A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Conclusion to the story about evil orders from the sheriff of Nottingham


You do realise that we’re outnumbered, Robin?” asked Little John as the two men stood shivering and wet under an oak denuded by Autumn, an oak that offered nothing in the way of shelter from the rain that still beat down as though it were offering a second biblical flood as a reward for whatever sins mankind was committing whilst the clouds rumbled overhead.

They had been watching the tumbledown shack that had been the last crumbling abode of the deceased Charlie Sheepdung, a man who had grown old and died in it, and lain in isolated decay until he was discovered by two mischievous but homeless youngsters who had taken one look at his ancient bones with skin stretched like leather over them and immediately run off to the church in order to beg for shelter and a life of prayer with the priest, a crotchety man of God who had proceeded to nurture them with a leather strap and a prayer about sin.

Once or twice the splintered door had opened and black-uniformed men had peeped out or taken a stroll under its thinly overhanging thatch eves before bobbing back inside.

I count at least half a dozen,” said Robin.

Or five,” grinned Little John as an arrow sped from his bow and plunged with feathery might into the chest of the next man to open the door. He fell back against it and dislodged what remained of its crudely hewn wooden slats from the rotten leather hinge that had somehow held it in place.

Five,” acknowledged Robin, “and that was a good shot, my friend,” he added. “But hearken, friend John Little, I have it planned that we leave one of the bullies alive, for I wish him to take a message back to the sheriff, and if either of us were to do that the officer with little faith in humanity might not believe us.”

It’s not nice, being thought of as a liar,” murmured John.

It’s quite hurtful,” nodded Robin Hood. “Ah, four,” he added, loosing one of his own arrows straight and true at a figure who had stepped into the now permanently open doorway to see what misfortune had befallen his comrade.

The odds are almost even,” nodded John, “and unless I’m mistaken we can cope with three,” he added as he reduced the opposition to that number.

I’ll try to parley with them,” decided the outlaw leader, but he remained in the eves of the forest, invisible to those in the shack unless any one of them had unnaturally enhanced vision.

It’s about time,” agreed his companion.

Hey you there!” called Robin sharply, his voice ringing out through the Greenwood. “You in that tumble-down funeral home of old Sheepdung! You who have set out to torch the homes of honest men and women whose only crime is to be alive! I wish to bargain with you.”

And who are you to think you can better the Sheriff’s men?” demanded a thuggish voice, though its owner was careful to keep out of sight.

Me? You want my name?” asked Robin Hood, “can’t you guess it? Can’t you work it out for yourselves from the accuracy of the dart that pricked the heart of the last man to fall? Don’t you know who the champion archer in this part of the world might be? And not only the one, mark you, but with his his giant lieutenant? Doesn’t the fact that there are two of us send shivers of fear down every nerve of our bodies?”

Robin Bloody Hood,” gasped the voice, “of all the murdering devils that haunt this blasted forest it must be Robin Bloody Hood! Well, Robin Hood, you can take this message for free. There are four of us with weapons trained on you and you have met your match even if the skies are thick with rain clouds and the range be far!”

And, as if to support his words, an arrow shot towards the two outlaws and plunged into the wet earth not a dozen yards short of them.

Not so good,” whispered Robin, “and if he’s being truthful about the four we must have miss-counted.”

We can cope with four, Robin,” grinned Little John, “especially if that shot of his was meant to trouble us and make us all a-quiver!”

Look,” pointed Robin, “on the ground in the broken doorway … see the tip, sharp as sin, pointing our way over there, the bowman crouching on the floor and hoping to be hidden in shadows?”

I do see, but shadows never held a bow. The man is there all right, and I guess just here!” muttered Little John, and he carefully aimed his bow and released an arrow towards the shack. It clearly hit its target, for there was a loud cry of pain and they could both see the reaction as someone leapt to one side, getting out of sight and holding one shoulder with the hand of his other arm.

Good shot for a blind one,” congratulated Robin Hood.

It could have been truer,” muttered Little John, disdainfully.

I think I’ll parley more,” decided Robin, and he cupped his hands in order to project his voice all the clearer. “Well, that seems to have taken your breath away,” he shouted, “so here’s what sensible fellows would do. They would step out of their hidey hole before I burn it down...”

What, in this rain?” interrupted a voice from the shack.

Even in this rain,” shouted Robin evenly, “but as I was suggesting in my fair-minded way, if you thieves step out of your hidey hole I have a little scheme that may well see you live.”

One of the men, no doubt more fearful than his comrades, stepped into plain sight, casting his eyes fearfully from side to side, searching for the least sign of the outlaws and their bows.

What would you say,” asked Robin, his voice now conversational, “if some dark night a gang of killers burned you out of your homes? If, say, a couple of outlaws with kindling set your loved ones ablaze? If they did to you exactly what you are supposed to be doing to others?”

We are under orders!” said the man who had revealed himself, “the sheriff’s orders,” he added.

And that makes it right?” demanded Little John, whose sense of justice was outraged by the way the bully had justified his proposed actions. “That women and children should be burned?”

We need the so-conspirator, for there’s a priest who wants his plate back,” insisted the sheriff’s man, tentatively.

But the woman knows nothing of it, and nor did her man who the sheriff so misguidedly slaughtered,” said Robin.

She poisoned our chief!” came the reply.

Then he should have been careful what he drank,” chided Robin. “Now, if you want to live you will do this. You will go from here, one of you that is, and you will tell the Sheriff that the woman and her child are dead, that they have been buried in the Earth deep in the Greenwood, that you have seen with your own eyes that they are no more. You will swear it is true. You will do this on fear of death, for if Robin Hood hears that you have said otherwise, and he will hear of it, be certain, he has eyes and ears everywhere, the one who takes the message will be forfeit. He will die, sooner than soon and painfully, be certain of that, and I will know him from the scar on his face.”

What scar? None of us have scars...” almost wept the man, guessing what might be coming his way, and it did. An arrow fired from hiding hissed towards him and tore so close to his face that its feathery flight bit deep, leaving a train of blood and skin in its wake.

Good shot, Robin,” grinned Little John.

Do you understand me?” called the Outlaw chief. “Now you go! And get the story straight or else!”

What if the Sheriff wants to see where the two were buried?” wept the man, clutching his torn face with one hand.

Then you will lead him into the forest and after a while say that one tree looks very much like another and how can you be expected to tell one oak from another oak … you can do that, surely?”

The man nodded.

Then go while you still have breath!” snapped Robin Hood.

Seeing he had no choice than to obey, the man, trailing blood, ran off, clearly eager to get out of range as quickly as he could.

The rest of you,” called Robin, “the rest of you know me to be an honourable man? Is that not true?”

There was silence from the shack.

A long, long silence.

And finally one man stumbled out.

They’re dead,” he said, choking, “knowing how cruel you outlaws are they have fallen on their blades, both of them, as preferable to being tortured by Robin Hood and his men. There’s blood everywhere….”

And you are the coward?” asked Little John.

I am … the coward … but I have a woman who needs me...” choked the other.

Then you’d best go to her,” said Robin, “but if one word of this day’s work reaches the sheriff, well, you heard what I said to the fool who took my message, didn’t you?

The man nodded.

Then go, and take your telling scar with you!” snapped Robin, and as the other turned to go an arrow, true as ever, whistled past his head, its flights biting just as deep and trailing an equal amount of blood as had the one released by Little John minutes earlier. He, too, was scarred for life.


© Peter Rogerson 04.11.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 4, 2017
Last Updated on November 4, 2017
Tags: Robin Hood, Little John, rainstorm, shack, arrows


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 75 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..