Thursday, May 16, 2013
Alexis breathed sharply and quickly through her nose, hating Will and his friends more and more with each crunching step that approached the hut. What could she do now? She was defenseless, weakened. Bracing herself, she turned to face the door as it opened slowly, and a man stepped into the hut, firelight pouring in through the doorway behind him, outlining his tall, chiseled silhouette, and concealing his face in blackness. Alexis was prepared for some malicious deceit, or even just a sword through her heart, but was startled when he spoke with a voice that was kind and gentle.
"Don't let him fool you. He's just like Will, trying to calm you down so you won't struggle," Alexis told herself. He came and knelt by the bedside, and she saw a darkly handsome man, maybe in his twenties, with hair a bit longer than Will's, and a well-trimmed beard covered the lower part of his face. His voice was low and strong, his eyes twinkled with a look of merriment.
"Hello," he whispered, placing his hand lightly on her chin and turning her face toward the light. "You had quite a fall earlier, so it appeared. Have you been well cared for in my absence? Will likes to pretend he knows what he's doing, but... "
Alexis said nothing, but looked at him through anger-filled eyes. If he made any sudden movements, she would spring, refusing to go down without a fight.
The stranger sensed her hostility and withdrew his hand. "Well, not much of a talker I see. How did you end up with that arrow in your back? A little run-in with the sheriff?" He continued, staring back. But what a stare! He seemed to look into her very soul, as if he knew already what she had done. His gaze was not cruel, but sharp, and it weighed upon her like a rock.
Alexis looked at the floor, and stammered, "I'm f-fine." She took a deep breath, regained her courage, and defiantly pronounced, "I don't have to tell you anything."
"No, you don't, but then I can't help you."
"Help me? You want to kill me. You're no better than that sheriff. You'll steal from me, then kill me. I know who you are — thieves, murderers. How will you help me? Will you ease my suffering, then help yourselves to anything I've left behind?"
"You think we want to kill you? I am Robin Hood! I don't kill anyone but in self-defense. And steal from you? What have you got that I could possibly want?"
"If you are Robin Hood, I want proof. For all I know, you could be some band of impersonating vagabonds."
"I'll prove it, but not until you can leave this hut, and I will not kill you." Robin reached out to touch her gently, but pulled his hand back, knowing she'd recoil. In a soothing, tender tone — so unfamiliar to Alexis's ears, Robin said, "Trust me, please. And get some rest. I'll make sure my men stay away. If you need anything, just call for me or Will." Robin turned to go, but not before taking a peek at the girl's wound. Assured that she was alright, he left the hut, knowing that what she needed most was time to rest and time to trust.
Alexis watched him leave the hut, glaring the whole time. Once his dying footfalls convinced her that he had left her alone (at least for the time being), she let out a long, deep sigh, and settled back down as best she could, trying to blink back the tears that sprang to her eyes. Haunted by thoughts of what her captors might do to her, she found it hard to sleep.
Outside, the men all paused in their work to look up as Robin emerged. "She will stay with us until she is well again. Then we will find her a new life. She's no different than the others we've helped." These were his words, but in his heart, he knew they weren't true. He had never known a female to be shot without a trial, and he had never seen anyone so young punished in such a way. What had she done to warrant this? She did not look like a criminal. She was scared, and it was all too evident that she had been tossed around by life pretty badly. He'd had no reports of murder, no stories of any great heists. The girl was a waif, most likely a thief, but if she had stolen money, where was it? Why hadn't she just been turned over to the sheriff? What had she done?
"Cousin?" Robin was awakened from his musings by the touch of Will's hand on his shoulder. "Can I talk to you in private?" He looked troubled.
"Of course." Robin replied, leading him up a hill at the far end of the clearing. They were about halfway to the top when Robin turned to Will. "I was just about to ask you a few questions myself," he said.
"It's about the girl."
"When I was dressing her wound, I... found this. It fell out of her dress." Will handed the pouch to Robin, and as he opened it, the light of the torch Will carried shone upon the crest. Robin shared a substantial look with his young cousin and let out a long, low whistle. It was one thing to steal a loaf of bread, but a person had to be incredibly bold or incredibly foolish to steal from a man as ruthless as Guy of Gisborne.