26. A SHERWOOD RELATIVE. Part 3

26. A SHERWOOD RELATIVE. Part 3

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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There's quite a kerfuffle deep in Sherwood Forest

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There are reunions and reunions and this was either the first or the second kind depending on your definition.

Robin Hood, resplendent in his Lincoln Green and working on a half-finished arrow, the binding to the tip still wet with bone-glue in one hand, looked at the young woman who was standing nervously several paces away from him.

Susanella,” he repeated, “I, we, everyone thought you were long dead!”

That’s what my uncle told me,” almost whispered the young woman, “he said that nobody would come looking for me because he’d let it be known that I had been killed by wolves in the forest, and buried before anyone knew who I was… but I wasn’t killed in any forest, I’ve never seen a wolf, not in all of my life, and it’s been … horrible.”

How did…?” Robin started to ask, then he looked helplessly at Little John. “Help me,” he said weakly.

She told me about being kidnapped,” began the big man, “she explained how she’d been kept a virtual prisoner in the Castle...”

The castle?” asked Robin.

John Little nodded, “yes, the castle in Nottingham where the sheriff rules his little piece of England like a King,” he said, anger in his eyes. “But she managed to escape. The sheriff was having one of his mass executions and she saw an opportunity to get away while everyone was distracted, so that’s what she did, on the spur of the moment. She was up a tree when I found her, after she’d been running from one of the sheriff’s men. I helped her down.”

So the sheriff … am I right in thinking he told you he was your uncle?” asked Robin, his face beginning to show the first signs of anger.

Suse (or Susanella as it turned out she should have been called) whispered “Isn’t he? He said he was. He said it was just about the best thing he’d done, rescuing me from my brother because my brother was the outlaw Robin Hood and one day I’d see him swinging from a gibbet in the castle grounds.”

One day you’ll see your so-called uncle with an arrow through him!” snapped Little John, “More than one arrow if I’ve got anything to do with it! The man’s a beast!”

He could be nice to me, sometimes ...” Susanella’s head was down-turned as she struggled to understand her place in the world. Was the sheriff her uncle or had it all been a tissue of lies? Had he just found her playing near her home and, on a whim because he wanted a child of his own, snatched her? There was a lot she didn’t understand, about herself and about her place in the world.

Robin Hood looked at his newly-discovered sister through troubled eyes.

He kidnapped you, he deprived your parents of their daughter, and you were only three years old, Susanella. Just a baby really. We somehow got a message that you’d been found in the forest, a mangled body half-eaten by wolves and buried out of kindness by those who found it and recognised it. Your mother was so distraught that the heartache killed her. Your father never recovered either, first his daughter then his wife … you won’t remember, but they were a truly loving couple and I guess neither could survive without the other. I was left on my own, not much more than a boy myself, and I soon learned what was what in the world. I learned how the man who I’ve just discovered abducted you bleeds the people dry, and I turned against him. I was caught by his men helping an old man die in peace, and that’s a story I’d prefer to forget. But the sheriff thought it would be fun to see me hanging at the end of a rope, and I would have had I not been aided in escape by Little John here.”

And that sheriff needs to be taught a lesson, stealing babies and planning to hang her brother!” almost shouted Little John. “I’ve had my belly full of his ways! And to keep a child prisoner just so that he can be a pretend-dad, and some of the things he did as you got older, things that you told me about, things that I don’t like to think about … he needs a whole phalanx of arrows in his chest!”

Too true,” grated Robin Hood.

Though he could be kind to me,” whispered Susanella.

Kindness isn’t keeping a child prisoner,” Robin said bluntly, “kindness isn’t preventing her from knowing the taste of freedom. Kindness isn’t seeing her real parents dying of grief! And, Susanella, kindness isn’t stringing up poor men just because they can’t pay their dues. No, he needs to be taught a lesson and by jingo it’s going to happen or I’m a plain-eyed wimp!”

You’re right,” she said. “Of course you’re right. Can I, would it be all right, can I stay here with you for a while?”

His eyes softened. “Of course you can,” he said, “You’re my sister: there can be no doubt there. I’ll introduce you to Marion, my friend, the best of all friends if the truth is to be told...”

Hold on!” grinned Little John.

All right, the best equal,” sighed Robin, “and there’s Ruth, a bit younger than you but as sensible as any man I’ve met. She and Friar Tuck are our holy corner!”

Before anyone could say anything else there was a sudden commotion from the fringes of the clearing. Robin, in one practised move, had his bow with an arrow notched and string tautened in his hands. A commotion could only mean strangers, and strangers were kept away from this campsite. If anyone discovered it they’d have to move, and moving their whole band would prove to be no simple thing.

What is it?” he snapped.

Much, the miller’s son, appeared with his own bow pointed firmly into the back of a stranger clad in black and with a scowl that, thought Robin, could freeze a lake in summer.

That’s him!” shouted Susanella, “that’s the man who chased me from the castle!”

A sheriff’s man,” hissed Robin, “that’s the uniform of the castle guard.”

What ho, Much?” shouted Little John, “What’s afoot?”

I found this creature sneaking around on the edge of our clearing and I’ve got an arrow for his heart if you give the word, Robin,” replied the miller’s son.

Take Susanella under cover,” whispered Robin to Little John, and he strode towards the stranger who glared back at him, defiantly.

When the Sheriff hears of this you’ll be for it!” he shouted, “he’ll not have his men interfered with in the course of their duty, and by all that’s glorious I’ll be able to lead him straight to Robin Hood into the bargain!”

In the course of you’re duty, you say? And what duty is that?” asked Robin.

To catch the filly and march her back, where there’s bound to be a birch for her back!” scoffed the man. “The Sheriff’s very possessive of his little niece, and I reckon he’ll make sure she’s marked for good after this little exercise.”

You’ll not be taking her anywhere,” said Robin, “I’m afraid she’s come to live with her own kin, and here’s where she’s staying!”

He would have carried on to say a great deal more about what he thought of the way women should be treated, especially sisters of his, but the subject of his conversation appeared from where little John had taken her, and she was holding what Robin recognised as Ruth’s bow and quiver of arrows.

Then without saying anything, she stood with her legs firmly on the ground a forearm’s length apart and pointed an arrow at the man in black.

You!” she hissed, “you who tried to catch me, you who chased me, I heard what you called out to me as we ran into the Greenwood! I heard what you said you’d do to me before my uncle got me back, and this is for even daring to think those thoughts!”

And from no distance at all she released the arrow and in no time at all it drilled into the uniformed man’s belly.

It didn’t kill him, but it did hurt him. It hurt him very much indeed. His cries of pain proved that.

I’d best put him out of his misery, then,” murmured Robin, and using the arrow he’d been making when his sister had appeared he shot the man, straight through his chest, straight into his heart.

A darned good arrow, that one,” he muttered.

Susanella was crying, sobbing, her shoulders heaving, tears flowing down her pretty cheeks.

Little John put one hand on her shoulder, one big man’s hand, and gently stroked her.

There, there,” he almost crooned, “And welcome. Welcome to the home of the outlaws. Welcome to paradise!”

TO BE CONTINUED

© Peter Rogerson 29.10.17




© 2017 Peter Rogerson



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Added on October 29, 2017
Last Updated on October 30, 2017
Tags: Sherwood Forest, Little John, Susanella, Friar Tuck, Sheriff of Nottingham, 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