28. A SHERWOOD RELATIVE. Part 5.

28. A SHERWOOD RELATIVE. Part 5.

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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The Sheriff is given a chance to learn what it feels like the be kidnapped.

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Centuries after the events described in this true fiction, readers would be expecting the main road from South to North that runs through the deepest part of Sherwood Forest to be a well-maintained double carriageway with lay-byes and optimistic speed limits: optimistic during the busy period, that is.

But this narrative concerns events of almost a millennium ago and that same main road (spookily following an almost identical course to its much later incarnation) was a hotchpotch of pot-holes, muddy slurries after rain and had the biggest branches from towering oaks meeting overhead, giving it a sombre and almost twilit appearance even in mid summer with the sun high above and birds chirruping.

And it was in the shaded fringes of that road, hidden completely from view, even if the greatest spymaster ever spawned was on the look-out for them, that half a dozen men dressed in the backdrop colour of the forest lurked, completely unseen.

And towards that spot a somewhat ornate cart trundled, pulled by a weary nag and with the overdressed and pompous figure of the Sheriff of Nottingham proudly sitting on a bench seat whilst its driver, the surliest of surly individuals who had missed his lunch and was already missing his afternoon bun, sat hunched up and smelling of a good week’s sweat.

By the side of the cart limped two guards, dressed in black as was the preferred uniform of the sheriff when it came to the apparel disported by his men, and they were both grumbling audibly.

This was getting dangerously close to outlaw territory, and there were only three of them unless you counted the sheriff, who didn’t look ready to be counted. He had caroused last evening until the midnight hour, wishing he had his so-called niece to carouse with but in her enforced absence stuck, instead, with the pompous and overdressed Lady Muckhampton, who had about her the enticing aroma of unwashed flesh disguised under a layer of unwashed finery. He had been most unhappy and found that his emotions barely twitched at the sight of that aromatic substitute.

And it was going to have been a very special night indeed, culminating in a grand announcement of his own betrothal to that same niece and subsequent imposition on the population of additional taxes in order to pay for her wedding goods.

And she had gone. Run away. Escaped from what he saw as his own velvet clutches, and without a word of gratitude for the number of times he might have had her birched, but hadn’t. He had been the very figure of restraint, the very example of pure unadulterated respect for her virginity, and all the respect she paid him in return was running away to, he guessed, that sore of a brother of hers.

Robin Hood had been a thorn in his side for more years than he cared to think of, and sometimes quite openly he had proved his unerring skill in the city’s archery tournaments disguised as someone else before revealing himself and escaping.

Well, his moment had come. He wouldn’t get away any longer with his offensive snooting of the authorities of the castle, his unbelievably disdainful treatment of the more forcefully authoritarian of his personal guard, and, the thought horrified him, their sometimes murder.

The Sheriff didn’t shed half a tear for those killed in his service because they were, to a man, despicable creatures who rarely washed, but the thought that one day the outlaw Robin Hood might inadvertently shoot him thinking him one of his own servants frequently crossed his mind.

And it was as his mind was slothing about in the dark mire of such sombre thoughts that an arrow hissed through the air close enough to be heard by his right ear and plunged into the back of the driver sitting just in front of him whilst two more arrows with simultaneous accuracy felled the two black-uniformed guards whose stomachs were rumbling almost loud enough to drown their hissing.

And in that instant the Sheriff found himself all alone.

In the dangerous and outlaw-strewn forest with not a single black-garbed guard close enough to defend his body and his life.

With a sack that smelled strongly of onions amongst other, more disgusting things, over his head and pulled down to reach almost as far as his sit-upon that was sitting upon the bench seat of his cart, he found himself hurtling blindly down the rutted track that served as a main thoroughfare through the forest.

He struggled to drag the sack or whatever it was from his head, but while he pulled it one way someone else was pulling another, and while he lifted it up an unknown figure was dragging it down, and then strong arms camped his own less muscular arms to his side and he became aware that a rope or some similar long and flexible thing was being wound round and round his chest, pinning his arms to his side and making him completely incapable of any movement that might assist his escape.

A voice cried something like “whoa, there!” and he became aware that his rocking and rolling cart was showing signs of slowing down and then stopping.

Until it did actually stop.

His weary horse puffed and snorted and then, released from its harness, trotted off to investigate pastures new, and there was a sudden and, to him alarming stillness and silence in the world. He fought to move, but not only had his arms been tied, so had his legs. They, too, were immobile.

A flea (he was custodian and chief carer to a family of fleas) decided to take a nibble at his scrotum, but he couldn’t scratch it, so in fun a second flea chose to suckle from his left armpit, and he couldn’t scratch that either.

He was immobile and being tormented by his own fleas, and, shame on him, he started weeping. The tears ran down the inside of his personal sack and started puddling in the folds of his lap.

Look, brother, he’s crying like I cried when he snatched me, said a voice close enough for him to think he recognised.

Then a voice that he most certainly did recognise spoke, a voice with a leer built into it, a voice that would haunt him for the remainder of his days. It was the voice of the dreaded, evil, thieving, murdering outlaw, Robin Hood.

That’s right, Susanella,” it said, “he always was a coward, surrounding himself with brutes. I wonder what he thinks it feels like to be kidnapped?”

Shall I ask him?” asked the voice he thought he recognised and then, suddenly, did recognise.

Why not?” replied the mocking outlaw’s almost too vile voice.

Then I will. What, dear uncle, though you’re no uncle of mine despite all the lies you told me, what does it feel like to be kidnapped? To have your freedom taken from you? To be treated as I was treated by you as a child and into my grown-up years? And is it true what I heard? That you planned to enslave me in wedlock though I am only twenty-one and you are pushing fifty?”

He wanted to reply. He wanted to tell her how he’d loved watching her as she grew from a child into the young woman she was now, how he’d provided her with everything she needed, an education more than most girls got, as much food as she wanted even though most people spent half the year half-starved, fine clothing sent from London and carried to her by servants, and not a stain on her character, not a blemish, nothing.

So he did say it, and at length, for he was a man of many words, though most of them had usually been quite empty.

And freedom?” she asked, “and loving parents? And the life I was born to live? And my proper name? And a brother…?”

This road runs from Newark and goes North,” interrupted Robin Hood, “and sooner or later a traveller will come by and if you’re lucky he will release you. But until he does, dear sheriff, you can spend the hours feeling what it must have felt like when you snatched a three year old. And if you do find yourself being rescued, don’t play your usual trick and execute your rescuer, but reward him with coin, for he will have earned it. And then look around, for I doubt your old horse will have wandered far. I’m not out to kill you, just to give you the means of learning a vital lesson: what it feels like to be kidnapped.”

And what it feels like to know your intended bride despises you,” added the voice he recognised.

Not you, Suse,” he groaned.

I have a proper name, the one given me by my parents, and you never used it once,” she said, softly, “and my parents died of grief, they say, and you’ll have to explain to them why when you meet them in the hereafter,” she added.

Then he heard the sounds of people walking away, and then silence.

A long, long silence….

THE END

© Peter Rogerson 31.10.17




© 2017 Peter Rogerson



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Added on October 31, 2017
Last Updated on October 31, 2017
Tags: Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, sister, waylay, arrows, sack


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