follow the two men, keeping well hidden, no easy task at this time of year with foliage becoming thinner and leaves crunching beneath even the lightest feet.

It was then that the two men, for no reason discernible to Ruth, started quarrelling, and she watched as the larger of the two started using his heavy fists against the other who, being lighter was more agile and managed to skip out of the way.

In the end, and with neither of them even remotely victorious, they flung themselves on the ground at the bole of a tree, exhausted.

If I can’t have her and I won’t let you have her then we’ll have to share her,” said the bigger man.

Her old man won’t like that,” grumbled the smaller man, “he’s been vicious enough when he reckons as Robin Hood’s had her, and Hood’s only one fella.”

He won’t find out, though, will he?” smirked the first man.

She’ll tell,” suggested the other.

Then we’ll have to make sure she don’t,” growled the big man, “and there’s only one way to do that!” and he drew a finger across his own throat. The meaning was clear. Marion, for it was she they must have been talking about, wouldn’t survive a meeting with them. To Ruth they looked like bullies, unclean and lousy, and she was convinced they would do what they threatened.

You have her first, then,” said the smaller man, “then me. I’ll have her good and proper. Then when I’ve done….”

When you’ve done I’ll...” and that finger crossed his throat for a second time.

But with a blade,” grinned his friend. “Come on! I reckon as she’s not so far away at all. Can you smell that?”

There was the merest suggestion of meat roasting over an open fire in the air, not much but enough to give away the fact that the men were close enough to their target.

That’s a woman’s hand, cooking like that,” growled the biggest bully as he pulled himself upright.

The Marion w***e!” agreed the other.

Like lightning Ruth notched an arrow into her small but nonetheless powerful bow, took as careful aim as she had at rabbits in the past and let it loose on the bigger of the men. Her aim was deadly and true, for she knew she only had the one chance. If she were to miss then the two men would be on her in an instant. But she didn’t miss.

What th…!” gasped her target, and he seemed to crumple up like an old sack, and slowly fall to the ground. The arrow had found his heart, and stilled it.

Ruth stepped forwards. She already had a second arrow notched and it was pointing unerringly at the one remaining man.

I heard your every word, the two of you,” she said, her young voice clear as a church bell, “and I condemned you as you spoke!”

With that the second arrow flew, just as true, and hit its target, finding the man’s heart and piercing it.

Well, well, well, I’d better make sure not to cross you!” came a fresh voice, but it was one she recognised.

Friar Tuck appeared from the shadows of a dark corner where saplings grew in profusion.

They were going to...” stammered Ruth, “I wouldn’t have, not unless...”

I know, child, and take it from me, Marion will be grateful,” replied the good friar. “Now if you’ll permit, I’ll aid you in shifting these scoundrels off the path, for where they are might look like a signpost for other to follow, and that would never do. Then we’ll report this deed to Robin, for he ought to learn how close they were to discovering their target.”

Ruth nodded. But inside, she felt sick.

© Peter Rogerson 19.10.17





© 2017 Peter Rogerson



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Added on October 19, 2017
Last Updated on October 19, 2017
Tags: Robin Hood, Marion, greewood, arrows


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